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‘No. Most night he will sleep right through,’ I say quickly, my breathing, returning to normal.

‘Good,’ he says, and turning around goes out. I throw the sponge into the water. Shit. For a moment there I was really worried. I mean really. I take Sorab out of the water and as I dress and powder him I can hear Blake in the dining room. He is talking to someone on the phone. He works steadily on and by the time he comes into the bedroom I am almost asleep.

I feel the mattress next to me depress with his weight and I open my eyes sleepily. He is sitting in the dark. He bends his head and kisses me. I am so startled I come awake. The kiss is gentle and soft. I open my mouth and the kiss deepens. Raw hunger starts eating my brain. I am aching and sore and yet I am still gagging for him. I feel his fingers slide down my body and tug at the rim of my knickers. His fingers press flat against my crotch.

‘You are so wet,’ he whispers and inserts a finger into me.

It burns all the way in, and I tense involuntarily.

Immediately he stills. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘Nothing,’ I mumble and light bathes us. I blink and squint. Blake’s hands are lifting my gown. My knickers are being taken off and I am being turned over. ‘Jesus Lana,’ he gasps. Gentle hands turn me back to face him.

‘I did that?’ His face is shocked, pale, draped in regret. I would never have believed that he could look so shaken. This is a new Blake. One I cannot reconcile with the man I know. The change in his face and eyes is so great, it is like night and day. Could a few bruises really have such a grand effect on a man like him? I did not like the answer. There was more to this change. What, I did not know yet.

‘I bruise easily,’ I explain warily. ‘It’s not permanent.’

He doesn’t answer. ‘I’m sorry… I’m so very sorry. I can’t believe I’ve done that to you.’

I shrug, still very suspicious of his niceness. ‘It’s not as bad as it looks. Hey, I pushed you to it, remember?’

He looks at me with a creased brow. ‘Why did you?’

I look down. ‘You know that song ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cryus. That’s me. I wanted to break down your walls. You were so cold and distant with me all the time. I guess I used my body as the wrecking ball…’

‘There are many things you don’t understand, but you must believe me when I tell you, you are my sustenance, my oxygen. I need you desperately. In fact, right now, what I feel for you is the only part of me that feels human.’

I look at him in shock. ‘What do you feel for—’

He lays his fingers flat against my mouth. ‘Shhh. Please trust me that I have your best interest at heart, always…and it is not in your best interest to know any more than you do now.’

I am unhappy with his mysterious reply, but I nod my agreement. What choice do I have?

‘Now I need you to make me a promise.’

‘What sort of promise?’

‘That you will not leave me before your 42 days are up. No matter what you hear or see, no matter who asks you to, you will not leave me.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I am asking you not to. Will you do this one thing for me?’

I shrug. ‘OK.’

‘No, say the words. It is very important that you understand the importance of the promise that I am asking for.’

‘I promise not to leave you until the 42 days are up.’

‘Do not forget this promise you have made to me.’

‘I won’t, but what happens when the 42 days are up?’

He smiles. It is a sad smile. ‘That will be your decision.’

‘My decision? What do you mean?’

‘No more talking tonight. Move over to your side of the bed.’

My eyes widen. ‘Are you staying the night?’

‘Mmnnn.’

Instead of scooting over I gently roll over and end up on my side, propped on my elbow. ‘Do you want me to blow you?’

He shakes his head.

‘Are you holding out for my ass?’ I tease cheekily, daringly.

‘I will have your ass, soon. I want to own every part of you. But not today. Today I just want you to curl up against me and sleep.’

And that is what we do. We go to sleep entwined, like two wise snakes.

Fifteen

By the time I wake up Blake is gone. I bring Sorab into the bed and lie watching him drink his milk while my brain incessantly replays Blake’s intriguing and confusing words from the night before.

You must believe me when I tell you, you are my sustenance, my oxygen. In fact, right now, what I feel for you is the only part of me that feels human.

Other than my failed attempt at being a wrecking ball, nothing I can see has changed between us, and yet the coldly furious stranger who could barely stand for me to touch him is suddenly professing an emotion so deep that it makes my toes curl. And what was the insistence that I promise never to leave him until the 42 days are up all about? What were the things that I do not understand that he referred to and he obviously did not want to tell me about? I remember again his intense eyes. He seemed to be begging for something from me, and yet what was he begging for? Another thirty-eight days with me? Why? Nothing makes sense.

Jack’s words come back.

No man wants a woman for just 42 days.

When Blake said it would be my choice, did he mean the choice to be his mistress? And what of Victoria, his patient paragon of spotless virtue? I have dealt with her and I know without any doubt that she will not allow such a scenario.

I kiss Sorab’s head. ‘What’s Daddy up to, Sorab?’ I ask, but he only sleepily sucks at his milk bottle.

The day passes lazily without incident. My movements are slow and languorous. The pain is beginning to subside. When I use the toilet there is no burn. I am excited by the idea of Blake inside my body again. I recognize that I am in a state of constant arousal.

Laura calls to say that Blake will be home for dinner, but not to prepare any food. She is ordering in for us. Chinese. ‘Anything you particularly want?’

‘Crispy Peking duck,’ I say.

I hear the smile in her voice. ‘Yes, that’s a particular favorite of mine too, Miss Bloom.’

It is a fine day with only a little wind and at four in the evening I pack a book and take Sorab out in his brand new stroller into the park for some fresh air. The seat where I had been joined by the exuberant puppy is empty so I head for it. The sun is deliciously mild, but I do not put the hood of the pram down. Next summer he will be ready to play in the sun.

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