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“I need to get up,” Katherine whispered to Joe as they lay in her bed in the stillness of the morning.

“Your boss must be a tyrant making you get up at this early hour,” he quipped, smiling at her through the dimness.

“Yeah, something like that,” she giggled, thinking about how exceptionally adorable he was when he felt comfortable enough.

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep in here. I’m sorry,” Joe said quietly as he sat up, running his fingers through his tousled hair.

“Don’t… don’t apologize for that,” she sighed, her smile dropping off her face as her heart sank.

“I’m sorry for last night,” he continued to apologize, looking into her anxious eyes.

“What part?” She asked hesitantly. If he said all of it, she would probably cry.

“For the same part I have already apologized for,” he elaborated, his eyebrows tightening, causing a crease to form between them.

“I’ve already forgiven you, Mr. Jonas,” she acknowledged, sending him a soft smile.

“Mm,” he hummed, letting a faint smile appear on his lips as he slipped out of the bed. He quickly picked up his underwear before slipping them on before replacing the rest of his clothing. When he was finished, he turned to face Katherine again.

“Can I explain something to you?” He asked, his dark eyes piercing hers. He looked nervous. It wasn’t an emotion she saw very frequently on him, if at all.

“Um, yeah. Okay,” she breathed, feeling confusion as she sat in the bed with the covers wrapped around her body. What was he going to explain?

“Last night... the orgasm denial…” He began, sucking in a deep breath before slowly letting it out.

Joe,” she breathed lowly as her cheeks burned red. She didn’t really want to talk about it. She didn’t even want to think about it. She just wanted to put the whole thing behind them.

“No. I need to explain it,” he insisted and she nodded her head.

“It wasn’t supposed to be... it wasn’t supposed to go like that…” He told her, still staring at her, though she wasn’t able to look back at him.

“Orgasm denial is a sexual act that can be rather rewarding,” he explained, causing Katherine to scoff under her breath.

Katherine,” he said sternly and she finally looked up into his eyes.

Let me explain,” he growled through gritted teeth.

“Okay,” she agreed quietly. He nodded and took a breath before beginning again.

“It’s a general practice in dom/sub relationships,” he explained and her eyes narrowed at him in question.

“I knowI know we don’t have those... those boundaries set. I know. In all honesty, what I was doing with you wasn't even considered orgasm denial. Only in the broadest terms,” he explained.

“It sure felt like it,” she snapped.

“I know it did. But, the term for what I was doing is ‘edging’. Edging is actually drawing out stimulation for a long period of time. But the eventual goal is to orgasm. I always planned it that way,” he explained.

Katherine’s heart was beating so hard in her chest and her mind was reeling. She’d never heard of either of those things. But her sexual experiences were definitely more mild in comparison.

“Do you believe me?” He asked, looking at her with the softest eyes she’d ever seen him use.

She stared at him for a moment, thinking back on their time in the gym with her tied up and his head between her legs. It was the most frustrating thing she’d ever been through. But maybe if she knew the outcome before they started, she might have felt differently.

“I think... I just think there needs to be more communication…” Katherine said finally, and Joe nodded.

“I mean, if this... if something like this happens again. I mean, you seem to enjoy punishing me,” she pointed out, looking straight into his eyes for a moment before her lips tugged up into a smirk.

His dark eyes watched her. She noticed his gaze fall to her lips and she saw the slightest cock of his eyebrow before he smirked devilishly back at her.

“I do,” he breathed lowly.

“Just... just talk me through it next time. I don’t... I’ve never... been in a situation like this,” she admitted, letting her eyes fall away from his again, feeling bashful.

“I will,” he breathed softly.

“Okay,” she said with a nod.

Always a pleasure, Miss Mason,” he breathed, leaning in to plant a kiss on her lips before he pulled back and left her bedroom without another word.

After getting showered and dressed, Katherine was actively making breakfast in the kitchen while Joe took care of some things in his office. She felt happy and sated and damn near perfect. The smile on her face was real and the song she hummed came naturally.

“I see you’re in one piece this morning. I was a bit worried,” she heard Nick as he came into the kitchen, grabbing a cup of coffee.

What?” She choked out as her heart began to pound faster in her chest.

Honestly, Nick didn’t even cross her mind through everything that happened the night before. She couldn’t even imagine what he must have thought was happening.

“Well, it wasn’t hard to come to conclusions about all the noise coming from your room last night. My brother wrecked you, didn’t he?” Nick taunted, bouncing his eyebrows at her. Her stomach turned and her face flushed brightly.

He leaned in a moment later, causing her to stiffen in her place before he whispered in her ear, “And I thought you weren’t sleeping with him.”

“It’s none of your business,” she snapped at him, stepping away from him

“You’re absolutely right, beautiful. I’m just glad someone was able to break through his icy exterior,” Nick commented, smirking devilishly at her, and in that moment she could see that he and his brother both shared that little bit of darkness in them.

“Are you finished?” She asked him as she narrowed her eyes.

“I am finished,” he chuckled, holding his hands up in defense.

“Breakfast is almost ready,” she said, changing the subject quickly as she turned away from him altogether.

“Fantastic. I’m out of here after,” he told her.

“Are you?” She asked him, relief flooding her.

Nick wasn’t terrible. But just having him there made her feel weird, like she couldn’t relax.

“I am, beautiful. Headed out to California for a bit.”

“While your father lies in a hospital bed?” She asked, turning to cock a judgemental eyebrow at him.

“Hey, that old man doesn’t give a shit whether I’m there or not. Notice how I’m not walking around in a business suit talking about mergers and acquisitions? Yeah, that’s because, in his eyes, I’m not good enough. I’ve never been. But it’s alright, he’s a bastard anyway,” Nick explained with a shrug of his shoulders.

Nick. Have you not left yet?” Katherine heard Joe snap at his brother.

“Nah, brother. I’m just filling in your girl on the inner workings of our dysfunctional family,” Nick replied, smiling at Joe.

Joe grumbled something incoherent under his breath and walked toward the breakfast bar, taking a seat next to Nick. Moments later, Katherine placed an omelet in front of each man – one mushroom and swiss, and one ham and cheddar.

Good God, man. Do you eat nothing else?” Nick asked Joe with an amused laugh.

“I’m a creature of habit,” Joe said evenly before he took his first bite.

“After five mornings of straight omelets, I’ll probably never touch another one,” Nick joked.

“I could have made you something different,” Katherine told him.

“He’ll be fine,” Joe snapped, side-eyeing his brother.

Nick left not long after breakfast, his bag already packed and his one way ticket to Los Angeles booked. Joe seemed relieved to have him gone. Katherine could only imagine why.

“He wasn’t so bad to have around,” she said to Joe as he lingered in the kitchen once Nick left. His eyes narrowed at her and she tensed for a moment.

“You know what I mean,” she said to him, waving her hand through the air.

“I was right about why he was here,” Joe said quietly.

“What do you mean?” Katherine asked.

“His getaway to the west coast? Funded by yours truly,” he said, pursing his lips.

“He asked for money?” She asked him.

“Typical Nick. I shouldn’t have expected anything less,” Joe said, nodding his head.

“There must be something redeeming about him. You must have good memories of him to outweigh the disappointments?” She asked him, feeling kind of sad that his relationship with his brother was so rocky.

Joe closed his eyes for a moment and Katherine caught the small smile on his lips.

“What?” She asked him.

“When we were younger, we used to… we used to be in this, uh… band,” Joe admitted.

“A band?” She gasped playfully, her eyes instantly lighting up.

“We used to sing a whole bunch of old pop songs,” Joe explained, smiling fondly.

“I didn’t know you could sing,” she told him, feeling like she was in awe or something.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Miss Mason,” he countered, smiling wryly at her.

“Well, now you have to sing for me,” she said, quirking her eyebrow at him.

“No,” he said firmly, shaking his head.

“Yes. Sing for me,” she pressed, sticking out her bottom lip to help with her request.

“I have work to do, Miss Mason. I do not have time for singing,” he told her as he began to walk away from her.

“Joe!” She called to him just before he reached his office door.

“Yes, Miss Mason?” He asked, looking back at her.

“I will get you to sing to me, some way, somehow,” she promised him.

He let out a light laugh before disappearing into his office, and Katherine was left wondering what she would learn about him next.

Things went back to normal in the following days of Nick’s departure. No more surprise visitors. No more tension between Katherine and Mr. Jonas. Things didn’t really change between them – they weren’t anything more than they were before, but she could feel a noticeable weight lifted off her shoulders when it came to him. His mood seemed lighter as well, which she truly appreciated.

“Mr. Jonas?” She called, knocking on his open office door.

“Yes, Miss Mason,” he answered, looking up at her from the document he was reviewing.

“I am headed out to run some errands. Do you need anything?” She asked him.

“Nothing,” he told her.

“Alright,” she said, turning to leave.

“Uh, Miss Mason?” She heard him call to her.

“Yes?” She answered, stepping back into the doorway.

“How long might you be gone?” He asked curiously. Her eyebrows furrowed, giving him an odd look.

“I’m not sure, sir,” she told him honestly.

“What errands do you need to run?”

“Household ones…” She said vaguely, wondering why he was suddenly so interested.

“Yes. What kind of household errands, Miss Mason?” He asked with obvious annoyance in his tone.

“Uh, grocery shopping. I’ll be stopping at the pharmacy, the post office, and possibly the bank,” she told him, still giving him an odd look. He was never concerned before.

“That’ll take you until the afternoon, yes?” He asked.

“I suppose,” she said, feeling a bit uneasy.

He nodded once and went back to reading his document. Katherine stood staring at him in wonder. He was so mysterious all the time.

“That’ll be all, Miss Mason,” he said, turning to look at her again.

Ohh-kay,” she said under her breath and turned to leave.

She felt more than a little weird by their exchange. Was he trying to get rid of her? Or was he just being thorough, knowing where his staff was at all times? If there was one thing she knew, it was that Mr. Jonas was a very complicated man.

Katherine spent the tail end of the morning and a little bit of the early afternoon taking care of all the errands she needed to get done. She finished before she thought she would, pulling Mr. Jonas’ very expensive SUV into its designated parking spot in the garage. One of the parking attendants helped her with the groceries, bringing them into the elevator on a rolling cart. If she ever quit or lost the job, she was sure that’s what she’d miss the most – not having to load in her own groceries.

When the elevator door opened to the apartment, the attendant pushed the cart toward the kitchen and began unloading the bags on the countertop as she picked a few of the dying flowers out of the vase by the front door. She figured she might as well check the other fresh flowers in the house to weed out the dying ones. But once she turned the corner to the living room, she stopped in her tracks, seeing Joe in the living room sitting very closely to a very attractive blonde.

“You are absolutely adorable, darling,” Katherine heard the woman say to him as her hand slipped lovingly down his cheek.

She looked to be in her late thirties or early forties, and wealthy. The amount of jewels she was wearing was staggering. Was this one of his conquests? Was he on a date? Is that why he was trying to get rid of her?

“Oh, I’m sorry…” Katherine stammered, feeling flush.

“Miss Mason, home so soon?” Joe asked quickly, sounding a bit startled, sitting a little straighter on the couch.

“Yes. I’m sorry. Carry on,” she managed to say as she walked back out of the living room and made it to the kitchen.

The parking attendant was already gone, which was a relief. Katherine threw away the dying flowers in her hand before taking a deep breath to calm her nerves. She in no way had a claim on Joe, yet it still hurt knowing he was seeing other women behind her back. The least he could do was be honest with her. There was one thing she knew for sure – if he was sleeping around, then she was done. She would not be sleeping with a man that she had no idea where he’s been or who he’s been in.

After a few moments and a few more deep breaths later, Katherine began unpacking the groceries.

“It’s been lovely, darling. I’m so glad you called. We should get together again soon,” Katherine heard the lady say to Mr. Jonas as they made their way to the foyer.

Joe’s voice was too low for her to hear as she eavesdropped, but his face was close to her ear as he spoke and it sent jealousy shooting up her spine. She had the perfect vantage point from the kitchen, but she tried not to watch as the woman hugged him and kissed his cheek.

As soon as she was gone, Joe walked toward the kitchen and Katherine did her best to pretend she didn’t even notice his presence as she finished putting the groceries away. He stood there for a long time watching her, making her even more uncomfortable. So long that she could no longer pretend he wasn’t there.

“Can I help you with something, Mr. Jonas?” She asked curtly.

“Is there a problem?” He asked, sending her a watch-your-tone type of look.

“No problem, sir. I’m just doing my job, as you can see. Because I am an employee. You are my employer, right?” Katherine said, rambling a little bit because she was angry.

“Noted,” he said sharply, giving her another brash look before he walked out of the kitchen all together.

She took another deep breath and let it out hard. This job was starting to get under her skin. But then again, she knew it wasn’t the job – it was the lothario that employed her.

That evening Katherine had dinner made and the kitchen cleaned up before Mr. Jonas even came to the table. She laid out his place setting perfectly and dished up his food right before informing him, in the most polite and professional tone, that his dinner was ready. She then made sure she didn’t step foot out of her bedroom for the rest of the night.

The next morning she woke up from sharp pains in her abdomen. She didn’t even want to get out of bed because she felt like total garbage, but she knew she had to. The megalomaniac needed his goddamn omelet. When she finally decided to start her day, she began making the bed like she did every morning. It was then that she noticed spots of blood on the white sheets where she slept. Realizing it had to have come from her, she went to the bathroom, only to find she was having her period – quite heavier than she ever had it before. She shrugged it off, thinking maybe it was something to do with the new birth control she was put on.

She got ready for the day and made it to the kitchen, still feeling a little off. It was like she was in a cold sweat, and she was still having the sharp pains in her abdomen.

“Good morning, Miss Mason,” Joe said sternly as he walked into the kitchen, a bit more prematurely than usual.

“Mr. Jonas,” she said curtly, still upset about the day before.

“You’re not looking so well this morning, Miss Mason. Are you feeling okay?” He asked, stepping up to her, only to place the back of his hand on her forehead.

“I’m fine,” she said, pushing his hand away from her face.

“You’re not warm, but you’re a white as a ghost,” he pointed out, looking concerned.

“I’m f—” she grumbled, but her words cut off.

Katherine looked up at him, her breathing becoming labored and her vision blurring. She staggered on her feet before she collapsed in his arms, the spatula that was in her hand clattering to the floor.

“Katherine, what’s wrong? What’s the matter?” She heard Joe ask, panic in his voice, but she was in no position to answer him.

“Harris! Harris, get in here!” Joe shouted out to his head of security.

“Call an ambulance,” she heard him say just before she lost consciousness.

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