“You really are a knight in shining armor.”

“No. A kid with a hard background who tries to do the right thing.”

They spent an hour over their drinks. She told him about her studies and shared that she was considering career options for after graduation.

“You can come work for me. Maybe have a positive influence on the office. And me.”

She rolled her eyes as if that was impossible. “One could hope.”

He tossed out the idea as a way to keep her close—a natural transition—but the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. She saw the world differently than he did. He was smart enough to know that could be a valuable asset. Not many people had the courage to look him in the eye and call him out. “I offer fringe benefits. All the spankings you need.”

An interested gleam lightened her eyes, making them appear golden. He adored her many expressions and wanted to explore them all. “Ah, impact play is the key to your kingdom, isn’t it? You could come to me anytime and I’d kick anyone else out and lock the door. From time to time, I’d even get you off.”

Her breath caught. “That took me by surprise. I don’t usually orgasm during a scene.” She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Wait! I shouldn’t have admitted that. Now you’ll be even more insufferable.”

“Surely that’s impossible.”

“You read my mind, Jax.”

They shared a grin. Solidarity. He’d take that as a win. “What is it specifically about impact play that satisfies you?”

After laughing, she answered his question sincerely. “I’ve always channeled my energy into something—ballet, cycling, yoga. But a group of us visited the Quarter a couple of years ago on one of their explore days. There were lots of workshops and discussions, and we had the opportunity to try things, in a very vanilla type of way—over our clothes, that sort of thing. I found peace I hadn’t known I was looking for.” She took the final sip from her glass. “A spanking refocuses me, chases away stress. I can study better. Sleep better. I don’t have to have it all the time. Sometimes just knowing it will happen helps.”

“And the men you play with?” His voice was far sharper than he’d intended.

“I’ve scened with the same top a couple of times. But mostly, I see who’s available.”

He didn’t like that risk.

“Thanks to Aviana, the Quarter is a safe place for me to visit.” She slid her empty glass onto the table. “I’m ready for bed.”