Izzy picked up her pen but put it back down without writing down the directive. “You can’t recast a show with two weeks to go.”
“Watch me,” he snapped.
“Enough,” she sighed, stowing her notebook back in her bag and standing up to stash the leftovers in the refrigerator. “I’ll get your cigarettes.” Although she didn’t approve of Robert’s smoking habit, chain smoking was the only thing that ever seemed to ease his mind when he was in this mood. He’d go out on the balcony and smoke a pack, and by tomorrow he’d be back on an even keel and ready to work.
Rustling through the jacket he’d draped over his chair let her empty handed, and she was just getting ready to run out to the nearest corner store when Robert spoke. “I quit.”
“Smoking?” Izzy blinked in surprise.
Robert’s mouth twisted. “Dr. Harris mentioned the word emphysema at my last appointment, and I decided quitting was the lesser evil. Carrying an oxygen tank would ruin the line of my suits.”
“You’d just make me carry it,” Izzy reminded him. Now that he mentioned it, she hadn’t noticed him slipping away from rehearsal to grab a cigarette, and it explained why he’d been so prickly lately. “I’m proud of you, Robert.”
He gave her a tired smile, then turned to glare at the snow globe. “If we get rid of Kathryn, that will fix everything.”
“No, it won’t,” Izzy argued. “Because then you’ll have a whole new set of problems and an actress who doesn’t know the show. Get some sleep. If you still feel this way in the morning, I’ll make some calls.”
Robert rounded on her. “It’s not midnight yet,” he reminded her.
It was ten minutes to midnight, and as far as Izzy was concerned, that was close enough. “It takes me ten minutes to get home. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“A little support would be appreciated,” he called as she headed for the door.
“I do support you. I’m just not going to enable you when you’re being crazy,” she informed him. “You’re tired. Go to bed, and we’ll talk about this in the morning.”
“I’m not a child,” he informed her, his mouth turning under at the edges, making him look like nothing more than a sulky toddler. Izzy swallowed a laugh.
“Want me to tuck you in?” she teased.
Robert glared at her like she’d mortally offended him. Izzy watched with wide eyes as he tossed his cane into the air, catching it by the middle of the shaft. With one smooth movement, he struck the snow globe with the head of the cane, sending it flying halfway across the room. Somehow, the cheap plastic survived the blow, and it kept rolling until it came to rest at Izzy’s feet. She stooped to pick it up. “That was uncalled for.”
Cursing, he smashed his cane against the back of the sofa, and Izzy was torn. Part of her wanted nothing more than to flee and leave him to have his breakdown in peace. She’d get some sleep while he wore himself out, and tomorrow things would be back to normal. The rest of her was rooted to the spot. In four years, she’d never seen him so out of control and if something happened, she’d never forgive herself.
“Stop it,” she demanded.
Robert continued beating the couch like she hadn’t spoken. “I said stop it!”
Izzy cast one agonized look at the door and gave up. No matter how loudly her bed was calling her, she couldn’t leave him alone like this. Careful to stay out of range, she moved behind him and replaced the snow globe in its normal position before sizing up the situation. Robert had nearly a foot of height on her, and she could clearly see the play of his muscles under his shirt, the thin cotton damp with sweat as he continued his assault on the furniture.
When Izzy first moved to New York, her worried father had demanded that she take self-defense lessons. Although she’d never had cause to use anything they taught her, she could still remember a few things—like how to use an opponent’s size against him.
Taking a deep breath, she darted forward and grabbed his left arm, twisting it behind his back as she used her own weight and momentum to shove him forward, bending him over the back of the couch. Beneath her, Robert grunted in surprise, losing his grip on his cane which fell from his hand. Reaching around him, Izzy used her free hand to grab his tie and pull tightly, restricting his ability to draw breath. “I said enough.”
Robert made no move to fight her off as she held him down. Relaxing a little, Izzy adjusted her grip on him so she was draped more comfortably over his back. If he wanted to get up, she wouldn’t have had a prayer of restraining him, but he didn’t move a muscle. Beneath her, she could feel him shaking.
“Relax,” she ordered, her breath stirring his hair.
“I’m losing my mind,” he muttered, his voice hoarse.
“You’re tired and stressed out and going through nicotine withdrawal,” she countered, loosening her hold on his tie. As she did, he struggled, and Izzy instinctively twisted his wrist, pinning him more firmly. Robert subsided with a noisy sigh.
The noise from the street faded away. Izzy was aware of no sound beyond her own heartbeat and Robert’s breath. Counting to herself, she matched her breathing to his, feeling her own tension drain away as she held him pinned under her for long moments, time seeming to fold and expand into a brief eternity. It was a tableau from one of her fantasies about her boss. She was pressed full-length against Robert’s back, the warmth of him seeping through her clothes. She was aware of the coiled strength in the body that lay beneath her, but he was quiescent, content to be dominated.
Testing a theory, Izzy increased the pressure on his wrist, and his soft groan sent a jolt of lightning through her. Her nerve endings blazed to life, every inch of her skin hyperaware of having him against her. Robert was at her mercy, hers to do with as she pleased, and there was so much she’d dreamed about doing with him.
“I want to please you,” he rasped. “I’d do anything to please you.”
As far as she was concerned, he was off to a good start. Izzy stroked his hip with the toes of her other foot before slipping it between his legs to caress his straining cock, feeling the heat radiating off of him.
“Minx,” he accused, catching her foot in his hands and draping it over his shoulder so he could lavish the same attention on her other knee. Once Izzy was breathless and trembling, he pressed his advantage, lavishing her inner thigh with long licks and biting kisses that made Izzy keen with delight, her body boneless with pleasure.
She gazed down at him, catching a gleam of triumph in his dark eyes that cleared her mind as effectively as a splash of cold water. Delicious as this felt, she hadn’t given him permission to touch her above the knee. If she allowed it, he would ride roughshod over her, and while she would no doubt enjoy it, that wasn’t what she wanted from him. At the theater, he was her boss, but in the bedroom, she was in charge.
Bracing her feet against his shoulders, Izzy flexed her legs and shoved him away, Robert overbalancing in surprise. He caught himself with a hand on the floor, looking up at her through his tangled hair. “You’re misbehaving,” Izzy reminded him.
“You liked it,” he protested, unable to completely hide the smug twist of his lips. The damnable man knew perfectly well he’d been pushing the boundaries, his smirk daring her to do something about it.
He claimed he’d fallen for her because she wasn’t afraid to put him in his place. Izzy was about to test that theory. She stood up and smoothed down her rumpled skirt, breathing slowly and deeply in order to calm her raging lust. For what she was about to do, she would need all her wits about her.
A half-formed idea had come to her mind as she watched him strip, and now Izzy wondered if she had the nerve to go through with it. Robert watched with trepidation as she crossed to her desk and opened the center drawer, looping the handcuffs around her index finger to display them. “Remember these?”
“Oh, yes,” he growled, his lips drawing back in a feral smile.
“Then you know what to do. Lean on the futon, and put your hands behind your back.” Izzy jangled the handcuffs, waiting to see what he’d do.
Robert watched her for a moment, then crawled forward to kneel on the floor, bracing himself against the futon and crossing his wrists behind him. Despite his compliance, she could still see the smirk on his face. He wanted this, but like everything else, he wasn’t going to make it easy for her. That was fine with Izzy. He could resist all he liked, but she would be the one to win this battle of wills.
“Good boy,” she praised. He’d obeyed the letter of her command if not the spirit, but if she could persuade him that she was pleased with him, the element of surprise would be on her side. The click of the handcuffs snapping into place made her smile as she tightened the metal around his wrists as much as she could. Robert tugged at the restraint, moaning softly when he found his hands securely bound.
“I’m very angry with you,” Izzy said, her sweet tone at odds with her words. “You led Kathryn on. You gave me the silent treatment. You assaulted Jon. You’ve been smoking.”
“I’m sorry,” Robert answered, his voice smooth. He was mouthing the right words, but there was no sincerity in his voice.
“No, you’re not,” she contradicted, resuming her spot on the futon and letting the keys drop to the floor beside her, the heat of his body caressing her thigh as she sat. Retrieving his tie from where she’d put it down, she displayed it, Robert’s eyes lighting up at the strip of silk.
“Admit that you’re not sorry,” she dared as he tilted his head back, wordlessly begging her to wrap the tie around his throat.
“I’m not sorry. I got what I wanted,” he replied, the heat of his gaze making her blood simmer in her veins.
“If you’d talked to me, you could have had this weeks ago,” she reminded him.
His careless shrug set her teeth on edge. “I waited four years for you. What’s two more weeks?”
“If that’s how you feel…” Izzy let her words trail off as she beckoned him to lean closer. Robert obeyed at once, grunting in surprise when she wrapped the tie around his head instead of his neck, the silk slipping between his teeth as she tied a firm knot, gagging him. “You talk too much, Robert.”