She couldn’t do it, couldn’t expose the naked, vulnerable girl inside the skin of the woman. However, when she went to turn her face away, he lifted his body off her. Another kind of panic stung her, the sense of loss devastating. But she was being turned onto her back before she could react, Riaz’s heat covering her once more as he brushed her hair out of her eyes with his free hand, his other one braced by her head.
“I saw a cactus in the desert once,” he said, his voice low and deep and a hum over her skin. “Called Queen of the Night. It had this exquisite creamy flower, and the scent, it intoxicated my wolf. But it only opened at night—you had to be patient to see it.” Eyes of beaten gold. “I’m very patient.” Suckling her upper lip into his mouth in an unexpected kiss, he tore her T-shirt on one side with his claws and—holding her gaze—shaped his hand over her bare rib cage.
Shivers raced over her frame. She tried to arch into him, sliding her hand around his body to push up his own tee so she could touch the hot, muscled skin of his back. “Please.”
But he shook his head. “Sex is easy.” He rocked against her, the hot steel of his erection pushing against the slick, needy flesh between her thighs. “I breathe your scent and I’m ready.”
“Then why are you doing this?” she whispered, one hand fisting against his chest. “Let’s keep it easy, as it was.” No demands, no expectations, no heartbreak. Because she’d been wrong—she wasn’t brave enough to chance more scars, more bruises. Not when this time around, she knew the agony would be so much worse.
Her wolf had never adored Martin as it adored the black wolf with the golden eyes.
Leaning down until his face was a bare inch away, his breath hot against her skin, Riaz said, “Because it’s too late for that, and you’re not the casual type. You never have been. Just like me.” Crushed rocks and broken glass in his voice.
It was instinct to curve her hand over his nape, to pet him as he’d petted her. He let her touch him, let her claim skin privileges that were becoming ever more complicated. She’d thought she’d figured everything out in Venice, but tonight, what he’d done, it had touched the secret, idealistically hopeful part of her she’d allowed no one to reach for so long, it was a forgotten memory. The fact he’d already done so, when their relationship had hardly begun, it had her stomach in knots, her heart thumping against her ribs.
And then there was his dominance.
He spread his hand on her throat just then, curving it in a gentle hold. “What’re you thinking that’s got your wolf so wary?” he asked in a low murmur, rocking once against the molten heat of her.
She twisted up in instinctive response, had the pleasure of hearing him hiss out a breath between clenched teeth. But though he stroked his hand down to lie possessively over her unfettered breast, he didn’t take the next step, the one that would’ve left them tangled and sweat soaked. “I got used to bending,” she admitted, fighting her pride to expose what a fool she’d been.
“With Martin. I had to bend to make him happy.” It had taken place so slowly, she hadn’t understood the corrosive ugliness of what was happening. Small things, she’d thought, things that didn’t really matter—after all, the man had risked everything to save her life. Until she’d realized she’d begun to bury Adria to please Martin. “He was nowhere near as strong as you.”
Riaz snorted. “You’ve been busting my balls since the instant we met—I sure as hell don’t think you’re suddenly going to flutter your lashes and simper at my every word.”
Wolf and woman both blinked at the ridiculous image. “It’s not that simple.” She tried to find the words to explain. “Martin made me weak … No. That’s not fair.” There had been two people in that relationship. “I weakened myself to make him happy. I’m terrified I’ll do the same with you.” That was her flaw, no one else’s.
Molding her breast with strong fingers, Riaz leaned down to take her lower lip between his teeth, releasing it oh-so-slow. “So you want to end things before they begin?” A harder squeeze, a deeper hint of teeth along her jaw. “That’s the real weakness.”
She dug her claws into his back when he bit her again. “Do that one more time and I’ll give you a nice new tattoo.”
Lips curving against her neck. “Yeah.” His clean-shaven jaw was smooth over her skin. “I’m not real worried about you bending for me.” Pushing up into a kneeling position straddling her hips, he ripped off his T-shirt and threw it to the floor before coming down over her, hands on either side of her head. “Open your mouth for me.”
“Is that a request or an order?”
A lazy smile that reached his eyes, his mouth capturing hers in hot demand. She rubbed her tongue against his, felt him growl deep in his chest. Shuddering, she pressed her hands to his chest, his muscled body hers to explore. But when she ran her knuckles down the tantalizing line of hair below his belly button and to the top of the jeans that hung sexily low on his hips, he only allowed her to open the top button before tugging away her hand.
“I get to play first.”
He’d ripped her T-shirt to shreds and was tugging off her pajama bottoms and panties before she realized she was his intended toy. Not resistant to the idea and with a few of her own, she pressed a foot to his chest the instant she was bare to the skin. “Get naked.” Very much an order. “I want full skin privileges.” She craved the sweet, hot slide of his body against hers, the hard male angles and delicious weight of him.