They both laughed, and she buried her face against his chest. ‘Do I still sound so uncertain?’ She watched his lips tug up in a half-smile, ‘I… love… you.’
He swept her up into his arms and carried her to the bedroom to seal the pledge they had made to each other. Lowering her down onto the bed, he dropped the towel he had been wearing round his waist, and slipped beneath the covers, drawing her into his arms. Stroking her hair, he dropped kisses on her eyes, on her cheek, on her brow…
‘This is good,’ he said tenderly. ‘The best thing in the world is being in bed with you.’
‘It’s so much softer than a table,’ she teased him. ‘The worktable in a florist’s shop,’ she reminded him, ‘the boardroom table.’
‘Yours, or mine?’
‘Both, if I have my way.’
‘Then it’s to be hoped you do—I ‘m keen to make sure our lovemaking never becomes predictable.’
‘No chance of that—’ Lisa gasped as Tino moved down the bed, kissing every inch of her on the way. He flung back the covers so that the subdued light from the bedside lamp played across her naked body, turning it a deeper shade of peach.
‘You’re so beautiful,’ he murmured, tracing the contours of her breasts and belly with the lightest touch to bring her pleasure. ‘I want to taste you.’
Throwing her head back on the soft bank of pillows, Lisa moaned softly as he moved between her thighs, pressing her legs back with his warm palms until she was completely open for him, completely ready… She could refuse him nothing… not even her heart.
His dark hair was so glossy in the lamplight, so silky to her touch as she laced her fingers through the thick waves to urge him on… His tongue was every bit as skilful as his fingers, and there was no part of her he did not understand, or know how to play for the greatest pleasure. But as her excitement grew to fever pitch he drew back, smiling down at her, his eyes dark with passion, and his smile wolfish in the half-light.
‘Don’t keep me waiting—’
‘Or?’ he demanded.
‘If you’re naughty, I shall have to punish you.’
Arousal hit them at the same moment, and as their eyes locked Tino knew they were thinking the same thing. They had both suffered the consequences of violence, but they had worked through their fears together, and it had brought them closer than either of them had anticipated. They could push the boundaries because they loved each other, and because they could trust each other completely, and because, at last, they both knew without any doubt at all that they were safe.
‘Better?’ he asked Lisa later when she lay quiet in his arms.
‘Can’t speak… no strength.’ Her body was floating on another dimension. She couldn’t have called it back even had she wanted to.
‘All the shadows gone?’
‘We both have them,’ Tino told her, shifting his head on the pillows to meet her gaze. ‘You can’t hide from someone who has spent his whole life blanking out the past—’
‘That works both ways, Tino.’
‘I know about the commune,’ he said. ‘I know about all the terrible things you saw while you were living there. I understand your reasons for running away, and for going back to live with your father. You were right to do that, Lisa. And in the end your mother did her best for you. No child should have been exposed to the dangers you were exposed to, and I believe she helped you to get out of there just in time.’
‘Who told you all this?’
‘Does it matter?’
It had to be Mike, Lisa realised. She hadn’t confided the truth about her mother’s extreme lifestyle to another living soul.
‘Don’t be angry with Mike,’ Tino said as he read her mind. ‘He only has your best interests at heart.’
‘I’m not angry. It’s just that I never talk about the past in case anyone thinks I’m looking for sympathy, or help. I know that no one can help me. I can only help myself.’
‘If you thought of it as understanding, rather than sympathy, you might find other people out there just like you. You can share the road back with someone else, Lisa, someone who is also trying to break free from the past.’