This desire for her came from somewhere deep. It didn’t come from looking at her, or even from touching her, it was her very presence. It seemed to be some part of her, some part deep inside, connecting with something in him.
Perhaps it was shared pain meeting a shared goal. Or maybe it was nothing more complex than a bout of celibacy that had gone on for too many months. Either way, it was beginning to feel too strong to fight. He was wondering if there was a reason to bother, anyway.
She was going to be his wife after all.
Not that she had any idea of what that truly meant. Of who he truly was.
“Everyone is staring, aren’t they?” she asked.
“Have you ever worn makeup? Since your attack?”
She frowned. “Once. I tried it once. Not very long after my last surgery. It didn’t really help I... But I thought tonight I should wear some because I needed to dress up and...”
“You look lovely. And I do mean that.”
“They did a better job covering the damage than I ever managed to do.”
“That isn’t the only reason.”
“Let’s not do this mushy, stumbling lying thing now, Xander. You were perfectly honest with me the other day about my looks. So don’t go trying to smooth it all over just because I tried.”
“You are a stubborn woman,” he said. “And I want you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t understand want? Desire? Do you know what it means to want someone?”
“I...yes. But I don’t need you to lie to me about it.”
“I’m not.” he said, tightening his hold on her, bringing her curves flush against his body. And he let her feel what she was doing to him. He let his cock harden against her and he didn’t bother to suppress his need, his fantasies. He imagined what it would be like to have her bare softness against him, without this damned tux in the way.
What it would be like to make her let go. To make her break out of the little cell she’d locked herself in. The one that meant there was no passion. No desire. Only boring, staid contentment.
He wanted to make her lose herself while he lost himself in her. Because for some reason he felt sure that she was the only one who could make him feel again. The only one who might make a change in him that could last.
The feeling that came with that thought was fleeting, but so intense it nearly buckled his knees. So intense he nearly dragged her from the dance floor and into the nearest dark alcove to make her his without any thought to vows.
But then it cleared. The fire dying down as suddenly as it had flared up.
No, there was no changing him. Not even she could do it. There was no magic to be found on her lips. But there was pleasure. And he was a man who’d spent years consumed by the desire for pleasure.
That was the simple answer to why he felt so drawn to her. It wasn’t in his nature to deny himself anything he wanted.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t able to hold myself back this time. You accused me of lying about wanting you and I thought you should know this time, for yourself, that it’s true.”
She pushed out of his arms and walked away from him, leaving him there in the middle of the dance floor, shocked and hard as hell.
He followed her, through the crowd of people and out onto the balcony. Her shoulders were shaking and guilt stabbed him, low in the gut.
He’d had a lot of bad feelings since returning home. Guilt and regret. He preferred it when his life boiled down to being drunk and horny, but right now he had felt sober, horny and guilty. Which was a combination he wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“What did I do? Did I offend you with my erection? Because you’re going to have to get used to it if you honestly want to marry me.”
She whirled around to face him. “Oh, please. Stop making this about you when it’s clearly about me.”
“I think we both think it’s all only about us.”
“Fine,” she said, tears on her cheeks, “but...this is...why do you want me? Why...I don’t understand this. Any of it.”
“Is that really what upset you?”
“It’s just a lot. A lot to take. Everything has changed in the past week. Everything I’m supposed to want.”
“Do you want me?”
He walked over to where she was standing and took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Do you want me?”
“That’s not what this is about.”
“But it’s part of marriage.”
“So is love. We barely have like.”
“I’m not big on love,” he said. “Personally, I would rather have want. So if that’s all we have, I’m okay with it.”