Because they both knew rock bottom. And it seemed like they deserved to reach for the heights, even if it was just for a few moments.
He took the blanket off his shoulders and laid it down on the sandy floor of the cave. “I have never seduced a woman in here before,” he said. “I know I told you that already but it feels like my current actions might make that assertion seem suspect.”
“A little bit, but I don’t really care,” she said, blinking back tears. “I’ve been cold for a long time,” she said.
“Because you were in the ocean.”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, I’ve been cold inside for a long time. I feel like you could make me warm. I need you to make me warm.”
“You deserve better than this,” he said, kissing her again, cutting off any response she might have made. “You deserve so much better than this, but I don’t have the strength to give it to you, because all I can do is take this for myself.”
His desperation fed hers, the need that wrapped itself around his voice was like balm for the scars inside. She might be the Zombie Princess, but right then, the beautiful, damaged prince wanted her.
They were both broken. Barely limping through life. But maybe if they held on to each other tight enough they could hold each other up. Maybe she could be strong enough if they were braced on each other.
He swept his hand over the line of her back, a wave of sensation crashing over her. How long had it been since she’d focused on her body? On what she felt physically. She’d been training herself to deny physical desire. To deny cravings of any kind. Of specific foods, rest, sex. Because it was important for a woman with her aims to deny herself.
But right now, Xander was making it impossible to think of anything else except what she felt. What she wanted. He was making her need, a deep, aching need that she couldn’t possibly let go unanswered.
She wouldn’t let it go unanswered. She knew what he meant now. Because she knew what she should do, too. She knew she should ask for a bed and soft sheets, and for him to be slow and gentle because it was her first time.
She knew she should demand marriage vows, because it was right.
But she was beyond that. None of it mattered. The cave floor would do, the commitment they had would have to as well.
She had a feeling that, if she had met him again and he hadn’t offered marriage, they would be in the exact same position.
Because this was unfinished business. This was the chance to either bond her and Xander together for good, or to at least have him lose some of his power over her by answering some very important questions. The chance to turn regrets of missed chances into mistakes made.
She was honestly okay with the idea that it might be a mistake when it was over. Because she was short on those. Or maybe not. Maybe her life had been one long, steady, low-key mistake.
That sent a jolt of panic through her, spurred her on, made her kiss him all the more desperately. Xander made her feel so much. So many things she thought she’d let go of, and he brought it all roaring back, or to life for the very first time.
He pushed his hands beneath her shirt, repeating his earlier move, this time over bare skin. She moved her hands to his stomach, tugging his shirt out from his pants and slipping her fingers beneath. He was so hot, so hard. So very different from her.
She would have been shocked by her boldness in other circumstances. But not now. Not when they were in the dark. In this place that almost seemed removed from reality. Not when they were holding each other up.
Not when they were helping each other forget by filling the present with so much pleasure the past couldn’t exist anymore, and the future couldn’t be a concern.
He pulled his lips from hers and kissed her neck, teeth grazing her sensitive skin, his tongue sliding over her flesh to soothe away the sting. He knew just where to hit, just when to stop and suck at her skin, when to inflict pain. When to give pleasure.
He tightened his hold on her and drew her forward, raising his other hand to cup her breast through the fabric of her damp top. He moved his thumb, finding her nipple with ease, finishing the work of the cold water and tightening it to a painfully hard point.
A low growl rolled through his throat and he propelled her backward, pushing her against the wall of the cave. He pushed a thigh between her legs, then took advantage of her widened stance, his arousal coming into contact with the most intimate part of her.
There were layers of clothing between them but she still felt it, so devastating. So erotic. So unlike anything she’d given herself permission to want or feel for far too long.
She’d told him that she was a woman, and had been long before he’d walked back into her life. And it was true. But she’d suppressed an amazing part of what it meant to be a woman, and only now, with his lips on her skin, his hands on her body, his hardness against her softness, did she realize that.