He tried to let her stay as the lead on their kiss, but he wanted her too much to follow through with that plan. Seconds later, he had his hands threaded through her hair so that he could tilt her head back and move his mouth from hers to the hollow beneath her chin.
"Listen," she said softly. He was so lost in the deliciously decadent task of learning the taste of her skin, it took him a few seconds to realize what she was saying. "The thumping stopped. I think our kissing is making the ghost happy."
He wasn't a man who kissed and laughed at the same time. But he couldn't contain it as he said, "Forget about the ghost. Kissing you makes me happy."
"I like making you happy," she said, before proving it with another sweet kiss.
But although he wanted nothing more than to pick her up and carry her into her bedroom, her words hit way too close to home. "I want you to be happy too. And maybe here, tonight, we can make each other happy. But not in the long run." Because he could never make the mistake of trusting anyone completely. Not even her.
She stroked her fingers down from his face to his shoulders and chest as though she couldn't resist touching him now that she finally had the chance. Through his T-shirt and jeans, he could feel the heat of her. He wanted to feel so much more, wanted to get so much closer, with nothing between them, but he couldn't let it happen with a lie. With deception.
He could practically see her mind working as her brows moved together and her eyes focused on an imaginary point. For all that it seemed she was just blurting things out all the time, she could be extremely thoughtful. She simply hated to hide the truth of her feelings from people. He'd never known anyone like her.
At last, she said, "It keeps occurring to me that a smart woman would be playing games to try to keep your interest. But I've never had the heart for games."
"I don't either," he agreed. "But I'm worried about you getting hurt. And I would hate myself for causing your tears."
"Aren't you worried about yourself too?"
Though they'd agreed to tell each other the truth, he tried to be gentle as he said, "I'm not the one looking for someone to love me."
"Are you sure about that?"
Her whispered question made his chest clench. Clench so tightly, in fact, that he couldn't stop himself from pushing back just as hard as she was pushing him. "You were right in the parking lot. We aren't going to end up like one of those fairy tales. You're beautiful, and I want you more than I've ever wanted anyone, but your love isn't going to make me a new man."
Now she'd have to back down. Give up. She'd tell him to go. And even though it was the last thing he wanted, he'd make himself leave.
But she remained in his arms as she said, "You don't need to become a new man, Liam."
It killed him to have to hurt her feelings now so that he wouldn't crush them later. "Maybe not, but your love isn't going to turn the Kanes into one big, happy family either."
He watched for a flinch. Was certain that this time she would.
Instead, her eyes flashed with determination--and something that looked, strangely, like humor. "And here I was thinking that sleeping with you tonight would do just that."
"Christie." Her name was a warning on his lips. He was trying to be careful with her, and she was bound and determined to foil him at every turn. Didn't she know that just the words sleeping with you were the proverbial straw that was going to break his vow to do right by her?
"Liam." She mimicked his warning tone well. "I know what you want me to say. That I'm going into tonight with my eyes wide open. That making love with you won't change anything. That I won't hold you to more than a few sinful hours between the sheets when morning comes. But I just don't have it in me to tell you the dozen different lies that I know you want to hear."
"I don't want you ever to lie to me," he insisted.
"Good, because here's the unvarnished truth: I can't promise you I'm not going to get hurt. And I definitely can't promise you I'm not going to fall head over heels in love with you, even if you never let yourself love me back. But I am absolutely certain that I want to make love with you tonight. Please, Liam, stay with me."
No other woman had ever talked to him like this. No one had ever had the courage to be so honest with her emotions. So up front about the mistakes she might make.
On a groan, he captured her mouth with his and lifted her into his arms. Seconds later, she was lying on her bed beneath him. He didn't ask for her pleasure, he stole it. But he knew that she was stealing just as much from him as she slicked her tongue over his.
Only, they weren't taking anything from each other tonight--they were giving each other exactly what they needed. Not just pleasure, not just the chance to let wild take free rein...but one perfect night to spin their attraction into something so much bigger than merely pleasure.
No one had ever kissed her like this, with such desire, with such heat, with so much need. And she needed him just as badly.
He was hard everywhere she was soft, and the things he knew how to do with his mouth to hers--my God. She could kiss him all night long and still not know how he did it. How he made every part of her come alive with nothing more than the brush of his lips over hers. How every cell in her body heated with need as he tangled his tongue with hers. How the nip of his teeth there, and then there, and then--oh yes--there, made her nearly shatter into a million breathless pieces.
She wrapped her legs around his waist and urged him to take anything--everything--he wanted from her. But instead of answering her body's plea, he lifted himself up on his forearms to stare down at her.
"You're so beautiful."
"Thank you?" He ran his fingertip gently along her hairline. Little tingles met his touch, and she almost whimpered at the pleasure of it. "I don't think you understand quite what I'm saying." His eyes were just as dark, just as unfathomable as ever. But his tone was richer, filled with a depth of emotion he'd never let her hear before.
"I do." Her voice sounded breathless. "You think I'm pretty."
His smile was tinged with heat. "You're so much more than pretty, Christie." He pressed a kiss to the spot on her forehead that he'd been lightly caressing. "Gorgeous. Stunning. Perfect. None of those words do you justice."
She'd expected heat, pleasure. She cared enough for Liam to find emotion in their kisses and caresses. But she hadn't thought there'd be such heartfelt words from a man who was so cautious with them.
He kissed her then, a kiss that echoed his words. A kiss that made her believe what he was saying was real.
"Something happens when you kiss me," she admitted. "I feel beautiful."
"Never doubt that you are, not for one single second."
She felt as though he was seeing all the way into her soul, into the hidden part where she'd tried to ignore the hurt from every man who had rejected her for not being exciting enough. For not being a risk taker, or knowing how to say the right thing at the right time. Even with Wesley--especially with Wesley--she'd lost sight of herself as a sensual woman.
One kiss at a time, Liam was giving that feminine power back to her.
She still had her robe on, and she wanted nothing more than to be naked beneath Liam, his powerful body pressing hers into the mattress. She reached for the sash, but before she could untie it, his hands were over hers, stopping her.
"Undressing you for the first time is a pleasure I don't want to miss."
She actually whimpered at the sensuality of his words. "Okay. But could you hurry?"
That smile she loved to see so much played around his mouth. "No."
She groaned with disappointment even as her body heated up with increased anticipation. "Pretty please?"
"So sweet." She watched his long, strong fingers slowly untie her sash. "And usually so good at getting what you want with that sweetness."
She was about to protest the usually when his fingertips grazed the bare skin of her belly. Words fled as
she sucked in a breath, her muscles trembling beneath his touch.
"Such lovely skin." He shifted on the bed so that he could press a kiss to that bare patch. "And so beautifully sensitive."
Another kiss followed the first, but before she could thread her hands into his hair, he was moving away again, taking the lapels of her robe and sliding it off her shoulders.