“I want you,” I said again. “For no other reason than that I crave you. Please, don’t send me away.”
Something in his expression grew fierce, while his whole body relaxed. He reached out, a masculine hand cupping my side, and pulled me on top. Both of my palms landed on his chest, caressing his bare skin as I steadied myself and straddled his hips.
Framing my face, he brought my mouth to his, but before kissing me he said, “Tell me, Emma. Stop running from me and tell me how to help you.”
Gently digging my nails into his pecs, I breathed against his lips. “You want to help?”
“Then just hold me.”
As though a dam burst and a silent understanding was reached, Rhys consumed my mouth in one long, penetrating kiss.
Rising up on my knees, I wound my fingers into his hair and pulled him closer. Shoving past his teeth and drinking in everything he was. I was desperate. For his power, his attention. Everything about him lit me up and made me feel surrounded by his body — by his presence.
He returned every lick, every nip. Ratcheting up the passion. The only things I could hear were his short rasps and groans.
The stubble on his chin scratched my face and sent a zing of heat to my core. From the way he felt to the way his mouth devoured mine to how he commanded my body to respond to his without asking . . . everything about him was all man.
His hands landed heavily on my ass, gently rocking me against his erection, nestled between my thighs.
“I’ve missed you,” he said against my mouth. “Since that damn gala and that one kiss, I’ve thought of nothing else.”
He sat up even straighter, his hard torso flexing against my inner thighs and I couldn’t hold back anymore. He was a huge strong man and I felt small, in such a perfect way.
Normally, I associated being small with being meek. Not with Rhys. It was like taking on a femininity I didn’t know existed. So long as I was right there, wrapped up by him, there was no way anyone could touch me. Not my past, not Mase, no one.
“I’ve thought of you too. I wanted to show up that night,” I said before I could think better of it.
“Why didn’t you?”
Because there is something about you that makes me feel like I’m not the trashy girl outrunning her past. Because I believe you when you say things. Because I want to be near you.
“I don’t have a good reason.”
Thank God both our mouths were too busy for him to ask further. Because then I’d have had to try to explain why I felt the way I did for him, which I didn’t even understand. It went against logic for me to actually care for a man. A man who was so far out of my realm of possibilities.
Everything about Rhys Striker screamed warm, safe and all-American. I didn’t fit in his world, but tonight, I desperately wanted to. To be someone else. Someone without a past.
“I’m not going anywhere now. Don’t make me . . .” I bit his lower lip and he growled.
“Never.” Gripping the hem of my shirt, he lifted it over my head. Leaning back a little, he looked at me. I was bare, all but for my panties.
“You’re so beautiful, Emma.” Again, when his eyes met mine, I wanted so badly to believe him. He trailed a finger along my collarbone, leaving goose bumps in its wake. “So delicate.”
No one had ever called me that. If they had, I probably would have socked them in the gut. But everything Rhys saw in me, spoke about, was the woman I wished I really was.
Calluses from his palms scratched down my spine as he ran his hands up and down my back, simply looking at me.
That gray gaze went from my eyes, to my lips then my br**sts, down to —
“What’s this?” he asked softly, brushing his thumb over the three-inch scar on my abdomen.
“Appendix,” I lied. Same lie I always told and hadn’t been caught yet.
His stare was back on my face and something pained streaked across his face.
“Your appendix is on the right side,” he whispered, still running his thumb over the slightly raised and ruined strip of skin to the left of my bellybutton.
Why couldn’t this man be ignorant like everyone else?
“This,” he rubbed again, “looks like a battle scar.” One hand remained on my hip while the other snaked up to cradle my face. His palm took up my whole cheek and jaw. “Who hurt you, Emma?”
His tone was so sincere, so lethal, that it made something rise in me that hadn’t risen in a long time: Tears.
“Please, can we just . . . be? Just for tonight? I can’t think anymore about any of this.” I wiggled closer, wrapping my arms tighter around him.
I didn’t want to go into all of it. Didn’t want him feeling sorry for me. I just wanted a night with him. A night I was too scared to show up for last time. And I was tired of feeling scared.
Leaning in, I kissed his jaw, down his neck, my hands sliding across his shoulders as I moved lower, eating up his warm skin. “Please,” I said again.
In response, he lifted my chin with a single finger, pulled me close, and kissed me. His biceps bulged against my ribs and every tense limb I had, relaxed. Just being within his grasp I felt better. He was so much bigger than me. I’d felt overwhelmed by a man before, on more than one occasion. And I should feel the same now, considering that Rhys was the biggest man I’d ever been near. But instead of being frightening, his sheer size was welcoming.
There was so much of him I wanted to explore, but I couldn’t peel myself away to do so. I just wanted him. Now. Details could wait. Because the more I explored him, the more he’d explore me and I wasn’t ready to talk. Not yet. Not ever.
Dipping his head, he licked and nipped my breast and I let my head fall back. When he pulled my nipple between his lips and sucked, I moaned and arched my back, giving him more access, begging for more.
“Your skin tastes like honey,” he rasped against me, his breath fanning over my damp and pouting nipple. He moved to the other one and paid the same attention. Agonizingly slow and guaranteed to melt a woman from the inside out.
Taking his time, he ran his tongue around the most sensitive part, leaving me panting before sucking hard on the tip.
“Condom?” I asked — begged — my eyes squeezed shut as I basked in the sensation of his mouth on me.
He absently pointed to the small pack by the couch, refusing to relinquish my breast, which I was more than fine with. As I reached down to rifle through it, he kept his mouth fused to me, tasting along my neck over to the front of my shoulder.