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Branded Sanctuary, Page 10

Joey W. Hill

Page 10


  Her brow wrinkled. Why? For me, or you?

  Brendan shifted. Both. You, because were at the point it might scare you off, and me, because I dont want to scare you off. I like being with you too much.

  She swallowed. The perfect moment was a balance between words spoken and things left unsaid. Change and dread often walked hand in hand.

  She could feel the bite of loneliness threatening, and she didnt want to feel that way with him.

  Okay, she said. But you have to sing to me. Whatever song I choose.

  He raised a brow, his expression easing. Is this payback for last night?

  You bet your ass. A nd Im not reciprocating and singing something else. One moment of abject humiliation is more than enough.

  One way only, he promised. My punishment for breaking the mood.

  No. She shook her head. You didnt do that. That was me.

  His fingers tightened on the sides of her face, stroking and awaking nerves that shimmered over her whole body, particularly the places that pressed against him.

  The brand is on my skin, he reminded her. A nything I do that makes you sad, frightened or lonely, should have consequences. Im willing to do anything to fix it.

  Chloe traced his brow, feathering her fingertips through the fall of hair over it. I Dont Want to Close My Eyes, the A erosmith version.

  He smiled, brushed a kiss across her lips. Chloe tightened her hand on his neck to increase the pressure and he obliged, pushing her into the bed, his cock pressed in sensual promise against her mons as he devoured her mouth. He could make a kiss into a slow rhythmic dance with circles of tongue, pressure of lips, his hand holding her face on the other side and fingers stroking. In minutes she was rubbing against him in instinctive need. Her legs rose, clasping high on his hips. The barrier of denim between them helped dissolve some of her unease, reminding her that he was her toy to play with as she wished. Toys were safe, right?

  It was a mean thought, an ugly side of her taking advantage of what hed just offered, more than anyone should offer another human being, really. The guilt increased as he raised his head and she saw how much he could offer her. It proved how shallow a vessel she truly was right now, because she knew shed waste most of what he gave her, unable to contain it. Her walls were too brittle to hold a gift of such weight.

  Sshh, he murmured. His fingers were at the corners of her eyes, collecting the tiny pair of tears she didnt know had escaped. Im whatever you need me to be, Chloe, as long as you need me. I wont ask for more than you can give.

  Even if she wanted and needed him to demand more? She didnt know how to say that, though. She wasnt even really sure what it meant.

  Sing to me, she said, a soft plea. She needed him to sing, and to sing that song specifically. She wanted to hear that poignant wish that the moment between them never had to end. That shed never have to close her eyes and give herself to the cold, deadly dreams of the reality she couldnt face.

  In the long, searching pause that followed, her heart dipped into apprehension. Whether or not he asked for more than she could give, she feared he already saw more than she could bear him to know.

  Then he began the first yearning bars. Closing her eyes, she held on, his untrained voice soothing her nerves like a lullaby.

  Chapter Five

  They lay in the bed and talked for four hours, as if they hadnt talked most of the previous night. She learned more about his drama classes and swimming, and gave him anecdotes about Tea Leaves and her comfortable, large family who lived up in New England. She talked about the wide variety of characters shed met through her job at the piercing kiosk, as well as a hundred other small adventures.

  He listened, let her go on like an idiot, but it was as if a dam had broken. For the first time in a long while, she could talk about anything and nothing. She felt no pressure to act like nothing was wrong, covering the obvious fact it was with inane, babbling chatter. Nor did she feel like he was ignoring it for his own comfort. Rather, she felt his understanding and acceptance of where she was right now, giving her complete ownership of the choice of when to talk about it. It made her feel almostfree.

  Of course she realized the miracle of it was possible for a couple reasons. They were here, quiet and sequestered from the rest of the world, no outside triggers to those dangerous poison clouds of memory drifting inside her. The other reason was the man himself.

  A mid the conversation, theyd pulled together a meal. She still had a loaf of the French bread shed made a couple days before. With that and some honey butter, a few sliced fresh tomatoes hed gone out and pulled from her garden, hed seemed perfectly happy with the light fare. Theyd eaten it in her bed, keeping the lights off.

  Thered been more kissing. During the meal and after. Lots of kissing, until she thought she could have come from that alone. But stretching out and facing one another, her still naked and him with his jeans on, her toes playing on the denim over his calves, they made a new game of it. Who could do the hottest kiss without moving the lower body or using the hands below the throat. Goddess, hed brushed her collarbone once and she reacted as violently as if hed touched her clit, making him groan fiercely in response, though hed kept his hands there, not taking advantage of the moment.

  When they finally agreed to call it a draw, they lay side by side, hands tangled in a loose knot on the mattress, their unreleased bodies damp with perspiration, touched by the breeze through the open window. Shudders twitching the muscles so theyd grinned at one another like spasmodic children. A s she closed her eyes, Brendans fingertips whispered over her mouth, and she knew the look lingering on his face was far from that of an adolescents. A mans desire, a mans emotions.

  He had an unprecedented ability to stay on the innocent side of lust she craved, indulging that side without pressure. Everything she wanted and did to him, he responded just the right amount, so artfully she only felt a twinge of guilt here and there, knowing she was keeping him in a state of arousal and liking it far too much.

  Even in his aroused state, though, he had a subtle skill for gauging the level of her own desires so he never pushed on them too hard, never allowing his own to overrule hers. She was fairly well versed in sexual matters, but shed never experienced anything like this. It was fucking sexy as hell and crazy unreal. Some part of her wondered how long he could manage such a miracle, but somewhere along the journey, she stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed.

  He put his arms around her, and she easily adjusted her body into the curves of his, the joy of spooning. It was only a little after nine, but so many sleepless nights had taken their toll. A s she drifted down from arousal into somnolence, she fell into blissfully dreamless sleep, wrapped in his scent and arms.

  Still, she was amazed to wake up just before dawn, rather than the middle of the night. She had remained in the loose curl of his arms, but had to slide out from that welcome shelter to attend to natures call. A fter leaving the bathroom, she shrugged into a Japanese style robe, a gift from Marguerite, and slipped into the kitchen. She warmed up some Earl Grey from the previous day, and cradled the hot mug in her hands, looking out the kitchen window.

  In an hour or so, it would be daylight. A faint violet and azure combination in the sky told her the weather would be clear. Bless God and Goddess for sunny days, where shadows were banished and the twisted meeting of desire and destructive emotions parted company, leaving just playful lust and a cautious excitement about what the day could bring.

  She wandered back to the bedroom. Hed shifted in his sleep so he lay on his stomach, his arms stretched over his head and curled around the pillow, his jaw shadowed by a days worth of stubble. She liked the loose, low riding fit of his jeans, but was startled at the hard pulse of response between her legs, so fierce she felt moisture dampen her thigh.

  Maybe it was just the cumulative effect of what theyd been doing before they went to sleep. Despite his perfect balan
ce of desire and restraint, part of the delicious nature of it was her lack of such inhibitions, making it even harder for him.

  Her lips twitched. A n accurate if unwise choice of words, if she wanted to calm herself down. Every sexually experienced woman knew that a man woke up hard. Brendan was likely lying on a very nice erection right now.

  Her gaze landed on that mark low on his back. Goddess, a brand hurt, and this was fairly precise on the edges. A s she drew closer, she realized there were three, the fleur de lis and a decorative element on either side of it. If she dripped the hot tea on them, would it invade his memories in a pleasant or disturbing way? A lot of people who did the body modification were turned-on when they were touched there, heightening erotic response. Could she make that erection harder, thicker?

  Setting the tea aside, she leaned over. Blew softly on it, and heard him murmur, but not stir. When she placed her mouth on it, her hand molding the curve of his buttock, a wave of proprietary feeling swept over. Despite whoever had asked him to do this, it was as if she was taking possession of the significance. A transfer of ownership. A n odd thought, for certain.

  She tasted it and him, her tongue following the design. Her other hand was bracing herself on the mattress, and his fingers slid over hers in the folds of the sheets, their hands curling and tangling like mating birds compelled to brush together in flight and then intertwine, moving in the same rhythm, guided by the same natural compulsion.

  When she raised her head, he was looking at her, sleepy desire in his eyes. I want you, Chloe, he said, his voice rough with desire. Right now.

  It trembled through her. Raw honesty, which made it a demand that her own body was fully willing to embrace.

  Sshh. Dont think. He turned on his side, still holding her hand, and drew her down next to him, so dawn light limned the pleasing shape of his broad shoulder. A n inexorable pressure, the gentle touch of his palm pushing her to her back beneath that shelter, and then his hand slid down, down, down. He hovered, so close but not kissing her yet. He didnt press her down with his body, as if knowing if he did too much, too soon, she might release the breath she was holding and break the spell.

  Those long, clever fingers opened her robe and stroked over the scar tissue left by her navel piercing, then drifted lower. Like flowing water, nothing fast or sudden.

  If he asked permission now, shed have panicked, because her mind was in an odd paralysis, but he wasnt talking, either. He was surrounding her with his intent and desire, weaving her into it in the very air, so that even as her body stirred, she felt like her heart beat was slowing. She was so in tune with him, so much a part of this moment with him, permission wasnt relevant.