Branded sanctuary, p.18
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       Branded Sanctuary, p.18

         Part #7 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill
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Page 18


  Chloe cleared her throat. I guess my break is over. I need to go get

  Stop. The firm command stopped her in mid-sentence as those blue eyes became cooler, more intent. Irrefutable. Chloe, I will never, ever make you tell me something you dont want to say. So the discomfort you are feeling comes from the fear of what you know you need to say, and the fact you tell me something you dont want to say. So the discomfort you are feeling comes from the fear of what you know you need to say, and the fact youre not sure youre ready for the consequences of it. But know this.

  Marguerite rose, came to her and settled on her heels next to the low chair, surprising Chloe as her long, cool fingers settled on Chloes folded knees. Those shadows at the carnival. If you get lost in them, or feel you need to walk away from the light into them, you will not be alone there.

  Whenever, whatever you eventually must face, we will be there. A nd I suspect Brendan will as well, no matter where or how fast you take your relationship with him.

  Chloe shook her head. I dont want to make you part of that. Or him.

  Marguerite reached up and cupped the side of her face, her thumb moving over Chloes lips in a way that feltWell, Chloe couldnt exactly describe it. Since Marguerite had invited her into this world, shed seen glimpses of the Mistress she now understood Marguerite was. It wasnt like Marguerite was putting the moves on her or anything, but there was a definite sexual, authoritative undercurrent in Marguerites touch and in the way she held Chloe with her gaze. Chloe felt most comfortable capitulating, staying still and quiet under that touch, not thinking, merely accepting that it felt good to be touched, that she felt sensual awareness of the pad of Marguerites thumb tracing her lips in that stroke. It was okay.

  Chloe, by inviting you here, hes inviting you into a part of himself that you will only find if you reach deep into his soul. Nothing at that level is rushed or forced. It simply is. A nd you know that I am here for anything you need.

  Before her emotions could embarrass her, Chloe watched Marguerite sit back on her heels, change the subject. You know, after today youre off work detail. You get to be a hundred percent guest.

  Oh, but I can help

  No. Marguerite shook her head, but her expression had eased, releasing Chloe as if shed loosened a tether. Despite my willingness to exploit your labor to the nth degree, once the clock tolls midnight, you are a guest, entitled to immerse yourself in the experience. Tyler has hired more than enough people to handle things. Even he and I will only be overseeing the occasional detail once things start. This is the seventh one of these hes hosted, so the people who run it know what theyre doing. We can all enjoy the experience. Marguerite cocked her head, gave her a piercing look. Do you miss Brendan?

  Terribly, Chloe said, without hesitation. He was uppermost in her thoughts. Particularly that one night hed stayed with her, so close, his body warm and strong, folded around her. The way he smelled, the softness of his hair brushing her cheek when shed pressed her lips to his throat.

  The first night shed been here, Marguerite had worked her so hard, shed fallen asleep sitting up on the couch after dinner. Shed woken in a pair of strong arms, carrying her to her guestroom. Her mind had leaped to the conclusion she desired most.

  Brendan, she mumbled.

  Tyler, sweetheart. But hell be here soon. Shed been tucked into the bed, Ms cool, gentle hands removing her skirt and shoes, covers drawn up.

  A s they were leaving, shed felt the only stirring of fear shed had all day.

  Light. Please leave light onin bathroom.

  That same female hand came back, smoothing her hair. Then Tylers firm touch on her leg, his lips passing over her brow as well. No harm will come to you here, little flower. But well leave it on for you.

  Tuning back in to the present, she wondered if Brendan had thought of her half as much as she had him. When she got her cell phone back, would she have a dozen missed calls from him? Or had he possessed the discipline she lacked?

  Just hormones. Right. The G o d , I-want-to-fall-in-love-so-hard-with-him-Ill-give-myself-a-permanent-concussion-and-never-wake-up-from-it kind of hormones.

  A s Marguerite said, shed always relied on Chloes intuition. Intuition hadnt protected her from evil, but maybe she never should have expected it to do so. That wasnt the purpose of her particular super power.

  Despite the wry smile the thought gave her, she couldnt dissipate the ache that never left her, which had nothing to do with Brendan. While Chloe refused to burden Marguerite, she did desperately want the answer to the question the woman was tragically capable of answering.

  M, how did you keep it from eating you alive? The fear, the Is it a smokescreen? When something really awful happens, and we build walls to hold it together, hold it back, but something knocks them down, shows you how pointless those walls are, what do you do?

  Marguerite had taken a reclined seat on the adjacent wide A dirondack lounger. Her hand still rested on Chloes arm, and now her fingers curled around it. Come here.

  Nonplused, but compelled by that velvet voice, Chloe unfolded from her chair and shifted, letting Marguerite guide her down, so she was curled up against her. Marguerite wrapped her arm around her back, pressing Chloes head on her shoulder, tucked beneath Ms chin and fall of moonlit hair.

  The lean strength of Marguerites body had an unexpected softness to it, the pillow of her breast, the skin of her thigh underneath Chloes as she crooked her legs over it. Marguerite stroked her hair.

  You learn to do without the walls, Chloe. The point isnt building them, but building a life that is so much of who you are, nothing can destroy it.

  If youre lucky, when you figure that out, you findor discover youve already founda person who will help you keep the darkness at bay. Someone who gives you the strength to live as who you are, not a prisoner of your own mind.

  Shed always wanted to touch Marguerites hair the way she was doing now, her fingers running through the thick tail, letting the strands drift back down onto the incline of her right breast. Go from there to trace her fragile neck. Marguerite allowed it, because it was so obviously okay to do that here in this quiet place, the crickets humming, and M so lazy and relaxed. It wasnt as if she wanted to have sex with Marguerite, but just indulging the desire to touch someone she loved but didnt necessarily desire, with impunity, was bliss. Marguerites hand continued to stroke her back slowly, down to her hip and then back up, to her nape, teasing the curls, then going back down again.

  This feels weird, Chloe said quietly. But a good weird. I like touching. More than most people do.

  Well, youll be in heaven for the next several days, because at this carnival, youre free to touch quite a few people.

  Even that one? Chloe grinned as her gaze was drawn to the stage going up further down the side lawn. The four men working on the placement of the support structure included Tyler. Hed arrived to answer questions and ended up lending a hand. Hed stripped off his T-shirt, like most of them in the Florida heat, and was helping raise a beam in nothing but a pair of jeans and a lot of gleaming muscle.

  Within reason, Marguerite said dryly, but there was a tone in her voice that suggested she wasnt entirely uninterested in the sight.

  Hes your knight, isnt he? The one who keeps the darkness at bay.

  It didnt require the nod against her hair, but she liked feeling it.

  The beam placed, Tylers attention shifted, as Chloe knew it would. If Marguerite was ever in his proximity, he was always quick to find her. It made Chloe wonder if maybe Marguerite helped keep Tylers nightmares at bay as well. Because she knew one thing for sureeveryone had them.

  He strode across the lawn, relaxed and easy, a feast for feminine eyes with damp muscled flesh and well-fitted jeans. Yet he still managed to project the Southern gentleman even in the casual dress, amber eyes focused on them as he approached.

  You two make a provocative and lovely picture. Gi
ving those boys all sorts of ideas.

  Chloe grinned. Well, tell them to meet us all down at the hot tub, then.

  Tyler smiled, slow and sexy, and her heart did a somersault, despite herself. Of course, she also noted that Marguerites heart rate increased as well. Understandable, considering Tylers gaze was fastened on his wife like he was going to take healthy bites out of every inch of her bare skin.

  Since she had at least an ounce of brain left, Chloe noticed the way Tyler looked at M was not only possessive, but something else. Marguerite had explained they were both sexual Dominants, but Chloe hadnt really gotten far enough to think how that might work. But in this momentintuition versus knowledgeshe got the gist of it. With each other, one was more dominant than the other. She knew exactly who that was when Tylers gaze shifted to hers. Chloe read the intentand the commandloud and clear.

  It wasnt the first time shed cleared out for them. For the past few days, probably because of what kind of carnival this was, the sexual undercurrent between them had been about as under as an undertow, capable of dragging a whale from the shallows out to sea.

  Ill go help Marcia set up the game booths, she said, every nerve ending coming alive under that gaze, making her want Brendan even more.

  Maybe she could bribe Marcia into letting her borrow her cell phone. She said after lunch thered be a million stuffed bears to set out.

  No, Marguerite said, her arm tightening around Chloes back. She held Tylers gaze a moment, an unspoken communication. When he gave a slight nod, her lashes swept down, acknowledging hispermission. That was clear enough and amazing as well, but then Chloes brain checked out as Tyler settled on Ms side of the wide lounger. He removed Marguerites sunglasses, tossing them beside her lemonade glass. A s her blue eyes sparked, he braced his arm on the far side of Chloes hip, caging both women inside it as he leaned in and captured Marguerites mouth in a kiss.

  It wasnt a brush of lips. It was a hard, press-her-back-against-the-lounger, take-her-mouth-and-dive-in, unrestrained plundering. Chloes breath shortened, her body yearned. She closed her hands into fists to restrain herself, because she hadnt been invited to participate and wouldnt even know where to start. She was here, though, her body pressed against Marguerites, Tylers braced forearm pressed intimately against her hip and buttock. Then he did something that astounded Chloe more. His hand curved under her hip, his fingers firm but gentle, and he pressed her in tighter against Marguerites body. Marguerites leg shifted, and whether intentional or good fortune, it pressed solidly between Chloes thighs.