Branded sanctuary, p.55
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       Branded Sanctuary, p.55

         Part #7 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill
Page 55


  Holding him close, Chloe didnt doubt it in the slightest. No darkness could take it away from them.


  Chloe considered the swimming pool, her gaze wandering from the largest part, where there were lap lanes marked off for team swimmers and people using their Y membership to do their daily exercise regimen, over to the square shaped deep end, featuring two diving boards. One was about three feet above the pool. The other appeared much, much higher.

  Shed just discarded her cover-up. It was a warmish late fall day, but it wasnt warm enough to completely convince her of the wisdom of jumping into an outdoor pool. A very warm male hand touched her bare back then, sliding around her waist to her hip and curving with relaxed intimacy there. His fingertips teased the side bow of the skimpy gold bikini, giving a discreet little tug.

  Hey. She shot a narrow look up at him. Dont even think about it.

  Brendan gave her an easy smile. Just making sure it was secure before you jumped in.

  Yeah, right. Youre always thinking of me. She gave him a once over, though, arching a brow. He wore pasted-like-skin shorts that he said cut down on his draft, helped him move faster through the water. She had no objection, since it outlined his ass in a way that reminded her vividly of how shed dug her fingers into the hard muscle of it only a few hours before. Theyd lain in their bed and hed been sunk inside her to the hilt, thrusting hard enough to rock the headboard against her wall, until she came to a screaming, over-the-top climax.

  But it never seemed to be enough. She was looking forward to taking full advantage of her first swimming lesson to curl her arms and legs around him, rub herself against the nest of cock and testicles held so snugly under the suit. Shed get him hard enough hed be embarrassed to step out of the pool.

  His finger dipped to her throat, followed her neck to the joining point of her collar bone, down to the ample cleavage formed by the hug of the bikini top. He lingered there, a light caress of the upper curve. You know, when you were looking at me, your nipples got tighter, he murmured.

  You were thinking about what we were doing a little while ago, werent you?

  You know I was. She indulged her desire to lean into him, thread her fingers through his loose hair, though he had a swimmers cap in hand he apparently intended to put on if he did laps. She preferred the idea of his hair wet and slicked back against his skull, the ends brushing his shoulders, and thought about making him leave it off. His hands had settled on her hips, thumbs over hip bones, long, clever fingers tracing the elastic band of her swimsuit bottoms in the back, making those sensitive nerves ripple in response. She took a breath before she lost her focus and just jumped him.

  Im going to go off the high dive.

  He blinked. We havent even gotten into the water yet.

  I know that.

  I was going to teach you to swim.

  She nodded, moved away from him, headed for the board. Thats the plan.

  Chloe, youre going to jump off the board into twelve feet of water. Youre shorter than that. Much.

  I know. I was reading this article last night that said people tend to drown themselves and others when they panic. If they believe theyre completely safe, theyre far more likely to survive. Probably because theyre working with their rescuer, instead of trying to drown him.

  Im not going to ask why you were reading articles about drowning the night before your first swimming lesson.

  Best not. Shed reached the ladder, but when she put her hand on it, his clamped over hers, holding her to the concrete decking. Looking up into his face, her heart wrenched at the concern and amused frustration in his features. She needed to work on his sense of humor, but other than that, she thought he was as close to perfect as any girl could want. A ny woman. A ny wife.

  Wow. Shed never had that thought before. She wondered what he would think about it, but from his frown, she realized it might be too much of a segue. His brain might explode, and she liked it inside his head.

  I dont think this is a good idea, he said.

  Theres no danger, as long as someones around to help me get to the side, right? So, unless youre going to disappear in the next two minutes, I assume Ill have your help.

  What about that pecan pancake breakfast someone made me? I might get a debilitating cramp and be helpless to assist.

  My cooking never gives anyone cramps, she said loftily. Latching onto his neck, she gave a little hop, wrapping her legs around his waist as he caught her in reflex, bracing her between him and the ladder. His hands felt good on her bare flesh, and his breath had the sweet, lingering scent of her pancakes, as well as something else. She leaned in, teasing his mouth with hers, her tongue dipping in to slide along his. You taste like me and pecan pancakes, she whispered.

  I know. It makes me want to eat you both all over again. His hands tightened. Chloe, I wont let you get hurt.

  I know that. Thats why Im going to try a back somersault with a half twist. A t his expression, she burst out laughing. Im kidding. Im just going to jump off, feet first. Ill be fine. Youll be there. Right?

  He cupped her skull in both hands, gave her a look of tender exasperation. You know that men with black hair have a tendency to prematurely gray, particularly when theyre under stress?

  I think youd look really sexy with silver in your hair. In fact, we could try it out, dye one lock. Youd look like one of those superheroes. Like Ioan Griffud in the Fantastic Four. Giving him a cheeky grin, she twisted her upper body to take hold of the ladder rung just above her. A gile as a monkey, she loosened the hold of her legs to put her feet on a rung below it. His hands guided her, but held on one extra second.

  Remember to jump out as far as you can, he said. You want to clear the board. A nd nothing fancy. Just a straight out, feet-first jump. Dont bounce on the board first.

  Got it, sir. Knowing how he reacted to the undercurrents in such an address, she was amused to see it startle him. Who knows? Maybe Ill hit the water so fast this tiny bikini will be ripped right off.

  You think Id set aside your wellbeing in favor of seeing a little extra skin?

  Well, youre male. Its biological. I wouldnt hold it against you.

  She started up, but was brought up short by a healthy, stinging slap on her left ass cheek that made nerve endings ricochet response right through her pussy and arrow up through her belly. She snapped her head around. Hey , I didnt think you knew how to do that kind of thing.

  I know how to do it pretty well, he remarked, leaning on the ladder and giving her a heated once up and down. When the moment calls for it.

  When you call for it.

  I think I might be insulted, or really turned-on. Ill let you know. Now she hesitated, her bravery faltering over one key point. This pool is heated, right?

  Eighty-three degrees. He slid his knuckles along her calf. Chloe. I love you.

  She drew in a breath, her fingers fluttering out to touch his face. He caught her wrist, turned his mouth into her palm. Brendan.

  Before she could say anything else in response, he put her hand back on the ladders side, closed it there firmly. Two hands at all times, he said.

  A nd be careful, the rungs can be slippery. Ill be here to catch you.

  I know you will. He stayed beneath her as she ascended. When she made it to the top, he moved to the side, where he could see her. He glanced up at her with a half smile, arms crossed over his bare chest. He was beautiful, there was no denying that, but she realized hed stolen her heart because of what was inside him. He could look like the most average man alive, even unattractive, and that heart would have called to her. She was sure of it.

  I love you too, she murmured. Enough to marry and keep you forever. Goddess, I dont believe it.

  When she perused her surroundings, she discovered that, as high as it looked off to the side, it was higher when one was actually on it. Maybe she was a bit crazy.

/>   But when she walked to the end, she saw him still there. Standing on the edge, ready to dive in, come down to the bottom and help guide her up. To fortify herself for the jump, she imagined herself as a brave heroine who was throwing herself off the side of a pirate ship to save herself from being debauched. She didnt have to worry, because from the depths of the sea, strong arms would come around her, and a pair of hazel eyes, the green like trace colors of an ocean indeed, would meet hers. A merman, there to take her to safety, to give her breath from his body so she could see all the magic of his world, and never fear being alone and afraid again. Never doubt that magic would always exist in the world, particularly if one knew how to open the window, let the light in, and have the courage to look for it.

  Looking down at her toes gripping the end of the board, any trepidation she had about heights vanished. Taking a breath, she jumped outward.

  She had a brief impression of his face, that flash of a smile as he dove, already marking where she would land. A s she plummeted, bubbles streamed above her and she saw him coming toward her, smooth kicks and twists of his body like a merman in truth.

  She wasnt afraid. Not the slightest, even knowing she didnt know how to swim. She put her arms out to her sides, experiencing the buoyancy of her body, and knew it was natural, being in the water like this. Something she didnt have to fear. This feeling was a glimmer of herself, the self shed been before, only stronger now. Shed been getting those glimmers a lot more now, as if diamonds were starting to sparkle through the cracks that bad experiences had formed, creating a new kind of beauty in her outlook.

  She knew who she could trust, who her friends and family were. Most importantly, she trusted herself again. Trusted herself to love Brendan, to learn how to love him in the way they both most wanted. A s he came up beside her and she looped her arms around his neck, she pressed her mouth to his underwater, something shed always wanted to do. She laughed into his mouth at the way his arms curled around her, how she could tangle her legs over the backs of his thighs, and float and spin, and listen to that silence underwater that was somehow sofull.

  A s he took her toward the surface, their bodies still intertwined, she realized it was so simple. While the way they felt, what they needed, might be complex and unique, love was the common denominator between them. Whatever he needed, that was what she wanted to be for him. She wanted to take care of him as much as he wanted to care for her.

  She looked forward to the adventure. The joyous pleasure of it, of a life together. Of life itself.
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