Find out more here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction2a.html (Angelfire II Quartet)
http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction2.html (Angelfire Trilogy, original series)
Heaven’s promise, desire’s flame…
Return to Karen Wiesner’s award-winning Angelfire Trilogy, where you first met and fell in love with these colorful, lovable friends. Now you can read the stories of those secondary characters—and some new faces—in an all-new spin-off quartet.
There are no scars like those inflicted in childhood, and no love like your first. Timeless couples Diane Hoffmann and Mikey Lund, Roxanne Hart and Jamie Dubois, Cherish Stephenson and Ty Foxx, and Sapphire Stephenson and William Decker seek out the unconditional love and healing of an angel and the scorching heat of unending passion.
I always planned to write additional stories connected with the Angelfire Trilogy (friends of Darlene and Brett), and I had readers asking for more stories, specifically for the secondary characters I’d introduced in the trilogy. The original series had been out for so long, it felt awkward to just jump back into it without somehow delineating the break somehow. My solution was to make the next four stories a spin-off series.
Below you’ll find the second of two excerpts from the brand new final book that concludes the Angelfire saga:
PROMISES IN THE DARK, Book 4, Angelfire II Quartet
William Decker, an orphan who grew up without warmth or companionship from those around him, has been a loner all his life, preferring solitude, loneliness and dark corners to friends, anything resembling a spotlight, and even love. When he met Roxanne Hart his first and only year of college, he’d found a center he’d unconsciously looked for all his life. Though Rox loved him deeply as a friend, she was in love with another man and he’d never really had a shot there, despite his relentless, decades-long loyalty. When she announces her wedding, William knows it’s past time for him to stop wishing for the moon, but, more than that, he realizes for the first time that he’d set his heart on an unavailable woman purposely. He’s lived his life on the principle of ‘Better to not love and lose what you never had to begin with’ and ‘You can’t be hurt by anything you haven’t invested yourself in.’ He can’t deny his life mottos have done little beyond keep him lonely…
Sapphire Stephenson married, had a child—and divorced—before she was out of her teens. But starting out life with a newborn and a mother who refused to understand why she couldn’t forgive her cheating, abusive husband, she’d taken the only jobs she’d been able to get, ending up as a bartender in a rough biker joint on Staten Island. Sapphire is certain of two things: That being a good role model for her daughter is the most important thing in her life…and that there isn’t a man alive worth any loyalty. The dudes who come through the bar have no respect for–let alone interest in– anything that isn’t transitory with the women around them. William Decker, long-time patron of the bar, close friend of its owner and now head of security, is the one exception to the rule she’s observed. He intrigues her the way no other man ever has. But is even he capable of more than promises in the dark that he’ll break without regret by the morning light?
Promises in the Dark Exclusive Excerpt (not available anywhere else!) 2
© Karen Wiesner
On the drive to her apartment, Sapphire felt trapped in her own head and then suffocated as she let herself inside. As if the days without Deck hadn’t been hard enough, now she found herself caught up in limbo that she’d brought about with her own inability to end it. Where were they now? Nothing had been resolved, yet she knew she couldn’t continue this thing between them even if she couldn’t let it go either.
After she hung her coat and purse on the tree then moved to lean against the archway leading into the living room to remove one shoe at a time, she was completely unprepared for what she stumbled on. Her daughter lay asleep on the sofa with the bad boy who’d been vexing Sapphire’s existence since her little girl had started dating him. Yasmine had turned sixteen only a few months before, and this guy was twenty-one at least, despite what her daughter claimed with almost smug dismissal. While they were both fully dressed, the way they were tangled together couldn’t have been more intimate if they had been naked.
Her head exploded, and Sapphire started screaming before she fully knew what she was saying. Both of them jumped, and Yasmine started her annoying pacification as she sat up, blinking away sleep. The tone of her voice as she said entirely too calmly, “Mom, you’re overreacting. We fell asleep. End of story” made Sapphire even more frenzied.
She met Justice’s sultry eyes and pointed the way to the door, saying in no uncertain terms, “Get out of my house and don’t ever come back, you son of a b@#h.”
Just like Yasmine, his lack of concern in the face of her fury only fed the fire inside her. He leaned down to pull on his boots, in no particular hurry, until Sapphire threw his heavy jacket at him and went to yank open the front door.
Yasmine made a show of kissing him and saying she’d see him later. Justice’s gaze flickered over Sapphire, skimming over her Knuckleheads tank top stretched over her full breasts as he meandering toward the door she held.
“Don’t come back,” Sapphire repeated.
“Whatever,” he said like he could care less.
He thought she was a b@#h–good, the reaction was better than his initial one. The first time Sapphire had met him, he’d spent an inordinate amount of time checking her out in a lewd, highly approving way that made her want to belt him in the mouth. That was right before he’d realized she was Yasmine’s mother.
Before he’d even cleared the door, she slammed it shut with all her strength and locked it. Then she whirled on her daughter.
“God, you’re such a presumptuous b@#h,” Yasmine said, picking up the empty soda cans on the glass coffee table and sweeping past her into the kitchen.
Sapphire was well-aware that setting herself against this relationship she knew for a fact wouldn’t last was only creating more enmity between her and her daughter. But she’d known her share of guys like Justice with his leather jacket, too-long tousled hair, the heavy five-o’clock shadow. He was used to getting sex and getting it as often as he wanted from whoever he wanted. He wouldn’t care that her daughter was barely sixteen (and had been fifteen when they started dating three months ago) and believed herself to be in love–justifying anything and everything in her young, romantic mind. That Yasmine was too beautiful for her own good with a body that grown women would kill for didn’t help in the least.
Any more than it did me. All my life I got attention that I didn’t hate. And I still do. Yasmine had Sapphire’s waist-length, lion’s mane of just-tumbled-out-of-bed, sable-brown hair. She had her midnight-blue, seductive eyes. She had the curvy yet lithe, deeply tanned body with mile-long legs, tiny waist and big chest. In almost contradiction, her face was the picture of sweet, innocent sensuality. She’d had “boyfriends” since she was old enough to know that boys were opposite of girls and easily manipulated into doing whatever she wanted them to. Unfortunately, her daughter also fell in love too easily, with all the wrong guys, and inevitably the relationships came to a bad end, leaving her depressed to the point of suicide.
I raised her better than my mother raised me. I wanted everything to be different for her. I wanted to show her she could make something of herself. Hell, I didn’t want her to get pregnant and end up forced into a life she didn’t want with a jerk who was just using her and felt pressured to “do the right thing” at first but quickly regretted his only act of decency, just like Justice will in the same situation.
“We talked about this, Yasmine. He’s not allowed here when I’m not home.” Sapphire followed her daughter into the cramped kitchen, watching her toss the cans into the recycling bin.
“Oh, Mom, we just fell asleep. It happens. It’s not the end of the world. You’re overreacting the way you always do.”
“And, if I go through the trash, I’m not going to find a condom or two?”
Yasmine leveled a glare at her that contradictorily managed to be both bored and hateful. “You’re such a hypocrite, Mom.” With that, she stalked out of the room and, a moment later, Sapphire heard the lock on her bedroom door click.
Sapphire closed her eyes against the poison her daughter had leveled straight into her heart with unerring accuracy. Shuddering, she yanked out a chair at the kitchen table and sat bent over her knees. I am the very definition of a hypocrite. But all these years I worked so hard to set a good example for my daughter…do I get no credit for that?
Sighing, she acknowledged that maybe she didn’t deserve any. She hadn’t been a saint in all this time. She hadn’t had any kind of romantic relationship in almost ten years, hadn’t brought anyone to the house, but there’d been rare times that she’d given in to her physical needs–at a guy’s place, in the bar with Deck. She hadn’t wanted Yasmine to know about those embarrassing weaknesses, that she’d craved sex and intimacy, affection even if it wasn’t love.
But I wanted to be loved. Though I refused to bring anyone home with me ever again, I couldn’t deny I still had needs. I held out until they gave me the words I wanted. Maybe it’d taken them a couple nights of wooing, of waking up to the fact that I wouldn’t give out until they gave me words of love. Small price for them to pay. Stupid. The times I got the words ‘I love you’, I knew almost before the sweat dried that I’d been told what I wanted to hear just so they could get me into bed. Somehow I felt like I wasn’t a bad example even then. Idiot. I was still justifying the sex with love that wasn’t real.
With Deck, I don’t know what the hell I’m dealing with. I’ve never felt anything like this, and I’ve never known a man like him.
She was lying to herself again. The past two days proved that she did know what she was dealing with. She knew straight out she was in love with this guy in a way that was so much bigger and stronger and strangling than anything she’d been in before. In the past two days, while Yasmine had been doing a lot of babysitting, she’d been alone and couldn’t hide from herself what she was going through. She’d felt like she might die without Deck, without him touching her, looking at her, making her whole with his mere presence. I’ve never thought I’d go insane for needing a man, not even when I was a teenager and stupid beyond belief. God, I wish he was here now. Wish I was with him, in his bed, in his arms…
She forced herself to her feet, going to retrieve the wad of tips she’d brought in today, more than $250, and put it in the tip jar in the cupboard where Yasmine could take what she needed. Not that her daughter needed too much these days. Her babysitting jobs had provided her a growing nest-egg since she was twelve. She’d had enough to buy her own used but decent car after she got her license a few months ago, enough to fill her closet with a wardrobe of clothes and shoes and jewelry that was unequalled. Despite all her extravagance, Yasmine had done the unthinkable and followed Sapphire’s advice when she started babysitting by setting aside half of everything she made in a savings account slated for college.
Closing the cupboard door, Sapphire’s gaze landed on the trash. She could have checked it for condoms, just as she’d insisted she could, but she didn’t want to. She didn’t want to know. I am a hypocrite. My own daughter can see it better than anyone. An hour ago, I was doing exactly what I accused her of doing with Justice–sinfully. How can I tell her she’s wrong to make love with someone she believes she’s in love with when…? She groaned, her eyes burning, her head and heart whirling with too much emotion.
Though she’d all but lost her sense of smell years ago, she knew the stink of the bar was on her and she took a shower as soon as she got home most mornings. Before long, her feelings overwhelmed her again under the unrelenting spray. Feelings for Yasmine, who’d been her whole life since she’d been born, and now they could never see eye to eye. For Deck because her longing for him was a noose around her neck. For her own failures, always the same ones, over and over like a broken record.
When she pulled her blanket over her and closed her eyes, her eyes swollen from tears, she imagined the tender way Deck had held her on the sofa in Duff’s office. For a moment, she almost experienced tangible comfort at the memory. But the same recollection told her she had to end the relationship and soon. Like a mantra she’d lived by for ten years, she recited her own truth in her head, I have to be an example for Yasmine. She needs that, even if she thinks she doesn’t, and even if I’m not a great example because I’ve failed to live up to my own vows.
Sapphire swallowed. How does she even know I’m a hypocrite? I haven’t brought a man here in so long, ever since she was five years old and asked who the guy in my bed was in that totally innocent, not concerned way that slapped me in the face and led me to take a hard look at my life and my responsibility to her. I’ve never been so ashamed. I knew I had to change, to stop needing validation and the love that I only get in the form of sex. I never wanted Yasmine to see me the way I saw my Mom when she had the nerve to lecture me about boyfriends and sex.
Sleep claimed her hard and ruthlessly, so she woke hours later with a headache, her face and eyes feeling like glue had dried over them. After she got up and pulled on ragged shorts and a comfortable old t-shirt torn at the shoulder, she splashed cold water over the hot skin of her cheeks and under-eyes. Then she put on makeup and fixed her hair, listening and guessing in the silence that Yasmine had left hours ago–to babysit, see friends, or to see him. She verified the situation once she went out and saw that her daughter’s keys were gone from their hook.
Although she didn’t feel particularly hungry herself, she started dinner, since Yasmine would probably come home later and want something. As she worked, enjoying the methodical task because it felt like she was doing something proactive, she thought about calling her cousin Cherish when she was done, confiding in her and her alone the situation with Deck. Somehow she thought Cherish would understand what she was going through. Cherish had fallen in love with the brother of a colleague and close friend. She’d done this in the space of time it took most people to brush their teeth, and Sapphire had to admit she’d been hard on her about the rush. Cherish had barely known the guy and she’d willingly given everything she was to him overnight. I was so hard on her. I wanted to protect her. I advised her to take it slow, get to know him. But Cherish and Ty were married now, and Sapphire had never seen her cousin look so happy. I was wrong. I didn’t take my own advice. I jumped in head-first with Deck.
Not sure she was ready to share this with anyone, not even her cousin and best friend, Sapphire poured herself a cup of the strong-enough-to-grow-hair-on-the-chest black coffee and took it out to the tiny, second-floor balcony that was a joker’s idea of a patio. There wasn’t room for a single chair. She stood in the tiny space. The day was warm and full of sunshine that hurt her sore eyes. She leaned over the railing, for a long minute seeing nothing of her surroundings–her view of the parking lot wasn’t really worth focusing on anyway. But abruptly she saw a cherry red Harley Sportster, not something that was generally parked in the building lot. Half-sitting on the motorcycle was Deck. He seemed to be waiting for her to notice him.
Straightening in shock, she called down, “What are you doing here, Deck?”
He stood fully, looking a little guilty, so she had to wonder just how long he’d been here, whether he’d intended to just stand out in the lot or actually try to see her. He’d obviously changed clothes so he’d been home long enough to do that, probably showered, too.
Lord, I’m so weak. The worst thing I can do is be with him, be alone with him. But I’ve never been so glad to see anyone in my life. He looks like heaven. So damn sexy…
Once more, her mouth was saying the opposite of what she was thinking. “Do you wanna come up?”
Two minutes later, he was following her into her apartment and she was grudgingly, finitely aware that her daughter could be home at any time now. How the hell would she explain this?
“How long have you been here?” she asked him, turning to face him after she put her cup on the kitchen table.
His gaze shifted to the shoulder of the ripped t-shirt that fell down her arm. “‘while,” he muttered thickly, longing in his eyes once he turned them loose on her. “Couldn’t stop thinking about you, babe.”
She could hardly inhale for the tightness in her chest. Could he tell how much she’d been crying since they parted? “Why?”
He reached forward, grazing his fingers over her bared shoulder. Her breasts reacted to his proximity instantly, swelling, tightening.
“You didn’t seem okay. You don’t now.”
His hand continued up the side of her neck and cradled her face. Sapphire couldn’t resist another second. She knew for a fact that he wanted to have her nearer, and she felt like she was torturing herself, needing him to hold her. The sob building in her throat escaped, sounding strangled, as he dragged her against him and held her so tight, she couldn’t deny she felt whole again, as if she belonged here, pressed against his heavily thudding heart. Even as he became gloriously aroused, she couldn’t escape the sense of rightness, being with him again. Days might as well have gone by since their separation.
Her mouth was spluttering out the reverse of what was in her mind. “I have to be an example for my daughter. I can’t keep doing this, Deck. I know you can’t understand this. There’s no reason you should.”
“I was afraid you were gonna say that.”
“Then why did you come here?” She lifted her chin so she could look up into his face.
He leaned down, drawing her tear-stained face closer to his with his hand on her jaw. He laughed but there was nothing like mirth in the raw, helpless sound. “Talk you out of it?” He suggested it like he wasn’t even sure himself.
Sapphire swallowed. “Why? Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to ‘get what you can’ from me anymore?”
He sighed. “Something like that. Babe, I’m well aware I’m outta your league and I’m no better than all the losers who pass through Knuckleheads. I don’t have any promises to make you. I don’t have a f@#in’ clue what I’m doing here. I just…”
Never before had she wanted to understand a person’s tormented expression so badly. She wanted desperately to believe she was seeing love in Deck’s face. Love for her.
He shook his head. “I don’t wanna let you go, Sapphire. That’s all. I’m away from you for a second, and I want you so damn bad I can’t breathe. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. I don’t give a f@#k about anything but the time I spend with you.”
She closed her eyes. “I know. I’m the same.” She lowered her head and pressed her face against his shirt, breathing in the clean scent. She wanted to hold on to him so tightly, he could never let her go. How can I trust myself? I’ve never been right about any of this. I assume too much. I need the words, but the words have always been lies.
Laying her palms flat against his rock hard waist, she offered, “For the record, I don’t consider it a matter of worth. You’re a good guy, Deck. The best in a place like Knuckleheads.”
“Maybe. But only in comparison.”
“No. In fact.”
She caught his small smile when she dared look him in the eye.
“Glad you think so, honey.”
“I’ve made mistakes. Too many. I’ve spent the past ten years trying not to make another. But I’ve failed.”
“Ten years is a hell of a long time to be alone, baby.”
“For you, too. I know you’re…you’re not like the other bouncers. Never caught you banging some dumb twit too drunk to remember it or you in the morning. But I know you’ve been propositioned. Often. You deflect the attention.”
“Not interested. In them. But you… Honey, I understand you don’t wanna make another mistake. What am I if not a mistake?”
“It’s not a reflection on you. It’s me. I…I got pregnant when I was fifteen. And now I have a sixteen-year-old daughter.”
Deck raised an eyebrow that wasn’t surprised. “Get the feeling you’ve been paying for that since you conceived.”
“Who else?” She’d made the mistake of thinking she was invincible. That she could act and never have to face any consequences. Ironically, the outcome had been the best thing that’d ever happened to her. Yasmine was her life.
“You ever brought anybody home, where your daughter is?” he asked.
“Yes. But not since she was five. But…I haven’t been perfect. I feel things. I want things. I need them. I tell myself I’m in love. I tell myself they love me.”
“Hooking up is normal for you?”
Instantly, she went rigid, feeling incendiary heat fill her face. “No!”
She would have pulled back, but she realized by his expression, by the words he’d chosen and his tone, that he was trying to prove her goodness–as if he already believed the best about her. She halted when he put a finger on her lips. “You’re preaching to the choir, honey. You said it yourself. It’s not normal for you to hook up, get what you need to get off. And I’m not hooking up with you, babe. I promise you I’m not.”
“You said you were taking what you can get.”
He laughed. “Ah, Sapphire, what else do sinners do when an angel appears and offers heaven? I want everything you’re giving. But I don’t hook up either. It’s not my style. But I’m not perfect either. You’re right that I get propositioned. A lot. Just like you do at work. I don’t hook up. You don’t. You’re not just some lay. But, no joke, babe, even if this was just sex, it’d be exceptional. Worth fighting to keep going.”
Sapphire drew in a shaky inhale. “It’s not just sex for you?” she asked hopefully.
“Ain’t gonna lie. I’m strung out on you, baby, on everything about you. But that’s only part of the buzz. I feel like I’m living for you. You’re the only thing that matters to me anymore.”
She tried to breathe, tried to think, tried to speak. He’d said almost everything she’d ever wanted and feared in the same paragraph. Unfortunately, he backtracked a second later. “Look, whatever you want here, Sapphire. I didn’t come here to hand you some obligation. If you wanna quit me–”
Quitting Deck–it felt like sticking her head into a guillotine. “You’d be okay if I did?”
“No. Nothing would be worth nothing, ya know? But it’s your choice.”
God, he frustrated her. “Deck…” His name bled out of her, even as she reached for him, pulling his mouth down to hers. He clutched her to him, kissing her hard and deep, a sense of relief in the gesture, but more. So much more. She felt in his kiss exactly what she could have if she allowed this to continue. He would fill her, hard and deep and so full, she might never be empty again.
As their mouths worked, his hands slid up to cradle her butt, slipping beneath the worn denim she wore without anything beneath. He groaned out loud, bring his fingers to her center, and she went weak, liquid, as his body hardened against her again.
Clarity stabbed into her mind a second before she would have let go completely, and she gasped, “My daughter…”
His hands reluctantly stilled. “I know. Okay.”
“Okay…? What does that mean?”
“Whatever you want it to mean.”
Sapphire’s teeth clenched. “Dammit, Deck, I wanna hear what you want from me.”
“Anything. Anything that means I’m a part of your life. She’s part of your life. She means the world to you. So, if I can have you in whatever way you’ll allow, she’s part of my life, too. She’ll mean the world to me. What matters to you matters to me.”
She couldn’t help staring at him in disbelief. No man had ever said anything like it to her before. It was a promise without precedence that assured a future.
Her arms around his neck, she held his face against hers. “I’m scared, Deck.” I’m already so far in love with you, but I can’t see the bottom. It’s so dark. You’re giving me just enough light for one step ahead at a time.
“Don’t be. I’d never let anybody hurt you. Not even me.”
She remembered the look on his face the night he rescued her from that rapist. She believed him without a single doubt.
The expression of hope on her face gave Decker all the encouragement he needed. He kissed her the way he’d wanted to since she all but killed him by leaving him hours ago. Something he scoffed at as pure unadulterated joy but wanted so badly gave him the freedom to ease her against the wall nearby, slide his hands around her warm, familiar curves, fitting her against his hard, unrelenting lines.
Damn, he loved her body. She was tall for a woman, tiny at the waist, but her breasts were amazingly full and ripe, her hips softly rounded. He’d spent more years than he could remember wanting to touch this gorgeous woman.
Knowing he couldn’t go too far, not here and not now, he ended by tucking his fingers beneath the fall of her sexy-as-hell hair, against her graceful neck. The thick strands felt like satin against his fingers, and he pressed himself against her again, feeling her body respond. Tight, soft. Caramel. Sticky and sweet… Ah, dammit. He couldn’t keep his hands from inching down over the silken column on her throat. She broke away from his mouth, panting, lifting her neck to give him free access. His eyes gobbled up the skin exposed by her torn t-shirt, one beautiful, bare breast, rock hard from inadvertent stimulation.
He hadn’t come here for this. Truth be told, he hadn’t been able to talk himself out of coming, even if just to be close to her, whether he could see her or not. He hadn’t anticipated getting this far, being in her apartment, holding her again. She hadn’t given him anything like a promise for a future together, but he already knew he was taking her response that way. He couldn’t help himself.
Sapphire’s hands slid over his wide shoulders, coming back in a triangle to his chest, stroking him almost unconsciously the same way he wanted to stroke her, making him painfully aroused as he imagined taking her in his mouth the way he had hours ago. Strawberries. She always reminds me of strawberries. But she tastes like spicy, hot sesame oil…
“Yasmine’s not here. She probably won’t be back until she thinks I’ve left for work at five. We had a fight. She never comes back until I’m gone when we’ve fought.”
Decker closed his eyes, battling himself until he knew for sure he could move in. “Sure she won’t show up?”
The word was little more than a gasp. Maybe she was going against her own vows, but he couldn’t doubt she was giving him permission. He slid the t-shirt over her head without preface, his mouth and fingers latching on to her breasts. Her gasp told him exactly what he wanted to hear. She wants me as bad as I want her. I couldn’t be happier. “I respect the hell out of you, lady. That’s the truth,” he murmured as he laved her just the way he knew she liked.
“Do you?” She looked amused by his choice of words, but her eyes slid closed, her fingers slipping into his hair, guiding him as she gasped and he sensed her excitement building to the critical point. One hand easily passed beneath the waist of her jean shorts and he was drawing her moans from her almost effortlessly with his consummate strokes. From their first time together, he’d seemed to be able to bring her to this place easily. Exhilaration competed inside him with humility at his power over her. She did the same to him.
He held her when her legs gave out with her shudders that left her weak. He kissed her mouth tenderly. “I don’t wanna do anything you’re gonna regret later. I don’t have any regrets with you. I never will. Whatever we do or don’t do together.”
“You actually believe that, don’t you?” she asked without energy.
“‘hundred percent, baby.” Even if it means I don’t get mine here…
Her smile was emotional. “You’re not like any man I’ve known, Deck. Not just bouncers. Any man. That must be why.”
“Why what?” He couldn’t help focusing on her wet, lush mouth, wanting it open under his again. The memory of her saying her daughter would be gone for more than two hours was torture.
“Why I feel this way about you,” she offered on a gasp that sounded like a sob. Her eyes were sparkling like the gems she was named after. “I honestly don’t know how to have a legitimate relationship. I wanna get to know you. Outside the bar. Outside…the incredible sex.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You know more about this relationship stuff than I do. I’m going on instinct.”
“Sounds less wimpy than ‘following my heart’, doesn’t it?”
Instead of laughing with him, her gaze went totally hazy, maybe even romantic. Damn, I could die wanting her about now. And I ain’t got one ounce of self-control. Not when I wanna prove to her that I’m worth her effort, her hope, her desire.
Like a lamb, he didn’t utter a word or protest when she took his hand and led him into her bedroom, locking the door behind them. Maybe he could have kept being noble, but the second she shed her little short shorts with not a blessed thing under them, he didn’t have the willpower of a push-over kid. He was on fire, beyond reason or objection. He knew if he didn’t touch her, didn’t kiss her and love her the way they both needed, he’d burst right out of his skin. He’d never been more excited in his life, and he unapologetically took all the liberties he’d been denied on that pitifully, cramped couch in Duff’s office. Just like he suspected she would, she gave herself to him the way he’d only dreamed of in the last couple months. She was both aggressive and vulnerable, giving as good as she got, not seeing anything as taboo between them.
“Don’t cut me loose, babe,” he gasped when she lowered herself onto his chest, panting raggedly, as decimated as he was by their loving. “Whatever you do, don’t do that.”
She brushed her face against his like a cat seeking stroking. Everything inside him tensed, anticipating she was about to say something that would hurt him bad enough to bleed. Not now, babe. Don’t say it now, when I’m never gonna get the taste of you outta my mouth, your scent out of my nose, this passion for you out of my veins. It’s replaced all the blood in my body, and it’s all that’s keeping me alive now.
“I’m not…it’s not about that. But I don’t think we should…at work. After work. Anymore.”
For a second, hope flared. “But you don’t mean it’s over? You just mean, not there?”
For a second, her eyes could have been a neon sign broadcasting her feelings for him. “I don’t want it to be over. I want to do this right, Deck. I know that’s not what you want. But I need to get to know you, you to get to know me. I need to–”
Justify the sex. He didn’t doubt she meant that without the words. “Okay. Get to know each other. Date?” The word wasn’t the most familiar to him. He knew it, but he had little if any experience with the reality. He didn’t date. He never had. Like Sapphire said, his relationships were all short-term. Short enough that, more often than not, he didn’t know something as basic as a name before he’d tripped the woman’s fuse, gotten what he needed, end of story.
“Yes. Whatever that means.”
“Okay. Works for me. But I’m guessing you mean spending time together without sex?”
Just like that, her face and neck and even part of her chest went deep-red with obvious shame. He didn’t want her to feel it. Not with him. “I’m just asking, babe. I think we both needed…that.” We didn’t exactly pledge promise rings, but as close as people like us are gonna get. And we both needed the unfettered, down-and-dirty sex once we made it mutual. I needed to know she belongs to me. I want her to want me enough to long for the same.
Hell, this is as new as it gets for me.
“I love what we do, Deck,” she murmured softy. “You know I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t. I’m like the Fourth of July with you. But I can’t just do this stuff like I did when I was a teenager. I have responsibilities now.”
She didn’t add, “Don’t take advantage of how easily you can get me off.” He heard the unspoken words anyway, and the uninhibited look on her face, the heat in her eyes as he’d pleasured her came back to him, making him go hard again. She had to know it was his regular state of being while he was around her for any amount of time. Didn’t matter that they’d already satisfied each other once. That’d never be enough. “I understand. I respect you. I’ll try to keep myself in check. Can’t blame a guy for fallin’ off the wagon sometimes though.”
“I’m not saying we can’t kiss…touch…”
Her tone was positively breathy. He knew exactly where both led. From the minute he’d reached for her, she’d kissed him two months ago, neither of them could stop at a kiss or a touch. Half the time, he was in a daze, half-insane, and didn’t come to his senses until it was over. He suspected she’d gone through the same in all this time. Still, he murmured, “Drowning man’s happy with a life preserver.”
When she scooted down and laid her head on his chest, he had to mentally restrain himself from moving his hands where they wanted to go on her amazing body, claiming all of her for his own. Somehow, he was hungrier than before, given that he might not have her again for whatever duration of time she stipulated.
“Aren’t you going to ask how long?” she asked a moment later, clearly surprised, as if she’d been anticipating him asking that since he agreed to her rules.
While he would have been lying if he’d told her he hadn’t been thinking about it, he didn’t bother mentioning it. He slid his hand to the back of her neck, behind the heavy waterfall of hair. “I’m just happy to know we’ll have something. The rest’ll figure itself out.”
She lifted her head once more, her expression worried. “Are you sure you’re okay with this? You won’t get…bored?”
Looking up into her beautiful face, her body draped over his, exactly where he wanted it a hundred percent of the time from now on, he wanted to promise her the moon and every star in the sky besides.
Huskily, because he felt like his heart was in a vice, he told her only a fraction of what was tangling up inside him, so knotted he wasn’t sure he’d ever sort it out. “Known you for longer than a decade, babe. Bored’s the one thing I’ve never been where you’re concerned.”
Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 117 titles published in the past 18 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 39 more releases contracted for spanning many genres and formats. Visit her website at http://www.karenwiesner.com and sign up for her free newsletter to qualify for her monthly book giveaways. Check out her author page at Facebook, where you can like, friend and follow her: http://www.facebook.com/KarenWiesnerAuthor.