Authors: Natasha Anders
“I know that I’m not the easiest guy to get along with, Bron,” he murmured, his voice shaking. “And that when you decided to give this relationship a second chance, you also took on a whole boatload of my emotional crap.” His voice wobbled, and he paused to gain control of his emotions. “I’m just so happy that you gave me another chance.”
She knew that. His ebullience over the last couple of months had been hard to miss. He was still terrified of losing his temper around her and Kayla, but Bronwyn wasn’t above pushing his buttons in order provoke a response from him. She trusted him not to hurt them, but she wanted him to trust himself too. Their therapist, in a one-on-one session with Bronwyn, had suggested that course of action, and they were making progress. He
lost his temper with her just two weeks before, after Bronwyn had ditched Paul while she was out shopping.
Recognizing how furious he was after Paul had informed him of her transgression, she had deliberately gotten belligerent in an effort to get him to lose his icy control and had then watched in unflinching awe as her ex-husband completely lost his legendary composure for the first time in her memory. He had ranted, raved, paced, growled, and even snapped a pencil, but he hadn’t even gotten close to harming a hair on her head. After he had calmed down, she had smugly kissed him and murmured, “You don’t scare me, big man. But I promise to be more careful in the future.” He had looked a little dazed after that and slightly mollified by her words. But the look of befuddled self-discovery in his eyes had been one of the sweetest things she had ever seen. After that he had stopped carrying himself like a man tiptoeing on eggshells around Bronwyn and Kayla.
Bronwyn had learned a lot more about him over the last two months than she had dreamed possible. At first it had been a little disheartening to discover just how much he had kept hidden from her in the past, but at the same time she had recognized that he was fundamentally the same man that she had fallen in love with all those years ago.
“Sometimes,” he was saying, still in that low, rough voice that shook with the force of his emotions, “I wonder how the hell I got so lucky. I don’t deserve you, no matter what you say, and I am awed, humbled, and so damned grateful that you’re in my life.”
He cleared his throat and carefully placed his glass back on the table before, quite unexpectedly, dropping out of his chair and on to one knee in front of her. Confused by the clumsy movement from her usually graceful ex-husband, Bronwyn wasn’t sure what was happening at first until he started patting at the breast pocket of his shirt. Flabbergasted, she watched as his eyes flared in panic and his hands dropped down to his jeans pockets and frantically started digging around in them. She started to get an inkling of what his intentions were and tried to hide her grin at this less-than-suave proposal.
“Damn it, I wanted it to be perfect,” he was muttering to himself, but she didn’t think that he was aware of the fact that he was speaking out loud. He fumbled with something small and gleaming that he pulled out of the same breast pocket he had abandoned just moments ago. When he raised his vulnerable gaze to hers once more, there was sweat beading his forehead, and his breath was coming in ragged gasps.
“I played this out in my head so many times,” he confessed hoarsely. “I envisioned hot-air balloons, brass bands, and huge, extravagant spectacles. But in the end, perfection for me was having you to myself in a private place where I could beg you to end my miserable, lonely existence without you. You give my life purpose and meaning. Every beat of my heart belongs to you. I love you, Bronwyn. Please marry me.” He opened the palm of his hand and Bronwyn gasped when she saw the ring lying there.
“Where did you find this?” she whispered, her eyes going misty. It was
ring, the one he had given her after his first proposal . . . the one she had so reluctantly sold years ago. “How did you track it down? I never even told you the name of the shop I used.”
“I e-mailed pictures of the rings to just about every pawn shop proprietor on the Garden Route. It took a while but eventually one e-mailed me back with the information I needed. He had sold it to an elderly lady who said that it reminded her of her own wedding set. She’s a regular customer of his and luckily had enough of a romantic heart to sell the set back to me when she heard why I needed it.”
“The set? You have the wedding ring too?” she asked in disbelief, and he nodded somberly.
“Yes . . . I wasn’t sure you’d want the rings back, but I took a chance that you’d recognize it as a symbol of my enduring love for you. I may not have known it but I loved you the first time I proposed and never stopped loving you. Not once. If you want something else, I could . . .”
,” she choked out the words. “Don’t even think about it.”
“So you’ll marry me?” he asked hesitantly.
“Of course I’ll
you,” she said with a watery smile, cupping his jaw before leaning down to plant a kiss on his beautiful mouth. “I love you too. So much!”
He started grinning like an idiot before clumsily placing the ring on her finger. They both stared down at the gleaming diamond and emerald cluster before Bryce lifted her hand to his mouth and dropped a lingering kiss on the ring.
“Don’t take it off again,” he whispered.
“Never,” she promised fervently. “
.” She kissed him again, winding her arms around his strong neck and toying with the hair at the nape of his neck. She felt him tense as he pushed his way to his feet, taking her with him. She refused to relinquish her hold on him, and he wrapped his arms around her slender waist, dragging her even closer. The kiss got hot so quickly they were gasping for breath but unable to surrender each other’s mouths.
“God, I could eat you alive,” he rasped, lifting his lips from hers and sweeping them down over the graceful column of her throat, over her delicate chin, until they once again landed, with searing intensity, on her open and gasping mouth. His hands moved to frame her small face, and his palms drifted down her cheeks until his thumbs brushed the underside of her jaw, where they exerted enough pressure to tilt her head back even farther in order to accommodate him more fully. His tongue swept into her mouth, and they both shuddered at the invasion. Her delicate hands molded over the strong, sculpted contours of his torso and up over his pectorals until her fingers unintentionally brushed over the small, flat male nipples, which were hard as pebbles beneath the thin material of his shirt. He hissed at the sensation, and she teasingly moved her hands away from the highly sensitive area.
“Touch me like that again.” He lifted his lips only long enough to issue the rough command, and Bronwyn moved her fluttering fingers back up and over his chest, kneading and exploring hungrily along the way, until she reached her goal. She copied a move from his playbook and gently flicked the tiny nubs with her thumbs until he groaned against her lips. She was fully committed to the kiss, enjoying the musky taste of his mouth and the unbearably erotic sensation of the rasp of his tongue over hers. Her skin burned at every point of contact, but she still couldn’t get close enough to him. It had just been so long since they had been together like this.
He cupped her firm behind through the denim of her jeans and hefted her up. She happily took the hint and wrapped her long legs around his waist. She kept her mouth glued to his, even while he stumbled his way into the living room and nearly dropped her in the process. He got only far enough inside to turn and brace her against a wall.
“Sweetheart, I’m so
for you,” he whispered. The words were completely redundant since she couldn’t miss the solid ridge of his masculinity pushing up against her through the thick denim of their jeans. He shifted her until her own hot core was rubbing up against that delicious length of flesh that she could feel throbbing despite the layers of clothing between them. She wriggled and ignored his groan as she tried to lower her legs, wanting to stand. Thankfully he seemed to know exactly what she wanted, and he stepped back to allow her down. Free to do what she was aching to do, Bronwyn clumsily unbuttoned the fly of his jeans. No easy task when he was pushing up against the unyielding material and leaving her with little room to maneuver. She succeeded at her task and his rigid penis spilled into her waiting hands. She gripped him tightly and stroked him in a way designed to drive him a little crazy. He groaned, fighting to maintain his composure and kissed her gently, his velvet-soft lips firm while his tongue forged its way into her mouth. Bronwyn was helpless to do anything but open for him, and she gasped when his hot tongue immediately sought and coaxed a response from hers. Her grip tightened around him and the sound that emerged from his throat was so anguished that for a second she thought she might have hurt him. He lifted his head and stared down at her intensely.
“I love what you’re doing, Bron, but I don’t think I’ll last much longer if you continue doing it,” he warned. Bronwyn sighed and reluctantly released her prize after one last, lingering stroke that very nearly undid him if his reaction was anything to go by. It took a few moments of gasping and muttered curses before he opened his eyes again to scowl down at her feverishly.
“You drive me crazy,” he said shakily before claiming her lips in a kiss that was the polar opposite of the gentle one he had given her before. It was hot, possessive, and downright raunchy.
Her hands fluttered aimlessly for a few seconds before reaching up to bury themselves in his luxurious hair. She arched up against him and he muttered something unintelligible into her mouth before releasing her face. In a move so fast it had her head spinning, he swung her up into his arms and strode toward the living room sofa.
“I’m sorry, babe,” his voice was strained as he placed her on the soft sofa, kneeling on the floor beside her. “I don’t think I can make it up to the bedroom. Are you sure you want this?” She rolled her eyes at his ridiculous question and pulled him back toward her. He made a half-laughing, half-groaning sound as he claimed her lips again, smothering her own happy little giggle. She had the softness of the sofa against her back and the hardness of Bryce plastered against her front. He made no attempt to hide his obvious arousal from her as he climbed onto the sofa with her and unabashedly settled between her spread-eagled thighs before grinding himself up against her hot center.
“I’ve missed this,” he confessed, relinquishing her lips again. “I’ve missed us.”
“Me too,” she admitted, losing herself in his burning gaze.
“Gorgeous,” he ground out thickly, reaching for the hem of her plain T-shirt and tugging it up and off her in seconds. Bryce stared down at her small breasts with such burning intensity that she knew she was blushing from head to foot.
“Pretty,” he grunted, his voice so thick she could barely make out the word. One strong forefinger traced the delicate, scalloped edge of her shell-pink demi bra, and she sucked in a breath when the tip of his finger came within a hairsbreadth of the hard little peak of her breast. His other forefinger echoed the movement on her neglected breast, and she moaned huskily, arching herself up in the hopes that he’d touch her the way she needed to be touched. He smiled in response before placing the flat of one hand on her chest, between her breasts, and gently pushing her back down.
“No rush, babe . . . relax.” He barely got the words out before dropping his lips on her mouth again for another fiery kiss. Bronwyn inhaled sharply, breathing in the delicious smell of him, before wrapping her slender arms around his back and digging her fingernails into his hard muscles.
He lifted his head and trailed his mouth down over her chin, down her delicate neck, down down down to her chest, until they reached the barely there slope of one breast. His lips traced the same lacy edge his finger had explored moments before, and Bronwyn shuddered when she felt his hot moist breath against her overstimulated nipple.
“Please,” she whimpered. “Pleasepleasepleaseplease . . .”
His mouth descended onto the tight, aching nub through the satiny material, sucking so hard that the pleasure bordered on pain. Before the sensation became too uncomfortable, he eased off, regretfully dropping the softest of farewell kisses onto the delicious little morsel before moving over and gracing her neglected breast with the same treatment.
He sat up abruptly, kneeling between her widespread thighs, looking primal and fierce with his hair mussed, a flush highlighting his harsh cheekbones and his jeans unsnapped at the waist. She hungrily drank in the sight of the hard pillar of flesh relentlessly pushing up from the open fly of his jeans before shifting her gaze back up to his eyes. He was doing a bit of visual devouring of his own—dragging his ravenous gaze up and down her half-naked body with an intensity that made her quiver in response.
He dragged his shirt up over his head, not even bothering with the buttons, and tossed it aside. Bronwyn nearly moaned out loud at the sight of his well-developed upper body. Her hands helplessly reached up to trace his well-defined pecs and abs, and she watched in intoxicated fascination when his muscles bunched and leaped beneath her wandering hands. She already knew his body so well but still felt like she was seeing and discovering him for the very first time. She sat up too and hungrily sucked and licked the salty, smooth skin of his chest until he groaned painfully.
“You’re so . . .” The rest of his words were muffled against the skin of her neck, which he dragged into his mouth hungrily before moving back up to her mouth like it was some irresistible lure that he could not stay away from. His hands found the clasp of the bra at her back, and she felt the garment loosen but remain sandwiched between their bodies. She moved far enough away from him to yank the offending scrap of satin and lace away, plastering her naked skin back up against his hot, smooth chest. He hissed at the feel of her against him and dragged his head up to gaze down at her pouting little breasts in unabashed hunger. They were both kneeling on the large sofa now, both topless and dressed only in their jeans. Bryce cupped her breasts and tested their slight weight in the palms of his hands before his thumbs descended onto the hot coals of her raspberry-red nipples, flicking and teasing at them while she arched her back in an effort to get them into his mouth. Not one to turn down such a very delicious invitation, Bryce complied with her unspoken demand and dragged first one sweet little nub into his mouth, and then the other. The sensation was so overwhelming that it stole the breath from her body and left the scream of ecstasy she’d been about to utter lodged in her throat.