Authors: Krystal Shannan
“Sure,” he murmured.
Matt slid into the bed next to her, and she crawled over and settled into the crook of his arm. He inhaled the soft cherry and vanilla scent of her hair and wrapped his arm under her shoulder and around to cradle her close. Even through the heavy sweatpants and hoodie, her curves pressed against the contours of his body. He couldn’t help thinking again what a perfect fit she was.
“Where are you from?”
“So, you’re a cowboy?”
He laughed. “No, but my grandfather did have a ranch. We went out to West Texas to visit him every summer, and I got to ride and help with chores. What about you? Where did you spend your summers?”
“Papa would take us to the house in Los Angeles. Or we would travel through Europe. After Mama died, though, we never traveled again.”
“How did you lose your mother?” Her body tensed against his hold, but she didn’t pull away.
“She was killed.”
“I’m sorry. That must have been horrible for you as a child.”
“It was a long time ago. I was twelve. But enough about me. Tell me more of your family.”
“Not a lot to tell.”
“Tell me something. It is a good distraction from the shrieking of the storm.”
“Okay. Well, once while we were out at my grandfather’s ranch —my cousins had come that year, too, so there were twelve of us altogether—”
“Yep, so anyway…. We were out in the barn. Some of us were supposed to be milking the cows. Others were to collect eggs, and some of us were supposed to be feeding the animals. Well, one of my cousins brought his dad’s electric trimmer out to the barn and told us we needed to decide who was getting Mohawks.”
“Why?” She giggled.
“Because we were going to play cowboys and Indians.”
“So did you get a Mohawk?”
“Nope, I was one of the older boys so I got to keep my hair. Plus, I knew my mama would have tanned my hide if I had let Bobby O’Shay cut my hair.”
“So what happened?”
Matt smiled. He could hear the masked yawn in her voice. She was going to drift off soon. “Bobby decided that the animals had to pick sides, too. He cut the mane on my grandfather’s favorite thoroughbred stallion so that it stood straight up like a Mohawk.”
“No!” Her face pressed hard into his chest, muffling her laughter.
“Yep, we all got our hides tanned for that one, and we all got our hair cut into Mohawks so we would match the atrocity done to the horse. He kept our hair that way the whole summer, even with all our mothers complaining.”
“Your family sounds like fun.”
“Surely you have some good stories, too?” There was a long silence before she responded. He wondered if he’d struck a nerve.
“Most of my family is dead.”
Shit. That would be a nerve all right. Way to go, Matt
“What happened to them?” he asked slowly. Maybe she’d open up a little.
“You don’t want to hear about crazy Russians. Tell me more of your adventures.”
Another long pause.
“We don’t speak of it, Matt. I would never betray my family.”
“Just tell me how it started.”
Her exhalation cued her surrender.
“It’s just me, my papa, and Nana Sharanov left. The feud between the Petrov family and the Sharanov family has been going on for generations, and both sides deny any involvement.”
“So this has been going on a long time.”
“It goes back to my great-great-great grandmother. Andrei Petrov was engaged to her and my great-great-great grandfather Viktor Sharanov fell in love with her and stole her away a week before her wedding. He married her in secret and the feud began. It is said that Andrei Petrov killed Viktor six months later, but my great-great-great grandmother, Kseniya, was already pregnant and the Sharanov family hid her away.”
“Her name sounds almost like yours.”
, Papa named me for her, but Mama didn’t want it to be exactly the same, just in case it was cursed.”
“Mama was very superstitious.”
“So did the grandmother have a boy?”
“Yes and he grew, married, and had three sons who also carried on the tradition of hating the Petrovs. Throughout the years, things would happen, people would be in accidents or get sick or die, and it was always blamed on the other family.” She took a deep breath. “A life for a life…. I lost my mother sixteen years ago when the brake lines were cut on her car. She and her driver both died. Then my brother was killed six years ago. He was stabbed in an alley along with three of his friends as they were leaving a bar.”
“I’m so sorry.” He squeezed her tight and dropped a kiss to the top of her head.
She’s lived with war her whole life. At least I chose that life
“It’s okay. It happened a long time ago. I went to New York to try to stay away from it. Papa and Nana were glad to see me in school in the US. They knew the stress and pain the feud had caused. I was so upset when my brother, Alexei, was killed, I took a semester off from school and just stayed in my apartment. That was when Papa sent Yuri to watch over me.”
“Yuri was your driver?”
She sniffled a little. “Yes. Papa will be furious that he failed to protect me, but I’m more afraid of what will happen when he finds out Petrov sent goons after me. This is the first time anything has been attempted outside of Russia.”
His body tensed. He couldn’t believe how calmly she was talking about the systematic killing of her family members and herself being hunted and kidnapped.
How can she handle the constant stress
He wanted to protect her. It was strange. He hadn’t desired a woman this way since losing his wife. Why did this little slip of a woman affect him so?
“You are safe with me. Sleep well.”
She snuggled closer and wrapped her top arm around his chest. She drifted off within a few minutes, but Matt lay there listening to the roar of the snowstorm and wondering how hard those guys would search for her. The moment the storm let up and phones were back, he would alert the office to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious cruising the mountain roads. The radio in his car wouldn’t carry through this storm. Nothing could be done until the sky cleared.
“Hey,” he whispered.
She fluttered her eyes open and stretched, grinding her hip against Matt’s throbbing erection. He groaned. Her lips curved up into a smile. She stretched out halfway on top of his chest and tangled her legs in his. He shifted a little.
“Where do you think you are going?” She wrapped her leg around his and lifted her head to meet his gaze. His eyes were dark and filled with desire, but she could tell he was worried. Small lines furrowed his brow. She reached up and ran her fingertips along his jaw and then across his lips. He nibbled on them and smiled. The lines disappeared—for now.
“Ksenia, I want—”
“I know. So do I.”
She straddled him, yanked the hoodie off, and chucked it across the room. Her bra was next. It snapped open easily. She sighed as her breasts fell free. Her nipples hardened, aching for his touch.
God, I want him so much
Matt tugged his shirt off and reached for her breasts. He thumbed her pebbled nipples, sending sparks straight to her core. She moaned and leaned toward him.
His strong arms enveloped her and he rolled, pressing her into the bed with the weight of his body. Matt raised his torso and slid off her sweatpants and underwear. Seconds later, his own were history as well. He drew the comforter over them, and she grinned up at him. His gaze held such heat and passion. Matt wanted her—not Sharanov power.
Her hands closed around his hard erection, and he groaned. She felt powerful; that she could make him feel such pleasure only increased her own desire.
“I need you, please.” Her body ached to be filled. His mouth latched onto a nipple and she hissed in pleasure. She arched her back,. Her body thrummed with need. Matt ran a hand over her bare mound and pressed down on her clit. Her whole body shuddered through the swirling erotic sensations. He dipped a finger through her slick center and thrust it into her tight pussy. Then he added another and she ground against him.
He threw the covers off and jumped from the bed.
“Matt!” She moaned in protest.
“I need a condom.”
“I have a patch. Get back in bed.”
She purred as he slid in beside her. Ksenia trailed her hands along his taut sides, reveling in the pleasure his mouth was showering on her breasts.
His cock brushed against her slick folds, and then it was inside her. She clenched his shoulders and moaned. He moved with long strokes while plying her neck and breasts with kisses. She rocked against him, writhing and mewling. Her body quivered when he pulled out before she could peak.
. “No,” she said with a growl. The emptiness was torture.
“Flip over, sweetheart.” She raised an eyebrow at the command, but she was so ready to come, she was willing to do just about anything. “Grab hold of the headboard.”
A wide smile to spread across her face. She turned, gripped the bed frame with both hands and wiggled her ass in the air. He grabbed her hips. “Hold your orgasm until I say.”
“No complaining, you can do it. I promise it will be worth it.”
It better be
She took a deep breath and nodded over her shoulder. Matt rubbed his cock against her clit a few times before sinking into her pussy. She gasped at the first thrust, but stayed in control. He was so hard and thick. As her body accommodated him, he pumped harder. Her climax was coming.
“You can come now, sweetheart.”
He upped his pace and plunged deep into her. His cock touched her womb and everything clenched down.
“Matt!” Her fingernails dug into the wooden headboard and she shoved away, taking him as deep as humanly possible. Matt stiffened and groaned; his fingers locked around her hips. Her pussy continued to clench as wave after wave of ecstasy rippled through her tightly wound body. The warmth of his release filled her with satisfaction.
Matt lay down on the bed with a sigh. He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her down next to him. She turned to her side and pressed her bottom against his still aroused penis.
“It was worth my while,” she murmured quietly.
“Good. I thought so, too,” he replied.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so relaxed. Matt was by far the best lover she’d ever had, not that there was a lot to compare with. And, he cooked! Plus, he seemed to be a man she could trust. But maybe she was just fooling herself. Perhaps, she just really wanted to trust someone. Being suspicious and secretive was so tiring. What had it ever gotten her? It hadn’t protected her from Stephen’s ploys.
She’d never met a man like Matt. He was confident and in charge, but not in an overbearing way. He was protective, too. Stephen had never been protective. Patronizing and bossy…yes. Protective…no.
She cracked an eye open, squinting at the bright light filtering in through the blinds. She had dozed a little after their morning romp. Matt was in the kitchen, whistling and clanking pans. He’d left her to go get breakfast started.
A low woof from the side of the bed startled her, and she looked down into two brown eyes. The edge of her bright underwear peeked from beneath his paws.
! “You must be Juno.” She slowly extended her hand. The dog sniffed the tips of her fingers and licked them. “Good boy. Thank you for finding me yesterday.” The white shepherd woofed again, grabbed the edge of the sheet, and shot out the bedroom door. “Hey!” she shouted after the streak of white. He dragged it halfway out the door before dropping it. Not that she wanted it back after he’d slobbered on it.
“Juno! Are you awake? Sorry about the dog,” Matt called from the kitchen.
“Yes! It’s okay,” she hollered back. Ksenia slid from the bed and grabbed the sweatpants from the floor where he’d chucked them last night.
Commando today. I’m so not wearing the panties after the dog sat on them
She walked over to Matt’s dresser and dug through the top drawer. There had to be a T-shirt or something she could put on. She found a small frame with a picture of a pretty blonde woman. Next to the frame sat a ring box. Guilt made her pause for a moment before opening it. Inside were two wedding bands. She closed the box and pushed the drawer shut, feeling embarrassed she’d dug through his private effects.
Another drawer offered what she’d been seeking—a long-sleeved shirt. She put on the red flannel and buttoned it up. Her stomach rumbled greedily at the smell of frying bacon.
Matt turned at the sound of light footsteps on the wood floor. “Merry Christmas Eve.” He smiled and waved with a spatula. “Come sit down. Breakfast is almost done. Orange juice is on the table.” He was so satisfied to be taking care of a woman again. He’d forgotten how much pleasure it brought him.
She grinned at him and slipped into one of the benches at the little dinette table.
“It smells really good. I love bacon.”
“A woman after my own heart.” Matt laughed, removed the bacon from the pan, and poured the beaten eggs in.
“What about the grease?”
“Just makes them taste better, trust me.”
She chuckled. “The storm stopped finally.”
“Yep, power is on. Phones should be working soon. It usually takes them a while to get around to our tower.”
“What about Internet?”
“Not yet.” He frowned. “Sorry.”
Matt set the plates of bacon, eggs, and buttered toast on the table. She eagerly dug in. He enjoyed watching her eat. Other than his late wife, he hadn’t met many women who didn’t fuss about extra calories or the fat content of their food.
“Tell me, Ksenia, what do you do for fun?”
“I’m a computer nerd. I program, play games, do puzzles.”