Authors: Jessica Gray
Hazel swallowed, and licked her bottom lip. “Actually, I’m starving.”
She hadn’t eaten the whole day. Mostly to save money. She didn’t know how long twenty-five dollars would have to last, so she’d rationed herself to just one meal per day. In her situation she couldn’t afford to turn down an invitation to eat. But this wasn’t the reason she agreed to stay. One single look into Ethan’s chocolate-brown eyes and she forgot everything else. This man had a stronger attraction to her than she could resist.
“Come on and have a seat.” He motioned her to the dining table.
“Thanks,” she said with a shaky voice, sitting down and watching him move around the kitchen.
He produced a wine bottle and two glasses. “Some wine?”
Hazel started to shake her head. She really shouldn’t. It could only lead to making a mistake. The lust in his eyes promised so much more than food and wine.
Alcohol would lower her inhibitions, weaken her self-control, would threaten her to give in if he attempted to seduce her. But then, didn’t she want to be seduced? To feel like a woman again? Cherished? Loved?
The thought of love stiffened her body. This wasn’t about love. It was about desire and lust. Intense pleasure and a release of pent-up emotions at most. You didn’t love a man after knowing him for a few minutes. This just didn’t happen. Not in real life.
And her life was in the bottom of a deep, deep hole that she was trying to dig herself out of. Mentally she ticked off the things on her to-do list. Get a job. Pay back her debt. Start living again. And then, just maybe, she could think about finding someone to love. Maybe.
She saw him waiting for her reply and decided to throw caution to the wind. Could she take this moment for herself and not regret it later?
Her mind made up, she lifted her eyes and nodded. “Yes. I’d love some wine, thank you.”
Ethan poured her a glass, and the way he devoured her with his eyes, letting them travel down her body like a soft caress, made her shudder again. Her hands trembled when she reached for the glass. She took a shuddery breath to try and calm her racing nerves.
He saw her shiver and asked, “Are you still cold, Hazel?” His voice, low and soft, enveloped her, swallowed her whole into a bubble of comfort.
“No, I’m fine,” she said. When he arched a brow, she explained. “You make me nervous.”
Again he misunderstood her. His eyes darkened with concern. “I’m not gonna hurt you, Hazel. If it makes you feel better, I can…”
“No.” She hurried to say, “I’m not nervous about that. I’m not afraid of you.”
She didn’t continue, and she didn’t have to because the light in his eyes showed he’d understood.
“That’s good to know. A toast.” He lifted his glass, his eyes never leaving her, “To the happy incident of finding a true siren on the shore of Lake Michigan.”
Hazel giggled and suddenly she wasn’t nervous anymore. “A siren?”
“Seemed appropriate,” he murmured in reply.
Instantly, the tension in the room was broken and his dining room filled with the sound of laughter. She cherished these carefree moments.
How long had it been since she’d enjoyed such a lighthearted instant? Two and a half years. That was how long.
There had been moments of laughter and brief happiness while her mother was yet alive, but none of them had been carefree. Sometimes, they had been forced. A vain attempt to pretend that everything was going to be like it was before Mom got sick. Sometimes, they had been genuine. But they were always overshadowed by the knowledge they didn’t have much time left together. Her mother had been so strong and courageous, Hazel had tried everything not to let her feel her own desperation.
Suddenly, she wanted the evening never to end. To feel like the happy girl she’d been years ago. It may have been selfish, but she wanted this one night with Ethan before she was forced to return to the sorry existence that was her life.
Reality would return in a few hours. What harm was there in trying to enjoy this moment?
The timer rang and Ethan walked into the kitchen, returning with a pan of lasagna in his hands. The delicious smell intensified and she licked her bottom lip again. After just one bite, she closed her eyes and allowed the food to soothe her battered soul.
She opened her eyes, “Heavenly. Thanks for the invitation.”
Hazel cleaned her plate, feeling warm from both the wine and a full stomach. And from the heat emanating from his body. He sat beside her, and even without his touching her, she could feel the warmth spreading into her heart.
Ethan had been with enough anorexic women to appreciate a girl who enjoyed her food. But watching Hazel ravishing the lasagna with the focus and hunger of a wild animal left him wondering when she’d last eaten properly. A thought that caused an unfamiliar pain in the area around his heart.
During dinner they’d emptied the bottle of wine, and the alcohol had visibly lightened up her mood. The pain in her eyes had receded, and her face had softened as the worries of her life faded away.
He longed to find out what could have happened to her to put that pained look in her eyes and the hardened lines of sorrow in her face. But he decided not to ask. He didn’t want to break open old wounds. No, the first priority was to make her feel at ease, make her forget all her sorrows – even if it was only for a few hours.
“All finished?” he asked, when she pushed her plate away and sat back.
“I couldn’t eat another bite.” She immediately stood up and began stacking their dirty dishes.
“What are you doing?” he asked, inhaling her fresh and sexy scent.
She arched her brow, “Cleaning up.”
“Leave them, I’ll do it later.”
“No, I’d like to help. Is that okay?”
Ethan gave her an easy smile, “Sure, darling,” and joined her. Together they cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. The silence between them was breathtaking, and Ethan yearned for the easy conversation they had going a few minutes ago.
“So, where are you from?” he asked her as she rinsed the plates and handed them to him.
“Really? That’s what, a thousand miles west of here?” he asked, turning to study her sweet face.
She smiled at him, the memory bringing light to her eyes – but also shadows, “Fifteen hundred miles is more accurate. Three days of driving.”
“That’s quite a trip.”
She nodded, “It almost seems surreal.”
“So what brought you to Sandy Beach?”
“I’m looking for a job as a hairdresser.”
He closed the dishwasher door and stepped toward the sink. The sparks between them kept electrifying him, but he had been careful to keep his distance from her. He feared losing control when he touched her; that his emotions would wash over him like a bursting dam, and nothing would be able to stop him.
Ethan fought hard to restrain himself, not wanting to give her the wrong impression. He wanted her – sure. But not only her body, he wanted so much more of her. More than anything, he wanted her to trust him, to feel at ease with him.
“A hairdresser, huh?” His eyes wandered over her dark locks and he lifted a tendril, letting it slip through his fingers. It was as smooth as silk and insanely sexy.
“Yes.” She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and then stepped back and away from him, her ebony lock slipping out of his fingers and the feel of loss churning his stomach. “I should go.”
“Where? It’s already after 10 p.m., and finding a hotel at this time of night will be difficult, if not impossible. And you had quite a bit to drink. You should probably not be driving. I’d offer myself, but I’ve drunk just as much as you have.”
He was watching her carefully, trying to gauge her reaction. She nipped her lower lip, her eyes darting from him to the door and back.
“Hazel, why don’t you stay here? Please.”
Ethan was very proud of his three-bedroom house, where he’d moved in weeks ago after returning from London to the States for good. She could stay in his guestroom – if she wanted to.
Hazel looked at him with her meaningful blue eyes. “No. I can’t take advantage of your hospitality any more than I already have.”
Ethan took a step closer to her, so close he knew she could feel his body heat, but not touching her. “Stay.”
She looked up at him with her meaningful eyes and shook her head. “I…”
“Stay,” He wrapped the tendril of hair around his finger, connecting them in such a simple way, while getting lost in the depth of her baby blues, looking right into her soul. And what he saw her made him want to protect her, press her into his arms and soothe her pain. No, he wouldn’t let her go. Not now. Not ever.
Her voice was a mere whisper, “It’s been so long…”
“So long?” he asked just as quietly.
“Since I was… you know?” she shrugged a shoulder.
“No, I don’t. Since what?” He watched the blush stain her cheeks and then he widened his eyes, “Hazel. That’s not what I was suggesting at all.”
Does she think she has to sleep with me if she stays here? What kind of men has she been hanging out with?
He closed the inches between them, bringing her body up against his own. “Hazel. Let me be clear. I’m immensely attracted to you. In fact, I’ve never been more turned on by a woman than by you. And while I would love to sleep with you – and I mean it, I would really love to sleep with you – my invitation doesn’t have strings attached. I would never want you to feel obliged to sleep with me because I fed you and invited you to stay here. In fact, I would hate it. I want to take only what you give me by choice and with pleasure.”
She blushed. A dark red blush, that heated the air around her and softened his heart even more. Holy mother of all things sexy, that woman was alluring.
“I know. You have been so kind. It’s just that it’s been such a long time I’m afraid I forgot how this dating stuff works.”
He chuckled. “You sure are one of a kind. My little siren. But don’t worry. We’ll just go with the flow. And I want you to know that you can stop at any moment you want and be sure I won’t be angry at you. Okay?”
“Yes,” she whispered and raised her head to lock her baby-blue eyes with his. She sucked him into her soul, deep down, and he wanted to crawl into her body and her heart.
Instead he cupped her face in his hands and grazed his thumbs over her cheeks before he slowly bent down and placed his lips over hers.
He intentionally kept the kiss light, his touch soft. His lips barely brushed hers, and he relished the [or “reveled in”] silky smooth feel of her skin and the tingling on his own lips.
Just when he was about to break their kiss, a loud and sexy moan escaped her throat and she slung her arms around him, pressing her luscious curves into his hard body, making him burn for her with an intensity he hadn’t ever experienced before.
The chemistry between them exploded as she parted her lips slightly and invited his tongue to explore her mouth. The taste of lasagna and red wine still lingered in her mouth, but without overpowering her own sweet and alluring taste. His tongue darted out and explored every corner of her mouth, starting a mating dance with her tongue – twirling around in her mouth and taking the pleasure from the tip of his tongue all the way down to his toes.
She moaned into his mouth and ground her hips harder against him. How could he resist such a sweet temptation?
He scooped her up in his arms and carried her into the living room, where he laid her down on the chaise lounge, carefully spreading her hair out beneath her. Next he organized a pillow to put behind her back and then stepped back, watching her for a moment, in awe of her marvelous body. All he wanted was to pleasure her, hear her moans, and watch her come apart in his arms.
“I’m all yours, my little seductive siren.”
She giggled and stretched her hands over her head, which caused the urge in him to grab her hands and hold them right up there, to see her body shudder and squirm beneath him. But he’d leave this kind of play for another time.
“You sure you want this, darling?”
She nodded with big eyes, filled with desire for him.
He kneeled on the couch next to her hips and leaned forward for another kiss. He deepened it, his tongue plunging into the recesses of her mouth as she parted her lips for him.
A few minutes later, he lifted his weight from her and asked, “Tell me you want this as much as I do. If you don’t, that’s okay. We can stop at any time.”
Since when did he offer a woman to stop in the middle of the act? That was not at all like him. He’d never given a woman so much control, but then again, she wasn’t at all like his usual playmates. Not even close.
And he felt like he wasn’t the same man he’d been a few hours ago. Now he was complete. With her.
Her lips quirked up and her voice was thick with lust, “I want you. Now stop talking and kiss me.“