Authors: Linda Conrad
His arm was tight around her back, while her side was pressed against his firm naked chest. She wasn't accustomed to seeing him without a shirt. He'd always worn T-shirts to work out.
The muscles that she'd help create, bulged and bunched as he moved them past darkened obstacles. She tightened her grip around his neck and clung to him as she felt herself slipping down his body. Both of them were sweating and slick in the heat and humidity.
He dragged her up closer and she caught a whiff of something that smelled like good old-fashioned soap, coming from his sweat-glistened skin. The familiar scent seemed unbelievably masculine all of a sudden.
An electric tingle rushed across her skin and she could barely breathe. Having him carry her in his arms had turned into one of the most erotic experiences of her entire lifetime.
A few moments later, Nick entered a guest bathroom that she'd never been in before. “I'm going to let you down now. Do you think you can change clothes on one foot while I go locate the first aid kit?”
He bent to help her keep steady on her one good leg. But as she slid down his body, she felt the unmistakable thrust of aroused male against her back. She twisted and grabbed for his shoulders, shaken by her own desire as much as by his.
“Uhâ¦hold on to the counter,” Nick said roughly. “Everything will be fine as soon as you change and I doctor your wound.
“Keep the light with you,” he urged with a rush as he stepped away and thrust a dry towel at her. “I can find my way in the dark to get another flashlight.”
Whatever she would've said to make him take the light with him was lost. He disappeared into the darkened hallway and left her all alone to wonder what had caused both of them to totally lose their senses.
“Let me look at your foot, Annie.” Nick was standing before her as she sat on the edge of the bathroom counter.
His body took up all the air and space in what she'd thought before was a huge room. He'd brought the first aid kit and a kerosene lantern back with him. Being able to see his expression and his steel-blue eyes was not helping her feel any less nervous.
She lifted her foot toward him before remembering her new toenail polish. It was too late now.
“I tried to wash the cut while I was waiting for you to come back,” she said with a shaky voice.
He turned her foot in his warm hands and stared down at her toes. “What color is that? Blue?” It felt so strange, having him touching her bare foot that way.
She'd hoped that he would never have to see her little girly choice of polish. How embarrassing. She should be wearing her athletic shoes, like she nearly always did.
“My sister sent it to me. I was just messing around tonight while I waited out the storm. It's not my usual color. Iâ”
“I like it on you,” he interrupted with a raspy chuckle. “It's fresh and full of energy. Just like you.”
“Oh.” Annie was totally overwhelmed by the heat she'd seen in his eyes.
Nick still had hold of her foot. Suddenly she realized what was happening. She was aroused by having him touch her bare skin. And if she didn't miss her guess, Nick was aroused as well. Jeez. Now what?
“The cut doesn't look too deep,” he told her as he studied it. “Do you think you washed all the glass out?”
“I'm pretty sure.”
He raised his eyes to question her and she was immediately struck dumb by his nearness. His face was
mere inches from her own. If she just leaned forward slightly, she could kiss those full lips. She could reach out and pull him in for the pleasure of it.
Her imagination began to run away with her and ripples of some unnamed sensation ran down her spine as he began to bandage her feet. It was too intense and she closed her eyes so he wouldn't guess what she was thinking.
Nick had to bite the inside of his cheek in order to get through bandaging Annie's wound. It was all he could do not to ravish her right there in the bathroom.
It had been easy to see that she wanted him. If not because of the sexy bedroom way she'd been staring at his lips, then because of the way her nipples had peaked against the thin material of her T-shirt as he tended to her wound.
Obviously, she wasn't wearing a bra. But then, he remembered that she'd been in her silky shorty pajamas when the roof had caved in. Of course she wouldn't wear a bra to bed. And he hadn't retrieved any underwear for her on their way out of her suite.
Knowing that was driving him crazy. He didn't want to stare at her chest. It had been tough enough before when she'd felt his arousal against her back. Good Lord. Male anatomy was such a pain sometimes.
It was a huge relief to finally have her bandaged and safe and sound on the sofa in his office. Now he had to find something to do to keep them both occupied through the rest of this storm.
He absolutely refused to give in to his body's demands. He was a much better man than that.
“Do you want to try to get some sleep? That sofa is fairly comfortable,” he asked with too much force.
“Are you kidding? Who could sleep with all the excitement of the hurricane?”
“Hopefully, we've had the last of the exciting events for this storm.”
“Are you going to sleep?”
He shook his head. “No.” Exasperated and enchanted with her all at the same time, he gave in to the situation and leaned back against the edge of his desk. “I guess we should keep each other company while we wait it out.”
He'd wanted it to be easier. He'd wanted her asleep so his libido would let him off the hook. But nothing about Annie ever seemed easy. Passionate, sensual and so full of life an aura of energy fairly shimmered around her.
“I've heard of hurricane parties. Maybe we could have one of those.”
“Hmm. Depends on your idea of what would constitute a party.”
“Wellâ¦there would be music. There's always music at a good party.”
He smiled, despite himself. “If you haven't noticed, the only music you hear in this house comes from your CD player in the gym. And without electricity, retrieving that now would be useless.”
“No music? My gosh, I hadn't realized.” She stared up at him. “I can't imagine living in a house without music. At home, you could walk through the house and every room would have a different song playing. Don't you like music?”
“It isn't that,” he confessed. “Growing up we didn't have much music in our houseâ¦aside from an occasional piano concerto played during a business reception.”
“Your family had a piano and you didn't play it?”
He tried to keep the grimace off his face, but it was impossible. “I wanted to learn. But my father said piano playing would be of no use in business. I had the feeling he didn't think it was particularly masculine either.”
Annie laughed. “Don't tell that to my brother Ryan. He plays every kind of music there is. Good enough that he can even take requests. And he's no sissy. He was a fullback on the Notre Dame football team. Now he's a fireman in Cambridge. He'd be a grand person to invite.”
She'd been so animated as she talked about her brother. It was obvious that she loved her family. Her face glowed and she had bounced in her seat as she'd waved her hands throughout the story.
God, how he wanted her.
He would give up a month of his life to just once be able to capture that sexy mouth with his own. To run his hands through her fiery curls. To touch that smooth skin and finally bury himself deep inside her waiting warmth.
She was still driving him insane.
Waving a hand as if to dismiss the problem, she said, “Don't worry about the music. I can sing later if need be. What we really should have is beer or ale. That's another absolute necessity for a good Irish party.”
“Sorry. I doubt that there's a beer in the house.”
“Don't you like beer, either? My father would call
you a heretic.” She laughed and the flashing green fire in her eyes made him too aware of her teasing.
“Be serious for once,” he scowled. “Perhaps we should play a game of chess to pass the time.”
“Don't know how to play. How about Hearts? I used to love to play that with my family.”
“It's a card game.”
He shrugged. “No playing cards in the house.”
“Oh my gosh. A house with no playing cards and no beer. That's just sad.”
He found himself laughing at his own expense. “You are absolutely impossible.” But joking with her was turning him on even more than before. “I suppose in some ways I've been living in a dull world. At least it must seem that way to you,” he managed.
“Oh I don't think your world is dull at all.” She smiled and he felt his knees go weak. “Look around you. This is a fabulous mansion on an exotic Caribbean island. You can get on a jet and go anywhere in the world you want, any time you want. And in the meantime, you have a dolphin research facility where you can play with and talk to marine mammals. If that's not colorful, I don't know what is.”
Through her eyes, the gray in his world faded away. It made him want moreâ¦more vibrancyâ¦more lifeâ¦more of Annie.
He loved to hear her talk. Just talk. Her voice had a lilt to it that rolled over him like warm honey.
“How about if we just talk to pass the time?” he asked, desperate to find something to take his mind off her body.
“Okay.” She seemed to think that over a minute. “I know. We can tell stories.”
“What kind of stories?”
“Ghost stories. With no electricity and all these shadows from the lanterns and candles jumping all over the room, ghost stories would be lots of fun.”
He sat down on the sofa next to her. “I don't know any ghost stories.”
“What? What kind of education have you had?” She chuckled and her eyes danced with delight.
Then she slid a glance over his shoulder and her whole demeanor suddenly changed. Her face drew up and her eyes grew dismal. Nick turned to see what had caught her attention and ruined her mood.
As he turned, he realized that she was staring at the picture of Christina. Hell.
He stood, grabbed the photo away from its spot on the table. “There are some ghost stories better left untold.”
“Please don't move that because of me,” she said sadly.
“Uh, I've been meaning to put it over behind my desk with the others of her.” He stashed it, face-down, on the credenza in the darkest corner of the room. “She never cared much for that photograph anyway.”
As he walked back to Annie's side, Nick noticed that she had tears in her eyes. Her expression was filled with sorrow and the tears welling there were poised to spill over her face.
“Annie?” He sat down on the sofa beside her again.
“I'm sorry.” She fluttered her fingers in front of her as if to will away the tears. “It's just such a tragic love story. A young couple with so much to look forward to.”
Nick couldn't stand to see the pain on Annie's face. Not when the truth of the tragedy was that there had been an absence of love. And he always felt better when Annie smiled. When she laughed, the whole world brightened.
A single drop leaked out of the corner of her eye. It tore a huge hole in him and he reached for her, rubbing a thumb under her eye to wipe her pain away with the tear.
“Annie, pleaseâ¦” He'd meant to say “please don't cry.” At least, he thought that's what he'd meant.
But somewhere there, the entire mood in the room changed with one deep breath. He lifted her chin, leaned in and traced her full, rosy lips with his tongue. It was beyond him to stop.
Annie made a small sound and threw her arms around his neck to pull him closer and deepen the kiss. She was impossible to resist.
She was everything he'd ever wanted and had refused to let himself take. Though it made him mad to admit it, he knew that all his hard-won scruples and fidelity were just about to disappear into the night right along with his honor.
She moaned again. And a red haze of desire exploded in his head as he let Annie take him completely over the edge of reason.
nnie went willingly, eagerly, into Nick's arms. Never before had she felt such power, nor such weakness.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, her mother's voice was telling her that this was wrong. Nick was her boss and they could never have any kind of future together. Butâ¦
Nick lathed her lips with his tongue, then nudged the lips open so he could sweep into her mouth. It gave her goose bumps but she tried her best to keep up with him.
Their tongues melded together and tangled as if in some erotic slow dance. Annie held her breath as he began to thrust his tongue forcefully back and forth into her mouthâdemanding, enticing, begging.
He pulled back slightly, and buried his face in her neck on a deep breath. “Iâ¦I'm sorry,” he stuttered against her skin. “I shouldn't. But I want you so much.”
“I want you too,” she readily agreed as she clung to his shoulders. The world suddenly turned blurry, hazy and the roar of the storm faded into a velvety blue buzz in her head. “Boy, do I ever.”
On a groan, he nibbled his way up her throat as she threw back her head to give him access. He kissed her jawline, then moved to her ear. Taking the lobe in his mouth, he sucked gently then nipped with the lightest of bites. His warm breath tickled her ear.
Suddenly Annie saw stars.
“Oh my gosh. Is that the way this is supposed to feel? I know the novels say stuff aboutâ¦umâ¦” He slid his thumbs up over the tips of her breasts and she forgot the rest of her sentenceâalmost forgot her name.
But she did manage to remember that she didn't want him to guess about her total lack of experience. He might not want to keep going. And he just had to be the one.
She clamped her mouth shut. But when he reached under her T-shirt and tenderly stroked her breasts, she thought she might burst wide-open with erotic pulses.
Her clothes were all of a sudden too blessed tight. The T-shirt was choking her and the shorts were binding and making her sweat, especially between the thighs.
Nick dragged her to him and pulled her up into his lap. Wow. The feel of his manhood, pressed hard and solid against her bottom, gave her a jolt of courage. She grabbed the hem of her shirt and, with one swift tug, yanked it up and over her head.
The sudden cool draft of air against her heated skin
destroyed her newly found courage. Oh dear God. What had she done?
Nick's quick intake of breath told her he thought she had acted in haste, too. Too bold for her own good.
But when she made a move to cover her breasts with her hands, he grabbed her wrists and held them to her sides.
“Don't,” Nick said with a rasp. “Don't cover yourself. You're so beautiful. Please. Please just let me look at you a minute.”
Staring at her dusky, rose tips and the splash of brown freckles across her upper chest was causing a fresh blast of yearning to roll through Nick's body. This time it was so intense it flooded his gut and then gushed to his erection with such a compelling need that he could barely breathe.
She was such a kaleidoscope of life. He dropped her hands and let his own reach for what they sawâwhat they had desired for so long.
His fingers lightly touched her silken face while he watched those luminous emerald eyes turn sultry with passion. Shifting one hand to the back of her head, he grabbed a handful of curls and captured her fire. It was like liquid gold, spilling through his fingers.
Tentatively, Annie unbuttoned and pushed his shirt off his shoulders before reaching out to touch his bare chest. “You're pretty beautiful yourself. Or as they say in romance novels, âa fine specimen of manhood.'”
When her hand connected with his skin, they both gasped as his heart thumped wildly in his chest. Her fingers began to draw lazy circles over the planes of his
flesh and muscles. She dragged a nail over a nipple, then allowed her fingers to trail down his belly toward the waistband of his shorts.
He blinked his eyes against the aroused heat and thickness in his body. Swallowing hard, he knew he had to keep his eyes open, to see clearly what he could make her body do. His fingers lingered against the smooth satin of her neck, then inched lower to the shallow indentation at the base.
Watching her face closely for any sign of distress, he saw that her lips parted slightly as he lowered his hand to cup one breast. It fit perfectly into his palm, so once more he gingerly moved his thumb over the tip. And this time he was able to watch it peak for him.
Annie closed her eyes and took a breath, as if the feel of his hands on her skin was the most exquisite thing that had ever happened to her. She arched her back, urging him ever closer.
Just one taste. Someplace in the back of his mind, he knew this must stop. But first he had to experience all that striking energyâhow it would tasteâhow it would feel against the flat of his tongue.
She looked up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. “Nick, pleaseâ¦”
The sound of his name, drew him up and he swore softly. “This is a huge mistake,” he growled as he dropped his hands. He let her slide off his lap and began to inch away from her.
“No.” She took his hand, put it back to her breast and held it there with her own. “Please touch me. Kiss me. Make love with me.”
The look on her face ran a shudder of desire through
his body as he struggled to be fairâto someone. But he wasn't exactly sure who. He just had to be sure the situation was something Annie understood.
“I have nothing to offer you butâ¦this one night,” he told her in a rough voice. “I can't give youâ¦I can't give anyoneâ¦”
“I know,” she said softly. “It's okay. I understand.” She smiled with that devastating need, shining clear and transparent in her eyesâand he was totally lost.
He braced a hand on the sofa and touched her face with the other as he leaned in for another kiss. She tasted so good, just the way she looked. Like red cherry and chocolate candy. Like being caught up in a whirlwind of color and magic.
Dizzy, he slid off the sofa and knelt before her but never broke the kiss. She was so tiny that he could reach her better from this position. With his knees sinking into the thick oriental rug below them, he forgot all about the storm outside and concentrated instead on capturing the storm of her desire.
Annie put her arms around his shoulders and pulled him to her, pressing her naked breasts to his chest. The quiver of need was like nothing she had ever felt before. She rubbed her tender nipples back and forth against the smattering of hair and held her breath.
Intense bolts of pleasure moved downward from her breasts, landing with a surprise of tingles way deep inside her. She could have sworn she felt those zesty bubbles all the way down in that secret spot between her legs, though it didn't seem possible.
She heard herself moan and vaguely wondered if
she should be quiet. Do nothing to ruin the mood or make him change his mind.
A small and fleeting thought about the possibility of getting pregnant chased through her mind. But then she remembered that he'd said that he and his wife had tried and couldn't.
That thought depressed her again. But when Nick began to nibble his way down her neck and chest, she totally forgot everything but the sensations he was creating across her skin and deep within her body.
He rubbed his hands up and down her spine as he tasted and sucked first one nipple then the other.
“Nick,” she groaned. “Wait. Let me touch you, too.”
He pulled his head up and gazed into her blazing green eyes, full of passion and want. Holding on to her shoulders so he wouldn't spin right off the planet, he let her run her palms across his face, neck and chest. As she touched and explored, her expression became dazed, her eyes glazed over.
His breathing became ever more ragged. Thunder began to build in his head and split through his blood. A roar of passion to replace the noise of the storm outside. But he resolved to let this passionate leprechaun do as she wished. Just so long as she allowed him to watch as the pleasure ran across her expressive face.
He watched as her skin flushed a rosy shade of pink. The blush moved across her chest, and on up her neck to her cheeks. Flaming her. Burning him with desire.
Patience, he cautioned himself. It had been so long, and she was more wonderful than he'd thought possible.
Make it last.
It had been two years since he'd so much as touched a woman. But even back then he had not needed Christine this desperately. He wanted to experience everything with Annie, every second of the fire that was all-consuming.
She moved her hands up his neck then touched his chin, his forehead, his eyelids. As if she too wanted this to last, and was trying to memorize every inch of him.
Her eyes were aflame, blazing emerald with irises black with passion. He glanced down her body and saw the dusky nipples darken to deepest purple as the blood pulsed through her. It made him wonder what other parts of her might be darkening as they engorged with blood and fire.
He gave himself permission to touch her at will, to flick a nail over her extended tips. To run his hands up and down her rib cage and capture her breasts in his palms, weighing them and cherishing them. She fit his hands exactly.
The weird sensation of being made for each other, of somehow finding the other half of him, made him sway into her. He nipped her lips with a light touch. She moaned and dug her nails into his shoulders, dragging him to her and deepening the kiss.
The sweetness of her mouth combined with the sweet pain of her nails on his skin, drove his sex further into arousal. He pushed her backward on the sofa, gasping and groaning like an animal.
Running his hands down her sides, he ripped her shorts from her body with one swift tug. She lay naked before him, an intense and luxuriant goddess with a glazed expression.
He wanted to touch her everywhere. Taste her everywhere. The hunger was fierce inside him, driving him to do things he'd never done.
Burying his face in her abdomen, he circled her belly button with his tongue. Her skin was smooth, silky, like the glide of expensive brandy down his throat.
Moving lower, he licked a path toward the ginger colored curls at the apex of her thighs. As he stole a taste of her, he glanced back up to her face and saw the pleasure she was feeling written clearly there.
The hues of her were spectacular. Reds of desire, and hazy deep purples of need.
Nick wanted to give in to her every wish, just as she was giving him everything he had ever wanted. Everything he could ever imagine.
Touching her nub with the edge of his tongue, Nick lifted her hips then slid a finger into her warm, wet depths. Annie moaned and writhed her hips. She drove her hands into his hair in a violent rage.
He knew the feeling well. His own resolve to go slow faltered and fell by the wayside as he stood, dragging his running shorts down and off with one quick flick of his wrist. He could manage no more.
He paused a second to draw a breath and looked down at Annie, her eyes were round, her lips parted. She made a tiny mewling noise and reached out to touch his rigid sex.
Annie tentatively ran a finger up his shaft, blinking at the moisture she found at the tip. He groaned and pulled her hand away, afraid he would embarrass himself beyond redemption if he didn't have her now. Right now.
Urging her to lay lengthwise on the sofa, he fit him-
self between her legs. Not breathing and not thinking, he lowered himself to his elbows and took her face in his hands as his sex nudged her waiting warmth.
Her hands moved over his back and she arched, silently pleading with him to take her higher. He was more than ready to oblige.
He caught her buttocks in one hand and prepared to fit himself within her depths as he lifted her body up to meet his. It was a slow and agonizingly pleasurable venture inside her waiting warmth. So good. So right.
He groaned and he let himself inch deeper. Wanting this to be good for her, he stopped with only his tip buried where he was dying to follow. He wanted to give her a moment to adjust to his size. She was tight, warm, wet. Ready.
Annie stilled under him and for a moment he thought that's what she was doing, judging his fit, allowing the pleasure to wash over and through her. Then he went a millimeter deeper and felt the resistance, heard her intake of breath.
“Annie? My God. You're notâ¦” He was stunned and puzzled. All this passion and erotic color lying under him. She couldn't beâ¦
“Please don't stop, Nick. Please.” The agonizing plea in her voice, the desperate need so clear in her words, probably wouldn't have been enough to drive him over the edge and do something that was so wrong.
But she planted her feet on either side of his hips, gripped him and arched upward. Hard. Hard enough to drive him past all resistance and impale him deep inside her body.
She breathed a relieved sigh. “Thank heaven. Hurry, Nick. Please hurry.”
And in that instant, he was gone. All he could see, all he could hear, all he could feel was her glorious heat, surrounding him and gripping him with overwhelming desire.
She was sobbing under him, begging innocently with her body for something she couldn't know. He bent his neck and sucked her nipple into his mouth as he fought to show her.
When her body began to shudder around him, Annie moaned with a low, keening cry that sounded like it had been ripped from her body. She dug her nails into his back and bit his shoulder as the shock waves rolled over them both.
Once again, in the deep recesses of his mind, the feeling that everything was exactly the way it should be slid in and out of his consciousness.
Nick shoved the strange feeling aside and gave way to the rippling pull of passion. He thrust into her with a violent and mindless madness until he too felt waves of frantic release. Grasping her tightly to him, he let the power and the magic roll over them as they flew high above the stormâhigh above realityâand rode the lightning bolts safe in each others arms.