Authors: Catherine Mann
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Adult, #Mistresses, #Man Of The Month, #Princes
She didn’t flinch and she didn’t leave. Her soft hand stayed on top of his as she looked at him with sad eyes behind her glasses. “Is that what this week has been about?”
He let his gaze linger on the vee of her frothy nightgown set. Lace along the neckline traced into the curve of her breasts the way his hands ached to explore. “I’ve been clear from the start about what I want.”
“Are you so sure about that?”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he snapped.
Sliding from her chair, she circled the table toward him, her heels clicking against the tile. She stopped beside him, the hem of her nightgown set swirling against his leg. “Don’t confuse me with your mother.”
“Good God, there’s not a chance of that.” He toppled her into his lap and lowered his head, determined to prove it to her.
“Wait.” She stopped him with a hand flattened to his chest just above the two closed buttons. Her palm cooled his overheated skin, calming and stirring, but then she’d always been a mix of contradictions. “You suffered a horrible trauma as a child. No one should lose a parent, especially in such an awful way. I wish you could have been spared that.”
“I wish my
had been spared.” His hands clenched in her robe, his fists against her back.
“And I can’t help but wonder if you helping me—a mother with a young child—is a way to put her ghost to rest. Putting your own ghosts to rest in the process.”
Given the crap that had shaken down in his past, he’d done a fine job turning his life around. Frustration poured acid on his burning gut. “You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this.”
“What you told me this afternoon and tonight brought things into focus.”
“Well, thanks for the psychoanalysis.” His words came out harsh, but right now he needed her to walk away. “I would offer to pay you for the services, but I wouldn’t want to start another fight.”
“Sounds to me like you’re spoiling for one now.” Her eyes softened with more of that concern that grated along his insides. “I’m sorry if I overstepped and hit a nerve.”
A nerve? She’d performed a root canal on his emotions. His brain echoed with the retort of gunfire stuttering, aimed at him, his brothers. His mother. He searched for what to say to shut down this conversation, but he wasn’t sure of anything other than his need for a serious, body-draining jog on the beach. Problem was? The beach circled right back around to this place.
Easing from his lap, she stood and he tamped down the swift kick of disappointment. Except she didn’t leave. She extended her hand and linked her fingers with his.
Just a simple connection, but since he was raw to the core, her touch fired deep.
“Shannon,” he said between teeth clenched tight with restraint, “I’m about a second from snapping here. So unless you want me buried heart deep inside you in the next two minutes, you need to go back to your room.”
Her hold stayed firm, cool and steady.
“Shannon, damn it all, you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t want any part of the mood I’m in.” Her probing may have brought on the mood, but he wouldn’t let it contaminate her.
Angling down with slow precision, she pressed her lips to his. Not moving. Only their mouths and hands linked.
He wanted—needed—to move her away gently. But his fingers curled around the softness of her arm.
“Shanny,” he whispered against her mouth, “tell me to leave.”
“Not a chance. I only have one question.”
“Go ahead.” He braced himself for another emotional root canal.
She brought his hand to her chest, pressing his palm against her breast. “Do you have a condom?”
Relief splashed over him like a tidal wave. “Hell, yes, I have one, two in fact, in my wallet. Because even when we’re not talking, I know the way we are together could combust at any second. And I will always, always make sure you’re protected and safe.”
Standing, he scooped her into his arms. Purring her approval, she hooked her hands behind his neck and tipped her face for a full kiss. The soft cushion of her breasts against his chest sent his libido into overdrive. He throbbed against the sweet curve of her hip. At the sweep of tongue, the taste of caramel and
he fought the urge to follow through on the impulse to have her here, now, on the table.
He sketched his mouth along her jaw, down to her collarbone, the scent of her lavender body wash reminding him of shared showers at his place. “We need to go upstairs.”
“The pantry is closer.” She nipped his bottom lip. “And empty. We can lock the door. I need you now.”
“Are you su—?”
“Don’t even say it.” She dipped her hands into the neckline of his loose shirt, her fingernails sinking insistently deep. “I want you. No waiting.”
Her words closed down arguments and rational thought. He made a sure-footed beeline across the tiled floor toward the pantry. Shannon nuzzled his neck, kissed along his jaw, all the while murmuring disjointed words of need that stoked him higher—made his feet move faster. As he walked, her silky blond hair and whispery robe trailed, her sexy little heels dangling from her toes.
Dipping at the door, he flipped the handle and shouldered inside the pantry, a food storage area the size of a small bedroom. The scent of hanging dried herbs coated the air, the smell earthy. He slid her glasses from her face and set them aside on a shelf next to rows of bottled water.
As the door eased closed, the space darkened and his other senses increased. She reached for the light switch and he clasped her wrist, stopping her.
“I don’t need light to see you. Your beautiful body is fired into my memory.” His fingers crawled up her leg, bunching the frothy gown along her soft thigh, farther still to just under the curve of her buttocks. “Just the feel of you is about more than my willpower can take.”
“I don’t want your willpower. I’m fed up with your restraint. Give me the uninhibited old Tony back.” Her husky voice filled the room with unmistakable desire.
Pressing her hips closer, he tasted down her neck, charting his way to her breasts. An easy swipe cleared the fabric from her shoulders and he found a taut nipple. Damn straight he didn’t need light. He knew her body, knew just how to lave and tease the taut peak until she tore at his shirt with frantic hands.
His buttons popped and cool air blanketed his back, warm Shannon writhing against his front. Hooking a finger along the rim of her bikini panties, he stroked her silky smooth stomach. Tugging lightly, he started the scrap of fabric downward until she shimmied them the rest of the way off.
Stepping closer, the silky gown bunched between them, she flattened her hand to the fly of his jeans. He went harder against the pleasure of her touch. Shannon. Just Shannon.
She unzipped his pants and freed his arousal. Clasping him in her fist, she stroked once, and again, her thumb working over his head with each glide. His eyes slammed shut.
Her other hand slipped into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. A light crackle sounded as she tore into the packet. Her deft fingers rolled the sheath down the length of him with torturous precision.
“Now,” she demanded softly against his neck. “Here. On the stepstool or against the door, I don’t care as long as you’re inside me.”
Gnawing need chewed through the last of his restraint. She wanted this. He craved her. No more waiting. Tony backed her against the solid panel of the door, her fingernails digging into his shoulders, his back, lower as she tucked her hand inside his jeans and boxers.
Arching, urging, she hooked her leg around his, opening for him. Her shoe clattered to the floor but she didn’t seem to notice or care. He nudged at her core, so damp and ready for him. He throbbed—and thrust.
Velvet heat clamped around him, drew him deeper, sent sparks shooting behind his eyelids. In the darkened room, the pure essence of Shannon went beyond anything he’d experienced. And the importance of that expanded inside him, threatening to drive him to his knees.
So he focused on her, searching with his hands and mouth, moving inside and stroking outside to make sure she was every bit as encompassed by the mind-numbing ecstasy. She rocked faster against him. Her sighs came quicker, her moans of pleasure higher and louder until he captured the sound, kissing her and thrusting with his tongue and body. He explored the soft inside of her mouth, savoring the soft clamp of her gripping him with spasms he knew signaled her approaching orgasm.
Teeth gritted, he held back his own finish. Her face pressed to his neck. Her chants of
yes, yes, yes
synced with his pulse and pounding. Still, he held back, determined to take her there once more. She bowed away from the door, into him, again and again until her teeth sunk into his shoulder on a stifled cry of pleasure.
The scent of her, of slick sex and
mixed with the already earthy air.
—he could let go. The wave of pleasure pulsing through him built higher, roaring louder in his ears. He’d been too long without her. The wave crested. Release crashed over him. Rippling through him. Shifting the ground under his feet until his forehead thumped against the door.
Hauling her against his chest, heart still galloping, as they both came back down to earth in the pantry.
The pantry, for God’s sake?
His chances of staying away from Shannon again were slim. That path didn’t work for either of them. But if they were going to be together, he would make sure their next encounter was total fantasy material.
After making love in the pantry, she and Tony had locked themselves in her room where he’d made intense and thorough love to her. Her skin remembered the rasp of his beard against her breasts, her stomach, the insides of her thighs. How could she still crave even more from him? She should be in search of a good nap rather than wondering when she could get Tony alone again.
Of course she would have to find him first.
He’d left via her balcony just as the morning sun peeked over the horizon. Now that big orange glow was directly overhead and no word from him. She deflated her son’s water wings. The hissing air and the maternal ritual reminded her of Tony’s revelations just before they’d ended up in the closet.
Could he be avoiding her to dodge talking further? He’d made no secret of using sex to skirt the painful topic. She couldn’t even blame him when she’d been guilty of the same during their affair. What did this do to their deadline to return home?
Kolby yanked the hem of her cover-up. “Want another movie.”
“We’ll see, sweetie.” Kolby was entranced by the large home theater, but then what child wouldn’t be?
Tony’s half sister shaded her eyes in the lounger next to them, an open paperback in her other hand. “I can take him in if you want to stay outside. Truly, I don’t mind.” She toyed with her silver shell necklace, straightening the conch charm.
“But you’re reading. And aren’t you leaving this afternoon? I don’t want to keep you from your packing.”
“Do you honestly think any guest of Enrique Medina is bothered by packing their own suitcases? Get real.” She snorted lightly. “I have plenty of time. Besides, I’ve been wanting to check out the new Disney movie for my library’s collection.”
She’d learned Eloisa was a librarian, which explained the satchel of books she’d brought along. Her husband was an architect who specialized in restoring historic landmarks. They were an unpretentious couple caught up in a maelstrom. “What if the screening room doesn’t have the movie you w—” She stopped short. “Of course they have whatever you’re looking for on file.”
“A bit intimidating, isn’t it?” Eloisa pulled on her wraparound cover-up, tugging her silver necklace out so the conch charm was visible. “I didn’t grow up with all of this and I suspect you didn’t, either.”
Shannon rubbed her arms, shivering in spite of the eighty-degree day. “How do you keep from letting it overwhelm you?”
“I wish I could offer you reassurance or answers, but honestly I’m still figuring out how to deal with all of this myself. I had only begun to get to know my birth father a few months ago.” She looked back at the mission-style mansion, her eyebrows pinching together. “Now the whole royal angle has gone public. They haven’t figured out about me. Yet. That’s why we’re here this week, to talk with Enrique and his attorneys, to set up some preemptive strikes.”
Thank God Eloisa had the support of her husband. And Tony had been there for her. Who was there for him? Even his brothers hadn’t shown up beyond sterile conference calls.
“You have nothing to apologize for, Shannon. I’m only saying it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Cut yourself some slack and do what you can to stay level. Let me watch a movie with your son while you swim or enjoy a bubble bath or take a nap. It’s okay.”
Indecision warred inside her. These past couple of weeks she’d had more help with Kolby than since he was born. Guilt tweaked her maternal instincts.
“Please, Mama?” Kolby sidled closer to Eloisa. “I like Leesa.”
Ah, and just like that, her maternal guilt worried in another direction, making her fret that she hadn’t given her son enough play dates or socialization. Funny how a mother worried no matter what.
Shannon nodded to Tony’s sister. “If you’re absolutely sure.”
“He’s a cutie, and I’m guessing he will be asleep before the halfway point. Enjoy the pool a while longer. It’ll be good practice for me to spend time with him.” She smiled whimsically as she ruffled his damp hair. “Jonah and I are hoping to have a few of our own someday.”
“Thank you. I accept gratefully.” Shannon remembered well what it felt like to be young and in love and hopeful for the future. She couldn’t bring herself to regret Nolan since he’d given her Kolby. “I hope we’ll have the chance to speak again before you leave this afternoon?”
“Don’t worry.” Eloisa winked. “I imagine we’ll see each other again.”
With a smile, Shannon hugged her little boy close, inhaling his baby fresh scent with a hint of chlorine.
He squirmed, his cheeks puffed with a wide smile. “Wanna go.”
She pressed a quick kiss to his forehead. “Be good for Mrs. Landis.”
Eloisa took his hand. “We’ll be fine.”
Kolby waved over his shoulder without a backward glance.
Too restless for a bath or nap, she eyed the pool and whipped off her cover-up. Laps sounded like the wisest option. Diving in, she stared through the chlorinated depths until her eyes burned, forcing her to squeeze them shut. She lost herself in the rhythm of slicing her arms through the heated water, no responsibilities, no outside world. Just the
thump, thump, thump
of her heart mingling with the roar of the water passing over her ears.
Five laps later, she flipped underwater and resurfaced face up for a backstroke. She opened her eyes and, oh my, the view had changed. Tony stood by the waterfall in black board shorts.
. Her stomach lurched into a swan dive. Tony’s bronzed chest sprinkled with hair brought memories of their night together, senses on overload from the darkened herb-scented pantry, later in the brightly lighted luxury of her bedroom. Who would have thought dried oregano and rosemary could be aphrodisiacs?
His eyes hooked on her crocheted two piece with thorough and unmistakable admiration. He knew every inch of her body and made his appreciation clear whether she wore high-end garb or her simple black waitress uniform, wilted from a full shift. God, how he was working his way into her heart as well as her life.
She swam toward the edge with wide lazy strokes. “Is Kolby okay?”
“Enjoying the movie and popcorn.” He knelt by the edge, his elbow on one knee drawing her eye to the nautical compass tattooed on his bicep. “Although with the way his head is drooping, chances are he’ll be asleep anytime now.”
“Thank you for checking on him.” She resisted the urge to ask Tony what
’d been doing since he left her early this morning.
“Not a problem.” His fingers played through the water in front of her without touching but so close the swirls caressed her breasts. “I said I intended to romance you and I got sidetracked. I apologize for that. The woman I’m with should be treated like a princess.”
Shock loosened her hold on the edge of the pool. Tony caught her arm quickly and eased her from the water to sit next to him. His gaze swept her from soaking wet hair to dripping toes. Appreciation smoked, darkening his eyes to molten heat she recognized well.
He tipped her chin with a knuckle scarred from handling sailing lines. “Are you ready to be royally romanced?”