His eyes widened. “You just kept traveling?”
She nodded. “I traveled for two days straight to throw him off. I walked into the first church I saw and begged to be sent to the nearest women’s shelter. This was back in California. I had a different name, but I’m not that person any longer. Tara Denton would never stay with a man who raised his hand. She’s successful and making her own way. And she’ll never be caught again.”
Her last words shot at him like cannon fire. Son-of-a-bitch. She has no plans to extend a relationship past tonight. A strange panic coursed through him at the idea of letting her walk away. But her intentions had always been clear. Only his had changed. Suddenly, he wanted much more than a one-night stand.
“Do you live in Vegas now?” He stroked her hair.
“Yes. I knew I’d have a new start here. Get lost. Find my own way.” A glimmer of a smile ghosted her lips. “I like the idea of a tarnished city being my home. I can paint myself up with makeup and glitter and clothes, but in the light of day, I always felt lacking. Tim used that to keep me a prisoner.”
“But not anymore.” Pride and admiration cut though him.
“Not ever again. Now, I can give back. I stopped being afraid he’d find me. Therapy helped. But I still wonder….”
She looked embarrassed, almost shy. “How a man like you could want me.”
Her admission rocked him. “A man like me?”
“Yeah. Beautiful. There must have been a dozen women staring at you in the bar and wondering why you were taking me home.”
Anger sizzled so hot he wanted to beat his chest like a caveman and howl at the moon in frustration. He never thought twice about how women viewed him and felt damn lucky when a female wanted him back. But evidently she saw things differently. Her sense of feminine confidence had taken such a pounding, she didn’t see what he did.
Words wouldn’t help. Rarely did. But action would.
He studied her and wondered how hard he’d be able to push without causing her any painful memories. As a naturally dominant lover, he decided to trust his gut, and watch her carefully. Lust speared right to his cock as he envisioned the scene laid out in his mind.
“Tara, did you like watching us in the mirror?”
The change of topic surprised her. She flushed, but he gave her credit—she didn’t lie. “Yes.”
He forced her chin up when she tried to bow her head. “Don’t ever be afraid to say what you want or what turns you on. I loved how you snuck glances at the mirror and watched your body respond to mine. Do you know what my first thought was when I saw you sitting at the table?” She shook her head in obvious misery. “I couldn’t wait to fuck you.”
Disbelief shimmered over her face. “Really?”
He smiled. “Really. I wanted to rip off that bra and suck on your nipples. I couldn’t wait to see the look in your eyes when you came. And when you got up, all I could think of was getting my hands on your ass. In fact, I think that part of your anatomy has been sorely ignored tonight. Let’s change that now.”
Panic flared in misty blue depths. “No.”
He arched a brow. “Why not?”
“I have more scars on my back.” Her words were soft.
“Then I’d say they need my loving attention.” He plucked the wine glass from her fingers and put it on the bedside table along with the plates of snacks. “Lie on your stomach, baby.”
He gazed back at her with implacable demand. “Do you want to please me tonight?” She nodded. “Then I’m asking you to trust me.”
He wouldn’t have blamed her for refusing. Instead, after a few moments, she slowly turned around and laid down on the bed. Her hands cushioned her head. Her breath came out in ragged gasps as she fought the sheer vulnerability of being naked with her secrets exposed. A deep joy and satisfaction speared his gut as he stared at the woman before him. Her pleasure came from submitting to her mate, no matter how scared she was. He swore she’d never regret giving him the chance to show her how precious she was. Her gift to him was priceless.
He took in the brutal wounds scattered over her back and ass. “What are these, sweetheart?” He pointed to the perfect circles marring her upper back.
“And these?” His fingers lightly traced the line of her spine and settled on the permanent welts on her buttocks.
“A whip. Sometimes a belt.”
He winced at the thought of the pain she endured under the asshole’s hands, but made his assessment as quickly and clinically as possible. If possible, her scars made him want her more, to replace the horror with memories of bliss.
“He was a sick bastard, Tara. But no one will ever hurt you again. Close your eyes and relax. Enjoy my touch.”
He moved his hands to her shoulders and began a slow massage. The stiff muscles under his fingers refused to yield, but after a few minutes, her body loosened. Her breath evened out, and her muscles relaxed with his touch. He spent a long time working her shoulders and upper back, enjoying the firm, white skin, and couldn’t help slip to the side to caress her ripe breasts. She uttered a low moan and arched upward to give him access. He slid his hands underneath and gently plucked at her nipples, circling his thumbs around the rigid peaks. With a final pinch, he returned to his main task.
He worked the indents along her spine and watched goose bumps pepper her flesh. When her body was completely under his control, he concentrated on the swell of her buttocks. He massaged the lush curves and kneed her legs apart, squeezing her inner thighs as he continued without pause.
Her musky scent greeted his nostrils. He grinned at the swollen cleft, her juices gleaming in the light. Damn, she was a responsive little thing. His cock grew to full length and pulsed with demand.
“You’re already wet for me, baby. Since you can’t see yourself, I’ll tell you what I see. A beautiful pink pussy, just begging for my fingers or my tongue. Your clit is hard but not enough. We can do better than that.”
She wiggled on the bed and he laughed low at her reaction to the verbal play. “But I really wish you could see this gorgeous ass of yours. All flushed and trembling. Arched high in the air, ready for my cock. But we have a long way to go.”
He separated the globes and blew his hot breath on the sensitive rosette between her cheeks. She bucked, but he held her down with a gentle firmness that told her she had no reason to run. He lowered his mouth and ran his tongue down the line of her ass, nibbling on the high curves as her arousal and the scent of strawberries mixed in the air. He opened her up wide and slid one finger across her slit. Her juices greeted him and he murmured his approval.
He settled his mouth over the plump, right cheek. Then sank his teeth into the quivering flesh as he plunged two digits into her channel.
She bucked and screamed. The orgasm took her hard and by surprise and he rubbed her clit back and forth, forcing her climax to extend for long, long moments. His erection throbbed with demand, and he quickly sheathed himself with a condom, rose up, and pushed his cock into her wet, tight heat.
He massaged her ass, pinching gently then moved up to play with her breasts. She trembled, not able to see where his fingers would touch her next, and satisfaction ripped through him. He drove in and out with a steady pace, and flicked the nub as it hardened and swelled again, poised for another orgasm.
“This is what you do to me, baby,” he said. “You’re beautiful inside and out, scars and all. My cock loves your juicy pussy, all tight and welcoming.”
He laughed as she arched her ass toward him, silently begging. “Not yet. You’re not getting off again until I’m positive you believe me.”
Sobs broke from her throat as he pulled out and flipped her over with one quick movement. He pushed up her knees and spread her legs wide. “Look up,” he commanded, then reunited them in a single thrust. Her dazed gaze rose to the mirror, the reflection of their naked, joined bodies in vivid detail. Her inner muscles immediately clenched. Yes, she enjoyed watching them. He made a note to play more with her visual senses.
He plumped her breasts and lowered his mouth to suck her nipples, tweaking the tips until they stood out, ruby red and glistening. “This is all for me,” he said, pointing to the mirror at her swollen peaks. Then he rose up and claimed her.
She cried out. He imagined the picture they made in the mirror as he varied short and hard thrusts until he found her G-spot. With a wicked grin, he pulled completely out and teased her clit with his finger, rubbing in tight circles, over and over.
“I can’t take anymore! Please, oh, please.”
“Your body is beautiful. Do you believe me now?”
“My body is beautiful!”
He drove in deep and hit her G-spot again.
“Ahh!” She screamed and her body convulsed around him. He kept up the pace and wrung every last ounce of pleasure from her then let himself go.
His climax shattered him. The release started from his toes and shuddered out of every pore. Her name broke from his lips, and he tucked her tight into his chest and held her.
The first weak ray of light struggled through the break in the blinds, reminding her that morning threatened. She pushed the thought away, and snuggled closer to her lover. Her body ached, but she relished her sore muscles. She’d never been so delightfully used.
Rick Steele shattered every illusion she ever believed. Her limitations with sex. The fear of her appearance. The confidence in her sexuality.
And about getting caught by another man.
Unease stirred her heart. She’d never felt more treasured or loved in her entire life. The way he touched her, spoke, and gave her satisfaction unlike anything she’d ever experienced before. Would she ever find another man in her life to match him?
“What are you thinking about?”
His low voice pulled her back into the moment. She smiled up at him, loving the golden arch of his brows, the rough slope to his jaw. She traced the curve of his lower lip and he bit down on the pad of her finger, his tongue darting out to taste. Her breath caught as her pussy clenched. He laughed, as if he knew.
“Why on earth would you ever need to book a one-night stand?” She caressed the stubble of his beard, loving the scratchiness against her fingers. “I’m sure women are begging you to take them on a daily basis.”
He laughed again and pressed a quick kiss on her lips. “Thanks, sweetheart. What a nice compliment.”
“No, tell me. Why did you do this?”
The humor eased, and she caught a glimpse of vulnerability shimmering in his green eyes. “I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.”
Her mouth popped open. “Get out.”
A ghost of a smile settled on his lips. “No, truth. I haven’t been with a woman for ten months now. My choice.”
She absorbed his perfect naked form. The man was a sex god and he’d been celibate for almost a year? Her mind whirled. “Why?”