Authors: Kara Braden
“Why would you be insulted? You must know you're attractive,” he said honestly as he bent to unzip his boots. “And judging by your self-confidenceâwhen you're relaxed enough to express itâyou know how to enjoy yourself. There's no reason I wouldn't want to at least hope.”
Color rose in her cheeks, though her smile seemed pleased. “I'm not a car you can take out for a test drive,” she mock-complained as she unbuckled her belt. She took it off enough to free her holstered gun, which she set on the nightstand.
He kicked his boots out of the way and tugged up his jeans enough to strip off his warm wool socks. “You were
from the moment I saw you,” Ian told her quietly as he tossed the socks after his boots. He turned and touched Cecily's face to draw her closer. He pitched his voice low and intimate and said, “Yes, I took a chance that you might not be attracted.”
“Not fucking likely,” she murmured, drawn in to lick at his lips. He laughed into the kiss. Her nose was still cold against his. He moved back and lay down on his side, propped up on one elbow. She followed him down, distant enough that she could comfortably let her eyes rove over his bared chest. “You're too thin,” she said quietly, pressing a finger to his body to trace the line of one rib. “I'm not interesting, Ian.”
“Of course you're not interesting to
,” he answered logically, fighting to keep his voice steady as the touch skimmed the edge between enticing and ticklish.
Cecily shook her head, flattening her hand around the curve of his ribs. “So youâ¦what? Set out to seduce me? That's a little coldly logical, don't you think?”
Irritation prickled through Ian, adding sharpness to his voice as he asked, “Do you want to spend all night talking?”
Cecily snapped, “I think weâ” and then cut herself off, brows pulled down in a determined frown. “Fuck it. It's not even like I remember how this is supposed to work.”
“Aâ¦whatever âthis' is, between us.” She wormed her way closer and slid her hand down to Ian's hip, fingers hooking possessively into the belt loop of his jeans. “What do you want to do?”
“How does âwhatever feels good' sound?”
Cecily exhaled, abrupt and unsteady. “Perfect.”
Twice after getting out of the hospital, Cecily had allowed herself to get close to someone else. Both had been attractive and interested and willing to take things slow, but the quiet dinners and movie dates and gentle kisses had done nothing for her. There was no reason for her not to be interested in themâ¦except that she hadn't been. They were what she should have wanted, but not what she actually did wantâand what she did want, she didn't dare take. Intensity of any kind was too close to her triggers for her to risk striking out in self-defense, all for the selfish reward of sexual gratification.
Except for now, at least a little, because Ian, blunt as he was, seemed to understand. It wasn't the sort of sympathy that inevitably turned to pity; Cecily couldn't imagine him pitying anyone.
And now, here he was, sprawled on her bed, raising his hips to help her get rid of his jeans and underwear, pale skin and long legs and
exposed to her sight and hands. And he watched her just as avidly, as though she were the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. Without his glasses, his eyes seemed very dark, lashes shadowed against his face, which had resumed its pallor without winter's bite to add color to his cheeks.
Unprompted, after kicking off his clothes, Ian moved up the bed and twisted so he was no longer lying across it. When Cecily reached for the blanket, he huffed as if in annoyance but complied, contorting himself to go from on top of the blanket to underneath. Still fully dressed, she followed him, remembering at the last moment to snag the condoms and stash them close at hand.
She fought her way under the blanket and pushed Ian's legs apart so she could settle between them. Weight braced on her good left arm, she slipped her free hand over the inside of his thigh, smiling in the darkness as she listened to his breath catch. One of his hands came down to brush through her hair, but there was no twist or pullâonly a gentle, almost tentative touch that wasn't enough but also wasn't too much.
Using her own hand as a guide, Cecily pressed a quick, dry kiss to Ian's leg, noting the lack of any reaction beyond a slight shift in position. Then she licked, tongue pressed hard against his skin, moving slowly and taking her time to taste and feel. His fingers clenched in her hair, a momentary reflex that he conquered almost immediately, leaving only the memory of a sting on her scalp.
She inched up the bed, biting back a soft sound at the way her jeans rubbed over nerves that had been dormant for too long. Being clothed like this seemed deliciously obscene, narrowing her focus not to her own desires but to Ian's. She trailed her tongue up the crease at the top of his thigh, and he brought up his legs and twitched his hips in response.
“Cecily,” he complained, the sound muffled by the heavy blanket.
She laughed, intentionally turning her head to the side, knowing her breath would be warm on Ian's erection. “Something wrong?”
His answering growl made Cecily grin. “Just because we
all winter doesn't mean you need to
â” He cut off with a moan as she wrapped a hand around his cock and gently moved down, circling the base with her fingers.
Despite her earlier concerns, Cecily couldn't fault Ian's assertion that they were both most likely healthy. So she took a risk and swiped her tongue up the length of his cock and over the head, holding him steady as his hips bucked up again. The fingers in her hair went tight, and this time they didn't relax. The spark of intensity fanned her arousal from a slow burn to a blaze, and she couldn't stop herself from taking his cock in her mouth.
For a moment, she held still, pressing up with her tongue, feeling the hard flesh against the roof of her mouth. Enjoying the way Ian's breath caught, she carefully moved down, feeling his responses resonate in her own body. It had been far too long since she'd done this, but she'd once been good at it. She licked generously, extravagantly, pulling off to wet her lips before she went back down, each time taking Ian deeper into her mouth. His breathing went ragged, and another hot spike of arousal and satisfaction cut through Cecily, spurring her to fight her body's reflexive protest until soon she was gasping for breath and then holding it.
Ian's hand fisted hard, nearly tearing strands of hair free. “Too close,” he warned, flailing to throw the blanket off.
Cecily scrambled up Ian's body, feeling as though seven years of celibacy had turned her into a damned teenager again.
“What do you want?” she asked, bracing her hands up over his shoulders. Now she wished she'd stripped off her clothes. She wanted to feel skin on skin, to let his body's warmth sear against her. His hands rested on her hips, thumbs pushing down over the crease of her thighs. “Tell me what you want.”
Most other partners, as Cecily dimly remembered, would have made some polite request. Ian's patience had worn thin, though, and he snapped, “I already did,” in a tone that was an intoxicating combination of harsh and commanding but also desperate and needy.
“Right.” She nodded and tried to remember what she'd done with the condoms.
A knot of tension deep in Cecily's chest untwisted when Ian made no mention of her layers of shirts. Given that he had already seen one of her scars, it was ridiculous to feel self-conscious, but there was nothing logical about that part of her past or its impact on her psyche now. She twisted off his body and rolled onto her back, darting a wary glance at him to make certain he didn't take her position as an invitation to climb on top of her. He didn't; he rolled onto his side and propped up on one elbow, looking under the blanket as best he could.
She kicked her jeans and panties free, shoving them down toward the foot of the bed, under the blanket. Then she sat up and turned to face him as she pulled off the button-down flannel shirt she'd been wearing under her sweatshirt, leaving her only in a long tee.
Ian sat up and piled the pillows against the headboard. “Come here,” he said, holding out a hand. He guided her to straddle him, and then caught her face between his hands to pull her into a deep kiss. As soon as she was settled in his lap, he pushed his hips forward, cock sliding against her, lighting up her nerves with such heat that her breath caught.
Struggling to keep her composure, she dug her fingers into his shoulders, thumbs rubbing over his collarbones. He was so different from the men she'd been with in the Marines, with only a few faint scars to break up the planes of his pale skin and sleek muscles. “You're too thin,” she whispered, trying to distract herself from the feel of his cock.
“Too long in the hospital, recovering. Alone,” he added, a hint of complaint edging into his tone. He let go of her hip to pick up the condoms. “Cecily.”
She understood. She nodded and tore one free of the strip and then ripped the packet open. Feeling unusually shy, she looked down to roll it in place, loving the way he hissed in a breath at the contact. His hands slid up her back, over the T-shirt, and up into her disarrayed hair, freeing it from the low ponytail she usually wore. The strands slipped free to brush against her jaw, curling around her face. Ian combed his fingers through it and used his hold to guide her into another kiss as she rolled the condom all the way down. She brushed her fingers through the short curls of hair and smiled when his breath caught.
She raised up on her knees, realizing that she might be rushing things. “Can Iâ” she began.
“Anything,” he interrupted. His hands moved to her shoulders and then skimmed down her sides, still over her T-shirt, until he touched her bare hips. “Whatever you want, Cecily.”
Swallowing nervously, she nodded and took hold of his cock, gasping as it brushed over her clit. She couldn't quite hide a little whimper at the way heat coiled deep in her belly. God, she wanted himâ
himâinside her. Her eyes closed as she pushed down, clenching her teeth at the sharp stretch and burn.
His hands caught her hips, strong fingers digging in to hold her still. “Wait. Wait,” he said tightly.
Startled, she froze, asking, “What's wrong?” Uncertainty quashed the tide of arousal more efficiently than a blizzard-cold gust of wind.
“Can I touch you?” he asked softly.
She nodded, breathless and tense, and let him ease her back down to straddle his thighs. He was watching her with burning eyes and not a hint of disapproval that she'd left the T-shirt on.
“You're beautiful,” he said, touching her face. His fingertips were featherlight, and she closed her eyes, feeling him trace the line of her cheekbone. When she shivered, he laughed quietly, dragging his finger down to her lips. He pushed gently on her lower lip, and she ducked her head to kiss his fingertip, opening her eyes.
“Shh,” he said, dropping his hand to her left shoulder. He slid his fingers down her sleeve to her bare arm, where he followed the curve of her muscles down to the soft, sensitive underside of her forearm.
She shivered again, her skin coming alive under his gentle touch. His fingertips moved across her palm and then over to her thigh, slipping over the curved, taut muscle to the inside of her knee. He watched the trail of his own fingers as though fascinated, moving without any haste. His gentle touch stole her breath, building a slow, hot ache deep in her core.
“Ian,” she said again, softly, and he looked up to meet her eyes.
He sat forward to claim a kiss, mirroring the touch of their lips with a gentle swipe of his fingers over her clit, lighting sparks behind her eyes. He captured her gasp, flicking his tongue against hers, and moved his fingers in a slow, heated circle.
“Oh, God,” she whispered, pushing her hips against Ian's hand. She buried her fingers in his long, soft hair and took control of the kiss. He caught her lip between his teeth in reprimand and then licked to soothe the sting. Breathless, she backed off to stare at him, wide-eyed.
“Let go, Cecily,” Ian urged, his fingers pressing and sliding, moving in ways that made her breath catch and stutter. “I have you.”
She let her hands fall from his hair and leaned back, resting her palms on his shins. The position arched her back, pushing her hips up against Ian's hand. Her head tipped back and she closed her eyes to better concentrate on his long, gifted fingers.
He accepted her unspoken invitation and indulged them both, exploring her with strong, certain touches. She bit back a sigh when he slid one finger inside her, turning his hand to swipe his thumb over her clit. His finger curled, stroking inside her, and she shivered as new heat coiled deep in her belly, adding to the flame already there.
He teased out every last cry and moan until she was gasping, and only then did he ease a second finger in beside the first. He curled his fingers and rubbed circles with his thumb, coaxing, “I've got you, Cecily.”
She lasted only a few more seconds before the searing pressure in her reached a breaking point. One last twist of Ian's fingers made Cecily's world white out, a single pinpoint of pleasure shattering into flames that pulsed through her body, clenching down around his fingers. He kissed her and whispered her name, barely heard through the blood rushing in her ears.
When she could think and move again, she lifted her head to stare through a haze of pleasure into gorgeous blue eyes. Some last bit of reservation inside her broke. She twisted her fingers into Ian's hair and kissed him, rocking her hips forward into his cock. His gasp woke a rush of power in the back of her mind as she realized just how much he wanted her.