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The late evening sun cast him in an irresistible bronze glow that made Lanie briefly wonder if she was dreaming. Instead of sitting, Ben paced slowly around, nervous energy rolling off him. She wasn’t sure what he was wrestling with, but she was done battling her own feelings. She could enjoy him without it meaning anything. She could borrow him. They didn’t have to put a label or a lock on anything. He was attracted to her. She had grown impossibly attracted to him. It didn’t need to be anymore complicated than that. And if he tried to make it more than it was, well, she didn’t have to give in. If ever there was a time to learn to fight the pull of his big, beautiful eyes, it was now.
She took a deep breath, trying to quell the butterflies going crazy in her stomach.
“Hey.” She started toward him slowly, purposefully.
He took a step back, but she didn’t let up. “Yes?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you have the most amazing eyes?”
He furrowed his brow, momentarily frozen. “Ummm…I guess. That’s one reaction. But you’ve never said that.”
“Really? I haven’t told you?”
Since he had stopped retreating, she was now close enough to lightly brush her fingertips across his lashes. They fluttered against her as he blinked, and the tickling sensation travelled up her arm. She followed his velvety brow, down his course temple, over his stubbly cheek. He inhaled sharply when her hand moved down to the hollow of his throat and around to the nape of his neck.
This was not friendly. This was not comfort. Certainly not platonic.
His face changed as she twisted her fingers in those fine, wavy hairs, and traced the skin under the stiff material of his new shirt. Confusion flickered, then suspicion, then finally, desire, as she caressed the backs of his shoulders. He was fighting it, and indecision marred his forehead. He wanted to touch her, but for some reason, wouldn’t. Trying to speak with her eyes and hands, she continued down his collarbones, then to his chest. Finally, she stepped toward him and placed her ear on the spot near his heart. As predicted, he automatically brought his arms up to hold her. His embrace made her sigh, but it turned into a groan halfway through as his hands rested in the groove of her back.
“What is this?” he whispered hoarsely, his eyes a million fractured diamonds as she gazed up at him.
Instead of answering, she let her hands drink their fill of his body, still sumptuous despite months in the hospital. Then, slowly, she pulled his face down to hers.
The electricity that sparked when she touched her lips to his nearly collapsed her knees.
At last. At long last. His mouth was as soft and firm as she had imagined. And unlike that desperate, angry kiss after the explosion, this time he kissed her back almost instantly with a pent-up ferocity. He was alive, and whole, and solid against her. The worry, the vigilance, and the heartbreak of the last few months drained away, leaving her raw. She needed to take the edge off the sensation. She needed him, right that minute.
She pressed against him, making him moan and kiss her deeper, playing his tongue in her mouth. For a moment, she pulled away. “B,” she whispered against him. “Touch me. I need you to – ”
He sealed her mouth without letting her finish, and he held her waist in his hands like a bouquet as he took over the kiss. The hum in her throat vibrated his lips when he moved to just under her jaw, then the crook of her neck. She twisted her fingers in his hair, then let them wander all over his wide back. She was drunk on his scent as his hair brushed her nose. A mix of eucalyptus and cedar. A little different from the citrus and pine she’d gotten used to, but still tantalizing. She inhaled sharply as he clutched her hips.
When he curled around her, her body nearly disappeared into his. “You feel so good, Lanie,” he whispered against her temple.
Taking one of his hands, she lay down in the grass. He came down on top of her, kissing her feverishly, murmuring nonsense in every language he knew. Straddling her, he undid her twist in one smooth motion, and brushed his fingers reverently through the long, coily strands. Her mind flashed back to that dream she’d had the night before the explosion. Laying with him in a meadow of flowers, nothing on them but the eyes of the sun. An incendiary desperation burned through her with merciless heat. Just like in that dream, she searched him with her mouth and her hands, but this time, she did know what she wanted. She was far from an innocent. Memories of all the dreams she’d had since then swirled around her, heady and invigorating.
His breathing was uneven as she caressed his stomach, and skimmed her fingers along the edge of his belt. He made her kiss him again and again, until she couldn’t wait anymore. She reached for his buckle and took the belt off in one motion.
“Lanie,” he moaned, and she smiled. Briefly, she cradled his face again, and molded her mouth to his, excitement building in her at finally being able to claim him, touch him how she wanted. She kissed him harder as that little niggle warned her that Ben might not leave it at this. She couldn’t care anymore. Jake was out of the picture. She had no one else. She needed this.
Locking one hand on his jaw, she slid her other down his side, then around to his thigh, warm under the taught material of his jeans. He stiffened and groaned deeply. “Please.” His words were muffled by her mouth.
Teasing him, she kneaded his leg, moving her way up. A million fantasies crowded in her head, and she wanted to live them all out. Now, and for the next few hours. Maybe days. She could have the Andersons take Dre for a while. She wasn’t sure how long it would take to drink her fill.
What would she do after they’d used each other up, though?
She wrapped her legs around his hips, and he grabbed her wrists. Breaking the kiss, he pinned her arms on either side of her head, then looked down at her, breathing hard, eyes dark and wild in the dying sun. She gazed back, smiling languidly, waiting. He skimmed down her thighs to her knees, and she parted her legs for him, but instead of trying to take off her pants, he rolled over as soon as her vice grip loosened. Gasping for breath, he laid on the grass beside her.
“What are you doing?” she panted, rolling on her stomach to look at him. He gently resisted as she tried to climb onto him. This lit a predatory instinct in her. What had gone wrong? How could she get her quarry back in her sights?
“I want you,” she insisted breathily, echoing his words, skimming a finger over his lips. This time, she was the one who pinned his hands, holding him still as she finally managed to get on top of him. His wide-eyed expression wasn’t quite readable, so she gave up and kissed his parted lips again. “I’ve wanted you for so long, B.” she whispered against him, coaxing him with the ripple of her body until he responded to her again. The sounds coming from him verged on pained, and she thought about all the ways she could soothe him.
“Please,” he begged again, and she let him bring his shaking hands back to her body. “Lanie, baby, please.”
“Tell me,” she pleaded. “Tell me what you want.”
An explosion of breath fluttered her hair as he clasped her to himself. He put his nose against her neck. He was shaking so hard it was like clinging to a motorcycle. Never before had she been with a man who shook when he touched her. The novelty was tantalizing. She felt more than powerful. She felt…revered.
“I do want you. All of you. You have no idea how long…how much…” He continued to hide in her hair as he smoothed his hands down her spine, and hips, then the backs of legs.
It left traces of fire all over her, and she wasn’t sure how long her heart could stand this erratic rhythm. “Have me, then.” She pushed his head further down. “I’m yours.”
He nuzzled her collarbone, then nibbled gently, making her arch her neck. But he stopped again, grasping her face and spearing her with a tortured gaze.
“I’m sorry.” His words were strangled, husky. She squinted uncertainly. “Lanie, you know I love you. And right now, I need you. I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t have you. But please, stop. I can’t do this. If we don’t stop, I’m going let myself to do it anyway. I’ve only got about three more seconds of self-control. Please let me go.”
His broken desperation pierced her lustful haze. They stared at each other for a moment: he plaintive, she disbelieving and disappointed. Reluctantly, she freed him, and didn’t fight when he lifted her off by the waist and placed her beside him on the ground.
Her heart stuttered, making it difficult to breathe. “What’s wrong?”
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~ Romans 15:13