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He warmed her up, practicing everything he had learned about her in the last few weeks, excited by the fact that now he would be able to roam her freely. Using the pads of his fingers, his fingernails, the petal, and the tips of her hair, he got her twisting and quivering in his arms.

“Can I kiss you?” he asked, his voice gravelly, his body quaking with desire.

“Please,” she lifted her face and accepted his lips, his tongue, his passion. Her taste was decadent, achingly sweet and rich. He had to play with her gorgeous, soft curls, just as lovely as one of his cashmere sweaters. Then he dropped one hand to the empty space in her dress, frustrated at the boundary of white material that re-emerged at the small of her back.

“I want your dress off.”

“Bossy,” she murmured against his mouth, a wicked grin on her lips.

“There’s my girl.”

He took her mouth again briefly, distracted by that teasing bow. But then he remembered his goal. Putting his fingers in the dip of her heart-shaped bodice, he traced outward to her sleeves. So many nights of waiting for this moment. So many near-misses. All he wanted to do was soothe her nightmares, and never leave her.

Carefully, he eased down her sleeves, slowly pushing, anticipation rising as they came off. A shuddering breath escaped him. Looking up at her through his lashes, he caressed those strong, chocolatey shoulders, and the arches of her collarbones.

Resting her fingers in his hair, she watched him. He passed his thumbs over her biceps, then down her arms to push the dress down even more. There was that gasp again when he reached the last tattoo on her wrist, and he checked her eyes, excited to see the pleasure there. He brought his head back down and passed his lips over that spot, then pushed his tongue into the spaces between her fingers. When he returned to kiss the base of her throat, she moaned and pressed his head closer.

“Yes,” she implored. “That.”

Chuckling, he removed his mouth, and she pouted. “I’ll come back, I promise. But I still need to see you. May I?”

She nodded eyes closed. His heart got a breather as he helped her out of her dress. When he’d disrobed her, she stood in front of him beside the bed, wearing only a pair of lacy, white underwear with a tiny bow in the middle. Lilah must have picked them, because he couldn’t imagine her choosing them for herself. Her body was lithe and magnificent. Long and lean, lines perfectly proportioned, rippling with always-ready muscles. His fingers gripped the edge of the bed.

“You’re…perfect. Flawless.” How often had he fantasized about this?

She struck a pose, her eyes twinkling in the dark. “You’re just saying that because you want to sleep with me.”

“You know it. Come here.” He reached for her underwear, but she danced away.

“Your turn first.” she returned, smiling.

Suddenly shy, he glanced away. Once upon a time, he’d decided that he could never be attracted to someone he deemed a “gym junkie.” He had been used to lush softness and full curves. And she had made no secret of the fact that she thought he was fat. Although he had definitely come to crave her lean, straight lines and hard, smooth body, did she still think that? Not to mention his skin. His face wasn’t as bad, but the rest of him….

“What?” She cocked her head and kneeled on the bed, her hand coming to the buttons on his shirt.

He cleared his throat. “Well, I haven’t exactly been hitting the gym these last few months.”

“So? You told me your tastes expanded.”

He passed his hands down her defined, tight torso, rippling with abs and serrated obliques. “My tastes narrowed to one very specific woman.” He tried to pull her on top of him, but she resisted.

“Don’t you want to build trust? Intimacy? All that?” He dropped his gaze, but she placed her hands on either side of his face and made him look up. She widened her dark eyes at him expectantly when he didn’t answer. Sighing, he nodded, and closed his own. “So dramatic,” she nearly giggled as she made quick, efficient work of his buttons. Without pause, she worked his shirt off of him, then her hands dove toward the button on his pants.

“Whoa!” he nearly yelled, snatching her hands away. “Gentle, Lanie. Let me do it.”

Careful not to make things worse and lose control before he was ready, he unbuttoned, then unzipped his dress pants, kicking off his socks with them. Then, he stood for her, as she had for him. Trying to ignore the screams of his body to grab her immediately. There was so little left between them. Two pieces of cloth. 

She came up off the bed and came closer, so tiny next to him that for a minute he wasn’t so scared. Just a minute, though. She paced around him again, and smirked at the way he could barely stand still. He was struck by the urge to throw her on the bed and wipe that smile off her face. Trust and intimacy notwithstanding. The only thing that kept him from trying was knowing that with how closely she was scrutinizing him, she would sense his intentions and be on the other side of the room and over the parapet before he could reach out a hand.

“Lanie,” he said impatiently. She had been standing behind him for what felt like forever. Silently making fun of his butt? He glanced over his shoulder, then flinched when her cool hands pressed against his shoulder blades. When he caught the horrified look in her eyes, he turned and grabbed her hands.

“Lanie! I’m not that fat, am I?” He tried to lighten the mood.

She shook her head, her hair falling over her eyes. “Does it hurt?” she asked quietly.

For an irrational second, he thought she was talking about the unrelenting fire blazing through him, but then he realized that she must be referring to the healed wounds down the back of his body. Until a few moments ago, he hadn’t even considered that she would see them tonight. “Oh. No. It doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s bad, though, isn’t it?”

She looked up, and he saw the glistening sheen in her dark eyes. “You saved me.” She hugged him, reached around to stroke his rough, naked back.

He kissed her. “You saved me back.”

She smiled. “That’s why I enjoy your body. You protect me. You keep me safe.”

“I’m so glad.” He slipped his arms around her again. “You’re safe with me, I promise. Let me show you. Please, Lanie, please.” Trying to bring her mind back to his thoughts, he ran his fingernails down her spine. Nibbling on her jaw, he tried to drive her as crazy as she was driving him.

“Okay, okay,” she moaned. “Show me. Tell me what you like.”

He moved slightly away – he couldn’t stand the torture of being this close to her. “Just you, my love. I need you. Right now.” He knew he was rambling. His hands were rambling. His whole body was trembling and tight and so close to falling apart.

“Alright.” She ran her hands between their slick, hot bodies. He wasn’t sure how, but she managed to spread her fingers and work both of their underwear off at once. She quickly kicked hers off, and he tried not to get tangled as he did the same. “Take me, Bennett,” she begged as he clutched her. “I’m yours, take me.”

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13


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