No one—not a single person in my sorry excuse of a life had granted me such acceptance. An embrace that went above just physical gratification and helped erase all the shit that’d been done to me.
I would always be grateful for that, even if she did infuriate me for making my life a thousand times harder.
Her vow that I would never touch her again, never feel that welcome again, suddenly burned through me. My temper sparked as my gaze slid from her lax face to her firm breasts. I got why she never wanted to fuck me again, but it didn’t mean I would permit it. She couldn’t give connection to a desperate man and then revoke it when he’d done something wrong.
It only made him more desperate. More manic. More dangerous.
You can’t deny me, Gemma. I won’t allow you to.
My rage smothered my guilt for hurting her. I’d housed her, fed her, clothed her. The least she could do was open for me.
So...take her then.
My headache returned as my cock swelled and my mind filled with thrusts and slapping skin. My balls tightened and I could already feel the euphoria of climaxing.
But if I took her, she’d hate me. She’d do more than just ignore me for a week, she’d happily stab me in the back to run. And as much as I wasn’t afraid of death, I was afraid of being alone again. What if I was alone in death too? What if I returned to the purgatory I’d endured for the past eleven years—a ghost with nothing and no one?
Cloying fear drowned out my lust, leaving me knotted and frustrated and struggling to get hold of myself—to follow boundaries instead of being a monster.
She continued to sleep beside me, unaware of how close she came to being taken against her permission. I drank her in, unable to tear my eyes off her nudity.
Her nipples were flat and small, her skin turning slightly pink from the sun. The muscles she’d honed from a lifetime of climbing were stark with definition from the weight she’d lost. The darker blond hair between her legs glittered in the light, and for all my willpower of keeping my hands to myself, I couldn’t.
It just wasn’t possible.
I swallowed a groan.
Christ, I want her.
I could use her right here, right now. I could take her and wake her up as my cock sank inside her. I’d make it feel good for her. But...then our fight would begin anew. Our animosity would grow. Our hate would blot out the fledging friendship we could have.
A few weeks ago, I would’ve gladly taken that trade.
I would’ve been happy just having access to her body whenever I damn well wanted.
Fuck now, I wanted more than just her body.
I wanted what lurked behind her eyes when she thought I wasn’t looking. I wanted the truth behind her lies of loathing me. I wanted to know her. To actually listen and allow memories to form. Memories I actually wanted to remember.
I need to apologize.
I pushed up, hovering over her on my elbow. My body cast a shadow on her, puckering her nipples as the shade made her skin react to the temperature difference.
I could fix this and take the contact I needed.
I’d strangled her by accident. I’d tell that to her face the moment she woke up, but for now...I had another way to apologize. The only way I knew how, really. The only talent I’d been taught.
I’d been a slave to pleasure. Most of the time, that pleasure had been taken against my will, but occasionally, I’d be forced to grant it as if I willingly lusted for the guests who hurt me.
I knew what turned women on; men as well, unfortunately. I knew how a tongue could be used to tease and torment. I knew how to bring someone to an orgasm, with or without their permission.
It was the only true skill I had. And I could use it to show just how sorry I was—to somehow erase the distance that’d been growing between us. I could give her the release that I desperately wanted.
Wasn’t that fair? Wasn’t that the kind thing to do? Denial of my own desires in order to take care of hers?
Sex had once been my master and my nightmare, but thanks to her, it’d become my choice again. My decision to touch another, to crave another.
And fuck, I craved her.
Rolling closer, I ran my fingertip around her pebbled nipple.
She flinched in her sleep but stayed in whatever dream she enjoyed. That was good. I could gift her pleasure, even if she never knew it was me.
Cupping her breast, I massaged her gently, lowering my mouth to her sun-salty skin and licking her areola.
She sucked in a breath, her head falling to one side.