“No,” she mumbled. “Can’t remember.” Not entirely true. I won’t, I won’t, still whispered in her head.
She’d hated whatever was done to her then. Through the murk of her memory she knew it had been a man. Still, she’d somehow been able to respond positively to Beck, and now to Colin.
Colin was different than anyone she’d ever known. His gentleness extraordinary for a man who had admitted to a capacity for violence, who had tried hard to close himself off emotionally.
I love him, she thought, this time with no doubt but plenty of misgiving. You’re safe with me, he kept saying, but for how long?
He was here now. Now mattered. The turbulence inside coalesced into a desperate need for the ultimate closeness. She needed to feel him deep inside her, to know that moment when he came, when she was his whole world—if only fleetingly.
Nell lifted her head enough to kiss the taut skin stretched over his powerful pectoral muscles. Encountering dampness from her tears, she licked it.
He went absolutely still, not even breathing. But he couldn’t control his reaction to her. She felt him swelling beneath her belly.
When he did move, it was to yank her up so their mouths could meet. No gentleness now, only hunger and urgency. His tongue stroked deep. So fast, she wanted more. She straddled his body, squirmed until she rode atop the long, hard length of his penis.
He wrenched his mouth away. “Wait! Condom.”
The words blurred, scrambled. She didn’t care, only wanted him. She fought to get in position even as he rolled them sideways and somehow reached around her into the drawer.
“Sweetheart, lift up.” With his help, she did. A brief tearing sound, then his hands gripped her hips. “Now.”
He slid into her, as deep as she’d craved. Being on top, in control, obliterated the helplessness she’d felt in the nightmare. The sense of helplessness that had ruled her life for so many years.
Her climax came in a blaze of triumph: body, mind, heart.
With a guttural cry, he thrust up into her, deeper yet, and let himself go.
Let himself feel helpless, so I can be triumphant. Colin was a man confident enough to do that.
All the strength left her, and she seemed to melt over his solid body. Nell’s happiness was profound. It prickled behind her eyelids like tears that weren’t.
“Maddie,” he whispered, drowsy and sated, and she froze.
He’d called her Maddie before, too, she remembered in shock. When she came out of the nightmare.
While she had been reveling in her newfound belief in the woman she’d become, he had soothed and made love to the lost girl he’d saved. To Maddie, not Nell.
Nell scrambled off him in instant, horrified reaction. “I’m not Maddie!”
“What in hell?” He reared up.
“You called me Maddie.” She all but fell out of bed, suddenly feeling naked in a way that made her ashamed of herself. She swooped to grab something light on the floor and realized it was his shirt. Hands shaking, she put it on and began buttoning as he turned on the lamp. Nell turned away to protect her eyes, and herself, too. She was buttoning the shirt askew, she realized, but didn’t care. The tails came almost to her knees.
She spun to face him. “I know it was! That makes it worse, don’t you see?”
“Nell.” His voice was insultingly calm, although his gray eyes were as stormy as she felt. Angry, confused, regretful? “You are Maddie, too.”
She knew she was overreacting, but couldn’t seem to help herself.
“You said you understood.”
“I do. It slipped out, that’s all. Felix and Duane were calling you Maddie all evening.” The words were okay, the tone not.
She felt patronized. “I thought you were the one person here who saw me....” Her voice broke. “But I was wrong.” She headed for the bathroom, where she’d left her clothes earlier.
Colin got out of bed and started forward to cut her off. “You weren’t wrong.” Now his voice had an edge, as if he were getting irritated because the whole pat-her-on-the-head, soothe-her thing hadn’t worked.
Call her irrational, but now anger supplanted hurt. She spun to face him. “Maddie was a kid, and I still don’t know her very well. What’s more, I’m not sure I like her. How she handled her problems. What she let happen to her. She’s inside me, but I’m not her. And I’m beginning to think you still see me as that poor, pathetic girl whose picture you had up all those years. What is this all about, triumph because you found me? Isn’t sex how men celebrate victories?”
Looking stunned, he fell back a step. His Adam’s apple bobbed. “It’s not like that.” His voice was quiet, as shocked as his expression. The uncertainty she heard in it was more than she could bear.