Authors: Laura Moore
The word blared in her brain. Surely she could have picked a better word. Or maybe not. For all she tried to wrench it away, her gaze remained fixed on the very prominent area where the black fabric was stretched.
Sucking in a shallow breath, she wondered what he'd do if she hyperventilated.
And why the hell didn't he sense her growing panic, damn it? And why did her body grow hot and tight all over again when, with the same calm efficiency he'd displayed in stripping her clothes and his own, he shoved the waistband down his hips and thighs and stepped out of them.
Her mouth went as dry as Southern California.
She'd seen some penises in her life. A couple had been comical-looking, one kind of scary and angry-looking, another frankly underwhelming. Ethan's was none of those. Jutting out from a patch of dark brown hair, it looked impressive. Capable. Seriously functional.
“You certainly don't seem to be suffering from any problem at the moment,” she accused.
a nasty voice reminded her.
“What can I say?” He shrugged as if his very large erection was no biggie. “Many women would be pleased they had this effect on a man.”
“I'm not âmany women.'â”
His lips twitched but he didn't laugh, probably knowing he'd be risking castration if he did. “Remember how I said I wasn't going to do anything you didn't want? That holds true whether we're dressed or naked, whether I'm standing here or moving inside of you.”
Oh God, did he have to speak in such a way that she was forced to rise to the occasion and be
“Fine. Let's just do it and get it over with.”
He cracked a smile. “Your enthusiasm overwhelms me.”
“Little nervous here, okay?”
“I'd never have guessed.” He put a knee on the mattress and then, supporting himself on his arms, he stretched over her, his body kissing hers in a skin-grazing brush. The hair covering his legs tickled hers and the silkier strands on his chest teased her breasts. For all his leanness, he seemed very solidâmuscle, sinew, and long bonesâabove her. Another part of him was unquestionably so. His penis prodded, demanding attention, demanding entrance.
What disturbed her most was that she
it all. She was hyperaware of everything about Ethan when normally her senses shut down as if she'd been dropped in liquid nitrogen and flash frozen.
Ethan made her hot. Hot and twitchy with awareness and something she was very, very afraid was desire. Wanting Ethan made her even more vulnerable.
“Touch me, Quinn,” he whispered.
She drew a shuddering breath and placed her hands against his ribs, a safe, neutral, unsexy spot. She guessed wrong.
Against her flattened palms, his skin was fire-warmed satin. Her hands rose and fell with each heavy breath he took, and she felt the crazy pounding beat of his heart enter her bloodstream and call to hers.
In answer, her hands slid over taut skin. Reaching his chest, her fingers traced the flat discs of his nipples, circling them again as they puckered for her. A shuddered breath escaped from his lips.
The sound was irresistible. It drove her. She reached up to palm his shoulders, her left hand smoothing the ridges of his scar and then, in a long, deliberate sweep, followed the length of his back to cup the taut globes of his buttocks. His shudder was replaced by a groan, helpless and rough.
Her gaze locked with his. She couldn't have looked away even if she'd wanted to, not when his eyes were blazing bright. Yet he hadn't dropped his weight on top of her, hadn't begun grinding against the apex of her thighs, hadn't moved a muscle, even though it was clear he wanted to. His restraint, his control said so much, spoke to her as loudly as his need.
She could trust him.
Could she trust herself, find the courage to let him in, not knowing how that would alter her?
Her gaze shifted to his mouth and she remembered the searing pleasure of it. If there was a man who could make her forget her fears, however irrational yet now ingrained, this man holding himself in such fierce check was the one.
She spoke in a whisper. “The condoms are in the drawer on your right.”
A smile she'd never seen before lit his face. It was achingly tender and proud.
“That's my Quinn.” His lips moved as he lowered his head to capture hers, claiming them in a lingering kiss that had her fingers curling into his muscled butt. Releasing her, he stretched an arm and grabbed the nightstand's drawer pull.
She heard him rummage inside the drawer. The crinkly scrape of foil was amplified, portentous. It sounded like a big effing deal.
He shifted back, aligning his body and settling over her, letting her feel his solid weight.
She was right. Itâeverything about Ethan and what he and she were doingâwas a big effing deal. But she was too distracted by what he was doing to succumb to full-blown panicâyet. He was busy, kissing her everywhereâher mouth, her breasts, the hollow of her belly button, the cradle of her hipsâwith a hunger that summoned the sizzling heat inside her. His hands streaked over her, making her gasp and writhe. If his touch made her hot before, now it ignited an inferno of flames that licked and stoked. And that feeling, of being wound tighter and tighter, of reaching for something extraordinary, unforgettable, and sublime, began again. And she was too consumed by it to ask why Ethan alone could kindle it. All she knew was that he was rocketing her to a world of pure sensation.
His mouth blazed a trail across her hips. Inches below, his hands caressed her thighs. Urging them apart, his fingers brushed her curls.
Her breath caught and then came out in a gasp as his fingers parted her and stroked her clitoris in aching passes and glides. Delving deeper, rubbing harder. Each foray left her moaning softly as her hips followed the dance of his fingers. Only dimly did she register the rip of foil, the movement of his free hand smoothing the condom over his erection.
His muscled thighs nudged hers wider. And then she felt the blunt head of his penis press against her. With sudden clarity she remembered how big he wasâ¦.
“What?” she gasped. A boulder had somehow lodged in her windpipe.
“Don't tense up on me. I don't want to hurtâ”
Fear, wet and chilling, doused her. “But it's going to.” She pulled away from his weight, from the blunt tip of his erection, pressing deeper into the mattress.
His hands clasped her hips, holding her gently but blocking her retreat. “Yeah, it will,” he said quietly. “But it'll hurt less if you relax. Just lie back, andâ”
“Wait, don't tell me. Think of England?”
His breath huffed out in a soft laugh. “I'd rather you thought of me and how much I want to please you.”
Under the circumstances, she shouldn't have found his crooked smile so charming. Especially when her own lips felt like they'd been pumped full of novocaine.
“Quinn, sweetheart.” The endearment came out a rough whisper. “I want to come inside you now. I want it more than I've wanted anything in a long time. Will you let me?”
His request, so simple and unvarnished, made her heart ache and melted the last of her defenses. Slowly her muscles relaxed.
âit came down to trust.
Drawing a deep breath, she looked up at his face. His expression was intent yet somehow more open than she'd ever seen it. Slowly she nodded, then raised her legs, wrapping them about his hips. Opening herself to him.
“Ah, Quinn, you humble me,” he whispered before he claimed her mouth in another fervent kiss. Taking her hands, he linked their fingers. “Now keep your eyes on mine,” he commanded softly.
As her gaze locked with his glittering gray one, she felt him press against her core, aligning himself. Her breath hitched.
“Easy, there.” His voice was quiet for all its intensity. “It's me with you, and I'm going to try my damnedest to make this painless and maybe even pleasurable for you.”
No false promises with Ethan.
“Hold on tight, sweetheart.”
With a powerful thrust he entered her and changed her world forever.
Seconds passed with racing hearts and sawing breaths. Sheathed deep within her, Ethan held himself still. Quinn knew he was trying to give her time to accommodate him and accustom herself to the intrusion.
“Quinn? Are you okay?”
He was referring to the pain, of course. It had come in a searing flash when he entered her, sharp enough to cause her to flinch and close her fingers about his, gripping hard. But the pain had been quickly eclipsed by a new and staggering sensation. Of being so
stretched and so very, very taken.
He felt even bigger than he'd looked. Thick and hot, and he was
inside her. It was as if Quinn could feel his life force beating inside her. The throbbing cadence rocked her womb and touched her heart. She squirmed, trying to adjust to his presence; she felt his weight press down on her, his large body covering and surrounding hers.
My God, is there any part of me he
she thought, feeling panic set in.
“I'm not sure about this.” Her voice sounded small, shrill. She was slipping ever closer to outright panic.
“Well, as long as the jury's still outâ”
“Oh my God, are you actually amused by this?” She was on the verge of kicking his shin, elbowing his ribs, hell, doing her best to buck him off, when he nuzzled the sensitive spot behind her ear and sparked a shimmering warmth inside her.
“I'm not laughing, sweetheart. That's happiness you hear,” he said, his voice a soft rumble that caressed. “You feel incredible, Quinn. So let's see whether we can't improve things for you.” He withdrew a fraction and then flexed his hips, pushing into her at a slightly differentâupwardâangle this time, touching a thousand nerve endings and inviting them to dance.
A confused “Oh!” escaped her.
He moved again, now lengthening his stroke a fraction before he rocked his hips into hers.
She shivered and felt her muscles clamp tight around him.
He took up a steady rhythm. The stroke was smooth, purposeful, yet she sensed that he was holding himself in check. She was helpless to ignore the thrill of his body's leashed power.
“Better?” he whispered.
Oh, yes, much better,
she thought. She arched, welcoming his slide home, meeting his hips in a delicious grind that left him groaning. Moving his mouth to the side of her neck, he scored her sensitive flesh with his teeth and then licked it with a slow lap of his tongue.
He'd freed her hands to caress her breasts, fondling them and teasing her nipples with light pinches and tugs, sending sparks shooting through her. Spurred by the sensations rocking her, her own hands skimmed over muscle and bone with increasing greed, eliciting fevered exclamations and whispers of encouragement as his hips pumped, taking her ever higher.
She found the rhythm. Began to meet his thrusts with her own, exchanged breathless moans with his. They ground and kissed in an erotic dance of tangled limbs and arched backs and clasped hands.
Thoughts fragmented as she strained against him, reaching for more. And he gave it to her. Latching onto her breast, he drew her nipple into the warm cavern of his mouth as his fingers found her clit, plucking and stroking. Overcome, she sobbed, clutching him, tears escaping down her cheeks. And then everything splintered as his hips pumped even harder, sending her flying toward a heart-stoppingly crazy moment of beauty, one made impossibly perfect when his harsh cry joined hers.
OR LONG SECONDS
Ethan simply dragged air into his overtaxed lungs. Not only were his lungs overtaxed, his brain was fried, and his muscles were as weak as pulled taffy. Not surprising, since he'd never worked so hard at sex in his life. But the result, Quinn's cry of pleasure as her body tensed and trembled under his, was the sweetest reward. Perhaps that's why he felt so strangely at peace when ordinarily he might be wondering what it meant to have just experienced the most stunning climax of his life.
When slowly he began to process what had just happened in Quinn's bed, he wasn't even particularly worried by how thoroughly she'd reduced him to a quivering, sated mass. Jesus, it felt good.
But he was worried about her. Shadows blanketed the room, making everything softer. Except Quinn's eyes. They shone too brightly. And she was blinking too rapidly. Beneath his lips Ethan tasted the damp salty tracks that crossed the slope of her cheekbones. Heard her breath hitch in a failed attempt to stifle a hiccup of emotion.
That she, a virgin, had come for him a second time was extraordinary, especially when he considered how she'd been callously twisted into so many self-doubting knots by other men. But he wasn't sure if the pleasure she'd found in his arms outweighed the enormity of her initiation. He could only imagine what she was feeling.
He tried to remember what he'd felt when he lost his virginity. Chest-thumping exultation, mostly. But he'd been a callow youth of sixteen, his partner a senior in the D.C. high school he'd transferred to when his dad got a position at the State Department. Sarah Rafferty had been far more experienced, so there'd been no comparing of notes with her. He remembered only being full of gratitude that she'd deigned to allow him beyond third baseâbecause that's how he'd thought of sex back then. Thank God Quinn was getting a somewhat more mature version of that idiotic sixteen-year-old kid.
“You all right?” he asked.
Yeah, and I'm Robert Capa,
he thought, the comparison between him and one of the best war photojournalists ever just as unbelievable.
He needed to give her a chance to regroup and find the Quinn she knew, the one who was spunky and brave. It would entail allowing her to ignore the part of herself he'd laid bare tonight: a woman who was as effortlessly sensual as she was generous.
Planting a kiss at the corner of her mouth, he stroked the side of her face and eased out of her as gently as he could. At her involuntary wince, his gut clenched.
“Don't move,” he said. “I'll be back in a sec.”
Rolling off the bed, he strode to the bathroom, removed the condom and dropped it in the wastebasket under the sink. Turning on the hot water, he ran a washcloth under it until it had thoroughly absorbed the heat. He wrung it out and carried it back to the bedroom.
She'd drawn the covers up and lay with the heels of her hands pressed against her eyes, and kept them there even when he sat on the mattress. His tug on the sheet covering her had her lowering them.
Her eyes were huge. “Whatâ”
“Shh, let me do this for you.” He placed the damp cloth between her thighs before she could clamp them together.
She was silent as he wiped her down gently and then cleaned the insides of her thighs.
Her exhale was shaky when he removed the cloth and set it aside. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“You're welcome.” Even as he spoke he was aware that the chest-thumping primordial thrill that had coursed through him at sixteen was backâin spades. Knowing he was the first to have touched Quinn and shown her pleasure was as heady and potent as any whiskey he'd ever tasted. And, damn, he wanted those firsts with her to continue. Indefinitely.
There was only one problem. Quinn didn't merely have to process the fact that she'd made love for the first time; she had to deal with the aftermath. The difficult stuff. Questions like,
What did I just do? What did it mean?
Rigor mortis was stealing over her. Any stiffer and she'd crack from post-coital stress. It was time to get Quinn used to the idea of having a naked maleânamely, himâin her bed.
If Quinn guessed at his thoughts, she'd probably unstiffen those limbs real quickly so that she could brain him. Time to offer up a distraction, he decided. She'd do better if he talked rather than followed his own desires, which involved wrapping an arm about her middle and hauling her close to him so he could stroke and pet her at will.
Casually he stretched out on the bed beside her. Cradling his head in his hands, he stared up at the ceiling and breathed slowly, deeply. Any more chill and he'd be asleep. As sensitive as she was, she'd pick up on that.
“It could have been a fluke,” he said, not glancing away from his study of the rough-hewn beam-and-plaster ceiling.
He heard the slide of hair against the pillow as she turned her head. From his peripheral vision, he saw she'd shifted onto her shoulder, her head propped on her fist. The sheet half covered her breasts. A major gravity fail that the sheet hadn't dropped like Newton's apple.
“Yeah.” His biceps bunched as he shrugged. “A fluke.”
“The sex was pretty spectacular, Quinn. That's unusual on the first go-round between partners.” He let that sink in and then added, “Perhaps you didn't know that.”
“It certainly wasn't what I expected.”
“Well, I didn't expect it to be so much, to have it feel so vital.” Her voice was careful, as if she were finding her way through a jumble of thoughts and emotions.
touch her. He rolled to face her. Her lower lip was caught between her teeth. He wanted his own there, biting down on that sweet ripeness, tugging a moan loose from her. He smoothed a hand over her silken shoulder and brushed his lips against hers, letting his tongue caress the spot her teeth had worried.
Seconds passed while they let their mouths speak with clinging lips and exchanged breaths. He felt her body soften and her skin grow warm in response. When one of her hands moved to his chest, palming it, he smiled against her mouth and murmured, “I think we should make sure this isn't just a one-time aberration, don't you?”
She pulled away from him, her expression astonished. “You're not actually serious about the fluke thing?”
“You might not react this time. I might not.”
“You're kidding, right?”
He fought a grin.
She must have caught sight of it, for the hand on his chest poked hard. “Not funny.”
He caught her lips again and coaxed a smiling kiss from her. “Okay, I'm betting things will go okay, but practice does make perfect, Quinn.”
“That might be all good and well in theory, butâ¦” Her voice trailed off, and she ducked her chin.
“But what?” he asked huskily.
She lifted her head and her eyes were huge enough for him to lose himself in their beauty. “There's a little matter of soreness. Now I know what all the novice riders mean when they say they're saddle sore.”
Something inside him squeezed tight. She was lovely, funny, and honest. A person could learn a lot from Quinn Knowles. “Then I'll just have to be a little creative, won't I?” He gave her a slow smile. “In that spirit, why don't you lie back for a spell?”