How could I possibly keep my cool while getting sweaty with him? What if I screamed out something horrifying, like "I love you"? What if I had an epileptic attack and started drooling or spitting right in the middle of things?
I had worked myself into a state of moderate panic by the time he pulled me inside the same bedroom I'd left just a short time ago. The robe I'd worn was still tossed over the chair. Bones shut the door and, in desperation, I tried to get a handle on things.
"Okay." My voice was higher than usual. "Did you have anything particular in mind, or should I just start with the obvious?"
His mouth twitched. "Trying to make an assignment out of me? Sorry, luv, this is my night. When I want a favor from you, and this is the condition you set, then you can be as controlling as you like. In the meantime, I'll take the lead. Now, kick off those shoes. They look like they're pinching you."
Almost grimly I did. The bed seemed to loom in size while the walls felt like they were shrinking, leaving nothing in this room but that soft, waiting arena.
Bones drew off his shirt. I looked away from the stunning, sculpted flesh it revealed. My nails dug into my palms. Things were coming to a head quickly.
I was both grateful and reluctant to do it. While it meant I didn't have to stare at the carpet instead of him, I also felt vulnerable. Like I couldn't defend myself if I didn't see what was coming.
Cool fingers pushed my hair aside, making me shiver. A tiny tug on my dress preceded the slow, inexorable sliding of the zipper all the way to its base. Without that support, the dress sagged on my shoulders, slipping, then was flicked aside to fall to my feet.
A slight hiss came from him. Absurdly, I shut my eyes, as if that made me any less na**d. I held my breath, shivering again.
"You're chilled, luv. Let's get you into bed."
His voice was thicker, his accent stronger. I walked the short distance to the bed, letting him sweep the covers back, and pulled them over me as soon as I climbed in.
Bones knelt next to the bed, reaching out to touch my hair.
"With those covers up to your chin and your eyes so wide, you look very young."
"I guess that makes you the would-be pedophile."
He inclined his head. "Considering our age difference and all the things I intend to do to you, it does indeed." Then he became serious. "Kitten, underneath your sarcasm, indifference, and outright anger, I think you still want me, else I wouldn't have insisted on this. I admit to being a ruthless, manipulating bastard, just as you said, but I'm not a r**ist. If you truly don't want me, I'll let you alone, but tomorrow I'll still change you like I promised."
He paused. Dropped the curl he'd been toying with and cupped my face. "Yet I will do my best to persuade you otherwise. I have absolutely no qualms about that."
Oh no, was my thought. I'm a goner. Think about the junkyard. That smell. Gregor's sneer. Anything but the fact that he's now undoing his pants.
There was one thing guaranteed to douse my mood. "Why did you cheat on me, Bones?"
He stopped. His top button was undone, but the zipper stayed up.
"You truly believe I was unfaithful?"
A rude snort came from me. "After seeing pictures, then Fabian's report, Cannelle's reminiscing, and hearing you admit it that night Geri pulled you out of New Orleans, yeah. I do."
His gaze felt like it was drilling into the back of my head. "You saw pictures of me entering my home with women, but you didn't see what happened once the door shut. I'd gone to New Orleans under the pretense that I was celebrating my bachelorhood, hoping Gregor would take the bait. He did. Even sent Cannelle there, as if I were too stupid not to smell him on her. It was easy to drink her blood and convince her to report back to Gregor that I was defenseless in my debauchery. By the time Fabian confronted me, several of Gregor's spies were around. What was I supposed to say to him?"
My mind reeled. "But I heard you. You told Cannelle she'd picked all the women the two of you had f**ked together!"
"And she believed that," Bones replied. "I let her pick a new human girl each night to take back to my house. Then I drank the pair of them into insensibility and had them wake up na**d together. It was a simple deception. I know what it would have looked like to you, Kitten, but you should have let me explain what it was, instead of going off with Tepesh."
My emotions warred with my suspicion. I mean, what woman, after everything I'd seen and heard, would believe it was all an elaborate charade, and her lover had been only fake cheating?
"But you left me." I couldn't keep the pain out of my voice. "You said you were through."
Bones sighed. "I went mad when I discovered you'd gone to Gregor. Didn't know if you'd choose to stay with him out of love, or you'd be forced to - and neither idea made me rational. By the time you'd returned, I still hadn't gotten control of myself. One of the reasons I left was because if I didn't, I'd have said more things I regretted. Then I went to New Orleans to end this issue with Gregor, intending to sort things out with you afterward, but you jumped the gun." Again, his tone implied.
"By rescuing you?"
He gave me an exasperated look. "Did you forget I could fly? Gregor knew that. So did Marie. She wanted me to slaughter Gregor, so she told Gregor she intended to force me from the Quarter, knowing full well Gregor would realize either he had to come in and get me or I'd fly out to safety. But you sent your old team after me, which Gregor would have soon been alerted to no matter how covert they were. I knew they'd get themselves killed if I resisted and gave Gregor time to storm in, so I let them take me. But it ruined my plan."
Bones didn't say the other, obvious word: Again. Oh shit. If a hole had appeared in the ground, I'd have gladly crawled into it. Spade's right, you are an idiot. With a capital I.
My mental flogging must have gotten through to him, because he said, "You're not an idiot. Charles told me he dragged you into it, though he of all people should have known better. Still, he'd have said trapping Gregor alone was too risky, which is why I didn't tell him about it."
"You must hate me," I said with a groan. "That's twice I've f**ked things up while thinking I was helping."
His brow arched. "Three times, actually. You also left me to go off with Don, thinking you were helping me. I thought all of these showed your lack of respect for me by not letting me fight my own battles, but I've come to realize you can't help yourself. It's who you are. You will never sit and wait for the outcome of a fight involving someone you love before throwing yourself into the mix, no matter how you might promise to change."
His words were like a knife in my heart. This is why he left, my conscience taunted me. You'd like to think it was just so he could f**k around, because then it would be his fault, not yours. But it was you. Bones is right; you'll never change. And no one in their right mind would put up with you.
Saying I was sorry was useless. More than useless - insulting, considering everything that had happened. So I did the only thing I could do to show how much I wished things were different. I dropped my shields, opening my mind to let Bones hear everything I was feeling, stripping myself na**d of all the things I normally used to rationalize my actions.
He closed his eyes. A ripple went through him, as if my thoughts struck him like a physical blow. Once freed of the tight restraint I kept on them, everything seemed to tumble out of me, with long-hidden emotions frothing to the surface.
"Kitten," he murmured.
"I just wanted you to know I understand." The lump in my throat made it hard to speak. "You gave it your best, Bones. I'm the one who trashed things."
His eyes opened. "No. It was my insistence in taking Gregor on alone that caused our separation. I could have told you it was a trap before putting you into that panic room. I could have told you about New Orleans and had you take those pills, so Gregor couldn't learn it from your dreams. But I wanted to handle everything myself. My pride and my jealousy drove us apart. Every mistake you've made with me, Kitten, I've made the same with you, but I don't want to talk about that anymore. I don't want to talk at all."
He drew down his zipper even as I blinked in shock. "After all this, you still want to sleep with me?"
Bones slid out of his pants. He didn't have anything on under them, as usual.
"After all this, I still love you."
That stunned me into silence. Then I spoke the first words that came into my mind.
"You must be crazy."
He laughed, soft and wry. "It was your brash bravery that made me fall in love with you in the first place. Even though the same thing drives me mad now, I probably wouldn't love you if you were different than the way you are."
I wanted so badly to believe that love could conquer all. That Bones and I could make things work based on sheer feelings alone, but life wasn't that easy.
"If neither of us can change," I said, my heart squeezing, "sooner or later, we'll drive each other away again."
He put a knee on the bed. "You're right - we won't change. I'll always want to protect you, and I will get insanely brassed off when I can't. You'll always jump into the fire for me, no matter how much I want you to stay safe on the sidelines. We'll have to constantly battle our own natures to make this work. Are you willing to take that chance?"
When I started dating Bones over six years ago, I knew a relationship with him would break my heart. It had, more than once, and Bones wasn't offering assurances that it wouldn't this time, either. Yet just like back then, I couldn't resist him.
"Playing it safe is for chickens," I whispered.
He crouched on the bed, all curved sinews and pale hard flesh. Then he leaned forward, taking the time to drag his mouth from my stomach to my neck. My ni**les hardened, need clenched in my belly, and I arched toward him.
His mouth slanted over mine as he gathered me in his arms. Feeling his na**d body on top of me blew my control apart. My skin tingled everywhere his flesh made contact. I couldn't get close enough to him, and I kicked the covers away. Bones kissed me like he was drowning, his tongue raking mine while he continued to rub sensually against me, stroking me without entering, touching me everywhere and all at once.
I ran my hands over him as well, moaning into his mouth. My need was almost painful when he pushed his fingers into me, finding my most sensitive spot and rubbing it intensely. I began to claw at his back. Tears leaked from my eyes. The ecstasy built to a tremendous level, straining against my skin, until I tore my mouth from his.
"God, Bones, yes!"
It was a sob and a scream combined. He responded by flipping me on top of him, lifting me in the same motion, and burying his mouth between my legs.
I convulsed at once, the spasms shaking me. His arms clamped around my waist while he tongued my flesh and sucked without fangs, as if he were drinking my pleasure into him. I clutched his head, shuddering, as the last remaining waves rippled over me.
Bones set me back against the mattress without breaking contact with his mouth. I was still panting from the orgasm and now half-sagged on the pillows. He lifted his head, his gaze pinning mine as he crawled upward toward me.
"Look at me," he said, lowering his h*ps between mine.
I did, opening my thighs and arching to meet his first thrust. Oh God, I'd forgotten how Bones stretched me when I wasn't used to him. His hardness pushed against my walls, filling me so deeply, I felt tears in my eyes. Yes. Yes. I've needed you like this.
Moaned when he began to move gently in me, but I didn't want gentleness. I wanted what I knew he had lurking past his concerns for being tender.
He moved with more force and kissed me, his eyes still open. I didn't close mine, either. Seeing his face while he was inside me overwhelmed me. I grabbed his hair, locked my gaze to his, and kissed him until I had to break away to breathe.
"I can taste myself on your mouth," I panted. "I want you to taste yourself on mine. I want to suck you, swallow you when you come - "
"Stop talking like that, or I'm going to come right now." His hands flexed on my hips, holding me tighter. He was close. I could feel it in the way he held me and in those tempered, measured thrusts that devastated me with passion. His nearness to orgasm filled me with erotic purpose, making me want to bring him over the edge.
I ground myself against him, crying out at how good that felt. "More. Take me harder."
He unleashed his restraint, leaving me gasping at the blinding concentration of sensations. It hurt in the sweetest way, causing me to strain toward him even as I cried out at his rough, rapid strokes. When he reached his cl**ax, he threw me against the headboard and shouted with rapture, his whole body trembling. I clung to him, shaking also, my heart beating fast enough to explode.
After several seconds, Bones unglued me from himself - and the headboard - to lay me back on the bed. "Bloody hell, Kitten, are you all right?"
If I hadn't still been gasping, his concern over my assumed injury would have made me laugh. "Come back here."
I pulled him down from his hover until he was on top of me once more. He balanced his weight, his free hand sliding to my head as I moved lower to suck his nipple.
He tasted like salt, but that was probably from my sweat. His hand tangled in my hair as he pressed me closer, a deep groan coming from his throat.
"I'll be gentler this time, but I need you again now."
I bit him, feeling him shudder. Yeah, he liked that. So did I, and right now I couldn't stop touching him or tasting him.