Ignited Page 26

“They do indeed.”

“I’ll tell you about Italy someday.”

I peered at him. “I thought you didn’t look back.”

“I thought you wanted to know.”

“I do,” I said. What I didn’t add was, I want to know everything. But I think he heard that last part, anyway.

We sat that way for a moment, all soft and comfortable. He held his wine in one hand and stroked my calf with his other. It felt warm and sweet and I should have known it was too good to last.

It wasn’t obvious—I’m not even sure I could point to a particular thing. But the pressure of his touch changed, and the tenderness took on a hesitant quality. I got the feeling he was a man who believed that a storm was coming, and feared that it would rip the ground out from under him.

“Will you tell me what’s the matter?”

He’d been looking at his hand on my leg, the contrast of his dark skin and my too-pale legs. By the end of summer, I’d be the same golden brown as a waffle, but this early in the season I was still winter white. Now he lifted his head to look at me directly.

“This is nice,” he said.

“I can see why that would bother you.”

“I like seeing you this way, the contentment so thick around you I could paint it. And I like touching you, being close to you.”

“I like it, too.” I couldn’t manage to hide the wary note in my voice.

“You were right when you said you could handle it. Tonight—all this. Everything since you walked through my door. You’ve been everything I wanted and more than I could expect.”

I licked my lips. He was saying all the right things, and yet cold fingers of fear were creeping up my spine.

“You handled it,” he said again. “But what about the rest of it?”

“Don’t do that. Don’t assume you know things. You don’t.”

“Don’t I?”

My temper flared. “No, you don’t. You tried to scare me away earlier—talking about wanting the pain, wanting to hurt me.”

“I meant it,” he said, and his voice was low and dangerous and firm.

“I know,” I said as I set my wine aside. Then I tugged my legs off his lap and shifted on the couch so that I was on my knees in front of him. I took his wine and set it on the coffee table. “In case it escaped your notice, I liked it, too.”

“Vanilla,” he said. “Tonight was watery vanilla.”

“And you think I can’t handle mocha almond fudge?”

“I’m not joking, Kat.”

“Do you think I am? Dammit, Cole, I liked what we did. It made me wet when you spanked me, and when you tied my arms back . . .” I drew in a breath, shocked to realize that just talking about it made me aroused all over again. “Don’t you see? Being helpless to you—it turned me on. It was new and it was incredible. It was like you showed me some wonderful secret about myself.”

I tossed back the last of my wine. “So if you think I’m going to walk out of here and not look back, you’re wrong. Instead, I’m going to beg you for more.”

“It’s the more that scares me,” he said, and I think it was the only time I had ever seen hard, honest fear in those eyes.

I shook my head, not understanding.

“Christ, Kat, don’t you get it? I’m not afraid you’re going to want to walk. I’m afraid I’ll take it too far. Do you have any idea how hard I have to work to keep my grip? How easy it is for me to just lose it?”

I thought about the glass I’d heard shattering at the gala and about all the stories I’d heard about Cole’s famous temper.

And then I thought of the tender way he’d touched me and brushed away my tears. The softness in his voice.

“You won’t,” I said.

“You don’t know me that well.”

I do, I thought. But what I said was, “Maybe not. But I want to. And I know what I’ve seen so far.”

I searched for some reaction on his face. Pleasure. Relief. Anger. Right then I really didn’t care. But there was nothing. It remained passively blank.

He stood. “I’m going to take a shower.”

“Dammit, Cole.” I got to my feet as well. “I’m not afraid,” I said as he started to leave the room. “I’m not, dammit, but if you are then don’t touch me. Just call me.”

I’m not sure where the inspiration for those words came from, but they worked. He paused in the doorway.

“Call you?”

“You kept backing off and backing off. Pushing me away. But then on the phone, when you called, you didn’t hesitate. Not at all. Not really.”

I remembered the strength in his voice. The certainty. “That’s it, isn’t it?” I asked, my voice gentle. “It was easy to call me because there was no risk. No reason to be afraid of hurting me because I wasn’t there.”

I could understand that. Hadn’t it been easier for me, too? I had no problems getting myself off, but with Cole hadn’t I actually come under a man’s touch—albeit an imaginary one—for the first time since, well, since forever?

He’d opened a door for me, and dammit, I wanted to do the same for him.

He said nothing, but I saw him draw in a breath, then close his eyes for a moment too long.

I took a step toward him. “But I was there,” I whispered. “I felt every touch, every sensation. You were right beside me, Cole, and everything was fine. Hell, it was more than fine. It was incredible.”

I waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, I pressed on, determined to make him understand. “You want to spank me? To tie me up? Do you want to use a whip on me or, I don’t know, something else entirely?” I finished lamely, because I really didn’t know what the something else could be. “Then call me. Tell me. Describe it to me. Every lash, every mark. Lose yourself in it, Cole. Take me, hurt me. Don’t you see? I’m giving myself to you—wholly and completely. You can have me any way you want me.”

I pressed my palm to his bare chest and felt the pounding of his heart, so hard, so fast. “Start like this, and then you’ll see. And maybe then you can take me the rest of the way. Because I want to go with you, Cole. I really, really do.”

I tried to read his answer on his face, but his expression was shuttered and he closed his eyes. Desire and hope warred inside of me, and I wanted to drop down onto my knees and beg him.

Instead, I simply waited. One moment, then a moment longer.

Frustrated, I released a slow, soft sigh, then took my hand from his chest.

Immediately, he grabbed it, then put it back exactly where it was. Only once I was touching him again did he open his eyes, and the pure longing I saw there made me want to pull him close. To kiss him. To burst into song.

Instead, I stayed perfectly still, afraid that I was seeing too much. Expecting too much.

“Kat,” he finally said, his voice so full of heat and tenderness that I was certain I would melt.


“Two things.”

I nodded.

“From now on, answer your phone when I call. I don’t care what else you’re doing, if it’s me, you answer the phone.”

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