Later Bess blamed the word 'darling' for the way she froze.
Jack had never called her that before. He’d called her sexy or very occasionally sweet Elisabeth, but endearments weren’t his thing. Even one like this, meant as provocation, undid her. For instead of sneering, his voice had sounded rough with something beyond anger, something that plucked at the taut threads of her control.
Before she had time to ponder what that was, or move out of reach, it was too late — he was holding her, his head swooping down to hers.
More to the point, she didn’t want to move. What she wanted, with a yearning that belied all her stern self-talk, was to be right where she was.
His powerful arm wrapped around the bare flesh of her back and it felt like heaven as he pulled her to him. Heaven and hell together, for despite her excitement she knew she’d regret this when sanity returned.
Yet knowing and acting sensibly were two separate things.
His other hand gripped her skull and tilted it back as his mouth found hers.
There was no hesitation, no bumping of noses, no instant of shock and denial. Instead it felt like the inevitable culmination of every taut, breathless moment she’d endured since he’d prowled across the terrace to where she sat at the pool.
As if she’d been waiting for just this!
His kiss, his embrace felt right.
So right it would have terrified Bess if she’d been thinking straight. Instead she acted on primal, urgent instinct. The fingers of one hand splayed across his chest, picking up the quick, hard thrum of his heart. Her other hand slid around his neck, tunnelling through springy, thick hair to tug him closer.
That hard mouth softened. This wasn’t a punishing kiss. It didn’t feel like retribution or anger, but something she’d missed and yearned for since Paris.
Tenderness. Companionship. Mutual pleasure.
A shudder racked her body and for a moment she even thought it originated in Jack’s tall frame.
He moved his mouth, sliding it along hers, slipping his tongue between her lips, and without thought she opened for him, her heartbeat swelling to a triumphant rhythm as he took what she offered.
Yet it wasn’t really taking. This was mutual. The tangle of tongues, the slow exploration was a dance of give and take as if they relearned each other. It was as familiar as breathing but new too, rich with appreciation of what they’d missed.
They’d missed. Jack as well as her.
Maybe it was that knowledge that weakened her defences. If he’d demanded, she’d have resisted. Instead this felt like a compulsion neither could resist. A force stronger than either of them. The idea was intriguing and irresistible.
How could she have forgotten his taste, rich, complex and addictive? How could she have gone so long without it?
Bess tilted her head, tugging him closer as she demanded more, arching back under the weight of his eager response.
His body might be hard but his kiss was pure delight. Her skin tingled all over as if bursting to life after almost a year of dormancy. Her blood throbbed hard. That might have dismayed her except at that moment Jack pressed his lips to her cheek, trailing fire as he nipped at that incredibly sensitive place below her ear.
‘Elisabeth,’ he growled and she felt it against her overheated flesh as much as heard it.
Jack didn’t sound like a savvy negotiator. He sounded like a desperate man.
Desperate for her.
It’s just sex. Physical attraction. Not love.
But the sexual connection she’d shared with Jack was the closest Bess had ever come to perfection. The nearest thing to love she knew now her mother had gone.
And she’d been so very, very lonely.
It was one thing to leave a relationship that wasn’t good for her. It was another to resist Jack when he hungered for her, when his caresses were ardent and needy and felt like an invitation to paradise.
If she’d been more strong-willed maybe she’d have pushed him away. But she was flawed and fallible, overwhelmed by the urgency of her feelings for this man. And by his desperation that proved they were equals in this.
Jack didn’t do desperate. His specialty was coolheaded logic. Strategy not impulse. Planning not emotion.
Surely this was new? The notion stirred a flicker of hope as well as need.
‘Jack. Kiss me again.’Reviews Return