Her eyes widened and she swallowed, her breaths coming faster beneath his stare. “We agreed to an annulment,” she said on a ragged whisper.
“I know.” But he couldn’t think of all the reasons they should not be together; instead he stared pointedly, envisioning the kiss they’d shared that afternoon. The pull of lust alluring for the first time in a long while, he thought of all the ways he could teach her to kiss him, to hold him. She flicked her pink tongue over her full lower lip, her eyelids heavy. He was aware that she had no idea how heavenly she looked. The heat between them ratcheted another notch until he could stand it no more.
“Angel.” Nicholas reached out and grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her to him until her mouth was beneath his. He kissed her as if his life depended on it, and if she did not return his passion he would fall into a spineless puddle at her tiny feet.
His surprise was great when he felt the push of her warm tongue against his lips. Her hands rubbed the sleeves of his tunic, as if she would strip him of it. Up, down, the fabric slid against his flesh until the heat of her fingers bumped against the ropy scars on his wrists.
A zing so hot it felt cold made him pull back and she cried out, as if in agony.
“What?” Nicholas panted. “What was that? What is the matter with you? You’ve seen my scars, I thought that you didn’t mind them, I-”
“It hurt,” she said, her face pale, her eyes without the familiar sparkle.
“It didn’t.” The realization of what she’d said came slow.
“It was hot, dark, you were hurting terribly.”
Nicholas’s desire ebbed, but the intensity was replaced by fear. “What do you mean?”
Her eyes filled with tears that sparkled like gems upon her lashes. “You were hurting. You were being made to feel the highest level of pain, on purpose. I’m sorry, I am so sorry, Nicholas.” Tears tracked down her cheeks.
Horrified, Nicholas lashed out, “You know nothing about my life, pain or otherwise.” His basic instinct was to protect himself, and his secrets. He put his hands out, symbolically pushing her away. “Close the neck of your gown. If you want to act the whore, I am happy to oblige, my lady. But if you wish to return to this house as pure as when you left it, then I suggest you keep your hands to yourself.”
She dried her eyes, but refused to adjust her gown. Her shoulders were proudly set. “My heart is breaking for you. Can you not trust me?”
“You’ve already lied to me once!”
“I didn’t lie, exactly. I saved your life.”
Cold spread through his body. “And I’ve saved yours. We shall see who made the better bargain.”