Our entwined bodies turned in a slow revolution across the wide bed. It was a sensual altercation, the way we rubbed and slid, with me trying to entice him inside and Jack resisting. He delayed and teased and tormented my aching flesh until I begged him in a hoarse whisper to do it now, I was ready, now, now—
He rolled me to my back and spread my legs wide. I complied with an expectant groan, tilting my h*ps up.
He eased inside me, and the entire world seemed to stop as I felt the low, thick slide. I clutched at his shoulders, my nails indenting his skin. Pushing deeper into my shrinking body, Jack murmured that he would be gentle, just relax, relax . . . and he went deeper and held, while I felt myself yield by slow degrees.
His face was right over mine, his eyes as dark and bright as hellfire. He stroked the hair back from my forehead. "You're gonna have to get used to me," he whispered. I nodded as if in a trance.
His lips caught at mine. He nudged within the wet constriction of my body, gentle in the way only a big man could be. He was sensitive to every breath and heartbeat, searching for a perfect bias of flesh and movement, and when he found it, I cried out helplessly.
Jack nearly purred in satisfaction. "You like it this way, Ella?"
"Yes. Yes." I gripped his back, my h*ps lifting into his weight. He was solid, heavy, impaling me with disciplined strokes, and I began to struggle beneath him, wanting it faster, harder. A quiet laugh filtered through his raspy breathing. He pinned me down and forced me to accept his pace, and after what seemed like forever, I found myself relaxing into the pleasure. My head tilted back as his arm slid beneath my neck, and his mouth wandered over my throat.
He thrust in a tireless rhythm, in and in, the friction slippery and sweet and carnal. I reached the height of the excruciating rise, and then it all began to fragment and I came in voluptuous jolts, my knees clamping on his hips. He rode it out until the last spasms had faded, and then he moved in a few final thrusts as he found his own release.
Afterward, I lay quiet and trembling in jack's arms, feeling the hot slick of him between my thighs. I turned my face into his chest. My body felt heavy with satisfaction, tender as a fruit ripened to full-slip sweetness.
"Rest," Jack murmured, pulling the covers over my na*ed shoulders.
"Can't," I mumbled. "Downstairs. The babysitter . . ."
He kissed my hair. His voice was a stroke of raw velvet. "Just for a few minutes. I'll watch over you."
Burrowing against him, I dozed gratefully.
In a while, I blinked and stirred, filled with the dreamlike awareness that something had changed. Me. I felt uncertain, undermined, and yet it was a strangely good feeling.
Jack was propped up on an elbow, staring down at me with surprising gravity. One of his fingers came to trace the edge of my smiling lips. "That was the best I ever had, Ella. There's not even a close second."
I closed my eyes as he traced the wings of my brows. And I reflected that the difference between good sex and mind-blowing sex had been a quality of attention I'd never gotten from Dane. Jack had been wholly absorbed in me, intensely focused on my responses. Even now he touched me as if the contact between our bodies was a language all its own. His caressing fingers moved down to my throat. "Your skin is so soft," he whispered. "And your hair is so silky. I love the way you feel . . . the way you move . . ." His thumb ran slowly along the edge of my jaw. "I want you to trust me, Ella. I want every part of you. Someday you're going to let go with me."
I turned my face into Jack's hand, pressing a sideways kiss in his palm. I knew what he meant, what he wanted, and I didn't know how to convey to him that it wasn't possible. I would never be able to lose myself entirely in lovemaking—there was a guarded center to my personality that no one would ever be able to reach. "I just had sex with the light on," I said. "For God's sake, isn't that enough?"
He laughed and kissed me.
Even sated as I was, the feel of his mouth against mine was enough to start me simmering. Settling my palms on the angles of his shoulders, I followed the rises and curves of solid, efficient muscle. "I saw you with Ashley tonight at the party," I told him. "She's very beautiful."
Jack's mouth quirked without humor. "That fades the more you get to know her."
"What were the two of you talking about?"
"She's bitching to everyone about her problems with Pete."
"That's her husband? Was he there?"
"Yeah. They seemed to be doing their best to avoid each other."
"I wonder if she's been unfaithful to him," I mused.
"Wouldn't be out of character," Jack said dryly.
"That's sad. But it justifies what I've always thought about marriage: you can never promise to love a person forever. Because everything changes."
"Not everything." Jack eased back onto the pillows and I stretched against him, settling my head into the crook of his shoulder.
"Do you think she loved you?" I asked. "I mean, sincerely loved you?
He sighed tautly. "I don't know if there was ever any love on her part." He paused. "If there was, I ruined it."
"Ruined it?" I sensed this was territory that had to be navigated with care, that remnants of pain, or regret, were still part of the landscape. "How did you do that?"
"When Ashley left me for Pete, she told me—" Jack broke off with an unsettled breath.
I climbed over him fully, draping myself over his hard, furry chest. "Trust works both ways, Jack." I reached to the ruffled disorder of his hair and slid my fingers through it gently. "You can tell me."
Jack looked away from me, his profile as hard and perfect as a face on a new-minted coin. "She said I wanted too much. That I was demanding. Needy."
"Oh." I knew that to a man with Jack's pride, that was about the worst thing a woman could say to him. "Were you?" I asked in a matter-of-fact way. "Or was Ashley trying to put all the blame on you for the fact that she cheated? Because I've never been a big fan of the look-what-you-made-me-do defense."
The tension eased from his body. "Ashley sure as hell never took responsibility for anything. But the truth is, I probably was a pain in the ass. I don't do things half-measure, including falling in love." He paused. "I have a possessive streak."
He seemed to believe he was telling me something new. I bit the inside of my lower lip to keep from laughing. "No kidding," I said. "The good thing is, jack, I have no problem telling you where to draw the line.
"I noticed that."
We stared at each other as smiles started on both our faces.
"So," I said, "after Ashley cheated on you, you spent the next several years scoring with every woman in sight, to show her what she'd missed out on."
"No, that had nothing to do with Ashley. I just happen to like sex." His hand slid down to my bottom.
"No kidding." I rolled away from him with a gasp of laughter and hopped out of bed. "I need a shower."
Jack followed readily.
I stopped short as I flipped on the switch in his bathroom, an immaculate well-lit space with contemporary cabinetry and modern stone vessel sinks. But it was the shower that left me speechless, a room made of glass and slate and granite, with rows of dials and knobs and thermostats. "Why is there a car wash in your bathroom?"
Jack went past me, opened the glass door, and went inside. As he turned knobs and adjusted the temperature on digital screens, jets sprouted from every conceivable place, and steam collected in white drifts. Three rainfall streams came directly from the ceiling.
"Aren't you going to come in?" Jack's voice filtered through the sound of abundant falling water.
I went to the glass doorway and peeked inside. Jack was a magnificent sight, all bronzy and lean, a sheet of water glimmering over his skin. His stomach was drum-tight, his back gorgeous and sleekly muscled.
"I hate to be the one to tell you this," I said, "but you need to start exercising. A man your age shouldn't let himself go."
He grinned and gestured for me to come to him. I ventured into the maelstrom of competing sprays, battered with heat from all directions. "I'm drowning," I said, spluttering, and he pulled me out of the direct downpour of an overhead spray. "I wonder how much water we're wasting."
"You know, Ella, you're not the first woman who's ever been in this shower with me—"
"I'm shocked." I leaned against him as he soaped my back.
"—but you're for damn sure the first one who's ever worried about wasting water."
"How much, would you say?"
"Ten gallons per minute, give or take."
"Oh my God. Hurry. We can't stay in here long. We’ll throw the entire ecological system out of balance."
"This is Houston, Ella. The ecological system won't notice." Ignoring my protests, Jack washed me and shampooed my hair. It felt so good that I finally shut up and just stood there, letting his strong, slick hands run all over me while I breathed in the steam-laden air. And I washed him, dreamily sifting my fingers through his soapy chest hair, tracing the wonderful masculine textures of his body.
There was a feeling of unreality about all of it, the muted light and water sluicing over our skin, the frank sensuality that left no allowance for modesty. His mouth fastened on mine with wet, sucking kisses, and his hand slipped between my thighs, the long fingers gently playful. I pressed my cheek against his shoulder, gasping.
"The first time I saw you," Jack murmured against my sodden hair, "I thought everything about you was so cute, I could hardly stand it."
"In a sexy way."
'"I thought you were sexy in a jerky kind of way. You're—" I paused, my vision blurring as his fingers slid inside me, "—not at all my type."
I felt him smile against my scalp. "Really? Because right now my type seems to be working for you." He lifted one of my knees until my foot was propped on a cypress shower stool. I held on to him, weak with lust. His body pressed against mine, length to length, and the desire was a back-and-forth current between us. Careful and intent, he stroked me open, positioned himself, slid deep. His hands gripped my bottom and compressed it in his fingers. For a moment we stayed like that, my body motionless and filled and possessed.
I stared, blinking, into his dark wet face. There was no rush toward quick satisfaction, only this leisurely discovery. My flesh throbbed around him as he held me steady against a slow, rolling rhythm. I felt as if I were the only fixed point of the universe.
Each time he drove in, I shivered and held his shoulders, and he gathered me closer. The accumulating pleasure seemed to dissolve my bones. I felt his tongue licking the hot mist from my neck, my ear. I writhed, my body sliding in his grip, limbs slick and protean.
But without warning the rhythm broke, and he withdrew, leaving me trembling, bewildered. "No," I said, clinging to him. "Wait, I didn't. . . Jack . . ."
He was turning off the knobs, the waterfalls disappearing.
"I wasn't finished yet," I told him woefully as he came back to me.
Jack had the nerve to grin. Taking my shoulders in his hands, he guided me out of the shower. "I wasn't, either."
"Then why did you stop?" Privately I excused myself for whining. Any woman would have whined in such circumstances.
He reached for a fluffy white towel and began to dry me efficiently. "Because you're dangerous when it comes to standing-up sex. Your leg muscles give out."
"I was still standing!"
"Barely." He scrubbed my hair with the towel, and reached for another to dry himself. "Face it, Ella—you're at your best horizontal." Throwing the towel aside, he pulled me back to the bedroom. In a matter of seconds, he had tossed me onto the bed as if I weighed nothing.
I squeaked in surprise as I bounced on the mattress. "What are you doing?"
"I'm fast-tracking this. It's twenty to eleven."
I frowned and pushed a tangle of damp hair back from my face. "Let's wait until we have more time."
But I found myself covered with nearly two hundred pounds of playful, aroused male.
"I can't go downstairs like this," Jack said.
"Too bad," I told him sternly. "You can either wait or do it a cappella."
"Ella," he cajoled, "let's finish what we started in the shower."
"You should have finished it right then."
"I didn't want you to fall and get a head injury. The afterglow never lasts as long in the ER."
I chuckled, and Jack pressed his cheek against the soft bounce of my breast. His hot breath rushed against the distended tip. Slowly his mouth opened over the rosy flesh, his tongue circling. Sliding my arms around his neck, I kissed the thick, damp locks of his hair. He lifted his mouth and took the nipple between his fingers, clamping softly while he moved to kiss the other breast, and my h*ps pressed upward into his weight. In a matter of seconds I was steaming. He browsed over me as if I were some lavish buffet, nibbling and licking and kissing, lifting and turning me to make certain there was nothing he had missed. I lay on my stomach, gripping fistfuls of amber quilt as he took my h*ps and hoisted them upward.
"This okay?" I heard him whisper.
"Yes," I panted. "God, yes."
His electrifying weight lowered over me from behind, and he nudged my stiff limbs apart. I groaned at the heavy penetration as he glided easily into the wetness. His hand slid beneath me, fingers going to the exact place I needed them.
Caught deliciously between his body and his hand, I pushed upward invitingly, and he went as deep as I could take him. His mouth went to my back, kissing the top of my spine. He waited until I pushed up again before he thrust. I realized he was letting me set the rhythm, his every motion a counterpoint to mine. I arched and gasped as I took him, worked him, feeling him shove deeper while those gentle fingers tantalized and teased. Sensations flowed together until I could no longer recognize their separate sources. I gripped his thick muscled wrists, one braced near my head, the other down between my thighs, and I held him there as I went over the edge. The cl**ax was lush and brimming, and each time I thought it had died down, it gave another voluptuous kick. I felt Jack shudder, the heat of him flooding me in violent pulses.
When he finally caught his breath, he muttered a few curses. I had to bury a shaky laugh in the covers, because I understood. It felt as if, somehow, a thing that was entirely ordinary had been reinvented, and the two of us along with it.