He ran his hands down the length of her soft skin, kissing her lips, her breasts, sucking the tips of her fingers as she reached for him, trying to pull him closer. The way she moved, the sway and tremble of her body beneath him, brought him perilously close to exploding. Only the thin barrier of fabric kept him from seizing her hips and plunging himself into her. The image had barely crossed his mind before he kissed down her belly, running his hands beneath the fabric, gently nudging her panties down as his kisses went lower. He pulled the cotton down with his teeth even as he ran his fingers between her splayed legs, lightly tracing upwards from the sensitive area behind her knees to her inner thighs. He reached his hands beneath her panties and pulled them down. His tongue descended on her, spreading and licking her wide. As he ran his tongue over her hot nub, swirling in a circular motion, she writhed and moaned beneath him.
“No—” she gasped, trying to push him away. “I want you inside me—”
But he was merciless. Instead of stopping, he reached a thick finger inside her, then another finger. He pushed into her as his tongue licked and lapped her. She arched violently, her body snapping back against the bed, and he felt her shake and tremble as she came.
Feeling like he was going to explode, he lifted up on his arms and positioned himself between her legs. He found her wet core, pressing right into her, then hesitated, panting from the effort of restraint. He didn’t want to hurt her. He would have to go slowly…
But Anna, more merciful than he, took things into her own hands. As he gritted his teeth, aching as he pushed himself slowly inside her, she reached behind him and yanked his naked buttocks towards her, forcing him through the tight sheath, impaling her. He heard her gasp, and he tried to pull back, but the pleasure of being buried deep inside her after all the months of longing was too much. He moaned her name softly, moving inside her, and took her in his arms, kissing her.
He’d never known it could be like this.
It hurt when he pushed into her. Had he always been this big?
Then he kissed her. His tongue twined around hers, caressing her deeply, and as her body relaxed the pleasure returned, built, intensified.
He loves me, she thought in amazement. Her eyes fluttered open and she saw the expression on his face as he was kissing her. It was worshipful. Devout. Intent. He loves me.
Her body relaxed. She didn’t have to leave him, ever. Her heart was flooded with joy such as she’d never known before. He’d never said I love you before.
With those three words her whole world had changed.
Somehow everything would work out. Why not? What problem was insurmountable, what miracles were impossible, when Nikos loved her?
Running his hands along her breasts, he slowly pushed into her again. Her nerves grew taut. She wanted him, wanted more. She lifted her hips to meet his thrust, holding on to his shoulders. But the bed was far too soft, swallowing her into the comforter under his weight.
With a growl of frustration he lifted her up from the bed, careful not to pull out as he wrapped her naked body around him. In five long steps he crossed the firelit room to the nearest wall—the thick windows that overlooked the Las Vegas Strip, twenty floors below. Thick, unbreakable windows that she herself had discussed with the architects—but she’d never dreamed she would put them to use like this.
Anna moaned as he pressed her naked body against the windows. She glanced down at his tanned skin, at the ripple of his hard muscles in the flickering firelight. She tightened her legs around his rock-hard buttocks as he pushed into her. A groan came from his lips as he thrust into her again and again, causing her full breasts to move with each force of his thrust. Leaning forward, he bit her neck as the pleasure began to spiral within her, even deeper and harder than she’d felt before. Her whole body began to shake, so tense that she could hardly breathe for want of him. She felt him explode inside her with a shout, and she screamed, rocked hard against the windows behind her, as she was devoured by the most intense pleasure she’d ever known.
She fell forward onto him, weak and spent. He lifted her in his arms and lowered her to the white bearskin rug in front of the fire. Murmuring her name tenderly, kissing her face, he held her close.
It took Anna several minutes to open her eyes, but when she did Nikos was looking down at her. His dark eyes were fierce, guarded.
“Anna—” he said, then stopped.
She licked her lips uncertainly. Was he already thinking that he’d made a mistake telling her he loved her? Or maybe she’d imagined the whole thing? Suddenly she felt afraid. For a long moment she heard only the low roar of the fire.
He reached down to caress her cheek. “I don’t want to be like Sinistyn. Answer me this one last time, and I promise you I will never ask again.” He took a deep breath. “Will you marry me?”
A rush of relief and joy went through her.
“Yes,” she said.
He visibly exhaled. “Tonight? Right now?”
She snickered, playfully tugging on his ear. “We’ll have to get a license, won’t we? The courthouse closed hours ago.”
“I’ll call the judge at home—”
“No. Let’s do this right. Please.”
“Tomorrow, then?” he growled. “First thing in the morning?”
“All right,” she said, kissing his cheek and smiling.
“You’re really going to marry me?”
“Say it again,” he ordered, holding her close.
She laughed out of pure happiness. “Nikos, I’ll marry you.”
As Nikos held Anna in his arms through the long, interminable night, he stared up at the moonlight creeping slowly across the ceiling above the wide bed. He held her close, listening to her sighs of sleep against his bare shoulder. She was so sweet. So trusting.
And he’d deceived her.
I did what I had to do, he told himself fiercely. Anna would be his forever. Michael would have a permanent family. He’d saved his family. He’d matched his wits against hers, laying siege against her heart until it fell, like a golden city overrun by a savage army.
But he’d never thought winning would feel like this.
He’d lied to her. Now, even holding her in his arms, so warm and soft against him, he felt cold. He stared down at her lovely face in the shadows and moonlight. She was smiling in her sleep, pressing her body against his. She was radiating warmth and contentment. She believed that he finally loved her. She believed in happy endings—even for a man like him.
His whole body was racked with tension. But even as he tried to justify what he’d done the thought that she would learn soon enough about his lie pounded through him. She wouldn’t be satisfied with an unlimited bank account in lieu of his love. She would demand things of him—emotion, energy, vulnerability—that he simply couldn’t give. Not even if he tried. He just wasn’t made that way.
And as soon as she found out how she’d been deceived, her joy would be snuffed out like a candle. It would cause the bright new light in her to go out, perhaps forever.
Shortly before dawn he heard snuffling moans from the next room, where Mrs. Burbridge had brought their baby to spend the night. At their son’s cries, Anna stirred in his arms.
She gently pushed out of his embrace and crept into the baby’s room to nurse, before returning back into his bed.
“Nikos?” Anna whispered.
He kept his breathing even, feigning sleep.
“Thank you,” she said, so quietly it was barely audible. “I have the home I dreamed of, the family I dreamed of. I don’t know what I did to deserve this. Thank you for loving me.”
God, this was intolerable. He turned on his side, pulling away from her, every nerve taut. As soon as he was sure she was really asleep, he sat up in bed. Feeling bone-weary, he raked his hands through his hair and rose slowly from the bed.
Glancing at Anna, slumbering peacefully beneath the white goosedown comforter, he came to a decision. He looked at the clock. It was almost six. He’d intended to have her sign the prenuptial agreement as soon as she woke, then drive straight to the courthouse for a license. He’d planned for them to be married at a drive-thru chapel before breakfast.
But, no matter how pure his motives, now that he held her fate in the palm of his hands he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t take her honesty and trust and love and use them as weapons against her. He couldn’t break her heart and destroy her life, no matter how good his motives might be.
Anna Rostoff deserved a man who could love her with his whole heart.
If he wasn’t that man, he had to let her go.
A fine time to grow a conscience, Nikos thought bleakly. Apparently he did have one last bit of honor left.
He gave Anna one final, lingering glance. Her dark hair was sprawled across his pillow, her creamy skin like ivory against the white thousand-count sheets. Her cheeks still glowed pink, a remnant of their lovemaking, and her lips curved into a soft smile as she sighed in her sleep.