I came with a scream, and he continued devouring me, riding out my climax until I was limp and begging him to stop, to let me catch my breath.
He leaned back on his heels as I gasped for breath.
“Jesus, Valentine….” I wiped my hand across my forehead.
He stood slowly, passing his wrist across his lips. “You just had to tease me, didn’t you?” He rumbled, adjusting himself with one hand. “Now I’m going to be hard all through dinner, and it’s your fault.”
He grabbed my heel and pulled me to the edge of the bed. “No, you’re not.” He stood over me, so tall I had to crane my neck to look straight up at him, and then his lips were on mine, and I tasted my essence on him.
I wiped at his mouth and beard with my palm. “You taste like me now.”
“Good,” he murmured, and then backed away. “You’re distracting me, Kyrie.”
He plucked a scrap of black lace off the bed, a slinky, tiny pair of lingerie panties. Taking one of my feet in his hands, Valentine slipped my leg through one side and eased my other foot through, and then lifted me to my feet so he could draw them up the rest of the way. I kept my eyes on his as I adjusted them slightly, and then he was helping my arm through the strap of a matching bra. I couldn’t help but laugh when he tried to hook the bra on behind my back, and couldn’t quite manage it.
“Never put one on before,” he mumbled. “Harder than taking it off, it seems.”
“That’s not how I put them on anyway,” I said. “I hook it first, get myself adjusted in the cups, and then put the straps on.” I showed him what I meant, and he watched, rapt, as I tucked my boobs into the soft, cool silk and lace of the bra.
By the time I was finished with that, he was unzipping the back of the dress and holding it out for me. I stepped into it and pulled it up, and then he was spinning me in place, pulling the zipper up. He took several steps backward, away from me, passing a hand across his mouth as if overcome.
“You…Kyrie, you’re so beautiful. You take my breath away. You know that?”
I scraped my hand across my stubbled scalp self-consciously. “Roth, I don’t feel—”
He was there in front of me, one hand on my waist, the other cupping my cheek, then moving over my head. “I like it, rather.”
I laughed, disbelieving. “Okay, sure,” I said, my voice dripping sarcasm.
He shook his head. “I’m serious, Kyrie.” His lips touched my forehead, then my temple, and then he tucked me against his chest and kissed the top of my head. “It accentuates how perfect your face is. It makes your eyes so huge, and so, so blue.”
I laughed. “You just say that because you love me.”
He shrugged. “True. I do love you. More than I could ever say, or ever hope to make you understand.” His fingers touched my chin, lifting my face so I was looking up into his intense, vulnerable gaze. “But Kyrie, you are beautiful. More than beautiful. You are lovely. Perfect. Gorgeous. I don’t think I can find all the words to describe how breathtaking you are.”
“You really think so? Even like this?” I couldn’t help but run my hand where my hair used to be.
“You think I could possibly find you any less incredible merely because of your hair?” He frowned at me, cupped my cheeks with both huge hands. “You haven’t seen yourself in the mirror, have you?”
He pulled me toward the stairs and descended backward behind me, holding my hands in his. I made it down the steps on my own this time, and he brought me past the bathroom to a pair of double doors, which opened into a massive walk-in closet. He guided me to the center of the room and pivoted me in place so I faced a full-length mirror.
I hadn’t seen myself in a mirror yet, I realized.
Maybe it was because I had Valentine behind me, or maybe it was because I had his words ringing in my ears. Or maybe it was because I really was beautiful. All I knew was that, looking at myself in the mirror, that I felt beautiful. He was right. My eyes were huge, vividly blue, standing out in my face even more now than when I had a full head of hair. My head was a smooth round curve, my cheekbones high and sharp, my jawline strong but still feminine and delicate.
I looked strong. Striking.
“See?” His voice rumbled at my ear. “You could never be anything less than perfect.”
He reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out the jewelry box, holding it in front of me with one hand, reaching around my body with the other arm. When he lifted the lid, my breath left me. It was the same set of emerald earrings and necklace I’d worn to the Met, so many months ago. A lifetime ago, it felt like. He set the box in my hands and lifted the necklace free, draped it across my neck, and fastened it.
“I don’t think I can manage the earrings,” he said, grinning in embarrassment.
I slipped one hook in, and then the other.
He pressed his cheek next to mine. “Do you see yourself, Kyrie? Do you see how lovely you are?”
I held in my breath, fighting to speak evenly. “All I see is your love, Valentine.”
He kissed my cheek. “That works, too.” He took my hand and pulled me away from the mirror. “Come on. There’s more.”
There was an elevator, thankfully. It was glass-faced in front and back, the cables whirring on either side. The sun had sunk below the horizon, bathing the rolling waves in fading orange and purple and crimson, darkness lowering quickly. The elevator slid to a gentle stop, the polished metal doors opened, and Roth was leading me across the deck of the boat. The cabins rose up behind us, a sleek expanse of tinted black glass and white walls between each level. The deck was a long spearhead, the prow some eighty feet ahead of us.
In the very bow of the boat was a single round table, draped with black cloth, several thick white candles clustered in the center, lit, flickering flames dancing. A stand with a silver bucket stood to one side, containing a chilling bottle of champagne. Valentine tangled our fingers together and led me across the deck, turning back to look at me every few steps, his eyes glittering with happiness and excitement and love. My heart thudded in my chest even as I was melting for him. He stood behind one of the chairs, pulled it out, and slid it in as I sat down.
Once he was seated, a door opened somewhere, and an attractive young man approached, dressed in black with a server’s black apron tied around his waist. He plucked the bottle of champagne from the bucket and deftly opened it without a word, pouring a measure into my glass and then Roth’s. He bowed at the waist, and retreated, even as another, nearly identical man appeared, carrying a tray piled high with covered plates. He arranged them on the table, pulled off the covers, and identified the dishes in thickly accented English. I wasn’t paying attention to anything he said, though; I was too busy staring at Roth and at the ship and at the incredible beauty of the sea. We were anchored within sight of shore, although I had no idea where we were. The deck rolled gently with the waves. The sun had fully set, and darkness was thick around us already, stars pricking the sky one by one.