“How terrible,” she said and gingerly put her hand on his arm. He glanced down at her hand for a long moment, making her wonder if she should pull it away. “Are you trying to find him?”

He sighed and lifted his gaze to hers. “Always. I was the one who was supposed to be travelling with my father that day. Leo was there in my place.”


Her heart wrenched at the deep-seated guilt on his face. “Oh, no. You don’t really blame yourself. You were just a child. You couldn’t have possibly—”

He jerked his arm away. “Enough. This subject is off limits. I’m going to bed.” He stood and stalked out of the room, leaving her reeling in his wake.

The depth of the grief and guilt she’d glimpsed in his eyes shook her. Michael might project himself as a self-contained man with little emotion, but she’d just seen something different. He had clearly suffered over the loss of his brother for years. Bella wondered what that must be like, to blame oneself for the loss of a brother. Absolution would be impossible for a man like Michael. She sensed that he would be harder on himself than anyone else. In this case, he didn’t have resolution either.

A yawning pain stretched inside Bella. She bit her lip, glancing into the gas fire. She felt a strange instinct to comfort him, to salve the wounds of his losses. He spoke about his upbringing in a matter-of-fact way, as if the losses had been efficiently compartmentalized. But they hadn’t.

“Miss St. Clair, I’m Glenda. Can I get anything for you?” a woman said from just a few feet away.

Bella looked at Glenda, still hung up on what she’d just learned about Michael. He was human after all.

“Would you like something else to eat?” Glenda asked. “Dessert?”

Unable to imagine eating another bite, Bella shook her head. “No, but thank you very much. I’ll just take my dishes to the kitchen.”

“Oh, no,” Glenda said. “I’ll do that. Are you sure there’s nothing else I can do for you?”

Bella picked up her glass of wine and took a sip for fortitude. “Nothing, thank you.”

Rising, she glanced in the direction of the hallway that would take her to her room and the stairway that would take her to Michael’s.

Six


H e heard the door to his bedroom open and the soft pad of her feet against the hardwood floor before she stepped on to the sheepskin rugs surrounding his big bed. He heard a rustle and a softly whispered oath. She must have stumbled a little.

He couldn’t suppress a twist of amusement. An illicit thrill rushed through him.Bella was coming to him.

He heard her soft intake of breath, as if she were bracing herself. Before she’d opened the door, he’d been a turbulent mass of emotion. Now, he was…curious.

She crawled on to his bed slowly. He waited, feeling a spurt of impatience. What was she going to do? When was she—

He felt her body against his. Her bare breasts brushed his arm. Her thighs slid against his. He felt a blast of need.

She skimmed one of her hands over his shoulder and down his chest. He felt her lips against his throat and his gut clenched at the softness, the tenderness…

Rock hard with arousal, he was more comfortable with sex and passion than tenderness. “Why are you here?” he asked, clenching his hands together, biding his time.

“I—” She made a hmm sound that vibrated against his skin. “I didn’t want you to be alone.”

He gave a rough chuckle. “I’ve been alone most of my life.”

“Not tonight,” she said.

In a swift but smooth motion, he pulled her on top of him. He felt her breathless gasp of surprise and even in the dark, could see her wide eyes. “If this is pity sex, you may get more than you bargained for.”

She paused barely a half beat. “Pity a superhero?”

He couldn’t withhold another shot of amusement, but the urgency to take her again taunted him. He took her mouth in a long kiss that made her writhe against him. He began to sweat.

“Hold on,” he muttered and slid his hands down the silky skin of her back and positioned her so that his aching erection was just at the entrance of her warm femininity.

She moaned and he pushed inside a little further. It took all his control, but he wanted to feel her need, her desperation. She arched against him then lowered her mouth to his; this time, she was the pursuer. Every part of her body seemed to talk to him—her skin, her hands, her hair…

Pulling away from him, she lifted backward and kept her gaze fastened on his. He forced himself to keep his eyes open as she bit her lip and slid down, taking all of him inside her.

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