But how could that be possible? He’d always made it clear their relationship was temporary, with no messy emotional ties. She couldn’t deny it any longer. She felt a part of him. She craved his happiness, his safety, his wellbeing in a way she’d never experienced with Stephen.

The knowledge rolled through her like thunder. She loved Michael.

“I want to wipe the thought of every other man from your mind,” he muttered against her as his muscular body pumped into her. “I want you to know that you belong to me.”

Panting from their wild lovemaking and her own realization, she buried her head against his throat, damp with sweat from his restraint.

“I know,” she said. “I know. I love you,” she whispered into his ear. “But will you ever belong to me?”

He stiffened and thrust inside her one last time, his climax written on every cell of his body and echoed on his face.

Her heart hammered as they collapsed in each other’s arms. Had she really said that? Had she really uttered the three words? Had she asked him if he would be hers? She waited, holding her breath. Maybe he would give her the words she secretly longed to hear. Maybe he would tell her that she had become so important to him that he would never let her go.

Michael stroked her hair. “Go to sleep.”

Her chest twisted with disappointment. When had this happened? When had he consumed her? And how was she going to survive knowing he didn’t love her?

She fell into a troubled sleep, but awakened when she felt the absence of his body. He was working out as usual, she thought. Her body craved more sleep, but a part of her craved seeing him more. She glanced at the clock, estimating he was fifteen minutes into his routine.

Dragging herself from the bed, she splashed her face with water and brushed her teeth then wandered down the hall to find him on the elliptical, his back to her. Knowing he still had free weights to go, she waited on the couch in their suite and leaned her head back against the wall.



Michael doubled his workout. He had never felt this way about a woman. He could have easily punched Bella’s former lover in the face. Perhaps he should have. Maybe it would have gotten his completely alien possessiveness for Bella out of his system. The woman was having a very odd effect on him. Lord knew, he wasn’t the type to take a vacation, let alone really enjoy a vacation home, but spending time with Bella without the constant press of work appealed to him. When in hell had that happened?He didn’t know what the solution was. He refused to give her up, but he wasn’t sure how to keep her. She was a woman full of passion and heart. He wanted both, but he didn’t possess much of the latter, and hadn’t for a long time. Giving up his heart had been necessary for survival. If he didn’t care, then he wouldn’t hurt. If he didn’t hope, then he wouldn’t be disappointed. Most importantly, if he didn’t count on another human being to be with him, then he would know how to stand on his own. Always alone.

He finished his free-weight repetitions and returned to the suite. He spotted Bella asleep, propped on the couch. His throat tightened with an odd emotion. She looked so sweet and vulnerable.

He bent down beside her and just looked at her for a long moment. Her dark eyelashes fanned out from ivory skin with just a little pink from the Cayman sun left in her cheeks. He felt a stir of pleasure at the memory of how much she’d enjoyed the short trip. He’d already made an offer on the house. He would take her again and other places, too.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” he said, touching her soft cheek.

She stirred, looking up at him with sleepy eyes. “Hi,” she said in a husky voice.

“Hi to you. What are you doing out of bed? This is no time for angels. This is the time of demons,” he said. It had long been the hour he’d chased the demons from his mind.

“I didn’t want you to start work without getting to see you,” she said, lifting her arms.

Unable to refuse her, he sat on the couch beside her and held her. “I do have work to catch up on, but I won’t be in the office all day.”

“That’s good,” she said and looked up at him. “I’m going to visit my aunt today. I feel like I should check up on her to make sure she’s okay.”

“Any reason to believe otherwise?” he asked.

“No, but she was such a faker when I was overseas, I’m determined to keep tabs on her now.”

He chuckled and nodded. “Fool me once, shame on you,” he said, quoting the old proverb.

“Fool me twice, shame on me,” she finished and sighed as they walked into his bedroom. She looked up at him. “I forgot to thank you for coming to the wedding reception last night.”

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