The air shifts and I know he’s closing in on me even before he kneels on the floor at my right hip, one of his hands flattening on the small of my back. The connection scorches me, sending heat waves up over my skin. He doesn’t move; seconds tick by and he lets me wallow in the anticipation building inside me. Already my sex is tight, wet, and I am desperate to feel him inside me. No matter how much I need or want control, I also need the way he owns me in moments like these. The way he demands I give him everything and leaves room for nothing but pleasure. Desire. Him.

His fingers curl around the silk string of my panties, his hot breath fanning my hip, his teeth scraping the delicate skin beneath the fabric. “My woman,” he murmurs, and as much as that one word defies my need to rule my life once and for all, it’s erotic and right in a way I can’t begin to examine right here and now. “My wife soon. Not soon enough.”

Wife. The word does funny things to my stomach. “Yes,” I whisper.

He nips my skin again, and I yelp. His tongue does a lavish swirl over the sting I swear I feel in my sex, in my nipples. I fight the urge to reach for him and my fingers curl on the wall. His hand flattens on my belly and I tremble with the promise of where he will go now. Where he will take me next. Slowly, his fingers walk downward, slipping under the tiny slit of black lace there. I hold my breath, waiting for the onslaught of sensations I know will follow. His fingers tease my clit, lightly caressing, and my legs wobble uncontrollably, leaving me no option but to plant my palms near my head to hold myself up.

His mouth finds my hip again, his tongue flickering erotically, his fingers straying lower, playing in the slick heat between my thighs. And then he’s in a sweet spot, so very sweet, and I squeeze my thighs together, silently pleading for him to stay there, but he doesn’t let my satisfaction win that fast. Suddenly, he moves his hand, shackling my hips and turning me to face him, leaning me against the wall.

“Hands back over your head,” he orders, his hands falling from my body, promising he won’t touch me again until I comply.

I do as he wishes, crossing my wrists above my head, staring down at him, and he is naked and beautiful, the kind of man who can make a woman beg. This woman. Because I hurt in all the places he’s still not touching me. “Please, Liam,” I whisper.

Satisfaction flickers in his gaze, as if my plea is what he’d been waiting for. He tangles his fingers into my panties, holding my stare as he oh so slowly drags them downward. They fall to my ankles and he presses his mouth to my belly, one palm on my upper thigh, his thumb flicking ever so gently on my clit. I try to suck in air but fail as over and over that thumb teases me, the delicate friction driving me insane, enough to make me burn, but not enough to let me breathe.

“Liam,” I gasp, and again, it seems to be another plea he seeks as it has barely left my lips when his fingers slip into the wet, swollen flesh of my core and enter me. And his mouth, his gifted, amazing mouth, replaces his thumb and closes down on my now throbbing nub. The wait is over as he suckles and licks, and when my knees tremble, his hand is on my hip, holding me steady, the way he has from the moment we first met.

Somehow I keep my arms over my head, when what I want is to reach down and touch Liam. Oh how I burn to touch him. A burn that radiates through my sex and suddenly I am on the edge of the sweet, blissful place that is release. I suck in a breath that lodges in my chest, my body tensing, and then I’m there, so very there, tumbling into a place that can only be called perfection. I lose everything. Worry. Time. Pain. And when I come back to the world, Liam is holding my hips, keeping me from falling.

He kisses my belly again but this time he lingers there, his cheek settling where his lips were seconds before, as if he’s holding on to me, making his claim that he won’t lose me real. There is vulnerability in the act, the kind that he shows no one else.

No one but me. He shows me. He trusts me the way I do him. And I have never felt so loved and complete as I do in this moment.

He’s different now, the edge that was there moments before shifting to something equally dark, but free of sharp corners. My heart squeezes with the impact of what he feels, and the way he dissolves the loneliness of my past. I reach for him, my fingers slipping into the thick, dark strands of his hair. He lifts his head to fix me in a deep, dark stare, cupping both my hands in his to bring them to his lips. I sink to my knees in front of him, my hand flattening over his heart.

“I love you,” I whisper.

He cups my face. “I love you, too, but baby, I won’t apologize for protecting you.”

There are a million things I could say in that moment but he is already kissing me, deeply, passionately, the moment of tenderness transforming into something hungrier, hotter. Suddenly, we are clinging to each other, trying to get closer, hands all over each other as we tumble to the ground, lying side by side. Still kissing, still trying to get more of each other, he shifts our bodies, his thick erection pressing between my legs into the slick heat he’s created.

His mouth leaves mine but our foreheads are pressed together, and we do what we’ve said we will do. We breathe together, and it’s intense and wonderful and I swear I can feel him everywhere, in every part of me.

He pushes inside me, driving deep, and his hand slides up my back, molding my breasts to his chest. “This is where you belong. With me. That’s what matters.”

“Yes,” I whisper. “With you.”

He brushes his lips over mine, nipping my bottom lip, and the instant his tongue finds mine we are kissing again, crazy hot kissing, wild all over again. He cups my backside, anchoring me and pulling me against him, moving inside me. The carpet grinds on my leg and hip but I do not care. I just want this, I want him, but then Liam shifts me so that I am almost on top of him, my skin barely touching the floor. And I know why. He will always protect me. The way I need to protect him. The idea has me diving my fingers into his hair and arching into him. He responds, caressing my back with his palm, holding me, taking me, marrying me in a way that is beyond a piece of paper. Until we are both burying our faces in each other’s necks, panting with where we are going, where we want to be. And the way he’s grinding against my clit, thrusting inside me, I’m there again, shattering into oblivion.

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