‘I’m offering a word of caution. I don’t wish to frighten you so perhaps you should leave now,’ he grated out. ‘Or stay, if you’re brave enough. I accept that the choice is yours. But decide quickly.’

Contrary to his words, his fingers caught and imprisoned a thick strand of her hair, his movement almost reflexive as he passed the tresses through his fingers repeatedly.

Caught in a sensation so alien and yet so right, Perla closed that last tiny gap between them. Strong hands immediately caught her to him. She collided with over six feet of lean muscle that knocked the air out of her lungs.

Before she could draw breath, his lips settled over hers. Every thought flew out of her head as she became lost in pure, electric sensation. He kissed her as if she was life-giving oxygen, as if he needed her to survive. That knowledge more than anything caught a fragile spot inside her; shook it free and allowed her to enjoy this, to become a part of this small healing process that they both needed.

With a groan, she pressed herself closer until she could feel his heartbeat against her breasts, the ridged chest muscles crushing her softer ones. Both his hands encompassed her waist and lifted her up onto the bonnet of her car. Then he plunged both fingers into her hair, angled her face up to his and proceeded to dive deeper into their kiss.

Only the need for air finally separated them.

Perla’s breaths puffed out into the cool night and threatened to cease altogether when she saw the smear of scarlet on his lips.

Reaching up, she touched his mouth. He made a sound of mingled pain and pleasure and she almost lost her mind.

‘I...I...’ She wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to say. Only that she needed to make sense of what was happening to her. ‘Is that enough?’ From the depths of her soul came a yearning for him to say no.

When he shook his head, her heart soared.

‘No, it’s not. The taste of you is intoxicating. I want to drown in you.’ He captured her face in his hands and kissed her some more, murmuring phrases in Greek she had no hope of understanding. When he released her, he was breathing hard. Pulling her close, he rested his forehead against hers. ‘Theos...this is madness, but I can’t let you go. Not yet.’ He pulled back and tilted her face to his, his hazel eyes swirling with the same potent need that twisted inside her. ‘Stay with me tonight, Pearl.’

Her decision was instant; so frighteningly committed that she forced herself to remain silent when she wanted to blurt it out. Her fingers moved again over his soft, sensual lips. He captured them and kissed her knuckle. It occurred to her that she held his phone in her other hand. One small movement of her thumb and this would be over—decision made.

Or she could give the answer she wanted, no, needed to give. Take back a small piece of herself before she had to face the world again.

‘I don’t even know your name,’ she ventured.

‘My name is Arion. If it pleases you, you can call me Ari.’

She shook her head. ‘It pleases me to call you Arion.’

She loved the way her lips curled around his name. So much so, she said it again. ‘Arion...’

His eyes darkened. ‘You like my name?’ he rasped.

‘I love your name. I’ve never heard it before... Arion.’ She couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out one more time.

He caught her up to him and banded one arm around her waist. His laser-like gaze scoured her face as if he was trying to read her innermost thoughts. ‘The way you say my name... You are dangerous, Pearl mou.’

Laughter, long suppressed under the pain of just existing, scratched from her throat. ‘Wow...I’m dangerous? That’s a first.’

‘What have other men called you?’

The question sobered her up. Familiar humiliation threatened to crawl over her but she determinedly pushed it away. Tonight was her night, her choice. She refused to let thoughts of past failures intrude.

‘What do you think they’ve called me?’

‘Breathtaking. Stunning. A beauty Aphrodite herself would be jealous of,’ he breathed against her neck as his lips caressed her skin. ‘Your hair is incredible, the colour of a Greek sunset.’

Perla’s breath hitched in her lungs. Unbidden, tears sprang into her eyes. Blinking wildly before he spotted them, she forced herself not to be drawn in by the seductive words.

‘Am I close?’ He lifted his head and rubbed his stubble—as rough as she’d imagined it would be—against her cheek.

Liquid heat melted her insides.

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