Delivering a sizzling kiss that promised more passion in store, he stroked her cheek and turned. She watched him amble toward his kitchen, offering a spectacular rear view. He was muscular, masculine perfection. Not over-developed like Trevor’s compact bulk, but tall, athletic, divinely proportioned. She marveled as she had looking up at Michelangelo’s David in Florence for the first time.
Logan seemed unaffected by his nudity. As if it were ordinary to have mind-blowing sex against his great room wall and then strut around naked and still half-hard.
By contrast, her whole body blushed, infused with awkward self-consciousness. A wet trickle oozed down her inner thigh. Alarmed, she raced for the closest cover, an Aztec-design blanket draped over the back of his sofa. She whipped it around herself.
Then, seeing their clothes strewn across the floor, a lamp on a nearby table teetering, and the picture askew on his wall, she descended into panic. An old, dark instinct for self-preservation seized her. She scooped their clothes off the ground, folded them clumsily, righted the lamp, and reached for the crooked picture frame.
“Allison. What are you doing?”
She froze. She’d tried to make things perfect before he returned. “I’m sorry.”
She reached for the frame again. “I’ll make it right.”
Repentant, she obeyed his order and faced him. Like a child bracing for punishment.
Logan stood stock-still, a towel in one hand and a heaping bowl of ice cream the other. He stared at her. “What’s wrong?”
Shame scorched her bare skin. “I didn’t mean to make a mess.”
Her lips parted. “You’re not angry?”
“Why would I be?” Approaching her, he grinned. “I happen to like seeing your clothes on my floor, and having you naked in my house.” Slinging the towel over his shoulder, he transferred the bowl to his other hand and reached for her.
She tensed. His arm lowered to his side.
Concern flashed in his eyes. “I thought since I had my dessert, you’d like some, too.”
“How nice,” she murmured, unsure of his ulterior motive. The first time they’d had sex she’d left his hotel room before dawn, the space immaculate as if she’d never been there. She gestured at the rumpled clothes, the cockeyed picture. “I will clean it up, I promise.”
“I don’t care. Why are we even talking about this?”
She stared at the floor.
He studied her for a long moment. “Look at me.”
She forced herself to meet his eyes. She wasn’t certain what she’d find there.
All that awaited her was compassion, and something else. She couldn’t identify the churning emotions in his stare. He didn’t look pleased, but he didn’t appear angry with her. More like a stark revelation taking hold.
“My God, Allison. What did he put you through?”
Dampness seeped along her lashes. It was the first time anyone asked her that. At last, recognition of what she’d endured in her marriage, even though he didn’t know the half of it. No one cared to hear about someone’s broken, damaged life. She learned that quick, the first time Trevor smashed a vase against the wall beside her head. Shocked and shaken, she’d gone to her neighbor on the military base the next day, a woman with weary eyes and three toddlers tugging at her apron, who’d told her to shut up and pretend it had never happened. Most people liked drifting through life on the surface of things, never getting more involved than the minimum social requirements.
Logan, however, was not most people.
She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or terrified. Knowledge was power. A weapon Trevor had wielded with rapier precision, cutting her down until she’d almost believed he was the only person who’d tolerate such a stupid selfish woman. Almost. There’d been a whisper of knowing, a thread of self-respect she’d clung to telling her she didn’t deserve his cruelty for a lifetime. She’d guarded that fiercely, afraid if someone knew the truth of what she’d experienced that fragile cord would snap.
She dangled by that thread now.
Her eyes pleaded with Logan not to force a confession or make her recount the facts she’d worked too hard to bury. The vulnerability of revealing the truth would be unbearable.
“Come here,” he said softly, holding out his arm again.
Tentatively, she stepped toward him. He enfolded her in a powerful embrace. For a moment it seemed as if his arms alone could shield her from the hell she’d left behind.
He held her. Just held her, like he’d never let go.
Gradually, her defenses yielded. Her body gave up its tenseness, easing until her physical and emotional weight rested in his effortless strength. As if she was no burden at all.
He kissed her hair. His lips were soft. His grip was firm and steadfast.
She had never felt so safe. Sheltered from whatever fate hurled at her.
There was one thing remarkably absent.
“Personally,” he said, “I could stay like this all night. But your dessert is melting. All over the place.”
“Oh.” She looked at the bowl in his hands, dipping with soggy white froth. Her eyes widened. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She reached for the towel on his shoulder to clean up the goop.
“Uh-uh.” He pointed to the couch. “Sit down and eat before it turns into soup.”
“But the floor—”
He eyed her sternly. “I’ve got it.”
Once she complied, Logan returned to the kitchen.
Running a dishtowel under warm water, he released the breath he’d been holding. The one that had held back his full-scale fury. His fist clenched the towel, squeezing out every drop of water he’d used to moisten it.
He figured it had been bad for her with Trevor. He hadn’t realized how bad.
As he’d held her, she’d revealed the truth. She didn’t have to say a thing.
Dropping the towel, he gripped the edge of the sink until his arm muscles shook. If his counters were made of less than granite they might’ve cracked. He lowered his head. He was so damn close to everything he wanted. Except that an abusive scumbag had scarred Allison so deeply she hadn’t healed. She didn’t even know what a decent relationship looked like.
In her fragile state, Allison might not get through this pregnancy. The thought shattered him. His sister Stephanie had suffered a miscarriage, which Logan had linked to the emotional devastation of losing Dad to cancer three years ago. He couldn’t handle that.