But they had had different priorities—Cassie had real ones: to care for her child, and now to love and be loved by her husband. Liss ached for that sort of fulfilment. Instead here she was still making the same mistakes she’d been making five years ago—looking for love, for acceptance in all the wrong places. What a fool she’d been for so long. Now, when she wanted things to be different, she didn’t know where to start.
‘Yeah.’ She looked harder at her screen. The party—she’d focus on the party. But she saw the blank spot under ‘entertainment’. She was so desperate she was seriously considering doing a compilation on her MP3
player and feeding it into the ballroom’s sound system. She blinked again—hoping that by magic something would appear under the heading. And she wished James would go back to his desk so she could get over the moment of self-pity. She could see him out of the corner of her eye, studying her, making her feel self-conscious.
The next thing she knew he stepped forward and pushed the lid of her laptop down. She looked up in horror.
‘It saves automatically.’ He smiled away her anxiety. Then she saw the warmth in his expression. She hurriedly looked down at the computer again. When he looked like that he seemed so dangerously approachable. She couldn’t afford to unload to him. Probably by the time they went back to Sydney their affair would be over. It was only until the attraction went away, after all. Was it for him already? For her it was only worsening. She couldn’t admit that to him, couldn’t admit to any of the turmoil inside. She’d sound like some silly, needy girl. She had everything—youth, looks, fame and fortune. How could she complain?
Spoilt wasn’t the word.
All she wanted was to lie in bed and be held and, damn it, maybe even cry. But she didn’t want to admit she was tired—didn’t want him to think she couldn’t handle either hard work or him.
He seemed to understand anyway—part of the problem at least. ‘I’m tired too.’ He took her hand and tugged her up. ‘Come on. We need a rest.’
She didn’t think a rest was what he had in mind and she didn’t know if she was up to anything much more.
But he surprised her. He pushed her onto the bed, set about removing her clothes, not with passionate ardour but with caring gentleness that made her heart ache all the more. After stripping himself, he slipped under the covers with her and just cuddled up behind her, his arms warm and strong as they surrounded her.
She turned to look at him, saw the gleam under his heavy lids. The passion was there but he was reining it in. And then it seemed she did have a little energy. She couldn’t lie here and not touch him. And she was filled with an almost desperate need to have him want her despite his obvious exhaustion. She had to know that the need for each other was greater than the need for anything else—that he wasn’t tired of her already, that it wasn’t almost over.
She kissed him, set the spark to the smoulder, and as she kissed him her desperate need opened up. She was lost. She didn’t have the energy to keep up her front any more and with her mouth, with her arms, she took and she took and she took. This was raw. This was real. The depth of feeling was totally foreign to her. And she couldn’t hide how much it affected her. She twisted in his arms, unable to get enough of his caresses, unable to satisfy her need to touch him.
‘Enjoying yourself, princess?’ he asked as she pulled at his shoulders, encouraging him to move over her.
‘Oh, James…’ she breathed as he pushed inside her slick, wet space. She lifted her hips to ease his entry, letting him slide all the way in one smooth stroke.
God, she loved this. She loved him. She muttered his name again, tears building beneath her closed lids as the enormity of the moment, the realisation of her emotion, hit her.
‘Oh, James, what?’ he asked.
She heard it then, the familiar touch of sarcasm. The slight mockery rasping underneath the note of desire.
He retained sense while she was spinning so dizzily under a tide of love. Her heart was lost while he kept his.
And she hated it. For a second hated him with the same passion with which she wanted him, with which she loved him. That he could be so coolly lucid at a moment so sublime stopped her from saying more.
She hoped he had no idea what was on the tip of her tongue. No clue as to what she longed to say to him.
She was a fool.
Emotionally she tried to close off but couldn’t. He wouldn’t let her. With his kisses and touches he teased her until she could no longer think, could no longer hide behind any barriers she thought she’d built.