The little plaintive cry only made the beast breathe hard. All it could think right now was whether she would make the exact same sound if the beast touched her—-
Its searing gaze slowly lifted to her face.
Arabella suddenly felt her throat tighten and her breast catch. Tension came out from nowhere, infiltrating the room, and restlessness burst inside of her. Bewildered, she raised her gaze back to the mirror—-
She suddenly knew he was watching her—-
But it was just not that this time.
No, this time Aurélien Sauvage was devouring her with his gaze, and his hunger was so that she could actually feel its heat caressing her skin. Her lips parted in a silent gasp, and she started to tremble.
It was the softest whimper, but the beast’s cock swelled and hardened at the sound. Desire laced its blood, demanding to be satiated for all the weeks it had burned unanswered inside the beast’s body.
The beast looked at Arabella once more, saw the way her lips were still parted, almost like she was waiting for a taste of its cock—-
And when it saw Arabella’s pink tongue dart out to wet her lips—-
“You would want that, don’t you?” the beast rasped.
Arabella shook her head. “Want w-what?”
“I have never watched you undress yourself. I have never watched you in the bath. But you would want that, don’t you?”
Voyeuristic images invaded her mind, tempting her, seducing her, and suddenly all she could imagine was how it would feel to have him watching her undress, to have him spy on her as she stepped into the bath—-
Her breasts swelled behind the cups of her bra, and she stumbled back, the sensation leaving her shaken and appalled.
She could still feel his gaze on her, making her breasts swell even more, and when her nipples started to pucker, she cried out, “No!” But she knew, deep inside, her denial was nothing but a lie. “I wouldn’t ever want—-”
“And yet your body says yes.”
Even knowing it was too late, Arabella hastily covered her chest to hide the damning evidence of her need.
A hoarse chuckle.
“Do not be embarrassed,” was the silky response. “My desire is far greater than yours because I know exactly what I’m missing.”
Her body trembled harder at his words, and as her breasts swelled more painfully, she could only shake her head in futile denial of what was happening. “I said shut—-”
“Do you wish for us to try it now?”
Her eyes widened.
“Would you like to undress yourself before me?”
“Are you certain?”
Yes. No. And then all of a sudden it came to her, and Arabella heard herself say, “If I undress myself, w-would you show yourself to me in return?”
And as more moments passed and she realized that he wasn’t going to take her up on her offer, his silence was like a humiliating slap on the face, and without a word, she spun and walked away.
Oh God, had she really thought seeing her nude would mean so much to him?
How could she be so conceited?
When the beast saw Arabella’s shoulders start to shake, it cursed under its breath, realizing that Arabella had misunderstood its silence. “Arabella—-”
“Leave me,” she choked out.
The beast whitened at the sound of hurt mortification in her words. C’était un imbécile. He was a fool. A goddamn fool, to keep hurting her when all he had meant to do was cherish her.
As Arabella curled herself into a ball under the covers, she felt the whispery sound of footsteps, treading closer towards her—-
She squeezed her eyes shut. She knew he was making himself heard, but she no longer cared. It was too late.
She shook her head even as tears silently flowed down her cheeks.
“Je suis désolé.” I’m sorry. “But you misunderstand.” The beast swallowed hard. “To have you offer such a thing was – is – beyond my wildest imaginations, something I never even dared myself hope.”
She wished she could say she didn’t believe a word he was saying, but she couldn’t. Even with all the hurt inside of her, she couldn’t just ignore the bleakness that underlined his voice, and she hurt even more. Because of it. And for him.
“Then why?” Arabella whispered without looking at him.
“Because I am a coward.” The harsh words were ripped out of him. “I cannot let you see me yet, Arabella. Please understand. I just cannot.”
And that was when she felt it—-
The softest touch on her hair.
Her teeth sank into her lower lip to stop it from trembling.
It was the first time for him to come so close, the first time for her to feel his touch.
“Please do not ask to see me just yet, ma belle. I beg you—-”
A painful gasp escaped her. “Oh, Aurélien.” It was only then she realized just how much it meant to him, and her heart ached all the more. What kind of scars could this man bear, to be so terrified to show himself?