He did what she asked and felt her magic slide inside him, even as he felt her fingers, coated with soothing balm, slide over his abraded flesh.

He could see it, the warm red of her energy. Taste it, sharp and sweet, like the first bite of a succulent plum. The heavy scent of her, of poppies, clouded his senses.

Drifting, he heard her quiet chant. Without thinking, he turned his head, rubbed his cheek against her forearm.

"I see you in my sleep. I hear your voice inside my head. " As he slid along the silk of her power, he spoke in Gaelic. The language of his blood. "I ache for you, even when I'm with you. Always you. "

When he felt her slipping out of him, he struggled to hold on. But she slid away, and he was left blinking in confusion and swaying in the kitchen chair.

"Ssh. " Her fingers were gentle as she stroked his hair. "Take a moment. "

As his mind cleared, he fisted his hands on the table. "You took me under. You had no right - "

"It would've been painful otherwise. "

She'd never been able to stand back from someone's pain. Turning from him, she capped her jars carefully, gave herself time to settle. Easing his pain had brought on her own. His Gaelic words had bruised her heart.

"And you're hardly one to throw rights in my face now. I can't fully erase the wounds. That's beyond my capabilities. But they'll heal quickly enough now. "

He angled his head to look at his shoulder. He could barely see the marks, and there was no discomfort. The surprise of that had him studying her. "You've improved. "

"I've spent considerable time exploring and refining my gifts. " She replaced her jars, then simply lowered her hands to the counter. "I'm so angry with you. So . . . I need the air. "

She crossed to the door and walked outside.

She went to the pool, watched the fish dart gold beneath the lily pads. As she heard him come up behind her, she cupped her elbows with her hands.

"Then be angry. Spit and swear. It won't change a thing. I have a part in this, Mia. I am part of this. Whether you like it or not. "

"Impulse and machismo have no part in this. Whether you like it or not. "

If she thought he would apologize for what he'd done, she was going to have a long wait. "I saw an opportunity, a possibility, and I took a calculated risk. "

She spun around again. "It's my risk to take. Mine, not yours. "

"So damn sure of everything. You've always been so damn sure. Don't you ever consider there might be another way?"

"I don't question what I know here. " She pressed fists to her belly. "And what I know here. " And to her heart. "You can't take what's mine to do, and if you could - "

"If I could?"

"I wouldn't permit it. It's my birthright. "

"And mine," he countered. "If I had been able to end it last night, Mia, it would be done. "

She was more weary than angry now. "You know better. You know . " She pushed at her hair, wandered away down a garden path where spearing blades of iris fanned out, waiting for the blooming time. "Change one thing, potentially change a thousand others. Move one piece of the whole indiscriminately, and destroy the whole. There are rules, Sam, and reasons for them. "

"You were always better at rules than I was. " There was a sting of bitterness in the words, and she could taste it even as he did. "How can you expect me to stand to the side? Do you think I can't see you're not sleeping or eating well? I can feel you fighting off the fear, and it rips at me. "

She'd turned back as he spoke. How well she remembered that dark anger in him, that restless passion. It had drawn her to the boy. And, God help her, it drew her to the man.

"If I wasn't afraid, I'd be stupid," she pointed out. "I'm not stupid. You can't go behind my back this way. You can't challenge again what comes for me. I want your word. "

"You can't have it. "

"Let's try to be sensible. "

"No. " He took her arms, yanked her against him. "Let's try something else. "

Hot, and nearly brutal, his mouth took hers. And it was like a branding. She'd pushed and scraped at his feelings even as she'd eased his wound. She'd opened him, tangled herself inside him only to leave him empty again. Now he needed something, would take something back.

His arms pinned hers, leaving her unable to struggle or accept. Leaving her helplessly trapped in a kiss that was all hunger, little heart. The thrill of that, her own pleasure in it, shocked and shamed her. Still, she could have stopped him. She needed only her mind for that. But it was so crowded with him, just as her body was crowded with need.

"I can't stand it. " He tore his mouth from hers to race his lips over her face. "Be with me or damn me, but do it now. "

She lifted her head until their eyes met. "And if I told you to go? To take your hands off me and go?"

He ran his hand up her back, into her hair. Fisted it there. "Don't. "

She'd thought she wanted him to suffer. Now that she could see he was, she couldn't bear it. For either of them.

"Then come inside, and we'll be with each other. "


Tags: Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island Romance
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