I closed my eyes, ready to pass out.

He lay down beside me, pulling my back to his chest and throwing his arm over me.

“Mine,” he whispered in my ear. I floated into a pleasurably deep sleep.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Mr. Relentless

It was fully light out when I awoke. I stretched, feeling sore but good. I was alone in bed, but I could smell coffee.

I threw on the first thing I saw in my closet. It was the thin cotton shift of a nightgown I’d worn in the hotel the first night I’d spent with James.

I made my way slowly into the kitchen. It was empty, so I passed through into the small adjoining dining room. I leaned in the doorway to soak in the sight that greeted me there.

James wore only a pair of snug dark gray boxer-briefs.

Even his underwear looks expensive, I thought.

He held a coffee mug in one hand, his other arm running restlessly through his sandy hair. He was studying the paintings I’d arranged on the walls. I studied his flawless back. It was tan, of course. And it bulged with well-defined muscles. But it was also elegant, somehow, like the rest of him. His ass looked carved from stone. Unaccountably, I wanted to bite it, but I stifled the strange urge.

I licked a finger as I approached him, then rubbed it hard on the skin of his shoulder.

I knew a lot of girls that did spray tans. If his coloring was sprayed on, a little vigorous rubbing would reveal his secret. The lovely golden shade didn’t rub off.

James shot me a baffled look over his shoulder. “You having fun back there?” he asked.

I lowered my hand, smiling sheepishly at him. “Sorry. Don’t mind me.”

He took my strange actions in stride, turning back to study the wall again.

He turned to look at me. His eyes were intense.

“Do you sell these?” He waved a hand at the wall of art.

I shook my head. “No. It’s just a hobby.”

He just raised a brow at me, raising his cup of coffee. “I made coffee.”

I nodded. “Thank you.”

I moved into the kitchen to make myself a cup.

He crowded behind me, kissing the side of my neck.

“How are you feeling?” he murmured against my skin.

“Good,” I answered, taking a long draw of the dark liquid.

“It was torture, pulling myself out of bed with you lying there. I wanted you to wake up with me inside of you. But that will have to wait. You’re still too raw.”

I rubbed my back against his chest.

“How do you know?” I asked him.

He stilled. “I suppose I don’t.”

He sighed, a heavy sound, then stepped away. “Are you going to give me the tour? I want to see your house.”

I shrugged, the thought making me self-conscious. I loved my house, and it was relatively new, and in good shape, but compared to what he was used to, it had to seem pretty shabby. Still, I showed him around.

The dinning room and kitchen connected, and the living room doubled as an entryway, so it was a very quick tour. I had my paintings hanging everywhere, and he stopped for long pauses to study all of them.

“I’m not sure I like how many pictures you have of another man hanging all over your house,” he told me with a raised brow.

I blushed, but only because I had remembered the picture I had begun of James on an easel in my backyard. I had forgotten to bring it inside, and I worried briefly that the weather had ruined it in the day I’d been away. I didn’t want him to see it even more than I didn’t want it to be ruined, though.

I’d check on it later, I decided quickly.

As for his comment about the handful of pictures I had of Stephan hanging around, I just ignored it. I wouldn’t deign to respond to comments about Stephan and I. Either he was teasing, or he was jealous. Neither would matter. If he had an issue with Stephan, I would be showing him the door.

“Are you two somehow related?” James prompted, fishing in a way that made me tense up.

“Not by blood. He’s my family, though. My only family.” I was strung tight as I watched his face for a reaction. This was a deal or no-deal moment for us.

He just nodded, looking thoughtful, but making me relax instantly.

“I like him. It seems like he protects you,” he finally said.

I felt so relieved that it scared me. I hadn’t wanted to show him the door in the worst way. That thought made me panicky.

“You have no idea,” I told him.

His eyes sharpened, and he tensed up. “What do you mean? I would like to have an idea, please.”

I just shook my head, mentally kicking myself for saying something so untactful. The idea of having no idea would drive a man like him crazy, so I came up with a palatable answer.

“Just that we’ve been together since we were fourteen, and he’s always been protective of me, since the day we met.”

“Together? What does that mean, exactly?”

I shrugged. “You know, inseparable. Best friends.”

He reached up and gripped the back of my neck lightly. His touch was light, but his eyes were hard and searching.

“What would I have to do to get you to open up to me?” he asked softly.

I didn’t like this line of conversation. My mind worked furiously to try to get out of it.

“I would imagine you’re as closed off as I am, Mr. Cavendish. So, you tell me. What would make you open up to someone?” I asked, thinking the tactic should work well.

I imagined that James’s answer would be the same as mine. Nothing.

“For you, I’d take an exchange of information. You share something, I’ll do the same. Sound fair?”

I eyed him uneasily. Unwillingly, I was tempted. Within reason.

“Do I get to choose the information I give?” I asked him cautiously.

He shrugged. “I’ll take it if that’s all I can get. I’ll do the same. I’ll start. My parents died when I was thirteen. I was left with an older cousin as a guardian. I detested him. He died a year and a half later, and it was one of the best days of my life. I disliked my next guardian, my Aunt Mildred, but she was a saint compared to the first one.”

My eyes opened wide in shock. It was a random and strangely personal revelation, giving me some insight into James. I sincerely hoped that he didn’t expect the same thing from me. I thought hard of something to tell him that I could bear to reveal. I sighed heavily when I realized the best way to distract him.

“I started painting a picture of you. It’s in the backyard. It’s embarrassing, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself,” I told him. It was a lesser evil by far, of all of the things that had popped into my head.

He grinned, and it was a heart-stopping grin. “So you do think about me, at least a little, when I’m not pursuing you relentlessly.” He headed to my bedroom, where there was a sliding glass door into the backyard.

“One second. I need to punch in the code,” I called, quickly doing so.

“Have I mentioned that I like your security?” James told me as I joined him in my bedroom.

He was opening the barred door that went over my sliding glass. It was an eyesore, but one that made me feel secure, and the bars had become popular in Vegas due to excessive break-ins, so it was fairly commonplace to see them. It didn’t even make my house stand out. I had the thick bars mounted on my bedroom’s sliding glass door, and covering all of my windows.

“Happy to please you,” I told him, and he sent me a hot look.

“You have no idea, Bianca,” he repeated my earlier words back at me. I stifled the urge to respond that I would like to have an idea.

He moved directly to the easel without asking. I just followed him. It was really a small price to pay for the knowledge he had given me. He was an orphan like me, and he’d had a rough time of it. Not homeless, but perhaps more alone. He hadn’t been blessed to find a Stephan, like I had.

He studied the painting like he did most everything. Intently. It was only a rough outline of him so far, just his face and part of his torso, wearing a V-neck as he sometimes did. He hummed low in his throat.

“It’s very good. Were you going to give it to me when you finished?”

I shook my head. “I was going to hang it in my bedroom to masturbate to,” I told him, only half-joking.

His reaction was gratifying. He sent me a look that was pure heat and appreciation.

“You ever want me to pose for you, you let me know.”

I brightened at the offer. “Yes, I do. I get much better results when I paint with my subject at hand.”

I gestured at the view of the mountains behind my house. “It’s why I have so many paintings of those.” I tried to get the courage to ask him to pose nude, but couldn’t quite do it.

“You have an extra bedroom you haven’t shown me. Show it to me.”

I wrinkled my nose at him. He was relentless, it seemed to me, about exploring every detail of my life.

He touched my nose with a finger. “It’s so cute when you do that.”

My nose wrinkled more, but then I tried to smooth it out. Being called cute by him just didn’t do it for me. In fact, it kind of annoyed me.

How many cute girls does he go through in a week? As many as he wants, I supposed.

“My guest bedroom is tiny, and just storage at the moment. It basically holds all the paintings that I don’t have room to hang.”

He started moving instantly at that. “I’d love to see them.”

I let out a frustrated noise, but the man always did what he wanted.

I leaned in the doorway while he rudely rifled through my guest room. There was a small guest bed, but even that was covered by some boxes and paintings. The room embarrassed me. I really needed to get it organized.

James made a sound of pleasure and pulled a canvas out from one of the many stacks of paintings leaning against the wall.

That was yet another reason I usually did watercolors. They took up very little space when finished. Just a piece of paper unless I framed them, whereas my numerous acrylics and few oils were on canvases that had taken over this room, my far more numerous watercolors occupied one small chest in the corner.

It was a self-portrait, I saw, as he admired it. I cringed slightly. Self-portraits weren’t my favorite. I usually only did them when I lacked for inspiration. I had painted this one a few years ago.

I’d used a picture Stephan had taken when I wasn’t looking. I was wearing my cool, composed face, and it had interested me to paint myself that way, so enigmatic. I tried to behave that way, knew people viewed me as inscrutable, but I rarely felt it. It had pleased me that other people perceived me that way, and so I had painted it.

In the painting I was leaning against a counter, the one from our old apartment. My arms rested on the counter, my head tilted up and slightly away. But my eyes were a clear, pale blue.

We’d been having a party in our small apartment, I recalled. The picture had been Stephan’s way of trying to draw me into the fun. I hadn’t even noticed him until he’d taken several shots of me. I’d used the first picture to make the painting.

“I want this,” James said softly. “Can I buy it from you?”

I gave him a very level stare. “Thats ludicrous. You can have it, if you want it. I never hang self-portraits. I can’t imagine why you would want that, though. Where would you hang a thing like that?”


Tags: R.K. Lilley Up in the Air Erotic
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