Strangers & Sinners
Because, I... I don't know why. I...
Because you hate being alone, that's why.
Nick shut his eyes, the conscious thought piercing through his brain, making him feel... What?
Less of a man?
The pain began in his temples - pulsating and rhythmic - throbbing pain. It made his ears hurt.
Admit it! His conscience screamed at him. You hate to be alone! Hate to be alone! Like a neon strobe light, the words flashed across his mind, blinding him. Hate to be alone! Hate to be alone!
He clenched his jaw, falling back on his failsafe knee-jerk reaction to pain he brought on himself.
I'm okay alone, he perversely argued, blocking the words and the intense pain those words brought him.
Suffer the fools... his conscience muttered.
I like getting laid. I like sex. I like *fucking* her. That's all there is to it. Sex. Just sex. We don't have to be friends!
He couldn't believe he was having an argument with his conscience - and losing that argument - and pissed off at the results. Crap! I'm certifiable!
His conscience changed tactics. You hate being alone, it whispered. You're afraid she'll leave if you tell her more.
Fuck you! Nick tuned out, but it's hard to ignore the pounding in your head and the voice that nags and nags until you respond.
What are you afraid of, Nick? What is so god-awful about you that makes you think she'll leave? Analyze the situation.
One: You like to get laid? Good.
Two: The sex is good for her, too. That's a plus.
Three: You're okay alone, but not great. No one wants to be alone. It slipped the honeyed taunt into the scenario without missing a beat.
Four: You're angry with yourself because you don't want to remain strangers. You want more, but are too goddamn stubborn to admit it.
Five: She's better than you could ever have imagined - and sweeter. Wild mindless sex? Yeah, but look at her! You really want to kiss that goodbye?
Kiss her goodbye? That thought jolted him. He turned on his side to look at Sophie, and what he saw made him pause.
She's just a stranger, *Sergei,* his conscience tormented, vacillating between both sides of the argument. A pretty little stranger with a nice body... it paused to let the thought sink in... and she's a good lay. My advice? Don't get too chummy. Love 'em and leave 'em. There's more where that came from. Tits and ass, nothing more. And for all you know, she's a hooker.
Tits and ass? Nick looked long and hard at her sleeping form. Yeah, tits and ass and... a beautiful face... and... He bent down to kiss her. ...the softest lips... the sweetest mouth... His fingers traced the line of her jaw while he watched her.
So, she's a beauty, his irascible inner voice badgered. So what? Doesn't mean you have to go fuck-stupid over her! Christ on a crutch! Where are you going with this?
Nick knew he hated being alone. He knew getting laid wasn't the only thing in life. A good thing, yes, but, not the only thing. He wanted more, but... She's a stranger. How can I expect more from a stranger?
His conscience was uncharacteristically quiet. For the moment, Nicholas Sergei Verona was on his own.
He pulled Sophie's sleeping body on top of him, settling her head under his chin, comfortable with the way she fit in his arms. He pulled the sheet up over her shoulders and buried his face in her hair. His hands roamed over her body satisfied with the touch of her, the feel of her skin. She's soft and sweet and silk and satin and... Then, without conscious thought, he held onto her a little tighter, afraid she would disappear if he didn't.
He had been alone a long time, long before his wife died. He was used to keeping things bottled inside, not sharing feelings, not sharing ideas, not sharing fears. He was used to being alone and he hated it. He had a feeling it was going to be worse when Sophie left to go home. That thought made him blink.
I don't know her, but I don't want her to leave.
I like the way she fits in my arms. I like the silky, soft feel of her body. I like her smile. I like the taste of her...
Christ! Can you hear yourself? You sound like an ass! You know *nothing* about her. Cut the crap! And in a wheedling, know-it-all voice, it added, she's going to leave you no matter what you say or do. Don't let her break your heart, *Sergei.* Don't get all soft and mushy. You're not a green recruit. Smarten up and...
He turned them on their sides, nudging a heavy thigh in between her smaller ones and pulled the sheet down intending to suckle her breast. With one hand on the back of her neck, the other on her hip, he paused to focus on her face. What he saw made those tender feelings resurface. Her lips were full. Sulky, he thought. Pouting in her sleep.
He lowered his head to place his mouth on a nipple and felt the tension dissipate somewhat, his body beginning to relax. He was loath to admit that just holding and touching her seemed to fill every small corner of his heart.
Bullshit! his conscience snapped. She's just happens to be the right size to... to...
To cuddle? he smoothly replied. Was she born to cuddle? He didn't wait for any answers. He cuddled her and filled his mouth with her breast, and his hands with the softness of her body. He didn't want to continue the arguments about who she was and who he was and what they were doing together.
I'll worry about that later. I'll enjoy her while I have her. I'll indulge in wild, mindless sex. I'll remember our passion when she's gone. I'll...
His hands stopped roaming. His body stilled. When she's gone? He didn't know why that thought continued to hurt. He didn't want her to go - he wanted...
What, Sergei? What do you want? Will you want her when you go back to being Nick Verona? Will you want her when you're dressed in your starched shirts and custom made suits? Will you want her when you're back in your office, AD Verona? Will you still want this pretty little tiger kitten?
Yes! He didn't have to think about it. He knew he would want her in his arms and in his bed.
What about your life, Sergei? Do you want her in your life?
For now, yes. A day at a time. Let's just take it a day at a time.
Sophie stirred in his arms. Nick's muscles had tensed and then relaxed and tensed again as he argued with himself. He grasped her tighter and nuzzled her neck, his lips seeking the sweet, sensitive hollow of her throat. She made a sleepy sound when his tongue licked her and moaned softly when he sucked at her flesh.
"Sergei," she murmured, slow to awaken. "Are you going to love me again?"
"Yes," he growled softly, still feeling uneasy over the thoughts that had been chasing each other in his head.
Sophie opened her eyes completely and was mystified by what she saw. Sergei was holding her more tightly than necessary, causing her breath to catch. His body seemed hard and restless hovering over her. It excited her and it frightened her. She reached up to touch his face, searching for the man she was just beginning to know, hoping to lighten his mood.
Nick stared back into her eyes. He wanted her. The violent need he felt for her shook him. He didn't want to frighten her. He tried to force his body to relax, his arms to loosen their hold on her. It was a futile act. He had an urgent need to devour her and hide her away and keep her safe somewhere. And then possess her and devour her all over again.
His mouth came down on hers. It wasn't soft and warm and eager; it was hard and hot and ruthless. He was angry, infuriated, totally pissed off at himself for wanting her so badly, for needing her. A stranger. He held her so tightly pressed to his body she had trouble breathing. She pushed against him, trying to free his hold on her, but to no avail.
He released her mouth and rained hard kisses on her face and neck, sucking her throat, moving back to her lips. His muttered words against her mouth were incomprehensible. Sophie gulped air and stiffened. His words weren't sweet endearments. He was angry and his words were threats. She was no longer excited. She was frightened, very frightened. Her mind screamed danger but she couldn't move; she began to tremble.
"Sergei, please..." she gasped softly as his tongue pushed between her parted lips. "Please... Sergei. Please don't hurt me."
His hands swiftly moved over her body, boldly fondling, taking, claiming, and possessing. There were no gentle caresses; he was branding her - with his mouth and his hands and his hard body.
He felt a tear on his cheek and then another. Halting the frantic grasping and fondling of her body was no easy task. His brain commanded, but his hands and mouth were slow to follow. When he finally stilled his body's momentum, he lifted his head and cursed himself to all kinds of hell when he saw her tears spilling over.
"Sergei, what's wrong? What's happened?" Sophie was shaking.
"Oh, baby... my sweet kitten, I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm sorry." He pulled her up with him as he rose to his knees and held her gently, but snugly. "Kitten, Kitten," he whispered, nuzzling her neck, "did I hurt you? Are you okay?" He sat up against the headboard and pulled her onto his lap. One arm held her, the other hand gently caressing her, trying to soothe her, his eyes checking for bruises. "Did I hurt you, Kitten?" He choked the words out past the huge lump in his throat, feeling like the worst kind of monster on the planet.
She turned her flushed face to his. She was calmer now, no longer frightened. "No," she said softly, one hand touching his cheek, the other against his chest. "But you scared me. What happened, Sergei? Were you having a nightmare? You grabbed me... I couldn't breathe. You... you scared me." She searched his face, brown and gold eyes brimming with tears, looking for answers. "Are you all right?"
"I'm all right, Kitten." He kissed her tears away. "I'm all right now," he said softly, his hands gentle again. There was no way he could explain his urgent need to possess her. Hell! I can't even explain it to myself.
Sinners, that's what we are. Sinners. Sophie told herself later, as she snuggled against Sergei's chest.
Why sinners? her conscience questioned. What makes you think that? It's not like you've never been to bed with a man, it snickered.
Never enjoyed it this much, she retorted. He's strong and handsome... devilishly handsome, she sighed, snuggling closer. And there's something about him that draws me to him...
He heard her sigh and cupped her cheek, his dark chocolate eyes piercing hers as if he were searching for something. She would gladly have offered whatever it was he wanted, but she didn't know what that was. Neither did he. He kissed her brow and pulled her head back under his chin, holding her in his arms, saying nothing, just holding her close to him.
Sophie was content. She liked the feel of his arms around her and she liked the smell of him. All male and...
Isn't that the same thing? Male and testosterone?
All male and Sergei, a... distinct... it's Sergei's scent, all his own. Very...Sergei.
It's time to explain yourself, her conscience said so quietly she almost ignored the words. They hit her like a ton of bricks. She had spent the last 24 hours making love with a man she barely knew. A stranger. He had unexpectedly come to her aid and she had willingly gone home with him. Like a strumpet!
I wouldn't go that far, her conscience snapped, unhappy with the ugly word.
What would you call it? I didn't exactly reject his advances. In fact, I welcomed them!
How could you not? He's a handsome man, didn't you say so yourself?
Lots of handsome men on the planet.
Yes, but look at him, Sophie! Open your eyes and look at him! It's not just his looks. There's an aura about him; there's something unique. He's...
Sophie didn't have to look. Her head was on his chest, her hands on velvet skin over hard muscle. Her palms followed the contours of his flesh, her fingers detouring to trace each rib. His strong arms were around her and his growing erection was caught between their bellies. His heavy, muscular thighs were like stone - smooth, long, thick ribbons of stone - rippling flesh that she wanted beneath her, on top of her, anywhere as long as they were touching her.
His breath tickled her ear and she retaliated, her fingers tip-toeing up and down the sides of his torso, making him shiver and groan. You like that, Sergei? Let me see what else you like. She pressed her belly into his, lifting onto her elbows, her weight centered on his lower abdomen. His erection flared. His breathing got heavier. His arms reached up to pull her back down to him and he murmured his need for her.
Sophie pushed her troubling thoughts away and focused on the sensuous man and the pleasure he was going to give her.