The Wrong Wife(10)

By: Eileen Wilks

She wants me. Cassie wants me.

His world shifted with that realization. Desire turned to need, to an aching imperative. He understood for the first time how a woman could drive a man to his knees … because Cassie, fey little Cassie with the fiery hair, was a woman. Not a girl. She was twenty-eight, not sixteen as she had been the first time he'd felt this way, not off limits, not forever inaccessible … oh, no, not inaccessible at all, judging by the look in her eyes.

The predator in Gideon roared to the surface of his brain while heat exploded in his body from the groin outward. Mine, he thought, already hard, impossibly ready. He reached out.

Reason didn't rise and reassert itself. The flicker of uncertainty in her eyes didn't keep him from grabbing roughly at what he wanted. Fear did.

His, not hers.

The fear didn't even have to wholly surface to send shock waves through him. Like a leviathan at the bottom of a lake it stirred, and Gideon's hand faltered just as he touched the place where the silk of her sleeve ended and the silky flesh of her arm began. I almost lost control, he thought. With the conscious thought came a dim amazement as the fear settled back into the murk.

Arousal still pulsed through him, making the tips of his fingers extraordinarily sensitive. That must have been why her skin felt so good to him, why he couldn't resist stroking it lightly. He watched her eyes darken in response, and felt a flare of triumph.

She wanted him. He wanted her, too—but he could control his desires. He had to. "Give our agreement a chance, Cassie." He slid his fingers down to her wrist and toyed with the delicate skin over her pulse point. "Be my bride. Live with me. Let me … take care of you."

Cassie's pulse was pounding. She knew Gideon could feel it. She wanted him to feel it, wanted, with a power that held her immobile, for him to go on touching her. Easily, naturally, she gave herself up to the feeling. "You just don't want to admit you made a mistake," she said, her voice husky. Cassie saw no contradiction between arguing with him and being aroused by him. "You're not very flexible, Gideon. You think that because you're married, however—" Her breath hitched as his fingers slid back up her arm, dragging tingles behind them like the frothy wake of a boat. "However accidental that marriage was, you think you should stay married. Stubborn."

"Consistent," he corrected. His fingertips slid up under the sleeve of her shirt. The small invasion felt unbearably intimate, as if he'd found some secret place on her body. "I'm a very consistent man."

"It's not logical," she insisted as his fingers trailed around to the inside of her arm … lightly. Ever so lightly. Her skin broke out in goose bumps. "You don't want to be married to me."

His mouth, that beautiful, sensual mouth, tilted up at one corner. "Don't I?" When his fingertips made a little circle on her arm, his knuckles grazed the side of her breast.

Oh, my. She swallowed so she wouldn't gasp. Or moan. "You were going to marry the Icicle. I mean Melissa. You got drunk because you couldn't marry her."

His fingers stopped moving. His eyes went still with the dark, chill quiet of a frozen pond at night. Deliberately, his eyes fixed on hers, he repeated the motion of a moment before, circling the skin on her arm with his fingertips … circling the side of her breast with his knuckles. "You're not sure if you can trust me, are you, Cassie?"

"It's not very … consistent … of you," she managed to say, "marrying me when you wanted her."

He abandoned the pretense of rubbing her arm. His knuckles skimmed up the side of her breast. "I don't want her now." Slowly his hand went down again. Up.

Helplessly her eyes closed as the undertow caught her, dragging her along like a shellfish tumbled by the tide across a gravelly ocean bed—a rough place in spite of the lightness of his caress, a place of confusion and sharp, conflicting currents.

Those hard, seemingly casual knuckles traced the curve of her breast, dipping under it, coming close to the nipple on the way up. Half of her breast seemed to catch the heat from his hand and reflect it back at him. The other half was cold, aching, bereft. His touch skimmed under her breast, around, closer to the tip, nearly touching it … nearly … circling…


Her own longing forced her eyes open. He wasn't looking at her face anymore. He stared openly at her breasts, at the bumps her nipples made beneath the silk—the nipples he'd made harden, but refused to touch.

She grabbed his wrist. Her breath came hard, as if she'd been running. She didn't know if she was going to shove his arm away or move his hand where she needed it. "What do you want?" she demanded hoarsely. "I have to know what you want from this marriage." Sex? she thought wildly. He'd never wanted her before. Maybe his body remembered last night, though, even if his mind didn't, because he wanted her now. Was sex enough to begin a marriage with? Could she accept it, if that was all he wanted from her?

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