He kissed her belly and then peppered a line down to the apex of her thighs.

“You don’t need me to make you feel beautiful, honey. You’re so gorgeous it hurts to look at you sometimes. Never doubt that. You don’t need any man to make you feel beautiful. You are. That’s a fact.”

She sighed and rolled her h*ps as he once more parted her folds and gently blew over her clit. Then he flicked his tongue over the taut bud, delighting in her instant, honest response.

He loved that she held nothing back. No part of herself. She put it out there, making herself vulnerable. He would protect her always. Shield her from any and all hurts. He would encourage her to be herself with him always because he’d always protect her heart and soul. With him, she could be anything at all. He’d never judge her. Never hold her back. He loved her too damn much to ever change her or make her into something she wasn’t.

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He hoped to hell that he could make her see that. That he wanted her just the way she was.

He licked her again, his fingers digging into her h*ps as he held her down and open to his mouth. He became more aggressive, growing bolder, encouraged by her response. He sucked and licked, thrusting his tongue inside her to taste her sweet honey.

He ate like a man starved, and he was. For her. He wanted her to come all over his tongue. He wanted to drink deeply of her, not wasting a single drop of her desire.

That all changed with her broken plea.

“Dash, please, I’m so close and I want you inside me. I need you inside me. I want to come with you there. Please, I need it.”

Damn if she’d ever beg him for anything. He’d promised her that. No begging. Not for anything he could give her.

And his body agreed with her desperate plea. He wanted inside her every bit as much as she wanted him there. He wanted her body to suck greedily at his cock. Wanted to feel all of that silken heat enveloping him. He wanted to come long and hard deep inside her, filling her with his release.

He broke away, his breaths coming hard, nearly panting with exertion and excitement. His dick was to the point of begging. He was so hard that it was agonizing. He wanted—needed—to be inside her. Now.

He propped himself up and over her, sweat dripping from his forehead. One hand went to her forehead, pushing away her hair as he stared down at her. With his other hand, he positioned himself between her legs, lodging the head of his c**k at her opening.

At the very first touch of her velvety heat, he nearly lost it on the spot. Teeth clenched, he called on every bit of his strength to hold himself back.

Slowly and reverently he pushed inside her, his eyes rolling back in his head at the exquisite pleasure. She wiggled and arched, trying to draw him deeper.

“Don’t,” he ground out. “I’m holding on by a very thin thread, Joss. I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want to come the minute I get deep inside you. Be very still. Let me do the work. If you move, I’m not going to make it and I want us to come together. I want you with me. Always with me.”

Her eyes glowed, her lips curving into a sensual smile. Sultry and provocative. A temptress he had no hope of resisting.

But she acquiesced to his demand. She went still beneath him, giving him complete control.

Her eyes widened, the pupils flaring when he slid all the way inside. God, he’d never felt anything like this. Bliss. Utter bliss. He’d waited for goddamn ever for this moment. He wanted it to last for f**king ever.

He could spend the rest of his life inside her and die a happy man.

“You feel so damn good, honey. I have a damn good imagination, but fantasy has nothing on the reality.”

She smiled, her eyes lighting up at his heated statement.

“I’ll be honest. I never fantasized about you,” she said. “I don’t say that to hurt you, but this is all a shock to me. I’m still reeling from it all. I never imagined this. How it would feel.”

He smiled back at her. “I don’t fault you for not fantasizing about another man when you were married. But I won’t lie. I’d like it very much if you fantasized about me now. It may be selfish but I want you to think of me as often as I think of you. And honey, I think about you constantly.”

Delight registered in her eyes, and she reached up to cup his jaw as he went still inside her, deep, surrounded by her heat.

“Who needs fantasy when you can have the real thing?” she whispered.

It was enough to send him right over the edge. He could feel his release boiling up his dick, threatening to erupt.

“I hope you’re there,” he ground out. “I can’t hold back any longer.”

Her hand caressed his face, her touch feather light and so sweet. It made his teeth ache.

“I’m there, Dash. Take us both over. Come with me.”

He withdrew and slammed forward, rocking her body with the force of his thrust. He pulled back, just an inch, and hammered home again. And again.

She closed her eyes, her face reflecting the strain, the pleasure. How very close she was to reaching completion.

“Open your eyes, honey. Let me see you come.”

Her eyelids fluttered open and she stared back at him, drugged, sluggish, like she was zoned out, in another world.

“Tell me what you need, Joss. I want you with me all the way. I’m not coming without you.”

Even as he said it he knew that if she wasn’t as close as he was, he would leave her behind. He couldn’t hold back much longer at all, and he wanted her to orgasm. This was about her and her needs. Her pleasure. Later—another time—it could be about him. Him taking but giving back as much as he took.

She was his now and he wasn’t about to let her go. He’d spend every day showing her, proving to her, that she was his first and only priority. The rest could be damned.

“I’m close,” she gasped. “Don’t stop. I’m there, Dash. Just come. Don’t worry. I’ll be there with you.”

Taking her at her word, he let his urge take over. The urge to master her, possess her, mark her. Branded. There would be harsher ways that he’d put his stamp on her. Later. They had all the time in the world and he planned to make the most of it. The last years of frustration and aching need disappeared with the knowledge that she was finally his for the taking.

He thrust hard and deep, losing himself in her satiny heat.

Their gazes locked. They both tensed for the impending explosion.

No kink. No games. Just two people expressing themselves with their bodies. Him showing her without words the impact she had on him.

He nearly cried out as his orgasm swept him away. His release burst from his cock, an explosive surge that was the perfect mixture of pain and ecstasy. He’d never felt anything to equal this. Never.

His name spilled hoarsely from her lips. Her hands flew to his shoulders, her fingernails digging into his skin, marking him much the same as he marked her. She arched upward, meeting his thrusts as he emptied himself deep inside her.

His orgasm went on and on, each thrust forcing more of his release into her womb.

He’d brought up birth control, his concern of protecting her, but at this moment, he sorely regretted that she was on birth control. There was nothing more enticing than the thought of her swollen with his child.

He knew without a doubt that if she weren’t on birth control, they would create a child. Nothing this earth-shattering could possibly result in anything else. A perfect union of heart and mind.

One day. He’d gladly give her the children she wanted so much. As many as she wanted. It would suit him perfectly for her to be barefoot and pregnant in his home. Tied to him irrevocably. Maybe that made him a chauvinistic bastard, but he didn’t give a damn.

He wanted to take care of Joss for the rest of her life. Pamper and spoil her endlessly. Surround her with his love and their children. He wanted a family with her, a family he never dreamed would be possible, but was now within reach after Carson’s death.

He regretted his best friend’s death with all his heart, but he couldn’t—wouldn’t—give up a dream that was now in his grasp just because the woman he loved had been married to his best friend.

He gathered Joss tightly into his arms, easing his weight down on her, blanketing her with his body as they both trembled with the aftershocks of their lovemaking.

His dick twitched inside her, giving up the last vestiges of his release. She was hot and tight around him, squeezing him gently as her pu**y rippled with her orgasm. He could stay this way the entire night. Deeply embedded inside her, a part of her.

She was filled with his seed, a fact that gave him immeasurable satisfaction. He wanted to mark her in other ways. More primitive ways. He wanted to see his s**en on her body. Her breasts, her ass, dripping from her mouth.

He closed his eyes, already hardening even after the most gut-wrenching orgasm of his life. She did that to him. He’d never get enough of her.

Reluctantly he withdrew from the warm clasp of her body. Judging by her muttered protest, she didn’t like it any better than he did. But he needed to take care of her needs and then he needed to ready her for sleep.

He kissed her swollen lips. “I’ll be right back, honey. I have to get a washcloth to clean us both up so we don’t mess up the sheets.”

“It may be too late for that,” she said ruefully. “You came a lot.”

He grinned. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this night. Call it pent-up frustration. You do that to me, Joss. I don’t think I’ve ever come so hard or as much in my life.”

He rolled off her, careful not to make a bigger mess. He didn’t want her sleeping on sticky sheets. He wanted only the best for her.

Now that she had moved in with him, they’d be using the bed and soiling the linens on a regular basis. He made a mental note to order several more sets of the expensive sheets that adorned his bed. He planned to get a lot of use from them.

FOURTEEN

DASH returned from the bathroom holding a damp washcloth. It was silly to be self-conscious when they’d just made love, but when he gently cleaned between her legs, wiping away the remnants of his release, heat crowded her cheeks and she found herself unable to meet his gaze.

He smiled indulgently, obviously noting her discomfort.

“Get used to it, honey. It’s my duty—and privilege—to take care of you. To see to all your needs, even the more intimate ones.”

When he was finished, he tossed the cloth aside and climbed into bed next to her. She didn’t hesitate when he pulled her to him. She cuddled into his arms and let out a contented sigh as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“That was wonderful, Dash,” she whispered. “I had no idea.”

She felt his smile, or rather sensed it. She angled her head up to see she was right. His eyes were full of tenderness and . . . joy? He looked enraptured, sated and content. His smile was lazy and a little cocky. Arrogance looked good on him. He certainly wore it well.

“I had a very good idea of how great we’d be together,” he said. “God knows I’ve dreamed about it enough. Thank goodness the reality far surpassed even my most vivid fantasies.”

She levered herself upward, pushing against his chest so she could stare down at him. His hand covered hers as though he simply had to touch her. She liked the connection. The intimacy of being held after lovemaking. She’d felt so lonely for such a long time that she savored the fact she wasn’t alone any longer.

She had someone to share things with. Her life. She was getting way ahead of herself, but she couldn’t help but hope that the best was yet to come and that each day would be better than the last.

“It must have been awful for you,” she said, her lips turning downward. “I can’t imagine wanting someone for so long and thinking you could never have her.”

He stroked her cheeks, palming her jaw as his thumb brushed over her skin.

“You were well worth the wait, honey.”

She smiled. “I’m glad you think so. I hope you don’t change your mind. I’m . . . liking this—us. I won’t lie, I’m still reeling from it all, but it feels right.”

He palmed the back of her neck and pulled her down to his mouth. He kissed her hungrily, his tongue delving deep. Hot, wet and exquisitely tender.

“Never going to happen,” he said gruffly. “I won’t change my mind, Joss, and if I have anything to say about it, neither will you. You’re stuck with me now and it will take everything you’ve got—and more—to ever get rid of me. I’m a persistent son of a bitch and I don’t back down from something I want. Ever.”

She touched her forehead to his, their breaths mingling. “I’m glad you want me. It makes me feel special and it’s been so long since I felt special to someone, Dash. I’ve been so lonely. At night I lie in my bed and I ache. I hate it.”

He pulled her into his arms and stroked his hand through her hair. He dropped kisses on the top of her head while rubbing his other hand down the length of her arm.

“I’ve been lonely too, honey. But those days are over for both of us. We have each other now.”

She nodded against him and then yawned broadly, nearly cracking her jaw with the effort.

Dash leaned over, his hold loosening on her as he reached into the nightstand drawer. She looked at him in question when he pulled out a long, satin sash.

Without a word, he took her wrist and wound the material around it, securing it in a knot. He checked the tightness, inserting his finger between the tie and her skin. Seemingly satisfied, he then secured the other end to his own wrist so that she and Dash were bound together by their wrists.

“Sometimes I’ll tie you to the bed,” he murmured. “Other times, like tonight, I’ll tie you to me.”

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