In His Keeping

Page 52

She flinched at her choice of words. They sounded stark and crude and she was surprised by them. That she'd actually voiced the last bit. The expression had wafted through her mind just as she'd mentioned him turning her down and just spilled out before she could think better of using it, and now she was ashamed at her language because regardless of his reasons for making love to her, it had been beautiful, soul-stirring, and she'd reduced it to a crude euphemism.
"Pity fuck?"
The words sounded strangled. Anger radiated from him in strong surges and she immediately regretted blurting out her thoughts in a single unguarded moment, a mistake she couldn't take back and one that could very well completely wipe out an exquisite coming together of hearts and souls.
"Do you honestly not see yourself?" he asked incredulously.
He shocked the crap out of her by easing out of her aching, hypersensitive, swollen tissues and then simply scooped her up and carried her into the bathroom. Naked.
He gently set her down in front of the mirror and stood behind her, forcing her to look at her reflection. Color stained her cheeks as she took in her disheveled appearance.
She had the look of a woman who'd just been thoroughly made love to. Lips swollen. Eyes still glazed from the remnants of her mind-blowing orgasm and yet they glowed brightly, making them appear particularly brilliant in the lower lighting the bathroom cast.
He framed her body between his hands, one on either side of her, allowing his palms to roam freely up and down her and over her curves, to her breasts, holding them from underneath, thrusting them upward so there was no possible way not to see the puckered, taut crests, also swollen from his tender ministrations.

"You're beautiful," he said hoarsely. "But you're the most beautiful in a way you probably don't think. I'd say it's obvious you don't see yourself the way I do. The heart of you."
He laid his hand over her chest, splaying his fingers possessively.
"Let me tell you what I see."
She held her breath, yearning. So filled with hope and yet afraid to allow herself even a kernel of it when she could so easily be crushed by his rejection of her.
"I see a beautiful, loyal, brave young woman who places the people she loves before herself and her own safety. Not many people would be as selfless as you are. You gave me a gift, Ari. Do you realize how humbled and absolutely gutted I was that you chose me to be your first? And yet you don't think I chose you? That I gave you a goddamn pity fuck?"
She winced upon hearing her words thrown back at her again. Because now, in light of his reaction, and all that he was doing in an attempt to reassure her, it would look as though she'd been chasing compliments from him. Ultimate female manipulation. And it made her cringe, not to mention feel hugely embarrassed and if possible, even more self-conscious.

"Not only do you sell yourself short and do yourself a huge disservice, but you do the same to me to even suggest I'd use my body as an object of pity. That I would pour my soul into making love to you, as you deserve to be made love to. I get that you struggle with confidence. But do not ever show yourself such disrespect in my hearing-or any damn time for that matter. Because you'll just piss me the hell off."
She swallowed and slowly nodded just as he leaned in to nuzzle her neck. Even as ultrasensitive as she was after her orgasm, her body reacted violently to his touch. To the sizzling heat that erupted between them when they got into touching range.
He rained kisses down the entire curve of her neck until he got to the top of her shoulder and then he simply pulled her backward, her back flush against his chest, and he wrapped his arms securely around her.
Their reflection presented such an intimate, erotic, picture in the mirror that she instantly committed it to memory, never wanting this memory to fade, to always be able to bring it sharply back into focus.
Because it was one she'd never forget. A night of so many firsts for her.
He rested his chin atop her head, staring directly at her in the mirror, his gaze seeking. Evidently satisfied by what he found or that at the very least he had found what it was he was looking for in her expression, he gave her one last squeeze and then turned her around so she faced him.
He cupped her chin, his thumb whispering over her cheek. There was no anger or judgment in his dark eyes. Just unwavering resolve. Comfort and warmth spread through her limbs, infused into her bloodstream and rapidly pumped to the rest of her body. Euphoria once again wrapped her in its intoxicating embrace and she relaxed in his hold, allowing her body to mold itself to his. A perfect fit.
"Look at the mirror, Ari," he murmured, his lips brushing the hair just behind the shell of her ear. "See how beautiful you are. Really see."
Reluctantly, she turned and complied with his gentle request and what she saw surprised her as she looked at herself through objective eyes, as though it weren't her, but another woman. It was as if it were the first time she saw herself without the self-imposed filter.
She looked . . . beautiful. More importantly, Beau made her feel beautiful. And desirable. Like a woman he chose, not someone he was "talked" into making love to. Now, away from that vulnerable moment when she'd been stripped bare and was so raw and exposed from the power of their lovemaking, she knew just how ridiculous her original thought-fear-had been.
Beau was not a man easily manipulated. For that matter manipulated at all-by anyone.
She wanted to apologize, but it would only make things worse and that the best thing she could do was simply acknowledge what he saw and what she now saw.