Authors: Connie Mason
Chris looked up at her, his face stark with an emotion she couldn't read. “I can understand your reluctance to return to England, Sophia, but . . .”
“Go farther back than that. Go back seven years. Make me understand why you told me you loved me, then accepted Desmond's proposal.”
“I did love you, Chris.”
“No, you didn't. You enjoyed having the attention of two men, teasing us with your wicked-as-sin eyes and lying mouth. Why did you do it?”
His eyes seemed to beg her for an honest reply, but Sophia hesitated. What good would it do? He already thought the worst of her. He had broken her heart once; she wouldn't allow it to happen again.
“Perhaps I did enjoy the attention of two handsome men,” Sophia lied. “I was young and, yes, foolish, and could see no harm in it.”
“No harm!” Chris spat. “How in God's name can you say there was no harm in Desmond's death?”
“I can't, but I wasn't the one who killed him,” Sophia whispered. Chris's stricken look made her wish she could call back her words.
He stood abruptly and stalked off.
Chris stormed back to the house, entered his study and slammed the door. Sophia's words had cut him deeply. Neither he nor Desmond had intended to kill the other. It was simply a friendly feud over a woman they both desired.
Chris walked to the sideboard, splashed a tot of rum into a glass and sank into a comfortable chair. What was he going to do about Sophia? After listening to her story, he understood why she didn't want to return to her brother's keeping. But after that fiasco at the inn with Rigby, finding employment in Kingston was out of the question.
Mired deep in his own misery, Chris struggled to keep memories of Desmond at bay. Had Fate led Sophia to his ship? Why did he still care about her welfare? Before he knew it, he had finished that first tot of rum and poured another. The alcohol burned all the way down his gullet and into his stomach but did nothing to ease his dilemma.
Chris had no idea how much time had elapsed since he'd left Sophia in the garden. Sometime later he heard her enter the house and climb the stairs to her room. And still he sat. The longer he sat, the more rum he consumed, and the alcohol seemed to affect him in a strange way. The anger and pain he had felt earlier slowly dissipated, replaced by lust for the woman who had caused his distress.
His gut clenched with the need to bed Sophia.
Sophia felt as if she carried the world on her shoulders. She hadn't meant to hurt Chris. She had waited in the garden for him to return, but when he hadn't, she'd sought her bed. But sleep eluded her. She wasn't tired in the least after her long nap earlier in the day. Besides, it was too hot to sleep.
She had left the French doors to the upper-floor balcony open to let in the breeze and felt a waft of coolness touch her feverish skin. She closed her eyes, trying to summon sleep, when she heard footsteps pause at her door and then continue on.
Was his room nearby? She hadn't inquired and hadn't had time yet to explore the house. Her mind wandered. Should she leave Sunset Hill tomorrow? Obviously, Chris didn't want her around to dredge up painful memories. Finally her mind shut down and she slept.
A slight noise awakened her. She sat upright in bed. The sound came from the balcony. She saw a shadow move though the French doors. She opened her mouth to scream but quickly closed it when she recognized Chris's muscular form limned by the brilliant moonlight. She watched him approach, large, dangerous. Moonlight silvered his hair, rendering his face harsh in its stark light. She smelled sulfur as a light flared in the oil lamp.
Sophia blinked at the sudden light and pulled the sheet up to her neck. “What do you want?”
He sent her a strange look, as if surprised to find himself in her bedroom. “I came to apologize.” His words were slightly slurred.
Sophia peered closely at him. “You're foxed.”
He shook his head. “I never drink to excess. Not anymore.”
Sophia didn't believe him. “Go away.”
“Not until I apologize for walking away from you in the garden tonight.”
He wanted to apologize? “Chris, it's late. Can't this wait until tomorrow?”
“Yes, it could, but I can't.”
He settled on the edge of the bed. “Everything you said is true. I held the gun, I fired the pistol, but the bullet wasn't supposed to hit Desmond.”
“I know you hold me responsible and that my presence here in your home makes you uncomfortable.”
Chris plowed his fingers through his hair. “You're right, Sophia, you do make me uncomfortable, but not precisely in the way you think. You tempt me despite my best intentions. I can't trust myself around you, but becoming involved with you again is out of the question.”
Sophia nodded. “I'll leave Sunset Hill, but I'm not returning to England.”
Sophia touched his arm. He stiffened, as if her touch revolted him. When she started to retreat, he groaned and pulled her to him so tightly she could barely breathe. Then his mouth claimed hers. His kiss tasted of unbridled, unfulfilled passion, and Sophia realized it had been simmering inside him all along, unacknowledged, unrequited. Then his tongue swept inside her mouth, thrusting deep. She tasted rum. Moments later, he was lying beside her without her knowing how it had happened.
Sophia tried to push him away. Knowing how he felt about her, she couldn't let him to do this. If he disliked her now, he would despise her in the morning. No matter how much he denied it, Sophia knew he was foxed and would accuse her of leading him on once he sobered.
When Chris paused to take a breath, Sophia seized the moment to offer a protest. “Chris, you don't want to do this.”
“Oh, aye, I do. Very much.” He inhaled deeply. “You smell like flowers. Though I may be damned forever, Sophia, I need to be inside you.”
His words shattered Sophia's resistance. She had dreamed of this moment since the first day Chris had walked into her life. Now she was keenly aware of his body next to hers, of her breasts pressed firmly against his chest, his manly scent, the roughness of his skin. The passing years had not dimmed her memory of the man she had fallen in love with.
But Sophia did not want Chris this way. He wanted her body, but he didn't care about the person she was. And no matter what, he still intended to force her to leave Jamaica against her will.
Suddenly Sophia became aware of a new torment. Chris had lowered the sheet and was slowly raising her shift, baring her body to his avid gaze. A harsh sound gurgled from his throat as he put his hands on the insides of her thighs, spreading them.
Sophia nearly jumped out of her skin when Chris opened her with his thumbs, baring the most vulnerable part of her. With slow deliberation he lowered his head. Before Sophia realized what he intended, she felt his hot breath teasing her intimate flesh.
“Chris, what . . .”
The moment his lips brushed against her, Sophia cried out. The shock immobilized her, and the tingling sensation that followed made her squirm with unnamed pleasure. Her core pulsed, vulnerable, aching with a need she couldn't express. When he flicked his tongue against her, she moaned, her hips moving reflexively against him. He grabbed her hips to steady her as he explored the virgin recesses of her body, his tongue laving every intimate crevice.
When he drew the sensitive nub of her desire between his teeth, Sophia began thrashing her head from side to side, her hands flailing against his arms. She bucked her hips, searching for something, anything to ease the sensual torture. She felt as if she were tottering on the edge of an abyss, gripped by pleasure so intense it stole her breath.
Sophia wasn't prepared when she fell into a dark hole of splintering pleasure, the bliss so razor-sharp it shattered her. She cried out, lost in the throes of climax, her fingers clutching his head. Then she went limp, her labored breathing fracturing the tense silence.
“What just happened?” she gasped.
“I've just given you your first climax.”
Sophia was confused. She knew about mating and how it was accomplished, but beyond that she was ignorant.
“Something wondrous happened inside me. Did you feel it?”
“Not yet, but I will.” He rose and tore off his trousers and shirt.
Sophia stared at him. He was magnificently fashioned, with broad shoulders, slim hips and waist, powerful legs and thickly muscled arms. Her gaze slid down the length of him, stopping briefly at his engorged sex. She colored and looked away. But curiosity drew her gaze back to that mysterious part of him which jutted out of a nest of dark hair between his thighs.
Chris swelled longer and thicker beneath Sophia's perusal. Desire swelled in his loins, pulled low at his gut. He had tried his damnedest to stay away from her, but after a few tots of rum all he could think about was bedding her. He told himself his need was sharper because he hadn't had a woman for weeks, not because he was obsessed with the green-eyed temptress gazing at him as if he were some kind of ancient god.
Even if he took Sophia as his body demanded, this night wouldn't change his mind about sending her home to England, he told himself. She had sneaked aboard his ship, incited his lust and forced him to protect her from Rigby. He hadn't wanted any of those things to happen. He had considered himself well rid of Sophia Carlisle years ago.
“Chris . . .”
He gazed down at her. Her eyes were luminous in the lamplight. He wanted to arouse her again. He wanted . . . he wanted . . . to be inside Sophia.
His hand moved between her thighs, parted them, eased a finger deep inside. He felt her stiffen. She gasped his name as her hands rose to clasp his shoulders. He bent his head, taking the rigid peak of her breast fully into his mouth, nipping and suckling as his finger stroked inside her. She moaned softly.
Chris lifted his head and gazed at her. She was beautiful, more beautiful even than the seventeen-year-old girl he had fallen in love with. Though time and circumstances had killed his love for her, he still appreciated her beauty. He moved slightly, pressing his erection against her hip as he continued to suckle her breasts.
“Sophia,” he whispered hoarsely as he moved fully over her and slowly thrust his thick erection inside her. He heard her gasp and eased back, but not for long. His body clamored for completion. He slid a little deeper, his clenched jaw the only outward sign of his restraint. When he felt her tighten around him, drawing him deeper, his control snapped.
He thrust powerfully with his hips, breaking through her virgin barrier, sinking into her depths. She gasped, and he knew he had hurt her. “I'm sorry, Sophia. I'll make it good for you, I promise.”
He waited a moment, allowing her body time to adjust to his size before moving, slowly sliding and plunging, sliding and plunging, deep, deeper.
Sophia sucked in her breath as the pain gave way to something far more pleasurable. She moved her hips, tentatively at first, then timing them to meet his plunging loins in perfect harmony. The friction was astonishingly arousing, vibrantly wanton. The pleasure of it drove her wild. She thrashed madly beneath him, reaching, needing, wanting.
She could feel the strength of his desire growing inside her and the power of his body moving on top of her. When he rose slightly and slipped his hand between their bodies, the fire, white-hot, consuming, built within her again and roared out of control. The whimpering she heard came from her own throat. Then pleasure overwhelmed her as a wave of scalding heat flashed through her.
Her body seized, shuddered, and then she cried out. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her brain she heard Chris call her name, felt his member convulse, felt his heat spilling into her.
Panting, Chris collapsed against her, his face pressing into the hollow of her neck. Gathering her into his arms, he rolled to his side. “Did I hurt you, Sophia?”
Sophia pushed him away. “Why did you do it?” Her voice trembled with an emotion very close to anger. “You don't like me, remember?”
Chris rolled to the edge of the bed and sat up, resting his head in his hands. “I haven't had a woman since before the
Chris knew the excuse was a lame one, that what he had done was inexcusable. His head felt fuzzy, his mouth dry. Was he foxed? Had Sophia driven him to drink? It was the first time he could recall having more than a drink or two since Desmond's death. It was the only excuse he could think of. Or at any rate, the only reason he was willing to admit.
“You used me!” Sophia charged. “You needed a woman and I was handy.”
Chris knew there was more to it than that but refused to say so. “You're right, I was foxed, but this changes nothing. You're leaving as soon as I can sort out your problems and book passage for you. I'll do all I can to keep you safe from your brother. I'll give you money so you can live independent of him.”
Flexing her knees, Sophia kicked him out of the bed. He fell on his rump with a thud. “I'm willing to leave this house, Captain, but not Jamaica. You can keep your money; I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“You'll do as I say,” Chris growled as he gathered his clothing and stormed out of the room.
Sophia found sleep impossible after Chris left. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to make sense of his actions. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't figure out what he wanted. He seemed to blow first hot and then cold. He wanted her, yet he didn't.
How could Chris not realize that she loved him? That she had never stopped loving him?
Ribbons of purple dawn streaked a leaden sky when Sophia finally fell asleep. She didn't awaken until a clap of thunder rattled the shutters. Startled, she sat up in bed, surprised to see rain pouring from the sky. She lay back down, seeing no reason to get out of bed. She was staring at the rain beating down on the balcony when Kateena entered the room.