Authors: Allison Brennan
She smiled, and turned to him.
Sean lay where the dead woman had been. His eyes stared at her, but they saw nothing, drained of color. He grabbed her left hand and put it on his chest. It was wet, slick and messy and bright red.
“No no no no!”
In her other hand was a gun.
Sean had been trying to gently wake Lucy as soon as he realized she was caught in a nightmare. Night
was more appropriate, as sweat covered her body and she thrashed in her sleep.
“Lucy, wake up, please.” He tried to control his own panic because he didn’t want her to hear him so worried. Her hands were ice cold and she was shaking, a faint whimper coming from her chest that had Sean on edge. He’d never witnessed one of her nightmares lasting this long or deep.
He pulled her from the bed, hoping the motion would jerk her awake.
“Lucy, it’s Sean. Look at me!” He shook her limp body. She stiffened and threw her head back, her dark eyes open, glazed and filled with pain.
A sob caught in his chest, and he held Lucy tightly against him. Her heart raced as fast as his, as if they’d both just run a marathon. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her face pressed against his chest, her body still shaking violently.
“I’ve got you,” he said. “I’ve got you.”
Sean had never been so scared as when he couldn’t wake up Lucy, knowing she was suffering. Knowing he couldn’t stop her pain. He wanted to hit something. The people who hurt Lucy all those years ago were dead. If they weren’t, he’d kill them himself. The urge toward violence was unlike him. But he couldn’t think, not where Lucy’s pain was concerned, and he ached keeping his feelings bottled up. She’d told him that her nightmares had all but disappeared in the seven years since her attack, until a few months ago when her rapist had been found dead only miles from her house.
“I—I—I—” Lucy’s teeth were chattering and she couldn’t form her sentence. Sean sat on the bed with her, grabbed the down comforter from the floor, and wrapped it around her.
“Shh,” he whispered. He’d let her talk if she wanted, though hearing her speak of her attack would shred him inside. He braced himself.
“You were dead.” Tears streamed down her face.
“What?” It wasn’t the same recurrent nightmare she’d been having? He was relieved, but uncertain. He cleared his throat. “I’m right here, sweetness.”
She pressed her clammy forehead against his chest, his T-shirt fisted in her hands. “I need you.” Raw emotion clouded her voice.
Sean rocked her. He hated that he felt better knowing her bad dream wasn’t about the attack. He pushed aside his anger and focused on Lucy’s heart. Because that’s exactly what this was about—her, him,
. Though she’d handled his fall down the mine shaft professionally, he’d known she was worried about more than his injuries. That she’d had something to do helped her deal with the fear of losing him, but in sleep her defenses were down. All the barriers she’d put up to protect herself, gone.
“I need you, too, Princess.”
She shook her head. “Not the same.”
“Yes, it is the same.” He kissed the top of her head. “I love you.” Lucy held back a cry, and he pulled her closer. “Don’t be scared of my feelings.”
“Not yours. Mine.”
“I know.” She wouldn’t admit she loved him. She didn’t want to need him. He knew she did, but it would take time and patience for her to accept it. He’d never been patient about anything in life, until he met Lucy. She had spent years learning to be alone, to protect her heart and her mind and her body. He’d been methodically working his way beneath her barriers because he needed her to lower her shields—at least when she was with him.
“How? How do you always know?”
He shrugged and kissed her. “I just do. I know you were scared yesterday when I was at the bottom of the mine shaft. I know that you didn’t want to give voice to your first thought that I was dead. Finding the woman’s body made you think, what if you hadn’t found me? What if I died down there?”
“Don’t—” She swallowed a cry.
Lucy still didn’t want to think about that, and Sean’s rhetorical question had her picturing the bullet in his chest, just like the nightmare she was still trembling from.
Sean said, “Luce, you’re the strongest woman I know.”
She didn’t feel strong, not now. “It’s not the dead that get to me.” Lucy struggled to find words that wouldn’t make her sound childish. “I killed you, Sean. In my dream, I was holding the gun.”
Lucy had killed two men, but it was the first—one of her attackers, seven years ago—that had her constantly questioning her morals and ethics.
She’d shot Adam Scott in cold blood, six bullets to the chest. And she didn’t regret it, not for one second of her life. What terrified her was the lack of guilt—no remorse, no doubt that if she had it to do over again, she would still have shot him. Revenge? Justice? Or was this lack of remorse akin to sociopathy? What if she was walking the line between the good guys and the bad? How could she tell the difference?
What was she capable of
How far would she go for justice
She’d let the FBI report conclude it was justifiable homicide based on extreme emotional distress. Scott had shown her rape live on the Internet while thousands of sick perverts watched, believing she had been a consensual partner playing the part of a victim. She would never forget the lie she hadn’t corrected:
Ms. Kincaid believed that Scott had killed her brother, Dr. Dillon Kincaid, in the moments before she arrived at Dr. Kincaid’s house and saw Scott at the scene
Scott had not pointed a gun at her. She had known Dillon was safe; she’d seen him. She’d taken her father’s gun with the sole purpose of killing Adam Scott.
Lucy had been forced to talk to shrinks about her rape and the shooting. And she had played the stalwart victim. Only, she didn’t know how much of it was truth and how much deception. Maybe all of it was an act. She’d finally told her parents that she wasn’t talking to one more psychiatrist or rape counselor or priest. The tightrope she’d walked during the months before she moved cross-country to attend Georgetown University had been unbearable because she didn’t feel at all like herself. It was as if her entire life was happening to someone else, and she was observing it as a bystander. The more she looked at herself from the outside, the more distance she had from her own emotions. And she liked becoming focused, cool, and unemotional. It wasn’t happening to
she was merely an observer. She had never broken down, not then, and didn’t want to now. Moving to D.C. had given her the space she needed to distance herself from her own thoughts and sensitivities. Until now.
All these complex and foreign emotions about Sean were dangerous. After seven years of keeping her feelings under tight lock and key, she was out of control. What if the fates made her pay for her actions? Justified killing or not, understandable or not, Adam Scott’s murder had been premeditated and calculated. And wouldn’t it be just the perfect sick cosmic joke to take away the one person who had so easily picked the lock that had guarded her thoughts, feelings and—ultimately—her sanity?
Sean touched her damp face carefully, as if she were precious to him.
Tell him you love him. Tell him
She kissed him.
“I need you.” She hated that she couldn’t say the words. She wanted to, but fear shut her down. Sean wanted her to; it hurt him that she hadn’t, though he’d never tell her that. She saw it before he hid his disappointment.
But if she said the words out loud, she feared what was so special between them would suddenly end.
“I’m here, Princess.” He held her face, planting soft, gentle kisses on her lips, the kind of kisses that made her melt, and in her current state melting would turn into a meltdown, and she couldn’t have that.
You overthink everything
She turned off her inner critic, which seemed to be taking Sean’s side in everything. Lucy needed to be in control. She couldn’t give it up, and love meant no control. It meant sacrifice and heartache and being lost in another person. If she could just keep the barrier up a little while longer, to figure out what this all meant, where it was going, how she was going to survive.
Lucy straddled Sean, reaching for the hem of his shirt and pushing it up, her cold hands warming against his chest as she opened her mouth and kissed him fully, no soft sweetness, no doubts that she wanted to make love. No more talking about her feelings or his feelings or thinking about anything. She could lose herself in the moment because that’s what this passion was—a moment in time.
She needed to be lost. She needed to stop thinking.
Sean wanted to savor Lucy, to show her that he needed her as much as—maybe even more than—she needed him. He was arrogant and fun-loving and he played it loose with the law if he had to, but at heart he’d been waiting for a woman like Lucy to give him purpose and meaning in his wayward life. She completed him, and he needed her to understand what that meant to him.
But she didn’t give him time to think, and he never wanted to go slow when Lucy turned on the switch and craved him. He needed that from her, her faith and passion, because now was the one time she gave herself over to him, trusting him with her body and her deep, unspoken need for unconditional love.
In the back of his mind warning bells rang that something was going on with Lucy, that it was important, and maybe now was the time to push her hard and force her to tell him what that beautiful head was thinking. But when he opened his mouth to speak, she locked onto him, her kiss hot and unstoppable. Not that he wanted to stop. Her hands massaged his chest, her fingers digging into his muscles just short of the point of pain. She didn’t stop moving, her hands, her mouth, her long legs pressing against the outside of his thighs as she sat on him fully arousing him.
His hands moved under her long T-shirt, skirted over her hips, up the soft curves of her athletic body. He loved how she was both soft and hard, her muscles tight and strong but her skin smooth and delicate. His thumbs reached for her nipples, pushing in gently but firmly until he heard that pleasurable gasp he loved, emanating from deep in Lucy’s chest.
Sean watched Lucy pull off her shirt, revealing her body. The scars that cut across her breasts still made him angry, but he never showed it. She’d close up, cut him off, worry … Right now, all he wanted was to show Lucy she was perfect.
He brought her breasts to his face and kissed them, savoring the weight of them first in his hands, then in his mouth. She leaned into him and he almost didn’t realize she was pulling down his boxers with her toes until they were tangled around his ankles. Her full body pressed against his, and he wrapped his arms tight around her, but she shrugged them off as she sat back up.
She touched his penis and he groaned. “Luce—”
His voice was scratchy. He wanted to tell her to wait, slow down, let him relish her, but it was too late. She rotated her hips until he started to penetrate, then all at once she pushed down.
Sean grabbed her ass and held her tight against him as he attempted to regain control. But that was a fruitless endeavor because Lucy didn’t sit still. Slowly, she moved her hips in circles, giving and taking pleasure. She reached for his hands and clasped them, pushing their joined fists into the bed for leverage. She adjusted her knees on either side of his body and picked up the pace of her lovemaking. Her back arched, and he watched her, amazed at how beautiful and sexy and innocent and wanton she looked, all at once. Her head tilted back, her long, elegant neck begging to be kissed, but he couldn’t lean up without breaking the intense moment. Her eyes were closed, her skin flushed and slick, her mouth parted. She licked her lips, not intending to arouse him further, but because she didn’t know what a turn-on it was, it made him all that much more greedy for her body.
Lucy had made her mind a blank. No thoughts, just the physical sensations that drenched her body, drowning her inner voice, burying her fears. Sean was inside her, his hands clutching hers, his muscles clenching and relaxing, then contracting even tighter as he came closer to the edge she was about to go over. Fast, little foreplay, but she didn’t need it or want it. She was learning more about her body and Sean’s body and ways to set them both off. The explosion was becoming seductive, a drug she craved more now than ever before.
“Kiss me,” Sean said, his voice gruff.
She leaned down, shifting her pelvis, and he groaned beneath her. He let go of one of her hands and grabbed her head, bringing her mouth to his, devouring her lips, his tongue mimicking his penis. He wasn’t moving in and out, he was moving in and deeper, and her body shuddered all on its own, shaking as his orgasm ignited hers. Sean swallowed her cry as he held her body tight against him, his muscles rigid.
“God, Lucy,” he muttered as she felt his final release.
Sweaty, she collapsed on top of him, all liquid and hot and satisfied. She sighed, her mind still empty as her body came down from overdrive. Sean’s rapidly beating heart soothed her. She could stay like this forever.
Sean felt Lucy drifting off to sleep. He shifted her to his side, and she murmured into his chest, “That was nice.”
“Only nice?” he whispered, trying to pull a blanket around Lucy even though she wasn’t budging. He maneuvered the comforter back onto the bed and put it over them. Too hot for him, but Lucy would get cold.
“Very nice?” Her eyes were closed but she had a half-smile on her lips. He kissed her. “Perfect?”
“Honey, that was too fast to be perfect.”
“No time to think.”
Long after Lucy fell asleep, Sean thought about her comment and wondered what she meant—or if she even realized what she’d said.
Lucy didn’t know what she’d been expecting to find in the mine when she and Sean ventured into the cavern on Friday morning, but nothing jumped out at her as odd. In the storage room, she stared at the spot where the dead woman had been lying two days ago and saw nothing but rock and dirt.