Talon turned toward me and met my gaze, his dark eyes burning. The few clothes I had on were being melted off by his piercing stare. My nipples hardened under my bra and soon were visible—two pencil erasers encased in red. As well endowed as I was, I made a point never to wear padded bras. I didn’t need any extra. Of course, the price was whenever I was cold—or incredibly aroused—my headlights flashed.
Talon’s lips trembled just a bit. Was he holding back a smile? He didn’t smile a lot. He had noticed my nipples—I was sure. At least the warmth of my skin and my skittering heartbeat were sure. I crossed my arms over my chest…which made it pretty difficult to drink coffee. But the coffee sucked anyway.
Talon finished up the scone and wiped the crumbs from the table into his hand. “I’ve got a few errands to run, ladies. See you back home for dinner.”
Yes, dinner. The Steels had a housekeeper and cook who came every day—Felicia. I wasn’t sure when I would get used to being cooked for and cleaned up after. This was so far from how I had lived for so many years. My dad was in construction and made a decent living, but that was light years away from how the Steels lived. We never even had a cleaning lady, let alone a housekeeper and cook who came daily.
I couldn’t help watching Talon as he walked out the door. He was one fine-looking man. With one fine-looking ass. My palms sweated, and I rubbed them on the denim of my shorts.
My breath caught.
I would never forget our kiss.
The boy huddled in the darkness, his worn T-shirt and the ragged gray blanket his only warmth, and they did little. His eyes had long ago adjusted to the darkness of the dank cellar where he was kept. Nighttime was the hardest, even though he was left alone then.
Aloneness came with its own demons.
Isolation. Fear. Vulnerability.
Frigid air pricked at the boy’s skin. Haunting squeaks drifted toward him. Cancerous blurs emerged against the walls, dancing eerily to a discordant violin. Black claws descended, and the cold concrete walls inched forward slowly.
The boy’s breath grew rapid, and he scooted backward, the concrete floor chafing his bare skin. Couldn’t breathe… The ceiling descended, blackness engulfing him.
And the walls continued forward. Always the walls. Cold and hard and impenetrable. They laughed maniacally, their voices low and terrorizing, as they enclosed the boy.
Breath. Need a breath… Air…air…
“You are nothing,” the walls taunted, their distorted faces appearing as they creaked closer. “You will die here. Used and abused and worth nothing more than the ragged blanket you sleep on. No one cares. No one is coming for you. No one but us. We will take you into hell…”
* * *
I sat at the kitchen table again, a glass of water in front of me that I never touched. Why did I always get a glass of water when I came to the kitchen at night? Seemed like the thing to do. When a person got up in the middle of the night, he got a drink of water. I wasn’t thirsty. As usual, I hadn’t turned on the light. I always sat in the dark. I was more comfortable that way.
Didn’t make sense. All the worst times in my life had taken place in the dark. Still, darkness gave me a cloak of comfort that I didn’t understand. I had stopped trying to understand myself a long time ago.
I blinked my eyes when the light came on. Jade again. Did that woman never sleep?
She wore a robe this time. Too bad. Her body was a goddamned work of art. The most luscious rack I’d ever seen, and I’d had plenty of women. Women had been throwing themselves at me since I was fifteen. I took what they offered. Why not? I enjoyed myself, and so did they. I never really wanted any of them. They fulfilled a physical need, nothing more.
“Sorry. I didn’t think you’d be here tonight again.” Jade shuffled over to the canisters and pulled out a tea bag.
“I didn’t think you’d be here again either.” I turned back around and stared at my glass of water.
Her nipples weren’t visible tonight, though the robe she wore was skimpy, showing her long shapely legs, her well-formed ass. My cock stirred. What the hell was wrong with me? I’d been around plenty of beautiful women. I’d had tons of women more beautiful than Jade Roberts.
Okay, maybe only a few who were actually more beautiful than she was. She was a goddess. Still, I’d had beautiful women, so what was it about her?
The microwave dinged, and Jade walked back over to the table with her mug of steaming tea. “I don’t want to disturb you. I’ll just take this to my bedroom.” She turned to leave the kitchen.
Had those words come from my mouth? What did I want with her? I was only sure of one thing. I did not want her to leave the kitchen.
She turned and faced me. “Honestly, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”