Blue-Eyed Devil Page 70


So this was goodbye.

"I didn't mean to lead you on," I said to Hardy. "I knew from the beginning I was playing with fire, having anything to do with you. But — " My eyes watered, and I blinked fiercely and talked in a rush. "You're so good-looking and such a good kisser and I wanted you so much last night that I thought I could go through with it, but I'm too screwed up and I just can't do it, I can't."

I fell silent then. My eyes wouldn't stop leaking. I couldn't think of anything else to tell Hardy, except that he could go if he wanted. But he stood and went to the fireplace and braced a hand on the mantel. He stared into the empty space. "I'm going after your ex-husband," I heard him say softly. "And when I finish, there won't be enough left of him to fill a f**king matchbox."

I'd heard louder and more colorful threats, but never one delivered with a quiet sincerity that raised all the hairs on the back of my neck.

Hardy turned to look at me then. I felt myself blanch as I saw his expression. It was not the first time I'd been alone in a room with a man who had murder in his eyes. This time, thankfully, the violence wasn't directed at me. All the same, it made me fidgety. "Nick's not worth going to jail for," I said.

"I don't know about that." Hardy stared at me for a moment, registering my uneasiness. His expression deliberately softened. "The way I was brought up, 'he needed killing' is an airtight legal defense."

I almost smiled at that. I let my shoulders slump, feeling drained in the aftermath of my personal catastrophe. "But even if you did, it wouldn't change the way I am now. I'm broken." I blotted my eyes with a shirtsleeve. "I wish I'd slept with someone before I married Nick, because at least then I'd have some good experience with sex. As it is, though . . . "

Hardy watched me intently. "That night of the theater opening . . . you had a flashback when I was kissing you, didn't you? That's why you took off like a scalded cat."

I nodded. "Something in my mind clicked, and it was like I was with Nick, and all I knew was that I had to get away or I would be hurt."

"Was it always bad with him?"

It was mortifying, talking about my pitiful sex life. But at this point I had no pride left. "It started out okay, I guess, but the longer the marriage went on, the worse things got in the bedroom, until I was mostly just waiting for it to be over. Because I knew it didn't matter to Nick if I was enjoying it or not. And it hurt sometimes when I was . . . you know, dry." If a person could have died of embarrassment, I should have been laid out on a mortuary slab right then.

Hardy came to sit on the sofa beside me, laying one arm along the back of it. I flinched at his nearness, but I couldn't look away from him. He was ridiculously virile in that damned white T-shirt, with that long body and those sun-baked muscles. Any woman would have to be out of her mind not to go to bed with him.

"I guess it's over now," I said bravely. "Right?"

"Is that what you want?"

My throat clenched. I shook my head.

"What do you want, Haven?"

"I want you," I burst out, and the tears spilled over again. "But I can't have you."

Hardy moved closer, gripping my head in his hands, forcing me to look at him. "Haven, sweetheart . . . you've already got me."

I looked at him through a hot blur. His eyes were filled with anguished concern and fury. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. "And you're not broken. You're scared, like any woman would be, after what that son of a bitch did." A pause, a curse, a deep breath. An intent stare. "Will you let me hold you now?"

Before I even realized what I was doing, I had crawled into his lap. He gathered me close, cuddling and soothing, and the comforting felt so good that I almost wished I could keep crying. I nuzzled into the fragrant skin of his neck, finding the place where the shaven bristle of his jaw began.

He turned his mouth to mine, easy and warm, and that was all it took to start me simmering again, my lips parting to welcome him.

But even as I responded to his kiss, I felt the intimate pressure of him beneath me, and I stiffened.

Hardy drew his head back, his eyes molten blue. "Is it this?" He nudged upward, the hard ridge pushing against me. "Feeling that makes you nervous?"

I squirmed and nodded, turning scarlet. But I didn't try to move off him, just sat there quivering.

His hands traced down my shoulders and arms, caressing me through the shirt. "Should I visit the therapist with you? Would that help?"

I couldn't believe he'd be willing to do that for me. I tried to imagine it, me and Hardy and Susan discussing my sex problems, and I shook my head. "I want to fix it now," I said desperately. "Let's just . . . let's go into the bedroom and do it. No matter what I say or even if I freak out, just hold me down and keep going till it's finished and — "

"Hell no, we're not going to do that." Hardy looked almost comically appalled. "You're not a horse to be broken to saddle. You don't need to be forced, you need — " He drew in a quick breath as I shifted my weight on his lap. "Honey," he said in a strained voice, "I don't do my best thinking when all the blood leaves my brain. So you should probably sit next to me."

A warm pulse throbbed where we pressed, our flesh fitting exactly. I realized I wasn't quite as nervous, now that I'd had a few moments to get used to him. I settled a little deeper on him.

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