After Rehvenge's mouth performed some intricate f-bomb aerobatics, he put his hand in hers and they shook. “You drive a hard bargain, you know that," he said.
“But you respect me for it, right?”
“Well, yeah. And it makes me want to get you naked.”
Ehlena flushed from head to toe as he slid off his stool and towered over her, cupping her face in his hands. “You going to let me take you to my bed?”
Given the way those purple eyes of his were shining, she was willing to let him take her down on the damn kitchen floor if he asked. “Yes.”
A growl rolled up out of his chest as he kissed her. “Guess what?”
“What?” she breathed.
“That was the right answer.”
Rehvenge tugged her off her stool and kiss her quick and soft. With his cane in hand, he led her to the other side of the penthouse, through rooms she didn’t see and past a twinkling view she didn’t appreciate. All she knew was thick, pounding anticipation for what he was going to do to her.
Anticipation and... guilt. What could she give him? Here she was craving him sexually again, but there was no release for him. Even though he said he got something from it, she felt as if she were-
“What are you thinking about?” he said as they came into the bedroom.
She glanced over at him. “I want to be with you but... I don’t know. I feel like I’m using you or-”
“You’re not. Trust me, I’m well familiar with being used. What happens between us here is nothing like that.” He cut off her question. “No, I can’t go into it because I need... shit, I need this time with you to be simple. Just you and me. I’m tired of the rest of world, Ehlena. I’m so f**king tired of it.”
It was that other female, she thought. And if he didn’t want whoever it was with them? Fine with her.
“I just need this to be okay,” Ehlena said. “Between you and me. And I want you to feel something, too.”
“I do. I can’t believe it myself sometimes, but I so do.”
Rehv shut the bedroom door behind them, balanced his cane on the wall, and removed his sable coat. The suit underneath the duster was yet another exquisitely cut double-breasted masterpiece, this time a dove gray with black pinstripes. The shirt underneath was black with the top two buttons undone.
Silk, she thought. That shirt had to be made of silk. No other fabric gave off that luminescent glow.
“You are so beautiful,” he said as he stared at her. “Standing there in light like that.”
She glanced at her Gap black pants and her two year old knit turtleneck. “You must be blind.”
“Why?” he asked, coming over to her.
“Well, I feel like such an ass for saying this.” She smoothed down the front of off-the-rack-and-then-some slacks. “But I wish I had better clothes. Then I’d be beautiful.”
And then shocked the crap out of her by kneeling before her.
As he looked up, he had a slight smile on his lips.
“Don’t you get it, Ehlena.” With gentle hands, he stroked down her calve and brought her foot forward, balancing it on his thigh. As he undid the laces on her cheapo Keds sneaker, he whispered, “No matter what you wear... to me, you will always have diamonds on the soles of your shoes.”
As he slid her sneaker off and stared up at her, she studied his hard, handsome face, from those spectacular eyes of his to his thick jaw to his proud cheekbones.
She was falling in love with him.
And like any trip through thin air, there was nothing she could do to stop it. The leap had been made.
Rehvenge bowed his head. “I’m just glad you’ll have me.”
The words were so quiet and humble, at odds with the incredible breadth of his shoulders.
“How could I not?” she whispered.
He shook his head back and forth slowly. “Ehlena...”
Her name was spoken roughly as if there were a lot more words behind it, words he couldn’t bear to speak. She didn’t understand, but she knew what she wanted to do.
Ehlena took her foot from him, got down on her own knees and wrapped her arms around him. She held him as he leaned in to her, running one hand up the back of his neck to his Mohawk’s stripe of soft hair.
He seemed so fragile as he gave himself up to her and she realized that if anyone tried to hurt him, even though he could more than take care of himself, she would commit murder. To protect him, she would kill.
The conviction was as solid as the bones beneath her skin:
Even the powerful needed protection sometimes.