She bit her lip. It had been her idea; she had to see it through. She wanted to see it through, even if it scared the living daylights out of her.
“Yes. I’ll do it. Your story, my submission.”
AUTHORITIES ARE CONVINCED THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE NANNY AND THE ABDUCTORS OCCURRED IN THE KITCHEN. FRANCESCA ESPINA SUFFERED SEVERE INJURIES FROM A HEAD WOUND DEALT BY ONE OF THE KIDNAPPERS.
—New York Times, June 10, 1990
He kissed her with raw possession, his mouth showing her how wicked it would be between them. Wild, dark, and completely free. She wanted that more than anything, the freedom to let go, to give in to the erotic dreams she’d spent years ignoring but never had felt safe enough to give in to before. His kiss broke down every barrier, obliterated every part of herself she tried to hide. Sophie lifted her chin, offering him her mouth, pleading for him. Emery drew a quick breath, eyes widening before his lashes fell to half-mast, his gaze drawn to her lips.
When he took her lips, he dominated her with the depth of his claiming. She breathed him in, like drawing the first heavy breath upon waking from a thousand-year sleep. Sophie came alive in that single moment. The woman she’d been all these years since losing Rachel, the scared little girl fighting against the evils in the world, was gone. In her place was the woman she’d always wanted to be, a woman not afraid to live her life. She couldn’t shut this man out like she had her other friends or her family. No. He demanded she give in to him. Electric tingles pulsed outward from the places they touched, setting her senses on fire, fogging her mind. His kiss consumed her—enveloping her until she was lost, set adrift in a haze of desire, longing, and aching.
She felt his mouth tremble against hers; he seemed to strain to keep his possession under control, to bank the fires of his passion. His tongue slipped between her lips, thrusting in time with the rocking of his hips against hers in tiny circles. He gave up his control and took her over. His body weighed hers down, his hips rocking into hers. He could have done anything to her in that moment, and she’d have agreed to it. Sophie’s inner muscles clenched, empty and wet, yearning for him, but it was his kiss that was her downfall—almost brutal with craving, as though he was a thirsty man savoring his first sip of water from her mouth. All his focus, all his energy seemed to be on her, on her lips.
He tore his mouth from hers, panting roughly. He cursed savagely and withdrew his hands from her body. She blinked in surprise when she realized his hot hands had slid up her outer thighs beneath the mini-skirt. Her chest heaved, her breasts dangerously close to escaping the confines of her corset. Emery’s eyes slowly tracked down from her mouth to her breasts. With a rakish grin he pressed his mouth lightly on the tops of the creamy swells, his tongue darting out as he licked and nibbled a path back up to her lips. He paused, then feathered his lips at the corner of her mouth and brushed his nose against hers playfully.
Sophie whimpered at the loss when he finally drew his head back. It felt like good-bye, but that was foolish; she’d only just met him and agreed to surrender to him. They couldn’t be done.
Emery sighed, his breath uneven against her temple. His body stiffened above hers.
“Go home, Sophie. Forget me, this place. Let it be a peculiar dream, nothing more. I’m not the man for you.” His voice was harsh.
“No,” she whispered fiercely, but she wasn’t as sure of herself as she had been. She’d expected a spanking, some rough kissing. She hadn’t expected to feel so vulnerable and exposed by a man taking control of her body and owning her completely in a mere few minutes.
“You think you can really survive this lifestyle for even one minute? You’re vanilla, sweetheart. You wouldn’t ever let me tie you up and take you the thousand ways I’d like to. You’d cry when my hand came down on your ass in punishment. You’re not ready for this.”
She shook her head, furiously fighting off the swell of tears as her throat constricted. He and he alone had offered her what her secret dreams and longings had called for night after night. The phantom lovers that had tormented her to the brink of violent need in her dreams could never compare to the very real and very heavy weight of his body on hers at that moment. The devastation of that perfect kiss couldn’t be undone. The story could wait…but the need…the desperation to feel alive again…she couldn’t let go of that, not yet.
“No. Take me home with you.” She paused, calculating each word. “Please, Sir.” She was begging. There was no doubt about it for either of them, and as shocked as she was by her own impulse to beg, she prayed he’d let her go with him.
Emery’s lips twisted into a crooked smile. For a moment, she saw the boy in him, the one he’d been before his world had been utterly destroyed. The child wasn’t gone, wasn’t dead. Buried yes, but not dead. He threaded a hand through his hair and remained silent for moment. Shadows of doubt and indecision danced across his face before he finally replied.
“How can I resist?” Emery lifted himself and hauled her to her feet.
Sophie winced. Her back was bruised after lying on the stone floor beneath him. She hadn’t minded at the time—her body had been distracted by a thousand other things. But now her shoulder blades and hips screamed in protest. Emery took her into his arms, rubbing her back, massaging it with knowing hands.
“Come, I’ll summon my driver.”
“Okay.” She tried to remain calm. She was going home with Emery Lockwood. One of the richest men in America. Yet it wasn’t his wealth that made her fight off the rippling tremors at the base of her spine and in her womb. No, it was the fact that she was going home with a man who kissed her like she was the last woman on earth and time was ending. If he kissed like that, sex with him would be the Apocalypse. She’d never survive it.
* * *
What the hell am I doing? Emery held the little journalist’s hand trapped between his. They were seated in the backseat of his black Mercedes while his bodyguard, Hans Brummer, drove them back to Lockwood Manor, his childhood home.
His parents had long since abandoned the house, but not him. He’d wanted to leave but couldn’t. Something kept him there, like a tree with deep roots. He couldn’t live, couldn’t breathe anywhere else. He was bound to the soil of the estate as much as the trees that lined the mile-long drive leading up to the house. It was his castle, his fortress against the harsh world, and yet he was bringing Sophie inside. A journalist with the intent to expose his soul. He really was a fool to let her in. What would she think when she saw the endless empty rooms and dark halls? Would she wonder if he was the same deep inside? He didn’t want to be empty, but a sinister, creeping fear warned him that he might be after all these years. What was a twin without his other half? Incomplete. A woman would never want half of a man, not a woman like Sophie.