“I know it feels like the end of the world,” he said, leaving me standing at the side of the bed, “but it isn’t. Things will get better. You’ll adjust.” He strolled to the dresser and withdrew clothing from the paper bags he’d brought in last night. “Get dressed.” He tossed a sundress at me.
I held up the garment by a spaghetti strap, not only taking note of the short hem, but how oddly similar it was to a dress I’d owned as a teenager. That particular dress had disappeared after some random guy had complimented my legs while wearing it. “It’s too short.”
“That’s the point. Put it on.” His mouth curved into a wicked line. “No panties. You won’t need them.”
Something about his demanding tone, along with the fact he was choosing my clothes for me, made my back straighten. “You wear it,” I said, throwing it at him, “since you like it so much.” The towel didn’t cover enough, so I grabbed the sheet from where it cascaded down the side of the mattress and tucked it around my body.
He crossed the room and stood before me, but I kept my gaze trained on my bare feet, refusing to raise my eyes to his. Anger radiated off him in palpable waves, and in my periphery, I saw his hands clench before unfurling. He yanked the sheet and pulled, rolling me with it until I fell onto the bed with my back facing him. The dress landed by my head. “Get dressed before I beat your ass.”
“I’m not your fucking puppet, Zach.”
Feet stomped across the room, and I heard a drawer open and slam shut. The ominous sound cringed through me like fingernails on a chalkboard. I curled into a protective ball, preparing for the strike of whatever he’d removed from the dresser. A belt? I stiffened as his strong hands pulled me toward him, rear end first. He inserted a finger in my ass, and I cried out, squirming to dislodge it, panicked at the thought of repeating last night. His body pressed me into the mattress as his finger flamed in my rectum.
“Hold still. Soon, you’ll fly for me.” He swept my hair back, and his mouth opened over the sensitive skin underneath my ear, hot tongue searing flesh. “You always taste so good.”
The soaring feeling from the night before trickled in, and my body felt weightless.
What was I trying to say?
“I’ll take care of you,” his deep voice said, each word pronounced in slow motion. “I can make you happy, Lex.” He withdrew his finger, and I heard the unmistakable sound of him spitting before he dipped it in again, making my insides clench in a blissful ache. “No one loves you like I do. I just wish it didn’t take this to lower your guard.”
Somewhere in my hazy brain, I knew I should feel shame at the moan that poured from me—long and continuous as his finger fucked my asshole. His palm kneaded my butt cheeks, and his other hand spread my legs, fingers reaching for my clit.
I fisted the messy bedding and groaned, my teeth clamping down on the twisted sheets. My hips bucked and tension coiled low in my belly as I impaled myself on his fingers. Again. Again. Shit…harder.
So close. Ooooh…good God. I didn’t want this. It was wrong. So horribly detestable. A deep burn ignited in my chest, threatening to turn to me to ash. Rafe’s face pulled at the edges of my mind, compelling me to follow, to free-fall into the memory of him.
I squeezed my eyes shut and allowed the fantasy to take over. Rafe’s hands, his skin on mine, his breath in my ear. His fingers pulling at my hair. “More,” I groaned. “I need to come.”
He pulled away, and I cried out in protest, begging him not to stop. Every part of my body tensed, readying for release, needing it, and the longer he delayed, the more the ache intensified.
“Put the dress on.” He tickled my back with what felt like silk before dropping the garment on the mattress. “Then I’ll make you come.” His steps retreated, gently padding away. The creak of a door sounded. I crawled to my hands and knees, turned my head, but he was gone. How could he leave me like this? I needed him, but needing him hurt too much.
My heart pounded at an alarming rate, and the burn still simmered in my chest, a moment away from incinerating. I doused the dark thoughts and clutched the dress, slid from bed, and my body poured like fluid onto the floor. With a sigh, I lifted the silky material and pushed my head through, wondering why I’d put up such a fight. Pure sin encased my flushed body, and I rubbed the silk between thumb and forefinger, over and over again, entranced by the texture, certain I could never stop touching it. Slowly, tension ebbed from my bones, my limbs, my hands. The fire in my chest was but an ember.
The door opened, and I blinked, the silk forgotten. I gazed at him in the doorway, and his crooked smile hit me in the chest. It was so open and free. So fucking sexy. In that moment, he resembled someone else, someone who struck a cord of comfort in me. I peered through the warped glass and tried to figure out the puzzle of the man standing on the other side.
“Come here,” he demanded, holding out a hand. I moved with effortless grace, my feet gliding across the floor, and slid my palm into his. He lifted a cup to my lips, and the water that poured down my throat extinguished the fire.
“Your feelings for me are real.” His fingers wiped my brow. “What I gave you doesn’t make you feel things that aren’t there. It frees your mind.” He pulled me against him. “It’s making you mine again.”
Ever since Jax showed me the horrors hidden in my cellar, I’d spent every waking moment digging into the past my brain refused to remember. I’d spent hours on the Internet reading about the rape trial, watching it unfold from the seat of a spectator, though I was the main star. I’d watched the police haul me from a training session, hands cuffed at my back. What I found most disturbing about that piece of footage was the guilty look on my own damn face.
As if reading about the trial wasn’t torturous enough, I dug into Jax’s background too, which I found nothing on. I wasn’t sure he’d understand my need to know more about him, so I didn’t tell him I was looking into his life, but I couldn’t swallow the idea of a stranger living on my father’s island.
What bothered me most, however, was Alex’s disappearance. The media had yet to report on her miraculous return from the dead. Going by the news reports of her “death,” authorities had found her car in the Columbia River two and a half weeks ago. Jax said we’d pushed her Volvo in after taking her from Portland. He also said I’d decided to let her go hours before I got shot.