Beta, p.21
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       Beta, p.21

         Part #2 of Alpha series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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“You can’t take all the blame yourself, Valentine. ” I fought the panic inside me. “I knew…I felt something—I knew something was wrong when I went looking for you. If I’d just waited for you—but I didn’t know where you were—”

  “Because I left you. ” He tilted his head back, blinking hard. “Then they were shooting at me. I tried to get back to you, but Harris, he knew…if I’d made a run for the door, they’d have shot me. They could have. At any moment, they could have killed me. But she wanted me alive. She wanted me out of the way. If you hadn’t gone looking for me, she probably would have blown the door off its hinges or something. She would have gotten you. But if I’d stayed with you—if I’d done like I promised, you wouldn’t have—”

  “Roth. ” I grabbed his face and made him look down at me. He shook his head, but I held on. “Valentine. Listen to me. Baby, listen. Please. I don’t want to start over somewhere else. I couldn’t, even if none of this had happened. I couldn’t leave you. I couldn’t go back to…a normal life, to life without you. I just…I can’t. I won’t. ”

  “Why?” He seemed honestly puzzled.

  “Because I love you, you big idiot. ” I hobbled closer to him, pressed myself against him, and looked up into his distraught blue eyes. “Valentine…I love you. Do you hear me? I fell in love with you the first time I heard your voice. I was so scared then. I didn’t know what you wanted with me. You plucked me out my life and you dropped me into yours—”

  “And now look where you are. What you went through, because I dragged you into my world. ”

  “Shut the fuck up, Valentine. I’m trying to make you understand. ” I hopped again, losing my balance. “Jesus, this knee sucks. ”

  I clung to his neck and hung on until I regained my balance. He gazed at me, one finger dragging over the stubble of my scalp. Shit. I’d forgotten that I was bald. Ugh. I ran my hand over my head, wincing.

  “You’re beautiful, Kyrie. ”

  “Even with no hair?”

  He nodded. “Even with no hair. ”

  “You’re distracting me. ” I shook my head, running a palm over my scalp. “Listen, the point here is that I love you. No one could have predicted what would happen. I mean, yeah, I wish you’d told me about Gina. She wasn’t just an ex-girlfriend, you know? She brings the whole ‘crazy ex’ thing to a whole new level, right?” I tried to make it a joke, but Roth didn’t laugh. “Too soon, huh?”

  Page 58

 

  He gave me a disgusted look. “How can you make jokes, Kyrie?”

  I laughed, but it was part sob. “How the fuck else am I supposed to deal with all this, Roth? I’m a fucking nobody. I didn’t grow up rich. I’d never shot a gun until all this. My dad was murdered—” Roth flinched at this, but I didn’t stop. “I didn’t see it happen, though, you know? One day he was there, the next he was gone. I was an average girl living an average life. And you—you fucking changed everything for me, Valentine. You can’t undo that. You can’t take that back. And I—I don’t know how I’m supposed to deal. I killed two people, Valentine. I shot them with a gun. I put holes in their fucking bodies. I blew their fucking heads open. And the worst part is, I don’t feel guilty about it, and I should. I ended their lives. I killed them…but they were evil, weren’t they? They were both horrible, nasty, awful, evil people…they were killers, and they deserved to die, and I don’t feel guilty. But…I can’t stop seeing it happen over and over and over…. ”

  I tried to sort through the millions upon millions of thoughts whirling in my head.

  “None of this feels real,” I said. “It feels like a dream. Like I’m watching a Jason Bourne movie or something, and I just got caught up in it somehow. But it is real, and I don’t know how to deal with it. And…I need you. You’re the only thing I have. You have to be strong for me. You can’t give up. You can’t let feeling guilty take over everything, and yet that’s exactly what you’re doing. Yeah, you shouldn’t have left me alone in the shower, and I wish you hadn’t. I wish you’d come in the shower with me, and I wish we’d just kept having sex. But you didn’t. You did what you thought needed doing, and I get that. Okay? I get it. I don’t blame you for what happened. None of it. But now…now I need you. More than ever. I need you to tell me it’s going to be okay. I need you to pretend like this is another vacation around the world. I need you to kiss me like you can’t get enough of me. I need that…. ” I ducked my head, blinked through the emotions, breathed through the ache in my chest. “As long as I know you love me, and that you want me, and that you don’t—that you don’t…regret…us, I’ll be okay. We’ll be okay somehow. One day at a time. We’ll handle whatever Vitaly can throw at us. I’ll stay on this boat with you forever. Whatever it takes. But I just…I need you, Valentine. You got me into this. Now you have to take care of me. ” I realized I was crying. I hadn’t even been aware of it, but now I tasted the salt on my lips, felt the wetness on my cheeks. “You have to—you have to take care of me, Valentine. ”

  An odd thing: I wasn’t sobbing. I was just crying. The strange thing was how vastly different the two things were. I hadn’t just cried in…I didn’t even know how long. I’d sobbed, bawled from agony both physical and emotional. I’d wept so hard it felt like everything inside me was cracking open and seeping out through my tear ducts.

  This was just crying. Soft, quiet tears slipping down my cheek, dripping off my chin. They were quiet, understated. And yet, somehow they went deeper, struck harder, cut more sharply. Sobbing was a bludgeoning blow, crushing you and crushing you, blunt force trauma to your soul. This kind of crying, this was a razor blade to soft flesh. So sharp you didn’t even feel it slicing down to the bone in a single motion.

  Valentine’s arms wrapped around me with the swiftness of a striking serpent. I was crushed to him, feeling his ragged breathing and his hammering heart, feeling something damp touch my scalp where his cheek was pressed to my head. “Kyrie…god. You’ve been so strong through all this. You never faltered. You never hesitated. No matter how fucked up things got, no matter how far into my own shit I was wallowing, you were there. ” His lips dragged over my ear, across the stubble where my hair had been, kissing my temple. “You’re not nobody. You’re Kyrie St. Claire. You’re the woman I love. You’ve come through so much in your life, and you’ve come through it stronger than you have a right to. Everything that’s happened, you haven’t wavered from my side. You’ve been through hell, and you’re still strong. ”

  Something in me tremored, faltered. My voice was barely a whisper. “I don’t feel very strong. ”

  “You don’t have to be. Not anymore. ” He swept his palm over my scalp. “You can relax now, love. You can let go. Close your eyes and let go. ”

  19

  THE STORM BREAKS

  VALENTINE

  The last time I took a nap, I was four years old, and I did so grudgingly, angrily. Naps have always felt like a waste of time. There were always a hundred, thousand other things I could be doing instead of sleeping. And really, do you ever actually feel better after a nap? No. You just feel sleepier. Groggy, disoriented. And then it’s always that much harder to fall asleep at night.

  One sunny afternoon, bobbing at anchor somewhere off the coast of northern Africa, we took a nap together.

  And that nap, with Kyrie?

  It was the best…thing…ever.

  I held her, inhaled her scent, her presence. For the first time in a long, long time, I didn’t feel worried, pressured, anxious, or desperate.

  There had always been something driving me, pushing me. At first it was the need to prove to myself that I could make it, that I could survive on my own out in the world as a seventeen-year-old kid. Then it was the need to prove myself to Gina, and then Vitaly. And always, in the back of my mind, was the need to prove myself to my father. He wasn’t someone I thought about terribly often. I hadn’t spoken to him since that day twenty years ago, and I wasn’t sure I ever would.
I couldn’t forgive him, but I was thankful, in some odd way, because it made me the man I was today. Everything I did, every dollar I’d ever earned, every building I’d bought or built or sold, every business I bought and dismantled and resold, every corporate charter I ever signed my name to, I did so with him in mind, to prove to him that I could do it. That I could make my way and do just as well as he did, if not better.

  But there was still Vitaly Karahalios to deal with. I wasn’t worried about him just yet. It would take him time to formulate a plan and put the various pawns into action, and then that shit wouldn’t go away. But for now, I knew we would be okay.

  For now, we had the boat, more money than we could ever spend, and we had several good men keeping watch. That was enough.

  Page 59

 

  And I had Kyrie. I didn’t deserve her. I didn’t. Yet she still loved me. Why? I didn’t know. And I wasn’t about to question it.

  I wasn’t really awake, but I wasn’t really asleep. I was in that twilight place between the two, aware that I wasn’t asleep but not ready to move. I was warm. Content. Kyrie was a pleasantly soft weight on me, her hand curled on my chest, her cheek on my shoulder, her breath a sweet susurrus. I let my hand rest on her back, feeling the expansion and contraction of each breath.

  I felt her take a deep, waking breath, stretch, and then yawn. Her hand opened, and her palm flattened against my chest. My shirt had rucked up while I’d slept, and her hand found my flesh, diving under the cotton to slip and slide across my stomach.

  I opened my eyes then, and I saw that she was looking at me, her vivid blue eyes soft with tenderness and love and a million other emotions I couldn’t parse or name, all of them somehow directed at me.

  The question was in my eyes, I knew: You love me?

  The answer was in hers: Always.

  Her hand explored my stomach, my ribs, and my chest, pushing my shirt up as she went. My own hand was busy as well, seeking the bottom of her shirt, seeking her skin and the warmth of her flesh, the softness. I found it, and slid my palm across her lower back, feeling the muscles tense and soften as she breathed, and then I found her spine, the ridges and knobs, and carved upward, lifting her shirt as I went.

  Mine was the first shirt to be removed. It slipped off the side of the bed to the floor. Moments later, hers joined it.

  God, was there anything in life better than the feeling of skin against skin? Of feeling her naked breasts press against your chest, her stomach to your side, her hand on your shoulder and your jaw and in your hair? I didn’t think there could be.

  Perhaps sunrise over the Manhattan skyline, or a glass of expensive Scotch, or the roll of the ocean beneath your hull could be close seconds.

  But all of those other things? They’d be empty and meaningless without Kyrie.

  Her lips touched my cheek, and her eyelashes fluttered against my temple. I twisted my face, and captured her lips with mine. We kissed slowly, and deeply.

  I take that back. The best thing, the absolute best, was the way she sighed at the first kiss, when our lips first met and she let herself fall under. The way her lips moved and slid against mine, the way the kiss took on a life of its own and our mouths moved as if each of us was fighting for dominance in the kiss, as if we were each trying to prove with the kiss that we were more desperate than the other.

  Did I slide her underwear down? Or did she kick them off? I don’t remember. But somehow they were off, and her fingers were working the button of my jeans, and we were both pushing them down and I was kicking them off. Her leg slid over mine, her knee touching mine, and then her thigh covered my own—and no, wait, that was the best thing in the world, when she was lying on her side next to me, her face in the nook, that special place between arm and shoulder and chest where she fit just so perfectly, and then we’d start to kiss and the clothes would come off, and that, that, the way she slid her leg over mine.

  I loved that so much.

  It made my heart pound in my chest, because I knew all I had to do was take her by the hips and she’d be on top of me, and I could be inside her within seconds. But I didn’t, usually. I savored. I usually let the moment play out, let her thigh rest on mine, teasing both of us. Usually.

  Not this time. No, this time, I gave in to my impulse. I cradled her hips in my hands and tugged her over me, settled the “V” of her core over my stomach. She was kissing me. It wasn’t us kissing, wasn’t me kissing her—no, this was all her, I was just following along, tasting her tongue as it slid against mine and trying to keep up with the wildness of her mouth.

  Kyrie’s hands feathered through my beard beside our joined mouths, her forehead pressed to mine, our noses nuzzled together side by side, and I had her hips in my hands, because how was I supposed to let go of such perfection when I had it in hand?

  I couldn’t.

  I could only cup her hips in my hands and lift her, savor the crush of her generously portioned tits on my chest

  and let her kiss me, and

  slide into her.

  There was no other possible course of action. It was as necessary in that moment as breathing. As involuntary as the beat of my heart to pulse my life’s blood through my veins, because Kyrie was my lifeblood.

  * * *

  When Valentine pushed into me,

  filling me,

  stretching me,

  I gasped.

  His mouth was locked on mine, his tongue slippery and hot and strong between my lips, his body a mountain beneath me, his hands around my hips, and his eyes, god, his eyes were a pale perfect blue, the sky at noon, soft and deep and endless. Somehow the kiss had broken, but our lips were still touching, trembling, our eyes both open, both of us refusing to look away from this.

  I felt him enter me, and I gasped.

  I knew this would not be rough and wild, not the demanding and furious fucking of a man and woman who couldn’t get enough of each other. Nor would it be the slow and emotional lovemaking of two lost souls who had found each other and knew the life-altering importance of the love binding them to each other. It wouldn’t be the lazy early morning sex of a couple who knew each other so intimately no words or buildup or foreplay was necessary.

  I knew this would be something of all of that.

  And it would stem from him taking control. That was how I’d fallen in love with him. I’d been blindfolded, dependent on him to show me each step I took, dependent on the sound of his voice. I’d known nothing else, had nothing to go on but his voice, and the gentle touch of his powerful hands. I’d fallen for him without ever seeing his face. Without seeing the brawny beauty of his sculpted body, without knowing the pale glory of his sky-blue eyes.

  When I finally got to see all that, I’d only fallen that much harder.

  He’d captured me, taken possession of my soul and demanded ownership of my body by demanding that I trust him before I’d ever even laid eyes on him. He’d demanded that I give him total control over me.

  I had been so, so foolish to do so. I’d been reckless.

  I’d been a naive, hopeful, desperate girl.

  A lucky girl, because he’d known exactly what to do with me.

  He was the kind of man who could read the subtlest of clues in my body language and on my face, and knew what to give me, what to take away, and how to make me need every touch he gave me.

  His language was control.

  I was not by nature a submissive or meek woman. So me giving him control, submitting to him, that was me speaking his language back to him.

  Page 60

 

  We’d learned a balance in the time since he’d first welcomed me into his foyer, a scared, blindfolded girl meeting a guarded and dominant man.

  But sometimes he just needed me to give in to him.

  Lucky for me, doing so always led to universe-shattering ecstasy.

  Like now.

  H
e slid into me, pierced me, and glided deep. He held my hips in place, refusing to let me move. I couldn’t give back, couldn’t provide counter-thrust.

  All I could do was take him.

  * * *

  VALENTINE

  Holy shit. She was so tight, squeezing around me so hard it almost hurt. My fingers dug into the flesh of her hips and held her in place as I drove into her until our bodies were flush, so deep inside her I couldn’t go any farther. Her forehead touched mine and her lips trembled against mine, and I could feel her not breathing, feel her heart beat harder to make up for the sudden lack of oxygen.

  And then I drew back, holding her hips in place still, and she made a small noise in the back of her throat at the loss of me within her. Her mouth opened wide as I pushed back into her, a slow, hard glide. Her fingers, pinned between our bodies, curled into the muscle of my chest, and her entire body shook with the need to move with me. But I wasn’t moving. I was buried deep, holding still, savoring the tight, hot warmth of her.

  And then I moved again, pulled out, held, and thrust in. She gasped into my mouth, and her hands snaked out from between our chests to clutch at my face, and her hips rolled against my grip, fighting me. But I held her still, held her in place. Another hard, grinding thrust, and I filled her, her breath of relief and need and pleasure drowning me with its desperation and its sweetness. So I gave it to her again, pulling back slowly, so slowly, so she could feel every millimeter of me sliding between her taut folds, and she could only moan this time, and bury her face against my neck, crushing her body closer to mine, shaking all over.

  We did this slowly, thrust by thrust, each one intentional, not one motion wasted, not one sensation lost.

  I felt the tightening of her walls around me, felt the shiver in her delicate flesh, tasted the abandon on her lips, and knew that she was about to come undone. She was groaning into my chest, her forehead in the hollow at the base of my throat, her fingers clawed into my shoulders, her legs resting on either side of mine, all of her weight on me, perfect, trusting, so strong yet so fragile. And she became yet more delicate and precious to me as she fought to move with the hurricane force of her climax, but I wouldn’t let her, would not allow her one single inch of motion. I would only let her take me as I gave her rhythm, using her desperation to fuel my own, because I was teetering on the verge of losing myself within her.

  My lips devoured her skin, everywhere I could find it. Shoulder, neck, behind her ear, her arm, her cheek. I sought her lips, but she wouldn’t give them to me. I found the corner of her mouth and kissed there, fit my tongue there, but she drew down, shrank lower, pressing her mouth to my sternum and driving me deeper inside her.

  And then I felt her come, and I was unmade.

 
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