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A Kiss In The Dark
By Jenna Mills
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
The broken cry shattered the silence of the night. He awoke abruptly, heart hammering, adrenaline surging. Disoriented, he sat upright on the sofa and blinked against the grainy dryness of his eyes, tried to focus. The cabin was dark, shadows blurring detail. Nothing moved save for the orgylike frenzy of snowflakes outside the window.
A dream, he told himself. Just another nightmare. They were stronger here in the cabin, where memories crowded in from every direction like ghosts in a desecrated cemetery.
He was a fool to keep coming back.
"D-don't kill him!"
This time there was no mistake. He was on his feet in a heartbeat, running across the cold wood floor toward the hallway. She didn't belong here. Not here. But the snowstorm had turned vicious, rendering the roads too treacherous for driving.
"S-stay away! Stay away from me!"
The pain in the voice he'd never forgotten, despite the passing of six long years, pierced deep.
"Don't touch me ..."
He reached the closed door at a dead run, knew it was locked before he tried the knob. He pulled back, then rammed his body against the wood, crashed inside the room.
The sight greeting him almost sent him to his knees. The need to protect, to comfort, reared upfrom somewhere dark and forgotten and sent him toward the bed, where she fought the tangled sheets, lost in a nightmare he knew too well.
"My baby ..."
He reached the bed and pulled her to his body, holding her against his chest. "It's just a dream," he assured roughly, running his hands along her back. She was thinner than he remembered. And she was trembling. "Just a dream."
Her arms twined around his waist, her soft palms stinging like ice against his bare back. "S-so real," she murmured as he held her, rocked her. "Just like before."
"It's this place," he reasoned, trying to ignore the feel of her soft breasts pressed against his chest. "Too many memories."
He pulled back to look at her and felt something deep inside splinter. Her sable hair was tangled, her devastated eyes an impossible shade of arctic blue, her skin like ice, the coral of her lips practically translucent. His threadbare black and blue flannel shirt had slipped over one shoulder, baring the curve he'd once loved to skim his mouth along.
A long time ago.
In the years since then, he'd lived without her. He hadn't touched her, seen her, talked to her for six long years. She'd come to him only during the long, dark hours of the night, when his defenses lay in tatters and desire made him weak.
He'd always felt things intensely, passionately. He'd never been able to walk away from a fight. Or from her.
Except when she told him to go, to never come back.
Clenching his jaw, he reached for the comforter and draped it around her shoulders. "You should be fine now. I'll be in the other room if you need me."
She reached for him, curled cool fingers around his wrist. "Don't go."
He went very still. "You don't know what -"
"I want to be warm again," she said, lifting her eyes to his. They were huge, dark. "Is that so very wrong?"
A hard sound broke from his throat. In some hazy corner of his mind, he knew it was a mistake even as he reached for her. It was like throwing a lit match into a pile of dried leaves and expecting nothing to happen. But too much emotion burned inside him. Too much need. That had always been the problem. He'd never been able to care about nasty things like consequences.
She didn't seem to care, either. She reached for him, pulled him to her.
"You're real," she murmured against his chest. "I never thought ..."
Her words trickled off, but he didn't need to hear them. He knew. God help him, he knew. And he could no more stop touching her, wanting her, than he could change the past. Make it better. Write a new ending.
"Neither did I," he said hoarsely.
Outside, the temperature hovered just below freezing, but inside, the fire licking at the grate crackled and sizzled, filling the cabin with the scent of burning pine and times long past. But never forgotten. Memories hovered everywhere, slipping around him and slicing through him, seducing even as they destroyed. The joy and the desperation, the smiles and the laughter, the tears. The cold, hard truth.
Against his chest he felt the moisture, and knew that she was remembering, too. He pulled back to wipe the silent tears away, but instead of swiping a thumb beneath her eyes, he put his mouth there. Very gently, he kissed away her pain, though he could do nothing about the emotion stinging his own eyes. He could only skim his mouth along her cheekbone, the line of her jaw, finally finding her lips.
The onslaught of sensation stabbed deep. She tasted of regret and longing, tomorrows that never came. Of hope and possibility, dreams that never died. She tasted of the hot chocolate he'd made shortly before midnight. Of the tiny white marshmallows that had finally coaxed a smile from her.
The first she'd given him in almost nine years.
Now her mouth moved against his with the same hunger, the same urgency, that drove him. And when at last she pulled back and lifted her eyes, he saw the glaze of mindless passion that had haunted him for a seeming eternity.
"I ... forgot," she whispered.
He pushed up on one arm. "Forgot what?"
"What it's like when you touch me, how everything else just ... fades to the background."
He told himself to quit touching her. Walk away, close the door. And again, he wished he was a different man, the kind who couldn't be lured into stepping off the side of a cliff.
"It's been so long ..." Her voice was soft, distant. Almost pained. "Did you forget, too?"
Yes was the smart answer. Yes. "No."
"Then help me remember," she murmured, tugging him toward her. "Help me remember what I've forgotten."
That was all it took. He returned his mouth to hers, and she came alive in his arms, touching him, running her hands along his body like a benediction of cool spring water. Everywhere she touched, he burned. Wanting to touch her, too, all of her, he lifted a hand to the buttons, but his fingers were too big, too impatient. He pulled the fabric, sent the buttons popping.
And then there she was. Through the flickering light of the fire, he drank in the sight of her sprawled against the flannel sheets. Her skin was flawless, almost shimmering. Her breasts could make a grown man weep.
And her smile. Dear God, her smile. He had forgotten. It had been the only way to stay sane.
"Are you sure?" he somehow managed to ask.
She answered not with words, but by skimming a hand down his chest, along his abdomen to his waistband. There she tugged.
On a low groan, he kicked off the ratty sweatpants. He told himself to go slow, to linger and savor, but the second the scrap of pink silk no longer separated them, she curled her legs around his and restlessly tilted her hips. And restraint shattered. He heard her name tear from his throat as he pushed inside, pushed home, nearly blinded by the rush of heat and pleasure. She was tight, almost virginal. But he knew this wasn't her first time. He'd taken care of that nine years before. And then the marriage -
"Hurt her, and I'll kill you."
Six years hadn't lessened the punch of the vow he'd made to his cousin that starkly cold January morning, nor the emotion behind it, but as she twisted in his arms, murder was the last thing on his mind. He destroyed the memory, refusing to grant power to the past. It was over. Done. Meaningless. She was here now, gazing up at him with untold longing in the blue of her eyes. That was all that mattered.
Excerpted from A Kiss In The Dark by Jenna Mills Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.