I made circles on the back of his hand with my thumb and focused on the point of our physical connection while trying to find the words to show that our mental and emotional bond was far more precious to me. For the first time since I’d discovered the stronger side of me that was reserved for my personal relationships, I was unable to maintain eye contact with my partner.
“You knew who I was before…before I moved here, before the personal trainers and the skin care experts and the fashion designers laid their hands on me.” I found his searching gaze. “And you’re the only one to really see both sides of me, baby. So don’t think you don’t belong here just because of what this place looks like. You belong wherever I am.”
An adorable flush colored his cheeks. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, but no words came out. With zero warning, he stretched across the console of my sports car and devoured my lips. He darted his tongue inside, stroking, teasing and taunting my own. His grip on my neck was desperate and firm.
When we finally parted, our heavy, labored breathing had left a dusting of fog across the windshield. He ducked his head and offered a cheeky grin. “Didn’t you say something about getting off?”
A low growl rumbled the back of my throat. I pointed at the red door. “Go inside, up the stairs and turn left. The very last room is the master suite. Take everything off, lie on the bed and wait for me.”
He pushed out his lower lip. “Aren’t you coming in?”
I readjusted the evidence of my arousal. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. Otherwise, this is going to be over far sooner than either of us wants.”
Steam from Tyler’s shower still blanketed the room in a dense fog, but the absence of running water made me confident that he’d finished and moved to the changing area to dry off and get dressed. I stripped down, leaving a trail of clothes behind me as I walked into the communal shower with purpose.
Until I found myself standing in a pocket of clarity, my gaze held captive by startled emerald orbs. My mouth turned into the Sahara and my tongue clung to the roof of my mouth.
He was a kid. His paperwork confirmed that he was only twenty-five, a decade younger than me, but the body standing before me with rivulets of water running down it belied the scrawny boy who was always swallowed up by his clothes. Tyler sported lean muscles on his arms and a hint of baby abs forming on his midsection that had been concealed from view until he was nude.
The first day, when he’d taken his shirt off to prove his assertion that he wasn’t a total shrimp, I had been speechless. But I was not prepared to experience a fully naked Tyler.
My breath stuttered on an exhale and my heart stopped. His abdomen was marred by bruises fading from the purple they had been the day after the attack into the yellow and green that signaled the healing of his otherwise-perfect flesh. Without thinking of the consequences, I reached my hand out, traced along an ugly imprint and winced. I’d had far worse myself after going rounds with various opponents—hell, I’d had worse after sparring with Joey—but seeing the marks on Tyler’s creamy skin did something to me, something I wasn’t prepared to think about.
“It’s okay.” His whispered reassurance cut through the thick air and I brought my gaze back up to meet his. He was battered and bruised and trying to comfort me? Someone who barely knew him?
I shook my head, my hand not leaving his side, and I took one step closer. “No. It really isn’t.”
Tyler smirked and arched a single brow. I barely bit back the groan that the innocuous action induced. “You wanna kiss it and make it better?”