Blue-Eyed Devil Page 51

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"No." My hands worked at the folds of his lapel, fingers clenching on the sleek fabric.

"Tell me you don't want me. Tell me, and I'll leave you the hell alone."

"I'm not good at this," I burst out. "My God, isn't that obvious?"

Nick is the only one I've ever slept with. I can't be casual about this."

I had never meant to admit that. But I was helpless, broken open, afraid I couldn't stand to be hurt the way Hardy was going to hurt me. Sex and pain and fear were all mixed up in my head.

Hardy went still. In one blistering moment, everything changed. He forced my face upward, his hand cupping the back of my head. His eyes were blue even in the darkness as he stared at me. Slowly his grip gentled, turning protective, his free hand stroking the goose-flesh on my upper arm. I realized he was stunned. It hadn't occurred to him that I might be too inexperienced to know how to play the game.

"Haven . . . " The new softness in his voice made my trembling even worse. "I didn't know. I thought — "

"That I'm a spoiled River Oaks brat? A snob — "

"Hush."

"But I — "

"Hush."

I fell silent and let him hold me. I was swallowed up in his embrace, clasped against that hard chest. Part of me wanted to escape. The other part of me craved this, being held, being touched. He stroked my hair, fingertips moving gently over the curve of my scalp. I felt something giving way, some inner tightness dissolving.

We swayed a little as we stood together, as if sensation were an ocean current pushing against us. Hardy nuzzled into my neck. I twisted to find his mouth, and he gave me what I wanted, kissing me with slow hunger until I was weak and dizzy. His arm was strong around me, cradling and supportive. With his free hand, he clenched his fingers into the loose folds of my dress, easing the knit fabric upward.

I jumped as his hand clasped my bare hip. He kissed my throat and said things I only half heard, endearments, reassurance, soothing me while he parted my thighs. He touched me, opening tenderly, one fingertip moving over layered flesh in teasing circles, smaller and smaller until he reached the center. I writhed helplessly as he caressed that one pulsing spot, over and over, and every time the callus on his finger crossed the wet surface of my clit, a pleasure-cry rose in my throat.

I melted on him, moaning, while the need for sex, to be filled, pulsed all through me. Turning my mouth to his, I let him kiss me as deeply as he wanted, welcoming the aggressive thrust of his tongue. His hand left me, and he reached for the fastenings of his pants . . . and it was then that disaster struck.

As I felt him so huge and hard against me, all the pleasure disappeared. Just . . . vanished. Suddenly all I could see, hear, feel, was that last time with Nick, the searing pain, the brutal thrusts eased only by the slick of my own blood. My throat and stomach pulsed with nausea, and the masculine body against mine was revolting, his weight unbearable, and I began to struggle without thinking.

"No," I panted, twisting away, shoving hard at him. "No. I don't want it. I don't want it. I — " I stopped myself by biting hard on my lip, realizing my voice was rising in a harsh echo.

"What is it?" I heard Hardy ask, his breath coming in rough pants.

I was shivering, hostile, every cell in my body geared up for self-preservation. "Leave me alone," I snapped. "Take your hands off me." I fumbled with my dress, trying to pull it into place, my fingers shaking violently.

"Haven — " His voice was ragged. "Did I hurt you? What is it?"

"I'm not into f**king in public places," I said coldly, edging toward the door. If he touched me again, I would fall apart . . . I would go crazy. "And I don't like being pushed."

"Like hell I was pushing you. You wanted it."

"Don't flatter yourself, Hardy."

He looked flushed and dangerously aroused and annoyed as hell. Slowly he began to restore his own clothing. When he spoke again, his voice was low and controlled. "There's a word, Haven, for a woman who does what you're doing."

"I'm sure you know a lot of interesting words," I said. "Maybe you should go tell them to someone else."

And before he could reply, I fled from the stairwell like an escapee from prison.

Somehow I found my way back to the modular theater, the sounds of dancing and laughter swirling around me. I was terrified by the realization of how much was wrong with me, that I couldn't tolerate the normal act of ha**ng s*x with a man I was attracted to. And I was humiliated by the way I had just behaved. Hardy had no choice but to think I was a bitch, a cocktease. He would never want anything to do with me again. That thought sort of relieved me, but at the same time I wanted to burst into tears.

Todd found me immediately. He had been talking with a guy at the bar, his gaze leisurely sweeping the room, when he saw me come in. He came to me, his gaze focused on my pale face and kiss-swollen lips. "You look like you just banged the Dallas Cowboys," he said. "First and second strings."

"Please, can you call me a cab?" I whispered.

Concern warmed his blue-green eyes. "I'll take you home, sweetheart. Here, lean on me."

But I flinched as he tried to put his arm around my shoulders.

"All right," Todd continued pleasantly, as if he hadn't noticed my bizarre reaction, "why don't you take my arm, and we'll go out the side door?"

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