Blue-Eyed Devil Page 69

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The halter top loosened and fell to my waist. My br**sts felt heavy, achy, the tips turning hard as they were exposed to cool air. Hardy slid an arm behind my back to support my faltering weight. He bent over me, his mouth hot as he navigated the pale slope of my breast. His lips traveled slowly to the deep pink crest. A moan swelled in my throat as he suckled, nibbled, moving from one breast to the other. Gasping, I held his head to me, the hair like thick silk, the scent of him as fresh as vetiver.

He pulled me up, his arm amazingly strong, and he cradled my head in one hand to feed on my mouth again. His fingers clamped on a nipple still damp from his tongue.

I clutched at him, so close, needing more, just a little more . . .

He seemed to understand. Murmuring against my throat, Hardy pulled at the fastenings of my jeans, unzipped them, began to tug them down over my hips.

Then something in me snapped.

I went cold for no reason, as if I'd just been dropped into a glacier lake. I saw Nick's face, felt Nick's arms around me, his legs pushing between mine. There was a bolt of pain in my chest, like the beginning of a heart attack, and my gut roiled.

I came apart, crying out and shoving at him, nearly falling off the island. Hardy caught me, lowering my feet to the floor, but I was too far gone at that point, snapping at him, no get away don't touch me don't, and I kicked and pushed and clawed away from him like a wild thing.

I must have blanked out for a moment, because the next thing I knew, I was curled up on the sofa, and Hardy was standing over me.

"Haven, look at me," he said, and kept repeating it until I obeyed. I saw blue eyes, not hazel. I focused on them desperately.

Hardy had draped his discarded button-down shirt over my na**d chest. "Take a deep breath," he said patiently. "I'm not going to touch you. No, sit still. Breathe."

My stomach was cramping so painfully, I was certain I was going to throw up. But gradually the jerky breaths eased into longer ones, and the sickness faded. Hardy gave a curt nod when my breathing returned to something approaching normal. "I'll get you some water. Where are the glasses?"

"To the right of the sink," I croaked.

He went to the kitchen area, and I heard the tap running. While he was gone, I pulled his shirt on and wrapped it around myself. I was clumsy, trembling with aftershocks. As I realized what had just happened, how I had freaked out on him, I wanted to die. I buried my head in my arms. I had thought everything was fine. It had felt so good, but all the excitement and pleasure had turned to panic.

Something was really, really wrong with me. And I knew if I couldn't be close to this man, now, I was never going to be close to anyone. I was never going to be okay.

Swamped in despair, I huddled in the corner of the sofa. Hardy sat on the coffee table, facing me. Silently he gave me the glass of water. My mouth had gone as dry as dust, and I drank thirstily. But after a few swallows, the sick feeling threatened to come back, and I set the glass aside.

I forced myself to look at Hardy. He was pale under his tan, his eyes electric blue.

My mind was a complete blank. What the hell should I say to him? "I didn't think I was going to do that," I heard myself mumble. I'm sorry.

His gaze locked on me. "Haven . . . What kind of problem are we dealing with?"

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

I really didn't want to get into that. I wished Hardy would go away and leave me the privacy for tears. I wanted to cry and go to sleep, and never wake up. But it was pretty clear Hardy wasn't going anywhere until he got an explanation. And God knew I owed him one.I gestured clumsily to a chair on the other side of the table. "If you wouldn't mind . . . I can talk about it easier if you sit over there."

Hardy shook his head. The only sign of emotion on his face were the twin lines notched between his brows. "I can't," he said in a husky voice. "I think I might know what you're going to tell me. And I don't want to be far away from you when you say it."

I looked away from him, shrinking into the folds of his shirt. I could only talk in fits and starts. "What just happened was . . . Well, I behaved that way because . . . I have some leftover problems from my marriage. Because Nick was . . . abusive."

The room was deathly quiet. I still couldn't look at him.

"It started out in little ways," I said, "but it got worse over time.

The things he said, the demands . . . the slapping, screaming, punishing . . . I kept forgiving him, and he kept promising never to do it again . . . but he did, and it got worse, and he always blamed me for causing it. He always said it was my fault. And I believed him."

I went on and on. I told Hardy everything. It was awful. It was a train wreck happening right in front of me and I couldn't do anything about it, except that not only was I watching, I was also the train. I confessed things that in a saner moment I would have had dignity or sense to filter out. But there was no filter. All my defenses were down.

Hardy listened with his face averted, his profile shadowed. But his body was tense all over, the stark relief of jutting muscles in his arms and shoulders more eloquent than words.

I even told him about the last night with Nick, the rape, being thrown out, the barefoot walk to the grocery store. While I talked, I cringed at the ugliness of what I'd been through.

There was a certain relief in it though. An ease. Because I knew that with all the baggage I was unloading, any chance of a relationship with Hardy was vanishing. Syllable by syllable. No man would want to deal with this. And that was for the best, because it was obvious I wasn't ready for a relationship anyway.

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