Page 18

Author: Tracy Wolff

Wanting to comfort her but not knowing if she’d let him, he lifted a hand to her cheek, cupped her face. There were traces of wetness beneath his fingers—not much, just enough to let him know she had been crying.

The thought tore him up. He wanted to hold her, to protect her, to make this nightmare go away for her. But he couldn’t do that. Couldn’t fix this now, just like he couldn’t fix everything that had hurt her, broken her, when they’d been kids. Hell, he’d been part of the problem then and he’d do well to remember it. To ensure that he didn’t become part of the problem again.

He started to pull away, but she’d lifted her hand to cover his so that she was holding his hand against her face. In those moments, he knew that he wasn’t walking away. Wasn’t taking himself out of the equation. It had been so long and he wanted her too badly to just leave her now, when she was vulnerable and frightened. When she needed him as badly as he’d ever needed her.

“Come on, baby.” He slid his arm around her waist, gently urged her across the room and to the piano. She went without resistance, but he knew it would be a different story once he actually had her seated on the bench. And sure enough, when he settled next to her and waited for her to touch the piano, she flat-out refused. She even went so far as to cross her arms across her chest—the universal fuck-off gesture if he’d ever seen it.

But he could be a patient guy when he needed to be, so he just sat there. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

“I don’t want to be here, Quinn,” she told him after long minutes. “My hand hurts.”

He felt like a douche, like a total dick. But he knew he had to push her. If she hid from this now, she’d hide from it forever. Besides, she deserved to make music. Deserved to know that all this wasn’t gone forever.

Reaching over, he lifted her right hand and placed it gently on the piano keys. Then he placed his left one where hers should have gone. “Play with me,” he whispered against her ear. “It’s been so long since I’ve heard you play anything. Play with me now.”

He waited for her to refuse—not that he planned on letting her, for long—but she didn’t. At least not right away. Instead her fingers, her strong, resilient, powerful fingers pressed down on a couple of the keys. She even went so far as to make a couple of chords. Then she stopped, the fading music hanging in the air all around them.

“I can’t,” she told him.

“I’ll help you,” he told her.

And then he played the opening notes to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” One of the most popular pieces around, it was also one of the easiest classical pieces ever written. Elise could play it in her sleep, as could he.

She smiled a little at the first notes, but then she just watched him and listened. It wasn’t much of a performance considering he was only using one hand, but he refused to take over. Refused to give her an out. If she wasn’t going to play, she was going to have to get up and walk away.

She didn’t do that, but she did start to move her hand off the piano keys. He stopped her by placing his own hand over hers. Then gently pressed down on her fingers with his own, until they were playing the notes together.

Elise stiffened, started to jerk her hand away, but he turned to her, caught her beautiful, broken gaze with his own. And refused to let her slip away.

He continued to play, his fingers twined with hers. His gaze locked with hers. Long seconds—long minutes—passed, and then finally, finally, she too began to play. Small movements of her fingers under his as she pressed down on the keys. Then slightly bigger ones, building, building, constantly building, until she was playing right along with him, her fingers dancing over the keys like she owned them. In those moments she did—just like she owned him.

They finished the first movement, but when he would have stopped, she kept playing. So he did, too—through the second movement and into the third. It was strange to only be playing half the piece, but exciting as well. It had been years since he’d heard her play this piece and her style had changed in that time. Which meant he had to try to anticipate what she would do with the piece—and then scramble to adjust if she did something different.

Which she did, time and time again. Partly, he thought because she did play differently now than she had at seventeen. And partly because she was playing with him, pushing at him just to see what he would do.

Quinn knew she expected him to take over at some point, to start forcing his own style—which was more in your face, less stylized, than hers—onto the music. But this was her moment, her piece, and he was more than content to follow wherever she led him.

Unlike the Rachmaninoff piece he’d just been playing, “Moonlight Sonata” didn’t end with soaring power and a clash of keys. Instead, it ended on a whisper, a twinkle, a kiss and as their fingers caressed the last few notes from his piano, he felt the sweetness of the music, and the moment, deep inside himself.

In the silence that followed, he continued to wait. Continued to see where Elise would lead. Into Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” or maybe “Fur Elise,” another simple piece by Beethoven. But Elise surprised him again as she slid into Greig’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor.” In his mind, it was some of the sexiest music ever written. Oh, his band mates would disagree—had, in fact, disagreed many times—because in their minds nothing could be sexier than good, old-fashioned rock and roll.

But they were wrong. Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Lakme’s “Flower Duet,” Rachmaninoff’s “Second Piano Concerto” were among some of the sexiest music he’d ever played. And this concerto, Grieg’s? It beat the others, hands down. And Elise was playing it. With him. For him.

As it had never been one of his concert pieces—in his experience, the truly great performances of Grieg tended to be done by women—he didn’t know the music as well as Elise did. Which meant he once again had to follow her lead. Well, that and improvise a little on his own. She laughed at first, enjoying the little changes he injected into the music.

But as the song continued and he remembered the flow and strength of it, her smile faded. It was replaced by an intensity, an awareness, that set fire to every nerve ending in his body. That had his blood burning, his balls tightening, and his c**k hardening to the point of pain.

He knew he wasn’t the only one affected, either. Elise’s breathing was coming faster and faster and a quick glance down showed him that her ni**les were hard little points pressing against the thin cotton of her tank top. Her hips were moving restlessly against the piano bench and there was a fine tremor in her fingers that hadn’t been there before.

She was gorgeous and sexy and so needy that he felt himself growing impossibly harder. And when her knee brushed against his, it was all he could do to tear his eyes away from her. He was close, so close, to losing it that he knew if he didn’t focus on something else—the piano keys, the music, saying the f**king alphabet backwards—they’d never get through the concerto. At least not until he’d pushed her up against the wall, ripped her pants off, and made her come three or a dozen times.

For the first time, his fingers were the ones that faltered on the keys. Elise glanced at him from beneath her lashes, shot him a little smile. And kept playing. As did he.

But each note they played hung between them, until the very air they breathed was saturated by the need they couldn’t hide. He could feel it inside of himself. In his lungs, in his brain, in his very soul, until every chord he played was her name. Until every note was a desperate plea to hold her, to love her, to take her.

The music built and built and built. There was no calm ending for this piece, no happy slide into oblivion. No, the third movement was effusive and effervescent, wicked and wild. And playing it, with her, made him feel all of those things—and more.

And then they were there, at the end, their fingers slamming down on piano keys as their bodies vibrated with need. And though he knew it was a bad move, though he knew he’d end up regretting it in the morning when he woke up to find that Elise had worked her way back into his soul, Quinn couldn’t stop himself from reaching for her. From picking her up and pulling her onto his lap. From relishing the low, sexy scream that was ripped from her throat as he settled her knees down on the piano bench, on either side of his hips.

Chapter Eleven

Elise was on fire, and had been from the moment she’d heard Quinn playing the piano. The sounds he drew from the instrument, the way his long fingers caressed the keys, the way his body tensed and flowed with beats of the music turned her on like few things ever had.

And now that he was holding her, now that he’d positioned her body around his and she could feel him—hot, hard, throbbing—between her thighs, it was all she could do not to beg. To plead. It had been so long since she’d felt like this. So long since she’d trusted a man to get this close to her.

“I want you, Elise.” Quinn’s voice was low and gravelly and sexy, so sexy. “I know I shouldn’t. I know that you’re injured and vulnerable and the last thing I should be doing right now is pressuring you—”

She leaned forward and cut him off with her lips. He was making sense, being kind and considerate and all of the things a man should be and frankly, she didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to hear any of it. All she wanted was to relish the feel of him against her, to savor what it meant to be wanted, desired, needed.

For long seconds, Quinn didn’t move. And then, as if in a trance, he skimmed his hands over her arms, across her shoulders, down to her collarbones and then up her neck to her chin. He cupped her jaw in his long musician’s fingers, stroked his thumbs gently over her cheeks.

Elise gasped a little, whimpered deep in her throat at the feel of his hands on her. They felt so good. He felt so good.

Quinn tensed at the sound, his fingers going rigid against her face. And then, suddenly, it was like a rope snapped and Quinn’s restraint with it.

His hips thrust up against her at the same time his mouth slammed against hers with bruising force, his lips and teeth and tongue devouring her in a cacophony of wild need. His tongue stroked over her lips, probed at the corners of her mouth before licking along the curve of her bottom lip again and again. She moaned at the soft warmth of it, the sweet, sexy feel of him sliding along the tender flesh of her mouth.

“I want you,” he murmured again, wrenching his mouth from hers. He skimmed his lips across her jaw to the sensitive spot behind her ear where he pressed one soft kiss after another. “I need you.”

Her head was spinning, her body on fire from the feel of him everywhere—his calloused hands holding her face, his hot, sculpted chest pressed against her breasts, his lean, hot thighs pushing against her own. She didn’t know why he was talking, didn’t know how he was talking when she could barely think let alone formulate words.

She wanted him to take her, right here, right now, to spread her open and f**k her while the music still thrummed through her veins. Tomorrow could take care of itself.

But this was Quinn. Sexy, beautiful, teasing Quinn, who looked like danger and sounded like sex, but who was secretly a gentleman underneath it all. And when he refused to do more then press soft kisses against the curve of her neck, she knew that she was going to have to gather enough brain cells to reassure him. Because Quinn would never take anything she didn’t want to give willingly.

Sliding her hands up his back to tangle in his gorgeous, glorious hair, she tilted her head back to give him better access. And murmured, “I need you, too, Quinn.”

She thought it would be all the reassurance he needed, but instead of ripping her clothes off like she wanted him to, he pulled back a little, his midnight eyes searching hers in the soft light of the music room.

“Are you sure?” he demanded.