“Fortunately, you seem to have lost your appetite.”
“Have I?” His eyes darkened perceptively, never once leaving her face. “Bet you can guess what I’m thinking right now.”
“Yeah. I bet I can too.” She gave a small, reluctant smile. “That one was a little too easy.”
The silence that followed was not comfortable.
Eventually he took a deep breath. “Right. Let’s go find another tree to climb.”
Effortlessly he jumped back down to earth, turned and held his hands up for her. “Yep. Best of three.”
“And if you win?”
He smiled and eyed up her neck like it was a tenderloin he intended to baste with his tongue. “Come on.”
“I hate you so hard.”
“You know, in my head, every time you say that I substitute ‘hate’ for the word ‘love’.” Nick exhaled on a sigh and watched Roslyn limp toward the bed, chain trailing behind her. Apparently she’d pulled some muscles today. The woman was seriously out of shape. They needed to fix that. He was so used to working with other fit people it hadn’t occurred to him how behind she was. What if something happened? “Lie down on your stomach and I’ll rub you down.”
“Yes.” He rose from his seat at the table, forgetting about the last of the creamy salmon pasta he’d cooked for dinner. Not a bad effort for tinned ingredients, if he said so himself. He’d spent the time drying out from the drug and alcohol binge developing new hobbies. He’d actually found he enjoyed cooking. “Please come and lie down.”
“You’re only saying please to pacify me.” Her forehead crinkled and she crawled onto the bed with achingly slow movements. Damn it, he shouldn’t have pushed her so hard. She’d washed up and changed into comfortable clothes after they’d gotten back. Thank goodness she’d gotten it out of the way before her muscles seized up.
“Sure. If it makes you feel better.” He had body oil in the bedside table. Just like he had sex toys and shit to tie her up with. Nice to know that this time the use would be for her pleasure. “Lie face down.”
Roslyn gave the drawer of supplies a dirty look. “You’re a pervert, by the way.”
“Butt plugs have their place, darling.” Nick sat on the bed beside her, unscrewed the cap on the oil then set it aside. “I can demonstrate on you if you like.”
“You’ve never played with one? Really?”
“You’re a freak.”
“Says the woman who can’t admit to liking it when I take control.”
“Lie down,” he said, placing gentle pressure on the middle of her back.
“We need to establish some ground rules.”
“Sure. Pants off!” He tucked a finger either side of her black yoga pants and dragged them down her legs before she had a chance to fight him. Pale blue silk panties remained, cut to reveal a nice slice of her ass cheeks. Silk. He liked silk. Satisfaction hummed through him at the sight.
“Hey!” Her hand flailed at his thigh, landing a slap that was half-hearted at best.
“Hush. How did you think I was going to give you a rubdown? Relax.”
She huffed and grumbled, but bad luck.
“Ros, if we don’t work the kinks out it’ll be worse tomorrow.”
“It’s your kinks that concern me.”
He snorted. “Come on. Stop fussing.”
“Fine. Just make it fast.”
As if. He poured the almond oil into his hand, letting his skin warm it. “Fast is up there with polite. Bloody unlikely.”
It would be nice to start with her thighs, but he knew it was best to work his way up to them. Safer. She lay still, tolerating him for now, though who knew how long her lack of resistance would last. Physical exhaustion was an old army trick for breaking down willful resistance. Get down and give me twenty, and all that. It worked just fine on Ros, too.
He smoothed his hands over one tense calf, working the line of muscle in long strokes with his fingers and thumbs. No chance of rushing; he just enjoyed the feel of her lovely soft skin beneath his hands. Tension eased out of her gradually as he made no obvious grab for her ass or anything. She relaxed against the mattress, body going lax as he worked over the bottom half of first one leg and then the other. The rounds of her ass cheeks were clear against the silk panties. He would have loved to have sunk his teeth into her there. He hadn’t bitten her again, despite her epic loss to him regarding the tree climbing. Encouraging her was more important than getting his jollies.
For the time being, at least.
“Should have put a towel under me,” she said, interrupting his filthy thoughts. “We’re going to get the sheets dirty.”
“Never mind.” He wished. Dirty he could definitely do. Time to change the subject. “We’ll just go for a walk tomorrow. Take it easy.”
“We can go outside again?”
His fingers slowly massaged her thighs, inching higher, but not too high. The palms of his hand slid over the sides of her legs and the sensitive area below her butt. Nice, long upward strokes to lull her into submission. That was the way to go. She almost didn’t fight him when he went for the hem of her long-sleeve T-shirt. “Let’s get this out of the way.”
“Oh, you’ve done enough. Thanks.”
“Roslyn, at the very least your arms need a rub. We have to get the sleeves out of the way. Don’t want to get oil on them.” There were already marks where his fingers were holding it, but she didn’t need to know that. “Okay?”
She looked back at him, brows a straight line and face argumentative but tired. There were faint bruises under eyes and lines of tension around her mouth. Now was the time to strike.
“You’ve got a bra on. What’s the big deal?” He gave her his most open, harmless, boyish face.
“Alright.” She frowned some more but let him draw the shirt up and over her head, off her arms. Slowly, carefully, he revealed soft skin and magnificent fucking curves. Nick swallowed hard and licked his lips, kept the lust off his face in case she still watched him. Ros reminded him of a schoolmarm, one with a twelve-inch ruler ready to come down on his knuckles—or somewhere far worse.
“Relax,” he said.
The notches of her spine intrigued him, the feel of that line of bumps beneath his fingers. He poured some more oil into his hands, all ready to get to work. It would be hard to reach everything from where he was.
“Hang on.” Nick got to his knees and swung a leg over her, crouching above her thighs.
“What are you doing?”
“I can reach better from here.” He leant over so she could see him and smiled blandly. “Relax.”
Without waiting for a response he started in on her arms. The knots in her muscles were right there, sitting beneath the skin.
Ros sighed and rested her head on the mattress. “That feels good. Thanks.”
“You’re still not getting sex.”
“What a surprise.” He laughed.
The funny thing was … she laughed too. A low little chuckle he’d never heard before. Her shoulders shook beneath his hands in time with the noise. What he’d give to really make her laugh, a big belly laugh that had her clutching her middle and tears leaking out of her eyes. How amazing would it be for her to be that happy and carefree, and for him to be the reason? A sort of selfish thought, but then again, sort of not.
He snorted. What about this set-up wasn’t selfish?
“What?” she asked, trying to peer back at him.
His hands cupped her shoulders, just sitting there. Again, he angled himself so she could see him without killing her neck. “I don’t think I’ve heard you laugh before.”
“Oh.” She gave him an awkward smile and laid her head back down.
“I like it.”
She blinked several times, but made no reply.
Fair enough. He got back to massaging her shoulders, letting his fingers wander along her arms, all the way down to her hands. If she could see him stretched out above her, over her, measuring out her body with his own, she would have been very fucking uncomfortable. As it was, her breathing picked up its pace. He could smell the flowery shampoo she used in her hair, familiar enough to make him smile. Of course his dick twitched in his pants, but he ignored it. Being with Ros was a unique sort of torture. The feel of her beneath him sat front and center in his brain every minute, no escape. Best thing to do would be to think of something horrible, like the other day at the school. What would have happened if Roslyn had been there without him? Fear wiped the smile right off his face. Never, ever, ever would she be in that position. Nick rested his forehead against the back of her head for a moment, taking a second to calm himself. She was alive and fine and she’d stay that way.
“What are you doing now?” she asked in a small voice.
“Just thinking.” He rubbed the pads of his fingers over her delicate knuckles, between them. “I’m glad it was you I found.”
She didn’t reply but he could feel the tension running through her, beneath him. Not what he’d intended. He sat back, giving her some breathing room, letting her have her space. His hands slicked over the surface of her skin, getting back to business. Back up her arms and over her shoulders, tracing out her ribs. Carefully avoiding the pale blue straps of her bra.
There was a mole to the right hand side of her spine, a third of the way down. He brushed a finger back and forth over it. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Her voice wavered, like the fact stunned her, or unnerved her.
“Tell me you hate me,” he said, half joking.
He waited for the words, fully expecting them but not quite as hardened to them as he’d like to be. Those pretty lips parted and her ribcage moved beneath the palms of his hands as she took a deep breath. But then her lips sealed shut again.