A single, coffee-stained piece of paper destroyed my world. I refuse to let it break me. Grabbing a duffle bag of clothes and my beloved violin, I run fast and far from all I’ve ever known. When this fresh start lands me in the arms of a heavily-inked tattoo artist, I convince myself I’m free of the ugliness. But how can I trust him when every relationship in my life was built on lies?
I don’t do innocent. Still, something about my new neighbor draws me in. Most likely her dimples—I’m a sucker for those. Whatever it is, I must proceed with caution with Z. The scars she carries cut deep, making her wary of love. When I make a stupid mistake that breaks Z’s trust, can I earn back what’s been lost? Or will I add a fresh bruise to her battered heart?
Dennis put in the movie and turned off the overhead light, leaving the room lit by candles. He poured us both a glass of wine and settled on the couch.
I sat next to him and took a bite of my barbecue sandwich. “Oh, my gosh this is so good.”
“I love their food. Don’t get it that often because it’s too much for just me.”
We chatted a little until the movie started and then aside from a comment here or question there, we ate in silence. When I was done with my food, Dennis took my plate and disappeared into the kitchen, coming back with a pack of Oreos that he set unopened on the ottoman. Then he took my wine from my hand and set it on his end table before wrapping his hand around my hip and pulling me next to him. He handed my glass back without a word and threw his arm around my shoulders.
I was grateful for that arm when we got farther into the movie. I ended up leaning over Dennis to put my glass on the end table so I wouldn’t spill it when I jumped and buried my face into his chest. He chuckled and pulled me closer.
Scary movies were awesome. I loved watching them with Dennis. Especially because, eventually, I ended up with my shoes off, sitting on his lap with both his arms around me. This made hiding my face easy, and every time I did, I inhaled the warm, spicy incense scent that clung to him.
When the credits scrolled across the screen, he put his hand under my chin and turned my face to his. And then his mouth collided with mine.
The times Dennis had kissed me before started soft and sweet with only a little heat. This was different… There was nothing tentative in this kiss. Fiery and full of need, his lips crashed into mine. I scrambled to turn around, straddling his lap.
“We don’t do anything you don’t want,” he whispered gruffly into my ear. “If you aren’t sure, you just say stop.”
One hand slipped under the back of my shirt, his palm warm against my skin. I slid my hands up his chest to circle his neck and pressed tight against him. He shifted his hand around my ribs. His fingertips caressed higher and higher until he brushed my breast.
I gasped and he froze.
Why is he stopping? He can’t stop.
Driven by instinct and need, I ran my hand down his chest and tentatively slipped under his shirt, touching the firm muscles of his abdomen. They jumped under my fingertips.
Flattening my hand against his warm flesh, I dragged my hand back up. When I reached his pectoral muscle, his hand moved inward, cupping my breast. I arched into his touch.
“Can I…” His free hand grasped at the hem of my shirt.
I hesitated. “I know you’ve seen them but … my scars.”
“It’s okay. Every part of you is beautiful, Zirah. Trust me.”
I nodded and he slowly slid my shirt up over my head. He traced a scar on my chest down to the edge of my plain black bra. One long finger slipped into the cup and tugged it down. My breath caught. Dark eyes met mine, and his thumb circled my areola.
His head dipped and he pressed a kiss there, his gaze darting back to mine. When he saw me watching him intently, he darted his tongue out to taste me. A breathy moan escaped and turned into a loud groan when his mouth closed over the sensitive tip, his teeth tugging gently.
“Can I take off your shirt?” I asked when his mouth came back to mine. He gave me a crooked grin and whipped his shirt off, tossing it with mine. I ran my hand over his chest, surprised the skin there was tattoo-free. I was so intent on my own exploration that I didn’t realize he was unhooking my bra until the tension disappeared. My eyes went wide as both his hands cupped my chest. His fingers flicked over my nipples, making them pebble and tingle.
Suddenly, he moved, his hands sliding down to cup my bottom as he stood and shifted me on the couch, laying me down and lowering himself over me. He moved his hand to grasp behind my knee, pulling my leg up over his hip. I gasped as his hardness sank deep into my softness. His mouth came back down on mine, one hand going to my breast, the other holding my knee in place. His hips pushed into mine and he moaned.
“I want to touch you,” he said into my mouth. His hand left my knee to slide down my thigh and across to my stomach. He held it there for a moment, waiting for me to stop him, I thought.
I wouldn’t stop him. Didn’t want to stop him. I throbbed to be touched.
“Yes,” I whispered when his hand hadn’t moved. His mouth crashed back into mine and with a groan, he glided his hand down to the band of my leggings, toying with the edge for a moment before slipping underneath. I thought I stopped breathing as his fingers pressed into me through the cotton of my underwear.