The Bad Boy Billionaire: What a Girl Wants(9) by Maya Rodale

“Some good news,” I whispered.

“I told you, I have enough good luck to spare,” Duke said.

“Unless my bad luck rubs off on you.”

“Nah,” Duke said easily. “Come on, let’s open a bottle of wine and eat all this crap while you tell me what people in days of yore did to amuse themselves without TV and the Internet.”

We did just that—sipped lukewarm white wine and dined on potato chips, pretzels, and candy bars.

“In Regency times, people often played cards after dinner,” I said as I indulged in a bar of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate.

“Strip poker?”

“No,” I said laughing and rolling my eyes. “They played whist. Or vignt-et-un which is basically the same as Blackjack.”

“Do you fancy a game of strip vignt-et-un?”

“You and the stripping! It’s too cold in here for that,” I said, shuddering for emphasis as a Regency heroine might have done. Without heat or even sunlight to warm the place up, the chill had seeped into my bones and I began to have a new appreciation for laments about drafty ancestral estates.

“I’ll warm you up,” Duke murmured, sliding his hand around my waist and pressing a kiss against my lips.

“Or they danced,” I whispered. “But we don’t have any music.”

“We don’t need music,” Duke whispered. He stood, and clasping my hand, pulled me to my feet.

With one hand around my waist and the other clasping mine, at his lead we began to dance. Neither of us knew the steps to a quadrille or a reel or any other days-of-yore dances. I tried to teach him how to waltz but in the end, we relied on instinct and somehow just knew how move together in the same rhythm, at the same time.

For some moments I wanted to rest my head against his chest, close my eyes and forget everything except the beat of his heart and our bodies moving in time together. But the moment was always ruined by the recollection of Sam . . .

I tried hard to breathe. I closed my eyes, hoping to shut out the memories of Sam’s assault . . . the way he grabbed me . . . holding my arms . . . holding me close . . . his body pressed against mine . . .

I wanted to enjoy this moment. But it was hard.

Breathing. It was difficult at the moment.

But I didn’t want to lose my future to one dark chapter of my past. So I opened my eyes and gazed up at Duke. He looked at me with affection and lust, with kindness and promises. Perhaps even love. With all sorts of good things.

My heart was pounding. This could be the moment that I panicked, ran away and let walls go up between a really good man and me.

Or this could be the moment that I choose love instead of fear.

So Duke and I danced around his kitchen, banging into the countertops and tables because the candles didn’t provide much light.

I let him lead me down the hall to the bedroom, dancing all the while.

After crossing the threshold, we both paused. It was unspoken, but understood: I wasn’t sure I was ready to make love or let myself go enough to enjoy it.

“Don’t be nervous,” Duke said softly. “Don’t be scared.”

He looked so earnest. I believed him. I had so much faith in him that I could exhale the breath I’d been holding and even breath normally. But then I glanced up and noticed Duke was biting back words.

“What is it?”

“I will wait for you, Jane,” Duke said plainly. “As long as it takes.”

“But . . .” The protest was a rush of breath over my lips. It could be forever. I might never be ready. A wave of sadness hit me as I considered the prospect of never being able to make love with abandon again. What a bleak existence was ahead of me if I let Sam’s rough touch possess me forever.

I couldn’t.

In fact, what if I could take it back? My heart started to pound. What if I could reclaim me, for myself? It was a question I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t even think about it because what Duke said next took my breath away.

“I want to touch you, Jane. I want to erase all the bad memories and remind you of pleasure.” I was uncertain, scared and not so pure and not so innocent. I was a mess, but still, Duke stood there and promised me love.

Was I really going to live the rest of my life without a lover’s touch? Was I really going to let Sam have this power to take away my pleasure? I couldn’t. Just couldn’t. I knew that.

But that didn’t mean letting go was easy.

“But I don’t want to hurt you,” he continued. “Or scare you. I just want to touch you.”

Duke’s blue eyes smoldered at me. There was no denying it: He wanted me. He knew what had happened, and he was willing to wait for me to be ready. I wasn’t damaged in his eyes. To him, I was still desirable.

Would I ever find another man like him? Probably not.

Would I ever have another chance to try to reclaim myself? Of course—as long as I didn’t allow fear to hold me back. But why not start now? Why not seize this moment? I thought of excuses but dismissed them.

“How? How would you touch me?”

“I would start by pushing aside that strand of hair that’s been falling in your eyes all day,” he said softly. “And I’d let my fingertips graze your cheek as I did.”

That was gentle. That was safe.

“Like this?” I asked, as I enacted the movement he described. My hair was soft. How many times had I pushed my hair away from my face? Countless. And how many times had I noticed that the skin of my cheek was soft and sensitive and responsive to a light and gentle touch? Once. Now. The slight caress of my fingertips against it sent a little shiver down my spine.

“Yes,” he whispered. “Like that.”

“What else?”

“What do you want?”

I didn’t know what I wanted. I glanced around the room, looking out the windows at the darkness beyond. The faintest bit of moonlight illuminated the bed, the bedside tables, Duke’s suitcase on the floor, and a dresser with opened drawers. One was ajar, and a certain grey silk tie haphazardly spilled over the edge. I had bought him that tie . . . but I had been the one to wear it.

I trusted him, truly I did. But I couldn’t shake the thought of tying his hands. I reached over, picked up the tie, and asked for Duke’s permission with my eyes.

“If that’s what you want, Sweater Set,” he whispered. We knelt before each other on the bed as I wrapped the length of grey silk around his wrists and tied it tightly. Duke was a strong man, this wasn’t a real restraint. But it was something . . . Tonight I was only going to feel what I wanted to feel, and from my touch alone.

“Tell me how you want to touch me,” I whispered.

“I would drag my thumb across your lips, to rub away the bad memories.”

I did just that, imagining that I could wipe away the past, as I felt them tingle from the friction.

“What would you do next?”

Our gazes locked. I focused on his familiar features: the blue eyes and dark lashes, the strong line of his jaw and the dramatic slant of his cheekbones, his firm mouth that often curved into a smile that made me feel warm inside. In this moment, I felt undeniably connected to him, even though we weren’t even touching. Just kneeling opposite each other on his king-sized bed.

“I would run my fingers through your hair,” he said softly. “And cradle your head in my hands.”

I slid my fingers along my scalp, feeling that lovely sensation of fingers delicately running through soft strands of hair. I closed my eyes and imagined it was Duke’s touch. My lips parting, awaiting a kiss.

“I would kiss your neck first, just where it curves into your shoulder.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Imagine it, Jane.”

“Would you kiss me now?”

“No.” His voice was low and rough with desire. I felt the vibrations of it deep inside.

“No?”

“No. Next I’d want to kiss you all along the curve of your shoulder.”

Keeping the touch of my fingertips light, I dragged them back and forth along my shoulder, and down across my décolletage. Duke’s eyes darkened with desire. His hands moved as if he wanted to touch me, but they remained bound by that grey silk tie. I remained in control.

My skin, it had to be noted, was warm and soft and responsive to my touch. It felt the same as before.

“I would want to touch you lower. Feel your br**sts in my palms.”

I touched myself like that, cupping my br**sts in my hands, feeling the soft cotton of his T-shirt between my palms and bare skin. But I really wanted to feel everything. And I wanted to test Duke’s control. So I stripped off the shirt and let it fall to the side.

He wanted me. I could see it in his eyes. I might have felt dirty and damaged, but to this man I was still beautiful. And as my fingers roamed over my abdomen, my br**sts and all over, I had to note that I felt the same. Perhaps I felt more because I appreciated every little touch. And it wasn’t just a little touch; I was taking myself back.

“I would touch you with my hands . . . my mouth . . . taking the center of your br**sts in my mouth. Teasing you with my tongue . . .”

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