The Executive's Vengeful Seduction(11) by Maxine Sullivan

His slight smile noted her comment. “The girls might be able to relate, but you can’t discount the fact they are very happily married.”

She met his gaze levelly. “They’re in love, Damien. We’re not.”

He didn’t miss a beat. “You’re right. Here’s to not being in love,” he drawled, lifting his glass of white wine.

Five years ago she would have been devastated by his words, but she knew she was beyond that now.

She raised her glass and clinked it against his. “That’s a toast I can relate to.”

“And to us,” he added.

She pulled the glass back. “There’s no such thing as ‘us,’ Damien. There’s you. And there’s me. Two separate entities.”

“Not after tonight.”

The pit of her stomach began to churn. “I could scream, you know.”

“So could I.”

The comment was so unexpected that her lips twitched.

“Is that a smile I see?” he teased, sounding as if he was truly amused. It was a glimpse of how it could have been if only…

She remembered what their marriage was about. “No,” she said, not looking at him, instead looking everywhere but at him. “I have nothing to smile about.”

A moment passed by. “You’re my wife now,” he said with quiet emphasis. “Accept it.”

She lifted her chin as she looked at him. “I guess I should be honored to be Mrs. Damien Trent?” she said sarcastically, even as she suppressed a tingle at her new name.

“Naturally.”

She made a choking sound. “Your arrogance astounds me,” she said, and caught a look of surprise on his face that in turn surprised her. He really had no idea his words had come across as arrogant. He really did believe she should be honored to marry him.

As if!

No way would she be grateful to a man who forced her into… She winced inwardly. He hadn’t forced her into anything. Yes, he’d married her for his own purposes. And yes, he’d married her for her father’s sake—but for an honorable reason.

She hadn’t quite thought about it in this light before, but by marrying her today he was showing what kind of man he was—an honorable one. He must have had a good upbringing.

Suddenly she realized, Damien hadn’t mentioned his parents today, not once. And she’d been too preoccupied and busy to ask the question.

Now she had the time. “Why didn’t you invite your parents to the wedding, Damien?”

He tensed. “It would be a bit hard. They’re dead,” he said in a clipped tone that didn’t ask for sympathy and would accept none.

A wave of compassion swept over her. And as strange as it seemed, she felt a little sad that she’d never get to meet the parents of this man. Five years ago they’d been on a round-the-world cruise, though she suspected he wouldn’t have introduced her, anyway. About the only other thing she knew about him was that he didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and even getting that out of him had been like asking for state secrets.

“What happened?” she asked sympathetically.

The line of his mouth flattened. “My father picked up some sort of bug during their cruise. It killed him before he could get proper medical attention.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh my God. That’s dreadful. Your poor mother. Did she—”

“She died two years ago.”

She listened in dismay. “I’m so sorry, Damien.”

“Thanks,” he said, looking out to sea, making her think he had hidden depths she was only now beginning to notice.

“So you’re all alone in the world?” she said, trying to find what made this man tick.

He looked at her with eyes turned hooded and dark, a sure sign she’d touched a nerve. “If you want to think of it that way, yes.” Then as if he’d had enough talking, he rose up from his chair like some god ready to sacrifice a virgin. If she’d had time she would have laughed at the thought, but her heart was jumping inside her chest as he came around the table toward her.

“Wh-what are you doing?”

He stopped in front of her, took the glass out of her hand, and pulled her to her feet, his hands circling her waist. “What do you think I’m doing?”

“No, Damien.”

Something lazily seductive seeped into his eyes. “Yes, Gabrielle.”

“Damien, I’m not ready—”

“I’m five years ready.”

She blinked. “Are you saying…you’ve been celibate for five years?”

He snorted. “I’m a man, not a saint.”

Of course. How silly of her. “Then what did—”

“Shhhhhh.” He lowered his head and kissed her. She inhaled sharply and his tongue swept into her mouth, sweeping aside her objections like he did with everything else.

The sheer passion behind it…the possessiveness in it…took her breath away. She melted into him with a low moan, a part of her dismayed at how easily she weakened, another part gloriously alive, reveling in the feel of his lips against hers.

And with each passing moment those firm, manly lips hardened with increasing hunger, growing more urgent and demanding. She returned his kiss, her heartbeat throbbing in her ears, his scent hugging her lungs until all she knew was him.

He lifted his mouth and sent her a heated look, and a private message passed between them. He, too, remembered how it had been. A delicious shudder swept over her. She could almost taste the saltiness of his skin and feel the heat of his body as they lay entwined in bed together.

“It’s time, Gabrielle.”

“Time?” she asked breathlessly, delaying the inevitable, though she wasn’t sure why now.

“For our bodies to do the talking.”

Before she could say anything…or do anything except admit to herself she had a need for him…he put her hand in his and drew her along behind him, down the stairs to the cabin below.

She allowed him to lead her, all at once feeling this was meant to be. She could no more stop this from happening than stop the tide from turning. She didn’t want to stop it now. Deep down she’d known that all along.

And then they were beside the bed and Damien stood looking at her, the lights from the deck filtering in through the windows, giving their world a pearly glow.

A sense of intimacy swirled around them as his fingers feathered up her arm, igniting little sparks where they touched her skin…up over the curve of her shoulder…along her collarbone…under her hair at her nape, admiring the blond strands cascading over his fingers.

“My blond beauty,” he murmured, and brought her mouth to his once more, this time capturing it in a slow and sensuous possession.

She dissolved against him, loving the way his sinewy body embraced hers, his needing her as much as she needed him. And she was lost. As lost as any woman had a right to be when in the arms of a man she’d once loved.

Moments crept by before he eased away from mouth. “It’s been a long time for us,” he said, placing his lips against the column of her throat.

Ahh! She tingled at his touch, every pore in her body recognizing him, acknowledging him. It was five years since he’d made love to her like this. In her dreams it had sometimes seemed like yesterday. In her nightmares it had been forever.

“Say it, Gabrielle. Say you missed this, too.”

She stretched her neck back allowing him access to the base of her throat. “Yes,” she whispered. “I missed this.”

His grunt of approval made her head spin as his hands slipped around to her back and slowly lowered the zip of her dress. The material fell to her waist and she stood in her lacy black bra, her ni**les swelling in anticipation, her pulse rioting with need. She wanted to feel his mouth against her br**sts.

“Mine,” he said, his voice rough with need, arching her up for his indulgence, his eyes darkening as he took what was so willingly offered.

“Yes,” she murmured, then gasped at the touch of his lips closing around a nipple.

He sucked hard, the lace emphasizing the abrasive action of his tongue, and she clutched at his shoulders as he moved to the other breast and repeated the rhythm, creating wonderful little bursts of ecstasy within the very core of her.

Then he undid her bra and it fell to the floor. Her br**sts spilled into his hands and she moaned aloud with sheer pleasure when he began to fondle them. Oh my, did he know what he was doing to her?

Then those hands…those superb male hands…slipped over her rib cage, his firm fingers kneading her skin. Her dress began to slip downward, over her hips, her stomach…and all at once she was conscious of what he would find, and she stiffened, preparing herself for the moment he felt her scar. It didn’t take long.

His fingers stopped on the flat skin of her stomach. “What the hell!” He put her away from him, twisting her toward the light shining in through the window to get a better look.

A flush seared her cheeks. “I’m sorry, I—”

“What happened?” he demanded, holding her h*ps firm, a muscle jerking in his cheek, an angry look exploding in his eyes. Angry and…pained.

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