He heard the intake of air over her teeth as she absorbed his words. “I’m not…you’re not…”
“What, Skylar? What are you so afraid of?” He brushed a gentle finger down the slope of her cheek. Her skin was soft and plump. “It’s just a kiss. It’s not the end of the world.”
“I haven’t kissed anyone since…” He wished he could see her eyes, then he might be able to gauge what was going on in her head. Without that information, he had to go on intuition. And his gut was telling him that someone had hurt Skylar. Damaged her so badly that she no longer trusted anyone.
“You can trust me, Skylar. I would never do anything to hurt you, you have to believe me.” He tightened his grip around her shoulders as he felt her tense beneath him. She was as skittish as a cat beneath his fingers, as if she was about to get up and flee. But he’d started down this course, and now he had to follow it through and hope like hell she didn’t run away. “I don’t know what happened to you. And you don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to. All I can say is that not all men are the same. We’re not all like that bastard Dan Sanders.”
She was still rigid beneath his hand, like a steel trap about to go off. He stroked his other hand down her upper arm, a soothing touch to let her know he was there for her.
“I know you’re not like him.” Her voice was so low he could barely catch her words. “And I know you’re not like Craig, either.”
At last he had a name to attach to the reason for Skylar’s pain. He tucked that gem away for further analysis later. He was a cop. He could find people. And make their life a misery.
“At least my head knows that,” Skylar continued. “But it’s hard to…get past it all. Especially when I trusted him so completely. And then he…well, never mind, you don’t need to know what he did.”
She’d just confirmed his worst fears. That a man from her past had treated her badly. Had made her wary and guarded and want to hide away from the rest of the world. There were so many things Nash wanted to ask. Like what had this monster done to her. Had she sought help from anyone? Nash doubted she had. Skylar was the type who’d suffer in silence. Think she could handle her pain alone.
“I’m so sorry that some asshole mistreated you,” Nash said softly.
“Me, too.” Her voice was soft and full of anguish.
All he wanted was to wash that pain from her life. If she let him, he could give her a new baseline with which to measure all men.
“And I know you’re a good man, Nash.” She lifted her head from his shoulder and balanced on one elbow. “And believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to kiss you, too. But I’m not sure how to…”
“It’s easy,” he whispered. Then he lifted her chin with his thumb and dropped his lips to hers.
At first, she flinched, but he kept the pressure soft and firm. She could move away if she wanted to. But she chose to stay.He let her take the lead, and her mouth was tentative to begin with. He let her explore his lips with hers, kept his mouth closed as her velvety lips pressed harder, and inhaled the scent of her as she ran her fingers down his cheek, brushing against his two-day stubble. Then she nibbled at the corner of his mouth and little pulses of electric heat shot through his chest, straight to his groin. He ran his tongue along the seam of her mouth. Then he couldn’t help it, he opened his mouth and invited her in. And she took his invitation, letting her tongue dart inside his mouth, deepening their kiss, taking it to a whole new level. This was way better than even he’d imagined. She tasted of sweet chocolate and also of something deeper, hints of darkness swirling within.
He went to roll onto his side, wanting to get as close to Skylar as he could. But the movement jolted his sore leg, and he let out an involuntary grunt of pain.
Skylar immediately withdrew. “Oh, sorry, I forgot all about your injury.”
Shit, he didn’t want this to end. He wanted to keep kissing her all night. “What about my leg? My leg is fine. I can no longer feel my leg,” he said. But it was too late. Skylar had gone into caretaker mode once more. She sat up and rearranged the palm fronds that’d fallen away in their throes of passion. Then she put a gentle hand on his forehead.
“You’re still hot. You should try and get some sleep.”
He wanted to say that he was hot because he was burning up for her. But it was no use, the spell was broken. But at least Skylar snuggled back down into his arms, draping her legs along the length of his. She was finally at ease with him, which was all he truly wanted.
After a few moments’ silence, Skylar spoke into the darkness. “It’s the reason I couldn’t let Dan get away with it. Not once I knew for sure that he was hurting his wife. When women arecaught up in that kind of vicious cycle, it’s really hard to see a way out.”
“I know,” he replied. “But that took a lot of courage. You’re a much stronger woman than you know, Skylar Williams.”
She huffed in reply, but he could feel her smiling as she lay her head on his shoulder.
SKYLAR SCRATCHED AT her face. Then she scratched at her neck. The bloody bugs had eaten them alive last night. Her palm fronds might’ve helped a little, but the mosquitoes seemed to have found every square millimeter of bare skin and honed in on it.
At least it was morning now, the sky turning a light purple on the horizon. Soon the hot sun would drive away the remaining insects.
Nash lay beside her, and she snuggled in a little more, not wanting their contact to end. It was so nice to lie here with a man all night, have him cradle her in his arms, offer his support and protection, and not require anything in return. Enjoying the heat of his body so close to hers.
Actually, now that she thought about it, Nash wasn’t just warm, he was hot. She sat up so she could look at his face. His breathing was ragged and uneven.
“Nash.” She shook his shoulder gently.
He mumbled something but didn’t open his eyes.