Satisfaction Guaranteed

Tuesday Morrigan







www.loose-id.com

Satisfaction Guaranteed
Copyright © March 2011 by Tuesday Morrigan
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Cover Artist: April Martinez
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Chapter One

“I see you remember our song,” Rome whispered against the sensitive shell of
her left ear.
A slight shudder went through her as his breath moved over her. She licked
her bottom lip, hardened her resolve to make it through the evening, and turned. “I
see you"ve forgotten plenty. We were never together, Rome. We didn"t have a song.”
Their history was long and complicated. They never had anything as simple as a
song. Sela wondered again if she made a mistake coming to her ten-year high-school
reunion. No doubt her vacation time could have been better spent on a beach.
Their closeness wouldn"t be such a hassle if he weren"t so attractive. Rome was
a tall man, standing approximately six foot three, with long, strong muscles. His
broad shoulders and inky black hair differentiated him from every man standing in
the room. Bright green eyes rimmed with the longest, darkest lashes stared at her.
He smiled briefly, full, lightly tinted lips curving around straight white teeth.
He had grown more handsome while they were apart.
“Not because I didn"t try,” he said softly. So softly she wondered if she was
meant to hear the words.
Comment on his admission.
But he never gave her a chance. “Would you like to make this our song now?
Would you like to dance?”
She flicked a glance at the dance floor. It was crowded, and the song was slow.
If she agreed, her body would be pressed against his.
Hard muscles to full curves.
She continued to look past him as she spoke. “I think your wife would
disapprove.”
“Then it"s a good thing I"m not married.”
Damn, she"d miscalculated. The last she"d heard Rome was engaged. That was
over two years ago. She"d assumed he would be married by now.
“Engaged, huh? Still haven"t gotten up the courage to do the damned thing.”
“I"m not married, engaged, or otherwise in a relationship, Sela.”
Her gaze lifted at the sound of humor in his voice. There was definitely
amusement in Rome"s eyes.
“So?” He held out his hand.

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She stared at it for a second. Long, slightly rough, lightly tanned hand—a
hand that she remembered pleasuring her body so well. She could turn him down,
but then he would believe she was afraid of him, of what they once were. She wasn"t
and wouldn"t let him think that. “Fine. Let"s get this over with.”
“Be still my beating heart.”
Sela ignored the very strong urge to turn around and flip him the bird as she
made her way to the dance floor. He caught up with her as she reached the crowd.
He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her against him.
The swiftness of his actions took her by surprise. She fell against him in an
undignified heap, but Rome was prepared. He wrapped both arms around her and
moved just a little closer.
Just as Sela feared, hard muscles met soft curves as her breasts were flattened
against Rome"s chest. She was dismayed to discover that her nipples immediately
hardened and her pussy flooded with moisture. Christ, what is wrong with me? He
shouldn’t make me feel like this.
Whenever Sela thought about Rome and her attraction to him, she blamed her
response on teenage hormones. She couldn"t claim that anymore. No, it was all
Rome. She started to step back and put some desperately needed space between
their bodies when he moved. It was a simple, soft sway of his hips to the beat of the
music pulsing through the air, but it was highly effective. She felt her heart rate
increase. To slow down her raging emotions, Sela took a deep breath.
It was a mistake. She dragged in a deep breath of Rome"s distinctive scent,
clean male and animal magnetism. It filled her nostrils and slid down her throat.
She tasted him on her tongue, and like an appetizer, it left her hungering for the
main meal. Him sliding into her sheath, filling her to the brim, and satisfying the
hunger that burned deep in her soul.
Needs long forgotten surfaced for just a moment before she pushed the
traitorous feelings aside. She looked up to find Rome watching her with an emotion
that made her sheath tighten with need. If she didn"t know better, Sela would say
Rome"s eyes had been filled with desire. She glanced away before she allowed the
sight to shatter her resolve.
That was the last thing she needed. She was teetering on the edge. Knowing
he wanted her might just push her over.
Thankfully, the song ended before she could think about it more.
“Well, that was…nice. Thank you.” She started to turn away when Rome
tightened his grip on her waist. Sela found herself staring back up at him.
“You remember this song, don"t you?”
She opened her mouth to tell him off when she heard the bluesy singer croon
the first line. She remembered the song, all right. They"d danced to it during their
senior prom. The last night they were real friends.
“What are you doing, Rome?”

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He flashed Sela a smile that did wicked things to her nether regions. He
leaned forward. She licked her lips slowly as anticipation danced along her nerves.
Dear God, if he kisses me…
“I"m trying to win my friend back.”
She stared at him incredulously. That was not what she was expecting. She
turned away, thinking about the summer after her senior year in high school. “We
tried to be friends. It didn"t work.”
He pressed her a little closer. She bit her bottom lip as every inch of his hard
frame enveloped her lush curves. “You"re wrong, Sela. We were friends for years
before things went south.” He paused. “I"ll admit I"ve considered that we were
meant to be more than friends.”
She took two deep breaths at his words. For a moment time itself seemed to
still. Years ago she would have given anything to hear Rome utter those words. Now
they filled her with cold heat.
“We tried that, or don"t you remember?” She gave him a brittle smile. “This
dance is over.” She stepped out of Rome"s arms and made her way off the dance
floor. Every step she took seemed to thunder through her mind. People glanced at
her in surprise as she walked through the crowd, but she ignored them all.
Somehow she managed to make it away from the crowd without losing her
composure.
She headed straight for the drinks. She was livid. Absolutely livid.
“That bastard,” she seethed under her breath.
The years had passed, but she"d never forgotten Rome. He"d turned her life
upside down before, but she got past it. She"d moved on, and now he wanted to pick
up where they left off like he hadn"t broken her heart.
“Fucking monkey-shit bastard.”
“Bad day, huh?”
She lifted her head and found light blue eyes staring down at her. Her eyes
widened in complete surprise. “Nick!” she cried before throwing herself at the blond
giant. He wrapped his arms around her and embraced her in a bone-crushing hug.
She didn"t dare groan in protest even as she felt her breath leave her.
It had been months since she"d seen her best friend. After a moment he
dropped her to her feet. She smacked his brawny shoulder. “I thought you weren"t
coming.”
He looked at her with mischief shining in his eyes and leaned forward. “I"m not
supposed to be here. Lucky for me my convention is only two towns away, and your
mom couldn"t bear the thought of you coming to this alone, so she made
reservations for two.”
She momentarily closed her eyes and groaned. “That woman!”

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Tuesday Morrigan

“I know. She"s something, isn"t she?” He straightened suddenly, a smug grin on
his face. “Here I was thinking you would be desperate for my company, only to see
I"ve already been replaced. Who"s Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome?”
“No one special…just a guy I used to know.”
“Uh-huh, and you"re not interested in getting reacquainted?”
She sighed. “Rome and I aren"t even friends. There is no chance in hell we"ll
become…reacquainted.”
Nick"s smile broadened. “You might want to tell him that.”
She glared at him. “There is nothing to tell.”
Nick lifted both of his broad palms in surrender. “I get it. So what should I tell
him to get him to stop giving me the evil eye?”
Damn. Now that he mentioned it, Sela"s nape prickled with the kind of
awareness that she always felt when someone was staring at her. She didn"t need
two guesses to name her stalker. “Ignore him.”
“I think Rome believes we"re together.”
She snorted. “I wish.”
Nick pressed a soft kiss against her forehead. “Yeah, too bad I"m not your
type.”
She stared at Nickolas, truly seeing him for the first time since they became
good friends. He was handsome, sexy as sin, and a good person. To top it off they
connected on so many levels. Unfortunately, he never made her feel that tingling
emotion that stirred something deeper than platonic love.
“Unlike you and Rome, we"re better friends.”
She threw her hands in the air in defeat and spun around. “You hungry?” she
asked as she made her way to the buffet tables lining the gymnasium"s back wall.
The soft click of Nick"s dress shoes followed her. “I"m always hungry.” He
caught up to her and grabbed her arm. “How about you stake out a table, and I"ll
bring the food and drinks?”
“Sounds like a plan,” she said before standing on her toes and pressing a soft
kiss to his cheek.
Just as Sela"s lips touched Nick, she spotted Rome. He watched them with a
hard stare. If she didn"t know better, she would swear there was anger and
possession in his gaze. Almost as if he was trying to brand her as his. Seemed Nick
hadn"t been joking when he said Rome was giving him the evil eye. You had your
chance, buddy!
She looked away before his gaze could sear her. “I"ll go get the table.”
Something in her voice must have given Sela away, because Nick lifted his
head and gazed out toward the area where Rome stood. He glanced back at her after
a moment, a smug grin on his handsome face. “You want to tell me again there is
nothing going on there?”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
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“Been there, done that.” She threw the words over her shoulder before stalking
over to the cluster of tables sectioned off in the right corner of the gymnasium.
Behind her, Sela heard Nick sputter in surprise.
She chewed her bottom lip. She was going to get it the moment Nick found
their table. She and Nick had an unusually close relationship, maybe because there
had never been an issue about sex. They simply weren"t attracted to each other.
Nick was the one person she could tell everything, but she purposely forgot to
mention what had happened between her and Rome when they were younger. Nick
was going to give her an earful for not mentioning something so important to him.
The man was her best friend and closest confidant. He knew about every one of her
other lovers. She ignored the little voice telling her it mattered that she hadn"t told
Nick about Rome.
The nagging feeling that Rome was someone special.
Even after all this time.
She found an empty table, pulled out a seat and sat down in a heap. She"d
been at the reunion less than an hour, and she was already mentally exhausted.
“Are you okay?”
She lifted her head slowly and glared at Rome. “Exactly how clear do I have to
make myself? Leave. Me. Alone.”
He grimaced at her. “Is that your boyfriend?”
“What if I said he was?”
He shrugged one mountainous shoulder. “It wouldn"t change anything. I still
want you.”
She looked at him, incredulous at his declaration. Unlike his earlier statement,
there was no mistaking his goal. Or his determination.
“You would try to steal me from him?” she asked incredulously.
“I wouldn"t try, Sela. I"d succeed. What you feel for him is nothing like what
you feel for me. You belong to me, Sela. Always have and always will.”
She blinked at his boldness. At least that was what Sela silently told herself.
Her surprise had nothing to do with the intensity of his words or the fact that they
ignited a dark fire between her thighs.
Apparently having said what he came to say, Rome decided to leave. Sela sat
there, unsure of what to do about what he"d just said. Rome wanted her, and he
didn"t care what he had to do or who he had to hurt to get her.
Sela just hoped she wasn"t the one who got burned.

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Tuesday Morrigan

Chapter Two

She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
The first time Rome realized this, he was fourteen, and Sela was thirteen.
They"d known each other for years, but it wasn"t until then that Rome realized just
how lucky he was to know Sela. For reasons he hadn"t dared to look into, Sela"d
agreed to go with him to the eighth-grade dance. When she"d appeared at the top of
the stairs, looking gorgeous as hell, he"d realized he was one lucky kid. From then
on he wanted to make Sela Newton his.
She still was the number one person in his life. Even if she didn"t know it.
After all these years, Sela Newton still was the most beautiful woman he had
ever seen.
He took every inch of Sela in.
Her skin was a deep mahogany color, and he was dying to run his hands down
her body. Her thick black hair fell in loose waves past her shoulders, following the
soft curve of her spine. His gaze followed the line until it landed on the plump
globes of her ass. Not too big, not too small, but just right, Rome thought as he eyed
her bottom. Sela was curvier than most of the women he had been with. She had a
true hourglass figure. Her breasts, hips, and thighs were larger than what was
fashionable.
He considered that one of her strong points. She was a woman a man could
hold on to.
And then there was her face. Sela"s eyes were her best feature, large and
bright with short, thick black lashes that highlighted their unique almond shape.
Her nose was small, almost reminiscent of a slightly upturned button. Her second
best facial feature was her lips. They were full, bow shaped, and naturally tinted a
light shade of red.
Rome breathed deeply and stifled the urge to groan when he thought of her
mouth. He could spend hours simply kissing that mouth.
And even more time doing more than kissing Sela"s mouth.
But he wasn"t going to get a single moment with Sela if he didn"t step up his
game. He unconsciously tightened his fingers into a fist when he considered the
reality that Sela may already be slipping away from him.
He was entirely out of his element.

Satisfaction Guaranteed
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Rome watched Sela laugh at something the blond man whispered into her ear.
He watched her eyes light up with mirth and her face soften with pleasure. The
knowledge he could have been the man making her laugh burned in his gut. He"d
had his fair share of women. Hell, he"d been called a playboy and a womanizer by
more than one person, but the one woman he wanted would not give him a single
moment of her time.
She was making him work for it.
Irony didn"t even begin to describe his situation. Ten years ago, Sela had been
at his beck and call, just as he was at hers, but he"d let her slip through his fingers.
Never again, he thought as he watched her beautiful face. This time he was
playing for keeps.
He had his priorities in order. When Rome contacted his assistant to let him
know he was going to be gone—for as long as it took to accomplish his goal—his
assertion shocked the man. He tried to get him to change his mind. After all, Rome
had a new show opening in less than two weeks. He couldn"t just take off for upstate
New York. Rome simply responded that some things were more important than a
career.
Sela was one of those things.
He glanced back at the blond man standing next to her, whispering into her
ear.
At one time he was that man. The man Sela let her guard down with, the man
who had made her smile with a word, brought her pleasure with a simple touch.
He turned and strode out of the gymnasium. He hoped by the end of the
weekend, he would become that man.
Sela"s best friend. Her lover. Her soul mate.
Rome hadn"t taken more than four steps out of the gym when he was forced to
a halt. A tall, statuesque brunette stood before him, hands on her hips, smirking
smile on her full lips. Her honey brown gaze looked him over, taking in every inch of
his tall frame before returning to look him in the eye.
“Long time no see, lover.”
He stared at her, trying to place her. Unlike Sela, he hadn"t returned to
Brushwood since graduation. And he"d purposely cut off ties with his classmates
once things fell apart with Sela.
“It"s me, Jana.”
Rome plastered a smile to his face even as he felt his gut tighten. Jana was one
of those people he"d purposely avoided. She was bad for him in high school. Very
bad.
He looked on the bright side. That had been years ago. He wasn"t the same
roughneck kid he once was. No doubt she"d matured too. “You look gorgeous, Jana.”

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Tuesday Morrigan

“Same to you, love. I almost can"t believe how long it"s been. I"m so proud of
you, Rome. I knew you would make it.” She opened her arms and beckoned him into
a hug.
He stepped into her arms. After only a moment he moved back and looked at
Jana. The look in her eyes was unlike any he"d seen before. She appeared to be
genuinely happy.
The decade had done her well.
“You really do look good.” And he meant it. She looked better than ever.
She flashed him a devastatingly smile filled with such joy he could feel it
pouring off her. “A good woman will do that to you.” She held up her left hand to
reveal a simple white gold or platinum ring on her fourth finger.
“Congratulations,” Rome said automatically, and then the importance of her
words actually registered. Jana was a lesbian. “Oh.”
If anything her smile widened, but it had a devilish tilt to it. “Explains why
senior prom night was so bad for both of us, huh?”
Rome blushed, thinking back to the time when he was more concerned about
bedding the best-looking girl in the class than listening to his heart. “That wasn"t
the reason, not for both of us.”
She gaped at him. “Don"t tell me you"re batting for the other team too!”
“Uh, no. I"m straight,” he said, more than just a little uncomfortable. Then he
noticed the look on her face. She was playing with him. He shook his head as he
tried to hold in his laughter. He"d forgotten just how twisted Jana"s sense of humor
was. Some things never changed.
She tilted her head in the direction of the gym he just left. “Hungry?”
He didn"t want any food, but he was suddenly starving for conversation. “Yes.”
Jana was only the second person that night who hadn"t asked him about his career,
the parties, or the endless parade of women he was reportedly dating. His interest
in what she"d done in the last ten years was piqued after less than five minutes of
talking to her.
That was more than Rome could say for most of his classmates.
“I didn"t expect to see you here,” she murmured as she reached for one of the
plates stacked at the end of the long table.
He took the plate from her. “I wasn"t expecting to come.”
She eyed the dish he held. Rome smiled. “Just tell me what you want.”
She glanced down at his hands. “You always were the gentleman. So tell me
why some woman hasn"t snapped you up—or are you still keeping to that timeline?”
He sighed as he thought back to the promise he made himself when he was all
of twelve. A pledge that Rome wasn"t getting married until he was sure he"d found
the love of his life. He also placed an age limit. Rome wouldn"t even allow himself to
be engaged until he was twenty-five. He told Jana both things senior year when she
started alluding to the fact that they could get married after graduation.

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“I guess I never really found the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life
with,” he lied. He"d found the woman he wanted to make his entirely. He just hadn"t
figured out how to capture her.
The truth was that Rome was determined to stick to his third and final
stipulation. He"d done everything in his power to make sure he was nothing like his
bastard father. He"d succeeded.
When he left Brushwood, he headed straight for New York City. Rome got a
job as a janitor at one of Manhattan"s premier investment banks. It paid well
enough to support him and his art. Every night, he cleaned until his muscles ached,
but each morning he came home to his true passion. Painting. After three years of
working his ass off, he got a break. One of his paintings caught the attention of a
highly respected art collector. She became his patron. The elderly woman made sure
to tell everyone she knew in the art community about his talent. Within six months,
Rome had sold every one of the paintings he"d created while struggling in the slums
of New York.
He had the prestige. He had the cash. He even had the fame.
The only thing he needed was the right woman to share his life with.
Jana searched his face for several seconds before giving him a slow,
understanding smile. She glanced behind him. “I"m so glad I found you. I was ready
to leave but had to come check when someone mentioned you were actually here.”
She grinned. “I also heard you were here with Sela. Is that right?”
“We danced together.” Rome forced himself not to tense at her seemingly
innocent question. If Jana put one and one together, she might come up with the
conclusion that he was courting Sela.
Which he was.
But he wanted to do things on his own terms. At his own pace. And the one
thing he remembered about living in Brushwood was that it was a small town with
small-town ways.
Before you woke, the whole town knew where you slept.
He wasn"t quite ready to declare his intentions.
She grinned at him. “I"m glad to see you guys are still friends. I take it both of
you patched things up after that summer.”
Rome gave her a smile he didn"t feel. “I wouldn"t say we"re still friends.”
The air around them thickened until awkwardness seemed to thrive between
them. Just when Rome opened his mouth to break the uncomfortable silence, a
woman with dark red hair grasped Jana"s shoulders. “I"ve been looking everywhere
for you, sweetheart.”
Jana glanced at him before looking back at her friend and cocking her head in
his direction. “Rome, this is Marisol, my wife. Marisol, this is Rome, the guy I told
you about.”

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Tuesday Morrigan

Rome gave the woman an honest smile. Looking at the two of them, it was
obvious Marisol and Jana were a very happy couple. “Nice to meet you, Marisol,” he
said as he held out his hand. If possible, Marisol"s grin widened as she shook his
hand.
Unable to help himself, Rome said, “May I ask what has got you so excited? I
think you"re happier than the actual graduates.”
Jana wrapped her arms around Marisol"s waist and hugged the woman close.
“That might be because she"s not an actual graduate. She doesn"t have to catch up
with all the people she spent years avoiding.”
Marisol swatted at Jana playfully. “No, that"s not it. That nice woman, April,
invited us to her party.”
“A party, huh?” Rome said, thoughtfully. After watching Sela cuddle with her
boyfriend, he wasn"t exactly in the mood to stick around for the rest of the reunion
activities. Then again, he didn"t want to head back to his lonely suite. A party just
might do the trick.
Marisol shrugged. “Yes, April says it"s going to be a bunch of people from the
reunion and some locals. I"m sure you guys will have more fun than I will, but at
least I"ll be having some fun.”
Rome couldn"t help but smile at Marisol. She was right. The reunion was
turning out to be as eventless as he"d imagined. Well, if he didn"t count Sela.
“Are you coming?”
Rome followed Jana"s gaze and turned around to see whom she was speaking
with. He froze when he found wide, bottomless brown eyes staring at his in
surprise.
“I was uh…” She pointed toward the hall that housed the restroom. ”I"m not
exactly sure what you guys are talking about,” Sela replied.
Jana disentangled herself from her wife"s arms. “There"s a party at April
Batista"s, and you"re invited.”
Sela glanced from him to Jana and then back to him. “Things haven"t changed
that much. I"m still not much of a party girl.” It was obvious Sela was looking for an
exit strategy. It was equally obvious Jana wanted Sela to join them.
Rome hoped Jana wasn"t playing matchmaker. He had enough marks against
him.
Jana strode up to Sela and put one arm around her. “It"s a grown-up party.
Don"t worry. We"re all going to act our age—grown, sexy, and some of us married.”
Sela"s gaze flicked back to him. “Okay,” she said softly.

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Chapter Three

Sela hated herself.
She truly, utterly hated herself for agreeing to go to April"s reunion party. If
Sela had any sense whatsoever, she would have politely declined Jana"s offer and
taken her ass home to her mother"s.
She glanced at her watch. She could, at the moment, be stuffing her face with
coffee-flavored chocolate-chip ice cream as she watched awesomely bad television.
Instead she was stuck in the backseat of Rome"s car, trying desperately to ignore
the tense atmosphere that swirled in the vehicle. She glanced at the blond head in
front of her. She still wasn"t sure how she and Nick had ended up in Rome"s car.
Everything happened so quickly she feared her head was still spinning. Just
after she accepted Jana"s invite, Nick showed up, looking for her. A short, perky
blonde appeared about the same time. She started to press up on Rome but caught
sight of Nick and made her a beeline for him. Then Nick turned to her and asked if
she was going to April"s.
Up until that moment she had been hoping to use Nick"s presence as an excuse
not to actually show up. Jana answered for her and told Nick she was going. When
he glanced back at her for affirmation, Sela nodded numbly, knowing her fate was
sealed.
And sealed it was.
At least she wasn"t the only miserable person.
Misery sure does like company. The line came to her as she thought back to
when Rome offered her a ride. One thing had thundered through her mind. Her,
Rome, and an enclosed space.
They tried that once. It didn"t turn out well. To be honest, it turned out too
well. Therein lay the problem. Rome knew how to please her body as well as a
maestro knows how to play an instrument.
Unfortunately she and Nick took cabs to the reunion. As much as Sela hated to
admit it, she needed a ride.
Unfortunately, Rome was the only one offering. He hadn"t been pleased to hear
she would only go if Nick came. Nick hadn"t taken kindly to her demand.
Apparently, he"d been really hoping to catch a ride with the blonde. She practically
dragged Nick into Rome"s car.
Now both men were ticked off with her.

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Tuesday Morrigan

Almost reluctantly Sela"s lips curved into a smile. She could handle their
anger. It meant neither man was talking to her. At the moment she needed the
peace and quiet. She would be sitting pretty if Rome stopped watching her through
his rearview mirror. With every glance, his face got harder, and his eyes burned
brighter. Sela couldn"t help thinking he was slowly peeling away her clothing.
By the time they reached April"s town house, Sela imagined she was buck
naked in his eyes.
She didn"t know whether to be pleased or angry about the smoldering glances
Rome sent her. No one had ever looked at her that way before. She wasn"t exactly
sure how to respond.
She only knew that every glance increased her body temperature until she
couldn"t help wondering if Rome had turned the heater on despite the fact that it
was the middle of June.
“Can you turn up the air conditioner?”
“Feeling hot, Sela?”
She looked up and held his gaze in the mirror. Amusement and something
dark, carnal shone in his beautiful eyes. He knew exactly what he was doing to her.
“No,” she lied. “I just need a little more fresh air.”
He gave her a slick smile that told her he didn"t believe her lie and reached for
the knob. The cool burst of air felt so good on her skin she barely stifled the urge to
sigh her satisfaction.
The car slowed to a crawl. Nick held up the directions and read the sheet
before peering at the brownstone they sat before. “I believe this is it.”
Rome parked the car and turned to first Nick and then her. “Ready?”
She plastered a smile on her face and replied, “Always,” before reaching for the
door handle.
“Wait.”
She paused with her hand an inch from the knob.
Sela watched Rome get out of the car, unfolding his long, muscular limbs from
the vehicle. Nothing that simple should have been so sexy, but it was. She couldn"t
help wondering how those limbs would look coming in and out of her bed.
She licked her lips slowly and tasted her rising desire. Damn, after all he had
put her through, she shouldn"t still want him. But Sela did. She wanted Rome more
than she"d wanted any other man.
Rome reached Sela"s door and opened it for her, stepping back to allow her to
pass. When she stood she realized he hadn"t quite given her all the room she
needed. Her body brushed across his as she left the vehicle. Wildfire licked up her
arm, burst through her chest, teasing her nipples before crawling down her torso to
settle in her pussy.
Just as she gasped in shock, Rome stiffened. She wasn"t the only one who had
felt the jolt.

Satisfaction Guaranteed
13

Rome stared down at her with awareness and arousal simmering in his
beautiful gaze. Inexplicably Sela felt herself being drawn to him. She leaned
forward as he lowered his head.
“I was beginning to wonder if you guys got lost making your way out of the
car.”
She pulled back, ignoring the fire that burned between her thighs. She turned
and found Nick watching her. Something more than curiosity shone in his eyes. She
glanced away, unwilling to try to decipher what she saw in his gaze. Still, she had
an idea of what he was thinking and was not looking forward to the conversation.
“Come on, sweetheart.”
Nick held out his hand. She slid her fingers into his much larger grasp and
clung to the comfort of his touch. Sela was terribly frightened that her emotions
were written across her face. The problem was that she didn"t know what she was
feeling. Her body was on fire. Her mind was chaotic, filled with thoughts, needs, and
beliefs she could not untangle. She couldn"t desire Rome.
She certainly did not need him.
Yet the way Sela"s body responded when Rome looked at her made her more
than uncomfortable.
She hated his guts and yet she wanted to fuck him blind.
Nick placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her hard against him.
“Breathe deeply and relax,” he whispered into her ear. His soothing words caressed
the shell of her ear. Selena shivered as she did what Nick said.
Behind them, Rome"s heavy footsteps followed.
With his arm wrapped around her shoulder, she and Nick marched up the
steps that lead to the brownstone"s front door. She glanced into Nickolas"s cerulean
eyes when they reached the top. The amusement in his gaze told her he was
thinking the same thing.
“Feel like you"re walking to your death, huh?”
Nick shrugged before grinning at her. “I didn"t party much in high school.
Granted, these are your friends, but…” He let the sentence trail off. Sela knew
exactly what he was talking about. “It"s weird,” she finished for him.
She shouldn"t have let the prospect of meeting up with the people who had
been her friends, enemies, and frenemies in high school freak her out, but telling
herself something was one thing. Feeling it was another. “After you, my dear,” she
murmured with a slight laugh as she cocked her head in the entrance"s direction.
One blond eyebrow lifted. “I may be the best friend, but I know better than
that. Ladies first.”
Sela decided to step up to the plate and opened the screen door. The etched
wooden door was thrown open before she was fully standing before it. A tall, long-
limbed, beautiful redhead with caramel skin stood in the entranceway. “Sela
Newton! My goodness, look at you!”

14
Tuesday Morrigan

The woman lunged at Sela, nearly knocking her to the ground before Sela got a
chance to respond. For one moment Sela teetered precariously in her platform heels.
And then she felt the reassuring pressure of warm male hands against her shoulder
blades.
The redhead released her and stepped back. She looked Sela over. “You always
were a looker, Sese.”
It took her a moment, but when it hit Sela, she wondered how she could forget
about her girl, even if for only a second. “Rosa? Rosalinda Redford? Girl, what are
you doing here?”
Rosa was the most responsible vagabond she knew. The woman was always on
the move, living in a new exotic locale. This year she was a visiting professor at an
Australian university. She was the last person Sela had been expecting to see at the
reunion.
“You damn well better remember who I am.” Rosa laughed with a playful slap
against Sela"s arm.
Her touch snapped Sela out of her shock. “What the hell are you doing here?”
she yelled even as she wrapped her arms around Rosa and pulled her close. “My
God, I haven"t talked to you—”
“It"s been almost a year,” Rosa filled in as she hugged Sela back. Best friends
all through high school, they barely managed to keep contact with each other, but
they were dedicated. Thank God for e-mail.
Before college, she, Rosa, and Rome had been the trio.
Unlike the rest of them, Rosa went abroad for college. Less than three weeks
after their high-school graduation, Rosa took off for England, determined to explore
the United Kingdom before her first semester at Oxford.
“What did you do to your hair?” Sela asked as she fingered the lustrous
strands.
Rosa winked. “You know that age-old question about whether blondes or
brunettes have more fun?”
“Yeah.”
Rosa"s lush mouth spread into a wicked grin. “Well, I know for a fact that the
answer is redheads. I can"t keep the men off me.”
“I might have to color my hair.”
“I doubt you need to do that.” Sela turned at the sound of Nick"s voice. She"d
forgotten she wasn"t alone.
“Rosalinda, meet my good friend, Nickolas Landing. Nick, this is Rosalinda
Redford, the woman who single-handedly brought excitement to Truman High
School.”
Sela stood to the side as the two shook hands. It didn"t go unnoticed that it
took Nick and Rosa a long time to release each other"s hands.

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15

“Hi, Rosa.” Three pairs of eyes turned to find Rome standing several feet away
from them. He stood at the porch railing, broad shoulder propped against a wide
painted column. He looked both dangerous and inviting.
Sela felt her mouth go dry at the sight.
Rosa shrieked. “Rome Vicenza, you bastard! Why didn"t you tell me you were
coming?” she yelled before briskly walking to him. Rome opened his arms and
caught Rosa in a hug.
“I take it you missed me,” he whispered against her nape before stepping back
a little and placing a soft kiss against her cheek.
“Of course I missed you. It"s been six months since I"ve seen you.”
Six months? Sela turned away, feeling like an intruder. They were obviously
much closer than she thought. All this time Rosa never said a word, probably
because she believed Sela didn"t want to hear about Rome. They hadn"t parted on
good terms, after all.
“Darn, I"m such a bad semihostess. We can"t be standing out here talking.
Come on, let"s go inside.”
As a group they trudged in, Rosa manning the helm, introducing them all to
the graduates who"d bailed from the scheduled reunion activities.
“What"s wrong?”
Sela lifted her head at the sound of Nick"s concerned voice.
“Nothing. Why?”
“You look pissed at the world.”
“I am not!” she said. Too late, Sela realized her response was a little too
vehement. As much as she told herself to forget about it, she couldn"t stop thinking
about Rome and Rosa"s relationship. Just how close were they?
“Where did you run off to?” Nick took off the moment they entered April"s
living room. He didn"t know anyone, so where the hell could he have gone? He gave
her a smug smile. “Wouldn"t you like to know?”
“Breaking hearts already?”
His smile widened. “You know me better than that, Sela. I don"t break hearts.”
No, he didn"t. At least Nick tried his hardest not to allow things to come to
that. He always let his women know he was incapable of settling down. Those who
didn"t believe him learned the hard way that Nick wasn"t a liar.
“Would you like anything?”
They both turned slightly to answer Rome"s question. Rosa stood beside him.
“I"ll just have whatever is available,” Sela replied. He nodded in agreement and
went to get her something.
“I"ll help you with the drinks,” Nick offered and followed him.
The moment the two men disappeared, Rosa pounced. “So give it up. What"s
his story?”

16
Tuesday Morrigan

Sela grinned at her friend. She knew it must have been killing Rosa to wait to
ask the question. “He"s thirty, single, straight, and has a good-paying job.”
Rosa"s jaw dropped. “You"re kidding!” she gasped.
Sela shrugged. She had been through it before. Nick was like a beacon in the
night for straight women. He was a single, smart, sexy guy with a good personality.
The icing on Nick"s cake was… “And he has no kids.”
“Oh my God.”
“I know.” Sela nodded. “He"s a gift from Aphrodite herself.”
“Why the hell hasn"t someone snatched him up?”
“He"s not the settling-down kind. To be honest, he"s more of a one-week kind of
man.”
Rosa stared at her. “That"s his issue? He doesn"t want to commit. That"s every
guy I"ve ever met.” She paused. “Seriously, he doesn"t live with his mom, have five
kids, or worse, live with his really attractive best friend who just happens to share
the same bed?”
“Nope,” Sela said succinctly. “He"s all yours.”
“Girl, I owe you big-time,” she said softly, her voice almost a whisper before
pressing a kiss to Sela"s cheek. The soft tone of Rosa"s voice told Sela they were no
longer alone. She turned to find Rome and Nick striding back toward her. Each man
held two drinks.
Rome reached them first. “I thought you might like this.”
She stared at the drink he held in his hand for several moments.
“It"s not poisoned.”
She lifted her gaze and glared at him as she accepted the beverage. He grinned
at her despite her response. Or maybe it was because of her response.
“We"ll see you two later?” Rosa asked. The look in her eyes was begging Sela to
give her and Nick the go-ahead. She glanced at Nick. It became painfully obvious
the two wanted to be alone.
She didn"t want to be stuck with Rome, but more than that, she didn"t want to
put a damper on what was brewing between Nick and Rosa.
“Yeah, sure.” She turned back to Rome, unwilling to watch the two disappear
and leave Sela to her fate. He didn"t appear too pleased by her lack of joy. His words
confirmed it. “Am I that bad, Sela?”
She gave him a brittle smile. “I plead the fifth.”
He shrugged. “I knew I was going to have to work for it.”
Sela ignored his statement and took a sip from her partially forgotten drink
and nearly gasped as the cool liquid burned her mouth and throat. She wasn"t much
of a drinker, and she doubted she"d ever had anything so powerful.
Eyes watering, she asked, “What exactly did you bring me?”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
17

“A Long Island.” He reached for it. “I"m sorry. I should have brought you
something weaker.”
She pulled her arm back, holding her drink away from him. “I"ll be fine. I just
wasn"t expecting it.”
“I can make you something different.”
She took another sip and shook her head. The alcohol would do her good. She
was a little too anxious. She needed to relax. Anything that helped her do that was
her friend. “I"m good.”
He looked at her dubiously. “Don"t blame me if you get drunk.”
“Off one Long Island?” Despite herself, Sela was a little incensed by his
comment. She was a lightweight, but she wasn"t that damned bad.
“As long as we keep it to one.”
She cocked her head to the side. “Believe it or not, you"re not responsible for
me, Rome. You"re not my father.”
He whispered something that suspiciously sounded like “Thank God,” before
looking her in the eye and saying, “I"m sorry. Old habits are hard to break. I guess a
little part of me still thinks of you as the seventeen-year-old girl I remember.”
She refused to touch the comment about the girl she had been a decade ago.
“Apology accepted.”
He nodded. Pregnant silence filled the air between them. She glanced at the
strong hand holding the glass. The lack of jewelry on his left hand caught her
attention.
“Last I heard you were engaged.”
Rome glanced pointedly at the very hand she had been staring at. His lips
turned up in a smirk. “As you can see I"m not currently married, nor am I currently
engaged.” He paused for two heartbeats, drumming his long, golden fingers on the
table beside him with the other hand clenched around the sparkling glass of clear
liquid. Sela seriously doubted his tumbler was filled with water.
“I seem to remember us having this conversation on the dance floor.”
She thanked God for melanin as she felt her cheeks burn up in
embarrassment. Rome was right. She had already asked if he was single.
“What happened?” The question burst from her mouth before she thought
about it.
Damn! Curiosity really did kill the cat. “I"m sorry. I shouldn"t…”
Rome shook his head. “It"s okay.” He paused and searched her face. “I…we
realized that it wouldn"t work out. We needed a better…foundation.”
She took a sip from her drink. Oh, so that’s what happened to the latest
supermodel.

18
Tuesday Morrigan

He smiled, flashing her all teeth. For a second Sela was blinded by the sight of
all that male magnetism looking down at her. And then she realized why he was
smiling. She"d actually spoken the words. “I"m sorry.”
He shook his head and drank the rest of his drink. Sela devoured the sight of
the strong muscles in his throat working. She automatically lifted the glass in her
hand to her lips.
Sela had never been so thirsty in her life.
He reached behind her to place his empty glass on the ledge. “What happened
to your own significant other?”
She stuttered at his question. Sela didn"t even know Rome was aware of her
relationships or lack thereof. “Uh…we realized…we needed more of a foundation.”
Rome moved just a little closer and smiled at her. She couldn"t help grinning
back at him. “We"re something, aren"t we?”
Heat flared in his gaze, and his grin grew. “Sweetheart, you have no idea.”
She blinked at the change the conversation underwent. There was no denying
the desire there. The depth of his hunger shocked her into speechlessness.
Thankfully, Rosa chose that second to appear.
“Come on, girl. You can"t spend the whole party talking. You"ve got to do
something.” She wrapped her arms around Sela"s shoulders and peered at Rome.
“May I?”
Rome lifted his cup to give her the go-ahead. Rosa grabbed Sela"s hand and
pulled her across the room. Sela felt the air around them still and dampen until it
felt as though an icy lead ball surrounded Sela. They were in the middle of the
living room, in the center of what had become a makeshift dance floor.
And Sela hated to be the center of attention.
“Come on, girl, and shake that ass.” Rosa leaned forward and brushed her lips
across Sela"s ear. “Give that boy something to stare at.”
Sela couldn"t help but laugh at Rosa"s spunky ridiculousness. She always was
the life of the party.
A quick glance told her no one was looking at them. She breathed a little
easier. “Girl, you haven"t changed a bit,” she whispered as she wrapped her arms
around Rosa"s neck.
Rosa snorted. “I have changed…in all the right ways, lady.”
Sela pulled back slightly to look Rosa in her eyes. “You"re right, Rosa. You"re
even more beautiful now.”
Rosa gave her a full, bold smile. “You"re good, but I refuse to be distracted. Tell
me about you and Rome.”
Sela evaded her curious gaze. “There is absolutely nothing going on between
me and Rome.”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
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Rosa turned her in a circle as the beat of the music picked up. When she
returned to her arms, Rosa asked, “Is that because he doesn"t want it or you don"t
want it?”
“Why are you even asking me this?”
Rosa grinned at her, a mischievous light in her beautiful eyes. “Don"t tell me a
few years in London and you"ve forgotten how quickly the small-town network
works.”
Sela gasped at her statement. “Don"t tell me people are actually talking about
this. I"ve barely been in town for eighteen hours.”
Rosa shrugged one slim shoulder. “The town can"t help it. You guys were the
„will-they-won"t-they" couple for years. People need to know if their hopes and
dreams are going to come true.”
Sela came to a standstill in the middle of the room. “What?”
“We, okay, I want to know if you and Rome are finally going to do the nasty.”
“There"s not a chance in hell that is going to happen.”
Sela started to stride off the impromptu dance floor when someone captured
her arm and pulled her close.
“Would you like to dance?”
She turned swiftly at the sound of Rome"s voice. She started to tell him she
wasn"t interested when she realized that he wasn"t talking to her. He held out his
hand to Rosa.
The redhead flashed Sela an amused grin before taking his offered hand. Sela
dreaded the questions she knew Rosa was going to ask Rome. It wasn"t until the
dancing crowd swallowed up Rosa and Rome that Sela realized Nick was the one
who had pulled her hard against his body.
“A beautiful girl like you, standing all alone… Something is very wrong with
that.”
She turned and found Nickolas smiling down at her. “Want to dance?” she
asked. He held out his arm. “I thought you would never ask.” Hand in hand they
made their way back to the makeshift dance floor. Sela grinned up at Nick when he
wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. If any other man did that,
she would have started wondering about his intentions, but she knew Nick too well
to think along those lines.
They"d joined the same company at the same time. They"d also happened to be
recent college graduates. They"d bonded that first year, and the relationship had
lasted despite the fact that they both went on to different jobs in different states.
They still talked regularly even though Sela had moved to London for her newest
job.
She"d been horribly disappointed when he"d told her he would be away at a
convention when she came back to the States. “Thank you for this,” she whispered
before placing her head on his chest.

20
Tuesday Morrigan

Sela felt his chuckle rumble through his broad chest. “You know I can"t stay
away from you.”
She snorted. “I missed you too.”
His hand moved up her back as he swiveled his hips. “Am I the only guy you
missed?”
Sela lifted her head. “Why would you ask me that?”
“I"m not blind, Sela.”
“And what exactly do you see, Nick?”
“Tell me the truth, Sela. Who would you prefer to be dancing with?”
She didn"t say anything in response. Nickolas already knew the answer to the
question. He could always see through her lies.
“I thought so,” he murmured and placed a kiss against her forehead. When she
felt him pulling away, stepping back, she lifted her head in surprise. Nick and Rome
were switching partners.
“Hi,” she said, feeling both nervous and awkward as Rome pulled her into his
arms. Awareness slammed through Sela the moment his fingers curled around her
upper biceps. She looked up to find green eyes staring down into hers with a curious
shine. He gave her a tense smile. “It seems Rosa is more interested in your…friend
than she is in dancing with me,” Rome murmured softly as he pulled her even
closer.
She felt the pause before he called Nick her friend. He was implicitly asking if
he was right to characterize Nickolas as nothing significant. She licked her lips.
“Last time I checked, Nick was single.”
“Rosa will be glad to hear that.”
“Hmm,” she said as she moved with him, trying not to wonder if Rosa was the
only one glad to hear that Nick was single. Although she"d already told Rome she"d
ended her engagement, nothing was said about her current status. Now he knew
she and Nick weren"t dating.
“I missed you, Sela.”
She sucked in a deep breath and consumed the flavor of his skin. She could
taste the woodsy essence of his light cologne, the rich flavor of his body heat, and
the man himself.
It rolled off her tongue and settled deep into her gut.
He spoke the words so softly she couldn"t help wondering if they were part of
her imagination.
“Sela?”
She blinked hard when Rome whispered her name. She lifted her head and
found his mouth a breath away from hers. She yearned to move across that space
and press her lips against his.
“Cat got your tongue, Se?”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
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She discovered herself racking her brain for the question he had asked. “Uh…”
“I think I already got my answer,” he said and lowered his head. Lightning
heat streaked through her abdomen and the folds of her sex the moment Rome"s
mouth pressed against hers. Her nipples pebbled and tingled with molten desire.
Sela gasped into his mouth as the shocking heat from his lips echoed through her
every erogenous zone.
Rome slipped his tongue past her lips and into her mouth. Sela sighed when
his tongue glided over hers, teasing and tantalizing her with the moist warmth of
his kiss. His wide, long-fingered hands splayed over her back and pulled her closer
against the flat plane of his hard chest. She swiveled her hips against Rome"s as his
hand moved down her spine until it cupped the full globe of her right butt cheek.
Sela lifted her hands and threaded her fingers through his hair. She gripped
his head and deepened the kiss, falling deeper into the spell that Rome"s lips wove
so well.
He lifted his other hand to her face and cradled her jaw as he glided his mouth
over hers, seducing and enticing her. Thoughts Sela had never allowed herself to
think entered her mind as his lips moved earnestly over hers.
“Do you feel that, Sela?”
“Do you?” she retorted without opening her eyes. It was her first taste of true
passion in years. She wanted more. Wanted to consume and be consumed. Sela
wanted Rome to devour her until nothing was left.
And she knew that, at that moment, if she chose to open her eyes, the reality
of the situation would sweep away her need.
“Yes,” Rome groaned before wrapping his lips around the sensitive flesh right
behind her ear and sucking hard. Sela immediately felt her knees buckle as she
threw her head back to enjoy his ruthless caresses. Thankfully he was holding her
tightly against his body. Otherwise she might have fallen to her knees.
He was devastating to her senses, and he was demolishing her carefully
crafted guard. Pressed against his body as she was, she could feel she wasn"t the
only one getting aroused.
His thick black hair that was a touch unruly brushed across her nape. A tingle
shot down her spine to settle at her core just as he brushed his lips over the baby-
fine hairs at the back of her neck. They were in the middle of April"s living room, in
front of Lord knew how many people, and all she could think about was the itch she
wanted him to scratch.
“Rome?”
He pulled back. She opened her eyes to gaze at him. “You shouldn"t say my
name. Not like that. Not here.” Beautiful, hot green eyes stared down at her,
warning Sela not to push him to a place she couldn"t handle. His eyes were filled
with such heat, yet so guarded, she couldn"t help but wonder how Rome would
respond if she pushed him.
Just the tiniest bit.

22
Tuesday Morrigan

It couldn’t hurt, could it? the demoness on her shoulder asked.
Before Rome could answer, the guy behind him bumped into him. A change
came over him almost immediately. He shook his head and took a step back, away
from her, the hungry gleam in his eyes gone.
Sela didn"t know whether she should have felt thankful or enraged. They were
so close, and now far didn"t even begin to describe the distance between them.
“Excuse me,” Rome murmured. “I think I need another drink.”
She watched Rome stride off, running away from her, from what simmered
between them. Then again, he might have been the one doing the only intelligent
thing. Three seconds ago and a few kisses more, and Sela wouldn"t have given
another thought to fucking in the middle of the room.
Lord, she was in so much trouble.
“Damn, girl, if you two had kept that up any longer, I would have started
charging people for the triple-X show,” Rosa said with a giggle.
Sela gasped. “Shut up!”
It was all she could come up with as she looked at the small crowd gathered
around her. Several people were sneaking her smug looks that told Sela her make-
out session with Rome had indeed been noticed.
Shit!
The low hum of conversation slowed and ebbed until it was completely gone. A
woman in her mid to late twenties stood in the middle of the room, her arms spread
out to her sides. “It"s game time, people,” she called.
Everyone started talking at once.
“What kind of games is she talking about?”
Rosa gave her a bold smile. “Sex games, of course.”
Sela gawked at her. It was quickly becoming apparent that everyone had lost
their minds. She pulled her purse tighter against her side and took a step to the
right. She had every intention of leaving the party as soon as possible. She didn"t
care if she had to walk her ass all the way home.
Rome chose that moment to return, two drinks in hand. He handed one to
Rosa and held the other out in front of her. “I got something I think you might enjoy
more.” She eyed the door. His gaze followed, and his mouth flattened in irritation.
Sela took the beverage reluctantly, seeing her chance for escape diminish
exponentially.
She was going to remember this moment the next time someone asked her to
come to a party she knew could not end well.
Yup!
Suddenly the room stilled. Sela blinked to find several pairs of eyes watching
her with more than mild curiosity. Sela took an instinctive step back.
“Am I that frightening, Sela?”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
23

She looked up to find Rome looking down at her, emerald eyes hard with a
mixture of anger and need. She didn"t know what she had done to receive that look,
but she hoped to never repeat the act. “What… Excuse me?” She gripped the cold
glass in her hand like it was a lifeline.
“Rosa just volunteered us to play seven minutes in heaven.”
Sela darted a glance at Rosa. The light in the redhead"s gaze told Sela that
Rome was unfortunately telling the truth. She racked her brain trying to figure out
when and how the “nomination” had come to be.
She knew she had a bad habit of daydreaming when she was irritated, but…
“Sela?”
Her head snapped up at the tone of Rome"s voice. He fully intended to make
her spend seven minutes in a tiny, dark closet with him.
She stared at him in horror. “Tell me you"re kidding,” she somehow managed
to get past her tight throat. She could already feel a panic attack coming on, and
she was neither pretty nor sexy in panic mode, and she refused to be anything but
pretty and sexy as long as Rome was in looking distance.
He flashed her a blinding smile that didn"t reach his eyes. “Don"t tell me you"re
too old to play games, Sela.”
She bristled at the underlying sharpness to his soft words.
Rome was angry with her.
Why, she didn"t understand. Sela was the one who should have been angry
with him. He was the one who"d walked away from the dance floor. He was the one
who"d left her standing in the middle of the room, trying to figure out how to handle
her raging hormones. He was acting like a total ass for no damned reason.
To make matters worse, he was airing their dirty laundry in front of everyone.
She shot Rosa a look that promised retribution and darted a glance around the
room, confirming her worst fear. Everyone in the whole house was watching them.
She moved closer to Rome and whispered, “Why are you doing this?” She asked
even though she knew the answer. Rome was out to prove something. When he was
on a mission, Rome took no prisoners.
“Why aren"t you?” he shot back. His eyes glittered dangerously, shining with
barely leashed emotion. “It"s just a game. And we"re both single adults.”
Rome whispered the last two sentences so softly that if Sela hadn"t been
looking at his face, she would have assumed the game meant nothing to him.
But the fire in Rome"s eyes told Sela the game was not a game to him.
Her gaze drifted to the closet behind him.
Lord help me! “Seven minutes?”
“Yes,” he rasped out. She caught his gaze at the deeply seductive tone of his
voice.

24
Tuesday Morrigan

Seven minutes was a lot of time to spend alone in a closet with a man who set
her thong on fire with a simple glance. Sela tried not to think of the last time she"d
spent seven minutes in a closet with Rome.
She failed miserably. She looked around the room one last time before turning
back to him. “Okay, I"m willing to play seven minutes in heaven.”

Satisfaction Guaranteed
25

Chapter Four

She had no idea what she was getting herself into. Whether thirty seconds or
seven minutes, Rome fully intended to use the location—dark closet—to the best of
his advantage.
When Rosalinda volunteered him and Sela to play seven minutes in heaven,
Rome almost kissed the bold beauty in thanks. Then he took a look at Sela"s face. It
was then that he understood just how desperate his situation was and just how
difficult it was going to be to win Sela Newton back.
The moment the closet door shut behind them, Rome knew he"d made the right
decision coming to their reunion and by extension this party. He remembered the
last time they"d played this game. It hadn"t ended well. He was determined to make
sure the outcome was very different this time around. Rome was older and wiser. A
smirk curved his full lips. At least he thought he was older and wiser.
He got a glimpse of the closet before Rosalinda slammed the door behind him
and Sela. It was a small coat closet with just enough room for two full-grown bodies.
A single luminescent bulb glowed, illuminating the tiny enclave. Its effectiveness
was partially hindered by the two rows of coats that lined the left and right walls.
“Son of a…”
He lifted his head at the sound of Sela"s throaty feminine voice cursing
harshly. His gaze fastened on the lush form of Sela"s body as she tried to fight with
a clingy coat. It took him a moment to realize she was tangled up in the jacket. He
was too mesmerized by the sight of her curves jiggling enticingly. She had the most
beautiful breasts and hips. Suddenly, it occurred to Rome he was drooling like a
lovesick fool. He lifted his hand and pulled aside the wayward fabric.
She lifted her head and gave him a slow, shy smile. “Thank you.”
“You"re welcome,” he said as he took two steps closer to her. The room was so
small the two steps brought him close to her. She dropped her gaze and chewed her
lip for a moment. He watched her bountiful breasts rise as she took in a deep
breath. Then she lifted her gaze and looked him square in the eye.
Stormy desire and blatant disregard for the carnal danger she had placed
herself in sparkled in Sela eyes. She wanted him. Even if she wasn"t willing to
admit it to herself, Rome knew the truth of her emotions as they shone in
everything she did.
More than curiosity had pressed Sela to ask him about his relationship status.

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More than curiosity had forced her to accept his challenge and enter the closet
with him.
He couldn"t help wondering if Sela had any idea what she had really done by
giving in to his dare, because Rome had no desire to end the game once time was
called. For ten years he"d dreamed of having her, and now that she was standing
before him, within arms reached, Rome planned to drink his fill of her.
“I have to say, I"m glad you agreed to play.”
Her smile faltered for a fraction of a second. He realized then she was just as
nervous as he was. Maybe more.
Sela looked troubled for a moment, reminding him all too well of a frightened
doe. Her eyes were large and glittered in the golden light. He fully expected her to
turn tail and run, but as always, Sela shocked him. “Have you been dreaming of this
moment?” she retorted saucily.
Rome moved closer to Sela until he stood a mere inch away from her luscious
body. He was so close he could feel the waves of her body heat. She looked him up
and down, warm eyes taking in everything. It didn"t escape his notice that her gaze
stayed a little longer between his thighs. Something hot and spicy moved through
him at her actions. He knew Sela had seen her effect on him.
He was hard as ice, but a thousand degrees hotter. Rome stared into her
heavenly eyes for several moments, giving himself a moment to relish the feel of
almost unquenchable desire flowing inside him. He was holding it back, but as he
stood looking down at Sela, he savored the hunger.
“So…are you going to kiss me or wait out the seven minutes?” She cocked one
hip, a bold, flirtatious smile on her lovely lips.
He smiled. There was the Sela he remembered. Dark-chocolate-covered molten
fire. She burned even as she gave up her sweetness. Rome had been wondering
when Sela was going to let her true self run free around him.
He lowered his head until his lips were almost upon hers. “No,” he breathed
against her mouth, spacing out the word until it seemed to hang between them. “I
plan on doing a lot more than kissing,” he growled before capturing her lips.
Sela gasped in surprise at his actions. Rome took the opportunity to thrust his
tongue past her parted lips and taste the sweetness of her mouth. Just as he
remembered, she was sugary, spicy, and highly addictive.
He"d never tasted anything better.
Rome tightened his grip on her waist, digging his fingers into her lushly
padded curves as he deepened the kiss. Sela wrapped her arms around his waist
and pulled him closer. Sharp bliss lashed at Rome at the feel of Sela"s bountiful
breasts against his chest. He slanted his mouth over hers and deepened the kiss.
She groaned into his mouth, shredding off little pieces of the leash he had on his
self-control.
He wanted to take things slow. Seduce her mentally and physically until his
imprint was burned on her.

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Her mind.
Her body.
And soul.
He never wanted Sela to question who she belonged to.
But her devastating taste and the years they had spent apart were making it
difficult.
“God, I missed you,” he admitted, his voice husky with the burning need
churning inside him as he delved his tongue back into her mouth. Sela reached up
and threaded her small fingers through his hair. Her nails scraped along his scalp
as she kissed back. The sharp sting of her touch fueled a deep passion inside him.
Rome"s hands roamed down her back, dancing along the ridges of her spine and
teasing the curve of her lower back before mapping the hills of her plump ass.
She groaned into his mouth when his fingers tightened on her bottom. Rome
smiled slightly, pleased to know she was affected by his touch. He could make her
want him as he much as he desired her. Rome could make Sela feel the same kind of
burn.
He slipped his hands under her skirt and ran his naked palm over one firm
cheek.
His cock twitched and pulsed when he found that Sela wore a tiny slip of
fabric, a thong, to guard her most precious secrets. The panties proved to be little to
no barrier to his determined hands. Rome slid his hands between their gyrating
bodies and cupped her sex. She gasped and shuddered against him at the touch.
Sela nipped his bottom lip before spreading her thighs just enough to give him
greater access to her sheath. He broke off their kiss and dropped to his knees. He
lifted his gaze and found her staring down at him in surprise. She parted her lips.
He leaned forward and raised her skirt before she could say the words on her
tongue.
Rome knew what Sela was going to say. They shouldn"t be doing this. They
needed to stop.
Kissing is one thing.
Oral sex is another.
But stopping was the last thing he wanted to do.
Rome had waited too long, yearned too much not to take the moment when it
appeared in front of him. He grabbed her hips and pulled her closer to him. He felt a
shiver go through her even as she answered his silent call and stepped forward to
keep from falling. “Rome…”
Rome swiped his tongue down Sela"s right thigh, cutting off whatever words
she might have said. The end of his name came out a soft moan as his lips moved
down her soft skin.
She tasted like heaven.
He couldn"t wait to put his mouth on her most sensitive flesh.

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Rome"s fingers curled around the tiny straps of her panties and pulled them
down her thighs. She stepped out of them and braced her arms against the walls of
the small closet. Rome was suddenly grateful for the tiny enclosure.
He widened the area between Sela"s thighs until he could fit an arm between
her legs. Rome wrapped his hands around her right leg and hooked it over his
shoulder. For a moment Rome simply stared at her sheath. Her pussy was
beautiful. Rich chocolate with a slight sheen of cream on her nether lips.
He ran his tongue down the puffy lips of her sex and received a moan that
seemed to come from the depths of Sela"s chest. He parted the lips of her pussy and
licked her from clit to slit. Her creamy desire was thick and utterly addictive. He
licked her again just to get another taste.
Wicked need coursed through him at the small taste. It was so strong, it
caught him off guard and left him aching. His cock pulsed in the tight confines of
his slacks, desperate for sexual relief.
Rome wanted to come so badly it hurt.
Rome wanted to slide deep inside Sela and feel her cunt tighten around him as
they both found their release.
Most of all he wanted to hear her scream his name.
“Damn, you taste so good,” he groaned before fastening his mouth to her clit.
Her shriek of pleasure and surprise seemed to echo through the small closet. Sela"s
fingers threaded through the wavy strands of Rome"s dark hair as she pulled him
harder against her.
“God, yes. Right there,” she moaned as she rocked her hips forward. She
shuddered, sighed his name, and clung to the many coats that lined the wall.
He flicked his tongue against the swollen head of her clitoris, eliciting a sharp
cry of satisfaction from Sela. “Fuck. Again,” she whispered harshly as she dug her
fingers deeper into his scalp.
Rome opened his eyes and lifted his gaze to watch Sela"s face as he licked her
sheath. Sensual sounds came from her, telling him without words when to go slow,
when to quicken his pace, and when to lick her softly and when to give it to her
hard.
“Oh God. I"m coming. Oh Lord, don"t stop. I"m coming.”
He licked her once, twice, from clit to slit, and stabbed his tongue deep
between her nether lips before slowly standing to his feet.
Sela blinked up at him, shocked. Then her face hardened into a glare. He could
see her beautiful mind coming up with words to tell him off. He didn"t give her a
chance to tear into him. Before she could get her statement out, he stepped forward
and kissed her hard. His tongue thrust past her parted lips to coax hers into a
sensual dance as he lifted her panties and lowered her skirt.
Rome felt his belly muscles clench with need when Sela kissed him back
automatically. As her tongue surged into his mouth, Rome felt his cock jerk against
the zipper seam of his slacks. He"d never been more turned on.

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He"d never experienced anything as decadent as the taste of Sela"s lips
tangling with the flavor of her sex.
He reached out and curled one hand around her shoulder. She curved into his
arms and deepened the kiss. Sela reached up and wrapped her arms around his
neck just as a knock sounded on the closet door. She started to pull away from him
when he tightened his grip.
He kissed her hard and quickly on the mouth before looking her in the eye. “If
you want that orgasm, you"re going to have to come to me, Sela. I"m at the
Extravaganza, room 113.”
He stepped back just as her eyes tightened in mutinous rage. He straightened
his shoulders and readied himself for the thorough tongue-lashing he knew Sela
was very capable of dishing out.
“Time"s up!” Nick called out merrily before throwing the door open.
“One thirteen, Sela,” Rome murmured before striding out of the closet.

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Chapter Five

He stilled just outside the entrance to his hotel. After taking a deep calming
breath, he grabbed the door handle and strode into the lobby. “What are you doing
here?”
Rome thought he would never see her again. He was both afraid and hopeful
she would come to him. He knew he could never go to her.
His mother slowly turned around until her gaze caught his. She flashed him a
smile that didn"t reach her beautiful eyes. “You come to town, don"t call me, don"t
call your brother, and you"re surprised I"m here?”
With every word Mary Beth spoke, her voice grew in octaves until every single
person in the lobby was staring at them. He slid a glance to the woman behind the
counter. The look on her face told him without words that she was giving him
exactly five seconds to shut his mother up.
He figured he only needed two.
Rome ignored the pain that sliced through his heart with her statement,
grabbed Mary Beth"s arm in a secure but loose grip, and pulled her to the nearest
corner. “Don"t you have any sense of self-preservation? What the hell are you doing
here?”
She was immediately affronted. Rome bit off an oath at the look of pain on her
face. “How can you ask me that? I haven"t seen you in over five years. I haven"t even
talked to you in nine months.”
“We both know why I don"t visit.” It’s not because I don’t want to, but because I
can’t went unspoken.
A look of discomfort settled on her face. She sighed. “I swear I"ve tried to talk
to him, but he won"t be reasonable.”
Rome ground his teeth and tried to hold the anger he felt rising inside him at
bay at his mother"s words. He knew what trying to convince his father entailed.
“Don"t try anything anymore. I don"t want him taking his anger out on you.”
She gave him a tremulous smile. “He"s not as bad as he used to be.”
Shit! Rome felt panic mix with the anger when he saw tears shining in Mary
Beth"s green eyes. “Come on, Mary Beth. Let"s talk upstairs.” He wrapped his arm
around her waist and pulled her close. “Please don"t cry.”
Although he had seen his mother cry way too many times growing up, Rome
had never acquired the skill to handle her tears.

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During the silent elevator ride, he held his mother"s hands as she composed
herself. Neither of them spoke. He figured it was because neither of them knew
what to say. He didn"t breathe a sigh of relief until they reached his suite.
“You should have called to let us know you were going to be in town.”
He"d thought about it, considered it a million times, but never managed to pick
up the phone. He knew what his actions would bring. As badly as he wanted to talk
to his mother and brother, Rome was unwilling to let them take a beating on his
behalf. Anthony Vicenza was vicious when angry, and Rome"s very name seemed to
piss him off.
If only he could convince his mother to wise up, take Turin, and leave.
Mary Beth folded her arms across her chest. “What are you doing in town?
Why all of a sudden are you here? Last time we talked, you had no interest in going
to your high-school reunion.”
Rome took a step back and straightened. He already knew where the
conversation was going, and he didn"t like it one bit. “I changed my mind.”
They had talked months before the reunion RSVPs had to be in. Months before
he was informed that Sela was going to be there.
“You came to see her, didn"t you?”
“Leave it alone, Mary Beth.”
“She hurt you so badly the last time. I don"t want you to go through that again.
We both know her family is never going to accept you.”
He shook his head. “You don"t understand.”
“Don"t I? I remember how angry you were when you found out she…”
“Believe it or not, Mary Beth, some things really do change,” Rome gritted
through his teeth. They"d had the same conversation over ten years ago. He didn"t
like it then. He sure as hell didn"t like it now.
He knew Sela so well, well enough to know she wouldn"t have done something
so cruel to him without her reasons. He fully intended to spend the weekend finding
out those reasons.
Mary Beth stared into his face for several moments before giving him a small
smile. “God, I hope you"re right, sweetheart. I pray for your sake you are.”
He smiled, feeling a little bit of his irritation dissipate. She meant the best. He
couldn"t be angry at Mary Beth for caring. She was his mom. It was part of the job
description. “How are things at home? Is everything… okay?”
Her grin widened, but it lost its shine. “Are things ever okay in the Vicenza
house?” she replied. Something in her voice told him things were worse than they
normally were.
Damn! “What did he do this time?”
“Which one of them are you asking about?” Mary Beth asked as she strode
deeper into the suite. She took a seat on one of the lush sofas. Rome came to sit
beside her.

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He mentally groaned at that. There was a time when he only had to worry
about his father"s actions, but Turin was a teenager now and a problem one. “How
about we start with the elder one?”
She sighed. “Your father was arrested three days ago.”
“For?”
“Public drunkenness, assault, and battery.”
Anthony Vicenza was one of the town"s most notorious drunks. He had
embarrassed their family, their neighbors and the townsfolk most of his life. Over
the years the officers had gotten used to his brand of drunkenness. He must have
done something truly offensive for the sheriff"s department to think he needed to be
cuffed. The bastard could rot in jail for all Rome was concerned. “Tell me about
Turin.”
“He got in trouble too.” Mary Beth"s bottom lip trembled as she spoke the
words, a clear sign she was at the end of her line with the two males.
“Just tell me he wasn"t arrested.” Rome had every intention of bailing his
brother out no matter the price, but it might make things awkward if it turned out
both men were at the same jail.
She shook her head. “Juvie,” she said with a sigh. “It"s bad, but not the worst.
He tagged some place in the next county over. He did a night. They gave him a fine
and community service.”
So far things weren"t as bad as he had feared. He couldn"t help Turin with the
service, but the fine he could do. Rome reached inside his hip pocket. “How much is
the fine?”
Mary Beth glanced at his wallet. “Did you bring your checkbook?”
He paused. Every time he offered to take care of Mary Beth or buy her
something, she waved it off. She never wanted anything from him, even when the
family was in need. In those cases, she made a point of telling him they made the
mess and would fix it. Things must be bad for her to want him to write a check. Still
he couldn"t help asking, “Why?”
She sighed. “He tagged the whole side of a building. Turns out it was a school.
They are making us pay for the cleaning and adding more to the top to make sure
he doesn"t do it again.”
“Which county?”
He cursed when she named it. From what Rome remembered from his own
misspent youth, the county officers weren"t very forgiving when it came to
transgressions. Something occurred to him. “Tell me the school he tagged wasn"t the
prep one.”
“You know your brother better than to ask that. He doesn"t often put his mind
to something, but when he does…”

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“He goes all out,” Rome finished for her. Typical Vincenza. Grade A idiot when
he decided to do something. Silently, he signed the check, left the amount blank,
and tore it off the ledger. He held it out to her. “Where is he?”
She ran her hands over her face. “You"re not going to like what I tell you.”
When it rained… “Where?”
“You"ll probably find him at the Haskin parlor right now.”
Shit, it really did pour.
Rome stood, took a few bills from his wallet, folded them, and handed them,
along with the check, to her.
“What about your father?”
Rome"s fingers tightened around the soft leather. With a jolt he glanced down
and realized what he was doing. “He"s not my father, Mary Beth. I don"t know how
you could forget that. He constantly reminded me of that very important fact while I
lived with you.”
Pain flashed across Mary Beth"s face. It was evident for only a moment, but
Rome understood just how deeply his comment affected her. After living with
Anthony for more than twenty years, she"d learned to hide her emotions. But he
brought out the woman inside. “I"m sorry. I know I can never fix things, but I want
you to know I"m sorry.”
Sorry she had not been strong enough to keep his father from beating her.
Sorry she hadn"t been strong enough to take her children and run away when he"d
started taking his anger out on Rome instead.
“Don"t be.”
“Rome—”
He shook his head cutting off whatever words she would have said. “Don"t be
sorry you didn"t leave. But it"s not too late, Mary Beth. It"s not too late.”
With eyes that mirrored his own, Rome"s mother looked him over before she
gave him a tiny, tremulous smile. “And what would I do about your brother? Where
would I go? How would I survive? What if he comes looking for me?”
For the first time in a long time, he felt hope for his mother. She was asking
the right questions. Seemed almost thirty years of abuse was too long. “We both
know I can take care of you. I make more than enough to set you up in a new town,
hell, a new state if you"re willing to leave him behind. Just say yes, and I"ll set
everything up. You won"t have to worry about a thing.”
Mary Beth stared up at him, her eyes luminous with emotion, and delicately
sniffed. “You never did call me Mom when you were growing up, but you always
treated me like I was worthy of the title.” Tears shone in her eyes. “Give me a few
days. I just might take you up on your offer.”
Rome blinked back the tears that threatened to fall out of his own eyes.
Needing something to do, he opened the wallet he held. “How much do you want me
to write the check for?” he asked, referring to Anthony"s bail.

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It took her a moment to realize what he was talking about, but then a tiny
smile settled on her mouth. Small, tender hands landed on top of his. “Forget it. I
think I"ll let Tony sit in jail a little longer.” She shrugged. “He"ll probably get out
tomorrow morning anyway.”
Fingers shaking he shoved his wallet back into his pocket. Rome had dreamed
of the moment when his mother would come to her senses and realize she deserved
better than the man who beat her and her children. It seemed the moment was
finally coming.
She smiled. “You hungry?”
He thought back to the last time he"d really eaten. He"d been too nervous in
the morning and at the reunion banquet to eat. “Yes.”
“I made your favorite.”
Rome grasped her hand as he leaned forward to press a kiss on her forehead.
“Thank you,” he whispered, knowing he was thanking her for more than dinner.
* * *
It was early evening, just a little after five, and Rome stood in the warm
summer air, basking in the shadows as he watched the family eat. It was
disconcerting to be standing on the outside of such a private moment.
He shuffled his feet and pulled his light coat closer to his body. It was summer,
but the night was unusually cold. He felt the weather mirrored the turbulent
emotions inside. A day had passed since he last saw her, but it was one of the
longest he"d ever experienced. He wasn"t able to think straight since his visit from
Mary Beth. So there he stood before his childhood home, shielded by the many trees
that shrouded the front yard.
He watched as his family ate a quiet dinner. The three individuals barely
spoke. Apparently things hadn"t changed much since he"d left. The only thing that
was truly different was their appearances.
Mary Beth was just as gorgeous, but she"d lost so much of her light and
vitality, she was a shell of her former self. His father had gained anywhere from
twenty to thirty pounds of fat, and his skin was blotched and ruddy from
alcoholism. But it was the third person who"d changed the most and captured
Rome"s attention.
Turin had just turned six when Rome left. The child he remembered was gone,
and in his place was a young man, one he didn"t know. Even though Mary Beth sent
him copies of Turin"s class pictures, Rome was never able to reconcile the boy he
knew with the teenager sitting at the dining table.
It pained him to discover he had missed so much of his brother"s life.
“But not any more.” He whispered the harsh words to no one. It was a promise
to none but himself.
All too soon the dinner was over. He watched Turin and Mary Beth and
counted down the seconds until they would disappear from his sight. Even after

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they were gone and the lights were turned down, Rome stood in the yard waiting for
something he couldn"t name.
Just when Rome was ready to admit defeat, turn, and head back to his lonely
suite, he realized he"d been spotted. He took a step back, moving deeper into the
shadows at the creaking sound of the rickety back door opening, and held his breath
as the soft sound of grass being crunched underfoot drew closer to him.
It was then that Rome admitted he hadn"t really thought through his actions.
After his mother"s visit he was plagued with this need to see his family, despite its
destructive nature. So he came home, even though he knew in his heart he could
never truly come home.
“What are you doing here?”
The strangled sound of his mother"s voice drifted to him, sluicing through the
hunger for family.
She was worried about him.
“I"m sorry… I…I couldn"t stay away.”
Mary Beth stepped from the shadows to stand before him. She glanced over
her shoulder to make sure she wasn"t followed before placing a warm hand on his
cool cheek. “You miss him.”
He gritted his teeth, hating the pain, the isolation, and the need that seemed
to be a part of him. “I never should have left him. I never should have left you.”
She shook her head as tears silently streamed down her face. “I always knew
you would leave. From the moment you started to walk, I knew I would be forced to
watch you walk away.” She gave him a soft smile filled with memories. “When you
got old enough to truly stand on your own, I started praying for you. You know each
time you left for school I prayed it would be the day you wouldn"t return.” She
clasped the hand closest to her with her free one. “You were always meant for
something more than Brushwood.”
“That still doesn"t make it right that I left.”
She turned so her back was to him. She was so close he couldn"t help but
breathe in the scent of her hair. She smelled like the happier days of his childhood.
His arms wrapped around her tiny waist of their own volition.
“He misses you.”
He snorted. “How can he miss someone he doesn"t know? I"m surprised he even
remembers my name, let alone who I am.”
“How couldn"t he? You"ll always be a part of him.”
He swallowed thickly as he silently hoped she was right. “I doubt that.”
“How could he forget you, Rome? You"re his hero. You"re his big brother.”
He couldn"t say anything in response. He didn"t have the heart to tell her the
truth.

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Chapter Six

Sela took a deep breath and let it out. And then she took a millionth one and
let it out again. “Damn it all to hell,” she growled before walking away from the door
and striding down the hall. Yesterday Rome gave her his ultimatum. The bastard
hadn"t left her mind since then. She"d left the party a little after their game of seven
minutes in heaven. That night she"d tried to relieve the ache between her thighs
and failed. The same thing happened earlier tonight. After the dinner, she went up
to her old room, undressed, and then realized she was not going to be able to sleep
that night. Rome had played her body so well she knew she wasn"t going to be able
to fall asleep without an orgasm. Unfortunately after trying, she"d discovered she
couldn"t make her body respond the way he had.
So she was there at his hotel, on his floor, moments from taking him up on his
offer. Gods, she hoped he was there! She hadn"t bothered to call and let him know
she was coming, too afraid she would back out the last minute. Determined and
aroused, Sela marched back to the door and knocked on the hard, glossy wood.
“Coming.”
She tightened her grip on her purse strap as she waited for him to open the
door. Just when she began to wonder if he was ever going to open the door, Rome
stood before her.
He blinked down at her in surprise. “I didn"t think you would come.”
She smiled at him even as her belly muscles clenched and her nerves
tightened. “I haven"t yet.”
Rome flashed Sela an answering smile and gazed into her face for several
moments. With each second that ticked by them, his eyes darkened until they
appeared to be hard jewels of shining desire. “You will…very soon,” he murmured
before stepping back and allowing her to enter the suite. The moment she stepped
over the threshold, the door closed behind her.
There was no going back. Not that she wanted to. She was aching for his touch
and knew he was the only one who could satisfy her.
“Are you sure about this?”
She stepped forward and placed both hands on his chest. “Are you—” Sela
didn"t get to finish her smart-ass retort. Rome lowered his head and captured her
lips in a dominating kiss that stole her breath. The moment his mouth touched
hers, her body temperature rose, and her heartbeat doubled. He wrapped his arms

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wrapped around her waist and tightened his hold, pulling her hard against his
muscular chest. She glided her palms up his torso until her hands reached his neck.
Sela teased the strong column of his throat with light touches before running
her hands through his hair. She loved the silky feel of Rome"s wavy, ink black locks.
Sela"d dated her fair share of men, but no one"s hair reminded her of his.
Just as no man"s touch reminded her of Rome.
She hated that his touch affected her so quickly, but there was no denying that
she responded to him like Pavlov"s dog.
Just when Sela wondered if she could take any more of his wicked kiss, Rome
ended it. He brushed his mouth against hers before pulling away slightly. “You
taste so good, but I want to take my time. I want to make this last. I will make it
last.”
Staring into his smoldering eyes, Sela felt her heart jump and skip a beat.
There was so much emotion in his gaze, a promise she found impossible to ignore.
Then there was the way he drew out the word “last.” Sela couldn"t help thinking
there was something more he wanted to say after it.
Something like forever.
The thought frightened her.
Sela lowered her head and broke his gaze. “This is just sex, Rome. You started
something, and I need you to finish it. Nothing more.”
The very air swirling around them seemed to still at her words. Rome moved
closer to her and grabbed her chin. His fingers bit almost painfully into her flesh as
he lifted her head. “Let me get this straight. You just want me to fuck you?”
“Yes,” she whispered as wanton heat filled her veins at his harshly growled
question. There was no doubt in Sela"s mind that her words had angered Rome, but
she wasn"t worried. Rome would never hurt her. At least not physically.
His anger gave him a little bit of a hard edge.
And there was something attractive about a dangerous man.
He must have realized what his words did to her. His gaze tightened, and in a
low, almost menacing voice, he spoke. “You want me to give it to you, hard and
deep, all night long?”
With every word he said, his voice deepened and became huskier. She couldn"t
help but close her eyes at the sound. It was bitter, decadent, dangerous, and utterly
intoxicating.
“God, yes,” Sela sighed as she lifted her right thigh. Rome was apparently
thinking along the same lines, because he grasped her leg and notched it to his hip.
Her pelvis was intimately pressed against him. His cock, hard and heavy, brushed
against her mound. Sela lifted her head for his kiss as she rolled her hips against
the thick ridge of his erection.
The moment his lips pressed against hers, Sela knew she had done the right
thing in coming to his hotel. His mouth was hard and insistent. It coaxed her lips to

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open with deliberate pressure. She parted her lips and sighed into his. Rome"s growl
of satisfaction echoed between them just before he thrust his tongue deep into her
mouth.
Sela lifted her hands and threaded her fingers through his silky hair as she
stroked her tongue over his. It was as though the feel of her tongue touched
something deep inside Rome. The flavor of the kiss changed, became deeper, and
more unrelenting.
Rome released her thigh and sifted both hands through her hair. She
shuddered against him and gasped into his torrid kiss as the fingers in her hair
caressed the suddenly sensitive skin of her scalp before traveling down to her nape.
He teased the flesh there, pleasing and exciting every nerve ending until she felt
the sparks deep in the folds of her sex, and when Sela thought she couldn"t take any
more of Rome"s devastating kiss, he broke it off.
“Look at me, Cupcake.”
She blinked at the sound of the nickname. It took her back to a time long gone,
a period she didn"t want to remember. Staring into his amorous eyes, she bit out,
“Don"t call me that. I"m not her anymore.”
Rome"s gaze hardened and his grip tightened. “With me you are. I gave you the
nickname, and I"ll decide when you"ve outgrown it.”
She tried to jerk out of his arms, but he refused to let her go. “I said—”
His eyes softened, and he shook his head as he pulled her closer.
Understanding shone in his gaze, and she didn"t like it one bit. “I know why you
don"t want me to call you that, Sela. And I promise one day I"ll earn the right.” He
took a step closer and pressed his cock more intimately against her sex. “But we
both know you never stopped being my Sela…my Cupcake.”
Rome lowered his head and kissed her hard before Sela could release the
protest sitting on her tongue. She knew the act had been on purpose, that he"d
kissed her to keep her mouth shut, but Sela couldn"t find the strength to be angry
with him as his tongue plunged into her mouth.
The man kissed like a lust-starved god.
Breathing hard, Sela broke off the kiss. As much as she enjoyed his kisses, she
needed more from him. “We"re no longer in high school, Rome. We can go further
than first base.”
His answering smile was brittle. A slight chill of caution traveled down Sela"s
spine. She ignored it and lifted one eyebrow in silent challenge.
“How far are you willing to go, Sela?”
“As far as it takes.”
His smile became a little softer, but no less dangerous. Rome lowered his head
and brushed his lips against her ear. Sela couldn"t help the shudder that ran
through her. “Good,” he whispered.
“And you don"t want me to make love to you…just fuck you?”

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The way he said the words “make love” made Sela shift her thighs anxiously.
Rome spoke the words as though he was making love to them as he whispered
them. It was so sexual. As if that wasn"t devastating enough, he paid just as much
consideration to the words “fuck you.” The attention was harsher, rough, but no less
devastating to Sela"s mind. It took her several moments to work through her body"s
response and answer his question. “Yes, I want just sex, Rome. I"m not looking to
relive the past.”
“Good.” He took a step away from her.
She opened her eyes immediately. Her gaze caught his but only for a moment.
His eyes raked over her figure as he reached out and placed his hands on her
shoulders. Sela closed her eyes, sure he was going to give her what she"d asked for.
The best sex of her life.
Instead, Rome spun her around and pulled her back hard against his chest.
Her eyes widened as her breath whooshed out of her lungs in surprise. His hands
moved over body, skimming and teasing every inch of her body with his touch. She
groaned his name as his talented fingers left a fire burning wherever they touched.
When his palms reached her hips, Sela automatically opened her legs. One of
Rome"s hands delved between her thighs to cup her sheath.
“This pussy belongs to me tonight.”
Oh, God! She nodded.
“Whatever I say goes.”
She sucked in a harsh breath and nodded her head in agreement.
Lord, she was three seconds away from on an orgasm, and they hadn"t even
gotten to the bedroom.
“Say it, Sela. I need to hear you admit it.”
Sela rolled her hips, riding his hand as she looked over her shoulder, and held
his gaze. “This pussy is yours tonight, Rome. All yours.”
“Hmmm. Good,” he grunted.
Sela took a deep breath and started to move away from him, toward the bed
when Rome"s fingers curled around her shoulder, keeping her immobile. His tongue
rimmed the shell of her ear before he wrapped his lips around her earlobe. “Damn,
Rome,” she sighed as she tilted her head back, giving him greater access to her.
He kissed her ear, the back of her neck, and that spot no other man had ever
discovered. He paused. She groaned and swiveled her hips when his lips pressed
against her sweet spot. The hand between her thighs delved deeper, caressing her
sheath with a little more determination as he licked the small patch of flesh that
seemed to be directly connected to her clitoris.
“Yes. Don"t stop.” She rocked her hips against his hand.
“I want you to come for me.”
Sela smiled. She"d had a few lovers who could make her come. None who could
make her orgasm on command. Certainly no other man could help her find release

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while she was still wearing all her clothing. Only Rome. Still, she couldn"t help
egging him on. “Good luck with that,” she said softly.
She felt Rome"s smile against her nape. “You know me, Cupcake. I love a
challenge.”
Sela bit her bottom lip as a smirk flittered across her face. She felt Rome"s
statement deep between her thighs. The words soaked her sheath, moved over the
folds of her cunt to tease her clitoris. She groaned feeling the truth in his words.
Her pussy ached and pulsed with the need to find release.
Rome was going to accomplish the impossible.
He pressed his hand closer to her cunt, covering the full mound. Two of his
fingers moved over her pussy and found her clitoris. Her lace panties still provided
a barrier between her and him, but she felt his fingertips moving so keenly across
her clit, she couldn"t keep her groan of pleasure.
“Come for me, Sela.”
She closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and rocked her hips as she came hard.
She clamped her lips tightly to stifle the scream that threatened. Sela had met
her fair share of men promising pleasure, but never before had erotic temptation
been so satisfying.
Sela opened her eyes with a sigh. She lifted her gaze to find Rome watching
her with a smirk in his eyes.
“Feeling pretty smug, huh?”
Rome lifted his hand and brushed his thumb against her bottom lip. She
shivered when his finger moved across her slick mouth. His smile widened. “A man
has a right to be smug when he makes his woman come this hard.” He tapped the
middle of her lip.
It was then Sela realized just how hard she"d bitten herself. She grinned back
at him. “You"re right. You"ve earned every right to be smug.”
Rome kissed her hard on the mouth and slipped his tongue over her parted
lips. “Better?”
She nodded as his lick rejuvenated the desire that had been banked with her
release.
“Nervous, Sela?”
She lifted her head and caught him watching her. Curiosity and a hint of
something that was both sensual and wicked shone in his gaze. “I wish you could
see yourself, Sela.”
“Why?” she breathed out.
His full mouth slowly curved into a teasing smile. “You"re so beautiful. I want
to memorize this moment…memorize the way you look right now.”
“Rome…”

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Green eyes lifted, filled with promise and heat. The amorous intentions in his
eyes snagged her attention until she could see nothing more. “Don"t worry. I haven"t
forgotten the rules. Tonight we"re keeping things simple,” Rome said.
Yes, tonight things would be all about their pleasure. There could be no
emotion.
“Okay.” She lifted her head as Rome lowered his head. His hot, moist breath
caressed the lower half of her face, and his mouth brushed against hers. His tongue
pressed against the seam of her lips. Sela opened for Rome, giving him access. His
tongue tangled with hers, skimmed over her teeth, before teasing the inner recesses
of her mouth.
When Rome broke off the kiss, Sela realized that he"d slipped his hands under
her dress. His fingertips moved up her legs, danced up her thighs, until they
reached the strings of her panties. Holding her gaze, Rome slowly lowered her
panties. She stepped out of them. He carefully folded up her underwear, stood, and
placed them in the first drawer of the bedside table.
When he turned back to her, she asked, “Why?”
He smiled. “Sometimes a man needs something to remind him of the good
times.”
He"d promised her no emotions, but everything he said made her feel things,
strong, deep feelings. Damn it. “Rome.”
He strode to her and dropped to his knees. Her mouth went dry when he slid
his hand between her thighs. “It"s just sex.”
Her eyes fluttered shut when his fingers skimmed over the sensitive skin on
her inner thighs. Sela licked her lips slowly and sighed when Rome parted the
swollen lips of her cunt. Her fingers threaded through the silken strands of Rome"s
hair when he pressed his thumb to her clitoris.
“You"re so hot and wet here.”
“Hmmm.” Sela rocked her hips. “You"re to blame.”
“I"ll make it up to you,” he whispered before lowering his head and placing a
kiss on the slick folds of her sheath.
Her fingers tightened in his hair.
He continued to kiss her for several moments, swiping his tongue down her
moist flesh between her puffy lips, and licked her clitoris before spearing his tongue
into her.
Sela dipped her head back, clawing at Rome"s shoulders as he kissed her
deeply.
“Oh God,” she cried out as every muscle in her body tightened with the need to
find satisfaction. She moved her hips slightly, trying to tell him without words what
she needed. Rome growled something indecipherable against her flesh before
swirling his tongue across her swollen clitoris for an all too brief moment of sexual
reprise.

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“Damn it, Rome,” she bit out in frustration.
He lifted his head. “Tell me what you want, Sela, and I"ll give it to you.”
Her lips slowly spread into a smile as she tilted her hips forward. He glanced
at her pussy quickly before returning his gaze to her face. The glimpse had been
almost curt, but it had lasted long enough.
The knowledge that Rome truly wanted Sela gave her courage.
“Eat my pussy.”
The fingers gripping her thighs tightened. “Darn, girl, I love it when you talk
dirty.”
Sela"s shriek of surprise cut through the air when Rome lifted her in the air.
He carried her the few feet to the bed and lightly placed her on top of it.
“Spread those gorgeous legs.”
She pushed the wayward strands of her hair out of her face and looked up at
him. The way he looked at her allowed the sexier side of her nature to run free.
Holding his gaze, Sela slowly widened her thighs.
His wicked grin transformed the handsome planes of his face into something
that was both devilish and enchanting. Christ, he’s sexy…and mine.
Rome curled his fingers around her thighs and spread her legs a little farther
apart. Nibbling her bottom lip, Sela watched the descent of Rome"s dark head. His
wavy ebony hair seemed to gleam in the barely lit room.
He teased her for a moment, running his hands up her thighs before fingering
her sheath. Sela sucked in her breath when his warm fingers spread the lips of her
cunt to expose her swollen clitoris. His fingers teased the engorged nub, flicking and
caressing it until Sela could no longer bite back her moan of bliss. She curled her
back, gripped the sheets, and lifted her hips, trying desperately to get closer to the
source of her satisfaction. Wet heat glided along her clit when he licked her. Sela
squeezed her eyes, and a smile borne of sensual bliss settled upon her face.
“Right…there.”
Rome propped one thigh on his shoulder and suckled her more deeply. She
groaned his name when he plunged his tongue into her core, spearing her with the
moist warmth of his wicked tongue.
“Again.” The airy demand seemed to flow around Sela"s mind before it burst
through her gasping lips. No man ever made her feel so good, and they weren"t even
fucking.
Rome was teaching her all kinds of things about her own body, like the fact
that the right side of her clit was almost painfully sensitive.
“Oh…my…Lord!”
She shivered, thighs quivering against the head between her legs as Rome
licked her clitoris earnestly. He seemed to have discovered an addiction to the nub"s
right side.
“Rome,” she cried out.

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The pleasure was building up too quickly, not giving her a chance to find her
grounding. Before Sela knew it she was flying high, body jerking, muscles clenching,
breath heaving, and soul vulnerable with the passion pounding through her veins.
“Don"t stop. Please, God, don"t fucking stop.”
The plea burst from her chest one moment before her body tightened in
orgasmic bliss. She sighed Rome"s name as he lapped at her pussy, teasing her with
firm strokes that kept the waves of her release strong and tight.
“I can"t keep…”
A gasp burst from her mouth when he ran the slick, hard surface of his teeth
across her sensitive clit. “We"ll see,” he murmured before licking her clit to slit.
Twice.
The second slick slide of his tongue across her clitoris was like a trigger to her
pleasure. She felt that undeniable, distinctive feeling of heat, need, and pleasure
crawling under her skin, increasing as it moved through her body. It started in her
pussy and spread out until the orgasm was rolling through all her limbs. Sela
keened Rome"s name, crying out until she was hoarse.
Rome"s fingers moved up and down her inner thighs, tenderly, almost as
though he was just trying to confirm his presence until she was ready for him. Once
Sela had her breathing under some semblance of control, she opened her eyes. She
peered down her body and looked him in the eyes.
“I doubt I"m going to get enough of you tonight, but I sure am going to try,” he
whispered hotly as he leaned forward and captured her lips in a smoldering,
dominating kiss. “I"m going to keep you up all night, sweetheart.”
How many men had made that promise?
She started to laugh at his statement when she caught sight of the look in his
eyes. Her thoughts must have been written on her face, because he cupped one
heavy, aching breast, found her nipple through the barrier of her dress, and
thumbed the nipple as he growled, “Sela, I don"t make promises I can"t keep. I
personally guarantee your satisfaction.” He drew out the words until each syllable
was a carnal caress. “I am going to make you come and come and come and come.”
He tugged on her nipple with each word, and every time a pulse registered in her
sheath. By the time Rome finished making his declaration, Sela was sure he was
man enough to follow through on his guarantee.
She"d just experienced her second orgasm, and her body was already gearing
up for a third.
“Please. I need…” The words fell away as she placed her mouth against his. He
slanted his head and kissed her, moving his lips over hers, seducing her with every
lick, every plunge, every stroke until she was forced to break off the kiss.
She wanted the feeling of anticipation to last, and the way he was kissing
made that difficult. Sela feared she was so turned on she might come from the kiss
alone.

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She reached for the buttons at his throat. She needed him out of his clothes
and inside her. Determined fingers slipped his buttons from their holes as Sela
counted the moments until she had Rome naked. She bit her bottom lip, sucked in a
deep breath, and pushed the shirt off his shoulders when the last button was
undone. Excitement made her hold her breath as she waited for the clothing to fall.
She knew Rome had a fabulous body hitting underneath his clothes.
She wasn"t disappointed when he was laid bare. His chest was hard, sculpted
with fine muscles and chiseled lines. He had carefully defined pecs and washboard
abs she knew she was going to enjoy licking. Her eyes lowered to the trail of curling
dark hair that snaked beneath the waistband of his slacks. Sela grasped his belt
buckle and made short work of it. She dropped it haphazardly beside the bed and
unzipped his pants. Rome chuckled and grabbed her hands. He squeezed them
twice, placed a kiss to her forehead, and stood from the bed.
He dropped his pants but paused, hands on his black boxer briefs. Sela lifted
her gaze and caught his. He was teasing her. She saw the truth in the mischievous
glint in his eyes.
Most men would be rushing at that point of the night, determined to get her
into bed as quickly as possible, but Rome drew out the moment, built up the
anticipation. His self-control made him all the more attractive to Sela.
Ironically, that made it harder for her to wait.
“Rome,” she warned.
The edge of his mouth tilted up, and he worked his briefs down his muscular
thighs. Masculine, black curly hair covered his legs. Sela couldn"t help thinking
about just how good those hairs would feel moving across her calves as Rome thrust
hard into her sex.
The soft sound of her gasp slipped through the air when his cock bounced free.
It was long and thick. And looked entirely capable of pleasuring her. Rome stepped
out of his underwear and dropped it on top of the pile of his clothing.
Rome knelt on the edge of the bed, placing his knee between her thighs. She
widened them, giving him greater room. Even then the heat pouring off him seemed
too hot to touch. He leaned forward and kissed her. Sela felt herself slowly falling to
the mattress as he deepened the kiss. She sighed into his mouth when her back met
the bed and the full length of his hard body was pressed against hers.
Fingers tightened around both of her thighs. Sela wrapped her legs around his
waist, draping her feet down his back. They groaned in unison when the new
position placed his cock against her nether lips. The engorged head pressed
intimately against her clitoris. Unable to help herself Sela rocked her hips forward.
She was rewarded with wicked waves of pleasure that shot through her sex. Rome
cursed as he broke off the kiss.
“Damn, Sela. You keep that up, and it"s not going to be slow and easy our first
time,” he warned.
“Then I guess it"s a good thing this isn"t our first time.”

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“Touché,” he responded and kissed her lightly on the mouth. “You"re
overdressed.”
Heat climbed up her face as excitement spiked through her.
Rome slipped one hand under her dress and teased her upper thighs as he
brushed his lips over her cheek. He took his time tasting her. He pressed his mouth
against her forehead, then placed sweet kisses on her cheek, her chin, the under
curve of her jaw before venturing to her left ear. He sucked the lobe into his hot, wet
mouth.
“God,” she sighed in bliss.
He"d found her spot.
He suckled her earlobe earnestly for several moments, building the need that
filled Sela until she couldn"t help but let Rome know he pushed her past that
breaking point. She wrapped her fingers around his cock and palmed him from root
to tip. “I need you now.”
Even to her own ears, her voice sounded sexy, wanton, and demanding.
“Shit!” He released her lobe, grabbed the hem of her dress, and pulled it off in
one fell swoop. Sela lay before him totally naked. She couldn"t help the insecurities
that overcame her as he knelt over her, staring at her body.
Rome"s hot, hard emerald gaze glittered as it roamed over her.
He sucked in a harsh breath. “My God, you"re beautiful.”
Sela dropped her head, unable to hold his gaze when his eyes shone with such
blatant desire. Her face heated up with pleasure and embarrassment. No man had
ever uttered such words to her and with such emotion. She knew Rome meant every
syllable. Feminine power like none Sela had ever felt before surged inside her.
“Thank you.”
One blunt finger rested beneath her chin and lifted her head. Looking deep
into her eyes, he spoke. “You"re very welcome, Sela.” He kissed her hard, feasting on
her lips before pressing a hot, wet openmouthed kiss to her neck. She sighed as his
tongue wove a wicked, wet path across her flesh. The sigh turned into a moan when
he pressed his lips lower, moving down her chest until they reached the swollen bud
of her nipple. He cupped her breast in his palm and massaged the orb as he sucked
on the tip. Then he opened his mouth wide and engulfed her whole areola in the
moist, smoldering cavern.
Sela"s fingers dug into the sheets. Stars exploded behind her closed eyes when
Rome began to earnestly suckle her tit.
Sela threw her head back at the feel of Rome"s hard, hot lips against her skin,
blazing a trail down her body, between her breasts, on her stomach, above her
pelvis, between her widened legs to place soft kisses against the moist lips of her
aching pussy.
Lord, how she loved his kisses.
No matter where he placed them.

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For a moment she wondered if he was going to go down on her again. She was
both tempted and horrified by the thought. The man had an incredible mouth, but
she wanted him inside her.
He placed a final hard kiss on her pelvis, lifted his head, and moved up her
body. She breathed a sigh of relief when he reached for the nightstand"s top drawer
and pulled out a silver foil.
“Let me,” Sela purred and took the condom from him.
She had been waiting for her chance to explore Rome"s body. Here it was. She
was not going to let the experience pass her by. “Lie down.”
He lay on his back, his arms folded behind his head and his long legs splayed.
Unlike her, he didn"t shy away from his nudity. “I wouldn"t normally call a man
beautiful, but you, Rome Vicenza, are something…special.” She rolled out the last
word as she trailed her index finger down the sharp, centered line that defined his
chest. A shiver ran through his large body when she reached his lower abdomen. It
got stronger with every millimeter she traveled until it was a full shudder when she
reached the base of his cock.
“Sela,” he warned.
She smiled at him, ignoring the demand in his tone, and journeyed her fingers
farther south. His arms lifted from the back of her head when she reached the
heavy mass of his balls. She shook her head. “No, you had your turn. Play fair.”
He growled. His eyes sparkled, luminescent with the need that swam between
them. “There is nothing fair about this, Sela.”
Her grin widened. He was at the end of his line. “How many times have you
made me come, Rome? And how many times have I made you come?”
His mouth tightened. She could see it on his face and in the stance of his hard
body. He didn"t like giving her control. For him it was a hard sacrifice. She wrapped
her fingers around the thick length of his erection. Silently, Sela promised herself
she would make it up to him.
Rome groaned a curse when she tightened her hold and moved her fingers
north so that she cradled his tip. She tentatively brushed her fingers across the
head of his cock and was rewarded with a jerk and a drop of precum.
“Beautiful.” She swiped her tongue across his cockhead and lapped up the
evidence of his desire.
“Shit,” Rome cursed and gripped the sheets.
She licked him with more fervor, knowing that he was enjoying her touch as
much as she had enjoyed the feel of his tongue on her. But the taste of his sex on
her tongue wasn"t enough. Sela opened her mouth and wrapped her lips around
him.
A deep groan of satisfaction cut through the air just as Rome"s fingers
tightened in Sela"s hair. The sound was harsh. She lifted her gaze and watched his
face harden with pleasure as she suckled him more deeply.

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She moved one hand down his torso, fingernails gliding down the flat planes
and sharp lines of his chest until she was able to cup him in both hands.
“I"m going to come if you don"t stop,” he rasped out.
Sela pulled away reluctantly. He tasted so good, felt so right against her
tongue, but she wanted him inside her when he reached completion.
“Don"t look like that, sweetheart.” He grasped her shoulders and pulled her up
onto him so she straddled his waist.
“Look like what?” The brilliance in his viridian eyes caught her attention and
made her forget what they were talking about for a moment. Once again, Rome left
her wondering what it was that was so special about her that he looked at her like
that. Like she was exceptional. As if she was a gift God crafted.
As if he loved her.
He smiled. “Like I just denied you a very tasty toy.”
“Didn"t you?” She brushed her mouth against his as she maneuvered her body
so their groins met.
His arms tightened around her waist. “Don"t worry, sweetheart. I have every
intention of giving him back.” He rolled them over so she was on her back. Then
Rome leaned off her, quickly tore the foil open, and sheathed himself.
Arms braced on either side of her head, he lowered himself until his hips
pressed against hers. He rocked against her, eliciting a sharp gasp of pleasure from
her. Just when Sela was about to take what she wanted, he grasped his cock in one
hand and fitted the head to her sheath.
“Yes,” she sighed and wrapped one leg around his hips, opening herself up to
him. He thrust into her a few inches. A purr of pleasure drifted from her lips.
“Damn, you"re so hot and wet, so good.” He gave her a hard, fast kiss and
gripped her hip. His fingers dug almost painfully into her, but she relished the
touch. His gaze snagged hers. He stared deep into her eyes as he slowly sank
himself into her. The burning pleasure of penetration stripped her to the core.
“God, you feel good,” he rasped out before capturing her lips. Oh God, Sela
thought as she kissed him back with all the passion he had ignited inside her. She"d
never felt this way before, never felt this much desire for a single man.
It didn"t make any sense. The strength of her emotions was almost
unfathomable.
She needed him.
Lord in heaven, how she wanted him.
They both groaned when Rome was fully seated inside her sheath. Sela
gripped his buttocks, holding him for a moment, as she relished the feel of his long,
hard length within her.
“I"m good now,” she breathed out after several moments.
He leaned his forehead against hers. His skin was slick with sweat, and his
body was burning hot. She had never felt better.

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“God, I was dying waiting for you to give me the go-ahead.”
She started to laugh at his honest statement when Rome pulled out of her
until only the head of his cock was sheathed. Then he surged back into her hard,
fast, and full of energy.
“Yes, give it to me.”
“Oh, I will, Sela,” he promised. He thrust into her over and over again,
straining muscles that were rarely used, igniting a fire that before him had never
burned. It only took a few strokes, and Sela was coming, screaming his name as
every muscle in her body clenched with her release.
“That"s it, baby. Give it up for me. Come.”
With her eyes closed and lips parted, the dark sound of his erotic, encouraging
words seemed to come from far away as he thrust past her rhythmically clenching
sex. With every stroke, every glide, the fire that burned in her veins got hotter,
deeper, more demanding until the passion that ebbed and flowed inside her became
a tornado that swept through every inch of her body. The heat started in her core,
streaked out through the walls of her pussy, spilling into her abdomen before
making its way to her toes and her head. At the pinnacle of the fire, she felt the
heat burst through her face, her feet, and her cunt simultaneously. Sela cried out
until her voice was hoarse as the most intense orgasm she"d ever had the pleasure
of experiencing tore through her.
“Sela,” Rome groaned as he shuddered through his own release. She smiled
and lay below him, trying desperately to do more than catch her breath. She found
it hard to even open her eyes for several moments. When Sela did, Rome was
watching her with a smug smile on his face.
“Hmmm, we"ve got to try that again.”
“Oh, we will.” He slipped out of her and discarded the used prophylactic. Then
he grabbed another rubber and covered himself. She watched him with hungry eyes,
ready for the next round.
He looked down at her. His smile grew until it was a full-blown grin. “You
want to know something? You"re beautiful when you come.”
“Rome,” she gasped, chagrined at his statement. The way he looked down at
her, beautiful eyes methodically, carefully drinking in her body, made Sela feel like
the loveliest woman on the planet. It also reminded her of why she had come to
spend the night with him.
Decadent pleasure.
“You made me a promise. I will fully intend to make sure you keep it.”
“Say it, Sela.”
“Don"t stop touching me. Don"t stop making me come.” She whispered the
wicked words against the shell of his ear as she wrapped one leg around his waist.
The heel of her foot dug into the curve of his lower back as she pressed herself to
him.

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She felt the whole length of his toned body shudder when the swollen tip of his
cock caressed her aching sheath.
“Fuck…Sela.” The harsh tone of his whiskey voice was both a warning and a
plea. If she wasn"t careful, Rome would lose control.
Sela smiled, confident that the darkness hid her joy. “I want…I need you to let
go, Rome.”
She felt his resistance snap when the very air around them sparked with hard
desire.
And then Rome pressed those full, talented lips of his against hers.
Her nails dug into the firm mass of his shoulders as she kissed him, struggling
to get a grip on the desire that ran rampant through her. His tongue surged into her
mouth, forcing her to let her passion run free.
Sela rocked her hips, lifting them up for his every downward stroke. Back and
forth, man versus woman, they moved together, fighting to reach a release. Sela"s
nails scraped along the firm muscles in Rome"s backside as he withdrew and thrust
in forward. She cried out and clung to him as he surged deep into her cunt.
After that the only sounds in the room were the sounds of their harsh
breathing and deep groans as Rome slid in and out of the slick folds of Sela"s sheath,
pumping into her, tightening the ball of pleasure that lay between her thighs until
with a scream Sela came hard, pussy tightening around his cock.
Rome pumped into her, plunged deep past the tight muscles of her fluttering
pussy to stroke the deepest part of her core. With every stroke her sheath further
tightened until her orgasm built into a second, more powerful release. This time
Rome couldn"t hold his pleasure at bay. His fingers dug deep into her hips as he
groaned her name and jerked hard, finding his release.

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Chapter Seven

She woke at the first feel of his hands moving across her back. “You stole the
covers,” he murmured against her nape as he pulled her to him.
Sela turned into his arms. “I"m sorry.” She lifted the comforter and covered
him. The sun was already rising. The air around them was thick, sweet with the
scent of their lovemaking. There was just enough light in the room for her to see his
smile.
“I"m not so sure I need the covers anymore,” he said as he lowered his head.
She lifted her face, eager for his kiss. The first feel of his mouth on hers sent
little tremors of need through the folds of her pussy. He plunged his fingers into her
hair and held her head immobile as he plundered her mouth. She groaned as his
tongue awakened her desires.
Slowly, with frequent butterfly kisses, he broke away from her. The way he
kept coming back told Sela he couldn"t get enough of her mouth.
Just like she couldn"t get enough of him.
Already, she ached for Rome.
“I should be leaving,” she whispered even though it was the last thing she
wanted to do.
“Why?” he breathed against her mouth.
She swallowed thickly, trying to remember why she wanted to be anywhere
else. “If I leave now, no one will notice I spent the night here.”
He stilled beside her. “Oh,” he said softly as though she had made some great
confession that made everything clear.
She, on the other hand, believed she had mucked things up. “You know how
the town is, Rome. We shouldn"t say anything unless we have something to tell. The
town will talk if—”
He cut her off, kissing her swiftly, savagely. “I understand.” One hand left her
hair. Sela sighed at the feel of Rome"s fingers skimming across the soft skin of her
belly. His touch was so personal, so purposeful she knew he was doing what they
had not been able to do before.
He was taking his time to learn her.
He trailed his finger over the soft mound of her stomach and circled her belly
button. She giggled when he dipped his fingers into the small cavern and tickled the

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normally ignored flesh. Her laughter turned into a sigh of pleasure when his hands
moved south and threaded through the dark hairs that shielded her sex.
Rome"s gaze lifted to hers. He held it as he lowered his head. At the last
moment he broke her gaze and placed a soft kiss to her belly. Sela groaned through
parted lips when she felt his tongue flick against her hot skin. Then he nipped her
flesh. Sela yelped in reaction, partly out of surprise, partly out of pleasure. The
stinging pain had sharpened her desire.
“Please,” she whispered softly as molten heat climbed up her spine. Her pussy
ached, and her folds burned with the need to have him inside her.
“I know, Cupcake. I know.” He licked her lower pelvis before gripping both her
thighs. She lifted her arms and held on to the metal swirls that made up the
headboard as he widened her legs.
“Your skin tastes so good. I could spend hours licking you,” he growled against
her flesh before Sela felt him lick a wet, hot path from her lower abdomen to the
area below her breasts. She held her breath when he reached the under curve of her
bosom, waiting for him to touch her tit.
Instead Rome sucked a piece of her belly flesh into his mouth. She pressed her
head into the pillow and dug her heels into the mattress in reaction. No man had
ever given Sela such sharp pleasure before. It was as if she was burning up from the
inside.
Heart pounding, pussy pulsing, Sela ran her fingers through his hair. “Don"t
make me wait, Rome,” she begged.
He released her flesh. “Do you know how long I"ve dreamed of this moment? I
fully intend to live out all my fantasies, Cupcake.”
Her lashes slowly fluttered open at his words. “You dreamed of this moment?”
He lifted off her. “Teenage girls aren"t the only ones with fantasies, Sela.”
“Oh,” she said, not knowing what else to say. She was stunned by his words.
Rome had been thinking about being with her for some time now.
She watched him get off the bed. She leaned up on her elbows. “Where are you
going?”
He gave her a teasing smile. “Remember that fantasy? We"re missing
something.” He left the room.
Sela closed her eyes and waited for him to return. Her mind was a minefield of
thoughts and needs. She was afraid if she thought too hard about one thing, she
might explode. Rome had played her body so well, shown her so much about her
own sexuality, she would always been grateful.
Before him she had believed all her orgasms would be small, defined by the
soft sighs that she let out during her release. Her sexual interactions had been
almost anticlimactic because of how softly she came.
“Who would have thought I was a screamer?” she murmured to the empty
room.

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Unfortunately she wasn"t the only one in the bedroom. Rome had returned. “I
did. And I was right.”
She popped up and stared at Rome as he marched into the room. In his hand
he held a small bowl. When he got closer she saw that it was filled with
strawberries and whipped cream.
Her mouth went dry. Talk about fantasies! After a moment she rediscovered
the ability to speak. “This is what you envisioned?”
He grinned wickedly. “Oh yeah, well to begin with at least.”
She looked into his face for a moment. The vision staring back at her told her
he hadn"t even reached the tip of his freakiness. “Oh my God, you are so kinky.”
“Sweetheart, you have no idea.” He placed the bowl on the nightstand. She
reached for one of the strawberries. He caught her hand just as the tips of her
fingers would have brushed against the bowl"s rim. She lifted her gaze to catch his.
Energy pulsed hotly between them.
Something deep inside her stirred.
And then he smiled, setting fire to her already sharp senses.
His long, deft fingers dipped into the bowl and lifted up one large strawberry.
It was coated in whipped cream. “Come on, Cupcake,” he purred.
She opened her mouth for him. She barely tasted the fruit when Rome placed
it on her tongue. Almost methodically she chewed and swallowed. Her every sense
was trained on the dangerously intoxicating man in front of her.
“You missed a spot,” he rasped and dipped his head, capturing her mouth in a
ravaging kiss. Sela moaned into his kiss when his hand, slick with the whipped
cream, cupped one heavy, aching breast and teased the nipple.
She trembled in his arms as she pulled him close. But Rome wanted none of
that.
He broke off the kiss and pushed at her shoulders. She lay upon the bed,
muscles weak, bones nonexistent, totally willing to give Rome control.
One hand slid between her thighs to finger her lace-covered sheath. Sometime
during the night she had re-dressed partially. Rome had not been pleased.
“I have no idea why you bothered to put this back on.” The husky words slid
over her skin, caressing her swollen, cream-slickened nipple seconds before the nub
was encased in moist, scalding heat.
“I wanted to give you something to take off,” she replied as she rolled her hips.
Rome replied by fingering the lace that both shielded and displayed her feminine
secrets.
“Haven"t you heard, little girl, that it"s not smart to play with dangerous boys?”
She smiled, tightened her grip on the headboard, and lifted her hips. “No, it"s
very smart, especially when the boy can do… that.” Her statement ended on a soft,
slightly high-pitched sigh when Rome slipped his finger under her lace panties and

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found her clit. He pressed the swollen nub until she couldn"t hold back her cries.
And then until she couldn"t hold back her release.
Trying desperately to regulate her heartbeat, Sela lay beneath Rome"s hard
body, enjoying the feel of his limbs pressed against hers. Her eyes popped open
when something cold and wet met her heated skin.
He had picked up another cream-covered strawberry. She shuddered as it
moved over her right nipple, doing what the other had done, coating the bud in
whipped cream and strawberry juices. Rome placed the strawberry back in the bowl
and licked her nipple.
“I think I"ve found my new favorite meal,” he purred before reapplying the
strawberry. He licked her clean.
Rome repeated the same lavish attention to her other breast several times
before deciding he had enough strawberry-covered nipples.
Sela waited, heart beating loudly in her ears, for what he was going to do next.
She gasped when he threw one leg over her middle, straddling her stomach. The
heavy weight of his erection pressed against her belly, making her all the more
aware of how much she needed him inside her.
He grabbed another strawberry and fed it to her; all the while his glittering
eyes never left her face.
Sela had never felt more desired.
He dipped his hand into the whipped cream and coated one finger. She parted
her lips when he held his fingers in front of her face. Her pussy tightened, and
moisture leaked from her sheath when he slowly, with intricate care, covered her
mouth in whipped cream.
“Damn, you"re something,” he groaned before capturing her lips.
Sela fed him the cream as he fed her his desire. No man looked at her the way
Rome did. No man had ever wanted her as badly as Rome seemed to want her.
She was both exhilarated and fearful of the thought that no man would want
her as he did.
He deepened the kiss and slid his thighs between hers. Sela groaned into his
mouth when he grabbed one leg, further opening her so that his cock pressed
intimately against her pussy. She dug her heel into the small of his back and lifted
her hips against his.
Rome wrenched his lips from hers and bit off an oath. Eyes closed, he leaned
his forehead against hers and breathed deeply.
Feminine power surged through Sela. She had brought this strong, beautiful
man to this point.
After a few seconds he turned his head and kissed her ear. She sighed at the
feel on his mouth there. And then he moved lower, kissing her jaw, sucking on her
neck, and licking a path that wove down to her belly button. She gasped when he

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thrust his tongue into the small well. “We"re missing something,” he rumbled
against her scorched skin.
She sucked in a deep breath when she felt the cool airiness of whipped cream
on her hot flesh. Eyes closed, mouth open and panting, Sela lay beneath Rome as he
painted her skin with the cool confection.
“Much better,” he murmured when he was satisfied.
And then he began to carefully lick up all the cream. Sela thought she"d died
and gone to an erotic heaven by the time Rome"s tongue reached her pelvic bone.
He kissed his way across her waist until he reached the area right above her
mound. He nuzzled her tenderly and reached for another berry. She damn near
pulled the sheet across the mattress when he dropped the smaller strawberry onto
her belly button. “Perfect.”
Sela felt like she slowly went crazy waiting for him to do something to satisfy
the demanding throb that pulsed between her thighs. Just when she was about to
give him a piece of her mind, he lowered his hands, wrapped his strong, work-
hardened fingers around her thighs, and spread her farther open. Her hands
gripped the sheets when his index fingers slid down the length of her slit.
“Sela.”
She shook her head. She could not do what Rome wanted. She could not look
him in the face as he lay between her splayed legs, her moist pussy inches from his
face.
“Sela!” he barked.
Reluctantly she lifted her face to look into his eyes even as she felt herself
blush with embarrassment. This close with the sunlight shining down on them,
there was no hiding her arousal. She was drenching him with her desire. Watching
her face, Rome slid a finger deep inside her. She shuddered at the hardness that
highlighted the strong lines of his face when her sheath clasped the single digit.
It was then that Sela realized Rome wanted to show her just how much she
affected him. Because there was nothing like seeing a man in the grip of his
pleasure.
And she brought him that kind of pleasure.
“You"re so wet. So creamy…and hot.”
“Yes,” she agreed. Her pussy was crying out.
“Please,” she groaned before widening her thighs and lifting her pelvis and
pressing herself into his palm, moving his finger deeper into her sex.
Still, it wasn"t enough. For either of them.
He withdrew his finger and spread the puffy lips of her sheath. She watched
him look over her for several heart-pounding moments. He lifted his gaze, and his
hot, glittering eyes stared into hers.
“I could spend hours eating this pussy,” he growled against the flesh of her
inner thigh before Sela felt the touch of his fingers against the mound of her sex.

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She was suddenly breathless as his fingertips waited on her skin. Then the
wet, hot velvet texture of his tongue was on her as he licked his way back to the
strawberry that sat on her belly button.
He groaned as he nibbled on her scorched skin. “So good.” The sound of his
thick words aroused Sela almost as much as the feel of his mouth against her
sensitive flesh. By the time he consumed the fruit, she was a writhing mess of need.
“Please God,” she gasped, needing him to give her the release her body ached
for. Instead he lapped at her belly button until he had cleaned it of all evidence of
the berry. “I think I got it all,” he declared triumphantly.
Sela lifted her hips and prayed he would finally put out the fire that burned
between her thighs.
“Do you need to come, Sela?” he whispered wickedly. She jerked her head up
and down, unconcerned about how her reply might appear. She was too far gone to
be modest.
She needed him.
He lowered his hand and pressed his fingers against her pussy. Sela struggled
to maintain some semblance of control, to keep the scream of pleasure she could feel
at the back of her throat inside, but he moved his hand slightly, touching her
clitoris at a new angle. All her control flew out the door.
“Oh my goodness,” she screamed.
The callused fingers of his other hand caressed her naked skin, moving down
her inner thighs, teasing the folds of her cunt before rubbing her pussy lips. All the
while one digit from the other hand tortured her clitoris.
“Rome…”
“You"re so beautiful,” he whispered against her thigh. His voice was as thick as
molasses and just as enticing to her senses.
She shivered at his statement. He had said the words with so much emotion,
so much conviction, she couldn"t help thinking he meant them.
“Rome?” she called softly, suddenly nervous about what was going on between
them, because no matter how many times they told each other it was just sex, it was
already becoming clear that something deeper and more intimate pulsed between
them.
“You"re the most beautiful woman I"ve ever known, Cupcake,” he said ardently
before lowering his head and pressing his tongue to her clitoris.
That was all it took.
Sela called out Rome"s name as her pussy tightened and her muscles milked
his fingers with the power of her release. She felt hot, wild, and beautiful as her
body bowed under the pressure of her pleasure.
The slick velvet heat of Rome"s wet tongue was there when she came down
from her high as he ran his tongue from her clitoris to her slit and then back north.
“I need more.”

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She opened her eyes to half-mast at the rough sound of Rome demanding
another orgasm from her. Their eyes connected for a second, and Sela felt his desire
for her sluice through her soul. Her eyes widened when she realized just how badly
he wanted her.
He wanted to consume her.
She watched as he slowly licked her drenched sheath. He suckled her, kissing
and caressing her flesh. But he was teasing her, keeping her on the edge of a
release. “Rome,” she called out in a hoarse whisper, voice weak from screaming his
name all night long.
He seemed to hear the unspoken plea in the one word, because he lowered his
head and swiped his tongue across her clit. Then Rome flicked it. She jerked
beneath him, pushing her sheath deeper into his mouth as the act caught her off
guard. Rome gripped her thighs tighter and groaned against her flesh before licking
a hot path around the rim of her opening. Then he thrust his tongue inside her.
Sela dug her heels into the mattress and cursed out loud when she felt the wet
rasp of his tongue as he licked her swollen clit over and over again, laving her pussy
repeatedly. Then she was gasping for air, unable to breathe as her body shook with
the overwhelming pleasure.
She licked her parched lips and turned her head to the side as molten heat
streaked through her body from his touch. She rocked her hips. Sela was unsure if
she was trying to move closer or farther away from him. She only knew her body
could not handle where it was. When the pleasure became too much, she pressed
her fist against her mouth.
But Rome wouldn"t allow her to run away from him. Or the power he had over
her body.
As she shuddered beneath his touch, he slid one large finger into her moist
sheath.
Her breath rasped in and out of her lungs.
A fine sheen of sweat filmed over her skin.
She was sweltering.
And still, her release was just out of arm"s reach.
Sela felt like crying when she realized that. Then Rome pressed his tongue to
her clitoris as he slid two blunt fingers inside her. He stroked her from the inside
and pressed his fingers against her flesh. He touched her so intimately she felt the
first waves of pleasure wash through her body.
She was close to an orgasm.
Sela couldn"t help the shudder that ran through her body.
He pulled his fingers out of her body until they were only one knuckle deep
before plunging them back in.

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Sela slid up the bed with the hard thrust as fire streaked through her womb
when Rome"s touch lit something deep inside her. She felt her legs tremble and
shake as he stroked his fingers in and out of her burning sheath.
She panted as he pleasured her. “Oh my Lord,” she groaned when she felt
Rome rub his knuckles against the length of her slit, from hole to clit and back.
“That"s it, Cupcake. Come on my fingers. Come for me,” he purred, his voice
husky and low, almost as intoxicating as his touch.
She spread her legs wider, allowing him more access to the depths of her body.
He slid three fingers into her tight sheath.
She immediately felt her pussy spasm around his fingers.
I"m coming, she thought before letting forth a scream. Sela"s fingers fisted in
the sheets as her body curved into a beautiful bow.
She opened her eyes when she felt something very big and very thick pressing
against her flesh. He was entering the slick heat of her pussy. Chest heavy, she was
still gasping for breath when she propped herself on her elbows.
Sela was sore from the night of pleasure, but she would she couldn"t imagine
telling him to stop. It felt too good.
Rome wrapped the fingers of one rough hand around her nape before lowering
his head until their lips touched. She opened her mouth immediately, giving his
thrusting tongue access to her mouth. He plunged past her parted lips, and she
could taste herself in his kiss.
The flavor of her own desire turned Sela on more than she would have thought
possible.
He pushed in another two inches of hard cock. Sela broke off the kiss to cry out
her pleasure at his possession. The fingers around her neck tightened as he plunged
deeper into her sheath.
Except for the sound of their harsh breathing echoing each other, comfortable
silence cloaked them.
He stroked in another inch, and Sela couldn"t help the groan that seeped
through her lips. He was large, almost too large, especially in light of how well she
had been loved the night before.
“Relax, sweetheart,” he whispered as he slid another hard inch inside her.
She did, taking a deep breath. He thrust forward until he was balls deep inside
her. Sela couldn"t help the groan that slipped from her lips when he was fully seated
to the hilt.
She closed her eyes and savored the feeling of completion.
None of her lovers had ever felt so right.
He felt wonderful inside her.
Rome withdrew, and Sela whimpered a wordless protest as her hips followed
him, moving with his withdrawal, following his touch. Her heels dug deep into the
mattress as she lifted her hips, seeking Rome.

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“Oh my God,” she screamed when Rome surged back into her with demanding
force, stroking the bulbous head of his cock against the inner walls of her pussy.
Gone was the teasing man who was willing to take things slow. He ground his hips
against her pelvis, teasing her clitoris with the touch, sending fire streaking
through her body. Then he began to move with deep, powerful strokes that sent her
shuddering in ecstasy.
She gripped his shoulders, digging her nails into the firm muscles beneath her
hands. Rome grunted and thrust into her hard and faster. Sela got the impression
he liked the sting of her nails on his back.
“Yes! Lord, just like that,” she called out as she threw her head back. His deep
airy breath rasped in and out of his lungs. It was the only sound that came from
Rome as he plundered Sela"s pussy. Her mewling cries for more sang through the
air as Rome teased the deepest recesses of her body.
Rome pressed his firm lips to hers and took her mouth in a bruising kiss as he
lowered her body to the bed. He fused his lips to hers and captured her cries of
ecstasy as he stroked in and out of her flaming body.
The pleasure was too much for Sela. She broke off their kiss and let forth a
shrieking cry as her body erupted in a mind-shattering orgasm. Her muscles ached
with the strength of her orgasm, it was so demanding. The surging rush of desire
swept through her, overtaking her in its intensity as her body imploded.
Rome grasped one thigh and opened her up as he thrust in and out of her body.
His pace had changed. He was coarser, rougher, and more determined. She gasped
his name as the pleasure she had thought too much doubled in intensity. The
glittering light in his green eyes told her that he was nearing the edge of his line.
Her mouth opened on a breathless scream as her body convulsed through another
orgasm.
Rome let forth a harsh expletive before capturing her lips in a hot, wet kiss.
Sela"s plump lips muffled the sounds of his groan of completion as he crushed her
beneath him, and his body shuddered through his release.

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Chapter Eight

Rome woke up cold. He felt the bitter chill deep in his bones the moment he
woke. The air conditioner was working a little too well. He pulled the sheets closer
to his body. Sela stirred beside him. He reached out and touched the curve of her
sweetly rounded shoulder. She wasn"t unusually cold. The comforter had covered
her throughout the night. He breathed deeply, drinking in the scent of sex,
amaryllis, and vanilla.
They had played with food earlier.
He smiled at the memory. A glance at his watch confirmed they"d slept in. It
was near noon. He felt he deserved it after last night. Rome hadn"t been able to
keep his hands off Sela. She seemed to feel the same way.
The shrill sound of the telephone demanding his action sang through the
pungent air. He picked up the phone on the third ring. ”Hello,” he said groggily as
sleep slowly filtered out of his system.
“Rome?”
He woke with a jolt, the languid comfort of sleep leaving him so quickly it
shocked him. “Mom?” Unconsciously, he rubbed his hand over his shoulder, across
the flesh that had broken out in goose bumps.
God, please don’t let her have killed him. Over the years, he had read up on all
he could find about battered women, determined to help his mom. To figure out why
she stayed with the man. He knew all too well about battered women"s syndrome, a
psychological condition that led many abused women to kill their husbands in order
to stop the beatings.
Many nights he had woken, skin drenched with sweat, mouth dry, and mind
chaotic with the visions of his mother asking him to bail her out because she had
finally decided she"d had too much.
“God, how I love the sound of that.” He heard the smile in her voice, and a
little of the aching terror that had clogged his chest dissipated. But the vast
majority of the fear was still there.
Something was definitely wrong. “What is it, Mary Beth?” he asked slowly
without any real inflection, because he knew she needed his strength.
“Nothing is wrong. Finally something is right.” She paused. “I"m leaving,
Rome. I packed my stuff. I just can"t take it anymore. Enough is enough.” She let
out a sob.

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For a moment he couldn"t process her words. His mind was too full, filled to
the brim with thoughts, feelings, and memories. All the times he had prayed God
would give his mother the strength to leave coalesced in his mind at that moment.
Then like a ray of sunshine shimmering through the clouds, the true implications of
her actions broke through.
She was truly leaving his father. “Where are you?”
“Here. Outside your hotel.”
“Okay. I"m coming downstairs now.”
He got out of bed, his mind already focused on all the things he needed to do to
make sure his mother and brother were safe. And stayed safe. His fingers curled
around the bedroom door with savage joy. Finally!
At the last moment he looked back and glanced at Sela. She was still sound
asleep. He could see the curve of her left butt cheek peeking out from the covers. He
turned back and lifted the fabric over her before he pressed a soft kiss to her
shoulder. A smile flittered across her face before she rolled over.
Feeling content that Sela would sleep a little longer and never notice his
absence, Rome grabbed his pants and a clean button-down shirt and walked out of
the room. He glanced at the bedroom door once, before lifting the phone in the
sitting area. “Where exactly are you, Mary Beth?” he asked once he heard the
resounding click of the door handle.
“I"m in the parking lot, sweetheart, but I"ll meet you in the lobby.”
“Okay.”
“I love you, Rome,” she whispered and then hung up. For several moments
Rome stood outside of his bedroom door staring at the darkness. Then Rome
realized what he was doing. Standing there, thinking while his mother was
standing in the hotel"s parking lot. He quickly dressed, grabbed his keys, and
marched out of the hotel room.
Breathing deeply, he pressed the button for the elevator. It didn"t seem to come
fast enough. He strode into it and jammed his finger onto the button for the lobby.
At the same time he flipped open his cell phone and dialed his real-estate agent. He
hadn"t purchased any property in years, but he was a chronic renter, changing
addresses as often as most people changed their schools. Jane Kim was the woman
he went to whenever he felt the need to move. The first time he called, the phone
went to voice mail. He growled and hung up, feeling frustrated and angry.
“Damn it.” He started to call her back when his phone rang. He glanced at the
name and almost sighed in relief. He connected the line. “I need a house tomorrow.”
“Okaaay.”
Rome didn"t blame her—even for him, his request was unusual. “My mother is
moving.”
“Yes, your mother.” He could hear the surprise in her tone. He understood the
source. Jane was more than just a Realtor. Over the years she had become a friend.

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Never once had he mentioned his family. Then again, never before had he felt the
need to talk about them.
Before now they hadn"t been a part of his life, but the past he was trying so
hard to deny.
“Yes, she needs a house. It needs to be somewhere safe, beautiful, and I don"t
want the house in her name.”
“Hmmm.” She paused for a moment, no doubt considering what he was and
wasn"t saying. “Are we renting?”
He paused as the elevator reached its floor. “Yes, we"re renting.” He didn"t
know where his mother intended to live. He only knew he had to get her out of town
as soon as possible.
Rome knew his father. The man would come looking for Mary Beth the
moment he realized she was gone. Then the hell would begin all over again.
Anthony did the same thing every time Rome had run away from home. Tony hadn"t
wanted Rome in his house, but he hadn"t been about to let Rome leave. He stopped
trying when he was in middle school, at least until he made his final break after
graduation. “Tomorrow, Jane. I need the house tomorrow morning.”
“Okay. Do you have a specific neighborhood in mind?”
“It has to be outside the city, upstate or Connecticut. No more than three hours
drive away from the city.” He wanted to be able to visit his mother whenever he
wanted.
“Okay. I can do that. Don"t worry about it, Rome. I"ll have a list for you
tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Jane.” Rome hung up and almost ran out of the elevator when it
opened its metal doors. Rome found his mother striding through the hotel lobby.
His heart stopped when she was fully standing under the building"s luminous
lighting. He felt his heart resume beating and even pick up its pace until the blood
seemed to be rushing through his veins. He recognized the attire. He"d seen it too
often growing up to mistake it for anything than what it was. The battered woman"s
mask.
Mary Beth"s scarf was perfect, tied around her head and draped across her
nape to hide the marks he knew would be there. Bruises. Vestiges of his father"s
attempt to choke the strength out of her. Over her eyes were big black glasses. She
had been wearing them long before they became fashionable. They were meant to
cover her black eye. Proof that no matter how much Tony Vicenza beat her, she
refused to stay down. Last but certainly not least was the long-sleeve blouse meant
to hide the black and blue bruises from a night of hell.
“I will fucking kill him,” he raged and marched through the lobby to grab her
into his arms.
Mary Beth tried to evade him and walk across the reception area. He held her
tightly.

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She lowered her head and murmured, “Leave it alone, Rome. I don"t want you
to get hurt.”
His body shook against hers as the anger he felt threatened to consume him.
The lights above them seemed to spark and then dim. Almost too late, Rome
realized he was about to lose it. He took a deep breath and tried to calm the
turbulent emotions within.
He focused on his mother. She needed him to be strong and calm.
“Don"t worry, Mom. I"m going to take care of you from now on. It"s over.”
“I know, baby. I know. Just be happy I decided one more bruise was one too
many.”
He held her, trying to think of what to say in response. He decided there was
nothing he could say that his mother hadn"t heard a million times before. He pulled
her close and wrapped his arms around her, holding her as he silently promised her
his father would never hurt again.
“Where is Turin?” he asked, realizing that his brother wasn"t there.
Tension rode her frame, stiffening her limbs. “He decided not to come with
me.” Her voice was low, defeated. It broke what was left of his heart.
“I"ll talk to Turin after I talk to him and remind him why a real man doesn"t
touch a woman in anger.”
She took a step back and looked into his eyes. “Promise me you won"t go
looking for Anthony. He"s so angry. I"ve never seen him like this. He was so mad
when he heard you were back in town. Then I told him I went to see you. He just
lost it. I don"t want him to hurt you.”
I told him I went to see you. The implications of her statement horrified Rome.
He stared back at her, loath to give her the assurance. The man hit her because he
couldn"t hit Rome. Well he was back in town and more than willing to give the man
the fight he was looking for. Tracking his bastard father down was the first thing he
wanted to do.
“Rome, please promise me.”
Looking into her eyes he saw the fear she had for him. Mary Beth was
genuinely afraid of what would happen if he met up with his father. Though it left
his gut burning with impotence, he gave her the promise she needed. “I give you my
word I won"t go looking for him.”
He didn"t promise he wouldn"t respond if Tony came looking for him. Or her.

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Chapter Nine

Sela considered the items displayed on the shelves around her. She was there
to purchase gifts for her sister and mother. Both women deserved some kind of
thanks for being so accommodating. Sela hadn"t spent nearly enough time with her
family, but neither woman said a word about her spending a fair amount of her
time with Rome. If anything, they both seemed very happy that she was with Rome.
Sela pursed her lips. No doubt her mom and sister hoped she and Rome started
dating. When they were younger her sister used to teasingly call her “Mrs. Rome
Vicenza.” Sasha probably wanted to be proven right, even after so many years.
Not going to happen, she thought as she eyed a gorgeous watercolor-patterned
sundress in Sela"s size. She wanted to be smart about Rome. She slept with him,
spent last night and this morning in his bed doing things she only dreamed about,
but that didn"t mean she was going to let herself fall for him.
The back of her neck tingled slightly. She was no longer alone. “Is that for
you?” Rome asked, his voice rough and low with just a hint of interest coloring it.
She laughed lightly and glanced over her shoulder to look at him. “Goodness,
no. This is way too small for me. Plus, it"s bright. I don"t do bold colors.”
He eyed her from head to toe. The concentrated nature of his gaze warmed her
blood. “I imagine you"ll look good regardless of what you"re wearing…or not
wearing.”
For one second she was too flustered to say anything. Words shouldn"t be able
to affect someone so quickly and so easily. One sentence and she was aroused. Sela
ignored the desire to shift her hips to ease the ache between her thighs and stem
the growing wetness of her sheath. “You"re good,” she said, trying to put as much
amusement into her tone as possible. She wanted to give him the impression that
she was taking his words in stride. The last thing she wanted to do was let him
know just how much he affected her.
He took a step forward. “And you"re better.” He breathed the words against her
nape. Sela couldn"t help the shiver of pleasure that ran down her spine in the wake
of the heated statement.
Lord, if we weren’t in public.
Unfortunately, they were in public, and she was not into exhibitionism. She
took two steps forward, moving away from his tantalizing body. “Did you get what
you came for?” she asked.

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He held up a plastic bag that bulged with something large and heavy. “Yes.
Thanks for allowing me to tag along. I probably would have put this off until I
returned to the city if you hadn"t mentioned you needed to pick up some things.”
“Well, you"re welcome.” When Rome first said he would meet up with her while
she was shopping, she had been surprised and a little uncomfortable. Couples
shopped together, and she didn"t want to give Rome the impression that she wanted
more from him. Their relationship was strictly sexual in nature, nothing more.
“I"m almost done. Do you need to buy anything else?”
Rome shook his head. “Nope, I"m good.”
“Great,” she said with a smile, though she was feeling anything but that. This
would be the first time she spent time with Rome where they hadn"t done anything
sexual. It was more than a little daunting.
“Get what you need to get. I"m fine following you around until you"re done.
Maybe we can get dinner afterward?”
“Huh?” she muttered as she looked through another rack of dresses, this time
searching for something for her mom. Dinner sounded too much like a date. That
was outside the rules of their arrangement. She picked up a simple but pretty burnt
orange sheath. Her mother would love it. Then she turned to Rome. “I"m not so sure
dinner is a good idea.”
“Really now?”
He was not pleased. The icy nature of his voice told Sela that although he
wasn"t pissed, he was not happy, and her next statement could push him across the
line. He wasn"t going to like what she had to say.
“I thought we agreed that this…thing between us was strictly”—she paused
and lowered her voice—“sex.”
His gaze darkened. “Are you telling me we can"t eat before we fuck?”
Her eyes widened at his words. “That is not what I meant,” she bit out,
irritated at his blunt manner and just a little hurt by his statement. Seriously, what
the hell was his problem? Did he really expect her to drop her panties for him after
saying something like that?
He stepped forward. “Look, I"m not asking you to marry me. I"ll admit I want
to wine and dine you before I make you hoarse from screaming my name. I don"t feel
that should be a problem,” he said, his tone cold and hard.
Reluctantly, Sela realized he was right. She was being ridiculous. Her attempt
to keep things as simple and emotion free as possible backfired. Now he was angry,
and she was hurt. “I"m sorry. You"re right. I would love to go to dinner with you.”
He didn"t respond for a few seconds. “Thank you.”
“Great, okay.” She lowered her head, unable to hold his mesmerizing gaze. The
weight of the clothing in her arms reminded her why she was there. She looked
around and found a checkout center and clerk. “I"ll just go pay for these over there.”
She indicated the counter in question. He nodded in agreement, and she walked

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over the salesgirl. Since there was no line, Sela was able to checkout within a few
minutes. She turned to the area she left Rome at to find him standing a few feet
away from the table.
“Ready?”
“Yeah,” she replied and started to head to his car.
“What"s wrong?”
Sela turned to him swiftly. “What? Nothing is wrong.”
“Hmm.” Rome looked at her out of the corner of his eye. The way he was
gazing her made her think he knew why she was so uncomfortable. Despite the fact
that they resolved the issue of dinner, she still felt like a fool for making such a big
deal out of it.
Damn him and his perceptive ways.
“Come.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him. Dumbfounded, she
allowed him to drag her along for a few steps. Then she dug her heels in and
stopped. He turned around. “Come on. Trust me. There is something I"ve wanted to
do for some time now, and I know you"ll like it.”
Something in his eyes made her suspicious. Still, she wanted to know what he
wanted and why he believed she would enjoy it.
“Did you buy everything you came to get?” he asked.
“Yes.”
“Good,” he said with a slow, sensual smile.
Every one of her five senses intensified at the heat. God, this man was
dangerous. One look in his deep green eyes and she could easily find herself
forgetting her resolution and falling for him.
“Fine,” she said.
His smile became wicked. “I promise you"ll enjoy this. You won"t regret it.”
“I can"t believe I"m going to say this. Fine.” She walked over to where he stood
and waited for him to lead the way. They didn"t walk long. She looked at the sign on
the door. Excitement and fear filled her. “Tell me you"re not going to do what I think
you are going to do.”
He flashed her a roguish grin. “That depends entirely on what you"re thinking.
Want to tell me?”
She shook her head. “Rome!”
He leaned forward. “Cupcake, don"t tell me you"re not the least bit interested.
Am I no longer attractive to you?”
She opened her mouth to reply and then realized she was about to walk into a
trap. “I"m not touching that with a ten-foot pole.”
His grin widened. “God, Sela, I want you.”

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Technically, she was too old to enjoy such reckless abandonment, but there
was something about being with Rome that would always make her feel like a
sixteen-year-old.
Forever young.
Which was why she allowed Rome to pull her into the boutique"s single-
occupant dressing room. She told herself it wasn"t nearly as wicked and dangerous
as it sounded. It was early morning on a weekday, and they were in the men"s
department. She and Rome were the boutique"s only customers, and the store
seemed to be lacking employees, at least diligent ones, so there was no chance of
anyone seeing them.
“I can"t believe you. Seriously, what are you thinking?” she whispered in
admonishment as he pulled her deeper into the dressing room.
He grinned. “Taking advantage of the situation.” His smile widened. “It"s not a
closet, but it will have to do.”
“It"s not a closet?” she asked in fake confusion. She would have to be a fool to
forget their history with closets. Their first kiss happened in a closet thanks to
seven minutes in heaven, and they played the same game at April"s party.
Amusement shone in his gaze. “Hmm, yes. So, you noticed we have a history
with closets, huh?”
“Maybe. You got something to tell me? Along the lines of a fetish for closets?”
He took a step toward her. The bulb above them cast his features in a demonic
light, or maybe it was just the look in his eyes and the devilish smile he flashed her.
“I might have a kink or two, but I don"t think I"ve got a fetish for closets, just for a
certain female.”
Her belly muscles tightened, and her sheath moistened with cream at his
words and the look in his eyes. He was always doing that to her, making her feel
like the most attractive woman in the world, and it never failed to turn her on. “You
are such a mess!” she said with a laugh even as she pulled him close.
She was still smiling when his lips touched hers, but that quickly changed
when he slanted his head and pulled her even closer. She brushed her mouth across
his and parted her lips. His tongue, agile and determined, moved over her teeth and
tickled the roof of her mouth before touching hers. She groaned deeply at the feel of
Rome"s tongue teasing and massaging her tongue. When it got to be too much, she
pulled away and took a deep breath into her starved lungs.
His kiss alone made her come undone.
She couldn"t wait until she got her hands on him. With that thought she
grasped his dress shirt and pulled it out of his slacks. She slipped her hands
beneath the cotton to caress his warm, hard abdomen. Her fingers brushed across
wiry hair and traced the hard ridges of his muscular torso.
“God, Sela,” he groaned against her nape and pressed a heated, openmouthed
kiss against her throat. She shivered and pressed closer to him as she undid the
buttons on his shirt. Flashes of heat burned through her with every kiss Rome laved

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upon the column of her throat. By the time she got his shirt undone, her panties
were soaked, her knees were weak, and she was shuddering in his arms.
Callused fingers teased the underside of her jaw before lifting her head. She
stared up into Rome"s smoldering gaze and felt her sheath quivering with delight.
He dipped his head and took her mouth in a bruising kiss that stole what little
mind she had.
Goose bumps broke out along her skin when his hands teased her thighs. They
glided north until they reached the edge of her skirt. She broke off the kiss when
Rome lifted the garment. “Thank goodness you"re wearing a skirt.” The gruff note in
his voice set her body aflame and sent tingles down her spine while heat pooled in
her lower belly. It was rough with need and so seductive she had to press her thighs
together to still the hard shudders that ran through her.
A gasp was torn from Sela"s lips when his hand, warm and sure, slipped into
her panties and cupped her pussy. “Shit, you"re soaking wet,” he growled into her
ear. “You have no idea how hard that makes me.”
Oh, Lord! The things he said.
“How long have you been like this?” He parted her and slipped a finger
between her folds. She widened her stance to give him more room to maneuver.
“Long enough,” she admitted with a heavy breath.
“Damn,” he released in a low groan. He pressed her back until she was against
the wall. “Just the thought of you walking through the store, acting all prim and
proper, as if you weren"t gushing wet… One of these days you"re going to kill me.”
Before she could respond he shifted, grabbed the edges of her panties, and pulled
them down. She stepped out of them.
“Tell me you have a condom.”
He chuckled. Even the sound of amusement was arousing. “Like I would miss
an opportunity like this.” He pulled a foil out of his pocket and held it out to her.
She accepted it. He undid his buckle and zipper and pulled down his pants. She ate
up the sight of his long-fingered hands working, remembering those same hands on
her and in her.
Then he dropped his boxers, and all thought of his hands fled. Rome"s cock was
a work of art in itself. She touched him with her free hand. “Hmm, yeah,” Rome
murmured in agreement. She grasped his root and pumped her fist several times.
“You keep that up, and this will be a faster quickie than I intended.”
She laughed lightly at that. “That"s fine with me. There"s always the after-
dinner dessert you mentioned to me earlier.”
Rome"s eyes fluttered shut, and his head lowered. For a second Sela was
afraid. Then he raised his head and looked at her. “Fuck, you are so hot.” He
grabbed the condom with one hand and her with the other. His kiss was swift, hard,
and consuming. He tore the wrapper open and quickly sheathed himself. Then Sela
found her back against the wall again with Rome pressed to her front. “I"ll take it

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nice and slow after dinner,” he whispered against her lips before thrusting his hips
forward and sinking his erection into her in one stroke.
Her heart pounding, Sela shifted her hips and lifted her hands to thread her
fingers through his silky hair. He pulled out of her partway, and she moaned his
name as tingles of electricity moved through her body from the folds of her drenched
sex. She moved her hands lower and clutched his shirt tightly, pulling him flush
against her body. She was enveloped in him. His chest was hard against hers, his
arms were around her body, and his cock was deep in her sheath.
When Rome withdrew only to thrust back into her immediately afterward,
Sela"s eyes fluttered shut, and her breath hitched as her chest became tight with
pleasure.
“Oh shit! Don"t stop. Please don"t stop. Yes yes yes,” Sela cried out in pleasure
as her orgasm rushed through her.

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Chapter Ten

Rome slowed his vehicle as the faded banisters of the Haskin mansion came
into view. He cut the engine and simply sat in the car staring up at the home that
had once housed one of the town"s two founders. For over two hundred years, it
stood on the hill, a beacon of all that Brushwood had been. And a reminder of what
the town could be if it was not careful.
Looking at it now one could see faint images of what it had been, but more
than that he saw the vision of what the Haskin mansion currently stood for.
A family that had fallen so badly, it didn"t even realize which side was up.
His fingers gripped the thick circle of the steering wheel as he thought of what
he was about to do. He took a deep breath as his stomach cramped with fear. He
would rather be facing down a dozen angry bulls than seek out the boy he was and
the man he could have become.
Just being in the vicinity of the house brought back all the memories he tried
to forget: the pain of a boy who didn"t understand why his father hated him, the
anger of a young man who knew his father despised every inch of him. The despair
of a mother who couldn"t get her family to stop fighting. A young man terrified of
following in his father"s footsteps.
Rome took a second chest-expanding breath and thought of his brother. He had
to get Turin out of Brushwood. The last time he was at the Haskin mansion, he was
driving a broken-down pickup truck that wasn"t even good enough to be scrap
metal. Now he was driving a foreign luxury car.
He had to remind himself he wasn"t that boy anymore. He"d traveled the world
and discovered success.
The Haskin mansion was aptly named. It was a three-floor antebellum-style
white home with old-century grace in its architectural lines. Unfortunately the
house had not been cared for more than thirty years. Over the decades it slowly lost
its glamour and prestige. According to the books on Brushwood"s history, at one
point the building had been a blinding white color that seemed to outshine the sun.
Although the description might have been an exaggeration, staring at the building
now, one could barely see how it had been. The paint was peeling in great sections,
and many parts of the building seemed to be rotting. The Haskins had fallen on
hard times. Many hard times.

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He reached out and touched one of the infamous pillars. Ten years and nothing
had changed. When his fingers brushed against it, the peeling white paint fell to the
sooty floor, mixing with the decay that already lined the floor.
In his youth, the Haskin mansion had been both his savior and prison. It was
someplace he could go to rant about his bastard father. It also was another home
that kept him restricted, telling him he wouldn"t amount to anything, would never
see beyond their village lines. That Rome could be no better than his father.
He proved all of them wrong.
Rome was hoping to give his brother the strength to do the same.
He knocked sharply on the front door.
The heavy tread of footsteps sounded several moments later. He followed the
echoed of the steps until they reached the door. When it opened Rome found himself
being looked over by a girl who appeared to be no more than thirteen. She was a
tiny little thing, only coming up to his abdomen. He was only able to guess her age
because of her more developed features. Her dirty blonde hair was sectioned off into
two thick braids that cascaded down her shoulders and over her chest. She wore a
flannel dress that appeared to have been made from a grown man"s shirt.
She looked him up and down before she spit out, “Who the hell are you?”
Rome gave her his best impression of a smile. “You Haskins always were polite
to strangers. I"m Rome Vicenza. Is my brother, Turin, here?”
She looked over one narrow shoulder. “Yeah, he"s in the chair.”
Ice streaked down Rome"s spine at her answer. He strode into the house, fairly
pushing past the girl. He remembered the chair all too well. He rounded corners,
marched down a hallway, and took a right at the bend to end up at the infamous
parlor. “Get the hell away from him,” Rome thundered as he entered the room.
The middle-aged man snapped back in surprise and whipped around to stare
at Rome in shock. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I"m the brother.” He eyed the tattoo needle in the older man"s hand. “I suggest
you take a step back.”
Turin turned slowly and looked over his shoulder. His eyes widened.
Mick Haskin eyed him for a moment. “Rome?” he asked, surprised.
“Yeah, it"s me, Mick.”
Mick clasped Rome"s shoulder. The blow from his large, beefy hand nearly
knocked the air from Rome"s lungs. It would have taken down a man who wasn"t
prepared for the heavy hand.
But Rome had spent his youth in Mick"s parlor.
How to stand under pressure was just one of the things Mick"s juvenile patrons
learned.
“Heard you were back in town. I blew it off as just a rumor. I guess I was
wrong to do that, huh?”

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“Well, as you can see I am in fact in town.” He turned to the young man getting
out of the parlor"s seat. “What do you think you"re doing?”
Mutinous blue eyes stared up at him from a face that reminded him so much of
his own. “I was getting some ink done.”
Rome glanced pointedly at the tattoo needle in Mick"s hand. “I can see that.”
His brother shrugged. “How long have you been in Brushwood?”
Rome looked over the younger Vicenza male. Turin was taller and thinner
than Rome had been at sixteen. He turned to Mick. “Mind giving us a moment?”
Mick nodded and jerked his head in the direction of the right back corner.
Rome"s gaze automatically followed his movements. “There are some drinks in
there. Help yourself.”
“Thanks, Mick.”
Rome waited until Mick left the room before turning back to his brother. “I just
got in four days ago.”
“Wow! Four whole days.” Turin gasped with feigned excitement as he strode
toward the small refrigerator that stood against the corner wall. He pulled it open
with a little too much enthusiasm. “Want something?” he threw over his shoulder
before squatting and staring at what the tiny fridge held.
The coldness between them was his fault. Rome felt the truth down to the
soles of his feet. He hadn"t lived in the same house with Turin since his brother was
six, and since moving out Rome had allowed his father to keep him away from his
family. To make matters worse, he"d been in town for almost a week and was just
now coming to see his brother. He was an asshole.
Rome knew when he left that he wouldn"t be allowed back under any
circumstances. He also knew he couldn"t stay. Eventually he and his father would
have one too many fights.
“I"m not thirsty.”
Turin shrugged, a simple, soft movement meant to convey Turin"s nonchalance
to Rome"s presence. The act cut Rome deeply, but he kept all emotion off his face.
Needing something to distance himself from the pain, Rome glanced around the
room for the first time seeing that nothing really changed. The parlor was the same
tattoo and piercing parlor it had been when he left town. He lifted his gaze. Even
the faded posters on the wall hadn"t changed.
His gaze snagged on the tattoo needle Mick had been holding. He opened his
mouth to ask his brother what he had been about to get done but thought better of
it. The young man who sat in front of him wasn"t about to answer the question. He
moved to the left and pulled open the built-in tray. There was a large picture taped
to the top. Rome stared down at it, feeling his pulse race.
The skin across his right shoulder blade felt tight and itchy. Unconsciously, he
rolled the shoulder in question. When he got his own ink done, Mick told Rome, in
his cigar-roughened voice, that as far as he was concerned, real tattoo artists didn"t
draw the image onto the skin beforehand. They worked freehand.

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Rome tapped the picture. “Were you actually going to get this on your back?”
Drink in his hand, Turin stopped suddenly. His whole body stiffened as he
glanced at where Rome pointed. Slowly, Turin lifted his gaze and stared at Rome,
blue eyes cold with icy anger. “What are you doing here?” Turin mumbled before
taking a sip from his can of soda.
Rome glanced back at the picture. He knew he should let it go. It wasn"t even
his place to ask. He was Turin"s brother, but mainly in blood. The other man owed
him no obligations. It was a sad thing to accept. Still, he could not watch his kin
make a mistake without letting him know he stood in the danger zone. “Don"t get
the tattoo.”
Turin lowered his drink and looked him over, Rome felt, for the first time.
“Why not?”
“Because when you leave Brushwood, when you live among people who are not
the Haskins, the Taylors, or the Whites, you"ll realize the world is not the place they
told you it would be, that you are not the man they tried to make you, but you"ll be
scarred for life.”
Turin blinked. It was the only indication the young man was paying attention.
He was so still he reminded Rome of a statue, but silence gave Rome hope his
brother was listening. “I almost got a similar tattoo. I didn"t. I got something else. I
haven"t regretted my decision, but I promise you if you get that, you"ll regret it for
the rest of your life.”
Turin shrugged. Again. “Like I said before, what are you doing here?”
Rome ran his fingers through his hair. Since Mary Beth mentioned Turin hung
out at the Haskin mansion, he"d pictured the conversation a thousand times. He
never could get the words right, couldn"t get his emotions straightened out enough
to make a clear statement, even in his mind. He doubted reality would be much
better.
“I came to talk to you.” It was weak, but it was best he could do.
Turin cocked one dark eyebrow in disbelief. “About what?”
“About a lot of things.”
“Like?”
Rome sighed. Less than a minute into the conversation, and he was blundering
it badly. “I wanted to talk to you about leaving with Mary Beth.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why would you want to stay…with him?”
Turin gave him a cold smile. “At least I know what to expect. Half the time
he"s too drunk to stand. The other half…” He shrugged one bony shoulder. “I can
handle it.”
Rome strode across the room and grabbed his brother"s shoulders. “You
shouldn"t have to. You don"t have to.”

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Turin shrugged out of his grasp. “Don"t pretend to give a shit about me. So
Mom left. Whoop-de-do. That was her decision.”
Rome stared into Turin"s angry eyes. “I do care,” he said softly. “More than
you"ll ever know.”
Turin smirked at him. “That"s why you"re showing up now? Ten years later.
The same week of your high-school reunion? Yeah, you care!” He took another sip of
the drink he held. It was then that Rome realized it was not a soda. Turin was
drinking beer.
He swiped it out of his brother"s hand. Turin looked up, surprised by Rome"s
swift actions, but it only took a few moments before the shock gave way to anger.
“You think you can come around here for a few days and play the big brother?” he
yelled before striding back to the compact fridge. He reached for another beer.
“Don"t you dare!”
Turin looked over his shoulder. Ice-cold blue eyes stared at Rome. “What are
you going to do? Beat the shit out of me?” He reached for the alcohol.
Rome knew Turin was testing him, but he wasn"t sure how he could possibly
pass. “I would never put my hands on you.”
The young boy flinched as though he had been struck. Almost reflexively his
fingers tightened around the aluminum can. He lifted it from the shelf and
slammed the refrigerator door. “I really wish you would stop pretending to give a
shit about me.”
Rome glanced at the beer. His brother was all of sixteen. Way too young to be
drinking. But Turin hadn"t opened the can. “I do care about you. That"s why I"m
here.”
Turin snorted. “You"re here because Mom sent you.”
Rome grimaced. He knew he should have come to see his brother earlier. But
he had been too nervous to make the move. Now it would seem as though he was
simply doing their mother"s bidding. “I"ll admit that Mary Beth sent me, but I
wouldn"t have come if I didn"t care. I wouldn"t be here trying to get you to put down
the beer can if you didn"t matter to me.”
Turin turned away and placed the can on the shelves beside him. “I"m not
going. I won"t leave him.”
For a moment Rome was too surprised by his brother"s statement to respond.
“Why would you want to stay with him?”
“Somebody needs to take care of him.”
With Mary Beth gone someone would have to feed their father. Rome
remembered all too well how infamous his father was among the townspeople. They
watched the ups and all too many downs of his life like hawks. According to the
townsfolk, the man had become so bad that the only thing he did was drink. He
would need that person, and Turin wanted to be needed by his father.
Rome understood the feeling.

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He"d felt the emotion once. A lifetime ago.
“Mary Beth needs you.”
Turin"s bony shoulders shook as he laughed before turning around slowly to
face Rome. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. Rome felt his chest burn at the
sight. Proof his brother was hurting. And he could do nothing about it.
“Mom doesn"t need me. She has you.”
Rome decided to take a chance. He stepped forward. “And what about me?”
“What about you?”
“I need you. Are you just going to let me and Mary Beth leave without you?”
Turin grabbed the can of beer and threw it at him. Rome ducked, easily
evading the can, and grasped his brother"s shoulders. Turin fought him, hitting him
in the chest, the arms, even the face, as Rome pulled him close.
“You don"t need me. You never needed me. You left me, you bastard,” Turin
sobbed in his arms.
Rome closed his eyes, held his brother close, and allowed all he had been
holding back free. Silent tears slid down his cheeks. “I always needed you. I never
stopped needing you.”
“I still won"t go.”
Rome hugged his brother a little tighter. “I know.” Rome understood that his
brother had to learn the hard way there was no changing their father. The man was
poison to all around him.
Rome had learned the same lesson when he was a little older than Turin. The
difference was Rome would be there when Turin needed someone to turn to. “Turin,
I know more than you"ll understand.”

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Chapter Eleven

Sela had only taken two steps into the baking aisle when she decided she
didn"t really need vanilla extract all that badly. Rome"s surprise would just have to
wait.
“Sela? Sela Newton?”
She turned back around and plastered a smile on her face. She hated going
down memory lane. For reasons she couldn"t and wouldn"t name, it always made
her feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, since she didn"t come home often, she always
ran into someone who hadn"t seen her in years, so she ended up doing it at least
once every visit.
Jason Robards was tall, dark, and fine as hell, but more appealing was his
suave personality. When they were younger the man could talk a girl out of her
panties. “I thought that was you,” Jason said and jogged up to meet her. He walked
around her cart and threw his arms around her.
“I almost didn"t recognize you. Girl, you look great,” he said with a wide, white
smile.
She grinned back at him. “You"re looking pretty good yourself. It"s been a long
time, Jason.”
“Flattery, flattery.” He chuckled and stepped back. “Damn, girl, let me get a
look at you.” He looked her up and down. “Great doesn"t do you justice, Sela. You
sure did grow up nice.”
“Uh-huh. Flattery, flattery,” she replied, throwing his own response right back
at him. He laughed.
“I heard you were in town.”
“Let me guess. My mom told your mom, right?” she asked as she reached for
the vanilla extract.
”You know those two can"t keep a secret.”
“What are you doing in town?” He had gone to the prep school in the county
over, so she knew he wasn"t in town for the reunion.
He flashed her a bright, pearly white smile as she dropped the black pepper
into the cart. “I figured a short flight from DC wasn"t too much work, especially
when I would be rewarded with seeing your beautiful face.”
Surprised, Sela stared at him, thinking she had misheard him. Their mothers
had tried to set them up together over the years. Was he really interested in her?

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“Christ, relax, girl. I"m just joking. I came to see friends who were coming
down for the reunion. Though I have to admit seeing your fine self is the icing on
the cake.”
”That was not nice.” She emphasized her statement by smacking his arm.
“It was a joke. I guess you got that British humor now, living there all these
years. Can"t handle the American stuff, huh?”
“Maybe,” she said with a wry grin.
“Anyway, don"t want to hold you up. We should get together since we"re both in
town. Dinner?”
“I…uh…well…” Sela felt her face heat up as she stammered her way to a
rejection.
Jason stood back on his heels and folded his brawny arms across his chest. “So
it"s true, huh? You and Rome are together.”
“What?” she choked out. She knew the small-town gossip mill moved quickly,
but darn, it had only been a few days since she first went to Rome"s suite.
“Rome and I are not together. We"re not even friends anymore.” It was the
truth. They weren"t together. They were sleeping together. Big difference. And she
and Rome certainly weren"t friends.
“Then you won"t mind meeting me for dinner.”
It was just dinner. The man was smart, attractive, and they got along fairly
well—at least they did when they were younger. Still… “Jason, I appreciate the
offer, but—”
He nodded sagely. “I understand.” The look in his brown eyes told her he didn"t
in fact understand. He thought she was turning him down because she was sleeping
with Rome. Except for Rome she couldn"t think of a reason to say no. It was only
dinner with a childhood friend.
“Look, Sela, I"m not asking you out. Just want to get together for old times"
sake. It"s been so long since I"ve seen you, and I can"t exactly take a trip across the
pond to meet for lunch,” he said with a laughing grin.
She couldn"t help but smile back. “True.”
He pulled out his wallet and took out a card. He fished a pen from his pocket.
Sela watched as he wrote something on the back of the card. “That"s my cell phone.
Just consider my offer. The ball is in your court, Sela. No pressure, but I would like
to say it was nice seeing you again. It would be nicer to see you over lunch or
dinner.”
She smiled. There was no helping it. Robards was a charmer. Unfortunately,
she wasn"t interested in him. Still… “Thank you, Jason. I"ll call you to set
something up.” She paused. “It might just be a quick lunch,” she said, wanting it to
be clear that any meeting would be platonic.
He nodded his head in agreement. “Lunch is fine, just as long as you bring
your fine self.” She laughed as she placed the card into her purse. When she looked

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up he was still standing in front of her. Her heart pounded as the awkwardness of
their situation ebbed and flowed between their bodies. He reached out and caressed
her face lightly. “I really do hope you call, Sela. It would be nice to see you again,
even if it"s for coffee.”
He turned and strode down the hall. She watched him, riveted to her spot,
wondering where the Jason she had known went, and who was the man who had
touched her so tenderly.
The most distressing thing of all was the fact that she couldn"t help wondering
how she would have reacted if Rome had touched her that way, asked her out as
Jason had.
She was considering going out with Jason, but she knew if Rome asked now,
she would say yes without a second thought.
That fact scared her.
Feelings could not get in the way. She needed to stay as emotionally
unattached as possible. Her vacation was less than two weeks long, and she lived
abroad. She couldn"t allow herself to think about Rome as anything more than a
friend with benefits.
She just had to keep reminding herself of that.
A date with another man would do just that.
Rome was out of town, Nick and Rosa were tied at the hip, and her mother and
Sasha were keeping their distance in order to give her and Rome all the opportunity
they needed to work things out, or so Sasha said. Sela was in the mood for good food
and even better conversation. Jason could provide that.
Still, she would have preferred eating with Rome, if only for the glorious
orgasm that came afterward.
* * *
Hours later Sela wasn"t so sure made the right decision going out with Jason.
Sela"s heart lurched and her stomach dropped when she saw Jason turn onto
Steeple Road, Brushwood"s main street. As the car inched down the road, her heart
rate increased until it felt as though her heart was getting ready to burst out of her
chest when he pulled in front of Rosie"s Diner. She turned to him. “Wouldn"t you
prefer to go somewhere else?”
He smiled at her. “It may not be fancy, but Rosie"s food is all well done.”
She could feel bile rising. She forced it down with effort. She wasn"t worried
about Rosie"s food. She was concerned about its patrons. From what she
remembered, no matter when you went, Rosie"s was filled with people. Any one of
those people might notice her and her date.
And tell Rome.
“Come on, Jason,” she said before giving him her sweetest smile. “There"s a
new restaurant in Little Bristol I wanted to check out.”

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He turned to her, saddened. “Why didn"t you tell me that, sweetheart? I could
have made reservations.”
Sela saw her chance. “I"m sure we don"t need reservations. It"s small but highly
respected. I"m sure you would love it.”
He glanced back at Rosie"s. “Would you be mad if I told you I"m kind of in the
mood for Rosie"s? It"s been so long since I had a burger. Plus, I was honestly hoping
to keep things fun and simple tonight.”
“Really?” she tried again.
“Yeah, really.” He reached for her hand. She chose that moment to grab her
purse.
“Fine,” she muttered and opened her door. He got out of the car and walked
over to her.
“We can always go on our next date.”
She grinned up at him. There wasn"t going to be a next date. Thanks to her
20/20 hindsight, Sela knew it was a mistake to go out with Jason.
* * *
She dug her manicured fingernails into her palms as she waited for the
elevator to come. It seemed to take forever to her frazzled mind. Or maybe it felt
like an eternity to her because she literally counted every moment until the elevator
arrived. Initially she thought counting would calm her down. Now she knew she
was wrong.
But only after it was too late and the damage had been done.
Seems to be the theme of the day!
She went on a date with a former classmate Jason Robards. It really wasn"t a
date, more of a get-together, but she knew one the gossipmongers got through with
the tale, she would be engaged and pregnant. She"d spent a good portion of the
night second-guessing herself. She fully intended to keep things between her and
Rome uncomplicated. The problem was her feelings. They were as complicated as
one got. Though she had denied it, she wanted something more from Rome, and she
feared she"d just messed up any opportunity for that.
When she stepped onto the elevator, a heavy ball settled in her stomach and
gnawed at her emotions. She jabbed the button that would take her Rome"s suite.
As the lift glided to his floor, she thought about what she was going to tell him, the
explanation she hoped to give him so that he wouldn"t be angry about her date.
She knew long before the evening began that the date was a bad idea, but she
hadn"t been totally sure of how to get out of it, and then there was the fact that a
little part of her wanted to prove that Rome had no control over her.
Ironically, the only thing she had proved was just how much he meant to her.
She couldn"t lose him. Not when it had taken her so long to make it to this point.
They"d messed up when they were younger. Now that she was older, she understood

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that neither of them had really been to blame. They were too young, too foolish to
talk things through, not let pride get in the way.
Fucking things up now was an entirely different thing.
She wasn"t sure how he"d snaked his way into her heart, but he was such a
part of her, she couldn"t envision not having him in her life. She understood Rome
enough to know that sex was just sex, but when it came to dating, he was only
interested in an exclusive relationship. A relationship she wanted.
“Damn,” she cursed savagely just as the elevator opened its silver doors. She
stepped out and into the hall, running through her latest draft of what she was
going to tell Rome. If she did this well enough, she might actually avoid a fight. She
didn"t believe for one moment that Rome wouldn"t find out about her date. There
was bound to be someone in Brushwood willing to gossip about her and Robards
getting together.
She licked her lips and knocked on his suite door. She was on a mission to
contain the fire.
Sela was unaware how long she stood in front of his door. She only knew he
was suddenly in front of her, staring down at her with cool green eyes. Her stomach
plummeted. Someone had told him. She"d hoped he wouldn"t find out so quickly, but
it was a wild wish.
“Come in,” he murmured and stepped away from the door, giving her a wide
berth to enter the suite, almost as though he couldn"t stand to be anywhere near
her.
“I wasn"t expecting to see you tonight.”
“I…uh…wanted to talk to you.”
He gave her an icy smile. “About what?”
“I take it you heard?”
“About what? Your date with Robards, you mean? Yes, I heard.” He looked her
over. “If that"s why you"re here, you shouldn"t have bothered. There"s nothing to talk
about. We"re not exclusive. I am well aware of the fact you only want sex from me.”
Pain lanced Sela"s heart. He was right. She was getting exactly what she asked
for. She couldn"t be mad at him, but she was hurt. “Uh, good.”
He walked over to the bar. “Want something to drink?”
“I"m sorry, okay. I shouldn"t have accepted his invite,” she admitted, feeling
bad.
He glanced at her. “You"re a free woman, Sela. You can accept anyone"s invite
you want. Don"t apologize to me.”
She heard the anger in his voice, but more than that she heard the pain and
frustration. Hoping to put out the fire, Sela told him, “We were just catching up,
Rome.”
He tipped the whiskey decanter and allowed the drink to fill the glass. He
looked up from the glass and held her gaze. His eyes glittered with barely held back

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rage. For a moment she was so startled by the anger she saw in his gaze she
wondered who he was. “It"s okay, Sela. I get it. I"m the fuck buddy. He"s the one who
gets to take you out on dates.”
She stared at him in horror. The light never reaching his eyes, he smiled. “It"s
the way of the world. Guys like me don"t get girls like you. We just fuck them.”
“What the hell are you talking about? You"re the one who—”
He slammed his glass so hard against the counter she heard it crack. “You
said, and I quote, „It"s just sex." Shopping and dinner one county over. You"re the one
who said you didn"t want people to see you leaving my suite because there would be
talk, and no one wants your name attached to mine.“ He paused and glared at her.
“No, because that would sully your precious reputation,” he bit out.
She knew then what she feared when he first made it clear that he wanted her
back in his life. This. The fights. The struggles. The discomfort that came when two
strong people were physically and emotionally invested in each other but had yet to
reach that comfortable spot. She knew relationships were hard, but there was
something about fighting with Rome that hurt so much more. They were good at
being each other"s friends. But lovers… Something always held them back. She
knew now what it was. Rome scared her. She was deathly afraid of giving him
everything and it not being enough, that in the end they still wouldn"t be able to
work things out and he would leave her.
“Look, I know it might seem like that, but it"s not that I don"t think you"re good
enough. I just didn"t want to deal with the talk when we go our separate ways,” she
admitted. “I am not ashamed of you.”
He glared at her and strode across the room. “Aren"t you? We"ve been sneaking
around like two people having an extramarital affair.” He paused for a moment, and
though she would have said it was impossible, his eyes hardened further. “What do
you mean when we go our separate ways? Already planning our breakup, are you?
Nice to know you"ve got such faith in me, in us.”
Her head snapped up, and she took an involuntary step backward. Her
stomach hurt, and her chest ached. Sela felt like she had been sucker punched. “It"s
not that I don"t have faith in you or even our relationship. It"s just…” She was
scared, damn it, but she wasn"t about to tell him that. Then she realized what else
he said. She"d never thought of him as some dirty secret. “I am not ashamed of you.”
His eyes shone with barely suppressed pain and anger. “How?” he said with a
brittle laugh. “Because it"s true. White-trash Rome Vicenza, good enough for
friendship, but a relationship? We all know better than that.”
The dam she had been trying to build on her emotions cracked. She marched
across the room. The loud crack of her hand colliding with his cheek shocked her,
but only for a moment. “How dare you say that to me when you"re the one who left
me, and just when I needed you most?”
He looked at her dispassionately. “Left you? You"re lucky that"s all I did when I
found out you got rid of my baby,” he bellowed.

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His words hung between them for several seconds as she stared at him, trying
to figure out what he was talking about. She shook her head, feeling like she had
lost control of the conversation. Her stomach danced violently, turning with the
need to throw up. “I didn"t…” she croaked out through shaky lips as she took a step
backward, her arms wrapped around her belly. “I lost your baby. I had a
miscarriage. I would never. Never!”
He looked at her as though he was seeing her for the first time. He took a step
toward her, but she shrank back, fearful of what she would do if he put his hands on
her. She wasn"t in a good place at the moment, and she didn"t want to do anything
she would regret.
Yet remorse swam through her when she saw Rome"s eyes darken as he shut
himself off from her. “I was told that you aborted it. That you never wanted to see
me.”
“You know me better than that!” she yelled, hurt and angry that he believed
she would do such a thing.
He ran a hand through his dark hair. “I went to your house, but no one would
let me see you, and when I finally did manage to sneak in, you turned me away.”
She was under the impression that he chose to ignore her all those weeks she
lay in bed, crying over her loss. When he did show up, she was so angry with him for
not being there to hold her, comfort her when she first found out about the
miscarriage, she turned him away. He hadn"t bothered to come back. That more
than anything hurt her the most. Both her mother and father had told her it was for
the best. But she had known better. Losing Rome"s child broke her heart. Then to
find that she"d lost him too had nearly undone her.
But she hadn"t lost him. Not really. He was taken away, stolen from her. Her
breath shallow, her throat constricted, Sela forced herself to ask the question even
though she wasn"t sure she wanted to know the answer. “Who told you that I…”
Sela found she couldn"t bring herself to say the word.
Abortion. Sela suspected that from the moment she spotted Rome sitting in the
middle of her sixth-grade science class, she had been destined to be his best friend,
his lover, and the mother of his child. To think he believed she would actually rid
herself of his child made ice settle in her blood, chilling her very soul.
He grimaced and walked across the room. She stood rooted to the floor, unable
to move, even when he reached her. He had to pull her to him and wrap his arms
around her before she accepted the comfort he provided.
“My father told me first. I didn"t believe him. He never approved of our
friendship.” His hands moved down her back in a soft caress. “He liked to remind
me that I was trailer trash and not good enough to be with the daughter of the
town"s most prominent member. I think what angered him the most was the fact
that you are black.”
She stiffened in his arms, but he tightened his grip, not giving her the chance
to walk away from him.

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“He had certain views. I don"t think I ever really bought into them. Maybe
when I was really small, but my mom… She always told me the truth, and she liked
to remind me that some of the smartest, richest families in town were black.”
She lifted her head and looked into his eyes, remembering all the times he had
refused to talk about his family, especially his father, and understood now that he
had been ashamed.
He shook his head as though he was trying to dispel unwanted memories.
“Anyways so when he told me that I didn"t believe him. I tried to see you, but your
father always turned me away, and then one night, a few weeks later, my mother
came to me and told me it was true.”
“That"s when you climbed the tree and snuck into my room.”
He gave her a soft smile. “I still can"t believe I worked up the courage to do
that, but I just had to see you. And when you told me you never wanted to see me
again, I just thought, „It wasn"t a lie."”
“You thought I didn"t want to have anything to do with you.”
“Yes. The sad part was I understood why you would want to go through with
the procedure. I had nothing to offer you. I was poor, still in high school, and I
wanted to be a painter. Not a doctor, lawyer, or even businessman.”
“That didn"t matter to me. It still doesn"t.”
She waited for him to say something in response, but nothing came. A little bit
of the hope she hadn"t even realized she was nursing died with his silence. Rome
had truly hurt her with his departure. His actions left both of them with wounds ten
years ago, but it wasn"t until then that she realized the wounds hadn"t healed.
Sela was breaking down inside.
Until then she"d been able to hide her scars from even herself. But now…
And she wasn"t the only one.
Sela knew if she couldn"t get him to forgive himself, if she couldn"t stop him
from leaving her, she would be so broken she doubted she would ever be able to
mend her wounds.
“Neither of us are to blame for what happened. How were we to know our
families were lying to us?”
Silence greeted her statement. And then very softy Rome replied, “I should
have known better.”
She could say nothing to him in response. She understood his sentiment. She
too felt as though she should have trusted him more, known that the man she knew
would never betray her in such a way.
He took a step back and looked down at her solemnly. “Are you okay?”
She gave him her best impression of a strong smile. “I will be.”
He nodded tersely. “Good. I"ll take you home.”
“I could spend the night with you,” she whispered.

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He shook his head. “No, if people see you sneak out of my suite in the morning,
they"ll talk.”
“I don"t care.”
His mouth flattened. “I"m not in a good place right now. I don"t think it"s smart
to be around me.”
She blinked at him. He was distancing himself from her. But she couldn"t
understand why. He"d been so damned willing to chase her when he thought she
had aborted his baby. But he was keeping her at arm"s length now that he knew the
truth. It didn"t make sense.
She gripped his shirt as she searched his face. His jaw was clenched, and his
eyes were hard. Worst of all his pulse was high. She had never seen him so angry.
“Please tell me what"s wrong.”
“How can you ask me that after what you just told me?”
She flinched at the iciness of his voice. Gone was the man she knew. Someone
entirely alien stood before her, and she didn"t like him one bit. He took a step back,
and she let him go, releasing his shirt.
“I just need to be alone right now. I need to collect myself. And I don"t think I"ll
be able to do that with you here.”
She turned and headed toward the door. He had already made it painfully
clear he didn"t want her around him. She might be slow, but she was not that
damned stupid. She could take a hint. “Good-bye, Rome.” She turned and looked
over her shoulder, expecting him to be where she had left him, only to find Rome
standing beside her.
Regret briefly shone in his eyes. “I"ll see you tomorrow.”
Sela stood in the doorway for a moment, looking over his face, wondering if she
really was going to see him again.
Probably not.
She didn"t blame him for not wanting to see her. The last few days had been a
roller-coaster ride of needs, revelations, and confessions. They had been moving too
quickly, relying on the fact that they had known each other once a million years ago
to justify their pace. Now, as she stood before him, ready to walk out of his door, she
realized their actions had led them on a collision course with failure. When you
drove quickly and recklessly, you were bound to crash.
“Tomorrow, then.” She heard the anger in her own voice but ignored it. She
stepped into the hall and walked straight to elevator. Sela was immensely proud of
herself that she never once looked back.
Sela blinked when the throaty sound of the late-night radio host came through
her rental"s speakers. Determined to gain back her independence, she had gone to
the nearest center and rented the most economical car. She was very glad she had
made the decision. Now she didn"t have to worry about being out to late with her
mother"s car. She glanced at the dashboard and groaned at the time it said.

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She had been driving around for over an hour.
Because she couldn"t go home. She didn"t think she could look her mother in
the eye and have a rational conversation about her miscarriage, but she needed to
know if she and her father really told Rome she terminated her pregnancy. She
picked up her phone and called her mother.
“Hi, Sela. Is everything all right?”
She sighed, already feeling better at the sound of her voice. Maybe it was all
some big misunderstanding. “That depends,” Sela replied. “I need to ask you
something, and I need you to tell me the truth.”

Her mother paused and swallowed thickly, with enough force that Sela heard
it over the line. She closed her eyes against the pain she could feel rising. She
hadn"t even asked the question, but she could feel the answer in her mom"s reaction.
“Did you and Daddy tell Rome I had an abortion?”
“So you guys figured that out.”
Her father was so lucky he passed on before she found out. Sela had every
intention of telling her mother exactly what she thought of her actions.
“I take it that"s a yes.”
“Sweetie, just come in out of the rain. We can talk about this when you come
home.”
Absently, Sela glanced at the sky. She hadn"t even realized that it was raining.
It was fitting. The weather matched her mood perfectly. “I don"t think I"m coming
home, Mom,” she said before hanging up the phone, cutting off whatever her mother
was going to say. Sela didn"t want to hear her words of comfort. There was nothing
she could say to make what she did sound reasonable. Sela didn"t want to go home.
Tomorrow she would talk to her. If she saw her now, she might do something she
would regret.
She sat in the car for several moments, breathing deeply, trying desperately
not to let the anger and pain get the best of her. It was a herculean feat. She needed
help. She picked up the phone and called the only person she knew who would
sympathize with her.
“Hello, Se? Is everything all right?”
She felt the first tear slid down her cheek at the sound of Nick"s concerned
voice. At least there was one person in her life who wasn"t lying to her or turning
her away.
She shook her head. “No, nothing"s right,” she sobbed into the phone.
“Where are you?” he asked, voice tight with tension. He was worried about her.
Even through her tears, she heard his concern. It was comforting. She gave him the
directions to the lot she had parked in and waited. Finally, she had somewhere to
go.

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Chapter Twelve

He was pushing himself to the point of no return. The thought sluiced through
his mind as he muttered a request for a taxi to take him to the nearest bar. The
man behind the hotel"s bar looked at him like he had lost his mind. Rome flashed
the man a cold smile and repeated his request. This time without the jovial feeling.
The man hastened to do as he had asked.
Rome knew what had tripped the guy up. Rome was in a bar asking to go to
another one. But Rome had his reasons for wanting to go somewhere else. The
hotel"s establishment was too nice to get rip-roaring drunk.
And that was exactly what he wanted to do.
He needed somewhere dark, seedy. The kind of place that hadn"t had a clean
floor in decades. He shouted the final requirements to the bartender before he
forgot. He had already been drinking. His mind wasn"t working as well as it
normally did.
But he had yet to reach his goal. Rome was not nearly drunk enough.
He wanted to forget what had almost been. The fact that his mother had
betrayed him. And the fact that Sela had believed he was capable of deserting her in
her time of need.
He needed to erase them all from his memory.
And alcohol was a great cleanser. Even if it was only momentary.
The bartender nodded in his direction before tilting his head to the side. Rome
followed his direction and found a dull yellow cab standing outside the bar"s
entrance. He unfolded himself from his seat and pulled out his wallet. He dropped
several bills on the wooden countertop, enough to cover his tab and thank the
bartender profusely for his aide.
Feet heavy, Rome managed to make his way out the bar and into the car.
“Long night?” the cabbie asked when he closed the door behind him. He
glanced up and found curious brown eyes watching him. Rome ignored the question.
He wasn"t in the mood for talking. It was part of the point of getting so intoxicated.
“Did the bartender give you the name or address of where we"re going?”
The driver gazed at Rome in the rearview mirror for a moment before
responding. “Yeah, he did. The Drunken Fish it is.”

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Almost groaned out loud at the name of the bar. He"d been looking for
something shitty, but the Drunken Fish sounded like it was more run-down than he
could handle.
Rome shook his head as reason surfaced. He feared he was already starting to
sober up. “There"s a large tip if you can get me there as soon as possible.”
The cabbie nodded once before focusing on the road and pulling the vehicle out
of its parking spot. The moment Rome felt the car take off, he closed his eyes and
leaned back in his seat.
Intent on keeping his mind free, he was irritated to find himself envisioning
Sela pregnant. Heavy with his child. Her eyes were lit with satisfaction. She was
pleased to be carrying his baby.
The most disturbing part of the vision was the fact that the Sela Rome saw
was fully grown.
He groaned. He was so fucked.
“You okay back there?” the driver called out in anxiousness.
“I"m fine,” Rome growled.
“You better not throw up, okay?”
Rome ignored the guy"s statement and stared at the quickly passing landscape.
He really shouldn"t have let Sela go home alone. But at the time it had been the best
out of two very bad options.
Thankfully, the driver arrived at the Drunken Fish then. Rome handed the
man a bill he knew covered the fare twice and walked out of the car on surprising
steady feet.
“Shit,” he said savagely. Apparently, he had sobered up sometime during the
short ride. Sometimes he really hated the fact that his body processed alcohol really
well. The moment he stopped drinking, the influence went away. He doubled his
pace as he made his way to the bar"s front door. Rome met a beefy bald guy with a
very realistic tiger tattoo across his head at the door. He nodded at the bouncer
before walking through the dark entrance.
Stale air greeted him as he strode deep into the dark bar. A quick glance
confirmed that the pub was exactly what he was looking for. Dark and decrepit, it
appeared to have been constructed when Brushwood was founded. It also appeared
that it hadn"t once been renovated in the two hundred plus years.
Rome took a seat at the bar. The bartender appeared before him. He pulled out
his wallet and slapped a few big bills onto the counter. “A bottle of whiskey and a
glass of ice.”
The bartender cocked one eyebrow at Rome before doing his bidding. He
quickly returned with the requested bottle and glass. Rome grabbed the tumbler
and poured himself three fingers of whiskey as the bartender grasped the offered
money.

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He wasn"t sure long had he had been drinking when she tapped his shoulder.
Rome only knew it had not been nearly long enough when he turned and spotted
Rosa standing to his right. “Fancy meeting you here,” he cheered before lifting the
small glass in his hand to his lips.
It never made it to port.
He slowly lifted his gaze to glare at source of the fingers holding his wrist. He
held Sela"s friend Nick"s gaze. “I suggest you let go.”
The other man"s jaw tightened, but he did not release his hold. White-hot
anger surged through Rome. As much as he wanted to deck the blond, he was sober
enough to know Sela would not appreciate it. And he cared what she thought.
Rome jerked his hand away and slammed the whiskey glass on the bar. “Can"t
a man drink in peace?” he yelled in exasperation before turning and striding away
from the couple.
He had only taken two steps when small hands landed on his bicep. “Rome,
please,” Rosa cried out.
He turned and stared at her. “You need to learn when to mind your business,
Rosa.”
She pursed her lips. In her eyes Rome could see that his words had hurt her
immensely. Unfortunately, the pain wasn"t great enough to force her to leave him
alone. “And you need to sober up.”
“I"m not drunk,” he yelled in frustration. He ran his fingers through his hair
and turned away. Everything was way too clear: the future that was stolen from
him, the past he could never fix, and the future he wasn"t sure he could bring about.
All of it was crystal clear. The liquor had done nothing to dull the pain.
If Rome didn"t know any better, he would swear his body was fighting the
alcohol.
“You can"t drink away your pain.”
“Especially not when people keep stopping me from drinking.”
“Rome, the whiskey is not going to make things different.”
He stilled at the tender note she had applied to the word “things.” Slowly, he
turned around to look at her. Gazing into Rosa"s eyes, Rome knew she was well
aware of the reason for his drinking bout. “I can"t believe she fucking told you!” he
said savagely.
Rosa placed both hands on his chest. “She didn"t tell me. She called Nick while
I was there. She"s there now. She wanted to be alone.”
“And so do I.” He turned and strode away from the joyous couple. He couldn"t
handle their happiness or concern. The sight of both was jarring, delving deep
beneath the anger he wanted to hold on to, to touch the pain that lay inside.
He made his way across the bar and to the back. He discovered a small dark
hallway and strode through it, following the signs for the men"s room. He found the

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restroom empty. Thankful he was finally alone, Rome stood in front of the one of the
sinks and breathed deeply.
Rome wasn"t sure how long he stood in front of the mirror, staring into his own
eyes. A minute or an hour—it could have been both he was so lost in his memories
and visions of what could have been. Men came and went. Several looked at him in
contemplation. One was kind enough to ask if he was all right. “Just tired,” Rome
admitted to the concerned stranger.
The sad truth was he was in fact exhausted. Nothing was as draining as
fighting against the tide, and the news he had been dealt that day made him
wonder if he and Sela had a chance in hell. Am I just swimming against the tide?
With an angry jerk he returned to the present and opened the cold-water
faucet. He cupped his palms and ran the cool liquid over his heated face.
It was calming, refreshing, and just for a moment he believed he could make it
through the night. He simply had to avoid Rosa and Nick, make his way out of the
bar, and back to his hotel room. With that simple goal on his mind, Rome strode
from the restroom.
“Shit!” he exclaimed the moment he spotted her. He had only taken several
steps away from the dark hallway when he noticed a very familiar woman standing
beside the bar stool he had vacated. Initially, he believed his eyes were playing
tricks on him. He had after all been envisioning her the whole night.
And then she turned. He caught her gaze and knew the woman before him was
no hallucination.
He glanced in irritation at her two friends. He had known nothing good would
come from staying in the same bar they were in, but Rome had been too tired to give
a damn.
In the end it had cost him.
He strode across the room feeling very drunk and belligerent. Or maybe that’s
just how I want her to see me? “Go home, Sela,” he growled savagely and reached
around her to grab the remainder of his whiskey. Small fingers curled around his
wrist. Her touch was so light he could have easily shaken it off, but the presence
behind it stopped him cold.
“I think it"s time you went home, Rome.”
He ignored her and glared at the couple to his left. “Is that why you called her?
So she could take me back to my miserable hotel room? So you guys can have fun in
peace?”
“Rome,” Sela said sternly.
He whipped around to face her. “Why are you still here?”
“Because I care.”
If she had said anything, anything other than that in response, Rome might
have been able to push aside her statement. But those words he could not ignore.

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With three simple words she had taken the fight out of him and brought to the
surface all the pain and anger he wanted to drown in alcohol.
“You shouldn"t care.”
“But I do.” She held out her hand. He considered it for a second before placing
the bottle of whiskey in it. He watched her return it to the bar and thank the
bartender. Like all she did, her actions were cool and graceful. Nothing like him.
There wasn"t a single coarse element to her.
He couldn"t help wondering just how different two people could be.
“Come on.” Her hand returned to his side, waiting for him to accept her aide.
“I think it"s best I take a cab home.”
The fine lines of her delicate jaw tightened. It was the only indication she was
irritated. If he kept pushing her, he would enter the danger zone. Rome didn"t know
if he wanted to continue or not.
She lifted her hand a little higher, a clear indication he had better take it.
Rome was wise enough to know when to admit defeat. Still she had to know… “I"m
not in a good place right now, Cupcake.”
“Neither am I. We should be perfect company for one another.”

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Chapter Thirteen

“I"m sorry.”
Sela glanced sharply at him before returning her attention to the road. She
didn"t seem too pleased with his apology. Rome couldn"t blame her. He had an idea
what she was thinking. He was only apologizing because he was drunk. And she
was right. Partially. He wasn"t as intoxicated as she believed, but the unknown
number of whiskey shots gave him the courage to tell her what he was really
feeling.
“I"m not just saying it because I"m buzzed. I really am sorry. I…” He broke off,
unsure what to say. Everything he had been feeling, dealing with the last few days,
threatened to break free.
He grimaced. That was the problem with alcohol. It weakened the floodgates.
He could feel them cracking as he sat beside Sela, trying not to reach out and stroke
his hand down her arm. Instead he clenched his fingers into fists.
“I was worried,” he admitted.
She turned onto the street that housed his hotel before responding. “About
what?” she said icily.
The coldness in her voice cut him deeply. He had hurt her by sending her
away. He had known that she needed him to hold her. But… “I didn"t trust myself
around you, with the way I felt.”
She pulled into the closest parking spot and cut the engine. The rain howled
around them. It was no longer a comforting summer rain. It was angry and
beautiful.
Just like Sela.
She turned to him, shock, irritation, and anger in her heavenly eyes. “What do
you mean by that?” she asked softly. Her voice was clipped and cool. As though she
was trying desperately to keep her own emotions in check.
Ironic, considering all he wanted to do was let his roam free. “Do you want the
truth or the pretty things?”
She stared at him for a few seconds. “The truth, Rome. I"m a big girl. I can
handle it.”
He ran his hands over his face, frustrated. Yes, Sela grew up while they were
apart, while he felt as though time stopped for him when he left. “There"s something
about you. You make me feel shit, emotions I"d gotten good at denying. Sometimes,

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it"s good, and sometimes you make me so fucking mad. When I found out about your
date, I was so angry, angrier than I"ve ever been in my whole life, because all I"ve
ever wanted was you. Then to find about the kid. It was too much, more than I ever
would have asked for. A family. Someone who gave a shit about me. And they took
that from me.” He paused, tried to collect his thoughts. “I"ve wanted you for a really
long time, Sela, but I ignored it, fought it, told myself it was lust. Then I found out
you were coming to our reunion, and I couldn"t put aside my feelings anymore. I had
to get you out of my system, see if there could be something more.”
He saw the flash in her eyes as the change came over. Gone were all the other
emotions. He only saw her pain. It mirrored his own.
Shit! He"d really fucked things up. He really shouldn"t have let her go. He
should have fought for her even if it meant fighting her.
Sela reached up and caressed his face, brushing her soft palm across his
stubble cheek in a sweet touch that left him feeling raw. Tonight he had hurt her.
Yet she was showing him compassion.
“That still doesn"t explain why you didn"t want me to stay with you. We could
have worked through the pain together.”
Logically, he knew that. But he hadn"t been thinking logically at that moment.
“I"m not good when I"m angry.”
She smiled and slipped her fingers into his hair. He closed his eyes and focused
on the feel of her silken fingertips against his nape. “No one is good when they"re
angry, Rome.” He felt her words against his lips and reluctantly opened his eyes to
find her watching him.
He shook his head. “You don"t understand.”
“Then please explain it to me.”
Courage left him. He turned and reached for the door handle. The conversation
had been a bad idea. He was too drunk and too savagely emotional to be having it.
Before he could open the door, Sela grabbed his hand. “Rome?” she called
softly. And he knew he was done. At the sound of her tender voice, Rome knew Sela
could ask for anything, and he would give it to her. The sun, the moon, the stars,
and the truth were all hers.
He turned and found understanding eyes looking at him. “Are you afraid that
one day you"re going to get so angry you hit me?”
For a moment he was so surprised by her statement he couldn"t process his
thoughts. And then he remembered all the times he had shown up at Sela"s home
with bruises. Not once had she ever asked what happened. Not once did Sela give
him the chance to lie to her.
She just always knew the truth about his scars and bruises.
Rome stared at her mutely, unwilling to talk about all the things he had never
said, but she wouldn"t turn away. Her penetrating eyes wore him down. He ran a
hand through his thick locks in exasperation and admitted the truth. “Yes… No…
Yes. I"m not sure, damn it, and that"s what scares the shit out of me.”

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She cupped his face. “Let"s go upstairs.”
“I don"t think that"s a good idea.”
She smiled slowly, giving him a glimpse of hope. “I think it"s a great idea.”
He turned to the car door, hating the fact that he had to pull away from her so
he could exit the vehicle. He briskly walked to the other side and opened her door.
Rome shrugged out of his light jacket and placed it over her head just as she
stepped out. She looked up in surprise. “But you"re going to get wet.”
He shrugged and wrapped one arm around her waist, pulling her close so they
could run into the building together.
The bellboy tipped his hat as they rushed in. Rome barely noticed the man, he
was so focused on the woman beside him. He wrapped his arm around Sela"s
shoulder and pulled her closer to him. She stiffened for a second before softening
against him, molding her curves to the hard planes of his body.
Rome didn"t release Sela until they reached the elevators. Even then he hated
to let her go so she could comfortably pass the silver doors. He held her in his arms
for the full length of the elevator ride.
They rode in silence. He ran his hands up and down her back, trying to comfort
her as he thought of the things he wanted to say, the emotions that suddenly
needed explaining. But nothing came out.
He couldn"t seem to find the right words to express what he was feeling. The
jaded hunger. The turbulent need. The coarse rage. They all went without being
voiced.
He glanced at the lit-up numbers panel when they reached his floor. He
released Sela enough so she could walk. She turned, looking at him, as she backed
out of the elevator. Her fingers were intertwined with his, but it was the look in her
eyes that had captured him.
She knew exactly what he was feeling.
Because she felt the very same emotions. He could see the truth in her gaze.
Rome stepped out of the elevator to join her on the floor. His fingers
automatically intertwined with hers. Together they walked to his door. He took his
keys from his pocket and held them in his palm. They felt unreasonably heavy as he
stared at the door. “You don"t need to stay.”
She wrapped her free hand around his waist and pulled him closer. “I want to
stay, Rome,” she whispered against his shoulder before placing a kiss there.
He nodded, unable to respond. Words didn"t feel appropriate. So he focused on
getting the door open. He stepped into the room and came to a pause. Rome was at
a loss. He wanted Sela with a viciousness that threatened to tear apart his self-
control, but he couldn"t know how to breach the gap that separated them.
“Let"s go to bed,” Sela said as she walked past and headed straight for the
sleeping area. He followed her, stripping off his clothing as he went. When Rome
reached the bed, only his boxer briefs remained.

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Sela had also made short work of her clothing. She lay on top of the comforter
wearing only her bra and panties. She looked lovely, sultry, and wounded.
He reached for her, intent on erasing the pain he saw in her espresso gaze.
She entered his arms easily, almost as though she had been waiting a long
time for his touch. He lightly brushed his lips across the sharp lines of her
cheekbones before lifting his mouth to kiss her eyes closed. Then he dipped his head
and captured her mouth. Rome found her lips parted. He slid his tongue into her
mouth, determined to take his time tasting Sela, satisfying the need to explore her
and fill his senses with the taste of her lips.
She groaned something indecipherable into their kiss and lifted her hands.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulder and held him hard against her as she
deepened the kiss, moving her tongue across his.
Sela broke off the kiss and pushed against his shoulders. He lay upon the bed,
following her silent directions. “Sela?”
She shook her head slowly, midnight hair flowing around her shoulders in the
dim lighting. Holding his gaze, she smiled at him and reached for his boxers. She
pulled them down his hips until his hard, heavy cock was bare. Her small dark
fingers curled around his dick, testing the thickness, sliding down the length before
working their way up his cock so she could brush her thumb across the red, angry
bulbous head.
She lowered her head.
“You don"t—”
Sela cut him off. “But I want to, Rome. God, I want to,” she whispered tenderly
before her hot, pink tongue flicked over his cockhead.
“Shit.” The sound was torn from his lips. Even though he knew he released the
feral curse, Rome never really heard it. Every inch of his body, every one of his five
senses was too focused on Sela and the bliss her touch brought him to do anything
else.
The air was filled with the mixture of Sela"s flowery perfume and his own
scent. Rome reveled in it, drank it in, until he could taste it on his tongue and had
memorized their distinctive flavor.
He stared at the sight of her dark head between his thighs. He groaned at the
feel of her long black hair brushing his thighs and her tongue running against the
underside of his shaft. The ardent sounds of her suckling turned him on, heating his
blood until it was feverish. She reached the area just beneath his cockhead and
tongued it.
The pleasure was almost too much. Rome sat up and grabbed her shoulders
before she could push him any further to the edge. He rolled them over until Sela
lay beneath him. “First you, then me,” he murmured before stealing her lips in an
openmouthed kiss.
The air around them thickened and deepened with the desire swirling between
their heaving bodies. Energy, tender and decadent, swam through the room. Her

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impassioned hands moved over his body, pleas for pleasure on her every fingertip.
Rome lifted his gaze to stare at Sela"s expressive face. If he wasn"t mistaken, the
fire in Sela"s eyes was burning hotter. She was a woman totally lost in her passion.
Savage satisfaction surged through him at the sight. He was able to bring her
to that point. He had once guaranteed her a night of pleasure. It had been more
than a week since that conversation happened, but he fully intended to continue
pleasing her.
Her fingers skirted over the planes of his jaw, his cheek, before dancing upon
his lips. “I want you, Rome. I need you.”
Damn! Beautiful didn"t begin to describe the sound of her words.
“I need you too, Cupcake,” he admitted before moving his lips over hers,
sipping from her mouth.
Pulse pounding in his ears from the power of the kiss"s new direction, Rome
moved one arm between them and cupped one of Sela"s lace-clad breasts. She
shivered when he brushed his thumb over her swollen nipple.
Her nails scraped along his scalp when her fingers further tightened in his
hair. The slight bite of pain spurred Rome on, increasing his arousal.
He rolled them over until he was lying above her. He found them breast to
chest and groin to groin. Unable to ignore the allure, Rome rocked his hips against
hers, delighting in the pleasure gained from the act.
“Shit,” Sela cursed softly as she broke off the kiss. “I need more. I need more
now,” she cried out as she moved against him.
Rome moved his hands to her back and deftly unsnapped her bra. She
shimmied out of the lace. He moved down her torso just as she threw the bra aside.
Sela groaned his name when he pressed a hot openmouthed kiss to her belly. Using
his tongue, teeth, and lips, he teased the area between rib cage and pelvis until Sela
was begging him. Then and only then did he lift his head and capture the bud of one
breast and suckle it.
“Oh God, Rome,” she sighed as she ran her hands over his shoulders.
He released her nipple to lave the other bud with the same amorous attention.
“Hmmm,” she moaned and clung to Rome, telling him without words how much she
enjoyed his ministrations. Knowing he needed to give her more, give her something
to erase the pain he knew he had caused her, Rome kissed his way back down her
stomach until he reached her panties. He grabbed the edges of the lace and pulled
them down. Then Rome grasped her plump thighs and parted them until she was
fully revealed to his gaze. He lowered his head and ran his tongue down the full
length of her slick slit.
“Oh my God,” Sela moaned.
Rome braced his shoulder against her left thigh and used his free hand to part
the lips of her sex. He placed a soft kiss directly to her clitoris. She groaned his
name and tried to roll her hips, whether it was closer or rather away from his
teasing mouth, Rome wasn"t sure.

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He carefully slid a single digit into her and damn near cursed at the feel of her
sheath surrounding him. She was so hot, wet, and tight, he could barely wait to get
inside her.
“More. More, Rome,” Sela sighed.
Determined to give her what she needed, Rome lowered his head and flicked
his tongue over her clit. “You taste so damned good,” he groaned. Her fingers
tightened in his hair when he wrapped his lips around her clitoris. Rome didn"t stop
suckling her clitoris until Sela was shaking beneath him, crying out her pleasure.
With the taste of her pleasure on his tongue, he lifted his head and kissed her
soundly.
Sela pressed her lips harder against his and opened her mouth for him. Rome
thrust his tongue, determined and uninhibited, and swept it through her mouth,
touching, caressing, and teasing the inner recesses of her mouth until his lungs
burned with the need to take in air. Then and only then did he pull back from Sela.
The softly rounded curve of Sela"s stomach pressed against the thick length of
his manhood. For just one moment he reveled in it, in the fire that streaked through
his every limb at the feel of her body pressed against his cock.
“Now, Rome. I need you now,” Sela growled softly. Her fingers slipped through
his hair, teased his nape, before digging into the tense muscles of his corded
shoulders.
The rough, throaty sound of her unrepentant desire turned him on.
“Fuck me.” She ran her fingers over the tight muscles of his chest, stomach,
and lower pelvis. As the sensation of being explored sluiced through him, settling in
his balls, Rome"s belly jumped at Sela"s simple touch. He captured her hand before
she could caress his cock. He wasn"t quite sure he could handle her touch on his
dick. Desire was riding him hard. It felt like it had been forever since he had been
with a woman. He couldn"t wait any longer.
He reached across the bed and opened the bedside table"s first drawer. Joy
pounded through him when his fingers closed around a small foil package. He was
that much closer to being inside Sela.
Rome quickly sheathed himself and placed himself at her entrance.
“God, yes,” Sela moaned and shifted her hips. The tiny movement forced his
cock to caress the slick, swollen lips of her sex and her clitoris. They groaned in
unison at the contact.
“Damn, that felt good.”
“This will feel even better,” he promised before surging into her with one fluid
thrust. Rome couldn"t help wondering if his heart stopped. The pleasure of being
inside her was so powerful he felt like a marathon runner who had crossed the
finish line first.
“God, you feel—”
“Perfect,” Rome supplied. He lowered his head and looked into Sela"s soulful
brown eyes. There was so much he wanted to say. So many things he felt that

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needed to be expressed, but he held back. They had only been together for a short
amount of time. The things he was feeling were too deep, frighteningly so when one
considered how little time they"d spent together. She"d only just let him back into
her life. The last thing he wanted to do was run her off.
“Rome?” Sela"s gaze searched his as her hand lifted to caress his face.
“I"m not going to fuck you.”
“No?” she said with a soft smile. She didn"t need to say the words. Her
thoughts were written across her expressive face. What is he talking about? He was
fully inside her. They were already having sex.
“No,” he replied. “We may go all night, but not once am I going to fuck you.”
She flicked her tongue against her top lip and lowered her lashes. For a
moment Rome feared she didn"t understand what he was trying to tell her, and then
she lifted her gaze. Her already soft smile became even more tender. “Okay, Rome.
No fucking.”
“None.” He would make love to her for as long as his body could handle the
pleasure. Tonight was about more than just physical desire.
He lifted Sela"s legs and wrapped them around his waist. He immediately
surged deeper into her sheath. His lips parted with a deep gasp. She felt so good, so
damned right. Until this moment he felt as though he"d been lost, and only now did
he find his way home.
“Rome.” Sela breathed his name in the softest whisper.
He lowered his head to gaze at her. Her mouth was open, her chest heaving,
and her eyes were closed, but it was the look of utter satisfaction on her face that
held him mesmerized. He wanted to see that every time he bedded her. He wanted
to be the only man who made her feel that way.
Rome pulled out of her sheath until only the head of his erection was wrapped
in her warmth. She gave him loud sigh, similar to a moan, but more animalistic. It
made his heart race and his blood pound. He thrust into her, eliciting a gasp of
pleasure from her.
Yes. Fuck yes, that was what he wanted. He initiated a steady push-and-pull
rhythm that kept them breathless with erotic bliss. He took her hard, determined to
burn the image of his touch into her mind. No matter how far she went, she would
never forget how good he loved her.
“Yes. Oh God, yes.” Sela"s words ended on a high note as her pussy tightened
around him.
He groaned and stilled for a few moments, determined to reign in the orgasm
he could feel just around the corner. He was trying so hard to compose himself that
Sela"s throaty voice caught him by surprise. “Sorry?”
She laughed. “I want on top.”

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He stared at her in surprise before smiling. Oh yeah, he could get down with
that. He rolled them over so she was riding him. Looking up at her he couldn"t help
himself. “Now, that"s one hell of a view,” he said.
She didn"t reply, at least not with words. Instead Sela gave him a sultry smile
and lifted her hips only to drop them down seconds later. “Fuck!” Rome"s breath
escaped his lips in a deep gasp. She had not only surprised him, she damn near
curled his toes with that move. Somehow she managed to keep her pussy tight,
almost suffocatingly so, on both the lift and drop.
He"d never felt anything better.
“Just lie back and enjoy.” He looked up to find her smiling smugly at him. He
figured she deserved it, being able to do something that wicked in bed.
“Rome?”
He thought back to her words. “I can do that.” Fingers curled into the sheets,
Rome tried to do as Sela asked, but she made it difficult. Watching her ride him was
almost painful, she was so beautiful in the throes of her sensual power. With every
rise her breasts bounced, and with every descent she rolled her hips. The sight and
feel of her was too much pleasure to ignore. He grasped her hips and gave her extra
leverage for her blissful ride.
“Christ, you"re gorgeous,” he growled as he tightened his grip on her hips.
She leaned forward and placed her hands on his chest. Looking into his eyes,
Sela asked. “Do you really believe that?”
He felt the answer lodge in his throat. He couldn"t understand how she had
gone so long without understanding that she was absolutely breathtaking. “You are
the most beautiful woman I"ve ever seen.”
Her lashes fluttered shut with the weight of his admission. “Oh God,” she
moaned and lifted her hips. Her lashes opened on her descent. “That"s the way I feel
about you.” She moved a little closer and rocked her hips. The act pushed him
deeper within her. He groaned at the fully enclosed feeling.
“Every time I look at you, I wonder why you see anything in me.”
“Shit. Sela…” Words failed Rome. There was nothing he could think of saying
to describe how he felt about her. So he did the next best thing—he told her with his
actions. He grasped her head and pulled her hard against him. His lips crushed
hers. Sela"s mouth moved over his, nipping, skirting, teasing without giving him the
chance to penetrate. And then she opened her mouth. His tongue thrust past her
parted lips to stroke inside.
He kept his pace, lifting his hips to meet hers as he deepened their kiss. She
moved into his mouth. The sound echoed between them, a beautiful amorous
melody to their desire.
She pulled back, breaking their torrid kiss. Sela lowered her head to his
shoulder and wrapped her arms around his chest. “I"m close, Rome. I"m going to…”
She breathed against his throat.

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He understood all too well exactly what she was feeling. He was so darned
close to coming too. He tilted his head to look at her face. “Together,” he murmured.
“Yes. Yes,” she agreed with a sigh just before her eyelashes fluttered close.
Rome slipped his hands between their gyrating bodies to caress Sela"s slick
clitoris. Two strokes and she clenched tightly around him, four thrusts, and felt her
pussy orgasm around his dick, forcing him to join her in release.
He came and he came hard, gasping her name against her nape as he clutched
her shivering body to his.

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Chapter Fourteen

Standing outside of the Brushwood Middle School building, Sela took a
moment to simply let all the memories from another time creep into her brain, flood
her senses. She had been driving through the town all morning, and the sights were
starting to blur. Unwilling to face her family and the apology she knew was waiting
there, Sela had spent the night in Rosa"s hotel room, telling the redhead everything
that had happened between her and Rome. Including what she had learned
recently.
Like a good friend Rosa had let her cry her eyes out without giving her any
advice. She had promised Sela that no matter what decision Sela made, she would
be there for her. At the moment that was all Sela needed to hear. She would have
liked advice but knew it wouldn"t have done her any good. She and Rome needed to
figure things out on their own.
Yet there she stood in front of her middle school looking for answers to
questions she couldn"t name. At that moment a young woman walked out. A child
barely twelve reluctantly trailed her. Sela smiled at the boy, knowing that look.
Judging by the time she"d say the kid had spent the last few hours in detention.
Suddenly the past didn"t feel like it was miles away.
She walked forward and slipped past the slowly closing doors.
The moment the doors closed behind her, Sela knew that this was where she
needed to be. It was a start to finding out the answers to the questions her soul
couldn"t stop asking. She strode deeper into the brick building, looking at each of
the plaques, displays, signs, and paintings that lined the halls. She stopped at the
third picture and reread the signature line as she felt tears pool in her eyes.
Rome A. Vicenza.
She remembered so well when the painting had gone up. Rome had come to
her weeks earlier, so happy, she wondered if his juvenile heart could take the
excitement. Breathless, he had told her that he had won the school"s art contest and
that the judges were so impressed they had convinced the principal to let the art
hang in the halls.
That was the year Sela realized Rome was destined for great things.
More than a decade later, he had achieved more than even she had envisioned.
She couldn"t help wondering if there was room in his life for her.
She continued walking, looking without seeing, allowing the memories to carry
her forward. Sela wasn"t even surprised to find herself standing in front of her

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favorite teacher"s classroom. She suspected she had always been headed to Mrs.
Marshall"s classroom, long before she stepped out of her car.
Gratitude filled her when she saw that Mrs. Marshall was still in the
classroom. She knocked on the door and waved when Mrs. Marshall looked up.
She stepped into the room and felt a little bit of the confusion she had been
feeling disappear. It was disconcerting to discover that her hero was human. That
her father had betrayed her.
But being in Mrs. Marshall"s classroom reminded her that not all her heroes
were faulted. Mrs. Marshall had never lied to her. Not once in the almost twenty
years she"d known Marshall had the woman lied to her.
“I was wondering when you would show up.” Mrs. Marshall looked up and
smiled at Sela as she closed the classroom door behind her. Sela returned Mrs.
Marshall"s smile. She was giddy with excitement at meeting up with her old
teacher. Mrs. Marshall had taught her sixth-grade science class. Since then Mrs.
Marshall had been one of her favorite teachers. Long after she"d left Mrs. Marshall"s
science class, Sela still visited Mrs. Marshall.
A little part of her believed she held Mrs. Marshall in such high esteem
because the woman had brought Rome into her life.
“How long has it been?” Sela asked as she walked across the room.
Mrs. Marshall grinned at her as she placed the books she held on one of the
shelves that lined the classroom"s eastern wall. “I"d say it"s been about five years.”
“Really?” Sela knew it had been some time since she"d gotten the chance to
visit Mrs. Marshall, but five years? Darn, she was slacking.
“I"ll make it up to you. I"ll take you to dinner.”
Mrs. Marshall cocked one silvery eyebrow before glancing at her watch. “I
might be willing to accept your apology, but that depends on where we are going for
dinner.”
Sela chuckled. “Your choice.”
Mrs. Marshall straightened fully and peered at her. Sela stood still for the
woman"s perusal, hoping Mrs. Marshall found what she was looking for. The look on
the older woman"s face was similar to one a child wore before opening a gift. It was
filled with hope and joyous expectation.
When Mrs. Marshall smiled, Sela felt her heart kick up in speed. Until then
she hadn"t realized just how afraid she was that Mrs. Marshall wouldn"t find what
she was looking for.
“I always knew you would turn out to be something if given the chance,” she
said. Her forehead wrinkled as she looked out the window behind Sela. “Have to
admit I thought your success would be marriage to some lawyer or politician.”
Sela stared at her in surprise. She had busted her ass all through school, and
the woman thought her greatest accomplishment was going to be her marriage. She
had been her class"s valedictorian.

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Mrs. Marshall shook her head. “It wasn"t that I didn"t think you could be more.
I was just worried you would never get the chance to be anything but some man"s
trophy wife.”
“Why would you think that?”
Mrs. Marshall shrugged her slightly stooped shoulders. The motion looked
decidedly awkward coming from a woman who Sela knew didn"t have an indifferent
bone in her body. Elaine Marshall always had a view about the topic at hand, no
matter the topic. “Maybe it"s because I"m an old woman stuck in her ways. Maybe
because this town is so small, it doesn"t give one enough room to be great.” She
sighed, blowing air through surprisingly full lips. “Or maybe it"s because that was
what your daddy wanted, and you were daddy"s girl.”
“What?” Sela gasped, shocked by Mrs. Marshall"s confession. “He never gave
me any indication he wanted that for me.” And he hadn"t. Before her father had
died, he"d always praised her accomplishments. He was very proud of her
intelligence.
“I know what you"re thinking. She must be mistaken. I probably shouldn"t tell
you this, but…” She sighed and walked past Sela to pull out two of the classroom
stools. “Come, Sela. Let"s talk.”
Feeling like she was standing on the precipice of something she could never
come back from if she ventured further, Sela didn"t move.
Mrs. Marshall looked up and smiled up at her with a sad smile on her face.
“You want to know a secret?”
“No.”
Mrs. Marshall"s smile broadened. “Always loyal. That was just one of the
things I liked about you, Sela. Even as a child you were steadfast. Relax. It"s not
about him.”
Fingers shaking, pulse racing, Sela reluctantly took the stool across from Mrs.
Marshall. She knew Mrs. Marshall enough to know that the topic of her father was
not closed.
“Did Rome ever tell you why I asked you to be his partner that year?”
It was worse than Sela had thought. The secret was about Rome. “No,” she
whispered, feeling her blood thicken with nervous excitement. Secretly, she
wondered about the life Rome had lived before meeting her. She knew it wasn"t a
normal thought, but Rome guarded his home life the way most secret agents
protected their identity. Whenever she had asked about his family, he pushed aside
her questions. Eventually she stopped asking.
But she had never stopped hungering to know more about the boy—and later,
man—she loved.
“He asked to be your partner for the science fair.”

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Sela sucked in a deep breath, taking in the scent of a thousand science
experiments.
Mrs. Marshall chuckled at her reaction, and for just a moment Sela was
embarrassed. And then Mrs. Marshall spoke, wiping away all traces of her
embarrassment.
“It gets better. He asked to be your science partner in the beginning of the
year. The first day of class, actually.” She gazed off into the distance, obviously
looking inward, remembering a time long gone. “I love my husband. Always will.
But I think that boy stole my heart that day. I knew then he was someone special,
that he had a warrior"s heart. In this day and age that"s hard to find.”
“Yes,” Sela said, only to be shocked by the sound of her own voice. She had
been privileged to witness the strength of Rome"s heart, the power of his heart when
they were growing up. There had been many times when their friends had tried to
pull them apart, but no matter what, Rome had stood beside her, always telling her,
“We"re friends forever, Cupcake. They can only come between us if we let them.”
He was right. The others could never come between them. Not until she and
Rome stopped believing in each other.
“You can imagine my surprise when I found him standing in front of my desk
long after class had ended. I already knew about his reputation. We all knew about
the students who spent way too much time in the principal"s office, so I was
expecting some kind of excuse about why he couldn"t read the chapter I had
assigned. Instead he asked to be your partner.”
Mrs. Marshall chuckled as she absently toyed with one of the empty beakers
still on the table. “I immediately thought, „He"s trying to piggyback on your A." He
quickly dispelled me of that thought.”
She placed the beaker back on the stone top table and looked Sela in the eye.
“Till this day I"ve never seen a young boy more determined. He told me he didn"t
want to be the boy everyone thought he was. He didn"t want to visit the principal"s
office anymore, and he needed your help.”
The thick ball in Sela"s stomach dropped, stealing away her breath. She
thought of all the times her friends and family members had tried to steer her clear
of Rome because of his reputation. She thought of all the hurt and anger he must
have felt knowing people had already condemned him at twelve.
“At first I thought he was trying to pull the wool over my eyes, but with each
word he spoke, I knew he was telling the truth. He wanted to change. Rome was
determined to be better than his father, and he knew you were the one partner who
wouldn"t take his crap and would demand he do his part. It wasn"t until years later
I realized just how wise that boy was. See, you were the one student in the class
who would force him to think. You were the one person who didn"t let his or his
family"s reputation color your actions.”

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And as much as Mrs. Marshall was telling her about Rome, she knew the older
woman was holding back. Sela looked her former teacher in the face. “Tell me
everything. Tell me all that you know.”
Mrs. Marshall sighed. “We"re going to have to make that dinner a working one,
then.”

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Chapter Fifteen

The melodic sound of Sela"s personalized ringtone sang through the air just as
a knock sounded at his door. Rome glanced at the large artistic clock on the wall
that backed his bed as he strode to the phone. He wondered if Sela"s lunch with her
family had finished early. God, he hoped so. With a smile he flipped the cellular
phone open and placed it to his ear. “Hello, Cupcake.”
“Hi,” Sela breathed out almost shyly in response. He immediately realized she
wasn"t alone.
“What are you wearing?”
She chuckled. “Are we still on for tonight?”
His smile widened. She was trying to evade his question. Thankfully, he was a
very determined man. “Are you wearing panties?”
“What kind of girl would I be if I didn"t wear…panties?” Rome got the distinct
impression she had darted a look around her before finishing her sentence. His
smile got wider.
“You"d be my girl then.” He licked his lips. “So?”
She laughed. “I hate to disappoint you, but I am wearing underwear.”
“Damn, we"re just going to have to correct that the moment you get here.”
“Really?” she purred in that seductive tone that told him she was getting
aroused. He immediately pictured her face flush with desire, her body quivering
with need. Tonight suddenly seemed too far away.
The individual at his suite door knocked again, this time more insistently.
Rome had forgotten there was someone at his door the moment he"d picked up the
phone. “Give me a moment, Cupcake.” Rome lowered the phone and opened the
door.
“Damn,” he cursed softly but savagely when he saw who was standing on the
other side of his door. He lifted the cellular phone to his ear. “Got to go, Sela. I"ll
talk to you later.”
“Sure. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything is fine. I"ll see you tonight.”
“Okay, I"ll see you later.”
“Good-bye, love.” He hung up the phone and gave his undivided attention to
the young man in front of him. “Hi, Turin. What are you doing here? Is everything

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okay?” Then Rome noticed the suitcase the younger Vicenza held. “I see you
changed your mind.”
“He changed it for me.” Turin took a step forward, moving deeper into the
light. Rome sucked in a deep breath at what he saw. Someone had taken his anger
out on Turin"s face. His eye was swollen and bruised. The color of the flesh was
already changing, attesting to the fact that he was hit days ago. “What the hell
happened?”
Turin shrugged. The move was deceptively nonchalant. It angered Rome that
he could be so complacent about his own abuse.
“What happened?”
Turin lifted his gaze. “He wanted to know where Mom was. I told him I didn"t
know. Then he wanted to know where you were staying. I told him to go to hell.” He
looked to the side. “I was going to go straight to Mom"s, but I didn"t have enough bus
money.”
Shit! He"d wanted to protect Turin from his father"s anger, but he did the very
opposite. His presence put Turin in harm"s way. Rome pushed back the acid that
rose up his throat at the realization. It also hurt to know Turin was only here
because he didn"t have enough cash to make it to Mary Beth"s on his own. He
reached for the suitcases Turin held. He wanted to reach for the teenager but knew
better than that. There was too much between them, a past he couldn"t ignore,
memories he could not erase, no matter how much he wanted.
It didn"t help things that his father had taken his fists to the boy"s face.
Tension coiled Turin"s lithe frame. He reminded Rome all too vividly of a caged,
angry dog. He was just waiting for the right moment to strike. Any attempt to
comfort Turin would be seen as that moment.
As he held the luggage, he looked over his brother. The black eye was the least
of it. Turin"s right cheek was bruised with an angry red blotch, and his lip was
busted. The wrinkled dress shirt Turin wore was only partially buttoned. Across his
exposed chest, Rome saw the beginnings of a number of hefty bruises.
Tony had done a real number on him.
The man had been probably been both drunk and enraged. Not a good
combination on the best of days. Any conversation that included Rome"s name put
Anthony in the worst of moods. “You should have just told him where I was staying.
You know damned well I could handle him.”
Turin gave him a jagged smile. “And ruin my fun?”
Rome stepped into the room and held the door open. Turin trudged in slowly.
Rome grimaced when he saw just how poorly his brother moved. If he remembered
his father right, the man tended to aim for the body. He only hit the face when he
was truly incensed. By that time you gave up trying to protect yourself.
Turin had taken one hell of a beating.
All because of him.

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He was going to get Turin taken care of, and then he was going after that
bastard. Tony had taken things too far this time, beating on his son because Turin
wouldn"t answer him.
“You got any grub around here?”
Rome grabbed onto the conversation like it was a lifeline. “No,” Rome
admitted. “But I can order some room service.” He picked up the menu and handed
it to his brother. “Just let me know what you want.”
Turin opened it. His eyes widened at the prices. “Don"t worry about the price.
Just tell me what you want to eat.” Rome was happy to feed his brother and
wouldn"t blink at the cost. The teen had a hard day and a good meal would go a long
way to making him feel better.
“Uh, can I get the meatloaf and mashed potatoes?” He blushed. “And, a slice of
cake.”
Rome grinned widely. “Still got that sweet tooth, huh? Yeah, coming right up.”
He called, made the order, and also asked for a bag of ice or a cold pack for Turin.
“The lady said the food should be up in less than fifteen minutes.”
“Great, I"m starved,” Turin admitted and rubbed his stomach.
“Didn"t you eat lunch?”
Turin shrugged. “Of course I ate, but I"m hungry now.”
Rome shook his head. Oh, to be young and a bottomless pit. “You can sit down.
No need to stay standing.”
“Yeah, okay.” He dropped down into the small sofa with a groan. Rome
grimaced at the sound. Turin was already feeling the aches from his beating. There
was no reason why he should have to endure that. If Rome had his way it wouldn"t
happen again.
They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes waiting for the food to
arrive. Well, Rome assumed his brother was waiting for his dinner. He was
planning his brother"s upcoming move. He was just trying to decide if it would be
best to send Turin to a private or public high school, when their order arrived. He
tipped the guy who delivered the food and helped his brother set his meal up. He
put the ice aside for when Turin finished. Then he sat back and let his sibling enjoy
his meal.
When Turin got to his slice of red velvet cake, he decided he couldn"t wait any
longer. As great as the interlude had been Rome couldn"t ignore the conversation
that needed to happen. “Am I right in assuming that you"re fed up with his shit?”
He looked at Turin, making sure to catch his gaze. “Turin, you need to file charges
of abuse before you leave with Mary Beth.”
“Mary Beth?” Turin questioned.
He shrugged. “Mom. I"ve always called her by her first name. Don"t know when
it started, but it stuck.”
“Yeah, sure,” he muttered. “So I"m going to live with Mom.”

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“Uh, yeah. Is there somewhere else you would rather stay?” Rome asked,
confused.
“What about you? Couldn"t I just stay with you?”
The last thing he expected was for Turin to want to stay with him. He figured
the boy would want to get as far away from him as possible. “I would love to take
you in, but it"s not safe.”
Turin lifted one dark eyebrow in disbelief. “It isn"t?”
Rome bristled at the look and tone and then forced himself to relax. The boy
went through hell the last few days. He had a reason to be belligerent. “No, Turin, it
isn"t. With you and Mary Beth gone, he"ll come after me. He lives to fight. He will
search me out.”
Turin shrugged. “So, he comes looking for you. That doesn"t mean he"ll find
you. New York is a big city, and something tells me that whatever posh place you"re
staying in isn"t going to let any angry drunk in.”
“True,” he said slowly. “I suppose you could stay with me when I return, but
I"m not going home immediately, Turin. I"ve still got…something to do here.”
Turin"s lips twisted into a bitter grin. “Or someone, right?” he drawled out.
“You and that Newton lady.”
“I really don"t think that"s any of your business.”
He smirked. “Uh-huh, which means I"m right. Everyone is talking about you
two. It"s not much of a secret.” Then he turned and lifted his gaze, until his blue
eyes bore into Rome"s. “You"re in town because of her. Ten years away, and pussy
brings you back home.”
“Watch it, Turin! I won"t have you talking about Sela like that!”
Turin ignored his mother and continued speaking. “Why? It"s the truth, isn"t
it? I mean the fact you came home for your reunion should have made things clear,
right? So don"t stand there and pretend to give a damn. You don"t care about what
happens to Mom or me. You never gave a shit! This is about your slut!”
Rome took a step toward his sibling, ready to make it clear to him just how
much he didn"t appreciate his words. A soft knock cut through the suite"s tense
atmosphere. Rome lifted his head in silent thanks. He"d been seconds away from
throttling his brother. Blood or no blood, no one talked about Sela that way. Nobody
called her a slut.
He cut his brother a warning glare before turning and striding toward the
door. With each step he took, he drank in a deep breath, determined to calm
himself. The last thing Rome wanted to become was a senseless bastard who took
his anger out on people smaller and weaker than himself.
He never wanted to become the man who had raised him.
The knock cut through the air, but it was harder, more demanding than
before. He looked at the door, then his family. The interruption offered him a break
from the heated conversation. He was thankful for it. “Let me see who"s at the door.

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I"ll be right back.” He opened the door and was surprised to see Sela there. He"d
forgotten all about their dinner plans.

Sela lifted her head and caught the look of anger and pain on Rome"s face
before he banished it. “Hey, are you all right?”
He gave her a tight smile. “I"m fine.”
“Uh-huh,” she murmured as she shuffled the small mountain of bags she held
in her hands. She picked up takeout like they agreed beforehand and it wasn"t a
small amount of food. She fully expected to work up a hunger burning up the sheets
with Rome.
“What are you doing here?”
She stilled. That was not the response she was expecting or hoping for. “You
forgot about our date.”
He looked at her sheepishly. “Look, Sela—”
Men! Really, I just spoke to him less than half an hour ago. How could he
forget? She cut him off. “Can we talk about this in your suite? I"m not particularly
fond of the idea of the whole floor hearing our conversation.”
He didn"t step aside. No, he ran a hand through his hair in irritation.
Combined with the look of displeasure and confusion, Sela was quickly losing her
patience.
“I get it. You forgot. I"m not mad—irritated but not mad. So, are you going to
let me in or not?” The truth was she wasn"t mad he forgot about their dinner plans.
Irritated and hurt? Yes, she was both of those. She didn"t like to think she was
easily forgettable, and that was the impression Rome was giving her at the moment.
Add to that, he wasn"t letting her into his suite so they could have this conversation
in private. Sela was not pleased.
She took a deep breath, relaxed the stranglehold she had on her patience, and
shifted the bags in her hands. “Look I got dinner like we agreed. Here, help me out,”
she said, determined not to blow this out of proportion. She stepped forward and
held out takeaway.
Almost mechanically Rome grabbed several paper bags. He hefted the vast
load onto one arm. “Can we reschedule?”
“Rome?”
Sela paused at the sound of someone calling his name. It sounded young and
male. She thought she was hearing things, so she ignored it. Then the voice called
again, this time more insistent, and it was followed by distinct noises of movement.
Someone was definitely in Rome"s suite. She couldn"t help thinking that he had
forgotten about their dinner plans and invited someone, a male friend over, to hang
out. Forgetting was one thing. Inviting someone over to chill was another thing.
Slowly she lifted her gaze to catch his. “Who is that?”
“Sela, it"s not how it looks.”

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“Then how is it?”
The distinct pause before he responded made her heart rate double. “Sela…”
She was going to be cool, calm, and collected if it killed her. “Yes, Rome?”
Face turning a deep red color, Rome sighed and ran his free hand through his
thick hair. Again. He was uncomfortable as hell. “It"s my brother.”
“Oh.”
For a moment Sela was too flabbergasted to register what he said. Then the
implications of his words settled. Family she could handle. “Okay, let me drop this
off, say hi, and then I"ll let you boys have your guy time.” The deafening lack of
response left her distinctly uncomfortable. “Rome, are you going to have me stand
out here or…” she asked, even though she already knew the answer.
He looked down at her imploringly. If she were a lesser, not quite so pissed-off
woman, Sela would have been moved by the look in his gorgeous eyes. He glanced
quickly behind him. “Can we reschedule?”
Sela barely stifled the urge to throttle Rome. His brother was in his suite, and
she was standing in the damned hallway like some throwaway groupie. She wasn"t
expecting to have dinner with his family, but a quick hello and introduction wasn"t
too much to ask for, right? Rome wanted them to be exclusive and gave her the
impression their relationship was more than just sex. Yet he wouldn"t let her catch
a glimpse of his brother. They grew up together and often spent days at her house
with her family. Yet, in all the years she knew him, she never got to formally meet
his family. She knew all about them—Brushwood was a small town, after all—but
this was her chance for a short introduction, and he was talking about rescheduling
a dinner date. He wasn"t serious, not about her. “Reschedule? Uh-huh. Okay.”
“Please, Sela…”
“That"s fine. I"ll see you around,” she replied, keeping all emotion out of her
voice as she took a step back. This was not the kind of relationship she was willing
to put her heart on the line for.
“Around? Where the hell is this coming from?”
“I"ll see you later,” she said, and started walking down the corridor. She wasn"t
able to take more than a few steps before Rome grabbed her wrist and pulled her to
a stop.
“You want to tell me why you went from zero to pissed off in five seconds?”
She glared at him. “Why don"t you want me to meet your brother? Are you
embarrassed to be with me? Or don"t you want Turin to meet your latest fuck
buddy?”
He sighed. “That"s not what this is about.”
Sela shook her head and reached for the bag of takeout in his hand. She was
officially through with Rome Vicenza. “I"m going home, Rome. Don"t call me.”
Sela only managed to take two steps before Rome grabbed her arm. He pulled
her back. “You don"t understand…but you will.”

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“Sela, this is Turin. Turin, this is Sela Newton,” he called before pulling her
into the suite. She blinked at the blue eyes staring at her in surprise. She
immediately understood why Rome hadn"t wanted to introduce her. Judging by the
bruising on Turin"s face and the tense atmosphere, he was in the middle of an
impromptu family meeting, and the topic of discussion wasn"t a pretty one.
“Hi,” she said awkwardly. Damn, this was what happened when she ranted off
at the mouth without thinking things through.
“Hi,” Turin said sullenly. He glanced at Rome standing beside her and then
strode across the room to hold out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Miss Newton.”
Rome took the other bags from her arms, leaving her free to clasp his hand.
“It"s nice to meet you too, Turin.”
The sight of the young Vicenza"s bruised face made her want to cry for his
pain. Then there was that angry, defiant look in his eyes. She had seen it so many
times, but always on Rome"s face.
She didn"t need to be told the source of the bruises. Anthony Vicenza was at it
again. With a small sad smile, she took a step back, toward the door. “Uh, Rome,
since you and your brother are busy, why don"t you call me later?”
He nodded in agreement and walked her to the door. She paused at the
entranceway and looked over her shoulder at Rome. “I"m sorry,” she said, unsure
what else to say, if words alone could convey just how apologetic she felt. He nodded
again, and the coldness of the action made her stomach drop. She did deserve it for
being such an ass.
“It"s fine, Sela. Don"t worry about it.” He grasped her left arm and pulled her
close. She found herself in Rome"s embrace. He pressed a light kiss to her forehead.
“I"ll call you, Sela. I promise,” he murmured before laying a swift kiss on her lips
and sending her away. She couldn"t help the smile that settled upon her mouth as
she walked down the hall. Maybe she wasn"t such a screwup.

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Chapter Sixteen

He was exhausted. Now that the day was almost over, Rome could admit it
damn near undid him. After saying good-bye to Sela, he and his brother continued
discussing where Turin was going to stay. Except it wasn"t much of a discussion.
Sela"s short presence seemed to ignite Turin"s already short fuse. He no longer
wanted to stay with Rome, claiming he didn"t want to interrupt his time with Sela,
though his words were a lot more crass. Everything went downhill from there. In
the end Turin walked out of the suite, suitcases in hand.
He did everything he could to smooth things over with Turin. He knew he
wasn"t to blame, but he couldn"t help feeling he was at fault. The moment he saw
his brother on his doorstep, he should have called Sela back and told her he"d meet
her later or canceled the dinner appointment. He knew from their meeting at
Haskin mansion that his brother was sensitive about her, but he hadn"t been
thinking. When it came to Sela, he reacted on autopilot more often than not.
He called Sela about an hour after his brother left. He was very glad to see
her. Things were a little tense between them, but when he asked her what was
wrong, she said nothing. He figured she would tell him when she was ready.
Sela. He knew nothing ever stayed the same. People constantly changed over
time, so he was more than a little surprised to find that he still felt the same about
Sela. He wanted her. There was no denying that. He"d desired her for years, during
and after high school. The last few years he"d ignored that need to the best of his
ability, telling himself it was just lust. He managed to partially convince himself
that when he saw her after so much time, he would discover that what he felt in
high school ended in high school. Then he had told himself that once he slept with
her, he would find the feelings were borne out of out physical need, not emotional
desire.
He was wrong both times.
Whether he liked it or not, Sela Newton was the one who got away.
He ran his hands over his face in frustration. “You are screwed, buddy,” he
murmured to himself. Then he turned on the faucet, placed his hands under the
cold water, and washed his face.
He had come into the bathroom to get a grip on his emotions. He wasn"t
getting a very good grip. With each moment that passed, Rome fell deeper under
Sela"s spell. He reached for the washcloth to dry his face. He heard Sela call his
name just as he placed it to his face.

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“Coming,” he responded as he placed the cloth back on the counter side rack.
Wearing only a clean pair of boxer briefs, he strode out of the bathroom and into the
middle of the suite.
He found her in the bedroom making the bed. “You do know there are maids
that do that.”
She froze before looking over her shoulder. “I know that. It just looked so
messy.” She shrugged.
“That"s what happens when two people spend the whole night in bed making
love.”
She straightened. “Making love?”
“Yes.” It was as close to an admittance as he was willing to give at the
moment. His gaze roamed over her. Earlier he had tried to convince Sela to go
without any clothing. She declined the offer. They reached a compromise. She wore
only her bra and panties.
Even that was way too much clothing. He wrapped his arms around her lush
waist and pulled her close. Deep satisfaction surged through him when Sela lifted
her head as he dipped his head.
One night and she was already attuned to him.
His hands moved down her back and slipped under the waistband of her
panties. She purred into his mouth when he teased the area where flesh met spine.
Rome took a step forward and pushed Sela forward. She fell onto the bed and he
slowly followed her down, determined not to crush her.
Sela broke off the kiss with a laugh. “I just made the bed.”
“Don"t worry about it.” He slid his legs between hers, enjoying the feel of her
silken skin against his.
“I"m not. You"re making it next.” She kissed him swiftly and rubbed her legs
against his. Rome wrapped his fingers around her nape and pulled her mouth to
his, needing something stronger than her quick kiss. His tongue delved past her lips
to tangle with hers, and he consumed the taste of her lips.
He could feel her body responding to his, giving into the rising desire that
heated the air between them. As their kiss became more demanding, Rome could
taste the surging need of his own desire as Sela responded back.
Rome wondered how he had ever lived without her kiss. The feel of her body
softening against his with passion. The potent allure of her limbs tangled around
his.
“Deal,” he murmured against her mouth. He managed to unsnap her bra. He
lifted it off Sela as she shrugged out of it. He watched it fall to the floor before
staring at her. Cock hard, he stared at her, savoring the sight of her topless body.
Sela had beautiful breasts. They were heavy, full, and high with dark areolae
and even darker nipples. He cupped one heavy orb in his hand and lifted it to lips.

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His eyes raked over her face, memorizing the sight of her sweet pleasure, before
they closed and he wrapped his lips around her nipple.
The taste of Sela"s flesh burst through him immediately. She was so
distinctive, so unique, and so tantalizing Rome knew he would never get enough of
her.
For her, he would always hunger.
He suckled Sela"s nipple more earnestly, pushing the tip deeper into his
mouth. She bowed her back and clung to his shoulders, digging her small fingers
into the tense muscles as she moaned his name. Power and pleasure like none he"d
ever felt before coursed through him. Needing to draw out the moment, Rome
released her breasts only to trace the dark outline of her nipples with his tongue.
“Hmmm,” Sela sighed.
He lapped his way up to her collarbone and suckled the fragrant flesh he found
there. Finally, when he could no longer ignore his own hunger for her, Rome
returned to her nipple and suckled the right bud, while his fingers slowly, very
slowly rolled the left mound. He toyed with her breaths until Sela gasped his name,
begging for mercy.
Rome had never seen anything more beautiful than Sela mindless from the
pleasure he gave her.
He turned his head and gave her other breast the same attention, licking the
areola, sucking on the nipple, and pushing the full tip of the orb into the mouth
while he tugged on her wet right nipple.
“God, I need you,” she cried out as she rocked her covered sheath against his
abdomen.
Needing more of her sweet lips, Rome lifted his head and captured her mouth.
Sela kissed him back, deepening the fervor of the kiss as she stroked her tongue
over his. All too quickly Rome felt the kiss burning out of control. Pushing his
fingers into Sela"s thick hair, Rome took control of the kiss, slowing her pace and
fitting their mouths more snugly together. He wanted them to take things a little
more slowly. Rome wanted to enjoy the journey to their climax.
Keeping her upper body pressed against his chest, he rotated her hips more
fully onto the bed. He bent her knee, then guided her foot up and back, draping her
leg over his. She made a sound, part whimper and part moan, as he eased his hand
between her thighs.
She was so hot, so wet, she damn near singed his fingers. No woman had ever
responded to his touch as Sela did. The fact could easily go to a man"s head.
He slipped two fingers into her sheath and was rewarded with a groan of
sensual bliss. “Hmmm…yes.”
He worked his thumb between the puffy lips of her cunt until it pressed
against the bud at the apex of her sex. He massaged her clitoris as he pumped his
fingers in and out of her sheath.

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She lifted her chest and took a deep breath before letting it out in a gasp.
“Rome?”
His belly muscles tightened with need at the soft, throaty sound of his name.
He had come to understand that voice very well in the last few hours.
Sela wanted him inside her. And he had never been the kind of man to leave a
woman in need.
He reached across the bed and grabbed the box of condoms sitting on the
bedside table. He dumped the whole box onto the counter and reached for one of the
silver foils. Half the box had already been used during the night. He grinned before
tearing open the one in his hand. He would have to stop by the corner drugstore and
restock soon.
Rome started to fit the protection over his cock when Sela reached out and
grasped his hand. “No, let me,” she murmured softly, giving him that slow, sultry
smile that always made his heart skip a beat.
Beautiful.
He leaned on his haunches and gave her reign. They had been through this
before. It got no less difficult to give her control. And then there was the pleasure of
her touch. Every glide, every caress, every feathering brush of her fingers set his
blood on fire.
By the time Sela released his heavy length, Rome wasn"t sure how long he
would last between her thighs. Her simple touches had already pushed him to the
breaking point.
She lay back and looked up at him. “Now come to me, big boy,” she said with a
smirk.
“Damn, you"re dangerous,” he said with a laugh before kissing her. That was
one of the things he enjoyed the most about Sela. Even in the most heated
situations, she retained her humor.
But more than that, he enjoyed the way she made him feel.
The laughter turned into a groan when he pressed his mouth to hers and found
her lips parted. He thrust his tongue into her mouth as he surged past the tight
muscles of her sex. They groaned in unison when he was balls-deep inside her
pussy.
Rome leaned his forehead against Sela"s and took several breaths. He had
spent the night with her, should have been used to the effects of their lovemaking,
or at the very least not blindsided by it.
But he was.
Once he got a hold of his emotions, he lifted off Sela"s chest and withdrew from
her sheath. She moaned his name and ran her fingers down his arms in
disagreement.
“I know, sweetheart,” he whispered before thrusting back into her. She gasped
when his cock surged past the rhythmically clenching muscles of her sex to fill her.

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“Yes…just like that. Slow…and…deep.”
Rome punctured the last three words of Sela"s breathy statement with a
withdraw, thrust, and withdraw.
The sight of her smile of pleasure shone in the brightly lit room as she lifted
her hands to pull him closer. He lowered his head, allowing her arms to drape
around his neck. Rome found himself looking deep into her soulful brown eyes as he
loved her.
The closeness he felt as he thrust between her thighs doubled his pleasure.
“You feel so good,” he groaned as he surged into her sheath, sliding past tightly
clenching muscles, teasing her flesh with every stroke.
“Good,” she sighed in agreement as she wrapped her arms around his neck and
pulled him closer. “So good,” she purred.
Rome closed his eyes and loved Sela harder, pounding into her with all he had,
using the years of desire he had felt to power his actions.
Sela clawed at him, running her nails down his back, and whispered breathy
pleas of need into his ears. Every sound, every whisper spurred him on until he felt
as though fire licked through his veins.
Sweat beaded his back and clung to her silky skin. With every stroke Sela"s
hard nipples moved across his chest, teasing the flesh. The simple touch shouldn"t
have been much, but it highlighted the closeness of their bodies. It wasn"t the first
time he had been with Sela. They had spent the last two nights together, but each
time they came together, the sex got better.
More intense.
Impossibly more satisfying.
“Now, Sela. Now!” he grunted the words as the pleasure began to be too much,
and he felt his whole body tighten with the pending release. His balls ached with
the need to find satisfaction, but he wanted—no, needed—Sela to come with him.
“Oh Lord, yes! Rome, I"m coming,” she called out as the tremors rocked her
body. Rome could feel her orgasm as her sheath milked his cock, tightening and
caressing his turgid length until he could no longer ignore the allure of satisfaction.
“Sela,” he groaned and pumped himself into her, spilling his release.
For several moments Rome was so shocked by the strength of his orgasm, he
couldn"t move. Once he had collected himself, Rome looked down and whispered into
Sela"s ear, “Aren"t I crushing you?” He pulled back to see her reaction to his
question.
She looked up at him and grinned. Her eyes were bright with sexual bliss. “I
kind of enjoy the weight.”
He smiled and put the full force of his body on hers. Sela groaned and then
laughed. “Okay. I"ll say uncle. You win.”
He rolled them over until he was on the bottom. “God, you"re good,” Sela
murmured into his mouth. He growled her name when Sela rocked her hips and

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rubbed her nipples against his chest. His cock stirred to life between them, jerking
hard against her stomach.
Rome smiled against her sweet mouth as his cock epitomized how he felt.
He might have been good, but being with her was a thousand times better. He
kissed her hard, swiftly, possessively on the mouth, with the growing passion he felt
as he maneuvered them onto their sides. He moved his hands all over her body.
Memorizing her shoulders, tracing the line of her spine. Cupping the fullness of her
bottom.
He broke off the kiss. “Want to try something?” he whispered into ear. She
looked at him with wicked mischief in her soulful brown eyes.
“What is this something?” she purred as she ran her hands down her back.
“Turn around, Cupcake.”
One midnight eyebrow lifted in question. “Trust me.”
She gave him a smoky smile. “I always trust you, Rome.” Then she turned over
as he had asked. Rome grasped her thighs and lifted her hips into the air so she was
on all fours. She shrieked at his actions. “Give me warning, will you?”
He leaned forward and nuzzled her neck. “What, and ruin my excitement?”
Then he lifted her hair and stroked the back of her neck with his tongue. He
caught the sensitive flesh between his teeth and sucked. She shivered and gasped,
her sweetly rounded ass driving him crazy. He licked his way to the curve of her
bottom and paid particular attention to the small of her back. Sela made the most
delicious sounds when he kissed her there.
Sounds he found himself addicted to.
He gripped her bottom and parted her cheeks. Sela stilled. He waited for her
response. He didn"t have to wait long. She glanced over her shoulder and looked at
him in confusion. “Rome?”
“No one"s ever taken you there?”
She licked her lips slowly. “No,” she breathed out in a shaky whisper.
One hand moved over her hip and across her waist to cup her sex. “Relax, Sela.
We don"t have to go there tonight.”
She turned around without responding. Rome felt the blood in his ears roar as
he realized that Sela hadn"t told him they were never going there. If he worked
things right, he might be able to go where no man had gone before.
It surprised Rome how badly he wanted to be the first man to give Sela the
experience.
The only man, his mind whispered. Immediately Rome shook off the feeling of
possessiveness. He could not feel such things for Sela. She was not his to own.
Not yet at least.
“Do you like that, Cupcake?” he murmured into her ear as he fingered her sex.
Sela nodded and shivered beneath Rome as he ran his fingers up and down the

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puffy lips of her sheath, making sure to tease her clitoris with each glide. As he
moved his fingers over her clit, Rome slowly palmed his cock, never stopping the
torturous movement even though it felt like he was playing with fire. He felt like he
had reached the end of his self-control, and each stroke of his hand pushed him
closer to edge, but he wanted Sela nice and wet before he thrust into her sheath.
“Now, Rome. Now!” she growled and pushed her hips back, slamming her
bottom against him. The feel of her ass moving over his groin was too much. Rome
picked up another packet, tore it open and quickly sheathed himself before he
grabbed her hips, fitted his cock to her pussy, and thrust into Sela in one stroke.
She shrieked, “Oh my God,” and grabbed one of the pillows that lay in front of
her. For a moment his mind was clear enough to wonder what she was doing with
the pillow. But then she moved forward, pulling his length from her sheath. The
forced withdraw until only the swollen head of his cock was inside her sluiced
through him. He almost staggered at the pleasure. Instead Rome gripped her hips
more tightly and thrust forward. At the same time Sela shoved the pillow under her
knees, lifting her body.
Her new height allowed him to touch her more intimately. She screamed as he
stroked past the tight muscles of her sex to touch her deeply.
“Shit! Yes, that"s it. That"s it. Oh Lord. Don"t stop.”
Rome grabbed Sela"s hips and pulled them back to meet his every thrust. She
moaned and grunted beneath him, spurring him on with every voiced need. He had
never heard anything so seductive before.
But he never allowed it to push him beyond his place of control. As much as
Sela enjoyed the hard loving, Rome knew she would not like the darker part of
himself. He locked that part of himself away as he plunged deep into Sela"s pussy.
He worked his hand between her thighs and pinched her clit. She came instantly,
screaming into the bed"s soaked sheets as a shudder worked her body and shook her
sex. The waves of her release caressed his cock, coaxing it into an orgasm. The
siren"s call of Sela"s satisfaction was too seductive to ignore. Rome grunted her
name and jerked into her one last time before spilling his seed.
“My God,” Sela whispered in awe as Rome pulled her close, rolling their
sweaty bodies so that she lay across his chest. Despite his recent release, his cock
jerked between their bodies. Sela stared at him in surprise.
Why, he wasn"t sure. Over the last few days, Rome had found he could bounce
back from the most intense orgasms really quickly when there was even a hint of
another round with Sela.
He rolled her unto her back and reached for the dwindling pile of condoms on
top of the nightstand. “No, I don"t think I can take any more,” she groaned against
his chest even as she ran her hands down his back and over his ass.
Rome smiled into her hair at her contradictory actions. He loved the fact that
he made her respond in such a way.

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She reached up and grabbed the condom from his hand. Hot need settled in his
stomach before making its way south to his groin. He loved it when she sheathed
him. Sela always made it a game that left him panting with the need to be inside
her.
Just when he thought she was going to tear the foil open, a slight rumble
stirred between them. Rome looked down into Sela"s smirking face and lowered to
her belly. It grumbled again. He tried to think of the last time she"d eaten and
couldn"t remember. It felt like they had been going at it for days. So he asked her,
“When did you last eat?”
She smiled, her eyes alight with carnal hunger. “Actual food?” she murmured.
The throaty sound of her velvety voice brought to mind images of her going down on
him. She had covered his cock in whipped cream and licked it clean before sucking
him off.
Damn, she was something!
He mentally slapped himself. Focus, man. Focus! “Seriously, Sela, what was
the last thing you ate?”
She sighed, obviously realizing he wasn"t going to be distracted by her
sensuality. “I don"t remember. I"ve kind of been preoccupied.”
He had been starving her, feeding his own hunger for her body, without giving
her anything. Rome realized then how hard he had been riding her, figuratively
speaking. When he had called for room service, it was because their sexual games
were missing an ingredient, not because he"d been thinking of feeding.
Or himself for that matter. Rome realized he too was hungry.
He rolled over and picked up the phone. “What do you want?”
She counted off a list of items that made him wonder if she was still a growing
teenage girl. Apparently his surprise was evident, because she finished with,
“What? Don"t act like I haven"t earned it, Rome.”
He smiled and kissed her softly. “The lady has a point,” he whispered before
pulling away. He quickly ordered double what she had requested. When he hung up
the phone, she was watching him with soft eyes. He reached for her and wrapped
his fingers around her nape, pulling her close. “Don"t look at me like that, or we"ll
never make it to lunch,” he growled before kissing her swiftly.
She laughed and smacked his hand away. “None of that. I"m running on
reserves here. We keep this up, and I won"t have to stick to my summer diet.”
He glanced pointedly at her luscious curves. “You stop eating, and I"ll have to
smack that glorious ass of yours.”
She stuck out her tongue and grabbed the television remote. He stared at it in
surprise. He had never put it on. “What do you want to watch?” Sela asked as she
snuggled up to him. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer. “I don"t
really care,” he replied.
She turned her head and kissed his shoulder. “Now that"s my kind of man.”

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He found himself regretting his statement when Sela stopped on Animal
Planet. Apparently they were doing a very boring program on the blue whale. Sela
was enamored. Twenty minutes later he felt like an ogre because he was
considering spearing whales just so the show would end. Thankfully, room service
arrived then. “Don"t worry. I"ll get it,” he told Sela when she started to get off the
bed. He nodded toward the television. “Please turn that off,” he told her as he
donned a robe.
She gave him a smug smile. “I thought you said you didn"t really care.”
“I don"t,” he replied. “I just prefer to talk to you while we eat rather than sit in
silence and watch that.”
“Good answer,” she said before pressing the Power button.
He tipped their waiter and fairly shoved the man out before returning to the
bedroom. He pushed the cart before him. Sela"s eyes widened when she saw it.
“That"s a lot.”
“It"s a good thing we"re both very hungry.”
They ate, talking of the many of the changes they had noticed in Brushwood
over the years. Over the last few days, they had already gotten caught up on each
other"s lives. Brushwood was the only thing left to talk about.
“The Founders" Day picnic is in a few days.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I know. I try and miss it most years since I"m
obligated to go and would rather not, but there will be no avoiding it this year.”
“We should go together.”
She stilled and lifted her gaze, reminding him of a small animal that had been
spooked. “I"m not so sure that"s a good idea,” she muttered after a moment.
Rome"s fingers tightened around the fork he held in anger. The moment he
realized what he was doing, he breathed deeply and focused on the woman to the
side of him. “Why not?”
She shrugged. “I just don"t think it"s a good idea.”
“Why?” he gritted out through his teeth. Sela moved closer to him and
shimmied her hips.
“You know why,” she whispered in a breathless voice that despite his best
intentions caught his cock"s attention. He held his plate and stood. Rome was
halfway to the door when Sela called out. “Is there something wrong?”
He turned and leaned against the wall. “Why don"t you want to be seen around
town with me?”
She blinked at him. “I can not believe you, of all people, are asking me that
question.”
Rome stilled. “What are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I"m talking about!” Sela yelled as she threw the
bedcovers off her and stood.

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“No…I…don"t.”
Sela"s face twisted in anger, and Rome felt his stomach drop. “You, officially,
are an asshole.”
“Damn it, woman. What the hell is wrong with you?”
She strode across the room and grabbed her jacket. He ran after her and
grabbed her arm just before she jammed it into her coat. “You can"t keep running
from me, Sela.”
She laughed harshly, lifted her head, and held his gaze. “I"m not the one
running, Rome. You are.” She said the words simply, coldly, with no inflection in
her tone, as though she was emotionless, before jerking her arm out of his grip. “I
get it. We"re fucking. We"re not dating. I pretty much had to force you to introduce
me to your brother.” She laughed, and it was filled with so much pain, his heart
ached for her. “Of course, I made a fool of myself then.”
Rome stood rooted to the spot, surprised by the amount of anger and pain he"d
glimpsed swirling in her heavenly gaze.
He hadn"t introduced Sela, because he had been struggling with his family"s
issues. Sela thought he was ashamed of her, or worse, using her to satisfy some
twisted need. The shuddering sound of the door slamming snapped him out of his
thoughts. He ran out of the room to find Sela striding quickly down the hall to reach
the elevators. He jogged after her. She glanced over her shoulder and slammed her
palm against the button to request the elevator. The sound of its chime seemed to
echo through his skull. Still holding his gaze, Sela stepped unto the elevator. He
reached it just as the doors closed.
“Damn it, Sela!” he growled before turning and marching to the stairs. Rome
took them two, sometimes three at a time in order to outpace the hotel"s elevator.
Gasping for breath he pushed open the exit door to reach the back of the hotel. He
started to head to the front of the building when he realized that the last thing Sela
would want to do was risk the chance of seeing someone she knew. He ran to the
south exit and found her leaning her against the brick wall of the nearby alley.
He stopped in the mouth of the alley unsure what to say. Sela took it out of his
hands. She turned, eyes red and slatted in rage. Heels clicking, she marched over to
him.
“You can"t keep doing this to me! Its not fair, damn it…it"s not fair to me.”
His heart ached for the pain he saw and the deeper pain he knew she felt. “Tell
me what I"m doing wrong, what I"m doing to hurt you, and I"ll stop.” He reached out
to brush his fingers against her cheek. She snapped back as though she feared he
would slap her.
Rome had never felt so small in his whole life.
“What are you doing wrong?” She chuckled and gave him her back. “Stop
pretending to care. Stop pretending this thing can work between us. Stop
pretending this is more than a week of great sex.” With every hard word Sela spoke,
she took a step away from him.

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“You know I can"t do that, Cupcake.”
“Don"t call me that!”
He strode over to Sela, grabbed her shoulders, and forced her to face him.
“Why? Because it reminds you that what is going on between us is more than just
sex, more than a few nights of fucking? Look, Sela, about earlier, I would love to
properly introduce you to my family, have a dinner, long conversation, the whole
deal. I just wasn"t thinking. I was so concerned about Turin and getting him out of
that house that when you showed up, my brain short-circuited. I"m not ashamed to
be with you, and I wasn"t hiding you from my family.”
She groaned. “God damn it. I feel so stupid. Sometimes I really hate you, hate
the way you make me feel!” she spit out as she tried to break his hold.
“No, you don"t, Cupcake. That"s what makes this thing between us so hard.
That"s why you"re still hurt about what happened that night.” Rome whispered the
words as he lowered his head. He meant to brush his lips tenderly against hers, but
there was nothing tender about Sela"s response.
She pushed hard at his shoulders. For a moment Rome was caught off guard
and stumbled back. “I don"t know what night you"re talking about,” Sela muttered
as she tried to walk away from him.
Rome instinctively reached out and grabbed her hand. “Stop running from me,
Cupcake,” he growled out as he tried to pull her back.
“I said…don"t call me that. I"m not your Cupcake,” Sela screamed as she tried
to fight his hold.
Glancing behind him, he saw the back wall of the hotel. Despite her struggles,
Rome managed to pull her closer to him, closer to the wall. He turned forward just
as Sela pushed him a second time. The emotions he had been trying to keep at bay
broke free at her harsh touch.
Rome grabbed her around the waist and lifted her hard against his chest. She
stared at him in surprise. He gave her what he knew was a hard grin as he turned
around and stepped forward. Sela snapped out of her frozen shock when she felt the
brick against her back.
He lowered his head. Just as his lips were going to brush against hers, Sela
lifted her head and stared into his eyes. “Don"t…you…dare,” she gritted out through
clenched teeth.
Rome moved his lower body closer to hers until his cock was nestled between
her thighs. Holding her gaze he lowered one hand and slipped it beneath her coat.
He quickly undid several buttons. Sela hadn"t bothered to get dressed before
running out of his hotel room. Besides the coat, she only wore her bra and panties.
He rolled his hips forward and watched Sela"s eyes darken with desire when
the swollen length of his cock brushed against her satin-covered sheath.
Rome lifted one hand and threaded his fingers through her thick hair. He
tightened his grip slightly, just enough to force her head up. “You will join me on

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that picnic. We will act like the couple we are, and you will stop fighting me every
step of the way.”
She breathed deeply before her eyes tightened in disbelief. “You want to give
me one reason why I"m going to do any of those things?”
The fingers gripping her thigh tightened, and he leaned his forehead against
hers. The loud, harsh sound of his breathing was the only sound between them for
several moments. It was the symphony to match their emotions.
“I want you to know I had every intention of introducing you to my family.” He
paused. “I"ve dreamed of the moment I could introduce you to my mother, but I
never wanted you to enter the home I grew up in. I never wanted you to see that.”
He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. “We"re going to go to the
Brushwood Family Picnic together because I want every man and woman on earth
to know I belong to you and you belong to me. I want both our families to know that
we"re in this for the long run.”

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Chapter Seventeen

Sela"s watched the slow descent of Rome"s face. Inside she was warring with
herself, trying to decide if she wanted to let go of the turbulent emotions she felt
inside. His words had been touching. And then Rome kissed her, softly, tenderly, as
though she was the most precious thing in the world, and Sela found her anger
metamorphose into potent desire. Actions speak so much louder than words, she
thought as Rome"s lips moved over hers, teasing, tempting, and teaching.
Teaching her just how much she meant to him.
“Damn,” Sela groaned as she felt her anger dissipate like smoke in a storm in
the face of Rome"s desire. The thought sliced through her mind as she thrust her
hand between their writhing bodies. They were both trying desperately to get at the
other person. Him, trying to get her fully undressed. She was dying to release him
so she could stroke that long, thick cock of his.
Victory! She laughed softly into his mouth as she slipped her fingers into his
pants and wrapped them around his shaft. She palmed it from root to tip twice,
milking a drop of precum from the turgid head.
“Stop.” Rome growled the word through clenched teeth.
She ignored him and tightened her grip.
Long, determined fingers wrapped around her wrists and lifted her hands high
into the air. She found hard, passion-darkened eyes staring down at her. “I said
stop, Cupcake.”
“Make me.” She bit the words out without thinking. Almost the moment they
were out of her mouth, she regretted them. She was playing with a dangerous man.
Looking into Rome"s eyes she knew he had reached the breaking point of his control.
And her challenge was pushing him past that point.
He glared at her, his handsome face hard with desire. She understood then
that this what she had been missing. This raw, raging need had been missing from
their lovemaking. It wasn"t until then that Sela realized Rome had been loving with
her with kid gloves. As though she was something too delicate that he didn"t want to
break.
He still thought of her as the privileged town sweetheart he could never truly
get to know. Even as a teen she"d known there was something lacking in their
friendship. No matter how close she had thought their relationship was, Sela knew
Rome distanced himself from her.

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But this time, for once, she was determined to see every facet of Rome. She
wanted to be treated as his equal. She lifted her head and brushed her mouth
against his jaw. The rough stubble of his five o"clock shadow tickled her lips. Her
sheath clenched with hunger at the foreign feeling. He"d always been clean shaven
with her. And there had been so few before him.
“I said make me, damn you.” She growled the words against his parted lips
before memorizing the shape of his mouth with her tongue. Sela managed to trace
both his lips before he responded.
He pulled away from her, taking a step back. Sela felt the simple movement
deep in her soul. Once again Rome was placing distance between them. Hands still
held in his, she used the one weapon she had left. Her words didn"t work; she hoped
a combination of her body and her voice would drive him insane.
Sela lifted her hips, pressing her pelvis against the distinctive bulge between
Rome"s thighs. She groaned at the feel of heat that seemed to emanate from him.
“What"s wrong, Rome? Don"t think you"re man enough to make me?” she purred as
she rubbed against him.
“Stop it.”
His hands released her wrists to tangle in her hair. His fingers bit almost
painfully into her scalp, but she relished the slight pain. It let her know just how
close to the edge Rome was.
Just how far she had pushed him.
He lowered his head until his lips were a breath away from hers. And waited.
The air between them pulsed with the power of their dangerous hungers. Just when
Sela thought her heart couldn"t take the wait, Rome pressed his lips to hers. She
sighed his name at the first feel of his mouth moving against hers.
The kiss was unlike any he"d ever shared with her before. And she knew
instinctively that it was one he had never given another woman.
Just me, she thought as she parted her lips for his kiss.
His warm, agile tongue darted into her wet cavern of her mouth, teasing more
than just her tongue. Sela"s whole body was affected by the kiss. Her pussy
moistened, her nipples pebbled, and her belly muscles clenched with every stroke.
He slanted his mouth over hers, increasing the hungry pressure of his kiss
until she was drowning in it. Consumed by the taste of his lips. Sweet heat moved
through her as his tongue flickered over hers, touching, tasting and tangling with
hers as though he could never get enough.
Her hands moved down his body as she kissed him back with all that she had.
Her fingers danced down the chiseled lines of his chest, over the ridges of his
washboard stomach until they reached they reached the thick black hair that
surrounded his length.
Rome grunted into their kiss when she wrapped her fingers around the thick
root of his cock and wrenched his mouth from hers. Sela cried out, feeling bereft at
his departure.

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“Damn it, Sela. Stop this. You don"t want this. You can"t—not when I"m like
this.” His voice was rough with desire, thick with need.
Something snapped inside Sela at the hungry tone. Yet he was telling her to
stop. Telling her she didn"t want this. Want him.
But she did. She wanted Rome like she"d never wanted another man before.
And that was the problem. With Rome there had always been a barrier. As much as
he desired her, he kept her away.
Sela flicked her thumb over the swollen head of his cock and smiled with
savage satisfaction when Rome groaned her name.
She had never been so determined in her life. Sela wanted to push Rome past
that breaking point he had always toed but never crossed, so he would hide himself
from her.
Sela knew that then and only then would Rome give her all of his affection. All
of his desire. All of his love.
And she needed his love. Craved it more than she"d wanted anything before. If
he gave her that, she would forgive all of his transgressions, forget that he had ever
left her, and focus on the unyielding love that was between them.
“Please, Sela.” His fingers caressed the back of her neck, eliciting a deep
shudder from her. She lifted her head and stared into the liquid green pools of his
eyes. They shimmered with potent desire and dangerous need. She thumbed his
cockhead again and watched in awe as his lashes lowered and a heavy groan was
torn from his lips. “Fuck!”
“Let me in, Rome. Stop hiding from me.”
His eyes snapped open and his fingers wrapped around her wrist. She stared
into his darkened eyes. The look in his eyes told Sela she was messing with fire and
about to get burned. But she refused to back down. She"d come too far emotionally
to turn tail and run. “Let me in, Rome. Or lose me. Forever.”
He held her gaze. “You don"t know what you"re asking for, Sela.”
A little part of her breathed easier at his statement. The very fact that he was
admitting there was something holding him back gave her hope. “Yes, I do, Rome.
I"m asking for you. All of you. All of the man I love.”
His eyes searched hers, looking for the lie in her words. He wasn"t going to find
any. She loved him. Suspected she had fallen back in love with him in April"s closet,
because she hadn"t been able to think about anything but him since then.
“You asked for it.” Rome parted her jacket, and his slightly roughened,
callused hands moved down her torso, over the full cups of her breasts, down the
soft valley of her stomach before returning north. He cupped her breasts and
massaged the orbs, paying particular attention to her areolae and nipples. Sela
groaned her pleasure when he lifted both breasts and flicked their nipples at the
same time. “Louder,” he growled and repeated the caress.
Burning heat consumed her, filled her face as she did as he asked, voicing her
satisfaction in ringing tones.

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When Rome flicked her nipples a third time, Sela wondered if it had been so
smart pushing a man who had loved her so well before to this point. And then he
tugged on the turgid buds. Her momentary concern disappeared immediately.
His touch was harsher, more determined than anything he"d every shown her
before. Looking into her eyes, he teased her nipples. He fingered the full length of
the buds, from root to tip. His touch was harder, but not too hard. It only added to
the pleasurable feel of having his hands on her scorched skin.
Sela lifted her body, trying desperately to get closer to his decadent touch,
closer to the satisfaction Rome"s hands promised. But before she could coax him into
giving her what she desperately wanted, Rome"s hands left her breasts, moved down
her chest, over her belly before snaking their way between her thighs.
She purred his name. He had given her something infinitely better. Sela lifted
her had and grasped his nape just as he thrust one finger into her sex. She gasped
and tightened her grip as he lifted his gaze. He looked into her eyes as he worked
her pussy. “Is this what you wanted, Sela?” he rasped out.
Sela shook her head. “No, give me more. I meant what I said, Rome. I want all
of you.”
She felt the hand in her hair shake as he lowered his lashes. Sela held her
breath, waiting for his reaction. Hoping he wouldn"t decide that she had pushed him
too far. And then he opened her eyes and looked right at her, showing the true
depth of fiery need that burned for her.
“Yes, Rome,” she cried out as she lifted one leg and fitted it to his slim hips. “I
want everything.”
“And you"ll get everything,” he growled. He withdrew his finger only to thrust
two into her sheath. Sela closed her eyes as pleasure unlike anything she had ever
felt before washed through her. She"d felt Rome"s passion earlier, but nothing like
this. He pulled his fingers out only to plunge them back in, eliciting a cry from her
lips.
“I want you to scream for me, Sela.” He breathed the words into her ear before
capturing her open mouth and thrusting his tongue past her parted lips. The dual
penetration of his tongue and fingers felt so good, touched her so deeply, Sela could
do nothing more than bask in the pleasure. She licked his lips and kissed him back
as his fingers surged in and out of her sheath.
Her fingers gripped his back, dipped low, and wrapped around until they
reached the area above his buttons before traveling north to cling to the strong
muscles of his shoulders. Sela held on to Rome so tightly she knew he would have
marks from her come morning. But she didn"t care. She needed some kind of
grounding in the maelstrom of desire she had placed herself in. And Rome provided
that security. She knew he would see her through the night.
And guarantee that she was fully satisfied by the end.
“I want you to come for me, Sela. Come.”

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She jerked her head up and down in agreement as she rocked her hips to meet
his thrusts. She was doing to come, all right. She could feel the tightness weave its
way through her cunt. Every inch of her seemed to be focused on the man before
her. “Yes,” she agreed in a shaky breath. “Just don"t stop. Don"t stop.”
There was a fire burning inside her, but it had yet to reach the critical point.
Rome was the only man to push her to that ledge.
“That"s it, Cupcake. Come for me. Show me just how beautiful you can be.”
For him and only him. Although Rome didn"t say the words, Sela knew she
could only feel this free, this alive…this loved with him. She closed her eyes and
opened her mouth as waves of pleasure rocked her body, left her gasping for air as
her pussy broke out in spasms around his long, thick fingers. “Oh, God. Rome,” she
screamed.
His fingers never stopped their sensual assault, thrusting through her
rhythmically clenching sheath. Drawing out her orgasm until it left her shaken and
feeling boneless.
“Please, Rome. Please.” Only then, when she had cried for mercy did he
withdraw.
But the sensual pleasure didn"t end. It just took a new form. “Get on your
knees, Sela.”
She opened her eyes to find Rome watching her. There was a challenge in his
gaze as through he dared her to deny him. She felt her already weak muscles go lax
as she lowered to her knees. Before her skin could hit the hard asphalt, he dropped
something to the floor. She looked down in surprise at the fabric.
He had given her his shirt and coat to kneel on.
“Wouldn"t want to mess up those gorgeous legs of yours. Especially since they
belong to me now.”
She stared at his face. She"d never seen anything so striking before. Rome was
beautiful with his full lips dark red from their kisses. His cheekbones appeared
sharper as he was flushed with desire, and his blue eyes were alit with excitement.
After a while Sela realized what she was doing. She was staring at him like she had

never seen him before. She had yet to respond to his declaration. The hard way
Rome held himself told her he was waiting for her to tell him off, deny his
ownership.
He was in for a surprise.
Not trusting herself to find the strength to speak, Sela simply nodded and
knelt upon the offered padding. The tension went out of Rome"s body almost
immediately.
Holding his gaze Sela lifted her hands and threaded her fingers through the
crisp hairs at the juncture of his thighs.
“Sela…” he started.

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She knew he was going to take back his challenge, tell her she didn"t have to
put herself on the line. Sela smiled. “I want this, Rome. I want to do this for you.”
Sela heard his indrawn breath, then a moan that seemed to echo down the
corridor. She briefly wondered if hotel patrons could hear them. Had they heard her
scream in pleasure? Did they wonder why a grown man was groaning in need? Her
temperature spiked at the thoughts.
She palmed him, stroking her fingers down his full length until they reached
his crown. Before her eyes the color darkened as more blood rushed to the head,
increasing the size. Sela smiled and took him into her mouth as deep as he would
comfortably go, and slid her hands down his splayed thighs. Her fingertips brushed
over tight skin covered in a light fur of soft black hair. Never before had Sela been
that close to Rome. He had controlled all of her lovemaking. Only now was she able
to touch him as intimately as she desired.
Sela took full advantage of her new release and caressed his flanks, the backs
of his thighs, the firm mountains of his ass before returning back to his flanks. All
the while she suckled him, enjoying the feel of his muscles working beneath her
hands. His thighs tightened, relaxed, stilled before tightening again when she drew
back, lifting her head until only his cockhead was clasped in the heat of her mouth.
Her tongue circled the swollen flesh, drawing rings around the natural
contours and grooves of his manhood. She tasted him, swallowing the flavor of her
lover, and realized that she loved it. She enjoyed the tang of the moist desire
leaking from him.
Most of all she loved the strangled animalistic groans her actions birthed.
She took more of him into her mouth, fluttering her tongue on the under curve
of his cock. There was a pause in his breathing, as though Rome didn"t know what
to do with her, and then there was the weight of his hand on her head, guiding her
actions without words.
Up. Down. Slow. Fast. Every act was coached by his tutoring hands until she
knew exactly how to please him, how to drive him to the edge, and when to pull
back.
“Yes. God, yes,” he rasped out in a ragged breath that told her just how far
along he was. She began suckling him more earnestly, with a hungry pressure that
drew him farther into her mouth, deeper into her wet heat. Keeping her eyes open,
watching his face etched like granite, Sela swallowed and took him farther down
her throat.
He jerked into her mouth, and his muscles shook beneath her hands. He was
moments from coming. “Fuck.” He grunted the single word harshly. And all at once
he was coming, spurting his hot essence into her mouth. Sela lapped it up hungrily,
suckling him through his orgasm as he had loved her through her own moments
earlier.

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She released him when her mouth opened in surprise, ready to cry out. Before
she could make a sound, his mouth was on hers, and he was kissing her, circling his
tongue around hers, drinking deeply of the flavor of his own orgasm.
He broke off the kiss. “I need you. Now,” he growled as he backed their
gyrating bodies to the hotel"s staircase door. She stilled him, pressing her hands
against his chest, when she backed into the shockingly cold metal door.
Rome looked down at her hands in surprise before catching her gaze. “What?”
he barked out, too far gone to be anything but a man driven by his need. She
glanced pointedly at the clothing still on the ground.
“Shit! Sela, I"ll come back and get it later.”
He might. And he might not. “Before we leave you"ve got let go of me, walk
across the lot, and pick them up. Then we have to walk all the way up the stairs
because I"m not taking the elevator looking as I do.”
His chest rose and fell quickly, moving with the pace of an asthmatic. She
could see in his eyes he knew she was telling the truth, and he was dismayed by the
fact.
Looking as she was, Sela couldn"t reenter the building. He had to turn around
and retrieve the coat. Or…
She gave him her sexiest smile. “Or we could do it right here.”
He wrapped his arms around her waist, and she knew his decision. “Option
number two.” Before she could respond, he kissed her hard, moving his mouth over
hers with demanding purpose until she opened for him. His tongue thrust through
her parted lips as he lifted her hands, holding them above her head. “Keep them
there,” he growled against her mouth before licking her lips. At his words the
already turbulent needs inside Sela blossomed until they seemed to be
overwhelming her. She could feel the viscous evidence of her desire leaking from her
pussy, sliding down her thighs.
Long, strong fingers gripped her thighs and widened her stance, until she was
lewdly open to his gaze. And for several thundering seconds, that was all Rome did.
He simply stared at her swollen, heated flesh, as though he was trying to memorize
every inch of her.
Sela felt the heat creep up her face as his scalding gaze never wavered.
“This pussy belongs to me.”
It was a declaration. He didn"t really expect or even want her to say anything
in response. But Sela knew she couldn"t stop herself from replying. “Yes, it belongs
to you.”
He lifted his gaze. None of the fire had departed. If anything, it burned more
brightly. “Forever.”
He wanted everything. Everything she was. Everything she had been. And he
was promising her his everything. “Yes, forever.”
“You are mine.”

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She had thought she had reached the point where nothing he said could shake
her. Sela realized she was wrong. Something so simple shouldn"t have seared the
soul so deeply, but it did. “Yes, I"m yours. Forever.”
“Forever,” he murmured as he wrapped his hands around both of her wrists,
crossing them above her head. He lowered his head and brushed his mouth across
hers in a possessive kiss that branded her heart and soul as his.
She felt his thick penis against her belly and began moving against it, trying
desperately to get him to thrust it into her. Her actions caused him to inhale
sharply, sucking the air from her lungs before deepening their kiss. Her lungs
burned, and her pussy ached, both needing sustenance. As though he heard her
silent plea, Rome pulled away, breaking off their kiss.
“Somebody has been a bad girl.”
Her mind filled with hazy lust skittered to a stop before backtracking to try to
decipher his words. Belatedly, Sela realized she had lowered her hands and was
gripping his shoulders.
She slowly lifted her gaze to his.
“Like I said. Bad girl.”
His hands dropped between their bodies, and he worked his pants, removing
his belt from the loops. She licked her lips slowly. He lifted the belt until it hung
before her eyes. Then keeping his gaze on her face, he lifted first one hand, then the
other, and bound her wrists above her head. “Drop it again, and I won"t let you
come.”
She nodded weakly as all the blood in her body rushed to her clit. Sela had
never heard anything more erotic in her life.
When he dropped to his knees before her, Sela felt her mouth go dry and her
pussy cream until she was openly weeping her need. She widened her legs without
any command and lifted her hips, brazenly begging Rome for what she knew only he
could give her.
The fingers of his left hand landed on her inner thigh, near her knee. Slowly,
oh so slowly, he trailed his fingers up her leg until they reached the juncture where
thigh meet groin. He teased the area that was just shy of her pussy and not quite
her leg. Something hot and wanton grew in her belly before moving lower until it
blossomed between her thighs.
“Please,” she moaned, needing his hands on her aching flesh.
“Tell me what you want?” he asked. His voice was huskier than anything she"d
ever heard before. He was not unaffected. Feeling like she was under the control of
a warlock, Sela gasped to tell him what she wanted. What she needed.
“I want…I want…” she breathed out, but she couldn"t seem to finish the
sentence even though the promise of satisfaction was so close she could taste its
silken flavor on her tongue.
“It"s okay, sweetheart,” he replied. She watched the descent of his head
between her thighs until his mouth hovered over her sheath. Sweat beaded her

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forehead and upper head. Desire threatened to rid her off her sanity. “Mine,” he
said in a rough voice one last time before giving her what she needed and putting
his mouth on her sex.
She curled her back and clenched her fingers into fists at the slick, hot feel of
his tongue on her clit. Up, down, and across, Rome worked his tongue over her
clitoris until she felt her limbs go loosen with satisfaction.
“Christ! Rome!” Sela screamed as her muscles tightened. Her body
temperature felt like it spiked as her release rushed through her blood. She closed
her eyes and sank into the pleasure.
Lord, he was good at that. Almost too good.
“Open your eyes, Cupcake.”
She did, slowly, feeling as though her lids weighed a thousand pounds.
“Such a beauty. And you belong to me.” He delivered the words as he brushed
his fingers over swollen lips of her sex. She was wet, aching, and her body still
hummed with sensual bliss.
“God, yes,” she sighed as she rolled her hips, trying to get closer to a deeper,
more fulfilling touch. Even though she had just come, her body was not quite
satisfied. It knew there was something more pleasurable waiting in store.
“Sela Newton, the most well-behaved girl in Brushwood.” Rome breathed the
words against the shell of her ear. Each and every syllable skirted down her spine,
touching nerve endings on its descent, heating up a path that threatened to light up
her already flaming libido.
Christ! He was something.
“Are you going to be a good girl?” His tongue rimmed the outline of her ear,
teasing and torturing before foraging into the limb. She squirmed beneath him
before going lax and sighing when he took the lobe into his mouth and suckled.
He released the sensitized earlobe. “Are you, Sela?”
It took her a moment to remember what he was talking about. He had
effectively wiped her mind clean of everything but him.
Was she going to be a good girl? Did she even want to be a good girl? Her
whole life she had played the part of a good girl. She always did what was best for
those around her, even if it meant she suffered a little. Case in point, her current
job. She loved London, but she hadn"t wanted to move there initially. But the job
paid exceptionally well, even when she considered her increased living expenses.
And she needed the extra funds to help support her mother.
“Sela?” His fingers, slick with her dew, parted the lips of her sheath. She
waited, breath held, for him to do something, anything. And then it came.
Her eyes drifted shut, and her lips parted on a breathless scream when his
fingers closed around her clit and pinched hard.
The fine line between pleasure and pain was blurred as Sela felt herself
hovering dangerously close to ultimate satisfaction. She was going to come again.

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Shocked beyond belief by her body"s response, hard breath sawing in and out of
her lungs, Sela struggled to respond to Rome"s question. “No. I don"t want to be
good. I just want you to want me,” she managed to get out.
The pressure on her clit eased up. She closed her eyes as a groan of dismay
was torn from her mouth. She had been so damned close.
“And what are you? Who are you?” His fingers tightened around her clitoris
just a little. It was not nearly as hard as she needed, but it was enough to keep her
body keyed up.
Lord, have mercy! A woman three seconds away from coming hard, she
thought.
But she wasn"t about to admit that. Instead Sela rocked her hips. Rome
responded immediately. His free hand grasped her right hip and held her immobile.
“Answer the question, Sela and I"ll give you what you want,” he whispered against
her mouth.
She moaned against his lips. As far gone as she was, Sela knew Rome could
ask for anything and she would give it to him as long as he promised her an orgasm,
so she answered the question.
Sela knew she wasn"t a good girl. Not really. It was just a facade she presented
to the world. And even though Rome brought out her inner vixen, she wasn"t bad
per se.
Who was she?
“Yours. Your woman.”
“Fuck,” he groaned and leaned his head against hers. “You really know how to
throw a man for a loop.”
She breathed deeply and drank in the scent of his skin. “I don"t understand.”
He smiled and pressed a kiss to the tip of her nose. “I was expecting good or
bad. I was not expecting you to say…”
It was her turn to smile. “Hmmm, now I understand,” she whispered against
his mouth before pressing her lips to his. It was both the words she had said and
the timing that had thrown Rome for a loop. She broke off the kiss. “Now, about
that question you were asking?”
“Yes.”
“Tonight, with you, I don"t want to play my typical role.”
“Meaning?”
She could hear the excitement in his voice. Rome probably knew exactly what
she was saying, but he wanted her to spell it out so there would be no confession.
“I want it bad. When I"m with you I want to be as naughty as possible.”
His fingers tightened in her hair until she was forced to look into his eyes. “Are
you sure? Because there is no turning back.”

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Lord, she hoped not. “Yes, I"ve very sure.” Sela had been ignoring her own
desires for way too long, but with Rome she felt free enough to indulge in her most
carnal desires.
“God, Cupcake.” The rich sound of Rome"s groan reverberated through the cool
evening air as he lowered his head. Pleasant heat slammed through Sela at the feel
of his mouth against hers. From the first touch she knew Rome finally let himself
go. He slanted his lips over hers and placed hungry pressure over her mouth.
Willingly, Sela opened her lips for his tongue. It plunged deep. Wicked need colored
its every stroke, feeding Sela"s burning desire until she was forced to break away
from the kiss to voice the need smoldering inside. “Rome, I can"t wait any longer. I
need you.”
A slashing smile filled with wanton promise was his immediate response. Then
his fingers danced along the sensitive flesh covering her belly until they reached her
sheath. “Yes. Oh my gods, yes.” The words were muttered ragged breaths of air.
Just when Sela thought the pleasure of his touch couldn"t get any better,
Rome"s finger brushed across the head of her clitoris. She jerked hard against his
chest when he repeated the caress, playing particular attention to the right side of
her clit, the more sensitive area. “Oh…my…Lord.”
“You"re so wet…and hot. I need to be inside you. With you.”
“Yes.”
Rome backed up until he was up against the hotel"s brick wall. “Come here,
Cupcake,” he murmured in a deep, compelling voice as he gestured for her. A shiver
of excitement ran down Sela"s spine.
Butterflies of excitement danced in her belly as she walked over to him.
Although she had been with Rome before, Sela felt as excited as a virgin. Only she
knew the bliss to be had in Rome"s bed.
She stood before him, barely an inch between their bodies. She could feel the
heat of his flesh, couldn"t help but drink in the scent of his skin, and try as she
might, she couldn"t ignore the allure of the wicked light in his eyes.
Rome"s lashes lowered, and then his fingers skimmed over her right hip,
teasing the suddenly sensitive skin. He licked his lips, drawing his wet, pink tongue
over the plump flesh with slow, almost intricate care. She watched him, feeling the
act deep in her sex.
When his fingers moved over her bottom, a sigh escaped her lips. His hands
felt so warm, almost hot on her already heated skin. It was pure decadence and so
pleasurable her sigh morphed into a moan. “Oh, Rome.”
Farther south he ventured. The act forced him to cross that chasm that
separated their bodies. Then again, it might have been Sela who crossed it. She
could feel herself being pulled to him and couldn"t honestly say if she was or wasn"t
heeding its call. She could only admit to be grateful that their bodies were pressed
against each other.

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He teased the area where buttock met thigh for several heart-pounding
movements. When she began to squirm, his fingers tightened on her flesh. He lifted
her thigh until it was flush against his hip. Sela found herself totally open to him.
Skin slick, her body pressed against his, Sela had never felt something so
right. The feeling of completion was almost overwhelming. And River had not yet
taken her. “Rome,” she said softly as she lifted her hands. She nestled them in the
strands of Rome"s thick hair and pulled him to her. Her eyes fluttered shut as he
moved toward her, but she kept them open just long enough for her to see the
expression on his face. Raw lust and tender need were etched across the planes of
his handsome face.
With a tenderness Sela hadn"t expected, Rome parted her lips with his and
delved his tongue inside. Sela eagerly met him thrust for thrust, greedily consuming
the taste of his mouth. Heat coursed through her body as she tried to get closer to
him, deeper into the kiss. Sela moaned into Rome"s mouth as her actions rubbed the
aching tips of her breasts against his chest. Fire streaked from her swollen nips to
her equally swollen sex.
While he drank of her mouth, his hips moved against hers in a slow grind. His
cock brushed against her nether lips with every roll, teasing her into a feverish
pitch. The grip Sela had on his hair tightened as her pelvic muscles clenched. She
was on the verge of release. And the orgasm promised to be very satisfying.
Just when she thought her release was going to be solitary, Rome pushed the
thick length of his erection into her. He broke off the kiss and paused when only a
few inches were deep inside her. “Don"t come,” he gritted out in a commanding voice
that demanded no argument.
Sela"s breath and heart paused at the insistent tone. She had been so damn
close. Tears stung her eyes as she lifted her head to gaze at Rome.
“Good girl.” He lowered his head and brushed his mouth against her in a soft,
teasing kiss as he fully thrust into her. Sela let out a heartfelt sigh of content. Rome
was finally within her.
She wasn"t given much time to indulge in the feeling of being filed by Rome, as
almost immediately Rome began a slow withdrawal from her until only the head of
his cock was sheathed in her sex. Her nails dug into the tensed muscles of his back
as sensual agony ran through her from his departure.
Sharp, pulses of bliss coursed from her nape to her pussy. Rome nipped her
lightly. “Say it, Sela, and I"ll give it to you.”
Heated embarrassment flushed her already scorched skin. She"d done so many
things with him, to him, but the very thought of talking about it still embarrassed
Sela. But not so much that she wouldn"t say the words to get the satisfaction she
needed. “Fuck me,” she whispered.
“Good enough.” Rome pressed back into her until he was once again fully
sheathed. Then he began an agonizing thrust-and-withdraw motion. He moved
slightly, but it was all she needed. The glide of flesh against flesh was minor, but

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the pleasure in response was great. “Yes, oh God, yes,” she panted against his
corded throat as he rocked back and forth into her.
As he continued to plunge into Sela, Rome"s hands coasted down her body to
cup her bottom. He gripped and massaged the twin globes with every thrust. The
simple touch was too much for Sela. She felt her release burst upon her.
Rome kept rocking into her, over and over again, until his actions spurned a
second, smaller orgasm. Within seconds of Sela"s final release, he joined her,
groaning Sela"s name against her nape.
Long moments later, when her heart rate had returned to a level that was
seminormal, his palms moved down her back, teasing the line of her spine. “You
can"t keep fighting me.” He paused, and Sela could feel Rome collecting his
thoughts. “Cupcake, you"ve got to stop fighting us.” The unbending tone of his rough
voice warned Sela. Rome would fight her to keep her.
A smile full of satisfaction lit up the soft planes of her face as she pressed her
against the full length of Rome"s body. “I could say the same for you,” Sela retorted.
The chuckle shook him seconds before it floated from his lips. “I know. I know
I"m partly to be blame.” The fingers on her back moved up her spine to caress her
nape. A shiver of pleasure coursed through her limbs, sending a sigh through her
parted lips. “I just don"t want to lose you, Sela. Not to anyone. Not for anything,” he
growled.
“I meant what I said, Rome. I"m yours.”
The tension dissipated from his limbs, and Rome grasped the mass of hair at
her nape and pulled just hard enough. Sela lifted her head, answering his unspoken
command. Her lids lowered as her lips pressed against his in a swift, claiming kiss.
“I need to get you back inside,” he said. “You must be cold.”
She smiled as she lowered her head to his chest and wrapped her arms around
his slim waist. “I"ve got all the heat I need right here.”
“Yes,” he breathed out in agreement. She felt the single word move across her
face. At the drift of air, she looked up to see Rome watching her with heavy-lidded
eyes. Something more than passion and deeper than need burned in his gaze.
He might not have said the words in response to her admission, but Rome
cared deeply about her. “Come on, let"s get upstairs, before security finds us.” Sela
tried to bend down and pick up their discarded clothing but couldn"t move more
than a few inches. Rome grasped her wrist and pulled her back so that she landed
softly against his chest. “I"ll get our stuff,” he murmured as he bent and picked up
his dress shirt. He shook it out as best he could and held it out to her. Rome
grimaced at it. Sela understood why. It along with all their other clothing had been
trampled in the wake of their intense lovemaking.
She grinned at him. “This just means we"ll have to take a very thorough
shower once we get upstairs.”
“Promises, promises, Cupcake,” he groaned as he slanted his mouth over hers.
His tongue thrust deep to lave the inner recesses of her lips. Wicked heat slammed

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through her at the decadent touch, and once again liquid need was pooling between
Sela"s thighs. Suddenly she needed that shower.
Rome broke off their kiss with a slightly rough nip to her bottom lip. “Upstairs.
Now. I"ll meet you.”
She nodded as she pressed a hand to her abdomen. Goodness, they had just
finished mere moments ago, and she already needed him inside her. His gaze
strayed to the palm against her middle and darkened. Sela"s own eyes drifted to the
manhood thickened with renewed desire. “Don"t take too long, Rome. I don"t want to
be forced to get started without you,” she threw over her shoulder before striding to
the back entrance. With every step Sela took, she could feel the heat of Rome"s gaze
on her shoulder blades.
To an outsider her words appeared to be a warning, but she and Rome knew it
was a challenge. And Rome wasn"t the kind of man to let such a challenge go
without making some kind of response.
As her fingers gripped the exit"s doorknob, a shudder of excitement coursed
through her. Sela was definitely looking forward to Rome"s response.

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Chapter Eighteen

It was a rainfall. Sela smiled at the showerhead as the first trickles of warm
water came out of its opulent head. She"d always wanted to experience an over-the-
head, rainfall-styled shower. Despite all her travels and the number of hotels she"d
slept in, she never got a room with one. She wondered, not for the first time, why
she always tried to leave first thing in the morning. Because I was afraid if I didn’t
limit our interactions to sex, I wouldn’t leave. Because I was afraid of getting too
close.
But it was too late for that. There was no escaping the facts. Sela was deeply
in love with Rome Vicenza, and she desperately wanted to be with him and only
him. A slow sigh escaped her parted lips as the warm water caressed her skin. It
seemed that Rome wanted her as much as she wanted him.
There was something very satisfying about wanting someone who wanted you
back.
When it feels this right, it can’t be wrong. Her mother"s fitting words came to
her at that moment.
Sela reached for the small container of body wash in front of her and poured a
generous amount into the loofah. Spicy and comforting, the thick scent of Rome"s
aroma wafted up to her nostrils. She grinned. At least Sela knew part of the source
of Rome"s distinctive scent. The rest was all him.
She worked the loofah in her hands until it was fully covered with bubbles.
Then she ran it down her body, starting on her arms before running it across her
torso. She had just reached her inner thighs when the bathroom door opened.
Rome had finally returned.
Excitement humming in her veins, Sela watched the foggy outline of his
silhouette stride over to her. Eyes on him, she continued to run the loofah over her
limbs, only to pause when he stopped just outside the shower door. Her breath
caught in her throat as she waited for him to open the door. He didn"t. For several
moments he simply stood outside the shower, staring at her from beyond the etched
glass.
Her breathing deepened, and heat pooled in her lower abdomen. He was
teasing her, taunting her with what she knew was going to happen.
As she waited for him to make his move, she realized the glass door wasn"t
one-way. She could torture him just as he did her. She glided the loofah over her
inner thighs, just teasing the area when her skin was almost painfully sensitive.

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The air in the bathroom immediately thickened with heated desire. She smiled to
herself at the change in atmosphere and pushed the sponge north so it was a
hairbreadth away from her nether lips.
His silhouette grew larger. He was walking over to her. He pulled the door
open and stood before her, not saying a word. His warm gaze raked over Sela, her
face, dropped own to study her belly and hips before staring at the trimmed patch of
coarse hair between her thighs. As though her gaze was a limb, Sela felt Rome"s
touch. Ghosts of five fingertips brushed across her vulva, down the lips of her
sheath, before paying particular attention to her clitoris. It throbbed with arousal.
“Did you get started without me?” he asked flatly. Although Rome"s voice was
devoid of all emotion, there was no denying the passion that simmered in his gaze
or the hunger that tightened his body. His cock was hard, full.
He sought what she needed.
Release.
Unlike the incident in the alley, this loving would be about physical
satisfaction, not emotional closeness.
Sela lifted her head and gazed into Rome"s smoldering green eyes. The look in
them promised her that although the loving would be different, it was going to be no
less satisfying.
“Yes,” she answered.
Warm color darkened his angular cheekbones. “Who said you could start
without me?”
Inwardly, she smiled. Rome"s voice was now dark with desire. Gone was his
stoic tone. Outwardly, she lifted her chin defiantly. “I did.”
A muscle jumped at the corner of his mouth, and for a second it appeared he
was smiling at her. Long, blunt fingers grabbed the shower door and pushed it wide
open. He stepped forward, and cold air followed him into the stall. He closed the
glass door behind him, effectively cocooning them in a glass enclave. Rather than
diminish the stall, it made the shower feel bigger. Too big.
She was all too aware of the space that separated their bodies.
She wanted to be as close to his man as her skin would allow. At the moment
the space between them prevented that.
His gaze didn"t waver, but something briefly flickered in his eyes. “I thought
you said this pussy belonged to me.” He paused. “Were you lying?”
The moment the words were out of his mouth, Sela realized what she had seen
flash in Rome"s gaze. Fear.
He was afraid what happened between them in the alley would stay there.
She stilled. Was he right to think that?
No sooner had the words burst through her mind than she pushed them away.
As long as Rome wanted Sela, she was his. For the first time in a long time, Sela
saw Rome, truly saw him for all that he was.

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He was a man, strong and proud. But he had the same insecurities she did. He
wanted to know he was desired. Rome needed to know that Sela wasn"t going to run
away from what was happening between them.
Sela took a step forward and placed her palm on his chest. Beneath her
fingertips his heart pounded rapidly. “No, Rome, I wasn"t lying. I just needed you so
much I couldn"t wait.”
“So?” he drew out. His warm breath fanned her forehead; his deep voice
snaked down her spine.
Her eyes closed of their own volition, and Sela"s palm moved down his torso to
land on the small of his strong back. Muscles bunched underneath her hands when
she leaned forward to place her forehead against his chest.
Blood pumping, heart pounding, Sela answered his question. “So, I dreamed,
imagined you were here with me.”
His hands came around Sela to pull her close. “What did I do in this
daydream?”
Scalding heat blossomed in Sela"s cheeks as embarrassment exploded within
her. They"d done so much together, yet his question still made tremors of unease
quake through her.
Maybe because it was more intimate than the sex they shared. Letting
someone know about your dreams was a level of intimacy they hadn"t breached yet,
and Rome was asking her to let him see her fantasy, the deepest depths of her
desire. She took a deep breath and plunged right in. If Rome was at her beck and
call, what would she ask him to do?
“You held me,” she said softly.
“Like this?” He cradled her in his arms and pulled her to him so their bodies
were flush.
She shook her head. “Closer.”
One sinewy thigh slid between hers as he tightened his arms around her
waist. Her belly tightened with arousal at the feel of his hands, wet from the
shower, caressing her, at the feel of his body thick with muscles moving against her
much softer one.
“Is this all I did?”
Was this all she wanted from Rome? “Yes, but just for a little while.”
“And then?”
She grinned. Rome could not hide the eagerness in his tone. It was apparent
that he really did want to make her dream a reality. It suddenly occurred to her
that he wanted to know everything there was to know about her, just as she wanted
to know him inside and out.
She lifted her head and held his gaze. “You kissed me.” She paused and licked
her lips. “You kissed me as though I was the only woman you ever wanted to kiss.”

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Flames leaped in Rome"s gaze before the sooty fan of his ebony lashes lowered.
His head descended. Sela closed her eyes at the first feel of his mouth against hers.
She opened her mouth almost immediately for his tongue. It swept over her teeth,
teased the inside her mouth, and flicked the roof before tangling with hers. The kiss
deepened until she swore she he"d imprinted the taste of his mouth on her mind.
They kissed until her lungs burned with the need to take in air, until her body
demanded that she release him. Then and only then did she move out of his oral
embrace. Even though their lips were touching, Sela still felt the burn from his
warm lips as they moved across the corner of her mouth and down her jaw to settle
on her neck. She shivered in pleasure when he nipped the spot where her throat
met her shoulder.
The wet velvet texture of his tongue moving over her skin made her sheath
clench with renewed desire. As he licked and suckled her skin, a thousand flaming
tongues of passion licked at her womb, heightening the desire she felt. She moaned
his name and tilted her head back, giving him more skin to work with.
“What else, Sela?” Rome growled the works against the column of her throat,
and she felt the rumble of every word as his statement vibrated across her skin.
“Hmm.” It took her a moment to process things. The feel of his hands on her
skin felt so good, too good not to relish each and every caress. She licked her bottom
lip, tasted him on her lips, and spoke. “You teased me. You made me want it, but
you didn"t give it to me. At least not immediately.”
“Is that so?” Rome murmured and moved forward. The thigh parting her legs
slid a little deeper so that she was almost riding him, and his cock, hard and thick,
brushed against the folds of her sex. Her breath hitched at the touch. And then he
jerked his hips. Sela raked her nails down his back, clung to Rome"s larger harder
body, as she rocked her hips forward for his every up thrust. Soon the only sound
between them was the harsh breathing of two people deep in the throes of sexual
bliss.
“What else did I do to you, Sela?” His voice was husky, a testament to their
recent actions.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the tiled wall. “You touched
me.”
“Where? Here?” His fingertips danced along the column of her throat, teasing
the area from just beneath her chin to her collarbone. She shuddered and released,
“Yes,” in a breath.
“Was that all?”
“No,” she admitted, but she couldn"t remember much more of the fantasy.
Reality was taking over her mind, and she was finding it difficult to think about a
dream when Rome was right before her, touching her body and making it hum with
pleasure.
She opened her eyes and almost gasped at the heat she saw in Rome"s gaze.
Looking into his face she decided to stop focusing on her reverie and instead pay

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attention to what she wanted now. Feeling a little nervous about what she was
going to do, she lowered her gaze and cupped one aching breast. “You kissed my
breasts, made love to them,” she told him before lifting her head to look at him.
She didn"t catch his gaze. He was staring hard at her breasts, hunger etched
on his face. No one had ever looked at her like that. She felt like a banquet
presented for a starving warrior. Rome made her feel that desired.
Sela grabbed his hand. Fingers wrapped around his thick wrist, she couldn"t
ignore the heavy beat of his pulse as it beat against her hand.
She lifted his hand to her right breasts. “Touch me here. Kiss me.”
He did. He caressed the full globe, paying arousing attention to every inch of
the flesh. When he settled on her nipple, a moan tore from her throat. He plucked
her nipple, strumming the tip until it was long and hard, aching with the bliss his
touch brought.
She rolled her hips, biting her lip and releasing an occasional moan when he
turned to the nipple and began to give it the same attention. And then he took the
bud into the warm cavern of his mouth.
“Oh my.” Sela"s groan was low and deep, sounding foreign to her own ears.
“Here? Did I touch you here?” Rome"s question was whispered against her tit.
She shivered as his breath, warm and moist, caressed her skin. She started shaking
with pleasure when his hand, confident and determined, slid between her legs to
caress her pussy. Sela could feel her sheath, thick with moisture, begging for the
relief she knew she could find in Rome"s arms. He parted the lips of her sex and
caressed the inner flesh. Her teeth dug deeper into her bottom lip as she enjoyed the
feeling of his hands stroking her and waited for him to reach her clitoris.
Rome took his time reaching the bud. He had her panting with need and
irritated with his indirect approach by the time he fondled the nub.
“Is this all I did? All you want me to do?” he said after some time. Rome knew
this was no longer about the dream. That was fine with Sela as long as he gave her
what she needed.
She shook her head. “No. You made love to me.” She swept her tongue over her
bottom lip, tasting his lips, a mixture of cinnamon and need and lifted her head.
“Take me slow…at first. Then fast. Then I want it hard and fast.”
He stared down at her for a moment, opaque emotions in his eyes. Unable to
decipher what she saw there, Sela wondered if her latest request had gone too far.
Rome was a natural alpha and might not like being told what to do, especially an
act so intimate as sex.
“God, you are so hot,” he growled and grabbed the back of her head. Sela didn"t
get a chance to respond before his mouth was on hers. He devoured her lips in kiss
so rough and demanding Sela barely remembered her name.
Lord, can he kiss!
“Slow, huh?” Rome moved closer, closing the little space between them. He
moved his body against hers, sliding wet skin against wet skin. They had touched

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and caressed throughout the encounter, but this was different. There was a unique
nature this time. It was more than a glide of naked limbs moving against each
other. Relishing the feeling, Sela wrapped her arms around his waist and cupped
his ass, pulling him even closer.
Rome reached between them, grasped his cock, and pressed it against her
entrance. “Yes,” she whispered, urging him on.
He thrust deep into her sex with one thrust.
“Good Lord!”
“You feel so damned good, Cupcake. So good.”
The soft rumble of his words against her slick skin ignited a fire that burned
deep in her belly. She instinctively sought him out and fitted her leg to his hip,
leaving herself open so that the bulbous head of his cock nudged the moist lips of
her pussy.
Maybe this was what she was afraid of. This craving, swirling tornado of a
need to get closer to a man who was fully capable of leaving her with third degree
burns on her heart.
Her eyes connected with his. The desire swimming there in his green gaze was
enough to make her heart hitch in her throat. When she got her breath back, she
realized it was weak. She couldn"t seem to get a lungful of air. Rome withdrew until
only the tip was inside her. She tightened her muscles trying to keep him as near as
possible.
Rome grunted. She glanced up at him, a little thrown off by the sound. She
found herself staring into his eyes as he plunged back into her. It was the most
erotic thing she"d experienced yet. Neither said a word. Only the sound of their
heavy breathing broke up the otherwise silent atmosphere.
She stared into his eyes as he thrust into her over and over again as the
shower sprayed water over their slick bodies.
Then she was slowly coming apart, splintering into a million glittering pieces
as wave after wave of pleasure washing over her, leaving her clean and untouched.
She stared into Rome"s eyes as her body imploded. Watching him watch her take
her pleasure from his touch made her the experience more intense. It outstripped
her fantasy, taking their loving to a place she"d rarely thought about, a place she
never imagined she would experience.
Sela was a dreamer. She was always thinking of how things could be, would be
if her life had turned out differently. It wasn"t that she was particularly unhappy.
No, she simply was a dreamer by nature.
But she"d never allowed herself to fantasize about what she would do if Rome
was all hers. Every time her mind skittered to that region, she ruthlessly pushed it
back to reality. She always told herself that making the man hers was more than
enough.
She had girlfriends that were constantly wishing they could change some part
of their lover. With Rome she never thought like that. As far as she was concerned,

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all his imperfections made him perfect. Even in her fantasies she didn"t change him.
She only dreamed of the day when she would make Rome hers forever.
Now he was asking her to look past that point.
With a jolt, Sela realized that with her confession and Rome"s question, she
could no longer distance herself from the dreams buried within. She wanted and
needed to start asking for more.
She was physically exhausted from their lovemaking and emotionally satisfied
with their conversation, but she couldn"t stop thinking about what they talked
about. It quickly became apparent that she wasn"t the only one whose mind hadn"t
wavered far from their talk.
“Sela, tell me what you want. If you could have anything in the world, what
would it be?”
She closed her eyes at his words and took a deep, silent breath before opening
her eyes to look up at the ceiling. Her eyes traced the floral etched designed on the
plaster as she carefully considered her response. “You, Rome. I want you to love me.
I want you to love me as much as I love you.”

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Chapter Nineteen

“God, she is so beautiful.” Sela stood before one of his exhibits. It was a two-
part piece of a woman dining in the middle of an outdoor mall. The female and the
mall were two distinct parts of a multiportion artwork.
The woman herself was a sculpture and one of Rome"s greatest
accomplishments. He called her Amber after the golden tone of the original model"s
skin tone.
Amber was so detailed she appeared to be breathing. The first time his agent
saw her, Antonia didn"t realize the woman was a piece of art until she touched her
cold arm. The rich painting behind Amber detailed a mall bustling with life.
Everywhere one looked they could see people enjoying the summer sun captured on
the canvas. Each person depicted was clear and yet not. They purposely lacked the
detail Amber had. In comparison everyone else was a blur. She was crisp with
definition.
Rome was very proud of the painting, but its beauty didn"t compare to the
woman standing in front of him. Sela was a masterpiece of another level.
“Is she?” he asked and waited for her response. It was then that Rome realized
he was nervous. He didn"t understand why. He had achieved critical success. Sela"s
opinion should not have mattered.
But it did.
He cared what she thought.
“Yes, but not just her. Every piece is…” She paused and looked around her.
“Every one is magical,” she said. Then she turned and looked at him. Their gazes
met and held as she pulled him closer. “You"re a damned good artist, Rome. You
have a lot to be proud about. You deserve each and every good critique.” He looked
down at her, feeling passion and something stronger, more intoxicating fill him.
“Thank you,” he replied, his voice gruff with emotion.
A small smile lit her mouth. “Want to know the truth, Rome?”
“I always want the truth, Sela. No lies.”
She sucked in a deep breath at his words. For a moment he feared she would
balk. Understanding lightened her dark eyes. “I won"t lie to you, Rome. Never.”
He hadn"t realized how tight his chest was until the pressure lessened. “Good.
Now, tell me this truth.”

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She looked away and watched the two dozen or so people walking around the
art show. As her eyes roamed over the group, she took in the artwork that filled the
room. “The truth is I"ve been following your career since we graduated.”
He stilled beside her. “You have?”
“Yes, my flat in London has pictures of your work lining the walls. They"re not
much, just printouts from reviews and advertisements. I"m saving up to purchase
one of your originals.” She laughed lightly. “A Vicenza piece is not a small purchase.
I might be saving for my whole life, but…” She trailed off and wouldn"t look at him.
Rome couldn"t believe what he was hearing. He thought she forgot about him
once they stopped talking the summer after high school. He figured he hadn"t
crossed Sela"s mind once in the ten years, but here she was, telling him she thought
of him constantly.
“Sela?” he said softly, unsure of what else to say in response. Words escaped
him at that moment.
She turned to him, but her gaze wouldn"t meet his.
Rome was struck hard by her discomfort. She probably regretted telling him
the truth and was afraid of his response. She bared a little part of herself, and all he
was doing was staring at her. He gave a small smile. “You don"t have to save up for
anything when you know the artist.”
Her head jerked up, and she looked at him, surprise widening her eyes. “What
exactly are you talking about?” she said cautiously.
He leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. “I"ll give you my latest
collection. It was never really meant for exhibition or sale, but something tells me
it"ll be perfect for your apartment.”
She gasped. “Stop lying!” She automatically pulled out of his hold and smacked
his shoulder. It wasn"t hard. He laughed at just how clear her shock was. He hadn"t
expected such a strong response at his gift. It filled him with happiness to know a
gift of one of his pieces did that to her. “I meant what I said. No lies, Cupcake,” he
said with a chuckle.
Sela stilled and watched from beneath the fan of her sooty lashes. She licked
her lips slowly. “So I get the new collection, and you get…”
“The truth, always the truth.”
Rome knew she didn"t believe him, but he was entirely serious. He always
wanted the truth from her. He didn"t think he could handle finding out Sela was
lying to him. People"s lies tore them apart before. He had no intention of seeing just
how much their own lies could hurt them.
She glanced at him, shook her head, and walked forward a little. “That"s not
good enough. Not nearly enough. I don"t know if you know this, but owning your
work comes with a pretty high price tag.”
He followed her lead. His lips curved into a smile at the teasing glimmer of
humor in her eyes. “I"ve heard,” he said and bit his bottom lip to keep from
laughing. “So tell me, Sela, what else do you want from me?”

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“It"s not what else I want. It"s what else I want to give you.”
His cock twitched at the words as visions of them together swam through his
mind. It didn"t help that her voice was thick and sultry. Her words, her voice, and
the way she held herself was seduction at its finest.
“Is there nothing else you want from me, Rome?” she said with a smirk and
lifted eyebrow. “Nothing at all.” She lifted her hand, dipping it into the artificial
bubbling brook that stood between them.
He watched her agile fingers glide through the water, remembering their
touch on his body, his chest, his cock…the way they teased the patch of skin just
behind his sac. “That depends entirely on what you want to give me,” he replied, his
voice dark with need.
“Rome?” she asked when he didn"t say anything more.
A searing image of him, brush in hand, standing over her nude body shot
through his mind, taking away his breath. “At the moment…”
She lifted her head slightly, listening intently for whatever he was going to
say. Rome found himself unable to help but smile at her smooth actions. “I want to
paint you.”
She moved her head the tiniest bit. Once again the delicateness of her actions
riveted Rome, even as irritation sluiced through him, dampening much of his
excitement. Sela was not pleased with his request.
She clenched her small fingers into tight fists before thrusting them into the
pockets of her linen slacks. “Why do you want to paint me?”
Her voice was cool, airy, and entirely devoid of emotion.
It sent angry chills down his spine.
“Why wouldn"t I?” he barked out before he got the chance to chain his
emotions. This was the part Rome didn"t like about their interactions. Sela Newton
was the one woman who got under his skin, dived deep with a single word.
She easily lit both his desire and his anger.
“What happened to your models or your muse or—”
He took two steps to the left and walked around the mechanical brook. “Don"t
you think you"re worthy to be captured on canvas? Don"t you think you"re worthy to
be painted, sculpted, remembered forever?”
She lifted her gaze to his chest. “I…but…that"s not what I said. I just think—”
He cut her off. “I want you, Sela. No one else will do. It"s your beauty I want to
capture, your sexuality, your loveliness. Just you. For years I"ve been trying to
capture you on canvas and in stone.”
She swallowed thickly. He watched the muscles in her throat slowly move,
feeling as though time itself stood still. She raised her head and looked him in the
eyes. “Okay.”
He reached for her hand and intertwined their fingers. He started to lead her
away from the Amber piece, but movement caught his eye. He looked a little harder

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and realized he caught sight of a latecomer. He started to turn away, ignoring the
man"s presence when he realized he looked familiar. Christ! His father was the man
striding through the gallery"s entrance, anger tightening every step. Rome felt his
whole body respond to the danger that enveloped every inch of the man. His pulse
raced, his vision sharpened, and his mind focused on Anthony Vicenza.
Sela must have felt the change come over him, because she stilled for a
moment before turning and glancing over her shoulder, looking right at the door.
Her jaw dropped. “Isn"t that your father?” she asked in a harsh whisper.
Rome wasn"t surprised she knew exactly what Anthony Vicenza looked like
despite him never introducing her. The man was infamous in Brushwood.
He had been expecting a confrontation with his father the moment his father
realized Mary Beth was gone and she wasn"t coming back. A part of him wondered
when the man would figure out which hotel he was staying at and come see him.
Rome hadn"t expected the confrontation to happen at his showing.
He realized then he should have.
Anthony always did prefer an audience for his outbursts, and he had the
uncanny ability to make a scene at the worst times, moments that were important
to the focus of his anger.
“Sela?” She didn"t respond.
He glanced down at her and then his father to see how quickly the man would
reach him.
Too soon.
He shook Sela lightly. She turned to him with horror on her face. She knew
exactly what was going to happen, and she was terrified. Like two alphas sharing a
territory, nothing good could come of having two male Vicenzas in the same house.
“Do you remember Antonia?” She nodded as she tried to get a better glimpse of his
father. “I want you to go over there and go stand with her. Tell her I sent you.”
She snapped out of her daze. “The hell I will.” Her gaze flickered behind him.
“I"m staying right here. Right by my man.” She poked him in the stomach.
Reluctantly, he turned just as she whispered, “Remember, you"re in charge here.”
Rome breathed deeply and took in her words. He was not about to let his
father ruin his show. Determination lengthening his stride, Rome walked over to
where his father stood. Beside Anthony stood one guard. The other was a little ways
away but close enough to aid his companion should something happen. Apparently,
the men were good enough to know a situation before things actually exploded.
“What are you doing here?” he said through clenched teeth. His words were
purposely low. Though it was probably moot, Rome hoped to keep the conversation
as quiet and composed as possible.
Eyes tight, mouth twisted, and face red, his father stared up at him for a few
seconds. Then he exploded. “What the hell do you mean what I am doing here?
Where the hell is she, you bastard?”

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Rome flinched at the venomous tone and words. No matter how much he tried
to distance himself from his father, it still hurt to be spoken to in such a way by the
man that was supposed to care for him. Wishful thinking. “I have no idea what
you"re talking about,” he lied.
Anthony was having none of that. He took a menacing step forward. “Where
the hell is Mary Beth?” The guards reacted immediately. Both men moved to walk
Anthony out. An upheld hand from Rome stopped them. Anthony glanced around
him. A small, cruel smile spread across his mouth. “What? Don"t want your faggot
art friends to meet me, see me?” he asked.
Anger, hot and wild, flared within Rome. Some of the people in the room were
his closest friends, people who were there when he had no one, and he was not
about to let this man talk about them. He turned to the nearest guard. “He was just
leaving,” he said and strode away. From behind him he could hear his father telling
the guards off and the guards coercing him to leave. He ignored the commotion. As
Sela said, he was the one in charge, and if he didn"t let his father get to him, the
man wouldn"t.
* * *
Sela gazed at Rome, trying to get a better understanding of the man who stood
before her, paintbrush in his large, capable hands. She had learned so much about
him in the last week, she wondered if she had ever really known him.
With each revelation she fell deeper and deeper in love with him. As she stood
before him, waiting for him to put her image to canvas, Sela understood that the
strong emotions she"d felt for him growing up didn"t compare to the all-consuming
emotion that seemed to fill her very soul as she looked at him.
She was treading in dangerous territory, in danger of letting her feelings take
over, but she couldn"t help how she felt.
She loved Rome Vicenza more than she had ever loved anyone before.
And to think she might not have every gotten to know him if he hadn"t been
strong enough to ask Mrs. Marshall to make her his science-fair partner.
That was well over a decade ago. Rome was a man now. With all the raging
emotion, rough needs, and pride that came with that masculine title. She had to
remember that fact.
Rome was not the seventeen-year-old she remembered.
Yet he still is…
There were still some parts of him that would always been juvenile. He would
always be a young man searching for his father"s approval. At least until he chose to
move past that point. Although Rome would never admit it, Sela knew his father"s
words had hurt him greatly. She glanced at his stoic face. He was keeping the anger
and pain within, and if she wasn"t careful, he would bottle it up and let it fester.

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Features tightened in concentration, he turned back to the canvas and went to
work, covering it in paint. With any other person she would have been worried
about what he was painting. How she would look. How he saw her.
But Sela trusted Rome.
“I missed you.”
He stilled. For a moment it was the only indication he had heard her words.
Then she saw his fingers were clenching the paintbrush so tightly his knuckles were
white with tension. He licked his handsome mouth and lifted his gaze. “Did you?”
She blinked back the tears that threatened in her eyes at his question. He had
to know she had ached every day they were apart. “I never was the same when I
found out you weren"t coming to see me. Something was always missing. I thought I
had gotten over it, over you, but the first time you kissed me, a little part of me
realized what was wrong. I still cared, do care about you.”
Flames a thousand degrees hotter than hell burned in his green eyes as he
stared back at her. His fingers clenched the brush so tightly he broke the wooden
handle. He cursed savagely as the snap of broken wood sluiced through the thick
air. He strode across the room and dropped the brush into the trash.
He turned back to her. Gone from his gaze was the fire of need. He"d banked
the flames of his desire. “You shouldn"t say things like that, Sela, if you don"t mean
it.”
He was angry, irritated. The words that had been exchanged between him and
his father had forced him to barricade his emotions. But she needed him to let them
out.
Sela needed him to let her inside.
She knew from experience that altercations between Rome and his father left
the younger Vicenza with wounds. Ten years ago Sela had been too young to
understand that wounds never healed and even festered if they weren"t cleaned out.
Sela needed to get Rome to let go of the poison his father"s barbarous words had
inflicted.
“And what if I"m not lying, Rome?” She stepped forward, totally naked,
physically and emotionally, and strode toward him.
He met her more than halfway. Rome marched across the room and grabbed
her arm. His long fingers bit painfully into her flesh as he held her to his chest.
“Don"t play with me, Sela. I"m no longer in the mood for your damned games.”
She licked her suddenly dry lips and stared up into Rome"s turbulent gaze. She
had to be careful with what she said. She was toying with a wounded animal. She
needed to placate the beast. “There is nothing playful about the way I feel for you. I
am very serious when I say I missed you. I still miss you whenever we"re apart.”
“Shut up.”
“If you leave me for more than a day, I start looking for you. I miss you
whenever you"re not around.”

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“Damn it. Damn you,” he yelled before lowering his head and kissing her
harshly. Sela relished the feel of his lips pressed against her mouth, dominating her
in kiss that demanded her total submission.
She gave it easily, willing, because she was already his.

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Chapter Twenty

Sela missed the man she loved. It was ridiculous but true. Rome had only been
gone for a few hours, but Sela already missed him.
She glanced at the blanket they had shared the night before. It, thankfully,
still smelled like him. Unwilling to deny herself the pleasure, she grabbed the
blanket and wrapped it around her before taking a seat on the sofa, grabbing the
remote from the coffee table and putting the television on. After half an hour she
had to admit she wasn"t watching it. She"d spent the last thirty minutes wondering
just how far things could go between her and Rome when she lived in the UK and
he lived in New York City.
A little part of her was worried about her job. She"d been in town for almost
two weeks. The date for her to return to Britain was quickly approaching. A large
part of her was thinking of changing or canceling her flight. She used up the last of
her vacation days for her annual visit to her mother"s, so she might not have a job to
return to if she stayed. Though she wasn"t a fan of job hunting, she could always get
another job, whether here or in the United Kingdom. She just hated the idea of
leaving the company like that.
It seemed she was a lot more adventurous than she originally thought. Since
rediscovering her feelings for Rome, she"d found that she was a betting woman. She
was willing to put her money on Rome no matter the stakes because she believed in
him.
Inside, she knew they would make it.
Her job was just that, a job.
She looked to her left and eyed her mother"s desktop computer. The television
wasn"t capable of emptying her mind like she hoped. Maybe the Internet would do
the job. She stood and headed over to the small desk. She was halfway there when
the doorbell rang. It was around the time her mother and sister were supposed to
return. Knowing her mom, the woman lost her house key again, and her sister
hadn"t received her copy of the latest key. Rosa and Nick were no longer in town,
and neither was the kind of person to drop by out of the blue.
She opened the door and froze. Turin stood on the doorstep with a grimace on
his mouth and a bruise darkening his eye. “I"m sorry to bother you, but…” He
trailed off and looked to the side, avoiding her eyes. Something heavy and painful
dropped to the bottom of Sela"s belly at the action.
“Staying at home wasn"t an option, and I didn"t know where else to go.”

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Her heart broke at his confession. She was well aware of why Mary Beth left
town. Unfortunately, Turin decided that he didn"t want to stay with Mary Beth or
Rome and would rather take his chances with his father. It seemed he"d had
enough. With Rome away for the day on business, the poor boy must have been
afraid that he would have to return home to the very man who beat him. Sela was
very glad he thought of her. She might not be the man he needed, but she could
provide him with comfort. She gave him what she hoped was her warmest smile.
“Don"t ever worry about coming over.” She stepped aside and allowed him to enter
her home.
He stopped just a few feet into the foyer. His bit his bottom lip nervously. He
looked so much like Rome had ten years ago, it broke her heart to see him in so
much pain.
But unlike Rome, Turin wasn"t looking for a hug, not from her.
“Can I take your coat?” For a moment she thought he was going to turn down
her offer. Then, reluctantly he shrugged out of his slick raincoat. She hung it up.
“Are you hungry?”
“No, ma"am.”
She smiled. “I think I"m a little too young to be called ma"am.”
“Yes, Ms. Sela.”
She sighed. He was nervous, too nervous. “Just Sela.”
“Yes…Sela.”
She suspected her attempts to make him feel comfortable were making things
worse. Still… “Come on.” She led the way to her kitchen, grateful that Sasha and
her mother had found another reason to take a weekend trip.
As much as she would have liked their help with Turin, she wanted and
needed to spend some time alone with Rome"s brother. She hoped to bridge the gap
that lay between her and Turin. “I was just on my way to make some hot chocolate.
Would you like some?”
She knew Turin must have been shivering. His raincoat hadn"t done much to
protect him. His clothes were more than a little damp from the summer storm.
“Turin?” He nervously looked around the kitchen before replying.
“No…Sela.”
“Are you sure?” she asked softly, wondering if this was how her mother had
felt the first time she had set eyes on Rome. She desperately wanted to wrap her
arms around him and keep him safe and away from the pain his father brought
him.
“I guess one cup would be fine,” he said shyly.
She smiled. “Why don"t you go clean up in the bathroom while I get the drinks
ready?”
“Okay, ma"am…I mean Sela.”

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“I"ll show you where the bathroom is.” She walked across the living room and
down the hall to stop at the second door on the right. “This is the restroom.” She
opened the first door and pulled out a blanket, towel, and washcloth. “These are for
you. I strongly suggest you take a hot shower to warm you up, and the blanket is to
keep you warm. This is a house of women, and as far as I know, my mother didn"t
keep any of my father"s clothing.”
“Thank you. This is plenty, Sela.”
She smiled. “You are very welcome.” Then she turned and strode into the
kitchen. Once there she realized the hot chocolate might not be enough and grabbed
a few ingredients from the fridge to make some quick soup. She hadn"t been in the
kitchen for very long when she felt his presence. She glanced over her shoulder.
“Feeling better, Turin?” she asked.
“Yeah, I needed the shower,” he said sheepishly.
She believed him. His face was full of the color it lacked when he arrived, and
his limbs were loose, not coiled from anger and pain as they had been before.
Silence descended between them, and Sela couldn"t help feeling helpless. There was
nothing she could think of saying that would make the young man feel better. Not
that anything could make me feel better about my parent kicking the shit out of me.
To curb the rage she could feel brewing, she returned to the kitchen.
Occupying her hands might keep her thoughts cool. “I made some soup. It"s my
mom"s recipe, pretty much a thick beef stew. Would you like some?” she called out.
First, there was an acute pause and then shuffling. “Uh, I would really
appreciate some, Sela,” Turin said.
She gave him a tender smile. “Why don"t you take a seat? I"ll get you some.” A
few moments later she returned with soup and some warmed bread. She placed the
bowl and small plate on the table in front of him.
“He loves you.”
A few steps away from Turin, she froze. Christ, she hoped so. Sela didn"t like to
think she was the only one who was falling head over heels in love. But the truth
was she was swimming in the dark. She glared at him. “I don"t think that"s any of
your business.”
She saw his small, tight smile, almost as though he didn"t know how to let the
smile free. “Adults always say that when you"re getting too close to the truth.”
She sighed mentally. “The truth is your brother and I have not discussed the
depth of our feelings,” she admitted before walking to the kitchen.
“That doesn"t change the facts. He loves you.”
Her heart started pounding wildly at his words. He seemed so sure, and she
wanted him to be right. She couldn"t help her reaction to Turin"s statement even
though she wanted to play it cool. “Hmmm,” she murmured. As much as she wanted
to dwell on her relationship with Rome, she knew that was not the most important
issue at hand. She lifted her head and held Turin"s gaze. “I do know one thing—he
loves you and your mother more than anything.”

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“That"s not true.” The soft yet savage way Turin whispered the words nearly
stopped her heart in its tracks. “If he loved us, he wouldn"t have left.”
Left them alone to suffer with the bastard he was forced to call father. Though
they were unspoken, the acidic words hung in the air between them.
“He didn"t have a choice.” Sela didn"t know much about what had kept Rome
from his family, but she did know the man she loved wouldn"t leave and stay away
without a damned good reason. Knowing Rome as she did, she suspected he couldn"t
stay in the same household as his father any longer and needed to get out.
“Didn"t he?”
“He"s back now.”
Turin shook his head, glossy midnight hair falling around his beautiful,
damaged face. “He came back for you. It was always about you.”
Looking into his face, so similar to her lover"s, Sela thought back to the
conversation she"d had with Rome about Turin staying with their father instead of
joining their mother at her new home. He was too angry with Rome and too hurt to
listen to reason. His mother believed Turin was old enough to decide who he wanted
to live with. Rome vehemently disagreed. Watching the emotions play across
Turin"s face, she realized they both were right.
Turin was young enough to make mistakes yet old enough to learn from them.
She reached across and intertwined their fingers, silently reassuring him. “I can
never take him away from you. You will always be his family, and that makes you
important.”
He turned away, but not before she saw the fine blush crept across his face.
She grinned at his response, wondering if the red on his cheeks resulted from her
words or touch. Knowing that they both needed to change the subject, she asked
him, “Do you want to lie down, rest?”
He looked back at her, his face devoid of emotion. “No, not really.”
She wanted to laugh out loud at his lack of expression. She thought that was a
Rome thing. She now knew it was a family trait. “Want to watch a movie? I"ve got
kettle-corn popcorn.”
“That depends. Is this movie a chick flick?”
She chuckled. There was no doubt what he thought about that genre. “No. I"m
more an action-flick girl.”
He grinned. “Well, then I"m down.”
She pointed out the media center. “How about you pick something out while I
work on the popcorn?” She waited until he was standing before the DVDs before she
left the room.
The microwave just started when the doorbell rang. Sela stuck her head out of
the kitchen and caught Turin"s gaze. “How about you man the popcorn while I check
the door?”
“Sure.” He stood and headed to the kitchen while she went to answer the door.

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She glanced at her watch. Maybe this time it was her mother and sister. It was
around the time her mother and sister were supposed to return. Better late than
never. She opened the door without checking and immediately regretted it. Standing
on her doorstep was Anthony Vicenza. She stepped onto the porch, closed the door
behind her, and asked, “How can I help you, Mr. Vicenza?” she asked quietly, not
wanting to alert Turin to his father"s presence.
“Where is my boy?”
“Rome is out of town. I"m not sure where he is,” she said, knowing fully well
which son he was talking about.
He glared at her. “I"m not talking about that good-for-nothing son of a bitch.
I"m talking about my boy.”
Sad and disappointed, she looked at him. “That"s the only son I know about.”
His mouth twisted into a sneer. “I knew you were no good the moment I saw
you. Even then I knew you would destroy my family, letting that bastard think he"s
good enough to be anything he wanted, do anything he wanted. Now, you got my
boy thinking the same way.”
“I"m sorry. I can"t help you.” She turned and reached for the door handle. Her
fingers curled around it when he yelled.
“Don"t you dare walk away from me! I"m talking to you, damn it.”
Prickles of awareness warned Sela. She whipped around to face Anthony just
before his hand reached her. She backed up instinctively. “Look, I already told you I
can"t help you. I don"t know where your son is, either of them.”
He straightened and looked down on her. “You think you"re something, don"t
you? I knew I was going to have problems the moment I heard you and Rome both
went to that reunion. A few days later Mary Beth is gone. I let it go at first,
thinking she would come home the next day like she always does, but she didn"t,
and I can"t find her. Even Turin doesn"t know where she is.” He took a menacing
step to her. “I know Rome is hiding her, but I let it go. Figured if the bitch wants to
take off, that"s her business, but now my boy is missing, and no one is going to take
my son from me.”
“Your son is not a piece of property. You don"t own him. Maybe if you treated
him better, he wouldn"t have run away,” she said, angry at the way he treated and
talked about his family. He acted as though they were trinkets he could discard
whenever he felt like it.
His head jerked up, and the skin around his eyes tightened. A look of
comprehension came over his face. “You got it in for me, don"t you?”
“What?” she asked, honestly confused.
“Your daddy and I lied about your miscarriage, and now you want some
payback, huh?” He folded his arms across his chest. “I didn"t do anything wrong.
You two were too young and never were good for each other. We did what was
right.”
“That wasn"t your decision to make,” she yelled.

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“Like you got a right to keep me away from Turin,” he retorted
“I already told you. I do—” Her statement was cut off when he lunged at her.
“Stop goddamn lying. Where is Turin? Where the hell is Mary Beth?”
Sela moved to evade him, but she wasn"t quite quick enough. His hard fingers
grabbed her wrist and pulled her forward. She stumbled a step and righted herself.
She tried to jerk her arm away from him, but his hold was sure. He wasn"t letting
her go, and she couldn"t free herself.
She looked at the door and prayed that Turin could hear them and was smart
enough not to come outside and would just call the cops.
“Don"t even think about it,” he said, his voice icy enough to send shivers of
apprehension through her.
Nervous as hell, she licked her lips and took a deep breath. “How about we
talk this out calmly? There is no need to resort to violence.”
His grip loosened slightly, and he seemed to be considering her words. “Okay.”
He released her and took a step back. The door behind her opened at that moment,
and Sela felt her heart drop into her stomach.
“Leave her alone, Dad. She hasn"t done anything wrong.”
“Thought you said you didn"t know where my boy was.” He sneered at her and
turned to Turin. “Get in the truck.”
“No.”
A little of the hope Sela felt die blossomed. The boy was brave but not stupid.
She quickly glanced over her shoulder, wanting to keep Anthony in her sight as
much as possible. The man was dangerous as hell. “Turin, go back inside and call
the police.” She turned back to Anthony. “I suggest you leave before they get here.”
“Turin, I said get in the goddamned truck.” Hatred burning in his eyes, he
looked at Sela. “I"m not going anywhere without my son, so if you want me gone, tell
him to get in the truck.”
Pulling up every bit of strength she had, Sela stood her ground and held his
gaze. “Turin, please don"t make me repeat myself. Get in the house and lock the
door.”
“But—”
“I know your brother would want me take care of you, so please let me do that,
and lock the door.”
She heard him shuffle his feet, no doubt uncomfortable with the thought of
what his brother would want, but he eventually backed up. Anthony strode forward,
intent on preventing him from closing the door. She stepped into his path and folded
her arms. “I"ve asked you nicely. Now unless you want to spend the night in the
county jail, I suggest you leave.”
“They won"t lock me up for trying to take my son home.”
“They will for trespassing, assault, and battery.”

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Sela lifted her head, shocked to see Rome standing at the bottom of her porch.
His meeting wasn"t scheduled to end for another hour. This was not good.
“You should go home, Tony.”
“What? Not going to give your father a hug?” Anthony snorted. “I"m not going
anywhere without Turin.”
Rome climbed up the steps. “Leave him alone. He"s made his choice. Be a man
and let him go.” He stood before one of the banisters. “Sela nicely asked you to
leave. Please do.” He walked around Anthony to stand beside Sela. At the feel of his
body so near to hers, she felt some of her confidence return. She wasn"t standing
against Anthony alone.
“Turin will come and see you if and when he"s ready. Until then wait for him at
home.”
The look on the man"s face told her she"d made a mistake speaking. “Shut your
mouth, bitch. Now that he"s here, I"m done talking with you.”
Anger flushed through her at his words. No one talked to her like that. She
opened her mouth to retort and then realized she was about to play right into his
hands. Responding with rage would bring her down to his level. She ignored him.
Unfortunately, Rome was unable to do that. “Don"t you dare talk to her like that.”
A look of amusement came upon Anthony"s face, and one eyebrow lifted. “Oh,
protecting your woman.”
“As a man should, but you wouldn"t know anything about that, would you? You
prefer to beat on yours,” Rome said. Then all hell broke loose. Anthony leaped at
Rome. The force of the attack was so great they broke down her front door. The two
men fell to the floor in a great heap, but that didn"t stop them from fighting each
other. They battled with fists, arms, and legs, anything and everything they could to
gain submission.
Turin appeared in the area just beyond the entryway. The horror Sela felt was
mirrored on his face. “Rome! Dad!” he yelled and started to approach them.
“Stay back,” Sela warned him, afraid he would get caught in the crossfire. He
reluctantly moved back.
Voices rose around them. There was no need to turn around and see the
source. The neighbors had come outside to see the commotion. She ignored them.
Rome finally overcame his father. He was kneeling above the older man. Sela
blanched when she saw that his hands were wrapped around Anthony"s throat.
Sirens wailed in the background. Judging by how loud the sound was, they
were very close.
Finally!
“Rome. Rome!” Sela screamed. “Don"t! If you kill him, you"ll get in trouble.” She
didn"t want him to take a chance or feel the guilt of killing a parent, even if the man
was a total asshole.

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Reluctantly, he pulled off his father. The police chose to show up at that
moment. They ran up the porch steps. “Stop. Police.” Sela immediately held her
hands up. The two men looked around the area, saw the situation was partially
under control, but strode forward. They stepped between Rome and Anthony. One of
the officers asked Anthony to step away. When the man ignored him, he pulled him
further back.
She turned to the officer next to her. “My name is Sela Newton. This is my
mother"s house. This is Anthony Vicenza. He came a couple of minutes ago,
screaming and demanding things. I asked the man to leave, and he wouldn"t,” Sela
said and pointed to Rome"s downed father. “Then he attacked Rome, his son and my
boyfriend.”
The officer then asked Rome what happened while the second policeman asked
Anthony for his version. Rome relayed his view of things, admitting that he arrived
not long before them to find Sela, standing outside the front door, demanding that
Anthony leave.
Once it became clear that Anthony was being arrested, Rome stood and walked
over to her. Tentatively, she wrapped her arms around his waist. Together, they
watched as Anthony was read his rights, arrested, and led out of the room, but not
without a parting shot. “You think she cares about you? Well, she doesn"t! She
didn"t give a shit about you then. She doesn"t now. I never should have let your
mother into my life. I never wanted you. See what you did? You broke up my family
for pussy, boy. Nothing more, you useless bastard!” he yelled as she was dragged
away from the house.
Sela looked at Rome and felt her stomach drop. His father"s words had gotten
to him.

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Chapter Twenty-one

Bringing her back to his suite had been a bad idea. Rome should have left Sela
at her mother"s house to be comforted by her sister and mom. The two women had
arrived home less than fifteen minutes after the officers carted his father away.
Though shocked by what happened they had taken the story well and almost
immediately started consoling Turin and calming Sela.
Though he tried to hide it, Rome knew Turin was deeply affected by the
altercation with Anthony. Knowing he couldn"t give his brother the support he
needed he offered to drive Turin to Mary Beth"s and had. He was surprised by Sela"s
call, though he shouldn"t have been. Instead of staying with her family, she wanted
to be there for him. She was so giving, but he wasn"t in the mood to take what she
offered.
He turned away from her. He was all too aware of the scent of her skin and the
promise of pleasure that lay in her arms, of the fact that she could pacify him. And
the last thing he wanted to do was calm down.
His anger was comforting.
His rage cleansed him. It took away everything but the reality of the pain his
father had inflicted for almost two decades, until he gathered the strength to leave
the hellhole his home was.
That would be taken from him if he let Sela convince him to let his father"s
words go.
“Don"t you dare walk away from me!” she yelled.
He turned and gazed at her over his shoulder. His fingers clenched and
unclenched with the burning rage that threatened to consume him.
Rome was not in a good place, and if anything, his emotional state was getting
worse with each moment.
He heard the staccato clicking of her heels as she strode across the suite"s
marble floor. He ran his fingers through his hair and opened his mouth to tell Sela
to leave him the hell alone when her hands curled around his upper bicep. He fully
turned to gaze at her, taken by surprise by her touch, as she pulled him against her.
“Don"t shut me out, Rome. Let me be there for you when you need me.”
“What makes you think I need you?”

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The words burst free from his mouth before they even entered his mind. He
immediately regretted the caustic words that came from a dark place he"d tried to
ignore most of his life.
The anger inside him was deep, dark, and almost hypnotic with its acidic
nature. He wanted to hurt something. Someone. The violent hunger frightened him.
But the most frightening part was the fact that he didn"t care who he hurt. He was
terrified he would hurt Sela just to appease the desire. He just wanted someone to
feel as badly as he did.
“Don"t do this. Don"t make the same mistake you made ten years ago.”
He swiftly turned around and grabbed her arm, pulling her closer to him.
“What the hell do you mean by that? I wasn"t the only one who made a mistake
when we were younger!” he yelled, angry at her accusation.
Sela"s bottom lip quivered, and the beginning of tears shone in her eyes, but
she didn"t back away from him, from his anger. She looked him over for a moment.
Then her jaw tightened, and she lifted her head. The tears and fear he saw in her
gaze was gone, replaced with determination. “I know you"re angry as
hell…frustrated…and confused. I just need you to tell me these things. I need you to
let me in. Let me love with you with something stronger than words, Rome. Let me
be the woman we both need me to be.”
Rome dropped his hands, feeling the scalding warmth of Sela"s body heat. She
was suddenly too warm, too near. He took several steps away from her.
Rome took a deep breath and tried to get a handle on his emotions. When it
felt like the feelings inside wouldn"t be contained, Rome gave Sela his back and
lowered his head.
He wanted to be alone and angry. He did not want to be this. Weak and
emotional. So fucking needy!
He felt the first tear slide down his cheek when she wrapped her arms around
his waist and pressed her chest to his back. He welcomed the darkness of the dimly
lit room as he let the pain he carried around for decades run free. He let go of it all.
He couldn"t pretend he wasn"t vulnerable after the years of abuse, the anger, and
disillusionments. He released all the pain as Sela held him in her arms. For once
Rome let someone see through to the core of him and didn"t fear her response. He
knew Sela loved him, the good and the bad.
Rome wasn"t sure how long they stood in the darkness. He only knew that Sela
was very patient with him, not saying a thing until the last tear had fallen.
“Thank you,” he whispered hoarsely. It wasn"t quite enough to convey just how
much he appreciated her, but it was better than nothing.
She ran her hands up his torso, to the middle of his chest. He tilted his head
backward and brushed his lips against her face. “I love you.”
She stilled. He knew what she was thinking. He had told her in a million
different ways that he wanted her, that she was something more than a sexual

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conquest, and even that he was emotionally attached to her. But never before had
he actually said those three simple words.
And he knew they made all the difference.
He turned and found her staring wide-eyed. The shock on her face brought a
smile to his face. For that reason alone his affection for Sela deepened.
“I love you, Sela Newton.”
“Rome…”
He shook his head and pressed his index finger to her lips, stopping her before
she could give him an excuse to reason away his declaration. “I mean it, Sela. I
wasn"t man enough to admit it before, but I"m saying it now. I love you. I think I"ve
always loved you. You"re the one. There was no one before you. And they"ll be no one
after you. You"re it, Cupcake.”
She dropped her head. Rome watched her feeling the tick of the clock
thundering in his head as each second passed. And then he saw the single silver
tear slid down Sela"s cheek.
She took a step forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I never
thought…”
“Please, Sela, put me out of my misery.”
She lifted her head and gazed at him. A slow smile spread across her lush
mouth. “I"ve said it before. I"ll say it again. I love you, Rome Vicenza. I loved you
yesterday, I love you today, and I"ll love you for all of our tomorrows.”
“Thank God.” For a moment there, as the silence grew between them, he was
afraid she"d changed her mind and no longer felt that way. He lowered his hands,
running them over her shoulders, down her arms, until he reached her waist. He
lifted Sela off her feet and into the air. She automatically wrapped her legs around
his hips.
Rome kissed her hard and swiftly. She giggled against his mouth before
kissing him back. The second time their lips met, things were different. There was
passion to the meeting of flesh. Rome tangled his tongue with hers and threaded his
fingers through the strands of her hair. He slid his right hand down her back to cup
her bottom. Almost tenderly, he tightened his grip on the full cheek. She groaned
into his mouth and rubbed her breasts against his chest.
He backed up, heading to the area that held the bed.
Sela broke off their wicked kiss and glanced behind him. “Two more little
steps,” she whispered into his ear before nipping his earlobe. He shuddered as the
simple act echoed through the full length of his body to settle at the already swollen
head of his cock.
Rome took the two steps and dropped to the bed with Sela in his lap. He
reached for the button on her dress shirt even as he moved his hips against hers,
grinding his straining erection against her sheath.

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“Yes, just like that,” she gasped as she raked her nails down his back. The
slight sting turned him on, igniting the fire in his blood.
“Fuck,” Rome growled before grabbing the sides of her blouse. He pulled and
was gratified by the sound of buttons popping off the fabric. He stared down at her
rapidly rising breasts encased in eyelet and lace.
The bra was so demure. It made the wicked, sensual things he wanted to do to
her appear all the more carnal. He grabbed the straps, pulled them off her
shoulders, and shoved them down her arms. Her bra cups folded down, and breasts
sprung free. For a few moments, Rome simply stared at her, drinking in the beauty
of her cocoa skin and milk-chocolate nipples.
She rocked her hips against his, pushing her sheath hard against his cock,
almost pushing Rome past his point of control. “I need you. God! Please, touch me.”
“Beautiful,” Rome whispered harshly before descending on one breast. He took
his time enjoying her. With slow, tantalizing, torturous licks, the velvet heat of his
tongue lapped at her flesh.
She squirmed beneath him, rolling her hips and rubbing her sheath against
his belly.
Rome cupped her breast and suckled the firm bud of her nipple. The second his
mouth descended on her flesh, she cried out his name. Encouraged by the sound of
need, Rome sucked on the tip with more enthusiasm, determined to give her more
pleasure before turning to the other nipple to give it the same love play.
With every lick, every suckle, her moans of delight grew louder until they
seemed to be coming from within him. The throaty sounds of her desire sluiced
through Rome, spurring him on.
Sela knew about the darkest corners of his soul, and still she wanted him. Her
faith in him, in their relationship humbled him. And with their lovemaking he
hoped to show her just how much he appreciated and loved her.
He released her nipple, only to replace his mouth with his hands. He plucked
her nipples as he kissed his way across and down her softly rounded stomach. He
flicked his tongue into her belly button. “Oh my goodness,” she groaned and thrust
her fingers into his hair. Sela held him to her as she gasped for mercy.
Nothing had ever sounded so sweet.
Rome released her nipples to make his way farther down her body. He grabbed
her thighs and lifted them so they were flush against her body. He looked up the
length of her curvaceous body until he reached her heavy-lidded gaze. She licked
her lips slowly and smiled at him. “Don"t you dare play with me,” she growled.
The pulse of pleasure humming through his veins seemed to explode at her
throaty, demanding words.
He grinned up at her and held her gaze as he lowered his head to her slick
flesh. “But the games are the best part of lovemaking.”
She laughed. “Smart-ass.”

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“Your smart-ass,” he qualified.
Eyes bright, she smiled down at him. “Yes, most definitely mine.”
Knowing he couldn"t tease her any longer, Rome lowered his head and brushed
his mouth across her mound. She jerked beneath him and opened her legs more,
telling him without words that she needed more of his touch. He gave it to her.
Using two fingers, Rome parted the lips of her sex to reveal her wet and
swollen inner flesh. He placed his other hand on her hip, holding her still. He
slipped one finger into her sex to caress her. He tightened the grip on her hip and
added another digit.
“Hmmm, just like that,” she moaned. He pumped his fingers in and out of her
sheath while his other hand stroked her upper thigh. When she was good and wet,
he removed his fingers.
“Rome?”
“I want to feel you when you come,” he said in reply as he knelt upon the bed.
He grasped her legs and widened he space between until he could comfortable kneel
between them. He leaned over her to open the top draw on the bedside table. He
grabbed a foil from the drawer with his left while his right hand cupped her sheath
and stroked her clitoris. He straightened, tore the wrapper open, and quickly
sheathed himself. When he finished he lifted his gaze to find Sela watching him.
“You"re so fucking sexy,” she whispered. She sat up a little, wrapped her arm
around his neck so her hand could cup the back of his head, and pulled him down
for a heated kiss. He followed her lead and thrust his tongue deep into her mouth
and devoured every delicious inch of her he could reach. It still wasn"t enough.
His hands drifted over her body, caressing her shoulders, back, the lower
curves of her breasts before moving south. He gripped her thighs and pulled her
close so their bodies were aligned. Then he took hold of his cock and pressed it to
her entrance. She groaned something inaudible, but he felt her sweet affection
against his throat in a breathy caress.
Rome jerked his hips forward and slid deep into Sela"s sheath. She felt so good,
so damned right. There weren"t words to really convey how he felt while inside her,
but the feeling was magnified this time by the realization that she loved him.
It was empowering and humbling. It was all he could ask for and more than he
deserved.
“Lord! Rome, give it to me. Don"t stop now.”
Rome blinked and looked down, surprised by Sela"s statement. Apparently he
was thinking so hard he stopped moving. “Never,” he growled and placed pressure
against her shoulders. She lowered until she was lying on the bed and he was above
her. He dipped his head until he his face was just above hers. “I want to see your
face, look into your eyes, when you"re coming.”
Her breath hitched and her eyes widened. Her tongue tentatively ran along
her bottom lip. “O-okay.”

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Rome began a steady thrust-and-retreat rhythm that he knew she enjoyed. He
pushed past the tight walls of her cunt to stroke the deepest pasts of her. They lay
together, him rocking his hips back and forth, as they looked deep into each other"s
eyes. He watched her face as though it held the answers to the world"s most
important questions. The way her eyes widened, the tightness at the edges of her
mouth, and the flush of her skin all told him how close she was to reaching
completion. Each indication brought him closer to the edge.
“Fuck! You"re close, aren"t you, Cupcake?”
“Lord, yes,” she gasped through moist lips.
“Come for me, Sela. Come for me, Cupcake,” he groaned as he felt his own body
tighten with satisfaction.
Sela came and she came hard. Her eyes started to flutter close, but by sheer
will she kept them open, on him. “Oh, God, Rome,” she moaned deeply. Her pussy
tightened and quivered around him, increasing the depth of his own pleasure and
lengthening his orgasm. “Sela,” he called out and jerked one last hard time into her.
He fell atop her and lay there for a few seconds before rolling them over so
Sela lay against him. He held her to his chest, loving the weight of her body on his.
He waited too long to bask in the comfort of her presence without fear that she
might be gone when he woke. He was finally comfortable in their relationship.
Secure enough to tell her the things she always wanted to know but never dared to
ask about.
“I think I always knew there was something different about my family, even
when I was too small to know.” She stilled on top of him. He reassured her,
caressing her back until she softened, pillowing her breasts on his chest. “I learned
at an early age to stay in my room or in the backyard. He never went there. But
Mom couldn"t hide from him, not like I could.”
She reached across his chest and tangled her fingers with his. It was
comforting.
“I"m the reason she took all those beatings.”
She gasped and sat up. He placed his finger against her mouth before she
could utter a denial. He knew Sela. She was going to tell him that he wasn"t to
blame, that it wasn"t his fault, but he didn"t need to hear that. “I need you to listen.”
She nodded slowly. He considered asking her to lie back down. It would be so
much easier to tell her if she wasn"t looking him in the eye. But he decided against
it.
“When I was about ten, Tony got drunk. Again. But this time was different. He
wasn"t just angry. He was bitter and angry and depressed. By then I had learned
that it was best to step in and redirect his anger when he started with the yelling.
“And so that"s what I did. But like I said this time was different. This time he
was yelling about how he had married my mother out of the goodness of his heart,
given her bastard a name, and she had paid him back by ruining his life.

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“I realized then that Mom had married him out of desperation. She"d tied
herself to a bastard because she was pregnant. Because of me.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “But you and Turin…”
“We both resemble our mother. According to my grandmother, the Spinelli
women have very strong genes. Turin got Tony"s eyes. I have my mother"s. Other
than that—”
“You two are spitting images of each other.”
“Yes, and he hates that. Hates that his child resembles the child of another
man.” Once the words were out, there was no taking them back. Rome felt relieved.
He had admitted the truth that caused him and Turin so much pain. His father, the
man he once loved, admired, strived to be like, hated him for something he had no
control over.
“I"m sorry.”
Rome lifted his head to look at Sela. He hadn"t realized he"d lowered it.
“I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain.” He looked down at
her. Her face was tight with consideration. She was thinking very hard about
something. After a few moments she continued speaking. “You and your brother are
both hurting. You feel the same pain. I really wish there was something I could do
about that. He"s too young.” She lifted her head to look at him. “And you… Well
you"re you.”
He smiled softly. He understood what she was trying to say. If Sela was in
pain, he would do anything in his power to end her torment simply because she was
his lover. “You could stay with me.”
She chewed her bottom lip. “As in take on the title of your girlfriend?”
“Yes. I would love to call you my girl.”
“So you"re okay with a long-distance relationship?” she said tentatively.
He shook his head. “I was hoping we could live and date in the same country
and on the same coast.”
She pulled out of his embrace and sat up. “You want me to move here?”
He straightened until his back was against the headboard. “Or I could move to
London.” He considered his words carefully. “I want us to be together and don"t
want either of us to move because we feel forced. I don"t want there to be any
resentment, but I will say this. If you moved back to New York, you could work in
the city, and you would be closer to your family.”
“True,” she murmured.
Rome was brought out of his musings when the mattress beneath him
bounced. He looked at Sela. Her eyes were closed, a scowl was on her face, and her
arms were above her head. She was clearly displeased.
“What"s wrong?” he asked.

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“Now, I"m going to have to search for a job. I hate that, the nerve-racking wait
for a response. Then you have to interview, and then you wait again. I wish I could
just skip to the first day.”
He leaned over her. Their lips were a few inches apart. “I can"t do anything
about waiting and interviewing, but I can help you send out cover letters and your
resumé. How"s that?”
She grinned up at him and lifted her head a little. “Now, this is the reason why
I love you.”
He kissed her swiftly. “Better yet, how about I sign you up for one of those
executive job agencies. I"ll pay them to do the footwork.”
“Oh, I am never letting you go,” she said with a laugh before pressing her lips
to his.
I can handle that, he thought as he deepened the kiss.

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Epilogue

Rome cut the ignition and turned to her. Sela could feel the nervous energy
coming off his hard frame in thick waves. It filled the air and made her tense.
Silently, she watched as his long, talented fingers clenched around the steering
wheel twice. Rome was on edge.
The sight of his discomfort tugged at her.
She understood a little of why Rome was uncomfortable. He was about to
introduce her to the third most important woman in his life. According to him, she
and his mother were a tie for number one.
Sela smiled at that, thinking about the flippant way he made that confession.
He was always surprising her. She reached across the console and rubbed his
shoulder. His muscles relaxed beneath her fingertips. The calm spread until it
encompassed his whole body. Happiness filled her at the sight. Sela loved that her
very touch affected Rome so deeply.
The comfort she got from touching him and being touched by him had been
sorely lacking in the last few months. She dearly missed the ability to caress him
the six months she was back in Britain. Though she hated the time across the pond,
it was required.
It was mostly used to tie up loose ends. She gave her job notice, helped the
company find her replacement, sold her condo and everything in it. She had been in
the United States for less than a week, and she couldn"t be happier. When she first
left she was worried about what the distance would do to them, especially so early
in their relationship. It turns out she worried for nothing. If anything, they became
closer to each other thanks to the distance. They talked every day, more often than
not for hours at a time. Still, nothing compared to being able to converse face-to-
face.
He turned, lifted his hand, and trailed his fingers down her cheek, warming
her skin. Delicately, as though he was afraid she was going to break or disappear,
he brushed his rough thumb across her bottom lip. “Let"s get this damned meeting
over,” he growled before stepping out of the car. He rounded the front of the vehicle
and opened her door. She closed it behind her and leaned against the door.
“I need a kiss,” she said softly. She lifted her hands and grasped the lapels of
his simple designer suit and pulled him close.
He smiled slowly. “You need a kiss, huh?”

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“It"s been too long,” she whispered against his mouth before capturing his lips
in heated kiss. They had been driving for over two hours, and not once had they
done anything but touch. It left like it had, in fact, been forever since they last
kissed. But she wasn"t kissing him for that reason alone. She was kissing him
because she knew it would calm him even more, and whatever relaxed him, relaxed
her.
“We shouldn"t do this. Not here,” he murmured before dipping his head and
deepening the kiss. He licked her lips, paying particular attention to her bottom lip.
She rolled her hips against his, delighting in the feel of his growing erection. Rome
nipped her bottom lip before sucking it into his mouth. His hands moved down her
body until they reached her hips.
His fingers tightened on her flesh reflexively. Pleasure spiked through her.
She leaned farther into his touch, molding their bodies together. The sound of a car
driving by brought her back to the present and their location. She pulled back and
smiled at him sheepishly. Sometimes she wondered how they even made it out of
his house. It seemed that they couldn"t go two steps without needing to touch each
other.
Christ, she loved this man.
“Are you two going to spend all day in the driveway making out, or are you
going to come in?”
They pulled apart in surprise. She glanced at the door and saw an elderly
Indian couple standing at the top of the steps. The woman, a tiny thing who couldn"t
be more than five feet tall, waved gaily. Something told her that despite her
diminutive size and age, the woman was a handful.
She momentarily closed her eyes in embarrassment before waving back.
Holding Rome"s arm, she made her way up the walkway to meet the couple who"d
helped start Rome"s career.
Two hours later, after dinner, dessert, and a lot of lively conversation, Sela
was proven right about her first impressions. Rani Zinta was a force to be reckoned
with. She manned the table with such grace, Sela found herself taking mental
notes, hoping to learn how to carry herself with just a little of her elegance.
Once the servants cleared away the last plate, Rani stood. “Now, time for the
entertainment.” She turned to her husband, Vivek. “You, husband of mine, take
Rome and go do what you boys do. I have something to show Sela.”
Sela glanced at Rome. Anxiousness and excitement clear on his face, he
indicated that she should follow Rani. The emotions she saw made her nervous.
Why was he both eager and nervous?
“Come on now. I"ve only got so many years left.”
Sela stood. Vivid hazel eyes shining, Rani smiled at Sela and beckoned her
closer. At that moment her husband appeared beside Rome. “Come, Rome, let us go
outside and have a smoke. The ladies have much to discuss.”

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Rome glanced from her to Rani and back to her again. He gave a reassuring
smile. “All right, I"ll see you later.”
“Bye, Sela,” he replied and walked over to where Vivek stood. He glanced back
at Sela before stepping through the doorway and into the hall.
Sela smiled slowly, surprised by Rome"s reaction. Although he"d done his best
to keep the emotion off his face, when he looked back that last time, the truth was
in Rome"s eyes. He was terrified by the thought of leaving her with Rani. She
couldn"t help wondering what secrets Rome hid that he feared Rani would reveal.
She turned back to Rani at the sound of the older woman"s chuckle. Eyes
twinkling with mirth caught hers. “Smart boy. He knows I"m going to let the cat out
of the bag.” She chuckled.
Sela was instantly intrigued. “What is this cat?” she purred, her attention
captivated by the joy and amusement she saw on Rani"s face.
She held out her hand. “Won"t you join me and find out?”
Sela"s fingers slipped into Rani"s, palm brushing over her soft, weathered skin.
She allowed herself to be led down a long corridor. They stopped in front of a
large cherrywood door. Rani turned the knob and led her into the dark room. Sela
followed with cautious steps, unable to see anything in front of her. They got a little
ways into the room when Rani stopped. “This was his first real piece. I saw this and
I knew he would be somebody. He just needed the right connections. Luckily, I have
those connections,” she said with a chuckle. “I"ve decided something like this needs
to stay in the family, his family. So I"m giving it to you.” Then low lights came on.
It took her breath away. It was a three-part sculpture piece. The first statue
was of a young girl, no more than eight, the second of a teenager, maybe around
fifteen years of age, and the last one was a young woman around twenty-five. The
detail that captured her attention was the face. She knew those eyes, that mouth,
those cheekbones, as she saw them every time she looked in the mirror.
“It"s called „Venus Blooms." Telling, isn"t it?”
She turned swiftly at the sound of Rome"s voice. Rani stood next to him. She
patted his shoulder, smiled at Sela, and slipped out of the room.
“Oh, Rome,” Sela said quietly. She didn"t exactly know what to say in response
to the three carvings. They were so beautiful. Yet she was the focus of the work. She
would have never thought of herself in that manner, but seeing Rome"s piece made
her realize just how much he felt for her. It was as frightening as it was captivating.
He smiled softly. “I"ve loved you for a long time, Sela,” he admitted.
She glanced back at the artwork before looking at him. The depth of his love
was never more apparent. “Just as I"ve loved you for years now.”
He looked deep into her eyes. Rampaging elephants danced around her
stomach at the look on his face. He was looking for something important. She just
hoped he found it.
His smile widened. “I think it"s about time we made this thing official.”

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She nervously licked her bottom lip. “What do you mean?” She hoped she had a
good idea of what he was thinking, but she wanted to be sure. The last thing she
wanted to do was get her hopes up.
He reached into his right pocket. “I thought this could wait until we"ve dated
longer, but it occurred to me that we"ve waited long enough.” He pulled out a small,
discreet black velvet box and dropped to one knee. “Sela Newton, better known as
Cupcake, will you marry me?”
“Of course,” she said as tears fell from her eyes. He stood and wrapped his
arms around her. Sela tilted her head back and pursed her lips, ready for his kiss.
He placed his mouth on hers, and the bliss she felt when he proposed solidified. This
was real.
In the beginning Rome promised her body the utmost pleasure, but over time
he gave so much more. He loved and protected her. Satisfaction guaranteed, indeed,
she thought as she deepened his kiss.

Loose Id Titles by Tuesday Morrigan


Blindfold Me
Eve’s Spawn
Fantasy Man
Monstrous Kink
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Sugar Mama
Wicked Intentions

Tuesday Morrigan

Tuesday Morrigan began her love affair with romance at an early age. As a
child she was always infatuated with the romance novels she snuck from her
mother. Later, in high school, the public library became her sanctuary with an
endless array of romance novels. Tuesday is still an avid reader of books. Thanks to
shows like Buffy, Angel, and her latest infatuation, Supernatural, Tuesday prefers
her stories to have a little more grit. Her favorite genres have always been fantasy,
mystery, romance and erotica, so as a writer, she tries to blend the genres to create
her own personal niche.

Document Outline

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-one
Epilogue
Loose Id Titles by Tuesday Morrigan
Tuesday Morrigan