She melted on top of him, sinking into the heat and flush of falling action. He lightly skimmed his hands up her back, so careful that it made her tremble.

"Hurt?" His voice a burr near the back of her skull.

She turned her head and her lips brushed against the softness at his jaw. "Yeah."

His fingertips glanced down her spine, barely touching. "I don't know what to say."

She sighed. "Me either." He wasn't the one who had hurt her.

(Except he had.)

She could feel his ribs pushing against her stomach, the struggle to breathe. She shifted to give him a little less of her weight and the separation of their bodies was wet and awkward. She felt him untangle from her and pushed back.

She laid on her side and watched him peel the condom down and make an expert knot in the top. She was surprised when he tossed it to the floor and turned on his side to meet her.

"What a move," she murmured, lifting an eyebrow.

He touched her knee and slid his hand up her thigh to her hip. "You impressed?"

"I am." Nonsense words really, none of this conversation held the things they really ought to say. But it was comfortable where this newfound intimacy was not, not yet. "What time is it?"

He twisted, looking back to his alarm clock, and something in her twisted as well. "Almost three."

When he turned back, she wondered if he was anxious. He hadn't the smirk or the self-satisfied looks she was used to from him. The confidence he had when he got his way, when he was right. Was this the real side of him?

Was he as scared as she was, or far more low-key about this?

His hand moved, arrested between them suddenly, then continued its trajectory to her shoulder. It felt unnatural, this half embrace, as if he didn't know where to put his hands. Even his eyes wouldn't meet hers. He was looking at the sheet when he said, "What made you show up?"

A boom of thunder and the walls rattled, the lion in his frame seeming to roar. Her heart jack-rabbited, and his palm drifted, laid over her upper chest, fingers skirting the crease of her breasts. She knew he could feel her throbbing pulse.

"Are you afraid?" he murmured. Curved in his fingers and looked at her. "You are. Why?"

Tears burned but she couldn't. Not now. "I… have lost a lot of important things in my life and this was all my own doing—" Choking, and she couldn't speak for the way her throat closed with grief.

His eyes dropped from hers, but now his fingers stroked lightly at the place where her breasts met, gravity pressing them together as she laid on her side. She realized, a heartbeat too late, he was brushing the scar.

Not at all romantic, or sexy. Deliberative, she figured. Measured. Taking her measure.

"Your heart stopped," he said.


"In the ambulance." Now he teased a nipple and skirted the under slope of her breast, against the curve, as if he had to be touching to tell her this. "She told me your heart stopped under her hands. There was so much blood, Kate."

She swallowed and it burned.

"Are you in pain?"

His question came out of nowhere, knocking her senseless, and she just stared at him. His hand withdrew as if denied and she grabbed him by the wrist, a flare of agony sparking behind her shoulder blade and up into the base of her skull. "Don't stop."

"Does it hurt?"

"Of course it hurts," she rasped. "It always hurts. Nothing is pain-free. That doesn't mean you stop."

He gave her a long slow look that flipped her heart, sent it into her mouth.

She released his wrist, couldn't understand how they could be so bad at this after two rounds of intense sex. Chemistry wouldn't be enough to get them through the storm.

"Not everything has to hurt you."

She sucked in a breath and let it out in a jagged stutter, pressure behind her eyes. He leaned in and immediately there was no distance, only his body pressing hers back, his hand caressing her stomach. She flinched but he leaned in for a kiss, and she rose desperately for it, her teeth already scoring his lip.

His leg eased over hers. His thigh pressed open her thighs. When his fingers eased between her legs she moaned, giving him leave to travel on, mouth against her breast.

This time it was a rushing noise in her head, a roar and whirl, a cosmic force.

Her orgasm tasted like seared ozone.