THREE

RACHEL’S BIG, DARK EYES WIDENED WITH SHOCK, AND SHE shook her head. “I’d rather not. You’re going to let me ‘steer,’ so it won’t be an issue.”

As she moved in to kiss him, Decker turned his head just enough to graze the soft skin of her neck with his lips, then he rested them on her lobe. “Even so, you need to give me a little information so I understand what you don’t like.”

She eased back and met his stare, then tried to wriggle off his lap. He tightened his arms around her, and finally, she sighed.

“It was with my ex-husband,” she murmured, looking away. “Owen was always just so . . . serious. I don’t know how to put it. It seemed like something he tolerated more than loved.”

“Which made you feel somehow responsible, so you didn’t enjoy it either?”

Her gaze bounced back up to his, as if he’d surprised her with his perception. It didn’t take a rocket scientist . . . but that deduction was apparently beyond a physicist. Go figure.

“Yes.” She nodded, and he saw a sweet little flush spread across her cheeks. “He didn’t ever want to talk about it.”

Then Owen deserved lousy sex. Dumbass. “Anything else?”

“It’s water under the bridge.” She squirmed uncomfortably.

“I don’t think so. Your last time in the sack sucked. Communication is key. We’ve got to have some if you want me to give you a better time. Besides, how are you going to tell me what you want when we’re naked if you can’t say it now?”

She chewed on that plump little lip for a moment. “All right. I don’t think he knew where I was . . . um, sensitive.”

That didn’t surprise Decker, but he had to rein in a laugh at her delicate phrasing. “You mean he didn’t have a clue where your clit was and you wished like hell he did?”

Her blush deepened. “Are you always this direct?”

“I don’t see any sense in beating around the bush.” He grinned. “Especially yours. It sounds like you’d be pretty happy if I could shake it once or twice.”

Though her jaw dropped and she smacked his shoulder, she was smiling. “That’s crude!”

“But honest. How was the rest of your relationship?”

“Well, not too good or we wouldn’t be divorced.”

Oh, sass. How much fun would it be to silence her bratty mouth with a kiss that made her toes curl before he turned her into a pile of goo? “Are you two still civil or did it end too ugly?”

“It’s mostly polite. Owen sometimes loses his temper. I just ignore him.”

And that might really be pissing the ex off. Definitely, he wanted to keep digging here, but couldn’t go too deep now without making her suspicious. When he got a free moment, he’d look up the asswipe and see if his face matched the guy who’d solicited him to commit murder. Until then, he had to tread lightly with the questions about her ex—except sexually. Rachel hid a wealth of repressed desire.

“Did he ever do anything in bed that you liked?”

“Not really. You’re probably wondering why I married him. My friends back in Florida, where I’m from, asked me that all the time. Owen is eight years older than me, and at first I liked how knowledgeable he seemed, but that didn’t extend to sex. It took me years to realize that he liked to hear himself talk more than listen. When the topic was something he couldn’t pontificate about, he changed it.” She cocked her head and stared. “Do you psychoanalyze every woman before you sleep with her?”

Decker figured that was his cue to shut up. “You said you want a man who listens. I’m trying. How do you think I can give you what you want if I don’t understand you even a little? Do you know what you want?”

Rachel reared back. A million thoughts flitted across her face. She looked angry, then sad, then downright confused. Decker held her tighter. She didn’t have a clue what her true desires were, but he’d show her as soon as she got over this ridiculous notion of being in charge.

“It’s orgasm. It shouldn’t be this difficult.”

Was she saying that a man had never given her one? The idea of being the first to succeed damn near made him salivate. Yes, it was probably stupid and unnecessarily territorial, but attraction wasn’t logical. And he didn’t think it was logic she needed as much as a hot, ripe, raunchy fucking. And then to be held.

He smiled. “That depends on you. If you really know what flips your switch and can express it clearly, we’ve got no worries. If you don’t, you may not enjoy sex with anyone until you figure it out.”

“What about you?” she challenged. “You seem like you don’t have any problems just . . . blurting what you want.”

He didn’t blurt, just usually commanded. That wasn’t relevant to the conversation now. She was getting worked up and worried. Time to calm her down.

Brushing his knuckles over the soft swell of her breast again, he watched with satisfaction as goose bumps raised on her arms and legs. “Men are simple. We’re almost always ready. We don’t have swells and folds. Our most sensitive nerve endings aren’t hidden. You pay attention to a guy’s cock, and I guarantee he’s going to like it.”

Rachel pressed her lips together and tried not to giggle, but she failed. “The way you put things . . . My mama would positively expire.”

Decker grinned at her sweet, if exaggerated, Southern accent. “I’m not interested in your mama.”

She smiled but didn’t quite meet his gaze. “Kiss me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” That was one demand he didn’t mind giving in to.

•   •   •

DECKER BARELY PUT his hands on her, and she began to tremble. Everything about him was so strong and masculine and called to the female inside her. Nestled on his lap, she sat just a tad shorter than him. And his wide shoulders made her sigh. He seemed to surround her, make her feel delicate. Though she’d tried so hard to be independent and stand on her own two feet since the divorce, Rachel admitted that she liked feeling tiny in his arms. She wasn’t sure what she’d done to snag his attention, but she would just be grateful to spend the night of her birthday with someone as gorgeous as him and hope there was an orgasm or two in her future. He looked more than capable.

His rough hand gently cradled the crown of her head, strong fingers burrowing into the strands of her hair. With a little tug, he tilted her head back. His mouth hung a breath over hers. She blinked up at him, pulled into his hungry blue eyes with their thick fringe of black lashes. What would his lips feel like on her skin? What would those brawny hands do to her body?

“Tell me how you want me to kiss you,” he whispered.

Rachel frowned. She had to explain it?

“Passionately.”

“Slow? Fast? Deep? Teasing?” he challenged. “You want me to seduce or tongue-fuck that pretty mouth?”

Her stomach clenched. Her sex pulsed. His words alone aroused her.

She gripped his big shoulders, her breath coming fast. “All of it.”

A knowing smile spread across his face. “What do you want after that, beautiful? If you had to spell it out in excruciating detail, tell me what you’d say?”

Mind racing, she stared at him. Mercy, she’d assumed she had a hundred ideas, but when she tried to imagine perfect lovemaking . . . she just pictured herself writhing in ecstasy under him. That wasn’t very specific, and sort of proved his point. She’d read hundreds of fabulous descriptions of earth-shattering sex, but she didn’t know exactly what would feel good to her. Still, she wasn’t ready to put the control of her pleasure in another man’s hands, even if he seemed more competent than Owen, not until she’d explored and gained some confidence.

“Can we experiment?”

He shrugged. “Sure. So you want to start with that kiss now?”

Decker was teasing her, dragging it out, making her wait. She wriggled on his lap, seeking relief for the sweet pressure building between her legs. “Yes.”

His grip in her hair tightened. He readjusted her body so that she straddled his hips. Then he swooped down, his mouth covering hers, at the same time he wrapped his free arm around her waist and jerked her flush against him. Rachel had no idea how many teeth were actually in his zipper. But when his steely erection rubbed against her tender folds, sending tingles scattering through her, she had no trouble believing that it caged a hungry beast.

As he nudged her lips apart, Decker swept inside like he knew exactly how to make a woman moan. He ravished her mouth as if she made him desperate. A passionate moan escaped her throat, and he greedily swallowed the sound. Heat rolled through her body, into her peaking nipples, drifting right between her legs, as he moaned and crushed her against him.

With a twist of his fingers, he forced her to slant her head so he could sink deeper into the kiss. She should protest at the way he was taking over. But all those BDSM romances on her e-reader had introduced her to the idea of a very alpha male—something Owen would never be. Those Dominant men very nearly read a woman’s mind so that they could unravel her and give her the ultimate pleasure. She’d assumed that was just fiction. But the way Decker took her mouth, prowling every recess, tasting and luring her closer only to pull back, nip at her lips, pause and stare, then kiss her again like he couldn’t stand a moment of separation between them made her rethink her assumptions.

They shared breaths. She tasted the spicy flavor of Decker’s kiss. Instead of sating her, she only craved more. The way his mouth took hers . . . It was as if he owned her. Why did she like that idea so much? They were strangers, and he’d probably be gone in a few hours. Tonight was just a fantasy.

“God, you taste so fucking sweet. I want to devour all of you, but I can’t stand to stop kissing you. Jesus . . .”

A thrill of feminine pride filled her. She’d never really been truly wanted. Owen hadn’t been demonstrative. He hadn’t really even liked kissing. Too many germs. Sure she’d had a few dates in high school, but they’d been with boys. Decker was a man.

Rachel felt herself melting into him, wanting just a few moments of his strong, sure embrace. With every breathless kiss, their lips met more urgently. Dizzying arousal swam headily through her veins like a drug he used to keep her lips his captive. The liquid pleasure spread, and it overtook through her veins. He was everything she’d ached for—and more.

“I want this damn robe off,” he growled against her lips before he seized them again, plundering deep. He gave her only a moment’s respite to process his words before he eased back with another snarl. “Now, Rachel. I want to see your pretty nipples. I want them in my mouth. I want them hard on my tongue. They’re mine tonight, and you’re going to give them to me.”

With his gruff demand, her stomach plunged to her toes. The stiff points tightened, and she could feel them chafing against the silk as if pointing their way to Decker. In that moment, she wanted to give in so, so badly. Could he feel how damp her panties were?

Even if he could, she still had to be responsible for her own pleasure. Sure, she could let him do what he liked. She’d probably even love it. Likely, there would be multiple orgasms in her future. But wanting to explore sex wasn’t just about reaching nirvana. It also meant growing her confidence and figuring out who she was sexually. At twenty-nine, she didn’t know what made her blood sing or what made her feel most like a woman. She also didn’t know much about giving pleasure. Owen hadn’t been big into foreplay.

“Eventually, I will,” she promised, blinking up at him. “But I’m in control, remember? You promised.”

His eyes narrowed, and his fingers tightened in her hair. The hunger in his eyes gnawed at her composure. Everything about that look made her want to rip off her robe and offer herself up to him.

“All right. What do you want, beautiful?”

“You naked. Let me look at you,” she whispered. Though she couldn’t wait to see him, Rachel wished her answer sounded more certain. Why couldn’t she be more vixen and less wallflower? And crap, when would she stop blushing?

“All right. I’m all yours.” Decker spread his arms wide like he couldn’t wait to flash her.

This was going to be good.

Rachel unbuttoned his black shirt and peeled away the material clinging to his broad shoulders with strained seams. She shoved it down his arms, revealing biceps that bulged and rippled as he helped her by shrugging out of the garment and tossing it to the floor. His dog tags rattled, then pinged against his hard chest, where he was muscled from the firm pectorals half covered by a patch of dark hair and some sort of military tattoo to the eight-pack of abs that disappeared into low-slung denim.

Her jaw dropped. She almost swore that she could glimpse something shadowy and male just below that black and silver buckle helping his pants cling to his hips.

Decker grinned as he stared back at her with sexual challenge. “You want me more naked than this?”

“Yes.” Please.

“You got it.” He lifted her off his lap, copping a feel of her thigh and trying to brush her robe away.

Rachel wagged a finger at him. “You’re awfully pushy.”

“Probably why I’m in trouble a lot.” He grinned. “But let’s see if I can make you forget that.”

Decker opened his belt buckle with a clink and released every one of the teeth holding back his waiting erection. Then he dropped his pants into a careful puddle on the floor and stood, totally naked.

Holy mother of all that’s . . . whoa! He’d been commando. No pesky underwear to bother with. Just another tattoo that looked like an eagle talon on his hip and inch after imposing inch of his massive erection.

She swallowed.

“If you work for the post office, I’ll let you inspect my package.” He sauntered the two steps back to the sofa and stood over her. “Hell, I might even let you if you don’t.”

The pick-up line barely registered with his thick male flesh bobbing in her face, its big plum head nearly purple. She had to scrape her jaw off the floor when he wrapped his hand around the stiff column and stroked slowly, visually teasing her. So sexy. What would he feel like in her palm? The musky scent of him rising toward her seemed more concentrated and mysterious between his legs. His testicles were big and heavy.

She was desperate to touch him.

After watching the slow, hypnotic motion of his thick fingers sliding up and down his sensitive sex, Rachel ached to do that to Decker and make him feel good.

With a fortifying breath, she forced down her nervousness, shoved his hand out of her way, and gripped the hot, hard stalk of flesh. Her fingers didn’t quite meet when she encircled him. Slowly, she stroked up, swiping her thumb over the head. He clenched his teeth and hissed in a breath, hardening even more in her hand.

A tremor of need shook her. Her folds became more than a little damp.

“Damn, beautiful. That’s so good. Unless you’re looking to finish me off with your hand, I wouldn’t do that for much longer.”

Eventually, she might want that with a lover, but now she wanted to be with Decker more than simply watch him.

“Not what I had in mind.” She shook her head.

“Then what are you going to do with me?”

His words ended with a moan, and the sound went straight between her legs.

Good question. Exactly what did she want? She frowned, coming up blank. The truth was, she didn’t know.

The obvious was to put his big, silky shaft in her mouth and suck. She’d heard men liked that. It sounded exciting . . . a little forbidden—at least to her. She’d never done it. Owen thought fifteen minutes for sex was too long, so they’d never lingered. As much as she wished for the confidence to just wrap her lips around him, she wasn’t the sort to climb all over a guy. And she had no idea what Decker would truly like or enjoy. A vague shame overtook her that she hadn’t asked even once. Sex was supposed to be a two-way street. Hadn’t Owen’s lack of communication taught her that?

“What are your suggestions?” Rachel hoped he had plenty. Clearly, she was clueless and lost now that her big take-charge plan didn’t seem to be working.

“That you let me show you.” When she opened her mouth to argue, he knelt and put a finger to her lips. “I know you want to experience new things. I’m guessing you haven’t had many lovers.”

“Just Owen.”

Understanding softened his face. Rachel didn’t know how someone so angular and male could look so gentle.

“How are you supposed to know what turns you on most if you’ve never experienced it? We’ll still experiment, but let’s turn this around. Give me control. If you don’t like something, you just tell me. We’ll try something else.”

“But I let Owen control everything, and it was a disaster.”

“I’m not your ex-idiot.”

No, but . . . “I can’t be upset that sex is never what I want if I don’t play an active role.”

“You will, and it’s hot that you want to. But to start, I think your active role should be to tell me what you like. For instance, you can tell me if you’d rather have your nipples caressed, pinched, or something else. Maybe you’re not even sensitive there, but we’ll find out. Then you can tell me if you like my mouth on your pussy, if you like to be kissed while I fuck you, or if you enjoy bondage.”

Rachel felt her eyes widen. And her body begin to overheat.

“Yes, we’re going to do all that and more.” He cupped her thigh. “You’re assuming I’m as inept as Owen. I promise, beautiful, that I won’t let you down. I know we just met a few hours ago, but I’m about to become your lover. If we’re going to make that work, you’ve got to trust me with your body or this is going nowhere.”

A really good point . . .

“It’s not that I don’t trust you.”

“Oh?” He grinned. “Well, if it’s not that, then you’re just naturally a control freak?”

She felt heat flood her cheeks. “I’ll . . . um, plead the fifth.”

With a lopsided smile, he stood, unfolding every inch of that mouthwateringly male body. The slightest inhalation made his abs ripple. His biceps flexed when he held out his hand to her. “Come with me.”

How the devil was she supposed to say no to that?

Rachel put her hand in his, and he squeezed it. “Lead the way.” Show me what to do.

He hesitated. “Is your bedroom down the hall?”

“Yes.” She smiled faintly. “I actually feel so comfortable with you that I’d forgotten you don’t know where anything is. Come with me, then you can take over.”

Decker linked their fingers, then bent to scoop up his pants. She led him past the darkened rooms lining the hallway, then into her shadowy bedroom. She debated flipping on the lamp sitting on her nightstand. Did he want to see her? Would he rather be in the dark?

“You’re thinking and not communicating,” he pointed out as he set the jeans aside and drew her into his arms, against him.

“One of the perils of being a teacher. I can’t say everything I think in a classroom.”

“I’ll bet.” He kissed her nose playfully, then her cheek, moving toward her ear. “Trust, remember?”

“Yeah. Got it.”

“You’re nervous.”

Why deny the obvious? “It’s been almost two years, since just before Owen and I separated.”

“A beautiful woman should be pleasured well and often. But I don’t think that’s the only issue. I make you nervous.”

He didn’t ask; he knew. “There were prettier girls at the bar.”

“No.” He shook his head. “There were easier girls at the bar. When you’re twenty-one, yeah, that’s great. A few drinks, a joke or two, and you’ll probably get lucky. By the time a guy is thirty, he’s looking for some substance along with a girl’s great rack. By then, he’s figured out that he likes a little conversation afterward, too.”

Rachel rolled her eyes, but felt a smile crease her face. “So how old are you?”

“Old enough to enjoy talking to you,” he drawled, nipping at her earlobe. “Later . . .”

Which probably meant he was over thirty. If not, he’d be with someone named Barbie or Tawny having much less conversation. But the answer didn’t really matter now, especially not when he brushed his lips over her throat. Goodness, that sent an electric shiver through her body.

“I don’t know anything about you,” she protested.

“Do you want to know my date of birth and blood type or do you want to know what I feel like when I’m fucking my way deep inside your aching pussy?”

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