Just the Way You Are
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“I only agreed because we both needed something out of this.”
He grinned. “I got you as my wife, didn’t I?”
“I hope you aren’t counting on a happy ending. I can promise, you’ll only be disappointed.”
Harrison was counting the minutes until he could get his wife na**d and under him.
He tuned out the resort’s concierge as he droned on about amenities. He kept his eyes on Stacey’s ass swaying under that light blue sun dress and his mind on what kind of swimsuit she’d packed.
He’d lost interest in the tour at the golf course—what the hell kind of man wanted to spend his honeymoon perfecting his swing?—and now they approached the chalets lining the beach. The tour was coming to an end, thank Christ.
“And last but not least,” the concierge said, pulling a plastic key card from his pocket, “your suite.” He unlocked the door and held it open.
“It’s beautiful.” Stacey’s voice was equal parts awe and dismay as she stepped into the clean, open space.
Her anger had cooled to a simmer since they landed—no doubt helped by the jovial atmosphere of the island and the very large glasses of champagne the staff kept passing in her direction.
“Oh, this bed is gorgeous.” She bypassed the small lounging area to run her hand over fat, fluffy pillows. “Satin sheets. And the view.” She frowned in the direction of the picture window.
“Between the tone of your voice and your words, I can’t decide if you like it or find it depressing.”
“It’s too much. You shouldn’t have.” Her brow wrinkled and she turned to the concierge. “Is there a second bedroom?”
The concierge passed his gaze between Harrison and Stacey several times before settling on her. “Um, no. As a couples-only resort, we don’t get many requests for a second bedroom.”
A flush crept up her cheeks. “He snores.”
Harrison grinned, closing the distance separating him from his bride. “I don’t plan on doing much sleeping.”
He pinched her ass and she squeaked.
The concierge cleared his throat. “Your luggage was delivered and unpacked during your tour. Please contact me if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable. My extension is on your phone.” With a nod, he was gone.
And they were alone.
Stacey twisted her hands and bit her lip, eyeing the door like a trapped animal.
“I don’t bite.” He brushed the hair off her neck and over her shoulder. He traced the faint line that marked the side of her neck. “What’s this?”
She shivered softly. “Just a scar.”
One of many, he thought. He rubbed his thumb over this physical scar, but wondered about the scars he couldn’t see. He leaned forward and brushed his lips over it.
She sighed. “You’re sending my mind and my body into a fierce argument, touching me like that.”
“Good.” He could press his lips to hers, test her resolve, taste her sweetness. He could wipe away her composure and replace it with an entirely different expression. “Let me know who wins.”
Her cheeks bloomed red at the reminder. “Don’t let last night’s limo ride give you the wrong idea. You gave me a pity marriage. It was least I could do in return.”
His blood cooled in his veins. “What? A pity blowjob?”
She pulled her lip between her teeth. “No. It wasn’t like that.”
“What was it then, Stace?” She tried to turn away but he stopped her, tilting her chin up until her deep brown eyes met his. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“That’s a lie and we both know it. I owe you everything.”
He dropped his hands and stepped back. “I’m not interested in sexual favors as some sort of payment for this marriage.”
Her eyes flashed. “I know you don’t like the rules, but you don’t have to be celibate for a year.” She drew in a shaky breath. “If you’re discreet, there’s no reason you would have to…abstain.”
He clenched his jaw. “You’re kidding me, right? You think this is just about sex? You honestly believe I want you to change your mind because I can’t keep it in my pants for a year?”
She stepped back and he followed her. “It’s different for guys.” She backed up another step. “I understand that.” Another step and she was against the wall.
He closed the space between them and leaned over her. “I don’t want sex, Stace.”
She blinked. “You don’t?”
His eyes dropped to her parted lips, that bottom one she continually assaulted with her teeth, that mouth that had moved so hot and greedy over him last night. “I’ve spent the last month acting like you were going to be mine forever. I’ve touched you and held you. I’ve craved you.”
She swallowed. “It was an act.”
“I’m not that good an actor.” He traced her bottom lip with his thumb. “Don’t insult me by suggesting sex with anyone would scratch my itch. I don’t want anyone. I want you.”
When he pulled back to look at her face, her eyes darkened and her lips parted. He ran his eyes down her body. “Just thinking about it turns you on—you can’t hide that. Think about how good the real thing could be.”
She released a strangled sound he didn’t bother analyzing.
“Change into your suit.” He nodded toward the door. “There’s a beach out there calling our names.” He tugged his shirt off over his head and reached for the button on his jeans. “We’re wasting daylight.”
She scurried off to the bathroom.
“Oh, my God!” she called.
Jeans half unbuttoned, swim trunks in hand, Harrison ambled after her. He found Stacey staring wide-eyed at the oversized soaker tub.
“Did you know about this?”
“You have something against bath tubs?”
“I’ve never seen…” She licked her lips. “I mean, it’s…” Her eyes flashed to him and back to the tub. “If someone walked in, they’d see everything.”
“We should all be so lucky.”
That adorable red flush crept up her cheeks again.
He took a step toward her, closing the distance between them so she’d have to look up at him. “I envy the man who steps onto these tiles to see his woman sliding a hand between her legs.”
Her flush turned deeper, embarrassment morphing into arousal. How could she be so scared of sex and so deeply sensual all at the same time?
He lowered his lips to her ear, whispering now. “I can imagine standing here and watching the pleasure on your face as you take that shower head and let the pulsing water massage its way down your body. Between your legs.”
“The…” She licked her lips. “…Showerhead?”
Her breathing had grown ragged, and if he wanted to, he could turn her around and kiss her now. Instead, he smacked her ass lightly. “See you on the beach.”
Harrison was shirtless and gorgeous and the sight of him didn’t do a thing to calm her racing heart. She hadn’t recovered from his hot words in the bathroom, and now she had to pretend not to notice the light sprinkling of hair that trailed in a thin line down and under the band of his swim trunks. He’d been in the ocean and his mop of hair was slicked back from his face. When a bead of water dropped onto his shoulder, she had to tamp down a ridiculous urge to lick it.
She forced herself to remove her wrap—despite every insecurity telling her to leave it—and settled into a beach chair. Taking a deep breath of the salty air, she allowed herself to relax a little for the first time in a month. “How’s the water?”
He pulled his eyes off the soft waves and slid them over her body. “Perfect.”
Was he talking about the water or voicing his approval of her red suit?
She turned away, confused by that hot gaze. Harrison Duval was way out of her league and by associating with her, he could only hurt himself.
She shook away the guilt the thought brought on. Their marriage was a temporary arrangement. And even if it would no longer benefit them both, she wouldn’t let it ruin Harrison. She wasn’t her father, and she wasn’t a sixteen-year-old girl anymore.
Nevertheless, she needed to stop any fantasy of this marriage being more than it was.
Harrison dated hard-bodied women with perfect hair and makeup. Smart women with doctorates and law degrees. Respectable women who came from good families who couldn’t poison his life with their baggage.
She was haunted by her grandmother’s words at her mother’s funeral. “I dream of what her life would have been like if she hadn’t married so far beneath her.”
“I got you a daiquiri.” He grabbed the glass off the little table between them and handed it to her.
She took a long draw through her straw, needing the rum to soothe her frayed nerves.
“We should talk.” She smoothed the condensation on the glass against her chest, grateful for the feel of the cold against her skin.
He followed the glass with his eyes. “About your rules, I hope.”
“We need a plan for the divorce,” she said, because “About our past” was too hard a place to start.
He arched a brow. “Can that wait until after the honeymoon?”
“Now that your work isn’t an issue, there’s no reason you need to be pinned down for a whole—”
“Stop.” His features were hard but softened as he grabbed her hand and pressed her fingers to his lips. “You might not have noticed, but there’s a gorgeous sunset happening right over that water. Stop worrying so much about there and then. Enjoy here and now.”
She took in a fortifying breath. He was right, and the view was stunning—every shade from yellow to magenta fought for space in the thin strip of horizon where the sun sank into the sea.
“A picture of the newlyweds?”
A man wearing a resort t-shirt squatted in front of their beach chairs and aimed his camera at them. “Come on now, this is for our website! Act like you like each other so the family at home can see you’re having a nice time.”
Stacey turned to smile at Harrison, and he looped a finger through her suit’s halter strap and drew her near. The smile fell from her face when she found her mouth a breath away from his.
“What are you doing?” Her heart kicked up.
“You heard the man,” Harrison whispered. “Act like you like me.”
Then his lips were on hers. This wasn’t the chaste but tender kiss they’d shared at the church after lying their way through their vows. His hand slipped into her hair and he sucked on her bottom lip.
Someone moaned, and she realized the sound had come from her. She opened to him, unable to resist the wet heat of his mouth or the delicious pull at her scalp where he softly tugged at her hair.
She wanted to crawl onto him, straddle him, wanted him to drag her back to their room and push her onto their bed, wanted him to spread her legs and taste her before he slid his hard c**k into her.
She broke the kiss, breathing heavy, vision cloudy. She wasn’t supposed to want any of those things. She couldn’t have those things, and Harrison had already given her more than she deserved. Especially after her long-ago promise to herself that she’d stay out of his life.
Wow. Had she royally f**ked that one up.
She was vaguely aware of the photographer’s chuckle before they were alone again.
Harrison traced her lips with his thumb. “Either you’re one hell of an actress or you don’t want me to follow your rules any more than I want to.”
Her pulse stuttered.
She didn’t trust herself to answer, so she shifted in her chair and refocused her gaze on the sunset. But her thoughts weren’t of sunsets or beautiful beaches. Her thoughts revolved entirely around the coming night and the bed they’d share.
“Are you going to go in the water before it gets dark?” Harrison asked.
“Oh, no. The ocean and I have an understanding. I look but don’t touch, and in return it won’t hurt me.”
His grin was wicked. “You’ll change your mind, and then you’ll wonder why you waited so long.”
“We can’t have sex.” She blurted the words and horror immediately swamped her.
“You’ve mentioned that,” he said slowly.
“No, not just that. It’s just…” She couldn’t make him understand. “It was a big mistake we shouldn’t make again.”
She didn’t want to look at him but the silence stretched long and taut between them. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, she peered up through her lashes to find him staring at her like some great puzzle.
“You were sixteen. I get that. But we’re adults now.” He gave a soft smile. “And married.”
“You’re too good.” And she was poison.
“Are you worried about those messy emotions you seem to think we can avoid?”
She swallowed hard and pushed out of her chair. “I’m really tired. I think I’m going to turn in early. Don’t feel like you need to hurry back.” She gestured faintly to the water. “Enjoy the view.”
His gaze skimmed over her body. “That’s going to be infinitely more difficult if you leave.”
She closed her eyes. “Sex could change everything, Harrison.”