Chapter 3

Nikolas filled her doorway. His dark brown eyes blazed with passion, and his body… Against common sense telling her not to, Dawn's gaze raked over him from head to toe. His black workout clothes molded to him like a second skin. Muscles appeared hard and powerful. Her fingers itched to sketch him. Her eyes dropped lower and her stomach lurched. The bulge in his pants left nothing to her imagination. She suddenly felt lightheaded. Daaaamn.

He emitted a low moan. Immediately, Dawn became aware of everything and the dangerous route her thoughts had taken her.

Her fingers dug into the doorknob, clutching the cool metal for strength. She hoped for defiance and anger, as she asked, "What are you doing here?"

"You know damn well why I'm here," he growled in his cultured, aristocratic way.

He pushed his way inside her loft and slammed the door shut. His heat and the spicy scent that was all Nikolas enveloped and attacked her as he moved to stand just a breath away.

His intensity nearly overwhelmed her. She needed a way out!

Dawn stepped back. His hands shot out and grabbed her bare, upper arms. His touch seared her. Her body became one big goosebump. Sensitive and quivering. She tried to tug free, but he refused to release her. His grip only tightened. Then, she became aware of something wet. She glanced down to her left arm and saw red.

"Nikolas! You're bleeding!"

His eyes narrowed. Confusion registered there. She used this moment to break free, but it wasn't a complete liberation. She couldn't ignore his injury. Carefully, she cupped his bleeding hand in the palm of hers. "What have you done to yourself?"

"I don't know," he murmured.

His warm breath fanned her cheeks. Dawn glanced up and found his soulful gaze boring into her. The longing that reflected in his chocolate orbs took her breath away. No one, not even Lucky, had ever looked at her in quite that way. It was as if Nikolas' very soul called out to her, pleading with her for mercy and yet demanding for her surrender.

"You sh-should bandage it," she stammered. Where did the sudden wave of dizziness come from? Why did he always cause such a disruption inside her?

"You do it," he said, his stare never breaking. "Bandage it for me."

The quiet demand was a godsend. Her spunk returned. "I didn't hear you say please."

He paused long enough to moisten those full, sensual lips before saying, "Please."

Subconsciously, she mirrored his movement. When she noticed how his gaze darkened as he focused on her mouth, she turned away and made a beeline for the bathroom. Her skin felt hot all over. What was it about Nikolas? How could one man possess such a strong sexual aura? And why the hell did he have to work his mojo on her?!

She asked herself those questions and more as she flipped on the overhead light and wrenched open the medicine cabinet. There wasn't much to choose from medical-wise. She grabbed what she thought could help, washed her hands, and went back outside. In her absence, he'd made himself comfortable on the edge of her bed. His back was to her, but she could tell that he was looking at her latest work—the form of two lovers captivated by each other. The images were just shadows, but the shadows were telling. The perfect battle between lust and love leapt from the canvas.

"How much for that piece?" he asked as she knelt beside his hand.

"It's not for sale," she mumbled. "Hold your hand still. This may sting."

Nikolas obeyed. It was either that or pull her onto the bed with him. Her possible resistance to the latter caused him to behave himself. For now.

Her slender fingers prodded and poked. The pain would have been unbearable if it wasn't for the silken feel of her flesh on his. He shifted his leg to alleviate the discomfort of his growing erection. She glanced at his thighs and he saw her hands falter. How he longed to show her exactly what her touch did to him. His aroused state wasn't just physical but mental, too.

"Why not?" he asked. Restlessness provoked his speech.

"What?" She dabbed at his hand with peroxide much harder than she had before.

"The piece is exquisite. Why isn't it for sale?"

"It's not ready."

Strands of dark, reddish brown hair caressed her cheek. Lightly, he fingered a loose tendril and brushed it across her chin. "It's ready and exquisite. Just like you. Give in to me."

Used cotton balls fell from her fingertips. "Excuse me?" she asked, cutting her eyes to him. "What did you say to me?"

He smiled and leaned toward her. His mouth was barely an inch from her ear as he said, "Give it to me."

She stood up abruptly. "It's time for you to go."

Nikolas rose from the bed and towered over her. "That's not what you want."

Her mouth dropped open. "You're such an arrogant--Okay, since you know so much, tell me what I want!"


He bent forward. His mouth hovered above hers. It took everything he had not to kiss her. Instead, he moved close to her ear again. His voice was a low, husky rumble as he answered her question.

"You want a man."

"I have one."

"Ssh." He pressed the pad of his thumb against her bottom lip. Unable to resist, he tormented himself with a few strokes. Her mouth was so soft, so pliable. "I haven't finished."

She took a deep breath. "Nikolas, please--"

"Yes," he interrupted. "You need a man who will please you. Someone who knows how to please you."

Her mouth became slack, her breathing shallow. He knew he had her full attention and planned to accept this precious gift. His finger tenderly traced the line of her cheekbone and jaw and dipped lower to brush her collarbone.

"Someone who knows what you want, Dawn."

He looked away from her eyes for a split second. Her white cotton tank top gave him an eyeful. Dark, hard nipples created tantalizing peaks. His mouth became parched. He swallowed hard. She wanted him and that knowledge was heady.

"I can please you in ways you never imagined," he promised, locking his eyes with hers. "I can take you places you never dreamed existed. I can make you feel things…"

With his uninjured hand, he roamed intimately over her breasts. His thumb rolled across a tiny rock hard pebble. She released a low moan that reverberated through him. "You'll feel things that will leave you craving for more."

His hand slipped underneath the tank top. Her skin was warm and smooth. She cried out as he languorously explored her soft, full curves. Her glassy, brown eyes stared at him in wonder. How beautiful would she be in the throes of ecstasy?

"For eight years, we've waltzed around each other, pretending that this doesn't exist," he said. "I won't pretend any more. I can't. You will be mine, Dawn Jensen. Because I want it…because you want it."

With that said, he removed his hand from underneath her top and left the loft before his last shreds of restraint were stripped away from him.


The house was quite now, all of the family, and well-wishers having long since left. The night air was cool and quite, the two brothers sat on the back porch, sipping on beers. Just taking in the serenity of the night.

"So big brother are you glad to be back home?" Tommy questioned.

"Hell yes," Steven Lars replied quickly. "Rwanda was hell, but I wouldn't trade the time I spent there for anything. I learned a lot about life and how precious it truly is."

"Saw some gruesome things, huh?"

"Yes some very ugly things, as well as some very incredible things. That place taught me that life is a gift, that should be cherished, and believe me little brother I plan to seize everything that life has to offer. I want all of the sweetness that life can possibly give."

"I can't say that I blame you. Are sure that good old Port Chuck has what you want?"

An image of Simone standing next to the car from earlier this afternoon flashed into SL's mind, "I know it does. What about you? How has life been treating you? How's the job at ELQ going? Glad you decided not to go into the family business?"

Tommy laughed softly after taking a swallow of his beer. "Yeah, I am. Don't tell the rest of the family but I can't stand the sight of blood. There was no way in hell that I was going to be a doctor."

"You better not let Dad and Simone here you say that."

"I know can you believe it, a Hardy that cringes at the sight of blood."

"Yeah, considering our family background you should have been born with a stethoscope around your neck instead of an umbilical cord." SL laughed.

"Actually the fact that I chose business instead of medicine didn't seem to bother Mom and Dad at all."

"For which I'm sure you are eternally grateful."

"You know it."


"Honey are you coming out of there before the sunrises on a new day?" Jeff chuckled softly upon hearing her question. Padding softly to the door, he appeared with hair still damp from the shower. "Yes dear," he smiled as he slowly advanced into the bedroom. His smile widened slightly at Simone draped seductively across the bed in a soft peach nightgown which clung very suggestively to her womanly curves.

"Well, well."

"I thought that since we were in such a celebratory mood…" Simone's words hung in the air as a sweet but oh, so sexy smile settled upon her face. Coming over to their bed Jeff sat down on the edge and pulled his her into his arms. He placed a passionate and spine tingling kiss upon her lips. "As delicious as you look and feel to me right now, I have surgery tomorrow at 7:00 am, and it's already well past one. So I'm going to have to take a rain check for now, but we can celebrate if you like all weekend. I believe all of the kids have plans."

"Jeff, you're saying no?" Astonishment shone in her brown eyes.

"Come on babe, I'm not saying no." He got up and walked to his side of the bed, sliding into the bed and under the covers. He pulled her into his arms and against his chest. "I'm just saying let's reschedule. It's been a really long day and I don't want to be tired for the surgery tomorrow, and also I don't want to be tired or distracted when we celebrate, okay." Kissing the top of her forehead. Jeff closed his eyes, and in a matter of minutes was sound asleep.

Simone lay against her husband's chest listening to the soft thud of his heartbeat, and wondered if romance and passion were slipping from her marriage. Where is the passion? Unbidden, an image of Steven-Lars' perusal of her in the kitchen rose to her mind. A startled gasp came to her lips, causing Jeff to mumble in his sleep.


"Nothing honey go back to sleep," she whispered to her husband softly kissing his chest. Closing her own eyes she decided to do the same.

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