Chapter 11

Dashes of color would do wonders , Dawn thought. Wyndemere drowned in monotony. Darkness filled the expansive mansion. As she wandered through the estate in search of anything to spark her muse, the heaviness of the building struck her. For years, she likened the weight to Nikolas' unspoken pursuit. Her dread of the stateside Cassadine compound revolved around its master. But as the days lengthened to a week, she understood her trepidation as something more. Not necessarily sinister, but definitely not fun and light-hearted. In all honesty, Wyndemere was just as complex as the man who owned it.

She swung her bag loaded with sketchpad and pencils to the other shoulder. When she started out, she guessed that her quest would end quickly. Surely, in a building this size, there were countless items begging to be sketched. Being holed inside her room stifled her. Since Nikolas uninvited entry to her bedroom, she made sure to remain locked inside unless Lucky was there, too. That afternoon wanderlust awakened with a mighty roar in her bones. She couldn't stand another minute in the darkened confines of her suite of rooms. So, confident that she could handle whatever life threw her, she took a dare and ventured into the hall. Now almost two hours into her search, she found herself still wandering and searching for the elusive.

Light spilled from a door only a few feet away. Her steps quickened. What wonders lay on the other side. She released a low snort of sarcasm. One could only hope.

Low grunts sounded through the parted door. She edged closer. Her head tilted to accommodate the crack in the door. She dismissed the idea of opening the door. At least not until she knew what awaited her.

Oh, my.

Nikolas stood in the middle of the room. Sweat poured down his bare upper body in rivulets. The droplets slid along the planes and valleys of his obviously hard chest and back. His biceps flexed and lengthened as he posed in various Tai Chi positions. Air whistled from between his full, parted lips. He dropped low. His well-muscled thighs, emphasized by the fit of his clinging exercise pants, drew her hungry gaze. Betraying sensations quivered at the apex of her thighs. Warmth ignited from the heart of her femininity and spread throughout her body. She already viewed him as an artist's dream subject. Catching him unaware and fully absorbed in his workout only deemed him even more so.

Her fingers shook as she dug into her bag. She pulled out a pad and pencil. Sketching him from this angle promised to be difficult, but she didn't care. She simply had to.

Sliding onto the floor, she sat cross-legged at the door's opening. From her position, she hoped the hallway's dark shadows hid her. If he discovered her watching him—Don't even consider that possibility . She flipped the pad open and went to work.

~* * *~

Only a parted door separates us.

The thought echoed inside Nikolas's mind. The basic moves of Tai Chi ceased to interest him. His focus turned to the young woman in the hallway, watching his every move and recording it on her sketchpad.

Their last encounter in her bedroom haunted him. The taste of her lingered in his mouth. His finger throbbed at the memory of being inside her. The familiar ache began in his chest and headed straight to his manhood. He imagined sinking into her, claiming her as his own.

His movements faltered. From the corner of his eye, he saw her react. Her pencil became still. For a moment, he feared she'd run. The seconds grew into minutes. He willed himself to continue with the exercises. Feigning interest frustrated the hell out of him, but if that was the only way to capture her attention, he would gladly portray the role.

When the pencil slid across the paper, he released a sigh of relief. So far, so good.

How long he'd continue the ruse was a mystery to him. Lucky was at band rehearsal. She rarely ventured from her room without his brother present. This unexpected encounter surely was Fate playing its hand. Nikolas intended to use it for all it was worth.

Thirty minutes later, his body forced him to take a break. His mind spun in a daze of unfulfilled desire. He grabbed a towel from the stand and stalked to the open door. His sudden move startled her. She scrambled to her feet as she shoved the pad and pencil into her bag. She looked primed for flight.

Not this time.

He caught her by the waist and pulled her to him. Her cool fingertips closed around his perspiration slick shoulders. They both shuddered upon contact. His want for her ran deep, seeping into his veins. Coherent thought vanished. One hand slid down her back to her rounded backside. He pressed her to him, making her fully aware of her effect on him.

"Did you get your fill?" He pressed his mouth to her ear. His tongue licked the lobe and then suckled gently. Her responding shiver rippled through him.

"You must stop this," she said amid gasps. "Lucky—"

"I don't give a damn about him," he growled. "How long will you pretend that you don't want me?"

"I don't."

"Liar." He raised his hand to her breast. The tip was already hard. His thumb and forefinger squeezed and rubbed the peak. Moans escaped her. He smiled at the sound. "You want me so much you're aching. My brother has no idea what I do to you or what you want me to do..."

"I don't," she denied again. "This is your sick game."

"You won't say that when your hot, wet body opens for me...when I release inside you and you beg for more. When my mouth and tongue drive you over the edge." He lowered his mouth to just a hair's breath from hers. "Tonight, when you dream, it will be me inside those naughty fantasies...me making you wet. I will be the only cure for the ache between your thighs. Lucky may be there with you, but it won't be him your body craves."

He slowly released her and stepped back. "Tonight, everything changes. And tomorrow, you'll come to me, needing only what I can give you."

She stared back at him. Her brown eyes appeared dazed and glassy. He inhaled a deep breath. Her aroused scent filled him. It took all his willpower to not take her right then, but he wanted her to come to him. He needed it.

Her mouth opened. No doubt to deny him further. He pressed a finger to her lips.

"No, don't. No more lies. Just know that when you come to me, I'll be ready." He blew her a kiss, went back inside his workout room, and promptly closed the door.

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