California sunsets were different from Florida sunsets. In Florida, the setting sun set the sky ablaze, splashing beams of light out from behind long, tall clouds over the Gulf in a dramatic display of light and color. Mother Nature's nightly fireworks. In California, the sun fell toward the horizon with less drama, less fanfare, serenely setting the cloudless sky aglow, the color of a peach, until it dipped into the Pacific Ocean.
Ivan stood on the western-facing balcony of his room, feeling as serene as the sky appeared. An ever-present breeze lifted the ends of his hair off his shoulders as he raised his half-full wineglass to his lips.
Marriage. He had been thinking about the subject for weeks now, even months if he was being honest with himself. Was he ready for marriage? For another chance at forever? With Jaden?
He had proposed once, only for the engagement to end. At the time, he considered that just maybe marriage wasn't in the cards for him. Like a horse who draws up lame in the Kentucky Derby, something had always interfered to keep his relationships from making it to the finish line. Had he finally picked a winner? Was Jaden his prize filly who would finally bring home his own, personal Triple Crown: love, happiness, and forever?
His free hand skimmed over the smooth, wooden finish of the balcony's railing, and the corner of his mouth lifted as his gaze dropped reflectively. He had caressed Jaden's leg the same way earlier, ever-so-softly. Was his hand absently remembering the motion and repeating it on the banister in her absence? Wishing the railing were her?
Delicate hands threaded around his waist, followed immediately by the warmth of her body pressing against his back. Speak of the devil, or rather the angel.
"Mmm." His grin widened, and his heart jumped. She always had this effect on him. Even now, after months of learning every curve and line of her body, she could still weaken his knees.
"Am I interrupting?" she said before pressing her lips against the back of his bare shoulder.
"Never." He leaned back, falling into the sanctuary of her embrace as he covered her hand with his. They only had this one last night together before they had to return to civilization and he had to return to Miami.
"It's just that you looked so sexy out here, all silent and still, with your head down. You looked deep in thought." Her lips trailed a line from one shoulder to the other, her nose brushing against the back of his neck along the way.
He shivered, not because he was cold, but because she made him so warm. Not just on the surface, but down deep…all the way to his marrow. When had another woman ever made him feel this way? So alive and safe, yet calm and vulnerable?
"I was thinking about you," he admitted.
He set down his glass and turned. Her freshly showered hair hung in sexy tendrils around her face and over her shoulders, and all she wore was a filmy, satiny, peach-colored robe with large, muted roses printed on the fabric. Oddly enough, the color reminded him of the sunset and made her lightly tanned skin vibrant.
"Are you surprised?" he said. "That I would be thinking about the most beautiful woman in the world?"
Her smile made his heart skip a beat. "I'd love to say yes, but no." She shook her head. "I'm not surprised."
"Good." He pulled her closer and dipped his head down so their foreheads kissed. "I can't believe how happy you make me, Jaden."
Her fingers wound into his hair. "Right back at you."
They stood like that for a while, neither speaking, hardly moving, just existing in each other's presence as the sun ignored their plea for time to stand still and fell below the horizon.
Finally, Ivan inhaled deeply, pulled away, and took her hand. "Come on. We'd better get in."
"Why? No one here but us." She was clearly teasing. Or more like challenging. She was good for that, willing to meet him where his sexual proclivities took him while surprising him from time to time by showing her inner freak. In that way, they were highly compatible.
She trailed in after him, grasping his hand with both of hers as they passed through the French doors into the room.
He plucked one of the roses from the vase as they passed the table. "Lie back on the bed, baby girl." He released her hand and nodded toward the bed.
This was his woman, and he wanted to show her just how precious she was.
She began to untie the robe.
"No." He touched her wrist and shook his head once. "Leave it on."
* * *
Jaden froze, her hands on the sash that secured the robe around her waist. This was new. She bit her bottom lip seductively. "You don't want me naked, sir?" She sat on the edge of the bed.
Ivan knelt and gently parted her knees and nestled between them. "That's not what I said."
What a devil he was. In other words, she would get naked. Without a doubt. But he would get her naked in his own time, when he wanted her to be.
"Lie back for me, baby."
Oh, she did like when he called her baby.
She pulled herself back on the bed and laid down, one knee bent so that her leg rested over the other.
He followed her up onto the bed and propped himself on one arm beside her. With his free hand, he tugged one end of the tie and slowly pulled the bow free.
"Are you seducing me, Doctor?"
He smiled down at her, but his gaze remained on her waist as he brushed the robe open ever-so-slightly. "Admiring you," he said, clarifying his intentions. "Simply admiring."
He tugged the satiny sash free from the robe and dangled the long ribbon of material over her, a wicked smile playing over his face.
"And just what do you have in mind for that?" she said, beginning to get some ideas herself.
"Grab hold of the headboard." His deep voice stroked her ears and vibrated that special place between her legs—the place that was his and no one else's. His voice alone could probably make her come under the right circumstances.
She licked her lips and pursed them, her bent leg drawing further up the other as a decadent rush flooded her. But like a good girl, she did what he said and reached up, over her head, and grabbed hold of one of the vertical rails of the headboard.
"Mmm, that's nice." He scooted forward, his bare chest inching toward her face as he reached up and wrapped the sash around her wrists several times and loosely bound her. "How does that feel. Too tight?"
She shook her head and strained her neck so she could lap her tongue over his nipple. The bed trembled as a moan broke in his throat.
"Bad girl," he said, teasing her and pulling away.
She shook her head and scissored her legs. "I'm a good girl." He had her flaming hot, as usual. But this was a new game he was playing. Normally, they were all over each other in a fever of lust. She could get used to this side of him, though.
"We'll see." He rolled to the side and picked up the rose he had been holding earlier and laid down next to her again, supported on one elbow.
He used the head of the rose to push the robe off her breast. Her nipple budded against the exposure and Ivan grinned.
"So responsive, aren't you?" he said, swirling the rose around her tender peak of flesh.
She rolled her spine, pushing her breast against the velvety petals. God, but who would have thought a rose could be so erotic. But then, this was Ivan. He could make a trip to the dentist erotic. The man was sensuality and desire in a suit. Or in a pair of boxers, as the case was now.
He swirled the rose around and around, circling her breast in widening circles before sliding the cool bud across to the other side to gently push the robe open. She was now fully exposed.
With the rose tickling the second nipple to attention, he bent down and laved the first with his tongue. The combined sensations sent her to heaven. One soft, like satin, the other wet and warm, with a hint of five o'clock shadow to barely rasp her skin.
She shivered and pulled on her binding. "You're driving me wild, baby."
His teeth lightly pinched her nipple in reply, and the rose traveled slowly down the center of her abdomen.
God, but this was good.
Expert fingers brushed down her sensitive labia, swollen from their loveplay, before the rose skimmed where his fingers had just been. The waxy petals were a provocative, subtle weapon to undo her. There was just something utterly exquisite about him pleasuring her with a simple flower that spun her insides into knots.
"Ivan…" Her wrists clashed with the binding, and her body writhed.
He turned the rose and drew it up the inside of one thigh, then the other, all the while suckling her breast, nibbling her nipple, breathing warm air against her skin.
Every breath was a moan, every inhale a means to feed her coiling muscles with the oxygen they desperately craved as they quivered and tightened inside her belly, deep between her legs.
Over and over, he caressed her with the simple, delicate rose until she nearly lost her mind. The pleasure, the decadence, the way he knew how to touch her to draw more from her than she thought she was capable of.
Finally, he settled the rose on her flat stomach and dove his hand down, his fingers probing, urging, caressing her swollen clit. She had died. Gone to heaven. And Ivan was her guardian angel in the flesh.
"More…more…so close…" She panted and pulled on her restraints, her gaze meeting Ivan's as he looked up to watch her face in the final moments before she came against his hand.
His middle finger dipped inside, found her G-spot, and massaged as he burrowed the butt of his hand against her clit.
"Oh God!" Her entire body lifted and shuddered, exploding in bliss.
After hours of diving into each other and making love every which way, Jaden amazed even herself from the force of her orgasm. But with Ivan, every time was better than the last, and she feared that if he ever left her, she would never recover. She was so unbelievably, undeniably in love with him.
"That's it, baby." He pressed in hard with his hand and finger, pulling her orgasm out by applying pressure.
She knew he was beside himself with desire. He had told her before how much he loved feeling her clench him during climax, whether it was his finger or his cock inside her. He had explained that there was something about the anatomy of an orgasm that was sexy as hell…the way a woman's vagina convulsed and sucked, as if on a straw, almost as if a woman's body instinctively knew that a man's cock offered what it needed to begin new life and wanted to draw in his offering.
And when he explained it that way, it was kind of erotic.
Within seconds, he withdrew his hand, shifted so he was poised above her, and shoved down his boxers. "I need you, Jaden."
She was his. All his.
He brushed the rose off her stomach, and in one fluid motion, he sank into her while at the same time pulling the slipknot free from around her wrists. An instant later, her arms were around him, holding him as her orgasm continued to wend its way through her.
The familiar contours and bunching muscles of his back felt like home. He was her life raft in the ocean of life, grounding her while keeping her afloat.
He buried his face against the side of her neck and hooked his arm behind her left knee, pulling to open her wider as he surged forward, driving in deep.
A breeze blew through the open doors, smelling of earth, the scent mingling perfectly with the fragrance that was Ivan. Skin, clean, sex. If only she could bottle him. Then she could simply take him out and spritz the nape of her neck whenever she needed a fix. Maybe someday she wouldn't have to. Maybe someday the distance wouldn't be an issue and all she would have to do was walk across the room and press her nose against his neck to capture his scent.
Ah, the perfection of that thought made her sigh, even as Ivan gasped through a violent contraction in the small of his back, his powerful body getting close to its own release.
By now, she knew his body, his movement, his voice. So when his shoulders tensed and the telltale shudder ranged down his spine as he groaned, she knew he was only seconds away from coming.
"Tell me you love me," he said against her neck.
She tightened her hold and turned into him. "I love you. God, I love you."
His body stiffened, quaked, and a grunt caught in his throat before he exhaled the lusty, relieved groan of a man finding refuge in his woman's body.
Liquid heat filled her, and a perverse thrill shot through her belly as she luxuriated in the feel of his cock twitching and pumping inside her. Was this similar to what he felt when she came? Because yes, it was an erotic sensation, wasn't it?
Perspiration slicked his back, and his ragged breathing was as much a turn-on as the rest of him. She loved how he felt and sounded after coming, like a man well-sated and content, as if he hadn't a want for anything else. Completely undone and spent.
"I love you," he whispered.
And Jaden's heart soared. In love. They were so madly in love. This was it. The real thing. Ivan was the One. She knew it as certainly as she knew the night would roll into day.
How had she gotten so lucky?
As the last hint of sunlight faded from the sky, she clung to him as he did to her, one more night closer to forever.
And for now, it was enough.