“You’re too young.” He sighed. “I see you, Ellie Paige, and I don’t see a woman.” He was aware of the softness of his voice, the somberness of it. He was aware of the all-consuming regret that his little Ellie Paige, a name he hadn’t used in far too many years, had grown up.
Paige Eleanora. Marilyn had given Pavlos the option of naming her, and Pavlos had shared that weighty responsibility with his stepson.
He had imparted something that went far deeper though. An acceptance, a lent, overwhelming verification that Khalid, the child who had heard too much, who had seen too much in international courts concerning the hell his unknown father had put his too-small, too-gentle mother through, was indeed a part of the family, and as loved as that tiny, delicate babe.
And Khalid had chosen Eleanora. Because the name sounded as delicate to him as the babe had seemed.
“What do you see then?” She frowned fiercely. “You’re confusing me, Khalid. As usual.”
He breathed out heavily. “Because I never told you, did I, that to me, you have never grown past that delicate innocence of fifteen.”
“Your birthday,” she said softly, and he saw the memory in the soft smile that curved her lips. “You were twenty-five. You had just gotten out of the hospital.” Her expressive eyes flashed with remembered pain.
It was a pain Abram knew as well.
Khalid refused to look at his brother, too afraid he would see in Abram’s eyes exactly what Khalid feared. That Abram could never let the memory of his first love go enough to give Paige his heart.
“You were there when I awoke,” he said softly. “You were like an angel staring down at me.”
“I told you you couldn’t ever leave me again,” she said softly. “Because if you were gone, there would be no one to protect me from all the big bad wolves that were trying to touch me where they shouldn’t.”
“You terrified me,” he admitted with a smile. “You were a baby, and grown men were trying to touch you. You made me want to live again, Paige. You made me have to live again, so nothing or no one in this world could ever harm you like that. You forced me to live, Paige, when all I wanted to do was die from the guilt I felt.”
He had no choice but to turn his head and look at his brother then. It was a time of their lives that they had shared. Lessa had been the wife they had shared. She had been Abram’s wife, and she had died for their dark hungers.
It wasn’t that sense of agony he saw on Abram’s face though. There was a gentle smile of remembrance, the pain of the knowledge that she had suffered because of them, but, as he stared into his brother’s black eyes, Khalid didn’t see the love, the heartrending agony he had seen so many years before.
“We were young men playing secret agents,” Abram said softly then. “And Lessa was our ally, our cohort, and our coconspirator. She died for us, and I could never forget her sacrifice, or the fact that I would have died for her. But she was a young man’s love. I’m not that young man any longer, brother. I’m an adult, and I know the woman I love.”
Abram looked at Paige then, and Khalid saw it.
His throat tightened. His chest seemed to loosen marginally until the only ache he felt was that of the hole that had been left in his chest by the bullet that had nearly killed him.
Azir would have never given up. Eventually, he would have had both Abram and Khalid killed. And he would have killed Paige, after he had raped her, punished her for the sins he perceived her mother committed, and for the unforgivable sin of looking so much like the one woman who had escaped him.
“Khalid, be happy for me,” Paige whispered with all the love he knew she held in her heart, despite the fact that he had been born of the horror their mother had suffered.
He had never forgiven himself for it.
Pavlos had forgiven him, and had given him the unforgettable gift of bestowing a name on the child created by his love for Marilyn Girard Galbraithe. And Paige had shown her love by demanding he live, and by demanding he never forget that he had to protect her.
“Don’t hurt her.” He cleared his throat as emotion threatened to overwhelm him. “She’s my sister, Abram. You’re my brother, but break her heart, so much as tweak her feelings and cause a tear to fall, and I promise, we will fight.”
At the moment, it would be a fight Abram would win, he thought with a touch of morose mockery. Hell, he was as weak as a kitten.
But as he looked up at his fiancée, he felt his cock begin to harden, felt his blood begin to thunder through his veins and was amazed once again by his attraction and his love for her.
Hell, his dick had been hard within hours of consciousness, once he had begun refusing the pain medication they were trying to pump into him.
He lifted his hand to where hers lay at his shoulder, gripped it gently, and pulled her fingers to his lips.
How could he ever tell her the difference she made in his life?
He might not be able to tell her, but he could show her. Again.
He gave her a wicked smile, reminding her, pressing home the knowledge that it had only been just last night that he had convinced her to sit on his hungry mouth and allow him to bring her pleasure with his lips and tongue.
And he would have her again soon.
“Oh my God. I’m leaving. Khalid, that is so gross.” Paige was laughing though as she rose. She threw a quick, light hug around his shoulders and kissed his cheek.
Ashe moved back, Abram stepped to him, his broad hand clasping his shoulder affectionately. “Thank you, brother,” he said softly, somberly. “For the greatest gift a brother could give another.”
“And that is?” Khalid grunted.
“The gentle innocence, and the safety of the woman who stole my soul.”
Abram’s grip tightened, then he was leaving the bedroom, his hand laying low at Paige’s jean-clad hips as the door closed behind them.
“She’s still a baby,” he whispered on a sigh.
Marty lowered her head, her lips pressing to his lips. “She’s a woman, Khalid.”
“She’s my sister. A baby,” he growled.
“She’s a woman, and one day, she may have a baby of her own.”
He grimaced. “I’m not going there.”
“If they hurry, then their child would be just the right age to play with ours.”
And he froze.
Play with theirs?
He swallowed tightly. “You want a baby?”
He felt hot. Cold. His stomach tightened. A surge of adrenaline raced through his system.
“Too late to want, Khalid,” she whispered. “We’re having a baby.”
He remembered. That virus she’d had, the antibiotics, his impatience one night, and her laughing declaration that he could become a daddy.
He broke out in a sweat of terror.
Or was it pure, incredible happiness?
Gripping her hand he drew her around and to him, watching as she looped her arms around his neck, her smile softer than before, her gaze so loving it warmed the very corners of his soul.
And he was loved.
Marty had given him the greatest gift of his life when she had loved him. Could he truly begrudge Abram or Paige that same gift they would give to each other?
As he drew Marty to his heart, he knew it simply wasn’t possible.
Paige gasped as her jeans cleared her legs, and a second later the buttons of her shirt were torn from their moorings.
Abram seemed to be everywhere at once, his hands and fingers, his lips and tongue working a magic against her flesh that she had no hope of resisting.
He’d torn his own clothes off the minute they’d entered the penthouse apartment it seemed he owned in the heart of the city. Unfurnished but for the bed he’d had delivered that morning.
They had already made use of it once that morning, and now, he was pulling her to it again, his cock thick and hard, imperative, as she felt her own arousal burning out of control, raging just beneath her flesh, demanding his touch.
Her arms wrapped around his shoulders, her nails digging in as his tongue slipped past her lips, tangled with hers, and tasted her, as she tasted him.
His hands were never still. Touching her breasts, brushing against her nipples, smoothing to her back then to her buttocks where he gripped the curves lightly, parted them, and reminded her of the exquisite pleasure of having Tariq behind her, invading her, as Abram fucked her pussy with desperate, ecstatic lunges.
Her vagina clenched tighter, a moan whispering from her lips at the remembered rapture of taking her lover, as well as his cousin.
The naughty, dark hunger was becoming as addictive for her as it was for him. It was becoming a hunger that reared its head and left her soaking her panties with her juices as her pussy heated in need.
As it actually burned with desire every damned time he touched her. She couldn’t hold back. Slick, heated, her cunt rippled with the yearning for the erotic touch that only Abram could give her.
“Sweet Paige, what a fool I was,” he whispered as his lips moved down her neck, kissing, touching, loving her as she whimpered with the lust she couldn’t, wouldn’t even attempt to deny.
“Why?” Her neck arched as flares of sensation began to travel from each point that his lips touched, his tongue licked, his strong teeth raked.
With the tips of his fingers he caressed the curve of her breast, refusing to touch her straining nipple as he continued that slow, oh so slow, downward course.
“For ever denying what you give me with your love.” His head lifted, his dark eyes an endless sea of emotion as Paige felt her heart swelling, accepting, and giving in return.
“It wasn’t time,” she whispered, her hand touching his chest, his heart.
She could feel it racing beneath her palm, feel the adrenaline and the hunger that raged in the fiery stiff width of his cock against her thigh.
“I could have made it time.” The regret in his gaze, in the stroke of his fingers against her jaw, in the incredible pleasure of each touch he gave her.
“But would it have been as sweet?” She smiled back at him, knowing in her heart that it was time, and that because they had waited, they would endure. “Would I have been mature enough to understand your love, Abram?” she whispered. “Or your hungers? I had a teenager’s confidence, and how thin it was.”
His head lowered, his forehead pressing against hers.
“I had a young man’s sense of forever,” he said regretfully.
“A young man’s sense of justice and belief in his ideals,” she amended.
His lips touched hers again, brushed, then settled and became harder, dominant, commanding.
She loved him like this. Hungry and imperative, determined to have her as she began to arch against him, feeling the threads of pleasure tightening inside her, around her, rocking through her as he moved between her thighs, pressed his cock against the slick heated moisture spilling from her pussy before pressing inside.
Paige arched and cried out as his head jerked back, pleasure creasing his expression as she felt the slow, shallow thrusts that began to rock inside her, to forge through the tightening muscles, stretching her, sending the pleasure racing through her, the ecstasy building through her.
There had never been anything as incredible as Abram’s touch. It was like lightning tearing across her flesh. It was like existing in a place of pure heat, a place where nothing mattered, nothing existed, and there was no pleasure but Abram.
With a last hard thrust of his hips he buried himself inside her to the hilt, a hard groan tearing from his lips as she writhed beneath him and cried out his name in desperation.
Lifting her legs, wrapping them around his hips, she could only hold on for the ride. Each stroke opened and raked against tender flesh and naked nerve endings. Each breath was a moan, a cry. Each touch traveled through her, shredding her control over herself, over her own body, and over her heart.
It all belonged to Abram.
Meeting each stroke, her hips lifting, the flares of pleasure began to collide, to ripple into her womb and tighten her body until she lost her breath, lost her senses.
The orgasm exploded with such incredible force that her nails dug into the flesh of his shoulders, her legs spasming around her hips, her lips parting on a breathless moan.
It seemed to go on and on. To ripple and rake through her as she felt him surge inside her deep and hard one last time, then the heated spurts of his come filling her.
His arms wrapped around her, pressing beneath her body, his palms covering her shoulders as he whispered her name, his voice guttural, hoarse. Filled with love.
“Love,” he whispered at her ear. “My sweetest love. My heart.”
Without her, he knew he couldn’t survive. She held him. Every part of him. Every beat of his heart, every dream of his soul. Holding her to him, Abram did as he had never done. He did the very thing he had felt such guilt about because he hadn’t done it with his first wife, and she had known it.
He gave to Paige that last part of himself.
The part of a male that became more than a lover, more than a heart mate.
He gave her that primitive, possessive core that most men hold back.
He gave her his being and he felt the moment she gave to him.
And they became more than just one.
In the midst of a pleasure that could have destroyed them, that could have ripped their lives from them, they had found something they now knew would always save them. Each other.