He looked at the ground, well, at the steel floor of the helicopter. “I sold Wintersea to pay for his services, and to buy your freedom. I am a …duke without a home.”
“Liam, you didn’t!”
“I did, and I would have done it a million times over, if that’s what it took to get you back.”
“Thank you. I know how much Wintersea means to you.”
He shook his head, tears pricking at his eyes, and he finally had to look at her, just so she could see how deadly serious he was. “Not as much as you, Bella. Never as much as my wife and child. The two of you are my home, not a bloody pile of stones.”
“We’ll always be your home, just like you’ll always be ours,” she said and threw herself into his arms.
He kissed her, keeping one eye open as he made his way through the now-familiar cottage. He’d been here for a month, with Roman, plotting the best way to get Bella safely away.
All right, so Roman plotted, and he’d forced his way into coming along.
Breaking their kiss once they were in the bedroom, he asked, “How about a shower, love? I’m dirty and dusty.”
“I like the eyeliner.”
He blushed a little. “Necessary for traveling in the mountains.”
She cocked her head to one side. “You weren’t allowed to wear sunglasses?”
His hand froze on hem of her shirt. “I didn’t think of that, actually. Plus, Roman said I had to look the part.”
“They wear sunglasses. Everyone does—if they can afford them,” Bella said, obvious in her attempt to hold back a smile. “You were supposed to be a man of means, I take it, so…”
“The cheeky bastard,” he breathed.
Bella cleared her throat. “About that shower?”
That snapped him right out of his mood, and in what seemed like seconds later, he had a soapy, wet Bella in his arms as warm water rained down on them.
“Let me touch you, Bella,” he groaned as her hands wrapped around his cock.
“Same time?” she asked, as she rubbed her thumb across the tip.
His eyes rolled back in his head. “Whatever you want.” He slipped his hand between her legs, and stroked her until she cried out his name. His skin tightened. He was as hard as steel and couldn’t wait any longer. If she didn’t do something soon, he would lose his mind.
“Your turn,” she whispered and bit down on his ear.
He groaned. Then she tightened her grip and touched him exactly how he wanted, until he was the one shaking in her arms. Until he was the one calling out her name.
“We still have a lot to talk about,” she said, laying her head against him.
Running a hand down her slick back, he enjoyed the feel of her after so long. He wanted to caress her everywhere, and he would as soon as he could bear to let her go. “Aye. But it’ll keep.”
They lay tangled up in one another in in an oversized bed, with a view of the sea. Which sea she wasn’t sure, because she had no idea where the helicopter had dropped them off. It reminded her of their first weekend together, of the time they fought over something stupid, and then didn’t speak for months.
She was terrified of that happening again.
Only, their differences weren’t stupid, and she didn’t plan to fight. She would talk, she would listen, and she would try to understand.
“I missed you,” Liam said to her. “You can’t imagine how much, Bella. My chest physically ached, like there was a raw, gaping wound in the middle of it.”
“Then why did you tell me to go?” There, she asked it.
He ran his fingertips down her arm. “I allowed my fear and anger to rule my words. Instead of being honest and saying that the thought of you living in a dangerous place scared the hell out of me, I lashed out. I have no excuse, love.”
It was an honest answer and an apology. She didn’t need to hear the words ‘I’m sorry’, because it was in each word he spoke. And now it was time for her to do the same.
“I did the same thing to you,” she began, and his eyes fractionally widened. “I tested you. I told you about the email, but I didn’t share the answer I’d already given them.”
He continued his lazy glide, making goose bumps appear. “And what was that?”
“I wasn’t going early. I wanted to stay with you, for as long as I could, before I had to go keep my promise.” Her lower lip trembled, and he dusted his thumb over it. “I lied to you, because I wanted a certain response. I wanted you to tell me that you felt the same way about me that I felt—I feel—about you. I tried to manipulate you. And, for all of that, I’m sorry.”
His eyes met hers, and he smiled gently. “What do you feel for me, Bella? Or have your feelings changed?”
“Yes,” she said softly, and his smile fell. “My feelings for you have grown stronger.”
“Hate is a very strong feeling, I suppose,” he said, turning away from her. She caught him by the arm before he completely left the bed.
“I don’t hate you. I wouldn’t be in this bed with you if I did,” she pointed out.
“Maybe you were overcome by the rescue.”
“Then I should be in Roman’s bed. Do you have his number?” she asked lightly.
He practically jumped on top of her, pinning her wrists to the bed. The look on his face was fierce, and raw, and so sexy that she felt a thrill of pleasure run through her body.
“You’re mine. Not his. Not anyone’s but mine,” he all but snarled. “Mine.”
She leaned up, straining against the bonds of his hands, and kissed his hard mouth until it softened and returned her kisses. “And you’re mine. Not anyone’s but mine.”
“A chuisle mo chroí,” he said, and her heart went all fluttery. He had said that to her before, when they’d made love at the festival. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
“What does that mean?” she asked, relaxing once more into the mattress.
He took one of her hands and placed it over his chest. She could feel his heart beating strongly against her palm. “The pulse of my heart. You are the pulse of my heart. You make it beat. When you left, it stopped… and I was bloody miserable.”
“I was miserable, too,” she confessed with a little sniff. “I was supposed to be helping people, but all I wanted to do was come back home to you.”
“That makes two of us,” he said, still staring down at her. “Will you be going back?”