‘Please...’She smiled down at him, trying the word for size, and his face was all she could see. ‘I want more.’
‘More?’ His mouth tilted into a crocked smile. ‘There will be plenty of time for more.’
She stilled as he stood between her legs, proud and open in his desire for her. Her instinct was to reach for him and pull him down to her. Make him beg for the release he’d given her with his hands.
She wanted to use her mouth too. To taste him as she never had. To pull his ecstasy from him until he murmured please again and again as his hands wound into her hair.
‘Does pleasure make you bold?’ he asked.
Raising her eyes, she met his. Not only was he looking at her. Seeing her. He was acting on what he saw and she didn’t know how to feel about that. No one had ever done it before. Put her needs first. Not even him. Their plan to elope—to run away—had been about them both. But now...? This moment...? It was all about her. Her pleasure.
Slowly, she took him in. Akeem... The power of his attraction to her gave her wings. Confidence. Allowed her to sit there on an actual throne—naked—without the urge to hide a single blemish.
Why was that?
Her heart thumped. Because she wasn’t invisible. Here—now—in his eyes she was everything.
She felt empowered. Strong. Bold.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
The desire pulsing between her legs made her reach for him. For the erection she wanted to feel in her hands. It was his turn. She wanted to make him throb as she had. With her mouth.
He caught her wrist. ‘I will enjoy you being bold.’ He placed her hand, palm down, on his abdomen, and she splayed her fingers beneath his. ‘But not yet.’
With his hand guiding hers, her fingers travelled up the firm lines of his stomach to his chest, and traced through the soft fuzz of dark hair. So soft. So hard. So surreal...
This wasn’t real.
Alone—here—they were this.
It would be all too easy to let herself keep falling. To fall into the heat of him again and again—to stay wrapped in the tingles of ecstasy. Forget who he was. Forget herself. Who she was. Only allow herself to remember the pleasure. This Charlotte felt visible. Powerful.
‘Pleasure made me forget,’ she said, reminding herself that just because she’d forgotten, it didn’t mean the outside world didn’t exist.
‘Everything,’ she whispered honestly, his gaze leaving her no room to mask her features from her thoughts. She dipped her chin to her chest. Breaking the agonising intensity of his eyes.
‘Everything?’ He pressed his hand down on hers and pushed her palm into him. Into the hotness of him. The hardness. ‘Or,’ he continued, eyes narrowed, ‘have you only forgotten the parts that do not matter here?’
‘But they do matter, don’t they? Because when I go home it will all still be there.’
You won’t, she finished silently.
Butthe grief? The regret? They’d still be there.
A bubble surrounded them, she realised. A mist of pleasure was wrapped around them, holding them suspended in time. Together. But after their one night they’d never be together again.
He shrugged, releasing her, and she watched as he walked to one of the sofas and tore free one of the golden throws.
Walking back towards her, he shook out the blanket and went on bended knee to cover her nakedness with smooth silk. The fabric imprisoned the ends of her hair and puffed it around her face. Akeem slipped his hands behind her back and pulled free the trapped hair until it fell about her shoulders and down to her chest in long, winding curls.
‘If it will still be there, why not allow yourself pleasure unreservedly? Permit me to make you forget, again and again. What waits for you no longer matters until it matters.’
For twenty-four hours surely she could let herself go? Why not let herself float as high as she could in his embrace, locked inside a bubble of make-believe?
But if she let herself float too far—too high—and he popped it before she could...left her again... Unprepared...
This time, would she recover?
Shehad to pop it. The bubble. She needed to shield herself from the influence of the pleasure Akeem could give to her. From the power of it.
‘You made me forget before,’ she said, the memory claiming her, ‘but not with your body.’
Dark eyes snapped to hers. ‘No,’ he agreed. ‘It was with my tongue.’
‘At St John’s,’ she clarified.
It was a happy memory. She didn’t have many. The bad often took over whatever good there had been. But she wanted to remember this.
She wanted him to remember.
‘You let me draw you, again and again, until I got it right,’ she reminded him, and sucked them both into the shared memory of sitting under a huge tree in the children’s home garden.
He’d given her an escape from reality by simply offering his body—his presence—and she’d longed to stay there, under the oak tree, with her pencils and paper.
Maybe for twenty-four hours she could stay with him again? But this time she would protect herself with the knowledge that the fairy tale would end, and then her reality could be whatever she wanted it to be. Hers.
Pulling her hand free from beneath his, she lifted it to his cheek. ‘I’d like to draw you again,’ she whispered, moving her thumb along his jaw, stroking it through the bristles of his short beard until she came to his mouth. A mouth she had drawn many times during their shared time in care.
It had been nearly ten years since she’d picked up a pencil. Since her father had destroyed all her portraits of Akeem.
The only memories she’d had of him—or of her dreams—were in her head, but drawing this newer, older Akeem would be a reminder of who she had been before. Of the dreams she’d tentatively told him about, of being a professional artist, until her father had reminded her it that she hadn’t got time to dream.
Akeem had helped her to forget who she was once. Maybe this time he could help her remember who she wanted to be. Who she might become when this day was over.
She could still draw.