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“Do you always answer the door dressed like that, kitten?”
Sarah flushed, pulling the thin cotton robe tighter around her. “I knew it was you. That’s why there’s a peephole.”
“And here I thought it was a clever device to be used in some half-wit’s demise.” Abel pushed the door at its hinges, forcing it open wider. “Were you planning to invite me in, kitten, or do I have to stand on your doorstep all night?”
“Do you really expect me to believe that you’d stand there all night?” Sarah stepped aside, her gaze settling on the dress bag Abel had folded over one arm. Shutting the door behind him, she rebolted it, and turned to find him grinning at her. “What?”
“You’re right, I wouldn’t stand there all night. You’d let me in before I had to get loud and dramatic.” Abel turned a circle in the tiny foyer, looking for something. After a moment, he pivoted to face Sarah. “Where’s the rest of it?”
“The rest of what?” It was awkward, in an awkward way, having him in her apartment. In the two weeks since they’d met, he’d been as far as the lobby, with her insisting that she could manage to find her own way upstairs. He seemed out of place, completely foreign in a way that he never did anywhere else.
“The rest of the apartment, kitten. This is barely the size of my sleeping area. It’s probably not even half of my loft.” Abel turned another half circle, bumping into a coat rack. “Why the hell do you have a coat rack?”
“Because I like the idea of having one, even if I don’t have a coat. And my apartment is small because my paycheck was small.” Sarah squeezed past him to stalk into the living room, dropping onto the loveseat. Crossing her arms over her chest, she scowled at him. “Actually, my paycheck is nonexistent. Which means it’s really small compared to yours.”
“If your paycheck is nonexistent, is it even possible to make an accurate comparison?” Abel ducked, barely missing the pillow Sarah threw at him. Laying the dress bag on the hall table, he picked up the pillow, using it as a shield when she threw another one. “Have you noticed that you’ve gotten more violent in the past week?”
“Throwing a pillow is not violent. Throwing a knife would be violent. Throwing a pillow is just…” Sarah trailed off into giggles as the small neck roll pillow she launched at Abel hit him square in the face. “Fun. I thought your reflexes were a little better than that.”
“Forgive me, it’s been more than a few years since I was involved in slumber party antics.” Abel looked at the pillow in his hand, and the pillow in hers. Instead of throwing it, he dropped it to the floor. And took a flying leap over the coffee table, landing on top of her.
Sarah shrieked, then giggled helplessly when Abel winced at the sound. Before she could squirm away, his fingers were digging into her ribs, making her breathless with laughter. Her own hands were trapped between them, so that even if she could have managed to breathe, she had no offensive weapon. It was only a matter of minutes before she gave up.
“Uncle, uncle, uncle! Abel, stop.” She could barely get the words out for laughing, and tears were streaming down her face. She used the little bit of leverage she had to push against him, hoping he’d get the message. “Please. Oh, God, I can’t breathe.”
Halting the motion of his fingers, Abel leaned over, capturing her mouth with his, cutting off the giggles. His tongue was smooth and slick against hers, and they danced playfully back and forth for long minutes before he drew back, kissing the tip of her nose. Tucking her against him, he maneuvered around on the small loveseat until his legs were hanging off one end while his head rested on the arm of the other, with Sarah sprawled over him.
Sarah concentrated on getting her breathing to even back out, even while the random giggle or snicker still snuck through. Abel stroked his hand up and down her back, both of them sighing contentedly when she snuggled closer. Sarah felt his lips graze the top of her head and closed her eyes. When she spoke a few minutes later, her voice was low and slightly slurred with sleep. “What’s in the bag?”
“What bag?” Instead of his fingertips, now it was his nails running up and down her back, and Sarah wiggled her toes at the tingles the minute contact gave her.
“The bag you brought over. Before you started in on how small my apartment is.”
“Your apartment is small.”
“Kitten, cozy is just another way of saying small. Like calling short people petite. It just sounds better, but if you have half a brain, you know what’s really being said.” Abel twisted his head absently one direction, then the next. “What time is it?”
“Look at the clock.” Sarah curled one arm over his chest, her head rising and falling with each of his breaths. “It’s over the television.”
“You mean the small, square box that transmits pictures, probably in black and white?” Before Sarah could think of a response, Abel was cursing and pushing to a sitting position. “Shit, mobilbahis güvenilir mi we’re gong to be late. Joseph’s going to have an aneurysm.”
“Late for what?” Sarah would have tumbled to the floor if Abel hadn’t held her as he rolled off the couch, pulling them both to their feet. “And what’s in the bag?”
“We’re going to be late for Joseph’s show, which you’re a major part of–and I am, too, apparently. And what’s in the bag is a little something for you. So you don’t have to wear the spinster clothes.”
“His show is tonight? When?” She shot a look at the clock. Already six-thirty.
“In thirty minutes.” When Sarah spun on her heel, her mouth agape, Abel shrugged his shoulders. “Move fast, kitten. And no arguments about what’s in the bag. Although one request.”
“Quick, because you’re not giving me a lot of time.” Sarah already had the bag in her hand and was heading towards the bedroom when he answered.
“Make sure what they can’t see is as good as what they can.”
“You’re late.” Joseph whispered the accusation through tight lips and a bright smile, leaning in for a European kiss. When Sarah would have apologized, Abel pulled her away gently, easing forward for his own greeting. She couldn’t see his face, but whatever was there made Joseph pull back, hesitating for the barest of seconds before brushing Abel’s cheek with his mouth.
“Always a pleasure to see you, Joseph. Seems like a good turnout.” Even in her highest heels, Abel could still easily look over Sarah’s head, taking in the crowd that mingled in small groups or gathered in front of photographs. There was an especially large group towards the back of the gallery, and the buzzing and murmuring seemed more fierce than that in other areas.
Sarah had a feeling about what was being shown towards the back of the gallery.
“Most of the work has already sold, all of it at the initial asking price. As for your little kitten–.”
“Sarah to you, Joseph.” There was a note of warning in Abel’s voice, and Sarah tried to pretend that she wasn’t interested at all in the conversation taking place literally over her head. “I’d hate to end up regretting introducing you.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah watched Joseph’s face harden, his eyes cool until they were like hard, polished stones. His hand clenched into a fist, held for a moment before slowly releasing. When he spoke again, his face was blank and his voice was empty of any teasing. “Of course. After all, we’re not that cosmopolitan. If you came to see Sarah’s work, it’s towards the back. Be careful of the mob.”
Abel’s hand at her back propelled Sarah forward before she could say anything to Joseph, the force letting her know that Abel wanted to put more than a little distance between them. She glanced over her shoulder, chewing on her lower lip. Joseph was still standing there, watching them, with an unreadable look on his face.
“You weren’t very nice, Abel,” Sarah murmured, having to rise up just slightly on her toes to press her lips against his ear. The closer they got to the back of the gallery, the higher the noise level climbed. She burrowed against his side, noticing more than one stare in her direction, followed by either dropped jaws or whispered conversations behind hands.
“Of course I wasn’t. He knows the rules, kitten.” Abel pushed his way through the throng with his shoulder, his arm curling protectively around Sarah, pulling her with him. “I made myself very clear last week. He thinks that if he pushes, I’ll change my mind.”
“Change your mind about what?” They were almost to the front of the crowd, and it was warm enough from the press of strangers to make Sarah grateful for the dress she was wearing. Or rather, the lack of a dress. It was about as far from spinster as she could get without looking like a high-priced call girl. But the deep purple made her skin dramatically pale, and the hem that stopped teasingly at mid-thigh made her legs seem longer than they should have been. The only nod at modesty was the scoop neck that merely hinted at the swell of her breasts and the tiny cap sleeves that covered a few inches on her shoulders. “And what rules?”
Abel finally pushed to the front, and Sarah stumbled a little in her heels, clinging to him for support. His hands were a contrast in smooth and calloused where they cupped her cheeks, his thumbs stroking the outside corners of her mouth. There was a seriousness to his stare that she hadn’t seen before, and her throat suddenly felt dry.
“You’re mine, kitten. And I don’t share.” Sarah opened her mouth to remind him about the afternoon in Joseph’s studio, and Abel tapped her lips with his thumb. “By share, I mean on a regular basis. Equal privileges, equal say. It’s one thing to occasionally have another person in the bedroom. It’s another to have the same person, repeatedly, to the point that it’s no longer a couple but a small group.”
Sarah studied his face, trying to read what he wasn’t saying. Behind mobilbahis them, the buzzing seemed to be building towards a crescendo of sorts, and her heart pounded in time with the rhythm of the murmuring. “So does this make us a couple?”
Abel leaned down, pressing his lips to hers softly, the barest whisper of a kiss. “Kitten, take a look at that picture. Tell me what you think.” Applying just the slightest bit of pressure, he turned her face towards Joseph’s art, and she sucked in a shocked breath.
At first glance, it looked like Joseph had photographed the entire afternoon, from the loosening of the first button to their post-coital sprawl. The room spun for one fast, hard second, until she took a deep breath and held it. When she let it out, she was able to focus and see that Joseph had, essentially, kept his promise.
None of them were nudes. Because she’d never taken off her stockings and heels.
There was that first photo, with both her and Abel still fully clothed, the faintest of flushes on her cheeks, seen even in black and white. And when Abel knelt to unzip her skirt, the look on his face as it slid down to hit the floor–Joseph had captured the hunger, the anticipation so that it burst off the glossy paper, made her weak in the knees even a week later. And the look on her face while Abel unlaced the corset–the only word she could thing to describe it was wanton. Hungry wasn’t intense enough to detail what was on her face.
But the picture that Abel turned her face towards, the one that was generating more buzz than any other, was the one Joseph took immediately after Abel bound her wrists. Sarah didn’t find herself focusing on the fact that she was naked from the waist up, although she was sure that there were more than a few people in the gallery who did. Her attention was drawn to the almost identical looks on her face and Abel’s. Vulnerability and power, entwined together as closely as she and Abel were, seemingly polar opposites dependent on each other.
“Kitten. Sarah.” His use of her name, a rarity, had her shifting her gaze back to him. For the first time since he’d rudely interrupted her thoughts, he looked uncertain of himself. “Say something.”
Sarah turned her head slightly to study the photograph one more time, although her decision had been made from the second she saw it. “I want you to take me home.”
Abel’s hands tensed on her face before dropping away. He took a half step back, and would have taken another if there had been room. “Of course.”
“Abel.” Sarah stepped forward, closing the distance between them. Taking a deep breath, she wound her arms around his neck, pulling his face down to hers. Wetting her lips, she pushed to her toes to whisper in his ear.
“I want you to take me home. And take me to bed. Sooner, rather than later.”
The apartment door thudded against the wall, nearly bouncing back into them as they half stumbled, half fell into the tiny hall. Sarah had enough presence of mind to shut the door and fasten the deadbolt before letting Abel pin her against the wall, his hunger almost frightening in its intensity. When he fisted the neckline of her dress and ripped, tearing the thin fabric as easily as paper, Sarah let the wall take all her weight, shivering at the inherent threat and promise in the gesture.
“That was a gift.”
Abel dipped his tongue into her ear, and they both trembled. “I’ll buy you another one.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Sarah pushed off the wall enough to let the ruined garment fall to the floor, a puddle under their feet. “I don’t want another one. I just want you.”
Bracing his hands against the wall, caging her in, Abel dropped his head to bury his head in the nape of her neck. “Oh, you have me, kitten. Don’t worry about that.” Raising his head, he looked down, biting his lip. “I thought I told you to warn me when you wear something like this.”
“You said to make sure what they couldn’t see was as good as what they couldn’t.” She sighed when he shifted his weight to his left arm, using his right to rub up and down her side.
“I didn’t say to make it better.” Abel ran his fingertips over the lace trim of her underwear, a half smile curving his lips even as he shook his head. “You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?”
Sarah gave a half shake of her head, her own lips tilting up in response. She wasn’t, not really, but his reaction every time he undressed her was extremely gratifying. It wasn’t the cut of the lingerie that made it so noteworthy–the set that she wore in Joseph’s studio was much more dramatic, where as this was just a simple bra and panty set. It was the color, and the detail, that had Abel’s fingers shaking just the tiniest bit as they grazed the swell of her breasts.
Sarah had spent years and a more than modest amount of money trying to achieve a color other than pale. She didn’t look sickly, or as if she avoided the sun, or completely lacking in color, her skin tone was just so light as to be almost alabaster. mobilbahis giriş It wasn’t until sometime in the past three years or so that she’d accepted the fact that she would never get darker without getting skin cancer or turning orange. And upon accepting that fact, her color palette had changed. Maybe not for her spinster clothes, as Abel called them, but for her own guilty pleasure.
Her lingerie drawer ran the rainbow of jewel tones, from ruby red to emerald to amethyst. The few pieces she owned that weren’t rich and saturated in color were paler than pastels, paler than watercolors, only a few shades darker than her skin tone. The set she wore now fell into that latter category, the satin a lavender so faint it nearly matched the undertones of her veins. The lace embroidery was a darker purple, but just barely, and still shades lighter than the dress that lay in tatters at their feet. The bra lifted her breasts, the swell of them pale and creamy against the shock of color. The matching underwear sat low on her hips, cut high on her thighs, dark purple lace holding the scraps of material together.
“If I thought you would actually consider it, I would seriously offer to pay you to walk around in your underwear all day.” Abel stepped back, tilting his head to one side as he studied her. Sarah’s hands fluttered nervously in front of her, instinctively trying to cover herself before letting them drop back to press against the wall. “Although it would probably be more of a distraction than an inspiration.”
“Should I take that as a compliment?”
“Well, it’s definitely not an insult. Neither is the fact that I just paid an exorbitant amount of money for that picture in Joseph’s show.” Pulling Sarah away from the wall, Abel swiftly knelt, grasping her thighs and standing, the movement having the desired effect of laying Sarah across his shoulder. “I should have him arrested for highway robbery.”
“Feeling a little caveman like?” Sarah was torn between giggling and struggling, and shrieked when he gave her a little bounce on his shoulder. The rapid beat of her heart had something to do with fear, but more to do with anticipation. This was a different side of Abel, more playful, less overwhelming. She could actually still think, even with his hands on her.
“If it’s good enough for Geico.” Abel gave her one last bounce on his shoulder before flipping her off his shoulder onto the bed. She bounced once before he pinned her to the mattress, taking her mouth with his. She let herself sink into the kiss for a moment, felt the heat spread through her body. And then wiggled her hand between them, running her fingers over his ribs.
“Jesus!” When Abel would have moved away, Sarah locked her legs around him, both hands now free to tickle. It took less than a minute to have him shaking with laughter, and then Sarah used his sudden limpness to roll him over to his back. Straddling him, she tapped her fingers on his chest, waiting for him to catch his breath. His hair spread over her duvet, a contrast to the bright lemon color. After a moment, he let out a long sigh. “Remind me to never get in a tickle war with you. And I found where you put all your money.”
“Surprisingly not, kitten. I think your bed is even more fantastic than your underwear, and that’s saying something.”
“It is a nice bed, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think we should ever leave it. I have a laptop, I can work from here. All you need is a maid to actually do things like laundry and cook and run errands.” Abel ran his hands up Sarah’s torso, skimming her breasts before cupping her face. One thumb brushed absently at her lower lip while the other grazed her cheekbone. “I’ll pay for her. Or him. Although I think I’d prefer an older, grandmother type if you’re going to stay in bed.”
Sarah chuckled, leaning down to rub her nose against his. “We’d grow mold.”
“Take this in the spirit it’s meant, there’s no one else I’d rather grow mold with.”
Biting her lip to keep from laughing, she laid her cheek against his. “That’s so romantic, Abel. It’s like poetry.”
“If you want poetry, I could probably drag some out of a dusty memory. As for romance….” Abel trailed off, rolling her suddenly to her back. Sarah’s breath caught at the look of seriousness in his eyes. “Romance I can probably pull off.”
When his lips met hers, there was a hesitancy that had never been there before. Not even in their first kiss. The first kiss had been fire and heat and mind-numbing. But this…Sarah felt her muscles tense for a brief minute before relaxing completely. There was gentleness here, and uncertainty, and she felt her heart tremble on the edge of something.
Twining her arms around his neck, she pulled him closer, the kiss deepening by degrees. It was like easing into a warm bath, the heat never too much, but just enough to make you limp and relaxed. Their tongues traveled back and forth, slow, lazy, the only sounds in the room contented sighs. When Abel raised his head, it seemed to take all of Sarah’s strength to open her eyes.
“You’re so beautiful.” The words were a whisper across her skin, and she felt her cheeks flush at the wonder in his voice. “Even now, I don’t think you have any idea how beautiful you are. Every part of you.”
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