Taming Natasha Page 40

Natasha stared down at her own balled fist. His words were hitting much too close to home. “What did you do?”

“I made a bargain with her. She would have the baby, and we would give the marriage another shot. She would have the abortion and I would divorce her, and make certain that she didn’t get what she considered her share of the Kimball money.”

“Because you wanted the child.”

“No.” It was a painful admission, one that still cost him. “Because I wanted my life to run the way I’d imagined it would. I knew if she had an abortion, we would never put the pieces back. I thought perhaps if we shared this, we’d pull it all together again.”

Natasha remained silent for a moment, absorbing his words and seeing them reflected in her own memories. “People sometimes think a baby will fix what’s broken.”

“And it doesn’t,” he finished. “Nor should it have to. By the time Freddie was born, I was already losing my grip on my music. I couldn’t write. Angela had delivered Freddie, then passed her over to Vera, as though she were no more than a litter of kittens. I was little better.”

“No.” She reached out to take his wrist. “I’ve seen you with her. I know how you love her.”

“Now. What you said to me that night on the steps of the college, about not deserving her. It hurt because it was true.” He saw Natasha shake her head but went on. “I’d made a bargain with Angela, and for more than a year I kept it. I barely saw the child, because I was so busy escorting Angela to the ballet or the theater. I’d stopped working completely. I did nothing. I never fed her or bathed her or cuddled her at night. Sometimes I’d hear her crying in the other room and wonder—what is that noise? Then I’d remember.”

He picked up the bottle to top off his glass. “Sometime before Freddie was two I stepped back and looked at what I’d done with my life. And what I hadn’t done. It made me sick. I had a child. It took more than a year for it to sink in. I had no marriage, no wife, no music, but I had a child. I decided I had an obligation, a responsibility, and it was time to pull myself up and deal with it. That’s how I thought of Freddie at first, when I finally began to think of her. An obligation.” He drank again, then shook his head. “That was little better than ignoring her. Finally I looked, really looked at that beautiful little girl and fell in love. I picked her up out of her crib, scared to death, and just held her. She screamed for Vera.”

He laughed at that, then stared once more into his wine. “It took months before she was comfortable around me. By that time I’d asked Angela for a divorce. She’d snapped up my offer without a blink. When I told her I was keeping the child, she wished me luck and walked out. She never came back to see Freddie, not once in all the months the lawyers were battling over a settlement. Then I heard that she’d been killed. A boating accident in the Mediterranean. Sometimes I’m afraid Freddie remembers what her mother was like. More, I’m afraid she’ll remember what I was like.”

Natasha remembered how Freddie had spoken of her mother when they had rocked. Setting aside her glass, she took Spence’s face in her hand. “Children forgive,” she told him. “Forgiveness is easy when you’re loved. It’s harder, so much harder to forgive yourself. But you must.”

“I think I’ve begun to.”

Natasha took his glass and set it aside. “Let me love you,” she said simply, and enfolded him.

It was different now that passion had mellowed. Slower, smoother, richer. As they knelt on the bed, their mouths met dreamily—a long, lazy exploration of tastes that had become hauntingly familiar. She wanted to show him what he meant to her, and that what they had together, tonight, was worlds apart from what had been. She wanted to comfort, excite and cleanse.

A sigh, then a murmur, then a low, liquid moan. The sounds were followed by a light, breezy touch. Fingertips trailing on flesh. She knew his body now as well as her own, every angle, every plane, every vulnerability. When his breath caught on a tremble, her laughter came quietly. Watching him in the shifting candlelight, she brushed kisses at his temple, his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his throat. There a pulse beat for her, heavy and fast.

She was as erotic as any fantasy, her body swaying first to, then away from his. Her eyes stayed on him, glowing, aware, and her hair fell in a torrent of dark silk over her naked shoulders.

When he touched her, skimming his hands up and over, her head fell back. But there was nothing of submission in the gesture. It was a demand. Pleasure me.

On a groan he lowered his mouth to her throat and felt the need punch like a fist through his gut. His open mouth growing greedy, he trailed down her, pausing to linger at the firm swell of her breast. He could feel her heart, almost taste it, as its beat grew fast and hard against his lips. Her hands came to his hair, gripping tight while she arched like a bow.

Before he could think he reached for her and sent her spiraling over the first crest.

Breathless, shuddering, she clung, managing only a confused murmur as he laid her back on the bed. She struggled for inner balance, but he was already destroying will and mind and control.

This was seduction. She hadn’t asked for it, hadn’t wanted it. Now she welcomed it. She couldn’t move, couldn’t object. Helpless, drowning in her own pleasure, she let him take her where he willed. His mouth roamed freely over her damp skin. His hands played her as skillfully as they might a fine-tuned instrument. Her muscles went lax.

Her breath began to rush through her lips. She heard music. Symphonies, cantatas, preludes. Weakness became strength and she reached for him, wanting only to feel his body fit against her own.

Slowly, tormentingly, he slid up her, leaving trails of heat and ice, of pleasure and pain. His own body throbbed as she moved under him. He found her mouth, diving deep, holding back even when her fingers dug into his hips.

Again and again he brought them both shivering to the edge, only to retreat, prolonging dozens of smaller pleasures. Her throat was a long white column he could feast on as she rose to him. Her arms wrapped themselves fast around him like taut silk. Her breath rushed along his cheek, then into his mouth, where it formed his own name like a prayer against his lips.

When he slipped into her, even pleasure was shattered.

Natasha awoke to the scent of coffee and soap, and the enjoyable sensation of having her neck nuzzled.

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