by Kristin Vayden
Genre: New Adult
Atonement is my only salvation. So when the opportunity presented itself, to save her. I did. And the tangled web began…Knowing her, but not letting her know me. Keeping her at arm's length when all I wanted to do was have her in my arms. Protecting her, because I finally fell. And the monster she needed protection from… Was me.
“Why are you avoiding me?” I asked, hating that I sounded so weak and insecure. I risked a glance up, biting my lip as Alder studied me. He didn’t immediately refute my claim, which basically affirmed that I was right. He was avoiding me. Fan-freaking-tastic. Which totally solidified my stalker status. “Jayne, it’s for the best… okay?” He spoke quietly, his gaze searching my face, landing on my lips. He closed his eyes and turned away slightly. Opening his eyes, he studied the wall. “Why?” “Because I’m… I’m the last person… you deserve someone so much…. better, you know? It’s not you. It’s me.” He turned to face me as he spoke. “Whenever anyone says that, it just makes you feel like they're trying to let you down nicely, you know?” I took a deep breath and stood. “It’s okay. I get it. I just…” I searched his hazel eyes. “…I thought there was something more, and I was wrong. It’s okay.” I tried to smile bravely, but I knew I failed by the expression on his face. “Jayne, don’t.” His expression was tortured, as if he were fighting an internal civil war, and no matter the side, he would lose. “It’s okay, Alder. I… I’m sorry I cornered you. It’s just that I felt safe around you… and it’s…” I took a shaky breath as I continued. “…it’s been a long time since I felt that way, you know?” I gave a weak smile as my eyes stung with tears. “Oh shit, don’t cry, please don’t cry. You… I… Jayne, I’m not worth your tears.” His voice was hoarse as he stood and reached out toward me then pulled back his hand as if reaching for something that would burn him. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed forcefully then closed his eyes. “Seriously, Jayne, if you only knew…” He shook his head and then rubbed the back of his neck. I paused, studying him. “Is… is it because of your past?” I asked tentatively, knowing that I was about to walk on thin, fragile ice. He froze, and his eyes slowly slid to meet mine. “You could say that,” he whispered. I could see his breathing grow rapid as his gaze locked with mine, his expression full of fear. “And… you think it would be hard for me to see past it,” I guessed, taking a cautious step forward. He watched my slow movement with a heavily guarded expression, as if he was terrified. Slowly, he nodded. I risked another step toward him, watching as his gaze held steady, locked on mine. “Because what you did is unforgiveable?” I murmured. He nodded once, barely blinking as he watched me take the final step that would bring us toe to toe. “I see,” I whispered as I tilted my head slightly and inhaled the warm scent coming from his skin, a mix of sweat and raw power. It was intoxicating, alluring and called to me, urging me to be reckless. I wasn’t the kind of girl to be forward, to chase the guy. Alder had changed all of that. Reaching down, I slowly laced my fingers with his, thankful he had taken off the tape as we left the gym. His fingers tightened around mine, warming me with the security of his gentle grip. Heart pounding, I glanced up, studying his expression, memorizing the walnut-and-moss-green highlights of his eyes, the strong line of his jaw. His gaze traced my face, as if he were studying me just as intently. “I’m stronger than you think,” I murmured and rose up on my toes as I ran my nose along his lower jaw. His breathing hitched and I sensed his muscles lock down, as if straining against himself, not wanting to move, to either step away or step closer. It was a turning point. I could almost feel the battle being fought within him, and I wasn’t sure which side would win. So I risked it all, hoping I would turn the tide. Before I could possibly overthink my actions, I lifted my chin just enough to meet his mouth. Softly, I pressed a gentle kiss to his lips, lingering for a moment. It was as far as I was going to go. Now I waited. Leaning back slightly, I lifted my gaze to study his expression. Indecision flickered before the hunger that I had only glimpsed earlier began to burn brightly in his gaze. Immediately, he tugged me close and all but devoured me with his kiss. There was no easing into the passion; it was like the Fourth of July, explosive and beautiful and passionate. His hands released mine and ran up my shoulders till they framed the back of my neck, guiding me to tilt my head so he could deepen the kiss. His lips caressed mine, his teeth playful and ardent as they nipped at my lower lip, teasing me. He darted his tongue along the seam of my lips and tortured me with just a taste of his flavor. Not wanting to be outdone, I gripped his shoulders and ran my fingers along the hills and valleys of his back, delighting in the raw power he held. I could feel his heartbeat racing as I pressed into him, wanting to be closer, wanting more. Wanting to forget everything but him, wanting to lose myself, even if it were just for one moment. For one night. “Alder…” I whispered his name as his lips left mine and traveled down my neck, nipping and teasing my skin till he reached my collarbone. Almost frantically he met my lips once more, seemingly desperate to taste my kiss. A desperation I felt as well. Breaking the kiss, I grinned and gently pressed against his chest till his knees hit his chair. His chest rose and fell quickly, same as mine, as I kissed him once, then pushed down on his shoulders, encouraging him to sit down. Climbing on his lap, it was almost as if I were watching it unfold outside my body. This wasn’t me… I didn’t do things like this… But here I was, seducing him in a dingy prison-looking office. Alder didn’t need any further encouragement. Where I had started everything, he was now taking control, and I was thrilled to follow. His hands circled my waist and pulled me tightly against his lap as his lips took mine hostage, demanding and hot. I felt the last reservations fall away. Warm hands gripped my hips till they toyed with the edge of my shirt. His tongue wove around mine, dancing, seducing. Deftly, his hands found skin, caressing my lower back and wandering around to my stomach, climbing higher till they grazed the edge of my bra. Then, like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over his head, he froze. He carefully ended the kiss and gently pulled my shirt down so it covered me. Confused, I leaned back to study him. “Jayne…” His tone was labored. I waited, barely breathing. My heart thundered with the fear of rejection. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of the chair as his hands wound around my waist, and he held me as if he were afraid I’d disappear. Alder would forever be a complete contradiction. And like a drug, I couldn’t stop needing hit after hit. His breathing slowed, and he lifted his eyes to meet my gaze. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?” That wasn’t what I was expecting. And it was the most romantic, sweet thing any guy had ever said. A piece of my heart melted, and a smile broke through the fear. “Honestly… in all the world, I don’t think I’d ever find anyone so beautiful, inside and out.” He shook his head slightly, his expression full of wonder, but a rough edge to his tone gave me a shiver up my spine. Ignoring it, I shrugged. “You don’t know me that well… yet.” I grinned flirtatiously. “Actually…” Alder’s expression froze then grew resolute. “…Jayne, I do.”
Kristin’s inspiration for the romance she writes comes from her tall, dark and handsome husband with killer blue eyes. With five children to chase, she is never at a loss for someone to kiss, something to cook or some mess to clean but she loves every moment of it! She loves to make soap, sauerkraut, sourdough bread and gluten free muffins. Life is full of blessings and she praises God for the blessed and abundant life He’s given her.
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