Home > Stripped (Stripped, #1)(13)

Stripped (Stripped, #1)(13)
Author: H.M. Ward

She blinks at me. "Why not?"

"Because I want you."



There's no way he said it, but he did. I heard him. "You haven't had sex since you met me?" He shakes his head. His blue eyes are so dark, and they fixate on me unashamed. My body tenses and the feeling that I'm in over my head crashes into me again. It was a stupid idea to lay down with him. When I asked him to touch me, I meant for him to run his hands over my skin, but then I couldn't stop. I like the idea of Jon's hands on me, and I wanted to be in his arms—no, I wanted to lose myself in his arms. I wanted to feel that release as I came, and... Oh God.

As soon as the thought drifts through my mind, I bolt upright and sit on the grass next to him, clutching my knees like a lawn gnome. I'm so conflicted. Part of me wants to give in, but I've had this belief for so long. Abandoning it now seems foolish. Am I a fool? Is my body so driven by lust that I can't control myself or is it more than that?

A very rational voice echoes in the back of my mind, It's more than that, much more.

"Cassie," Jon's hand is on my back as he sits up. It sends a shiver through me and it's impossible to deny how much I want him. How did this happen? I'm ready to jump up and run all the way back to Aunt Paula's house, but Jon takes my wrist. I glance at him out of the corner of my eye, watching him as he lifts my hand close to his face. "Tell me what you want, baby. I'll give it to you. All you have to do is ask me."

A jagged breathe escapes me and I glance over at him. "I don't know what I want. I want more, but I don't want to throw away everything I believe so fast. I don't want to regret this, Jon."

"So let's do a little more, something you won't regret. Something that's fairly innocent, but feels like more." He's watching me, waiting for my approval, but I don't know what he means. The question must be written on my face because Jon smiles softly and takes my hand.

Glancing at him out of the corner of my eye, I watch as he lifts my wrist to his lips. Jon turns it over so the soft part, just below my palm, is nearly on his mouth. When he breathes, something stirs inside of me. I imagine his mouth on my wrist and am surprised how hard it makes my heart pound. A jolt of tingles shoots through me when I think about it, and it's strange because I've never thought about it before. I avert my eyes quickly, but he doesn't drop my hand.

"What if I kissed you here?" His finger presses to the inside of my wrist, making my stomach flutter. He draws a circle before I feel his eyes on my cheek again. Jon leans toward me, trying to catch my eye. "It's a pulse point, one of the most sensitive spots on your body. It'll make you feel good without changing everything you believe tonight. Right? I mean, you didn't have wedding night plans that involved wrist kissing, did you?" He smiles at me and leans in close, touching his forehead to mine.

"No, I didn't really think about it before now." I feel silly asking, but I ask anyway, "Have you done this before? Of course you have. Why'd I even say that? You've been—" I begin to prattle as my face turns red and I look away.

Jon hooks his finger under my chin and forces our gazes to meet. The corners of his mouth turn up, "I haven't done this before. It's too sweet and innocent, so I blew right past it. But I thought you'd like it. This kind of kiss is a middle ground. It's not as intimate as some kisses, but more so than others."

Nervous energy flutters through my stomach, as I lay back on the grass, and lift my hand to him. It's nonverbal permission. We're alone, in the dark, far from the house and the noise. I close my eyes and feel my heart race in my chest as Jon lays next to me and takes my hand. My stomach flips when I feel his breath on my skin and my skin becomes hypersensitive. When his lips brush against my wrist, a surprised sound comes from the back of my throat and I tense up next to him.

When he pauses between kisses, he says, "Tell me if you change your mind."

I can barely breathe. "I will."

He presses his mouth against my inner wrist again and I gasp louder this time. The sensation scares me, making me feel completely vulnerable as tingles shoot through every inch of my body. I resist it and try to fight back the surge of emotions that threaten to overtake me. I stare at him as his tongue sweeps across my skin.

He sees me and smiles. "I bet you have a toe fetish."

"I do nahhhh..." My offense had a lot more to it before he kissed me again. His lips move over that one spot, licking, sucking, and tasting me. My eyes close and I try to savor the sensations, but I can't. They're so strong, and every time his mouth touches me, I want to wrap my legs around him.

The kisses grow hotter, and longer, making me want to writhe slowly on the grass, but I fight it and hold my h*ps still. I'm afraid of what will happen if I let go and enjoy the sensations. I don't know what it'll do or what it means. Jon's my friend, but his lips are attached to my wrist and the urges he's evoking aren't friendly. I want his hands tangled in my hair with his nak*d body pressed to mine. I want to know the taste of his kiss and learn the curve of his mouth. I'm not asexual, I've had these thoughts before, but not like this. These are clear desires, dreams almost. They're things I hope for, wishes that I'm too afraid to recognize.

Jon's eyes are closed and I watch his face as he kisses me. That turns out to be a mistake, because his expression is so carnal, so sexual that the pulsing between my legs is unbearable. Closing my eyes, I take my free hand and claw the ground next to me, arching my back as I do it. I want to surrender to the feelings. I want them to overtake me and pull me under, but I can't. I cling to my mind even though it's trying to abandon me. I can't think. I just want his mouth—his hot, wet tongue—to lick my stomach and slide up higher and higher, inch by inch, to my aching br**sts. Every kiss of my wrist pushes me closer to the edge until I'm clinging there with everything I have.

Breathless, Jon stops and looks over at me. "Let go, Cassie. I won't hurt you, baby. Let go."

I clutch the ground and rip out the grass. My chest rises and falls too quickly. It feels like my heart will rupture inside my body and I'll die if I let go, if I surrender my control. Jon smiles softly and sits next to me. He shifts me so that my head is in his lap, and I'm laying on my back, looking up at the sky. His thighs are around my shoulders, cradling me, as Jon lifts my other wrist to his lips.

My body tenses as I fight the sensation of wicked urges. I can't give into him, but I want to. I want to let myself feel whatever it is to be lost in Jonathan Ferro. My eyes flicker as I gasp, caught in the middle. It's like I'm desperately clutching a ledge, about to fall off. My fingers are tearing and my nails are ripping, but I can't let go.

That's when I tense and lift off his lap slightly. Jon's other hand guides me back down and strokes my cheeks. "Trust me, Cass. Let go."

Those words, they push me over the edge and my body relaxes in his lap. Jon strokes my skin as his lips travel over my skin. Tingles shoot through me like fireworks, arching my back, and pushing my pulse faster. I tug my arm away, but Jon locks it to his lips, continuing to press his mouth and sweeping his tongue over my sensitive flesh. My jaw falls open and I moan as my chest lifts again, needing the touch of his hand on my breast. I'm an animal in this state. I can't think and I don't want to. I want to feel, and I do. I feel more and want more. His mouth is heaven and I'm aching for him to touch me.

This isn't sex. I have no idea what this is, but it's not what I imagined I'd be doing with my husband on my wedding night—or ever. It's so different, and I want it so much. Moaning his name, I turn my face toward his. "Jon."

My body is tightening into thick coils. I feel them inside of me as I grow hotter and the place between my legs throbs for his attention. Gasping, I tilt my head back and close my eyes. My heart races so hard that I think I'm going to die.

At that moment, Jon whispers in my ear, "I love you, Cass."

Those words. They jerk me out of my stupor and I dart out of his lap. I can't catch my breath and don't trust my knees to hold, but I jump up anyway. With my hand to my heart, I stare at him.

Jon's on his feet and stepping toward me. "Cass..." He lifts his hands to me, but I'm paralyzed.

Fear and mistrust mingle inside my mind as panic races through me. I try to stop it, but I can't. He doesn't love me. Guys like him say things like that to girls like me because it's what we want to hear, not because it's true. I'm suddenly livid, caught between tears and anger.

"Do you say that to all the girls? Or is it just for the ones who are stupid like me?" I don't mean any of it, but the words pour out of my mouth, and I can't stop them.

Jon steps toward me with a wounded look on his face. "You don't mean that."

"How am I supposed to believe you? Tell me, Jon! I need to know—" I'm sob-yelling now, gasping for air that won't come.

He steps toward me again. "You know me, Cass. Better than anyone. I'm not lying to you. I couldn't make up the anguish I feel when you're not there."

"Stop!" I hold my hands to my ears like it'll keep me from hearing him, but it doesn't. His voice rings through.

"Stop, what? Stop loving you? Because I tried that, Cass, and it didn't work. I've completely and totally fallen for you. There's no way out."

And then his arms slip around my waist and he pulls me against his chest. The tears start and won't stop, but I have no idea why. He said exactly what I wanted to hear. All I have to do is believe him.

"Do you love me, Cassie?" His voice is uncharacteristically vulnerable and catches on my name. Jon tilts his head as he lifts my chin. Our gazes lock and I've never been more frightened of anything in my entire life. Even when the museum was falling to pieces around me, things seemed more solid—more certain.

But I know how I feel. I just have to find the words. I smile through my tears, and nod. "I love you, Jonathan Ferro."



In a matter of moments, my entire world changed. She loves me. She said so. By the time I drop her off at her aunt's house and prance through Uncle Luke's front door, it's nearly 3:00am. Time means nothing to me right then. I feel invincible. There's a huge smile on my face and I have to seriously control my urge to dance through the house and sing. She loves me! I've never been in love before. I wonder how long I'll feel like this, and how long the smile will remain tattooed to my lips.

As I take the steps two at a time, I hear Uncle Luke's voice. "Jonny, we need to talk."

I freeze half way up the staircase and look down at him. He's still dressed, wearing everything except his favorite boat shoes. The look on his face says something's wrong—very wrong.

I'm frozen. If I go down to him my high will crash and break into a million pieces, and I'm greedy. I don't want to let it go just yet. "What's wrong?" I'm still facing the wrong way, with both hands plastered to the railing, like I'm going to head to my room.

"Jonny, I don't know how to say this and I'd prefer that you didn't topple down the stairs when you hear. Please come here."

That turns me around, but my feet don't want to move. My mind races through possible scenarios that would make him say something like that, but short of someone dying, I can't think of anything else. I force my feet to the kitchen and stand at the threshold, as if not actually entering the room will protect me from whatever is about to happen.

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