The Long Hot Summer (Chapter Eight)

"An apple martini?"

Kelly rested her chin on the heel of her hand. "Yes, Ryan, an apple martini. It's the rage in New York City."

He stared at her animated features, smiling. The tears that had filled her eyes when she had spoken about her late husband had vanished. They had reached the point where their relationship had to be resolved. Kelly wanted him to make love to her, and he would but only when the time was right. What he did not want was anything planned or staged. He wanted spontaneity.

Curving a hand around her neck, he wound his fingers through her hair. "It must be a girlie girl concoction. A real martini is vodka or gin, not some sissy-tasting apple liqueur."

Smiling up at him through her lashes, Kelly shook her head. "Girlie girl?"

"Yes," he whispered against her lips. "You are the ultimate girlie girl."

"I stopped being a girl a long time ago," she crooned.

Ryan's hand went from her neck to her back. His fingers trailed down her spine, eliciting a shudder from her. "Wrong, princess. You're a woman-girl." He lowered his head and kissed the nape of her scented neck.

His mouth longed to follow the direction of his hand down the length of her spine. He wanted to taste Kelly – all over – until he gorged on her lush flesh.

Kelly felt the heat from Ryan's body seep into hers, it igniting an inferno between her legs. Her body began to vibrate with liquid fire, and she gasped softly as her flesh pulsed with a need that bordered on insanity.

Ryan's sensitive nostrils caught the scent of her rising passion, and he stared at the sensuality parting her full lips and dilating her pupils. Their waiter approached the table, carrying their drink order.

Kelly barely noticed the waiter placing her drink in front of her because the hardness of the thigh brushing against hers. Her whole being was flooded with a desire she hadn't known she possessed. It's been a long time, she mused. It had been a long time since the mere presence of a man had her quaking with desire.

Reaching for the icy glass with the pale green liquid, Ryan took a sip of Kelly's drink. It slid down his throat, cooling it before a warming spread in his chest. "Nice."

She picked up his tumbler filled with the concoctions for a Rob Roy, taking furtive sips. She grimaced. "Now, that's strong."

Handing Kelly her martini, he said, "It's definitely not Kool-Aid." He put the tumbler to his lips and drank deeply.

"Ryan?" Her voice was a mere whisper.

"Yes."

"Do we have to eat here?"

His sweeping eyebrows lifted. "Where do you want to eat?"

"Upstairs."

"You want to check into a room?"

She gave him a long, penetrating stare. "Yes."

Long, black lashes concealed the intensity in his gunmetal-gray eyes as he nodded. "Wait here while I register at the desk."

Kelly nodded, then slumped back to the cushioned softness of her chair. It was about to begin. She was ready to move forward, turn a corner and leave her past behind her. She would always love Simeon, but she knew she had to take a chance at finding love again, and that would only become possible if she looked forward. She had finished her drink when Ryan returned.

He helped her to her feet, cradling her against his side as he led her toward the elevator. His large hand covered the small of her back, fingers splayed over the roundness of her hips.

A tall, flaxen-haired man who looked as if he'd just left an Icelandic ski slope joined them at the elevator. Rocking back on his heels, he stared at Kelly's bared back. "D-a-a-m-n-n!" he gasped, drawing out the word.

Ryan's head snapped around, and he glared at the blond giant. "What's up?"

The man put up his hands at the same time he shook his head. "Nothing, man."

Dropping his arm, Ryan took off his jacket and draped it over Kelly's shoulders. The doors to the elevator opened and he escorted her into the car. He gave the man a narrow stare. "Aren't you coming?"

Kelly's admirer shook his head. "No. I'll wait for it to come down."

Ryan punched a button for the fourth floor. "Suit yourself."

Waiting until the doors closed, Kelly stared at Ryan as if he were a stranger. "What was that all about?"

Staring straight ahead, he said, "Nothing."

"Were you calling that man out?"

"Nope."

Shrugging off his jacket she handed it to him. "I'm not cold, thank you very much."

The doors opened with a soft swooshing sound, and Ryan reached for Kelly's hand. They walked the length of the carpeted hallway to a room at the end of the hall. A brass plate on the door read Skyline. He inserted the magnetic card in a slot and seconds later he opened a door to reveal an opulent suite of rooms.

This suite was designed with walls made entirely of glass. The view through the glass of the Appalachian Mountains and forested areas was breathtaking. Ryan dropped his jacket over the back of chair in the entryway.

Leaning against Ryan, Kelly bent down and slipped off her heels. Her toes disappeared in the deep pile of the plush gold carpeting. She turned into his embrace, sighing as he pulled her to his chest. Tilting her head, she smiled up at him. "It's beautiful."

The corners of his mouth curved in a half smile. "You are beautiful, Kelly."

Rising on tiptoe, she pressed her mouth to his, tasting the liquor on his lips. He deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping into her mouth.

Ryan's hands moved to cradle her round face between his palms; he willed himself to go slow. It had been a while since he had shared his bed with a woman, but nowhere as long as it had been for Kelly and a man. He left nibbling, teasing kisses at the corners of her mouth, over her eyes, along the length of her neck. His lips feather-touched her throat.

"I want you so much," he moaned against her ear.

Kelly clung to Ryan's neck like a drowning swimmer. "Then take me," she whispered hoarsely.

Bending slightly, Ryan scooped Kelly up into his arms, carrying her through the sitting room and into a bedroom with a king-size bed. The shimmering glow of the setting sun coming through the wall of glass threw shadows across the bed. Outside the shadows covering the mountains and valleys were reminiscent of the landscape pictures painted by the artists from the Hudson River School.

Cradling Kelly with one arm, Ryan pulled back a duvet and lightweight blanket to reveal a pale-yellow sheet. He lowered her gently to the mattress, his body following hers down. Gazing deeply into her clear-brown eyes, he smiled. Glints of gold sparkled as she gave him a shy smile.

He returned her smile. "I want it to be good between us." He needed it to be good because…he was falling in love with Kelly.

"Being here with you, having you hold me is good."

His fingers traced the outline of her delicate jaw. "Don't worry about anything. I'll protect and take care of you."

She wasn't certain what he meant by the cryptic statement, but mentally dismissed it as he slipped his hands under the straps on her shoulders, easing them down and off her arms and gasping softly when he stared at her naked breasts rising and falling above her rib cage.

Her breasts were perfect. Not too large or small, they were tipped with dark chocolate-brown nipples. He undressed her slowly, his gaze burning her flesh everywhere it touched. Sitting back on his heels, he removed her dress and black lace bikini panties. Everything about her body was alluring. From her flat belly, curvy hips and long shapely legs to her flawless brown skin that gave the appearance of whipped mousse.

Kelly forced herself not to cover her body with her hands, because there was something about the way Ryan was staring at her nakedness that made her uncomfortable. Rising off the mattress, she went to her knees. "Now, it's my turn," she whispered, her mouth touching his.

Ryan did not move, not even his eyes, as he permitted Kelly to undress him. His breathing quickened as she slipped off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. Moving closer, her breasts touching his chest, she reached up and pushed the shirt off his shoulders. He did close his eyes once she unbuckled the belt around his waist. By the time she undid the waistband and unzipped his trousers, he felt the constriction in his chest.

Kelly felt the rising heat from Ryan's body like the steam in a sauna. It intensified the natural masculine scent and the sensual fragrance of his cologne. He pushed her hands away, slipped off the bed and finished undressing.

She stared at the broad expanse of his chest covered with a profusion of black hair. Seeing Ryan like this reminded her of how different he was from Simeon. Wherein Simeon was only several inches taller than she was, Ryan exceeded her five-foot, eight-inch height by at least six inches. Simeon's coloring was dark, while Ryan's was golden-brown. Simeon's body was smooth, unlike the crisp black hair covering Ryan's chest, arms and legs.

She would not let her gaze venture below his waist after she'd glimpsed the thick, heavy organ nestled between his powerful thighs. Ryan wasn't fully aroused, yet he was huge! The mattress dipped when he joined her on the bed. She closed her eyes.

Ryan eased her down to a pillow. "Look at me, darling." She complied and slowly opened her eyes. Curving his arms around her waist, he shifted her until she lay over his chest, her legs nestled between his. Moaning softly, Kelly buried her face between his neck and shoulder.

"Tell me what you me want to do," he said in her hair. "Tell me what I have to do to make you feel good."

Kelly felt tears prick the backs of her eyelids. Simeon had been the only man she had slept with, and never had he asked what she'd wanted in bed.

"I don't know." Her voice was soft and childlike.

Ryan smiled. "Do you want me to kiss your body?"

"Yes."

"All over?"

"Yes."

"Do you want to be on top or underneath me?"

It was her turn to smile. "Both."

"Front or rear?" She gasped, and he laughed, the sound coming from deep within his broad chest. "We'll save the rear position for another time."

Reversing their positions, he supported his weight on his elbows. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, brushing a kiss over her mouth and leaving it burning with heat. Kelly found his mouth warm and sweet, moving with a slow, drugging intimacy that left both trembling.

Nothing was rushed. Not the shivering kisses starting between her breasts and trailing lower to her belly. Not his teeth nipping her nipples, turning them into hard buttons. But once he placed his hands against the inside of her thighs, spreading them wider, the sensual assault began.

She arched off the mattress as he searched for the tiny bud of flesh between her legs, and once finding it he laved it with his tongue until it hardened and swelled twice its size.

Kelly gripped the sheets, swallowing the moans trapped in her throat. Ryan's mouth and tongue played havoc with her nerve endings as she struggled not to climax.

Cupping her buttocks in both hands, Ryan raised her hips and plunged his tongue into her quivering flesh and drank deeply. He felt Kelly trembling, heard her soft pleas for him to stop, but he ignored her.

It was his intent to brand her with his possession, to make her forget all other men ever existed. He wanted to be the last man in her bed and in her life.

Kelly felt as if she stood outside of herself, watching herself float to a place where she'd never been. The desire streaking through her body was strange and frightening.

"No," she gasped, her head thrashing from side to side. She didn't want to feel this way, unable to control what was happening to her. "Ryan, please stop."

He did stop, but only long enough only to open the packet containing a condom he had taken from the pocket of his trousers. He rolled it down his tumescence, moved her over again and guided his engorged sex into her body.

Ryan kissed Kelly's taut nipples, rousing her passion all over again. She groaned with each inch that disappeared into the folds of her pulsing flesh. Once fully engulfed in her heat, he began to move.

Slowly.

Deliberately.

Pulling out.

Pushing in.

Pulling out a little more.

Pushing in a little harder until he established a rhythm that had them both moaning in ecstasy and gasping for their next breath. She rose to meet his powerful thrusts, their bodies in exquisite harmony with one another.

Opening her mouth, Kelly gasped in sweet agony as she felt the waves sweeping over her increase. The pleasure Ryan offered her was pure and explosive. He quickened his movements, his head buried between her neck and shoulders, and it was then that she cried out as love flowed through her like liquid heat.

She climaxed once, twice, then lost count as she was hurtled to another dimension. She lay drowning in the aftermath of her sensual journey when Ryan exploded, his deep moans of ecstasy echoing in her ear.

He collapsed on her and she welcomed his weight and strength. Their shared moment of ecstasy had passed, yet she was filled with an amazing sense of fulfillment.

Wrapping his arms around Kelly's waist, Ryan reversed their positions and smiled. Her face was moist, her mouth swollen from his kisses. He lifted his eyebrows. "Did I hurt you?"

Kelly stared down into the gray eyes that reminded her of streaks of lightning across a summer sky. "No." And he hadn't hurt her. However, she was certain muscles she hadn't used in a while would be a little sore.

Resting her head on his shoulder, she snuggled closer. She could feel the heat of his large body course down the length of hers. "Thank you, Ryan."

"For what, darling?" His hand moved up and down her spine in a comforting motion.

"For reminding me what it means to feel like a woman again."

He dropped a kiss on her mussed hair. "If I make you feel womanly it's because this is the first time in a long time I'm glad that I was born a man."

Raising her head, she stared at him staring down at her under lowered lids. He was so handsome that she found herself speechless for several seconds.

"I'm glad I waited."

His arm tightened around her waist. He wanted to tell her that he was glad he had waited for her. Reaching over to his right, he picked up the watch he had left on the bedside table. It was after eight. "Are you hungry?"

"Starved."

"I'll call and have our dinner sent up."

Kelly pulled out of his embrace and sat up. "I need to take a shower first."

Grinning, he reached for her hand. "We'll save time by sharing one."

She gave him a knowing look. "No seconds before we eat."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I already ate."

Kelly slapped playfully at Ryan, missing his shoulder when he ducked. He swept her up, throwing her over his shoulder as he headed toward the bathroom.

They shared a shower, Kelly complaining because he had ruined her hairdo when he held her under the flowing water while kissing her until she pleaded with him to let her go.

Wrapping her wet hair with a towel, she dried her body from a supply of thick, thirsty towels in a closet in the spacious modern bathroom. The closet yielded bathrobes and terry-cloth slippers in varying sizes.

Two hours later, she sat on a love seat in the dining area, her bare feet resting on Ryan's thighs. They had turned off all the lights, lit several candles and turned on the radio to a station that played mostly slow love songs.

She patted her belly under the terry robe. "I ate too much."

Resting the back of his head on the love seat, Ryan said, "Nonsense. I ate more than you did."

They'd devoured a platter of marinated asparagus, artichoke, grilled peppers, steak tidbits and grilled shrimp.

"That's because you ate faster than me."

"True," he said, lifting a flute of champagne.

Kelly raised her own flute, sipping the bubbling liquid. She hadn't finished her first glass. "What time do you plan to drive back?"

"What makes you think I'm driving back tonight?"

She could not make out his expression in the shadowy darkness. Sitting up straighter, she said, "What are you talking about?"

Ryan put his flute down on the table. "Unless you have another engagement this evening, I don't see the need to leave."

"What about Sean?"

"What about him?"

"Wouldn't he…"

"Wouldn't he what?" Ryan asked when she did not finish her question. "I'm not neglecting my son, Kelly, if that's what you're concerned about. He's spending the night with the Smith twins. They're having a Spider-Man party."

Heat flared in her cheeks. "I just don't – don't want to be responsible for keeping you from your son."

He curved his fingers around her slender ankles, holding her fast. "That could never happen. I've assumed total responsibility for Sean from the first time he drew breath, and there has never been a time when I've neglected him. I may not have always made the right decisions where it concerned him, but I've done the best I could.

"Sheldon begged me not to take him with me when I went to Tuskegee, but there was no way I could leave him for almost a year even though I knew he would be well cared for at the farm. Sean sulked the entire time he was away. He acted out because he didn't want to go to the daycare center whenever I taught a class, and he refused to talk to me whenever I came to pick him up. I made a mistake because I thought I knew what was best for my son. That was one time when I was thinking only of myself, but that will never happen again."

Kelly put her flute next to Ryan's, then leaned forward to curve her arms around his neck. "No one is born a parent. We learn through trial and error. But in the end you will find that you've done a pretty good job." She kissed his chin. "Sean will grow up to be as proud of you as you are of Sheldon."

He nodded. "Pop and I sometime have our differences, but if I turn out to be half the father he is then I'll be more than grateful. It wasn't easy for him when Mom died, leaving him with two boys who thought they knew more than he did. He was still pretty young when he became a widower, but he refused to remarry because he said he did not want another woman believing she could replace his sons' mother."

"How old were you when your mother passed away?"

"Fourteen. Jeremy had just turned ten. We were so angry, unable to accept that our mother was gone. I'm ashamed to say that we gave Pop hell for a few years until he said he wouldn't treat us like men until we started acting like men."

"Did you straighten out?"

"I'm still here, aren't I?"

"Were you and your brother that out of control?"

"We weren't what you would call thugs or criminals, but we never walked away from a fight. I wasn't as bad as Jeremy, but I had to back him up because he was my brother."

"You haven't changed that much, Ryan."

His forehead creased in a frown. "Why would you say that?"

"You were looking to start something with that guy at the elevator." He let go of her legs, picked up his flute, and took a swallow. She peered closely at him. "And because you're not saying anything let's me know that you're still a brawler."

He lifted an eyebrow. "It wouldn't have come to anything, Kelly."

"Why?"

"I'd never let you see me act like that."

"But are you still capable of brawling?"

"Sure. But I'd rather make love." He put aside his flute and reached for her. He untied the belt holding her robe together, running a hand up her inner thigh.

A moan slipped past her lips. "Ryan."

"Yes, baby," he whispered in her ear.

She moaned again. "That's not fair."

"What's not fair, princess?"

"You're taking advantage of me."

He chuckled. "You can always take advantage of me."

Kelly reciprocated as her hand searched under his robe to find him hard and ready. "What are you waiting for? Let's go back to bed."

This time there was no prolonged foreplay as Ryan paused long enough to slip on a condom, then entered Kelly's pulsing body and sent shivers of delight through her.

Their lovemaking was strong and passionate, each striving to delay fulfillment until the last possible moment. But they were not to be denied as they used every inch of the large bed in their quest to touch heaven. They exploded together, incinerating in flames of passion that burned long after they fell asleep entwined in each other's embrace.