Crimson Heart: Book Three of The Highland Hearts Series

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She leaned back against the door, her bare, wet toes curling against the stone floor. She didn’t want him to go. She didn’t want to be alone. Not anymore.

“Step aside,” he ordered.

“I’d rather you stayed.” Elena traced the hard angles of Searc’s face with her gaze. She’d come to know those lines over the days since he’d rescued her in the forest, come to trust the man behind them. For the first time in her life she didn’t want to hide herself anymore. She had today, and it had cost her so much, too much. “Don’t leave me.” One by one Elena opened her fingers that clutched the bath sheet. The damp linen dropped to her feet.   

“Elena—”  

“I am unhurt,” she interrupted. “But—” she raised her hand timidly toward his face. He didn’t move away. “I don’t want to be alone.” He still hadn’t looked down at her body, but held her gaze locked to his. Her hand crept closer. “I don’t want to hide anymore.”

The pads of her fingers hovered near his jaw, the stubble giving him a roguish look. She held her breath and touched him. He closed his eyes and inhaled as she lay her palm along his face. When he opened them again Elena’s breath caught at the intensity there. The red spark was gone, but another spark made her heart beat inside her like a bird within a cage. She left his jaw and took his hand, placing it on her exposed collarbone where her heart beat insistently. “I will do everything I can not to have you look at me again like you did today in that filthy cottage.”

She slid his hand down her chest to her breast.

“Nay.” He shook his head, pulling his hand away. “Ye will not make amends this way, Elena.”

She stepped closer to his warmth, her naked back cold in the chilled room, completely vulnerable. “No, I mean…I’m done hiding from you, Searc.” She shook her head. “It is too painful to keep secrets. I’d rather… After today, your look. It would be less painful to die then keep them from you.” She felt her eyes watering up but blinked the tears away. “I want you to know me, everything about me.” She pressed close against him to wrap her hands around the back of his neck. “Starting with this.” She kissed him.

His exhale was half groan, half growl, yet still he resisted. “Lass, ye don’t need to do this.”

She frowned at him. “Damn it, Searc, stop being so noble.” His eyes widened slightly. “I want this. I want you, and if you turn me away after I’ve thrown myself literally in your hands naked—”

Searc cut her off, grasping her face, angling it to press tightly against his lips. His one hand wrapped around her back, running down the chilled skin covering her spine, pressing her to him. The feel of him, so completely aroused, melted her worry away. He did want her. A hot ache shot down through her body.