Vic grabbed my wrist. I gasped. He tugged. Somehow he flew out of the water, dragging me and the heavy tank out with him onto the platform. Beside us, a splash. A triangular fin cut the surface, circling the boat.
Vic pulled me into the Whaler, tore the vest and tank off me. I sank onto the bench, legs gone rubbery, dragging in heaving breaths of warm air. The fin circled again and disappeared. I shuddered.
“Jesus!” Vic paced the cramped deck. Looked over the side. Slapped off water with quick, charged movements. He dropped his weight belt to the deck. Peeled off his coveralls and wetsuit, flung them aside. He leaned over the side of the boat again. Straightened. “I guess it’s gone. You don’t see many Tigers around here. Not aggressive like that one.” He slicked back his wet hair and rubbed his beard. Finally he planted his feet before me. “Are you okay?”
Shivering uncontrollably, I managed, “You c-certainly get your money’s worth out of a diver, d-don’t you?”
“Let’s get that coverall off you.” He crouched in front of me, fumbling with the zipper. He unbuckled my weight belt, and the brandy bottle tumbled out.
“What?” He caught it with a startled movement.
Relief, absurdity flooded. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. “If you c-could see your face!” I struggled out of the sodden coverall and my wetsuit, teeth still chattering. “I c-could use a shot.”
Vic handed me a towel. “Let’s take a look at that hand first.”
I studied my palm, the gash oozing blood. “Not so b-bad.”
He nudged me onto the bench, dropping to one knee to grasp my wrist and examine my palm. “Guess you won’t need stitches.”
But he kept hold of my hand, staring down at it. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, suddenly raised my palm and pressed it hard against his forehead, bowing over it. A strange, keening sound rose from his throat.
Startled, I yanked my hand free. He slowly raised his face, brow and cheek branded with my streaked blood. Raw emotion transformed his face to the mask of a primal rite. Unmasked? Stripped of another layer.
I closed my eyes, shivering.
His hands, surprisingly gentle, tucked the towel around my shoulders. “Here. Hold out your hand. Got to disinfect it.” A popping sound.
I opened my eyes to see him tilting the brandy bottle. “Wait!” A generous splash poured over my palm. “Ouch!” The flame in my hand burned off my chill.
He pulled out a first-aid kit, dabbed on gooey cream, and pressed wadded-up gauze against the cut, wrapping my hand.
I peered over his shoulder at the open kit. “I’m sure you’ve got some kind of antiseptic in there that wouldn’t sting. Sadist.”
He sat back on his heels and gave me a sober look. “You saved my life down there. I owe you.”
My eyes suddenly filled with tears.
“Hey.” He stood, pulling me to my feet, wrapping his arms around me and holding me close. “It’s all right. Just let it out.”
I gripped him, leaning into his bare chest, had to feel us both here in the flesh. He was warm, solid, tangy with the scent of sea and skin. Alive.
His arms tightened around me, heart beating deep and fast against my ear. A low hum as he rocked me slowly. His lips brushed the top of my head.
My body blindly curved into his, felt the hard lines of him through our swimsuits. I caught a sharp breath and raised my face. He was flushed, eyes bright against the deep tan. That electric connection crackled between us. Alive. We were alive.
My hands moved in a dreamlike motion, reaching up to touch his coppery beard, pull his face down to mine. I licked my salty blood off his cheek.
A strangled sound in his throat as he gripped my head with his big hands and kissed me hard. My mouth opened to his tongue searching, sharing the taste of my blood. He groaned, pulling me closer.
I was licking his salty skin, biting his neck, digging my fingers into the muscle on his shoulders and chest, grabbing his head and drawing his mouth back to mine. I wanted to consume him, be consumed. High-pitched animal sounds were coming out of me. He was hard, pulsing against me, his heat swamping me. I gasped in a wave of blind panic, drowning.
“I’m here. Hang on.” He pulled me in tighter, mouth finding mine again, tongue probing, demanding.
My palms slid over his slippery wet skin, muscled contours, pulling him against me, pushing against him until the boundaries of our skin melted and fused. I panted, sinking deeper into his scent and taste and feel.
He ripped off my swimsuit—torch flames licking shadows in the night forest, leafy vines entwining me, his hands ripping them free—and pushed me down onto our towels, kissing and biting, sucking my breasts, rubbing his hard penis over my belly slick with our mingled sweat. Drums echoing snake sliding thick and slippery over my belly, thrusting into me—
I cry out as he thrusts into me it’s his cry I feel in my throat his throat, my big callused hands sliding over her shoulders and breasts we’re melted together in the drumbeat and fire. He’s inside me, groaning, pushing deeper. The rhythm pumps faster, harder. Plunging to the core of me/him and it’s too much I climax unable to bear it but he pushes on, relentless, taking me with him ever deeper into the redhot dark, searing through the walls, the limits and I’m lost.
“Susan. Stay with me.”
He’s there with me, inside me, turning me inside out I’m inside him and we’re going together. He’s pushing, making me give him give myself more and I suddenly hate him, fighting it he has no right to do this to me. My eyes snap open, see his straining, bloodstreaked face above me. Mask of a stranger. Animal eyes glinting fierce grinning rictus skull beneath the skin. Always. Claiming me the dark elemental powers.
I close my eyes and I’m the power racing us on. The pounding beat, harder, I’m the rhythm I’m something else somewhere and when, everywhere. Pure force of the flesh and it’s blossoming inside around us black orchid, obscene and beautiful the scent juices bursting through our veins pulsing our mingled heartbeats and blood. Pounding to a final impossible pitch before we’re thrown free.
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