“I woke you?” he asked, concerned, glancing at his watch. “I didn’t figure it was this late. I often work late . . . Tony’s been right by our side, trying to remember everything about what he heard at the ball in Dallas. He looks exhausted. Just ain’t no good for anybody when their family’s shaking. Hell, Catalina, you must be beat. I’m real sorry to come here at this time—”

“It’s fine, David. You didn’t wake me.” No, but she still felt dishevelled under his stare. Her hair shone from its earlier brushing, but it was messy from her tossing and turning on her pillows while time ebbed.

Her attire surely made the point? Tony had grabbed a night bag with minor essentials before they left Dallas for Canada. The toothbrush was a must, but her sleepwear choices were slim. Her brother’s white vest was too big for her, not a good cover.

He ran his eyes the full length of her. Catalina’s heart dropped through her ribcage as she remembered that the giant T-shirt’s hem knotted above her belly button exposed her abdomen and the tight V of her black lace panties beneath. And the damage to her flesh she always kept covered was now on full show.

“I’ll just throw on a robe.” She turned, desperate for the heavy cotton’s coverage now.

“Stop.” His curt command halted her mid-step. “Come here, Cat.”

He had seen them.
Fuck, he had seen them! The marks were why she always wore swim skirts at the pool, screwed with the lights dimmed. Her private torture of herself wasn’t normal . . . just necessary, to steady the madness in her when it threatened to overwhelm. Enabled her to go forwards.

“Now,” David ordered.

“I need a robe, I’m cold—”

“Come here.”

Resigned, she went to him. He looked down at her, his eyes all-knowing. Catalina flushed scarlet as he knelt down. “What are you—” David’s mouth was a breath away from her sex. He clasped her thighs in his big hands and heat roared through her, followed by a chill when she saw what he stared at.

David studied the tiny wounds on her hips. “Are these what I think they are?”

“I’m cold.” His tight grip prevented her withdrawal.

“What are these marks on your flesh, Catalina?”

“What do you think they are?”

He looked up at her. “Cigarette burns?” His fingertips traced two of the almost perfect circles on either hip. “You did this to yourself?”

She hadn’t gone so far in a while, but the temptation never left. She had self-harmed throughout her early teens, used it as a way to focus, to expel the emotional turmoil inside she couldn’t control into a solid pain she could feel and fight and win.

“Catalina?” he pushed.

“Yes.”

“How long have you been doing this to yourself?”

She pulled away and he relaxed his hold on her. “Why are you here?”

“Don’t you ever hurt yourself like that again, Cat.”

“Excuse me?” When did he become her keeper?

He stood up, a bear before her. “Never hurt yourself like that again. It’s not the way to find the peace you need.”

His eyes fixed at the juncture of her thighs. She felt, rather than witnessed, the shudder in his breathing.

“Go put a robe on,” he said, looking away.

“David—”

He didn’t turn back as he crossed the room to the armchair and sat down. He crossed his long legs and stared at her. The raw energy had dissipated.

Deflated, Catalina went to the bathroom and unhooked the robe to hide herself beneath the heavy cotton. She came back out, not making eye contact with him, only feeling her arousal and want alter to disappointment . . . hurt. “What do you want, David?” she snapped.

He placed a set of keys onto the glass top of the coffee table. “Alex said to give you these.”

“To unlock what?”

Casa Medina.”

The tiny white house up in the Spanish hills where Melissa was born. Eleanor had sold it years ago, but Melissa had never got over the loss of the home built by their grandfather’s own hands.

“How did—”

“He bought the place for her a few weeks ago. Was about to get it refurbished. It was meant to be a wedding present.”

She picked up the keys. “Oh. Right.” He needed to leave, right now, because despite her distress something still hummed between them, magnetic in its draw and David Kane didn’t want her even for a heat of the moment release. “Well, if that’s everything, you can leave.”

“Cat—”

“Goodnight, David.” She turned away; the keys dug in tight as she clenched her hand around them, the bite of tender pain helping.

“Goodnight, Cat.”

His sure footsteps to the door were enough evidence he didn’t want her. Catalina threw the keys on the floor and tore off the robe. “Fucking fool I am —” An arm came around her waist and she was lifted off her feet, then dropped to the bed. She bounced once, scrambling backwards until her back hit the headboard.

“You think,” he began as he started to crawl up the bed towards her like a sleek panther, “I could just walk out of here when you look like that?” He stopped, knelt back between her curvaceous calf muscles. David cupped behind her thighs and hauled her down the bed towards him, making her head slip onto the pillows’ softness.

The fear didn’t surface, only excitement. She wanted this. Wanted him. Badly.
Desperately.

David lifted her right leg, eased his tongue against the varnished tip of her big toe, and, breathtakingly slowly, drew its flat up and over her leg. He finished at her hip, softly kissing each of the marks that marred Catalina’s olive flesh.

“If you ever do this again to yourself, I will punish you, severely,” he warned as he started the same beautiful introduction to his tongue on her left leg.

God, she couldn’t even find the words to reply. She slid her hands into his hair and immediately felt David’s own encircle her wrists. He lifted her arms above her head, back to the pillows.

“No, no, you keep them right there. Understand?”

His eyes were dark crystals now. “Yes.” David teased her with sweet licks, tempting her mind and body that he might succumb to the full kiss she ached for, only to keep her waiting.

“David, please.”

“Please what, sweetheart?” he whispered into her mouth.

“Kiss me.”

“Not your decision.”