Sophia closed her eyes and turned back into her pillow. She let out a long sigh as she listened to her godfather Dominic walking around in his study on the third floor. The sun hadn't risen, and it wouldn't for almost an hour, so what could he be doing? He wasn't pacing, but he was never still for more than a few seconds. He continually moved back and forth across the floor. Should she do something? Would he tell her if something was wrong?
She sighed again and opened her eyes. She wanted to go upstairs and ask him if he was all right, but she feared he would dismiss her concerns. Her parents had died when she was fourteen, and after the funeral Dominic, whom she hadn't seen since she was five, had taken her across the country to live on his massive estate. She had a picture of him holding her the day she was christened, yet for most of her young life he had only been the man who constantly sent her presents and called on her birthday. She'd been surprised when her parents' will revealed that they actually wanted him to fulfill the duties of a godparent and take care of her after their deaths. Dominic, however, had known all along that her parents wanted this. She still remembered him telling the lawyer his home was ready for her and even presenting him with financial records to show that she would be well provided for even without the small amount of money her parents had left her.
She had never been afraid of Dominic, as other people seemed to be. He'd suffered severe burns and deep lacerations on the right side of his body and face when he was sixteen. He'd been trying to save his mother after a car accident, and the car had exploded. Multiple surgeries had only been able to do so much to improve his appearance. She'd never seen any pictures of him before the accident. He was quiet and had a very intimidating presence, but he was the kindest, most polite man she had ever known. She didn't understand people's reaction to his scars, but he always smiled and told her she was too accustomed to them. He never intimidated her at all. He had known exactly what to say to her the first time they were alone after talking to the lawyer. He'd told her about his mother's death and how it had affected him. On the plane, he'd told her stories about her father from when they were children, and she'd managed to briefly forget both that she was afraid of flying and that she would never see her parents again. It had been obvious from the start her parents had made the right choice for her.
Despite his burns and scars, Dominic made her pulse quicken when he walked into the room. He had broad shoulders and a muscular chest she constantly longed to caress. Toned and rugged with a strong jaw and classical profile, he personified masculinity for her. His dark hair and eyes lent him a brooding quality that made some wary of approaching him. He remained guarded with others, but when they were alone his eyes expressed so much to her. Her feelings for him had gone from a simple crush to a smoldering lust within a couple of years, but she'd always hidden her feelings so she could stay with him. She suspected his protective nature would extend to himself as well. His affection always seemed guarded, even at its warmest. He'd made it very clear his home would always be her home, so she'd attended a local college and gotten a teaching job at a nearby school to stay with him. She was twenty-four, but she had never dated a guy for more than a couple of months and had never brought any of them home to meet Dominic. She often wondered why Dominic never commented on the subject. Part of her wished he would so she would have an excuse to confess that she'd been in love with him for years.
His pacing finally stopped above her. She listened for a few minutes, and when she didn't hear anything else she got out of bed and went into the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and then sat in her vanity chair brushing her long brown hair. She yawned as she got up and went back into her room to find her robe. She headed down to the kitchen for coffee, and she nearly knocked Dominic over as she burst out of her bedroom.
"Ooops! Sorry!" she said. Her face burned with embarrassment because of what she'd been thinking. "I didn't expect you to be up." She'd known he was up, of course, but if she said she'd heard him, he would think he had woken her up and apologize. He did wake her up every morning when he went to his study, but she liked waking up that way very much. It comforted her in a way she couldn't explain.
He touched her shoulder and leaned forward to kiss her cheek. "I think we're both uninjured. You're up very early."
The warmth of his lips on her skin and the musk of his cologne made it hard for her not to sigh. He didn't kiss her cheek as often as he used to, so it always sent a thrill through her. She moved quickly to fall into step with him. "I woke up about half an hour ago and just couldn't go back to sleep."
They walked down the stairs together to the ground floor. She took a deep breath as the scent of coffee drifted into the hall and foyer. She fell more in love with their new timed coffeemaker every single day. He held the swinging door open so she could enter the kitchen first. She went straight to the cabinet and retrieved two cups. They hadn't had coffee together in several days, and she had missed it. He sat on one of the bar stools next to the long island and watched her. She tried not to blush again. She loved it when he watched her. The feeling of his eyes following her every move gave her hope. He knew she was a woman now. Did he find her attractive? He complimented her constantly, and she was the only woman who had ever appeared on his arm in public. She'd been attending business and charity functions with him since she was sixteen, and he always seemed so proud of her carriage and demeanor as she represented him and his company. She fixed his coffee the way he liked it and brought it over to him. When would he wake up and pull her into his arms and kiss her until she couldn't breathe? Every single time he kissed her on the cheek in greeting she had to fight the urge to throw her arms around his neck and pull his lips to hers.
She blinked. "Yes?"
"You can let go of the cup now."
She looked and saw she had handed him the cup but hadn't released the handle. "Oh, sorry. I guess I need this coffee more than I thought." She quickly sat beside him and took a big sip of her own coffee. She'd been busy staring at his lips when she'd zoned out. Had he noticed?
"Seems that way. Did you sleep well? Did something wake you up?"
"I slept fine." She shrugged. "I don't know. I just didn't feel like staying in bed."
His eyes met hers, and she thought she saw a glint of amusement. She wished that glint meant he was imagining her in bed, but she doubted it. He was probably entertained by her early morning idiocy.
"I had trouble sleeping last night myself. It would have been an interesting coincidence."
"It would have." She didn't know what else to say. A smile tugged at his lips. What was he thinking about? Sometimes his silence drove her half-mad. She felt comfortable most of the time when neither of them said anything, yet she wished he would open up to her more. He had no social life outside of his business obligations. Many of the men in his company considered him a very good friend, but he never spent any time with them. Who did he have to confide in if not her? He had never dated anyone in the ten years she had lived with him. He had never been married, and her father had never mentioned any girlfriends from before his accident. She had no reason to believe he was gay, and women swarmed around him at events. He always excused himself like a gentleman when one tried to entangle him in conversation or lure him away from everyone else. He had to realize they belonged together soon. She didn't know what she would do if he didn't.
"Are you excited about the summer break?"
"Yes. I loved teaching summer school last year, but this year I want to just relax and enjoy doing very little. I have to turn grades in today, but after that I am free for ten whole weeks."
He smiled. "Would you like to take a trip? I can arrange everything."
She jumped at the suggestion. "I would love to. Where should we go?"
He began to speak, but then he stopped. "Oh, you want me to come with you?"
"Of course! It wouldn't be any fun without you." He'd thought she would go without him? How could he? Moments like this always baffled her. He knew good and well his entire world revolved around her, so why couldn't he see that hers likewise revolved around him?
"I'm not sure anyone has ever thought my presence made anything fun, but of course I'll come if you want me to." He cleared his throat. "I just thought you might want to go with someone else."
Did he mean a friend--or a boyfriend? He knew she wasn't seeing anyone. She pushed all negative thoughts away. She would make him see how much she wanted him around. "I don't want to go with anyone else. I want to go with you. We've never taken a trip together."
He stared down into his coffee and frowned. "I'm sorry, Sophia. I know I let work take over at times. I never knew you wanted to go anywhere." He met her gaze again. "All you had to do was ask. For anything."
Anything? She wondered what he would say if she asked him to make love to her on the kitchen table. She was tempted to do so because if nothing else it would make him stop constantly apologizing. "Well, I'm asking now. I want to go on a trip with you." She reached out and touched his hand. "I've never wanted for anything, and you know it. You're my favorite person in the whole world, and if you didn't already know that you have been working too hard."
His expression didn't change, but still disbelief registered in his eyes. "In the whole world? You obviously inherited your father's odd tastes."
He smiled at her, and she was sure his cheeks colored a little.
"Then decide where you want to go, and we'll start planning right away."
She pulled her hand away. She wanted to say more, but what if he retreated at her confession? This trip might be the perfect time to tell him how she felt. She didn't dare risk scaring him away from the idea. "Great! When do you think you can be off from work?"
He laughed. "Whenever you tell me you want me to be off. There's never anything to do but sign papers and say yes and no to requests when I do go into the office anyway. That's the beauty of being the semi-retired figurehead boss and having a very competent vice president."
She laughed too. "Then I will let you know very soon." She slid off her stool and put her cup in the sink. She started to leave the room, but she stopped beside him and touched his arm. She kissed his right cheek, and he turned to her in surprise. "Thank you." She dashed out of the room before he could say anything.
He'd always been sensitive about his scars. He always kissed her on her left cheek so the scars were turned away from her, and she had never tried to touch the right side of his face before. She'd felt him flinch a little under her lips. How long had it been since anyone else had touched him there? How long had it been, period, since he'd been touched by another person? Her heart ached as she considered how many years it might have been since he'd felt the loving touch of another.
Dominic's skin burned where Sophia's lips had caressed him. He wanted to run after her and sweep her into his arms. He imagined kissing her soft lips, and his groin ached with need. He felt hot and breathless now. She had never touched him there before. Had she been so happy about their trip she simply forgot? She accepted him despite his scars, but he couldn't imagine her ignoring them completely. His heart raced as he remembered what she'd said. She'd said he was her favorite person in the whole world. More importantly, she'd been excited by the idea of them taking a trip together. What did it mean? Was he truly as important to her happiness as she was to his? Lately, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about her. She never left his mind, but recently his desire to make her truly his own had plagued him. He'd woken up from a very erotic dream early that morning and been unable to force himself to stay in bed. He'd gone to his study to read, but instead he'd moved from shelf to shelf without selecting a book as the sensations from his dream had lingered.
He opened his pocket watch and looked down at the lock of hair he kept there. The inside cover of the watch had been made to hold a picture, but years ago he'd taken a lock of Sophia's hair and wrapped it around the small piece of glass and locked it into place. He ran his fingers over it and then closed the watch. He told himself for the hundredth time that he needed to stop fantasizing. He'd ruin the trip for her if he assumed it meant more than it really did.
He touched his cheek. He'd felt that kiss over every inch of his body. Every nerve had gone electric as her lips brushed his skin. His cock had responded to the contact, and only his surprise had kept him from placing his lips against hers when he turned to her. He sipped his coffee and savored the creamy flavor. She knew exactly how he liked his coffee. She knew so many things like that, but she had no idea how much he loved her. When had it happened? He still remembered how shocked he had been when Paul had told him Georgia was pregnant and they wanted him to be the godfather. He'd been nineteen when Sophia was born, and he had never held a baby before. He'd been nervous about the ceremony, but the instant she'd been placed in his arms he'd felt different. Holding her had made him feel strong and protective. He wished he had been around more when she was young, but he'd always let work come first until Paul and Georgia died. He'd never had anyone to take care of before, and he'd promised himself he would do everything in his power to give her a happy life.
Had ten years really passed so quickly? He remembered the first time he'd looked at her and realized she had grown up and become a woman. He'd glanced across a crowded ballroom a few days after her eighteenth birthday and been transfixed by how beautiful she looked. Three men stood around her vying for her attention, and he'd been so jealous in that instant he'd broken the stem of the wineglass in his hand.
He laughed at the memory and how Sophia had rushed over to him when she saw the blood and insisted they leave and go to the hospital. She loved him very much. He knew that beyond any doubt, but what would she say if he confessed how strong his feelings were? Even if their age difference didn't bother her, why would such a beautiful and enchanting woman settle for him? He had money and power, but he didn't think such things would make any difference to her. Some women pursued him for those reasons, and he knew they would probably do well enough at pretending his scars didn't repulse them, but he didn't want any of those women. He wanted Sophia, but deep down he knew she deserved more. She deserved a man who could steal her breath away with a glance. He wanted her to fall in love one day, even if it meant losing her. He doubted he would ever consider any man good enough for her, but when the time came he would let her go. He knew he had to for the sake of her happiness, which meant far more to him than his own did. He couldn't make her stay hidden away from the world with him forever.
Dominic walked into the library and came up behind Sophia as she slid the book back onto the shelf. "Looking for something?"
She jumped at the sound of his voice, but then she smiled when she turned around. "I was looking through these old travel narratives to get ideas. I'm still not sure where we ought to go."
He raised his eyebrows. "Most of those are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I'm not sure you want to visit many of those places."
"Just for ideas. I want to go someplace different. This trip is going to be special." She turned back to the bookshelf and began reading the spines.
"Is it?" he asked in a voice lower than he'd intended.
She turned and met his gaze, and then she nodded slowly. "It is. I promise."
"Why?" He wanted to hear her repeat how much she wanted him along for the trip, and he even held his breath as she paused.
"We've never taken a trip together. The last time we traveled together was when we took a plane to come here ten years ago. I don't know why I never suggested it before." She shrugged and moved closer to him. "I guess I was always content to be here with you."
Did she mean what he hoped she meant? Would she be happy anywhere as long as he was with her? "And you still are?"
"Of course! I love this house. When I was fourteen, it was like being in a castle. I could imagine I was an enchanted princess waiting for something magical to happen. Or a gothic heroine looking for floating candles and hidden doors behind black veils."
Despite his disappointment that she was rhapsodizing about the house instead of him, he laughed. "Hmmm. Perhaps I shouldn't have given you that Anne Radcliffe novel when you were thirteen. I'm obviously a bad influence."
She smiled up at him, but then she rolled her eyes. "Hardly. My parents never bought books. I don't know where I would have been if not for your gifts." She turned in a circle and looked at the library, raising her hands to indicate all the books. "When I saw this room, I knew I would love it here. You know, like in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast?"
His smile faded in an instant, and he lowered his eyes. "I'm glad it brings you so much pleasure." He lifted his eyes again and tried to recompose his features.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing. I remembered something I need to do is all. It distracted me."
Her eyes widened. "Oh holy shit! Dominic, that's not what I meant and you know it!"
He feigned ignorance. "Not what you meant? I don't understand."
She crossed her arms as she looked at him. "Don't give me that. Your face fell when I mentioned Beauty and the Beast. Don't lie to me, Dominic."
He cleared his throat. "It's not a bad analogy. You are a beauty, and I did bring you to live here in my labyrinthine mansion."
"But you aren't a beast. You're a wonderful man. I said I enjoyed living here, but I would still love it no matter what our home was like."
Her use of the words "our home" brought him both pleasure and pain. He wanted to end this conversation before he said something he couldn't take back. If he revealed his feelings, he wanted the moment to be perfect. "Forget it, Sophia. I know you didn't mean anything by the comment. I'm oversensitive. You've always told me that."
She moved much closer. Her breasts were only an inch away from his chest, and she had to tilt her head back to look up into his eyes. "Dominic," she said as she lifted her hand to the scarred side of his face.
He had a choice. He didn't want to hear any words of pity, not from her. He could silence her by pulling her into his arms and kissing her, or he could get away from her as fast as possible. "I do have something I must do. I'll see you later." He moved away from her as quickly as he could without bumping into any furniture.
He heard her frustrated sigh, and then she said, "I'm going to the mall. Do you want me to wait so you can come with me?"
He didn't look back as he answered. "No. I don't need anything." Except you. He sighed as he left the room and fled upstairs. He appreciated everything she had ever done to make him feel normal and accepted, but today he simply couldn't take it. Her care and pity were not the kind of tenderness he craved. He needed to get a grip on his thoughts before he fooled himself into believing she would ever offer him the kind of love he needed from her.
Sophia got her purse and slowly descended the stairs. She reached the front door and opened it, but then she closed it again. She wasn't going to leave Dominic alone right now. She was angry with herself for making the Disney reference and even more angry with him for reacting to it the way he had. She'd been trying to give him so much encouragement, but it didn't seem to be working. They needed to have a serious talk and be honest about their feelings. If he truly didn't return her love, she could live with it, but if he was only holding back because of his looks she was going to enlighten him on the subject of her not giving a damn what he looked like. She paused on the third floor landing to consider what she wanted to say. She shook her head. She needed to speak from her heart. Nothing else would do.
She went to his study, but he wasn't there. She went down the hall to his bedroom and saw his door cracked. She hesitated. She had never seen his bedroom before. She had never even dared to knock on the door. She always found him in his study. She moved toward the door, but she stopped again when she heard a moan. She heard another one, and the sound denoted pleasure, not pain.
She approached the door and looked through the crack. Her knees became weak, and she had to brace herself on the doorframe. Dominic lay on his bed completely naked. His clothes had been tossed carelessly on the floor. His body mesmerized her. More burns and a few scars ran all the way down the right side of his body, but the rest of him was magnificent. His muscular and toned body would make any woman wet with need, and she wanted to run her hands over his hard chest and abs. He stroked his long, thick cock with one hand while the other hand gripped the comforter beneath him. He slowed his strokes and moved his hand down to massage his balls.
He groaned and mumbled something, but she couldn't hear him. He stood up and began pumping his cock again. He looked so virile and powerful. She'd never wanted to have sex more in her whole life than she did now. She had sex toys, and they got the job done, but having the man before her on top of her, plunging into her would truly be an unforgettable experience. She rested her fingers on the wood of the door. All she had to do was push to open it. She didn't though. She kept watching, her pussy growing wetter every moment.
He braced one arm against the wall and leaned over as he jerked himself. The rapture on his face made her long to join him. What would he say? What would he do? Would he feel ashamed, or would he throw her on the bed and take her in a lustful frenzy? She kept her eyes on his cock as his fist moved over it. She ached to have that cock fill her.
He backed up and grabbed a handful of tissues from his desk and moved back to the bed. He perched on the edge of the mattress and jerked himself harder. Then he said, "Sophia."
She jumped away from the door guiltily. Her heart pounded in her chest as she waited. He said her name again and moaned in ecstasy. She inched back to the door and saw that he hadn't said her name because he'd seen her watching. He still had no idea she was there as he stroked his cock. He drew in a sharp breath and came, semen squirting from his cock into the tissues. She'd never seen a man come before, and the sight made her pussy clench.
"My sweet girl," he said. He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling. He sighed heavily and tossed the tissues away before rising and picking his clothes up. He looked so sexy, his expression a mix of hunger and longing, of love and sadness. He threw his clothes on a chair and pulled his workout clothes from a dresser drawer.
She moved away slowly and then sprinted down to the second floor on her tiptoes. She went into her own room and pushed the door closed as silently as she could. Her heart still raced and her pussy ached with an unbelievable need. He'd said her name. He'd been thinking about her as he masturbated. He'd run from her when she tried to touch his cheek, but then he'd fantasized about her as he touched himself.
"You are one frustrating man, Dominic."
She went into the bathroom and stripped. Now she needed to come. She stretched out on the plush rug beside the tub. She reached behind her and pulled open the bottom drawer of the plastic bin between the tub and lavatory. She grabbed her vibrator and turned it on. She touched her pussy and moaned at how wet she was. She felt so sexy after watching Dominic. He did think of her as a woman, and the confirmation made her feel empowered. She ran the vibrator over her clit and clenched as the pleasure shot through her. He had her so worked up she'd come in no time. She bent her knees and spread her legs to slide the vibrator into her pussy. She imagined his cock filling her. He was bigger than any of the toys she had, but she couldn't imagine it hurting. He would be gentle with her, and she would be so happy to take him inside her nothing else would matter.
She buried the vibrator deep in her pussy and stroked her clit. Her hips moved up and down a little as she remembered how sexy he had looked. She imagined him leaning against the wall again, and then she put herself in the fantasy. She came up behind him and ran her hands over his tight ass and then up his back. He turned to her as though he had been waiting for her, and she ran her hands over his delicious abs before taking his cock between her fingers. He threw his head back as he enjoyed her touch, and then he lifted her into his arms and kissed her passionately as he carried her to the bed. He ripped her clothes off and climbed on top of her. He fingered her wet pussy and then thrust into her, pinning her to the bed with each pounding stroke.
She came, her pussy squeezing the vibrator so hard it hurt. Her clit throbbed under her fingers and stars danced in front of her eyes. She dropped her hands and took deep breaths. She had never come so hard before. She rubbed her breasts and pinched her aching nipples. She pulled the vibrator out and rolled to her side, clutching her knees to her chest. She felt sated, yet her hunger for Dominic's touch was worse than ever. Whether he loved her or not, he wanted her. Was that why he hesitated? Did he feel only lust and not love? She knew he adored her, so that explanation made no sense. How long had he desired her? Had those feelings confused him? Perhaps he believed she would always see him only as a father figure. She smiled. She could prove him wrong easily enough if she got the chance. She dressed quickly so she could slip out of the house before he realized she hadn't left earlier. Did he only masturbate when she was gone? She pushed the image away. If she kept thinking about it, she would never get out of the house. When she returned, she would find a way to show him how she felt. She felt a little guilty for her voyeurism, but she was glad she had seen and heard him. He wanted her, and if she had her way tonight, and every night, he would have her in his bed.