Outside on the balcony:
What had he told Blake earlier? Had he actually used the word Kyra and the word innocent in the same breath? Had he really believed that she was so innocent?
Standing on the terrace in the moonlight, she looked the essence of what every maiden should hope for. Tendrils of hair had escaped the crown atop her head. They glowed under the full moon's glow and shaded her face in an angelic halo. But, of course, she was no angel. He knew that. It was amazing how the most sainted women could look ugly as sin, and yet the vicious and heartless were often far lovelier than the most delicate rose.
She stood against the stone wall waiting for his outburst. Caleb looked angry and bitter. More than that, he seemed disappointed.
Had her actions caused that? Perhaps she should say something to him. Then again, how could she possibly explain what she had done? She felt a scream erupting in her throat. If only she could release some of the frustration she felt. She wondered how much of the exchange he had witnessed. Did it matter so much to him that she had kissed Blake?
The look on his face answered that question. But, how could she make him understand that it had only been curiosity that led her to kiss Blake? There weren't any real feelings there for Blake. There had been no true emotion in it.
But, that wouldn't matter in the long run. He wouldn't understand. All he understood was anger. She could see it on his face. It was the same look she had seen that day in the garden. His whole world seemed filled with rage and nothing more.
Hopelessness invaded the pit of her stomach. She drew herself up and pulled away from the wall. Keeping her eyes averted from his, she tried to pass him as gracefully as she could mange, but he was blocking the entrance and he didn't seem inclined to move.
There was a half-foot of space to his right, but she would have to squeeze past him and that would make her appear even more foolish.
"Are you so anxious to be rid of me now?" He had seen her eyeing the space beside him. It annoyed him that she would run from him so quickly. "Ah, but last night was a different story. Was it not?"
Her eyes darted to his in confusion. Nothing happened, her mind objected.
"If you will remember, it was I who held you then. Had I not come to my senses, what more would you have allowed to happen?"
Nothing! Her mind shouted as her hands violently stressed the word.
"I do not doubt you would have let me take you last night," he assured her.
Take her? Where would he take her, she wondered.
"I am thankful that I didn't allow myself to touch you though. How many other men have you been with?" He saw her eyes filling with tears, but he couldn't stop himself. She was shaking her head in denial. "I have no doubt you have seen many men in your bed, Kyra. What were before you entered Tyler Hall anyway?"
Kyra's hands shot to her ears to block out Caleb's hurtful words. Tears fell from her closed eyes and her blood ran cold with fright as she thought about Caleb's question. There was no way to know who or what she'd been before arriving on the Tyler's doorstep. For the first time, someone was confronting her with the question and it frightened her terribly.
Caleb's anger died as quickly as it was sprung. Maybe it was the silent tears she cried or the look of total helplessness she now wore. He suddenly felt nothing but pity for her. He actually felt sorry for whatever situation she had gotten herself into and now seemed powerless to escape.
He released a harsh breath and watched Kyra walk away to cry silently against the night sky. No, he was wrong, he knew he must be. The few kisses she had bestowed on him had been inexperienced ones, more like those Elizabeth had given him when he'd first married her.
He damned himself for allowing his anger to vent so viciously. Wanting to take the words back, he took a step closer to her. His hand fluttered an inch from her back.
She was breathing softly, no longer crying, yet she held a barren look on her face as she watched the starry sky. It turned suddenly cold and he had the feeling of a great valley separating them, though they were only inches apart.
He dropped his hands helplessly. "I'm sorry. Those were thoughtless words," he began quietly. Not knowing what to say, he searched her profile for some clue to her thoughts. Blake seemed to read her so easily. Why couldn't he? "If I could take the words back, I would. I do not believe them. I just..."
No amount of explanation could possibly make her understand. His fist crashed down on the ledge beside her and she jumped. Her eyes flew to his then dropped to his hand.
"Damn it!" He swore, praying for patience. "I do not know how to explain myself to you. I am not accustomed to explaining myself to anyone!" Sighing, he forced himself to take a breath as he calmed slowly. Needing to see her eyes when he spoke, he took her chin in his hand and gently forced her to look up at him.
She looked so terribly forlorn and he was feeling far too aggravated by it all right now. He hadn't thought about kissing her today. Somehow he'd managed to dismiss it from his mind. But now, seeing her allow Blake that leisure, he could not help feeling betrayed by her. He couldn't help wondering how she could so easily dismiss his kiss from her mind. Was it merely veiled curiosity that drove her with Blake just now? Or, was there something deeper growing between them? Did she know how much it had bothered him to witness?
Kyra saw the frustration in his eyes. She could not believe she'd made him so angry again. She'd sworn that she would never do anything to raise his ire like that again. But, it was obvious that he'd been hurt to see her kissing Blake. It had been a terrible move. She should have thought better of it and not come out here at all.
Caleb tried to reason against it. He tried to control the streak of jealousy he was feeling, but it was futile. As he looked into Kyra's eyes, he could not help but wonder if she had gained as much pleasure from Blake's kiss as she had from his. The idea did nothing to stem his anger and he swallowed deeply to fight against it.
Remorseful for her actions, Kyra could not stand seeing the hostility growing in Caleb's eyes. It only made her feel worse. In an effort to subdue him, she reached up to touch the hand that still held her chin captive. With a gentle caress, she bade him to calm down. A flicker of that nameless emotion entered his eyes then, and she reached up with her other hand to touch his chest lightly. Fingering the material of his shirt, she squeezed his hand firmly to convey her meaning.
His hold on her loosened, yet in that same breath he couldn't stop himself from pulling her near. He couldn't seem to let go of the image in his mind. His anger was fading as another emotion began to take hold. His free hand suddenly crept up her back, forcing her ever closer. Though she remained tense, she did not fight him.
Kyra knew that intent look. She had seen it more than once. It almost entranced her now, for she knew what it meant. A hazy warmth invaded her soul as he leaned her back against the stone ledge. Her eyes closed as he bent to her.
His lips touched hers for only a moment. Unable to deny the need, he finally crushed his lips down over hers in desire to erase Blake's kiss from both of their minds. Kyra was a bit stunned by the intensity of it and she stiffened against him immediately. Feeling her withdrawal, his arms wrapped around her sinking beneath the material of her cloak. He softened his kiss and he pulled her ever closer. She began to respond at last and he sighed when he felt her hand reaching up to caress his face in return.
It overwhelmed her. Kyra could not think to breathe as they kissed. It wove a spell around her and brought about the most intense emotions she'd ever felt. Though she stood up on tiptoes and was held demandingly, it didn't seem to satisfy a deep craving she felt to be closer to him. She had never imagined anything could feel as overpowering as this. It was almost frightening. Her heart was pounding mercilessly, and the caressing of his lips against hers was sending waves of pleasure coursing through her.
Caleb was touched by it too. He felt something deep inside him yearning to be closer to her, and he firmly grasped the material of the shirt on her back to pull her into him. The sound of her sigh deafened him. The feel of her body curled against his was almost enough to break his hold on sanity.
Gasping against it, Kyra suddenly lowered her hands to push at his chest. She was so uncertain, because it seemed no matter how close she came to him, the need to be closer kept growing stronger. It never seemed to be enough. No matter how tightly she clung to him, she felt as though he was drifting further and further away from her. Afraid of the intense desire she was feeling, she pushed against him now.
Feeling her resistance, he allowed her to pull away, softening his kiss. He couldn't seem to break away from her completely though. His hand rose to her cheek as his lips caressed hers in a whisper of movement. His thumb moved against the silky skin there as he kissed her one final time.
As he pulled back from her, his eyes remained closed. It was nearly impossible to calm the rising desire he felt. He swallowed against it. He couldn't seem to breathe against it. Nothing he had ever experienced could compare with this.
He bowed his head for a moment. But, the moment he opened his eyes, the desperation he saw in her eyes unnerved him. She was so uncertain about her feelings. He could see it clearly in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he breathed raggedly.
It was so wrong. He knew it was wrong. He just couldn't seem to control his inner response to be with her like this.
Kyra searched his face for some answer to the burning questions she wanted to ask. No answers were forthcoming though. What could explain this strange craving she felt? How could a kiss send her senses to reeling? It was so powerful and she found no ability to satisfy it.
His thumb again stroked her cheek to calm the panic he saw in her eyes. Feeling helpless to soothe her, he whispered, "I cannot explain what I feel for you. I have no words to describe what this is. But, I can't seem to'"
His words trailed off and he stepped back from her. This was so impossible. She would never understand what he felt. Hell, he didn't understand it himself! All he knew was that he felt torn between selfishly sating this unquenchable need and sending her running from him to find safety. He couldn't remain here. It was unthinkable.
The space he created between them seemed so empty and she ached to be close once again. Even as she wished for him to return to her, her mind feared the unknown. His nearness was so overwhelming at times.
Last night she had been tired. Perhaps it was the weariness she'd felt that masked this response. It held a power over her now and there seemed no help for it.
She lowered her eyes from him then. It felt so suddenly cold outside. Unable to bear these feelings of torment, she finally turned away from him altogether to face the darkened courtyard below.
For a moment she stood there, wishing to find the answers. There must be some reason for these feelings. There must be a way to explain what she felt for him.
"I'm sorry, Kyra," he breathed once more.
Her eyes had closed as he whispered the words. Was he sorry for kissing her that way? Was he sorry for getting angry? Was he sorry to have seen her kiss Blake?
Wanting an explanation, she opened her eyes and turned back to face him. Emptiness filled the space where he'd been. Without another word, he silently walked into the manor, leaving her alone with her questions. Disappointed, she turned back to face the moonlit courtyard.
Inside the manor, Caleb walked at a steady pace to his room. He saw nothing of the halls as he made his way. He heard nothing, saw no one'
When he at last reached the sanctity of his bedchamber, he closed the door rapidly and let out an aggravated sigh. He felt stunned to find his hands shaking. It unnerved him to feel so little control over himself.
Gritting his teeth in the darkness, he walked to the window and stared out over that same courtyard. Below him he wondered if Kyra was still there. It was impossible, he thought in disgust of himself.
In only a few short days, Kyra had begun to unleash feelings in him that he'd long ago thought dead. He could not remember feeling such frustration since his youth. He had never felt so drawn to Elizabeth that way. On the few occasions he had managed to attempt such intimacy with her, he'd had to grudgingly accept her refusal. He'd been frustrated of course, but it did not bare the slightest resemblance to what he'd felt a moment ago. With Kyra he had been forced to fairly rip himself away from her in order to part from her.
What attraction did he hold for Kyra? It was a question with no answer.
Many friends had told him that there was much to be said for chemistry. It was like a burst of flames to eat at your soul when unleashed. He had never believed such a reaction was possible.
Now, he felt uncertain how to stop it. It was her eyes, he thought with a sigh. Those beautiful green eyes and the softness of her fingers. One touch had nearly undone him. But it was so futile. She was innocent and untouched. He couldn't let himself give in. Yet, he wondered how he would stop it, if given another chance.
His imagination ran wild. He could nearly hear her gasping for him. If he brought her such pleasure, would she cry out to him? Would she whisper his name?
A groan of frustration escaped from his throat. It could never be. He would be damned to hell if he gave in to it. How could he possibly live with himself?
It shook him to feel so out of control. He felt desperate to find a way to curb his need. For a moment he considered the idea of leaving the manor. Outside the area he would be able to find a woman to subdue this craving.
Even as he considered it, the idea left him feeling empty. Something within him rebelled at the idea. It wasn't just the physical intimacy that he desired from Kyra. He knew it was so, though he tried to deny it. The mere physical would do nothing to sate him.
He remembered the moment he had held her on the floor of her room. That simple act of holding her had brought back so many memories of Elizabeth. It wasn't the bad ones that he remembered now. It was the fewer, more happy times they'd spent together that he recalled.
Sometimes, when they had lain together at night, his wife had wrapped her arms around him. And, so long as he made no move to touch her, she would remain with him like that. At those times, he had felt such peace. It overshadowed everything else that was wrong in their lives. It mattered little that she'd suffered such torment. It made no difference that she often repelled from him in fear. When she simply lay with him like that it made him feel whole again. It felt so right to hold her in his arms and talk with her throughout the night about everything and anything that mattered.
He missed having a woman to share such things with. He'd been alone for so long that he'd almost forgotten how fulfilling it could be. In Kyra's room last night, he had nearly found that same sense of peace, though he knew how risqu' it had been. Even so, that hadn't been able to prevent him from staying with her.
He could not remember the last time his touch had evoked such a response from a woman. It was thrilling, yet he felt incredibly guilty for pursuing it. She had look so completely confused by the powerful nature of it. That was why he'd apologized to her. The need he'd seen in her eyes was of his making, and he should not have corrupted her innocence that way. But the sight of her desire was what compelled him, though he knew Kyra was not the kind of woman he could simply use to satisfy his needs.
"Impossible," he sighed. He turned away from the window and decided it would be best to just try to put it all out of his mind. It wasn't going to be that easy though. As he attempted to rest, dreams of that kiss penetrated his mind. Sleep became impossible. And he tossed fitfully throughout the night, damning himself to hell.
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