Elliot laughed, a deep-voiced, masculine laugh. “Was this in a book?”
“I expect so.” Come to think of it, she couldn’t picture Gemma lying back so tamely, and Ainsley had said, with a twinkle in her eye, that the marriage bed could be a fine place. “But no one mentioned dining room tables, or what you did outdoors today, or me wanting to hold you in so many different ways.”
“Mmm. What sort of different ways?”
Juliana ran her hand over his shoulder. “I never thought I’d need to touch my husband at all. But you are so very touchable.” Juliana glided her fingertips across his knotted shoulders, tracing the scars that lined them. “I don’t like that they hurt you.”
“It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
But it had hurt him. Very much indeed. “You’re safe now,” Juliana said. “Here in this house, with me, you’re safe.”
“I know that.”
“But this morning, you thought you were back in the prison.”
Elliot twined his hand through hers, stilling her touch. “It happens.”
Elliot’s eyes lost their warmth while he kissed her fingers then let them go. “Not as much now.”
Juliana skimmed her touch across the tattoo around his bicep then moved to his flat ni**les, his wiry hair catching the last of the sunlight. “I want you to be well.”
“I’m well when I’m with you, Juliana.”
“I want you to be well even when you’re not with me.”
Elliot closed his hand around her wrist and gave her a heart-stopping smile. “Then you’ll have to stay with me always.”
“Well, of course. I did marry you. But seriously, Elliot, you know that some days I will have to leave you alone, and you, me.”
He caressed her wrist, but didn’t let go. “I don’t know if I will ever heal as much you want me to.”
“Perhaps if you talk about it…”
“No.” His voice grew hard. “I don’t want to remember, or talk it over, or dwell on it. I want to be in the here and now. They never knew about you. They could never take you away from me.”
Juliana wasn’t quite sure what he meant by this last, but it made sense to her that he would want to push aside bad memories to enjoy the safety and calm of being home. But she also knew that the distance she felt between herself and Elliot wouldn’t lessen until she understood what had happened to him.
Or perhaps she expected too much. Many a husband and wife had distance between them that they never closed. The man stayed at his business or in his club; the wife made her calls and planned her social engagements. They came together when they hosted a gathering or attended one together, but only briefly. Juliana had friends who barely communicated with their husbands at all. They’d conceived children with these men but barely knew them.
Elliot said he wanted more children. Juliana had seen hunger in his eyes when he’d announced that desire.
She let her hand slide from Elliot’s chest to his tight abdomen, touching the indentation of his navel. Elliot released her wrist as she traced below his abdomen to the organ that was again as hard as when he’d made love to her not a quarter of an hour ago.
Elliot laced his hands behind his head and rolled over onto his back, giving her full access to his body.
“So you find you want to touch me, do you?” he asked, sinful heat in his eyes.
Juliana had felt him wonderfully inside her, had seen his hardness dark and beautiful, but she’d not touched it until now. She daringly dipped her hand to his warm balls, which became tight against her palm.
Elliot lay rigidly, as though he forced himself to remain still, his hands tucked firmly behind his head. He made a noise of pleasure as Juliana drew her fingers up either side of his shaft, liking the satin smoothness of his skin. In the dying light, he was dark with wanting, heavy in her hand.
She closed her fingers around him and squeezed, and a louder groan escaped Elliot’s lips. The tip reddened as she drew her hand to it. The head was different from the shaft, she found as she traced it, more giving, but at the same time stiff and warm.
Juliana wondered what he tasted like. Her thoughts shot back to Elliot licking and drinking her on the path in the woods. She’d never felt anything like that in her life. The heat of his mouth, the friction of his tongue…she squirmed to remember.
She leaned down and licked his tip.
“God, Juliana, you’ll kill me.” The words were soft, tight.
Juliana brushed her tongue over him again, liking the warm salt taste of his skin. She enjoyed the various textures of him too, the slight sponginess of the tip, the edge of the head, the straight sides of the shaft. The coarse hair at the base tickled her tongue, his balls like warm velvet.
Elliot’s abdomen rose and fell with his breath, and she couldn’t resist moving upward to lick his navel. Her hair fell forward, pooling around him.
His breath went out in a grating sigh. One hand found her hair, bunching it in his fist. “No, they couldn’t take you away from me.”
The words were so soft Juliana wasn’t certain she heard them. She circled his navel with her tongue then traced down the line of hair that led back to his staff.
She began tasting him again, moving her tongue up and down the sides of his shaft, dropping little kisses all the way up to the tip. Then she raised her head and smiled at him, thinking he’d laugh at how silly she was.