A Grimm’s Circle short story
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*The characters might seem to familiar to series readers…this is the story of how Greta and Rip met*
Amazon | BN | Book Depository | Indiebound | BAMMAll The Time In the World By Shiloh Walker Copyright 2011 Shiloh Walker Initially Published in The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. This ebook is free. Thank you and I hope you enjoy!
A Grimm Prequel
He had worked with beautiful women before.
He had slept with beautiful women before.
The woman before him now wasn’t just beautiful—although she was lovely, very, very lovely. At least, she seemed so to him. Her skin was as pale as milk, her eyes a clear and soft blue, and her hair was silky, dark brown.
Many women he worked with had a frail look to them, although frail they were not. Frailty had no place in the lives they had chosen.
Gretel wasn’t frail. She had a woman’s body…a strong woman’s body. She was petite in stature, the top of her head barely reaching his chin, but she had generous curves and an undeniable strength to her body.
But there were shadows in her eyes. It managed to touch something deep inside him.
Rip wasn’t entirely sure he cared for it.
Do the job, he told himself. Once it was done, he could leave Boston, and Gretel, behind.
But it was never as easy as that.
If she did not know better, Greta would think the universe, God, mankind and her friends conspired against her.
It should have been a simple assignment—the two of them were to retrieve a book from this warehouse on the docks. Retrieve the book, destroy it. The book’s owner had already been dealt with.
It should have been simple.
But the life of a guardian angel was rarely simple—Greta should have known that by now. Nothing in her life had ever been simple…and she’d lived a very, very long life.
Of course, if she had wanted simple, she never should have accepted the choice to become a Grimm. One of God’s guardian angels…a select band of warrior-bred angels, named the Grimm by one of their leaders—a man with a strange, rather macabre sense of humor.
Born on the outskirts of the Black Forest in Germany some three hundred years ago, she’d lived through a nightmarish childhood, only to be saved when she was about to give up hope. Saved, it would seem, by a guardian angel.
A few short years later, she had died a rather painful and unexpected death. As her soul was slipping away, she was offered a chance. A choice of her own—she could move on, or she could return, this time a guardian angel herself.
Simple…if simple was what she sought, then she should have just passed onto the hereafter all those years ago.
Inwardly, she chastised herself. She should have known this job wouldn’t be simple, should have known she wouldn’t get away from him so easily.
Him. A fellow Grimm by the name of Rip. An odd name, that, and like her, he had a story of his own. How much of the ‘tale’ behind his name was truth, how much was fiction, she didn’t know.
What she did know was that the man disturbed her on a very basic level.
This assignment was proving anything but simple—they’d had not just one demon-possessed mortal to deal with, but four.
Now that those four were dealt with, the warehouse was burning around them and Rip was injured.
Greta had to figure out how to get her companion out of here before the two of them died in the fire. They might not be easy to kill, but Rip was bleeding out, too weak to move and if she didn’t get them out soon, the roof may collapse and trap them inside.
The heat was intense, scalding her skin, though the flames weren’t close enough to reach them. Yet. Smoke stung her eyes and her altered body had already slowed her breathing—she didn’t need oxygen the way she had when she was mortal, so the smoke alone wouldn’t present the danger.
But the flames…she was rather certain a fire could kill them.
The air was thick with smoke, ash, and sulfur. Death, too. Mustn’t forget the stink of death.
The man with her lay still and silent, despite the pain she knew he must feel. His eyes, dark and brooding, stared into hers. “Get the hell out of here, Gretel. Now. The ceiling is going to collapse.”
His blood slicked her hands as she pressed them against the gaping wound in his side. “I’m not leaving you here and it’s not like you can walk out of here alone. I’ll thank you not to call me Gretel, Rip. The name is Greta.”
She hadn’t gone by that name for more than three hundred years.
Gretel… to some, the name evoked memories of breadcrumbs, witches, gingerbread houses. But for her, it brought nothing but dark, painful memories. They tried to rise up, tried to swamp her, as they always did in times of despair.
She battled them back. She had no time for them now. The scent of blood, hot and metallic, filled her head. He was losing too much blood, and healing far too slow.
“Fool woman. Are you insane?” Rip reached up and shoved at her shoulder. It was a sign of his weakened state that he couldn’t budge her. “Get out of here.”
“And leave you to burn to death? I think not.”
“I will not burn to death,” he said. “We can’t burn to death.”
“Are you so sure of that?” She shook her head. “I don’t want to test the theory. Besides, whether we heal or not—burns hurt. Come on now…if you want me out, I’ll leave. But only if you’re with me. I’m not leaving you here to roast.”
Those dark brown eyes flashed. Then he sighed. “Fine. You’ll have to help me up. I cannot walk out on my own.”
She had already figured that much out on her own. It took some doing, getting him to his feet, but once they’d managed, she was just the right height to wedge her shoulder against his body, supporting his weight. They’d managed to make it exactly five steps when she heard an ominous crack.
Spinning toward the nearest window, she braced Rip’s weight with hers and lunged.
When she’d come into this new existence, it had come with some rather extraordinary abilities…she didn’t age, she never fell ill, and she had the strength to lift a horse.
Too bad she couldn’t truly fly. There were rumors that some of her kind could. It was a shame she wasn’t one of them.
But she could pray. As she propelled herself and Rip through a glass window into the freezing waters of the Boston Harbor, she prayed very, very hard.
Rip’s last clear memory was hurtling through the shattering glass, driven by Gretel’s not-insubstantial strength. There were vague memories of cold water, her soft voice, and pain. A great deal of pain.
Now he dreamed. Time passed so strangely in dreams. Had he been asleep for days? Hours? Weeks…?
He knew what it was like to lose time, after all.
But even then, he hadn’t been plagued by these strange dreams. Gretel was there. No… not Gretel. Greta. She called herself Greta, even though he knew who she was. The name ‘Gretel’ brought shadows to her eyes, shadows and pain. He would have to remember that. He hated being responsible for the pain he saw in those eyes, even if it was just the pain of memory.
Pain—damn, it was everywhere, it seemed. It chased him, haunted him, surrounded him. It nipped at his flesh even in these dreams. That pain was horrid, some of the worst he could remember feeling, disturbing his slumber.
The stasis sleep—a healing sleep. If the pain chased him even there, he must have been hurt badly. Likely, he’d be dead, if he was still mortal.
He wasn’t, though.
He’d live through, this and for now, he had Greta at his side, with a soft hand to stroke his brow when the pain became too great.
It lessened when she touched him.
Such a strange thing. When she touched him, he forgot the fiery pain of a slowly-healing wound in his side. Another flickering fire replaced that pain… the burning heat of hunger, but he was weak, so weak even that fire couldn’t burn for long.
During the times when the pain faded to nothing but a dull ache, he fell into fitful dreams. Dreams of flying, dreams of death, dreams of ash and smoke.
Greta…find her. Need to find her. But the thick smoke blinded him, choked him, slowed him down. When he found her, it was too late. Those soft blue eyes stared lifelessly at him, her face frozen a mask of death.
Sorry. I’m so sorry, Greta.
Such tormenting dreams. Greta rose from the floor and propped one hip on the bed. Leaning forward, she rested a hand on Rip’s shoulder. “It is just a dream,” she said softly. “I am fine. I am safe. You are safe.”
He seemed to settle for a minute, turning his face into her hand. She stroked his cheek and waited a moment. Then, carefully, she checked his wound.
The sleep had allowed him to heal, but it was still ugly. Had he still been human, he’d be dead.
But Grimms were harder to kill—almost impossible, really. Designed that way by the Lord Almighty. What good was an army of guardian angels if a few paltry, possessed mortals could take them down?
When she dragged him out of the harbor last night, the hole in his side was gaping and huge—she could have fit her fist inside it. When one had been alive a few hundred years, a great deal of knowledge could be learned about the human body and she had put that knowledge to use as she cared for him through the night.
As morning drew near and still he slept, she began to worry. She spent the hours pacing the floor of the private room where she had secured when she had arrived in Boston a few days earlier. She’d long ago learned the need to make sure she had a place to go to ground, and fast. Now, tucked in the small, dark, room, she wished she had something better. The narrow, simple bed suited her fine, but his longer, lanky body barely fit on it. He should have a soft bed to rest while he healed. A soft bed, warm blankets, a hot meal.
As his dreams turned troubled, she soothed him and continued to worry. No, he hadn’t lost enough blood to die and she imagined that could kill him. All animals needed their life blood. But he had lost a quite a bit of it and then there was the plunge into the harbor…
She shuddered as she remembered the icy, cold water as it closed around them. The swim to shore seemed to take years and Rip had lapsed into unconsciousness. She was strong, but even with supernatural strength, towing a man who outweighed her through the frigid waters of the Boston Harbor wasn’t easy.
As the sun began to creep over the horizon, she checked Rip’s wound once more and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, the wound was smoothing out, closing in on itself.
He sighed and shifted in his sleep, bringing one arm up over his head. His biceps bulged and Greta found herself staring at the firm, tense line. Her heart skipped a beat, then started dancing in her chest.
“Enough. He needs his rest.” Turning away, she rubbed at her chest, disturbed by the odd ache there. So he had a lovely body.
She had seen many men with lovely bodies.
But how many of them would have insisted that she run away and leave them, alone and bleeding, with a burning building about to collapse?
He did something to her, something she wasn’t entirely comfortable with. It was a truth she had hidden from the last few days. While they worked, hiding from it was easy enough. And while he was injured, worry had kept her mind occupied. But now that he was healing, her mind tried to wander.
He did something to her. He made her feel things…made her want things.
You don’t need those things. You have lived centuries without them. Life is easier without those complications.
Yes. Life was easier.
“So what if your bed is empty? So what if you are lonely?” she muttered to herself.
Although lonely did not describe it. How could it? Lonely was just a word. Lonely could not describe the ache that often lived inside her. It could not describe the emptiness, the need, the longing for more.
Turning away from him, she returned to her solitary station by the door. With her back braced against the door, she sank to the floor, used her body to bar the entrance. Propping her arms on her upraised knees, she closed her eyes. She needed sleep.
The small room she had managed to secure for them had but the one bed. Rip needed it far more than she did. Besides, she had slept in worse places.
When Rip woke, he was immediately aware of three things.
One, it was dim in the room, though not quite dark, so he assumed it was either early morning, just after dawn, or sometime around sunset.
Two, his side itched abominably, so he knew the wound he’d taken was healing—which would mean he had slept for quite some time. It had been a bad injury.
Three, he wasn’t alone…he could sense Greta’s presence, though he couldn’t hear her, couldn’t see her.
Slowly, he stretched, taking a quick survey of his body—everything seemed to be working as it should, although there was some tightness, some tenderness lingering in his abdomen. Touching it, he could feel the faint, rough ridge of scar tissue. In a matter of hours, even that would be gone.
Greta was sitting in front of the door, her back pressed snug against it, her dark head pillowed on her arms, sleeping soundly.
On the floor. “Damn it,” he muttered, his voice all but soundless.
He climbed from the bed and glanced around the room. It wasn’t familiar—basic and Spartan, nothing but a bed, a simple chest of drawers and a wash basin on a stand. The bed was narrow, hardly more than a cot. It wasn’t what he would call spacious, but there would have been room for the two of them.
Enough room that she wouldn’t have had to sleep on the floor.
Crossing the room, he crouched beside her. “Greta,” he said softly, tapping her shoulder lightly.
“Hmm?” She made a soft, questioning sound under her breath, turning her face toward his. But her eyes didn’t open and the slow, steady rhythm of her breathing didn’t change.
She slept the sleep of the exhausted.
Rip paused only long enough to check his reserves and then slipped his arms under her body, lifted her. She snuggled close, rubbing her cheek against his chest. It wasn’t until he felt the brush of her silken, soft skin against his that he realized he wore no shirt. Or trousers. The only thing he wore was a leather cord around his neck that held the silver medallion all Grimms wore. It was a round disc, etched with upswept wings—their mark.
But beyond that medallion, he wore nothing. The medallion did nothing to preserve his modesty—thankfully, he had little of that.
He closed his eyes and stifled a groan as she turned her face against him, sighing in her sleep. Her lips brushed against his skin and despite the lingering weakness and the heavy exhaustion, Rip wished she was awake. Wished she would open her eyes and look at him…really look.
Look at him and see him, the way he had been looking at her from the first moment he had laid eyes on her four days ago.
He set his jaw and carried her to the bed, tucked her inside, drawing the covers around her softly rounded curves. That body of hers—he adored all those rich, round curves, the kind of curves that would fill a man’s hands, cradle his body.
If you wish to get through the night with any semblance of sanity, stop thinking about her body.
But that was easier said than done. Turning away from Greta, he prowled the room until he found his clothes and one swift glance told him why she had stripped them away. They were wet. Clean and he caught the faint scent of soap on them, but wet. It would be hours before they dried.
Normally, the temperature had little effect on him. But he was oddly cold. Dimly, he had some recollection of plunging into icy waters. The harbor, he thought. Greta had plunged them into the harbor. Cold could hardly kill him. But he was still human enough that he would crave warmth for a while.
Unwilling to wear the wet clothes, he ignored them in favor of searching for food.
Greta would have something somewhere, he knew.
And he was right. On the short, squat chest of drawers, he found cheese, crackers, fruit and dried meat. He didn’t eat it all, though he was ravenous. If he knew she’d eaten, he would have eaten every last crumb.
He lingered by the washstand long enough to clean up, although the water and cloth were a poor substitute for a hot tub of water.
He felt a bit closer to normal, though exhaustion continued to drag at him. Tired. So tired, he ached. With his eyes heavy, he returned to the bed, sliding in between the blanket and the pitiful excuse of a sheet. Perhaps if he kept that between them, it might help. Between the sheet and his own exhaustion, perhaps he could even forget that he was lying in bed with Greta, a woman he was coming to want as much as he wanted his next breath.
Actually, more. Breathing wasn’t quite as necessary for the Grimm as it was for mortals.
It surrounded her. Cradled her.
She sighed and shifted, unconsciously pressing closer. Her lips brushed against a bare chest and she smiled.
It must be a dream, because when she was awake, she knew she’d never be this relaxed, this at ease with a man so close. The warmth of his body, the scent of him, the feel of him, everything about him combined to flood her senses and overwhelm her, leaving her loose and limp.
When his hand skimmed up her back, she arched against him and to her delight, she found herself pressing against him in a new, altogether delightful way. Her legs parted, one on either side of his hips and now he pressed snug against the sensitive flesh between her thighs. The full, firm length of his cock twitched. She groaned and rubbed against him.
He swore, his voice low and rough.
The dream-like state around her shattered.
Greta tensed, driving her hands down against the lumpy, miserably uncomfortable mattress and lifted up. Eyes wide, she stared down at Rip’s face in shock. She lay atop him, draped over him like a living, breathing blanket, with his hands on her waist and the only thing between them her clothes and one very thin, worn sheet.
His dark, dark brown eyes stared up at hers, burning hot—so hot and hungry, it scalded her.
Blood rushed to her face.
Shuddering under the raging weight of her own hunger, she licked her lips, tasted him on her mouth.
Beneath the hunger, old fears.
Always the problem.
She had never been able to get this close to a man without those fears rising to haunt her. None of them she’d been with had interested her enough to try and work past them. No…not entirely true, there had been a few. But upon learning the truth of her life, they had withdrawn, and it came to the point that Greta stopped reaching out.
She stopped wanting to reach out. But Rip…
Her hands flexed on the hard, yet yielding muscles of his chest. Her voice rigid and stiff, she said, “I beg your pardon.”
“I’m willing to beg for a lot more,” Rip said quietly, watching her from under his lashes. His hands rested on her hips, holding her loosely, but there was nothing confining about the way he held her, nothing imprisoning.
Move, you idiot.
But she couldn’t. She felt frozen. And she didn’t want to move.
Her mouth dry, she licked her lips. Rip closed his eyes and groaned. “Darling girl, if you do not want me to turn into a slobbering fool and do something we might both regret, you really need to move.”
“And what if we didn’t regret it?”
Her eyes widened. Oh, no. The words…had they really just come from her?
Rip studied her with a narrowed gaze. She couldn’t read anything from him. Nothing…and she rather wished to. When he lifted a hand from her hip and reached up, tracing the line of her mouth with his finger, she held still. As he stroked lower, hooking the tip of his finger in the silver chain that held her medallion, her breath caught in her lungs.
“But wouldn’t you regret it, darling girl?” he asked, his voice soft and low, a stroke of velvet against her senses. “Even now, you watch me with this strange mix of fear and nerves. You do not seem to know if you want to remain where you are, or run as fast as you can.”
“If I really wanted to run, I would.”
He tugged on the chain, drawing her closer. Greta swallowed and let him. Her bound breasts pressed against his chest and she was acutely aware of the fact that the only thing separating them was her clothing and the sheet twisted somewhere around his hips.
His eyes remained on hers as he kissed her—a gentle, questing kiss, light and soft.
Greta felt blood rush to her cheeks and her lashes fluttered low.
“No,” he murmured, quietly. “Look at me. Let me see you. I ache for you. Every day I see you, I ache more.”
She ached, as well. It was the first time she’d truly understood that desire could be a sweet, sweet ache and she wasn’t sure she knew how to handle it.
Start with this…stop thinking.
As his mouth returned to hers, she kept her eyes open, staring into the dark, seductive depths of his eyes.
It was more intimate, she realized…made it so much harder to hide. Harder to hide from how it made her feel, and harder to hide from what it did to him as well. No way to hide from it, and no way to pretend she was still just dreaming.
But she didn’t close her eyes.
Rip traced the line of her lips with his tongue and teased her into opening for him. She undid him, left him shaken by how much he needed her. Left him stunned and reeling by how much more he needed from her. Already.
He had loved before. Had wanted. Had needed.
But he had never needed like this before. Never wanted like this. And although they had known each other but a few days, he thought perhaps he already loved her.
She would fear that. All of them were gifted with special skills when they crossed through Death’s door and back into life to become a Grimm. Rip’s skills were those of a hunter. He knew weaknesses and strengths—all he ever needed was a simple look.
One simple look was all he needed to size up his opponent, and although Greta was no opponent, he saw her strengths, her weaknesses just as easily.
Greta would fear anything she saw as intimacy, so until she could trust him, he would keep his feelings quiet.
Until she trusted him…until she needed him as much as he was coming to need her.
Her body relaxed against his as he kissed her, reining in his own needs. He combed his hand through her dark hair and when his fingertips brushed against her nape, she shivered. Sensitive, he discovered. She was so sensitive…the lightest touch could make her gasp, and the merest brush could make her moan.
He trailed his fingers down the center of her torso, watching for any sign of fear, any sign of trepidation. Slipping the button of her trousers free, paused…waited.
Her lashes fluttered low as he eased the trousers lower. They only went so low before catching on her thighs. He could see just the faintest glimpse of dark, tight curls, the pale curve of her hips. “We could have a bit more fun if you’d lose the trousers, darling girl,” he murmured.
“Hmm? Oh. Oh…” She blushed, catching her lip between her teeth.
When she rolled to her side and started to shimmy out of them, Rip caught her hands. “Let me.” He gathered the fabric in his hands and drawing it down, staring at the rich, ivory curves being revealed to him.
So perfect. So lush and soft. Catching her hips, he tugged her to the edge of the mattress and knelt before her. He wanted, needed to touch her, taste her, feel her, but every instinct he had warned him she wouldn’t take well to his weight crushing down on her, not yet. Not just yet. Kneeling on the floor, he reached for the simple buttons on her shirt, freeing them one at a time.
“You’re a lovely woman.” He watched her face, only her face. Though he could see the full, soft curves of her breasts now, pressed flat and straining against the binding she’d used, he wanted to see her, watch her. Let her see him.
Easing her upright, he smoothed the shirt from her shoulders and dealt with the thick cloth she’d wrapped around herself to press her breasts flat. Greta might look soft and gentle, but she had the strength to deal with any man who might try to take advantage of the picture she presented.
Still, such things often interfered with their work, which was why many of the women chose to dress as men. Greta had been dressed in the guise of a waifish boy when he’d first seen her. The disguise hadn’t fooled him.
As he unwrapped the cloth, he saw the faint red marks the bindings had left on her skin and he brushed his thumb over them, then dipped his head to follow that path with his lips. “Such soft, delicate skin,” he murmured.
When he kissed the hard, pointed tip of one nipple, she cried out.
Lifting his head, he studied her face. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide and startled…and hungry.
Smiling, he dipped his head and kissed that pretty rose peak again and this time, he sucked it into his mouth, lightly scoring the flesh with his teeth. She whimpered and arched, squirming closer.
Resting one hand against her thigh, he skimmed it higher. Between her thighs, he found her hot, wet…ready, so ready. When he touched the tip of his finger to her slick, sensitive folds, she cried out again, his name a surprised cry on her lips. Slowly, he circled the stiffened peak of her clitoris once, twice…but as he started to make the third rotation, she bucked against him and to his utter shock, she started to come.
Her head fell back, her eyes staring blindly at him, as she rocked and moved against him, desperately riding the hand between her thighs.
She moved with blind, determined hunger and as she pushed against him, Rip let her overbalance him, falling back to the floor, with her cradled against him. Her knees settled on either side of his hips and she shivered as that position had his cock rubbing against her sensitive sex.
“Put me inside you,” he whispered, staring up at her.
For a moment, she looked confused. Arching his hips against her, he said, “Put me inside you…please, Greta…you’re killing me.”
Her fingers closed around his cock, cool, soft, strong.
Rip groaned at the light touch and unable to hold still, reaching down and closed his fingers around hers, tightening her grip as he drove himself into her fist. “Fuck, that feels perfect…just…like…that…”
“Is that how I’m supposed to have you inside me?” Greta asked, giving him a look of wide-eyed innocence. Then she shifted and rubbed against him, reminding him of a softer, slicker embrace.
“No. But it feels pretty damn good,” Rip muttered, reluctantly drawing his hand away.
She gave him a cheeky smile. “But mostly one-sided.”
“Then put me inside you, then, and I’ll see to it that both of us feel pretty damn good,” he promised. He just hoped he could keep that promise and not explode like a boy the moment he had his cock seated inside her.
Pretty damn good, he had said.
Oh. Oh, dear. Not even close, Greta thought as she slowly sank down on him. He stretched her, filled her. It hurt…a sweet, sweet pain. With his hands on her hips, he held her steady as she took him inch by slow inch.
He flooded her.
In so many ways…
Tears stung her eyes and she swayed forward, gasping as the movement drove him deeper, but she couldn’t continue to watch him, couldn’t continue to let him watch her. Too intimate. He saw too much.
Burying her face against his neck, she shuddered, twisted her hips to relieve the aching fullness inside her.
Rip turned his head and pressed his lips to her temple. “Shhh,” he murmured.
She lifted her hips, tried to move and he swore, a half-strangled sound. Pain sliced through Greta and he growled. “Damn it, you’re hurting yourself,” he snarled. One strong, elegant hand closed over her hip, holding her still even as he slipped the other between them.
When he touched that tight, aching bundle of nerves, Greta gasped. As he started to move, slowly, keeping his thrusts easy and shallow, she shuddered.
In under a minute, he had her keening out his name…and he was wrong. Pretty damn good did not quite describe how he had made her feel.
Amazing did not even touch it.
Nothing could describe it…
He stole the breath from her lungs with a hot, deep kiss and as she struggled to get it back, he rolled them over onto their sides, his body half-poised over hers. He stared down at her, his dark gaze commanding, devouring.
“Look at me…” he rasped. “I want to see you.”
She stared at him.
A slow smile curled his lips. “So lovely.”
Her lashes fluttered down and he reached up, tangled a hand in her hair. “No. Do not close your eyes…see me. Look at me.”
Even as the orgasm broke open inside her, Greta forced her lids up, staring at him.
Moaning out his name, she shuddered under the force of the pleasure cascading through her body. So good…he felt so good inside her. Over her. Within her.
Just being near him felt good. Felt right.
If ever in her life there was a night she wished would last forever, it was this one. This one night, she thought. She wanted to preserve it, forever, locked in it crystalline clarity.
And not just the way he touched her, not just the heat he made her feel, although that was something miraculous.
He made her laugh. He made her feel. He made her think.
For the first time in several centuries, Greta actually felt complete.
And in just that moment, she felt slightly drunk. But it had nothing to do with the wine that he had produced from somewhere. While she dozed, he had slipped out of the room and managed to find more food—a meal, rather than the light fare she had gotten, dishes and wine.
She hadn’t had good wine in an age.
With her back braced against the wall, a glass of wine in her hand, she stared down at the top of his head and tried not to blush as he trailed a juicy tip of a peach around her navel.
“If I had known you were going to play with your food,” she told him, “I wouldn’t have let you have the last one.”
“Oh, I plan on eating it.” He glanced at her from under his lashes and nipped a bite from the peach. After he swallowed, he dipped his head and licked the juice from her belly. “I can’t decide which tastes better. The peach or you.”
“Oh, the peach. Wherever did you find peaches this time of year? I haven’t had peaches in months.”
“A bit of money in the right hand will land you almost anything.” He shrugged. “Fortunately, I didn’t lose mine when we had our swim through the harbor.”
Greta found herself enraptured by the play of muscle under his skin. Then she blushed as his eyes caught hers. As his lips curled, she realized her mouth had gone dry. Lifting her wine to her lips, she took a sip.
He ate some of his peach and then he lowered his head.
Greta’s hand shook and she almost spilled what remained of the wine. As he parted the flesh between her thighs, she sat the glass down before it fell. He licked her, slowly, thoroughly, taking his time, as though he was trying to commit her taste to memory.
A strangled moan escaped her lips and she reached down, fisted her hands in his hair.
“It’s not the peach,” he muttered against her flesh. “It’s you.”
He lifted his head and stared at her with glittering eyes. “You…fuck me, Greta, the taste of you. It’s addictive.” He tossed what was left of the fruit to the floor and cupped her hips in his hands, lifting her up to his mouth.
She bit her lip to keep from crying out, barely muffling the cries as he licked and stroked and teased her. But just when she knew one more touch was all she needed, he stopped.
Whimpering and desperate, she opened her eyes to glare at him, but he was sitting crouched between her thighs. “I want you,” he muttered, a look of such naked, raw hunger on his face.
The sound of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. Greta lifted her hand. “Then have me.”
“For how long?” he rasped as he rose. He settled his long, lean weight against her body, tucking the head of his cock against her sex.
Watching him through slitted eyes, she tried to ignore the flutter in her heart. There was a world of worry, a world of needs in that question. No simple answers…
But instead of answering him, she lifted her face to his. “Take me, Rip. We have now, don’t we? Isn’t that all that matters?”
He cupped her chin and as he claimed her body, his tongue claimed her mouth. Part of her wondered at it…that she could take the weight of him without panic, without fear.
But another part of her reveled in it. Reveled in him.
Bringing her legs up, she wrapped them around his hips and arched against him.
“Little witch,” he muttered against her mouth.
She was trying to drive him mad, even as she was breaking his heart, Rip suspected. Time…that was all she needed. Just some time. All they’d had together was a few days.
He worked a hand between them and pressed one finger against the sensitive bundle of nerves, teasing it, stroking the sensitive flesh where she stretched so tight around him.
She was so slick, so hot and tight. The taste of her was still on his tongue, a tangy, salty musk that was uniquely Greta—uniquely her.
The muscles in her sheath contracted around him, milking him, pushing him dangerously close—no. No—gritting his teeth, he eased back, tried to slow down and she tightened her legs, opening her eyes to stare at him.
“You’re driving me mad.”
A smile bowed her lips upward. “You started it,” she replied, licking the soft, full curve of her lower lip.
Pushing up to his knees, he gripped her hips. “You really are a witch,” he muttered.
That teasing smile on her lips spread and she brought up her hand, resting it on her belly. With a glint in her eyes, she trailed her fingers lower and lower, until she could stroke the rigid flesh of her clit.
It was wholly unexpected—the sight of that teasing smile on her lips, and the wicked play of her fingers over her pink, wet flesh. Swearing, Rip fell back over her and with a growl, he slammed into her.
Greta cried out, her voice a mixture of delight and shock.
Freezing, he stared at down at her. “Did I hurt you?”
“If you don’t move, and soon, I will hurt you,” she said.
Hooking his arms under her shoulders, he braced her body and drove into her. This time, when she cried out, he caught it with his lips. Moments later, when she fell blindly into orgasm, he swallowed those cries as well.
Long moments passed as they struggled to level their breathing out. Greta lay on her side, staring into Rip’s dark, velvety eyes and tried not to think about what she had just done.
Wicked, wicked girl, she thought. She wanted to be ashamed—or at least, part of her felt she should be.
But all she could feel was a vague sense of disbelief…and pleasure.
She had teased him. Deliberately. Without even fully realizing what she was doing.
And he had loved it.
“What are you thinking about?” he murmured, his voice low and husky.
Greta frowned, perplexed. “Shouldn’t it be the woman to ask that?”
Rip chuckled. “Are there rules? You just lie there, looking confused and so I wondered why.”
With a sigh, she inched forward and rested her head on his chest. She tried to tell herself it was because she was tired, and this was a rather comfortable spot to be. Nice and warm…she was so tired of being cold. It seemed she had been cold since they’d arrived in Boston.
But the truth was, that she needed a respite from those insightful, knowing eyes.
“I just don’t know what to make of all of this,” she said quietly.
“Who says you need to know that right now? Can’t you figure it out as we go along?”
As we go along…like this was some journey they might take together.
But Greta wasn’t ready to take this sort of journey with any man.
Not even with Rip. Although in her heart, she wanted to. Wanted to try, at least.
He stroked her back and she snuggled closer against him. “There’s time enough to figure all that out, isn’t there?” he murmured, pressing his lips to her temple.
Look at me, he said. See me.
Who says you need to know that right now? Can’t you figure it out as we go?
Time enough to figure all that out…
Greta lay in his arms, brooding as the sun rose high in the sky.
It was morning…the best time to go and take a peek around the warehouse, a chore she had avoided while she waited for Rip to recover.
She couldn’t avoid it anymore. But she couldn’t work up the energy, or the interest to move.
How could she do anything but that?
She had a terrible feeling that she was going to see him in her mind each time she closed her eyes for a good, long while.
It disturbed her, scared her even.
It was a vulnerability, one she wasn’t equipped to handle. He thought they had time to figure it out, but she knew better.
No amount of time would ever lessen the fear she felt blooming inside. Now that the heat had passed, now her soul was quiet, and she could think, memories swamped and darkness threatened to choke her.
Time couldn’t help her.
After all, if three hundred years hadn’t eased her pain, why should she expect things to change now?
She was afraid. Rip sensed it, even as she slipped away.
He understood fear, and because he did, he didn’t chase her down the street, the way he wanted. No, pursuit wouldn’t work on this—getting her to trust him—that was what he needed.
He had to bring her to trust him. On her terms.
It would take time.
In the best scenario, they all the time in the world.
Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, Rip stood. He wasn’t a patient man, though. He wasn’t certain he could wait that long.
Read the rest of Greta and Rip’s story in Candy Houses…the first Grimm tale.