Bought for Christmas(6)

By: Doris O Connor

“No, kitten, I didn’t. In fact I stepped in and saved that insolent pup from losing everything to a card shark. He was drunk and high on cocaine, not the best combination. I might be an asshole, but I couldn’t let him gamble away everything your father worked so hard for, especially when…” He hesitated, not at all sure how much more she wanted to hear, and Emilia shifted in his arms and pulled away slightly to look up at him.

She shook her head when he slanted his, and one of her little hands crept up to cup his scarred side.

“Don’t hide them. They don’t scare me. They never have,” she said and offered him a tentative smile that made his chest feel tight with longing.

“They should do. I’m the beast. Haven’t you heard?” His humorless laugh echoed around them, and she shook her head.

“I think you hide behind your scars so no one can come too close.”

Hunter forgot to breathe at that quiet statement, delivered with absolute conviction, and he took her by the shoulders and pushed her away. It was that or ravish her right there, and show her what a perverted beast he truly was.

“I’m not a fairytale, Emilia. You can’t make me into the hero here. If I was, I’d have simply delivered your brother home, not cleaned him out myself.”

Emilia worried her bottom lip with her teeth, and went a little cross-eyed as she concentrated hard. It was the most adorable sight, and meant he grew even harder.

“So, why are you here, then, giving him an out? I’m not such a catch that you’re doing this just to have your wicked way with me.”

His bear growled his disapproval at his mate’s low opinion of herself, and for once Hunter was in perfect agreement with him. The fact that she didn’t shy away from him, just went a delightful shade of pink, made him want to simply grab her and have his way with her right now. He couldn’t do that, however. Not until she knew everything there was to know about him and he had somewhere where she couldn’t run away, when he revealed his true self.

Then, and only then, would he show her not only his bear, but also the other, darker side of him, that made him want to tie her up, and mark her body with his hands, teeth, and claws.

“I think any man would be lucky to have his wicked way with you, kitten.”

Her blush deepened, and she shook her head.

“Only if they want my money, and newsflash, I haven’t got any, other than what I earned myself and I’m damn proud of that.”

She raised her chin in a defiant gesture, and he grinned.

“As you should be. Your mama would be proud of you.”

Tears sprang into Emilia’s eyes, and Hunter cursed himself for all kinds of a fool. Clearly her grief was still raw, as was his own, truth be told. Annalisa had kept in touch with him after the rift between Hunter and her husband. As far as he knew it had been the only time she had gone against her husband’s wishes, as disgusted with his using sub-standard building materials on their latest contract for social housing as Hunter himself had been, when he found out. Hunter wasn’t sure if Emilia knew the particulars. Her father had laid the blame for the disaster that had followed firmly at Hunter’s door.

He crunched his teeth in remembrance. Too many innocent lives had been lost in that collapse, and it had taken Hunter years to rebuild his reputation.

It gave him a small amount of satisfaction that Duncan Enterprises had never fully recovered from that, whereas his own business was thriving.

“I’m not at all sure of that,” Emilia said, forcing his attention back on her. “Mama tasked me with keeping an eye out on Papa and Leo. I haven’t exactly managed to do that. They both have just got worse since she died. I wanted this Christmas to be different. Instead they’re not talking to me, Leo is using more than ever, and I’m about to enter into an agreement to save my father’s ass like some sort of a whore.”

She screeched when Hunter pounced and slammed her against his car in his frustration.

“Dammit, woman, don’t ever call yourself that.” He gentled his hold on her when he sensed her sudden leap of fear, and groaned. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to be so rough, but don’t ever talk about yourself like that. I told them, this is your choice entirely.”