Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Erotica
He’d leaned forward to cup his hands under the running water when he sucked in a sharp breath and stiffened suddenly.
Something about the way he moved told Riana something she should have known before. “Are you hurt?”
He didn’t answer. Didn’t even acknowledge the question as he leaned down toward the water again.
Instinctively, Riana got up and walked over to him. “Seriously, are you hurt? I should have asked before. Was it from the fight yesterday?”
“I’m not hurt,” he gritted out, reaching for a towel.
While he was distracted by drying his face, Riana pulled up the side of his t-shirt to expose the side he’d seem to favor a moment before.
His entire side was a mass of ugly, purple bruises.
“My God. Cain. My God!”
He jerked away. “They’re bruises. Nothing to whine about.”
“They look horrible,” she said, trying to get his t-shirt pushed up more so she could see the extent of the damage. “Why didn’t you say anything? And you did all those exercises this morning. It must have hurt like hell.”
He gave her an unpleasant look. “Are you through?”
“No,” she said, too upset to even consider whether she was being wise to press her attention on him in this matter. “Can I see how bad it is?”
“I know some first aid. If you broke a rib or something—”
“I didn’t break a rib.”
But he didn’t object when she’d pushed his t-shirt up and then carefully pulled it off over his head. The bruising went from his left shoulder blade all the way down his side and forward toward his lower belly.
Riana brushed her fingers along the damage, wishing she could remember more of her medical training. “This must be why you didn’t want to fight just now.”
He tensed palpably. “I could have taken them easily.”
“I’m sure you could,” she assured him quickly. “I didn’t mean to imply you couldn’t.” She winced as she noticed a particularly dark bruise on his lower side. “But this looks terrible. Thorn did a number on you.”
Her voice had been gentle, but it was clearly the wrong thing to say—yet again. Cain stiffened and pulled away. “I promise he looks worse.”
She blinked up at his closed-off face, and she realized he was still bristling with a wounded masculine ego.
What the fuck was wrong with men anyway? No matter how tough and rugged they were, they still managed to be sensitive about the slightest hint they weren’t invulnerable.
“I’m sure he does,” she said lightly, instead of following her urge to complain about his acting like a baby. “He must look so bad he’s been afraid to show his face all day.”
This apparently was the right thing to say. Cain relaxed and gave a snort of what almost sounded like amusement. “I’m pretty sure I broke his nose.”
“Good.” She smiled and continued inspecting the damage on his body, making instinctive note of the rippling muscles of his back and the scattering of course dark hair on his chest. “I hope it heals crooked.”
He didn’t respond, but she saw the corner of his lips quirk up. This time it was longer than a moment. It wasn’t a full-fledged smile, but it was closer than anything she’d seen.
She ran her fingers down his back—pretending to check for damage but mostly because she found the smooth, strong planes irresistible. “I wish you’d told me about your bruises before,” she murmured. “Last night I mean. When we were… I hope I didn’t hurt you.”
He turned on his heel, so sharply she didn’t expect it. Facing her, he reached out to grab her by the hips. “Nothing about last night hurt,” he said, his voice as thick and rough as gravel. “I’m not that injured.”
Then, as if to prove his point, he slid his big hands back until they were spanning the curve of her ass. He lifted her up to a position where she automatically wrapped her legs around his waist.
“Your bruises,” she gasped, squirming as she tried not to put any pressure on his damaged side.
He started to walk, his grip so strong there was no sense in fighting it. “I told you. I’m not that injured.”
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About the Author
Claire has been writing romance novels since she was twelve years old. She has a PhD in British literature and, when she's not writing, she teaches English at the university level.
She also writes romance novels under the penname Noelle Adams.