No More Masquerade
Angel Payne & Victoria Blue
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Behind every good man…is the love of an even better woman. Those were just pretty words before I met Claire Montgomery. Before my fairy queen burst into my life, I didn’t recognize the bastard in my morning mirror—but her love has given me the strength to face the impostor, even embrace him. My tower in the clouds is no longer a sentence of isolation; it’s a jumping point to the stars. With Claire at my side, I’m the king I always wanted to be, the Killian Stone I always dreamed of becoming. Which means for once, I want the mask guarding my secret to stay right where it is. If you want the grown-up fairy tale…learn to love the dark side. Profound sentiment. Wish I could get on board with it but the prince in pinstripes has other ideas. Life has been a dream since Killian burst into the ball offering the perfect fit—his heart and mine, not the shoes, the car or the jewelry—but the treasures have become his armor, hiding the man I yearn to know. I refuse to open his little velvet box until he opens himself, letting me see even the dark hallways of his soul… Until he lifts all his masks for me. Master of the masquerade… Fate has always bowed to my bidding. I should have known it was just picking its time to exact the best revenge, to reveal the secrets that will destroy everything. Without my disguise, am I still the man Claire fell in love with…or another penniless prince vying for an unattainable dream? Mistress of his ruin? He always told me to be careful what I wish for. By demanding his truth, have I not only demolished the dream we had…but the man I’ve loved more than any other?
“No more running in ice soup, Mr. Stone.” My admonishment was gentle but stern. “You’re going to catch pneumonia.” “Psshhh.” “Killian!”
“I grew up in the ‘ice soup’, baby. I’m not going to catch—”
“I can’t live without you.” I didn’t try to hide the hoarse crack in my voice. “Okay? Happy now?”
For a long moment, all he did was continue to stare. After that pause, he raised a hand to the space directly over my heart—and pressed it there. “You always make me happy.”
Slowly, he drew that hand down the center of my torso. Though the action brought a thousand shivers, his face still captivated me the most. I couldn’t stop picturing what he must have been like at five years old, so young and innocent, brought into the middle of a complicated mess by adults wrapped up in their warped and convoluted sense of “doing right”.
The heart he’d just warmed with his fingers now swelled from the power of his honesty. Then it swelled and ached, bursting with the love I felt for his beautiful, brave soul. If he asked me again to marry him, I’d shout my acceptance at the top of my lungs. As odd as it was, the pain of the last week had finally brought me the Killian I’d been searching for.
Unable to hold back anymore, I leaned over and kissed him. The pillows billowed around us with the force of my passion—and his in return. His powerful body, especially the part pressing most intimately against me, swelled and grew. He circled both arms around my waist and clutched me tighter, inviting my mouth to stay right where it was as he opened his lips for me.
Warmth. Invitation. Safety, Solace. Home. He was my home.
I lost myself in that kiss. Drowned in the luxury of his taste, the perfect feel of his tongue. Moaned as his tongue stroked mine with increasing urgency, growing desire.
There was so much more to our connection than the physical need of man and woman—and never more than in that moment. The force of his need filled me, pushed me, consumed me.
When we tore back by a few inches, Killian dug a hand to my scalp. “My queen. My Claire. You’re my anchor in this ocean. My compass in this storm.”
Peering into his eyes was looking to the depths of that uncharted sea. Fathoms of darkness lived there…gray and black and pewter, liquid and shadows as mysterious as the bottom of the Pacific or Atlantic themselves. When I gazed at him like this, the origins of the world’s labels for him were so easy to understand. Cryptic. Enigmatic. Secluded. Guarded. He was unbeknownst to so many, only allowing the most worthy into his sanctum—and now, all the reasons for that made such sense.
Right now, he’d made me the most worthy person on the planet. The way he held me in his embrace, touched my skin, kissed my lips…I’d never felt closer to him. I yearned to press him for more. Dammit, why did I always want more? I needed to thank the universe for what it had already given me this week. For now, this connection was enough. More than enough.
It was perfect.
“Killian,” I whispered. “When we’re together like this, when it feels like we are the only two people on the planet, I feel like I can take on the world.” I emitted a little girl growl as he reacted to that by slowly wrapping my hair around his fingers. “I know it sounds corny…”
“It sounds wonderful.” He rasped it, seating my hips more firmly against his, letting his engorged cock slide softly between the moist lips of my sex. “Don’t stop,” he encouraged.
Denying him wasn’t an option. “We can do anything we set our minds to,” I told him, “as long as we’re together. We’re a force, Killian—you and I. I’m not sure the world’s prepared for it yet. They have no idea what they’re messing with.”
He growled again, harder and louder. “Hmmm. My fairy has tiger claws, too. Always ready to fight for what’s right.”
“Damn straight, especially when it comes to the man I’m madly in love with.” I bent and kissed him again.
“And what about the Killian Stone you’re not so fond of?” He wasn’t playing at the question this time. “Answer me. I’ve seen the look on your face when that bastard comes out to play.”
“You’re right. He is a bastard. But I love you, Killian. All of you.” I seized the chance to splay my hand to the center of his chest now—to the heart inside that beat so strong and sure. “You’re just one man. And when you are this open and real with me, I love you more than my own life. I want our lives to be one. As sure as I breathe, that’s what I want.”
We kissed again, but I let my lips linger on his for a very long time, simply tasting him, savoring him. I fitted my body deeper to his, eliciting a deep groan from him, matched by my own aroused sigh. It was no longer time for talk. Nonverbal communication could speak our remaining words—a skill my man knew just as well as fancy boardroom speeches. Thank God.