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The Predator: Chapter 15

Stripping

She was bleeding.

A drop of blood slid down her arm.

Morana turned her head and watched in slight fascination, as the drop rolled over the curve of her elbow, leaving a fresh streak of red over her skin. Her eyes followed the lone drop as it traveled down smoothly, down the back of her hand, down her empty ring finger, right to the tip. It hung on the precarious edge, teetering, trembling in the slightly cool conditioned air, fighting gravity with all its little might to keep clinging to her skin.

It lost.

The drop lost the battle with a force that was much stronger than itself – a force it did not even understand – and fell to the clean floor of the elevator, splattering in defeat, marring the clean white lines with its crimson.

Another drop took its place and joined its brother on the ground.

And another.

Morana stared at the drop of blood for a moment, her arm throbbing where the gash from the graze was open, the entire evening and the consequence of it finally sinking into her mind slowly.

That she had made it out of the casino alive was a miracle in itself. That she had made it out alive with nothing but a graze was a bigger miracle.

But now, in the privacy of her own mind, when the adrenaline had left her body cold and logic had rooted itself, Morana swallowed. Because there, on that seat in the dim casino, she’d made a choice, a choice that she’d had no idea she would make until that very moment. And her choice had incited a decision in the man who’d become the bane of her existence. Had it been a private choice, known only to herself, she wouldn’t have fretted so much. It would’ve been disconcerting for sure, but knowing that the knowledge of her choice lay solely within her would’ve been much better.

But it wasn’t so. Not only had her choice been obvious to him, his had been obvious to her as well, and she couldn’t imagine he liked it any better than she did at the moment. Frankly, she had no idea what the hell that could even mean.

The elevator doors opened, jolting her from her thoughts, and Morana took a deep breath, stepping out into the living room, the skyline of the city glittering like colorful diamonds outside the huge windows. Keeping her hand elevated to staunch the flow of blood, she walked straight to the kitchen, dumping her bag and phone on the counter, and pulled out the clean dish towel from the rack. Turning the faucet on, she wet the towel, and slowly cleaned the area, hissing at the slight pain the pressure caused, before pressing the towel hard down on the arm.

Pain shot up her shoulder, down to her fingers, and she grit her teeth, breathing evenly as the pain subsided into a low throb, the flow of blood already lessening.

Keeping the towel pressed on her arm, looking out the windows, Morana let her mind drift to that moment in the casino, that moment after he’d shot her. That moment when the man who’d brought her in had protested that she hadn’t taken a bullet, much to the agreement of the other men present.

Morana remembered the way Tristan Caine had smoothly looked at the man and just raised an eyebrow, leaning back into his chair. She remembered the way the quiet in the room had become tensed, how she’d held her breath, not knowing whether these people would let her go.

And then Tristan Caine had spoken, without removing his eyes from the man behind her.

“Leave.”

It’d taken her a moment to realize he’d been speaking to her. But for once, she hadn’t wanted to sit around and argue with him. Picking up her keys, Morana had moved her chair back, watching the entire time, not the people in the room but The Predator, as he’d watched the others, his quiet gaze daring anyone to make a move to stop her.

Not one man had moved.

Heart in her throat, she’d walked out quickly and sprinted to her car, not allowing herself a single moment to even think about what had happened. The drive to the apartment had been short and now, standing inside the safety of these walls, Morana didn’t have a clue as to what was going to happen.

What had happened in the casino after she left, she couldn’t imagine. A part of her wondered if the six men had confronted Tristan Caine. Another part of her was in awe of the power he actually held in the mob.

Hearing something and seeing something were two completely different things. And having seen the genuine fear in the eyes of men much older and more experienced than her father, for the first time, it dawned on Morana, truly dawned, who she was dealing with.

A shiver ran down her spine.

Those men back at the casino had dealt with blood and grit all their lives and they feared Tristan Caine. Morana couldn’t even fathom the kinds of things he must’ve done to perpetuate that fear at such a young age.

In hindsight, she could see how incredibly foolish she’d been, sneaking up on him to kill him. After her stunt today, she didn’t know if he was going to come back and finally kill her, or get rid of her, or send her back to her father with a neat little bow.

God, she was so completely out of her element.

And it scared the shit out of her.

The sudden sound of the elevator’s opening made her start.

Her heart picked up the pace.

He was here.

It took an effort not to bolt to the guest bedroom and lock the door. For the first time, she was so utterly confused she wanted to run. Instead, spinning on the spot, she turned to face the elevator doors head-on.

And felt her breath caught in her throat mid inhale.

Tristan Caine stood there in the semi-darkness, his jacket missing and sleeves rolled up, his legs braced apart as the shadows playing over his hard face in the light from outside.

But it wasn’t that which made her breath catch. No.

It was his eyes.

Blue, magnificent eyes.

Blazing eyes.

A frisson of something slithered down her spine, making goosebumps erupt all over her arms, her heart exploding in her chest as the hand holding the towel to her arm dropped down. The towel fell from her slack grip to the floor, and Morana couldn’t remove her eyes to even look down to see if her wound was still bleeding.

She stayed still, eyes on him.

He stayed still, watching her.

Silence.

And then he took a step forward.

Her feet moved back.

His eyes flared at her involuntary action, his next step slower, more deliberate.

Heart pounding, for the first time since meeting him, Morana couldn’t stand her ground.

Her legs moved back on their own, something deep, deep inside her bringing forth all her survival instincts as he approached, some deep-rooted sense of self-preservation made her feet move before she could even process the action.

Eyes pinning her own, his next steps somehow seemed more aggressive, his lithe body fluid in his movement, the clothes of civility doing nothing to mask the animal in him, emphasizing it even more.

Everything inside her rebelled at the thought of being preyed upon, yet she couldn’t stop her feet from going back, her chest heaving slightly, her hands shaking, whether in fear or thrill or something else she didn’t know. Her emotions were an indistinguishable mass of something and everything in the moment.

Morana took a last step back, feeling the counter separating the kitchen and the dining area at her back, the cool granite top pressing against the base of her spine, sending small shivers coursing through her body. She clenched her jaw, her pulse beating with vengeance in her body, throbbing everywhere as she kept her eyes on him.

He would stop a few steps away.

But he didn’t, just kept stalking, his body loose but controlled.

Morana pressed deeper into the counter.

He needed to stop.

He didn’t.

And for the life of her, she couldn’t voice the single word, not as his eyes bore into her, glimpsing at things she never even knew existed inside her.

He stepped right into her personal space, so close she had to tilt her head back to keep their eyes locked, so close that the tips of her breasts brushed against his hard torso as she inhaled, a current zapping through her core even as she leaned away, half bent over the counter.

His eyes glittered as the shadows danced over his face, making him look even more dangerous than he was, his magnificent blue eyes with their pupils blown wide, telling her he was not in control right now, not like he’d been the entire day that she’d tailed him.

God, she needed control. She needed to breathe.

Making herself focus on the dull throb in her arm, Morana broke their gaze, averting her eyes, and turning her face to the side.

Her face hadn’t even turned halfway when his hands shot out, planting themselves on either side of her on the counter, caging her in completely. His chest pressed into her breasts, not completely but enough to make the friction of their breathing drive her mad, the warm heat of his solid muscles a contrast to the cold granite at her back, his breaths brushing lightly over the top of her head.

Her heart thudded, pulse fluttering like a bird caged suddenly, her fingers curling into the counter beside her, gripping the cold slab, the urge to press her palm flat against the moving, hard chest acute. The desire to taste the tempting scent of that musk he always smelled like was on her tongue, even more profound.

What the hell was she even thinking of having those thoughts, especially after tonight?

Her jugular had been exposed to him for a long time, but more because of circumstances rather than choice. Not tonight.

Her heart rebelled.

Suddenly, she felt his hand on her neck, the entire hand cupping her jaw from under as he turned her face towards his.

Inches.

Mere inches.

His breaths brushed over her face as her eyes latched on to his again by some inner compulsion she couldn’t understand, his eyes searching hers feverishly, blazing while his face remained hard and cold, the dichotomy in the man both annoying and fascinating her in equal measure.

Tilting her head back completely, he took the final step to close the distance between their bodies, his semi-hard erection nestling against her stomach as her breasts completely flattened against his torso. Her nipples pebbled in response, her spine curving over the counter. She kept her hands beside her, gripping that slab, keeping her lips shut with deliberate effort, determined not to break the silence between them, not to give in in at least one way.

But it wasn’t really a competition, because in the next breath, he spoke, his whiskeyed voice washing over her lips.

“I don’t know whether to snap your neck or fuck the life out of you,” that voice washed over her senses, so low it made her want to roll her eyes back into her head and wantonly lay back on the counter.

His words sank in.

Morana straightened her spine, the move bringing her face infinitely closer to his, their bodies pressed to close she could feel every indentation of every ab across her own body, feel the cut of muscles he was using to intimidate her.

Morana glared at him, her eyes narrowing, her blood heating from both anger and arousal.

“You want to touch me, Mr. Caine?” she spoke in an equally low voice. “You tell me the truth.”

His face shut down so fast Morana would have missed it in a blink. All the anger, all the everything that had been on his face? Gone. Just like that.

His eyes remained on hers, the blaze contained but not gone as his fingers tightened on her jaw, pulling her up until she had to stand on her toes to accommodate.

He leaned down, his lips almost in line with hers as his eyes pricked her like cold chips of ice, his jaw clenched so tight the scruff seemed even more pronounced.

“Don’t. Ever. Try. To. Fucking. Control. Me.”

Morana felt her body tremble at the fatality in his voice, the tone making it evident it had been the wrong thing to say. She had no leverage over him. Absolutely none. And to think that his lust would work as one had been a long shot anyway.

No one could hold anything over this man to make him do something he didn’t want to.

Had someone ever tried that, though? The way he’d reacted, with such icy vehemence, certainly implied that.

But playing with fire as she did on a regular basis these days, Morana smirked slightly, and deliberately ground her hips into his, rolling it in one smooth motion. She felt his respond automatically, thrusting into her stomach, hard, her core clenching in need as his breath ghosted over her mouth. Her lips tingled as wetness flooded between her legs, her nipples squashed against his rock hard and incredibly warm abs, her body alive, so fucking alive with sensations.

Trying to keep it cool, smiling intently, she brushed her nose over his, in a mockery of the intimate kiss, and spoke over his lips.

“Then I suggest you control yourself, sweetheart.”

The corner of his lip twitched ever so slightly, right above that delectable scar, his hips rocking into her one last time before suddenly, he was moving away. Already halfway across the room, his trousers tented evidently, his stance shameless as he scrutinized her.

Feeling like she’d just lost a game she’d had no idea they’d been playing, unable to understand what in him made her behave like this, like a wanton thrill-seeking animal. Morana swallowed and turned towards the guest room, walking away as quickly as she could without making it seem like she was running, which she totally was.

She felt his eyes on her retreating back all the way till the room and kept her head averted, shutting the door behind her, shutting his eyes out.

Taking her first deep breath in what seemed like minutes, Morana shook herself and walked to the bathroom, closing the door behind her even though it didn’t have a lock. He’d never entered this room before though, so she wasn’t really worried about him doing so. For all his high-handed ways, he seemed to have a thing for her privacy, something she couldn’t help but wholeheartedly approve of.

Stripping her bloodied dress off, Morana let it fall to the floor with a ‘plop’ and looked up at the mirror to check her arm.

The bleeding had stopped, as had the pain. It was just a gash that throbbed, nothing a few butterfly bandages and some sleep wouldn’t cure. Deciding to take a shower first and then go to the kitchen to wrap it up, Morana walked to the glass stall at the end of the cozy bathroom and turned the knob for warmth.

She stepped under the spray, letting the warm water slide over her, feeling the sweat and grime of the day go down the drain along with the exhaustion, careful to keep her wounded arm away from the spray. Eyes closed, head tipped back, she let the water wet her dark hair, caress her muscles as she let go of the breath she’d been holding the entire day. Her mind replayed what had happened outside, what she’d almost wanted to happen.

She’d seen him. Eyes ablaze, body trembling with that thin control, his aggression, his physicality, his focus – all on her. She’d seen him and like every other time, something in her had responded to that wild animal call. Only this time, it had been louder than ever before, more ardent.

A shiver ran down her spine even as the hot water slid down her skin –

That was when she felt it.

His eyes.

She stilled, her barely calm heart picking up pace again as the water sluiced over her body. She was suddenly aware of the gush, of her entire being aware of the man standing at the glass door.

The man who’d never once entered the guest bedroom. The man who now leaned against the shower stall casually, watching her with the steady, ready eyes of a panther. The man who barefoot but still dressed in those clothes.

That was the precise moment she realized, looking down at his feet that – for some reason that made her nipples pebble – that she was naked. Completely naked. For the first time, she was nude to his eyes.

She didn’t like it, didn’t like the way he was watching her without her layers, no glasses, no clothes, nothing.

Stripped.

She felt raw.

Exposed.

Bleeding.

And he stood there, scenting her blood, watching her.

She’d asked him to control himself, and yet, there he stood, sporting the exact same bulge in his pants.

Morana breathed in, biting the inside of her cheek and moved her head up to face him, keeping her face clear of all thoughts and raised an imperious eyebrow.

Uh-oh.

Her eyebrow hit her hairline; his hand hit the glass stall.

And then he moved.

Straightening from his position, he stepped inside the stall, shrinking the previously big shower to something much smaller. His tall, broad frame dwarfed the walls and the ceiling. Steam swirled around him, clinging to his body, and dampening the fabric of his shirt. Morana watched, enthralled, as a drop of water condensed on his tight neck, right beside that infuriating vein, and rolled down his skin, into his now completely transparent shirt.

For the first time, in this close proximity, Morana saw with clarity the shadows of his tattoos littered amongst his numerous scars.

There was no way she was going to stand naked in front of him while he was still covered. No way.

Before he could make a move, Morana put her hands on the damp collar and tugged at his shirt forcefully, ripping the buttons off, sending them scattering on the floor, a strip of flesh bared to her eyes just as his hands came up to grip her wrists, his eyes inflamed.

All that cool control she’d witnessed five minutes ago… evaporated.

With bare feet, he stepped under the spray with her, pushing her back into the wall and turned her around. Her front was pressed into it, much like it had been at her father’s house.

Her heart thudded in her chest so rapidly she could feel her pulse in her ears, his body not pressing into hers but there, right there, hovering behind her. He was so close she only needed to lean back a little to touch his skin, the urge to do that so intense she brought her hands up to the wall and stayed still.

And for the first time, she felt his hands, on her bare skin.

His rough, big hands on her skin.

Sucking in a sharp breath, Morana felt his hand grip the back of her neck as the other one moved down the line of her spine, in a gentle touch meant to lull her into a false sense of security. It only managed to wind her up tighter instead, the water falling sideways on them, on the side of her good arm while the wounded one remained dry.

Morana knew she could stop him if she wanted. Except she didn’t want.

Somewhere along the way, she’d become so okay with wanting him, so okay with this lust she could feel coursing through her blood, that she was fine admitting it to herself. It didn’t make her hate herself any less, but the heady rush of sensation as his rough, calloused hands moved over her made her desire it.

She felt him lean down, his lips brushing over the shell of her ear as he whispered softly into her skin, his hand wandering down to the base of her spine, slowly drifting down to her ass with surety.

“This body belongs to me, Ms. Vitalio,” he murmured in a low voice, the whiskey and sin combining to make her head tip back over his broad shoulder as her stomach clenched.

“This body is mine,” she retorted, unable to recognize her own voice dripping in sex.

He continued, like she hadn’t spoken, cupping her ass. “I’m a territorial man. And this has been mine since the moment you locked that bathroom door.”

“That was one time,” she informed him, even as she knew there was no stopping them now.

“Then let’s make it a second, shall we?”

Morana could feel the anger simmering in his body behind her, the rage he’d been controlling, hear the shake in his smooth voice.

The hand on her ass dipped lower, his fingers brushing over her nether lips, before entering her with a certainty that made her close her eyes, the rough abrasions on his fingers rubbing her deep in the most delicious ways, wetting her even more than she’d been.

She heard the sound of his zipper going down and the tear of that condom before his leg spread hers wide apart. His hand moved to the base of her spine and pressed down, making her push her hips out and lean her weight on her arms against the wall.

Morana looked at the wall in front of her, her breasts heaving and heart pounding in anticipation.

She felt his arms cage her in like earlier and watched in fascination as his hands came to rest on the wall a little above hers to the side. Morana looked at their hands, so close and so apart, comparing the differences, the similarities. Both pairs of hands excellently talented in their respective fields, yet his was dark, rough, with veins and long, wide fingers, with blunt nails and a smattering of hair at the back. Hers looked so much paler, smoother, so much smaller, the tips painted a bright green.

Seeing their hands together like that, watching the thick forearms alongside her delicate wrists, something fluttered in the pit of her stomach.

No. She didn’t like that. Didn’t want that at all.

Morana closed her eyes, shutting the view, but the image was imprinted on her brain.

Gritting her teeth as anger filled her, anger at being unable to shake off something as trivial as their hands side by side, something so stupid, Morana pushed her hips back, wanting him to just get it on.

She felt the tip of his cock prod at her opening, and she inhaled deeply, her heartbeat erratic, the water pouring down over them from the side.

With complete, utter ease, he slipped into her slowly, inch by deliberate inch, making her breath catch in her throat at the sheer size of him. Fuck, she’d forgotten what he felt like inside her, filling every empty ounce of space, spearing through her walls in a way she hadn’t thought possible, making her back arch even more to take in all of him. She’d thought he would thrust in like he’d done at the restaurant and be inside.

He didn’t.

Instead, he pulled back a little, before pushing in again, easing into her, making her feel, truly feel every inch of him.

Morana hung her head as her palms pressed into the wall, her body lifting on her toes to allow some leverage, her hips pushing back into him.

He entered her to the hilt, her walls clamping down on him, the new angle penetrating her in ways that made her see stars, pressing into spots inside her she hadn’t been aware of.

And all this time, she kept her eyes deliberately closed, feeling him inside her but not feeling his torso against her back, aware of the distance between their bodies.

She was glad for it.

Because at the restaurant, it had all been easy to explain to herself, to blame it mainly on the fact that she’d been defying her father right under his nose with his enemy. There, having him pressed into her had been an act of rebellion. But in the shower, there was nobody she could blame other than herself, having him close a desire she didn’t want to define.

He pulled out of her suddenly, making her acutely aware of her body, and thrust up inside her, hard, all traces of gentleness gone. Morana sucked in a breath, curling her hands into fists on the wall as pleasure shot through her core right down to the tips of her toes, her legs trembling with the effort to keep standing.

“You do something like that again, I’ll fucking shoot you in the heart.”

His guttural voice made her shiver even as her walls clenched around him.

“I decide when you die.”

Morana huffed a laugh that got strangled in her throat. “You’re crazy.”

Without a pause, his hips started snapping into hers rigorously, rolling on every thrust in a way that made her bite down on her lips to keep her moans to herself, sweat beading upon her brow, her breasts heaving as her head neck arched, her hair floating down her back in a tangle of wet strands.

“No. I’m fucking crazy.”

She moved back against his ardor, the friction inside her walls making her squeeze her muscles around him as the tip of his cock rubbed over that spot inside her over and over again. His hips never paused, the rhythm never breaking, and her jaw slackened as heat coiled deep in her belly. It was a snake coiling tighter and tighter around its prey, squeezing the very life out of it with such brutal strength, ready to sink its fangs in divine ecstasy.

Morana shook all over, her lips swollen from her own nipping teeth in an effort to keep her sounds to herself.

He’d had his hand covering her mouth the last times he’d made her come, muffling all the noises she’d made and in a convoluted way, granting her the freedom to let out all the noise inside her, knowing it wouldn’t be heard.

There was no hand muffling her response this time, and try as she might, moans escaped from deep in her throat as she felt him move in and out of her, over and over and over again, her legs trembling and hands aching but hips moving with his. She tried to bite the noise down, but couldn’t, not completely.

Suddenly, she felt him shift on his knees, changing the angle of the penetration. A low growl rumbled from his throat as he thrust in with such force her mouth parted on a loud moan, all sense, all control of her body lost to her as her vision blackened. The shaking in her body intensified, as did his movements, aggressive, fervent, but so removed from her body, not touching her anywhere except where they were joined.

Morana wanted to lean back into his solid mass, let him support her weight because her body felt too slack to do so anymore, have his palms cover her breasts and his face turn into her neck. She wanted every bite, every nibble, and utter dirty, dirty words into her ear as his cock sliced her open.

Her fingers dug into the wall with the effort not to do any of that as pleasure rocked over her body, washing over her with such suddenness she was stunned by its intensity, unable to hold back her scream that started as a moan and got increasingly louder. He pushed in, hitting that sweet spot inside her, over and over again, with such precision her head lolled into the wall, her body slacking completely against it as her orgasm snapped inside her. Her heart raced so hard she could feel it throb in her toes, in her core, in her fucking teeth. Her body shook all over, her walls clamping down on him, milking him, as he thrust in a last time and stilled, his breathing loud behind her.

They stayed standing like that, him caging her in without touching her and her trembling against the wall in bliss.

The sound of water penetrated her pleasure induced haze first.

She stood alone, despite him still being inside her. Her body had been sated but she could still feel something hungry gnawing inside her, trying to claw out and find satisfaction. She kept tamping it down. Would it ever be enough? Would anything ever be enough?

It was as he slipped out of her, as her heart stuttered to a quieter beat, that she realized the water had gone cold, flowing against her back because of the space between their bodies.

Acutely aware of him behind her, Morana remained standing the way she was, not moving, not turning, not certain she wanted to face him at that moment. This had been the first time they’d been together physically just with themselves, no external factors into play, and it had been just as removed, if not more. It made something inside her chest feel tight before she shook it off and agreed. Distance was needed.

She opened her eyes, only to see those hands, clenched into fists against the wall – tight fists that made his arms shake.

“Why?”

One word.

Guttural.

Spoken in that low voice. The voice that shook. Asked so, so many questions in that one word. She understood some of them.

Why had she not sold him out when she’d had the chance? Why was she still not out of his system? Why was this mad lust not sated despite their bodies having found completion? Why had she followed him? Why…

There were many other questions in there, questions she didn’t understand, questions she was certain he wasn’t even aware he’d asked.

Why?

Why was this happening? Why did she feel this connection to the one man she should run away from? Why did he make her so alive when he’d told her he wanted her dead? Why hadn’t he killed her yet?

Why?

Why?

Morana looked at his fists, swallowing down the sudden wave of emotions inside her, and replied softly, with one word.

“Why?”

Silence.

For long, long moments, she felt nothing but his breaths at her back, saw nothing but his hands beside hers, so close yet so far.

And then suddenly, he pulled back his hand and punched the wall above her hand, hard.

“God damn it!”

Morana stood utterly still, stunned at the way he went at it.

Once, twice, thrice.

“Fuck!”

Such utter frustration bled from his voice. Such pain.

He kept cursing until she heard nothing but foul words. Pained words. Aggravated words.

He kept punching the wall until his knuckles cracked until the wall dented and plaster became smudged with red.

And through it all, through that entire display of rage, he never touched her, not once.

Despite her answer having triggered this, despite his desire to kill her, she remained untouched.

“Motherfucker!”

And it was over as soon as it had begun.

Before she could blink, she was completely alone in the stall, his body gone from behind her, his hands gone from beside hers.

Morana stood there, breathing hard, just watching the place where his hands had been.

The once smooth white wall beside her hands was cracked, fissures appearing in small grooves in it, the clean white space painted crimson.

She swallowed, her eyes latching on to a drop of blood sliding down that wall, leaving a streak on scar behind it, marring the pristine white.

A drop of blood rolling down.

He was bleeding.


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