Dr. Marilyn Devry-Evans angled her softly rounded stubborn chin. Her chocolate eyes met his challenge. "I've told you I need time, Rick."
Warrick's palms were sweating. He swallowed the brick of fear in his throat. "It's been a month."
A blush kissed the honey brown skin of her high cheekbones, but her gaze never wavered. "I have a lot to consider. I didn't realize what I was getting into when I married you."
"I told you when we met that I was a basketball player."
Marilyn hugged her arms around her slender torso. "But the Brooklyn Monarchs weren't any good when we met. Now that you're in the play-offs, you're a celebrity."
"I'm still Rick." His grip tightened on the counter until his knuckles hurt.
"You're Rick amplified." Marilyn shook her head. The straight strands of her dark brown ponytail swung around her shoulders. "You're in the newspaper every day. People are gossiping about you, about me, about us. I never planned to live my life in the spotlight."
Knowing she had a point didn't make hearing it any easier. "Neither did I. But that's part of the price I have to pay for a championship ring." The other costs were his swollen knees and the spasms in his back.
"As your wife, the loss of privacy is a price I have to pay, too."
"I know. And I'm sorry. When I fell in love with you, I didn't consider how my career would affect you." Warrick took a breath, then another. "Is the price too high?"
"I don't know." Marilyn's words sliced his heart right down the middle.
What was behind her indecision? Marilyn was an obstetrician/gynecologist. She made sound decisions quickly all the time. Why couldn't she make a decision about their marriage? What—or who—was coming between them? He had his pick of options, starting with her parents.
Warrick rubbed his forehead. His fingers burned as the circulation returned. Terrell and Celeste Devry had warned their daughter against marrying a man who "played games" for a living. Nothing Warrick said or did would change their minds, and he'd done everything short of sending them his college transcripts. Luckily, his in-laws hadn't been able to change Marilyn's mind. Not even their scowls during the ceremony could derail the wedding.
He dropped his hand. Warrick ached as his gaze lifted to Marilyn's profile. Her gleaming mass of dark hair was swept back and restrained at the nape of her neck with her usual clip thing. Warrick wanted to release the device and draw his fingers through her hair. He wanted to pull her into his arms. It had been too long since he'd held her.
He released his grip on the kitchen counter and stepped forward. "I miss you, Mary."
Her wide eyes were filled with sadness and confusion—and it was all so pointless.
"I miss you, too." Her voice was husky.
Relief rushed him, rocking him back on his heels. Warrick closed his eyes briefly. She still cared. He had reason to hope. "Then come home."
Marilyn shook her head, her expression miserable. "It's not that easy, Rick."
He moved closer. Her body's warmth pulled him like a magnet. He wanted to bury his head against her neck and inhale her fragrance—jasmine and talcum. He missed breathing her scent as he fell asleep at night and woke in the morning.
Warrick studied her features one by one—high forehead, short nose, sharp cheekbones, sexy lips, stubborn chin.
"Do you love me?" His voice was a whisper.
Marilyn dropped her arms. "Of course I do."
His heart healed. "And I love you. It isn't any more complicated than that."
Her rich dark eyes searched his. "But it is. I don't like opening the newspaper or logging on to the Internet and finding stories speculating about our marriage and whether I'm good enough for you. I don't like people attacking you and questioning your character."
"It doesn't matter what other people think. All that matters is what we know, and I know that I need you in my life."
He reached for her, lowering his head until his mouth met hers. Her lips were soft and welcoming beneath his. It had been more than four weeks—twenty-nine days—since he'd last touched her. Tasted her. He was starved for her loving. Warrick held her tighter against him. He traced the shape of her mouth with his and she opened for him.
Warrick's body relaxed with her acceptance. He slipped his tongue between her lips. His senses were overwhelmed by the sweet, hot taste of her. When she wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him closer, his knees went weak. He traced the curves of her slender shape. The touch stirred the memory of the way her body looked above him. The way she felt beneath him. His blood sang in his veins.
Warrick walked them toward the kitchen table. He loosened his hold on her to pull her soft cream blouse from the waistband of her brown pants. He raised his arms so Marilyn could help him pull his jersey over his head. Her fingers singed a trail across his abdomen as she nudged the material higher. She played with the hair on his torso. Warrick's muscles quivered. His breath quickened at her touch. Could she feel his heart racing? Could she tell how much he needed her?
They shed her blouse and pants with the urgency of their very first time. But it was too fast. He had to slow it down. He wanted Marilyn to remember how good they were together. He needed her to want to come home. Warrick drew in a slow, deep breath. Her scent made him throb with desire. He stepped back, fighting for control. He battled back the desire raging inside him. His body wanted to make this fast and hot. His heart wanted them to last forever.
Marilyn slipped off her black camisole. Warrick's body tightened at the sight of her slender curves in barely there, wine red underwear. Her firm breasts rose above a demi-cup bra. Her slim hips teased him with a strip of matching cloth.
Warrick wanted to stay in these feelings forever. He wanted to charge forward, past the static between them, and save his marriage. He wanted to go back in time and tell the gangly, nerdish adolescent he'd been that one day he'd marry a woman with brains and the body of a goddess.
He closed the distance between them again. Marilyn's chocolate eyes darkened as her gaze moved over his chest, down to the khaki pants riding low on his hips. Warrick reached behind her neck and released the clip binding her hair.
He drew his fingers through the thick, loose mass. It was as soft as a sigh against his skin. Her fragrance wafted up to him. Warrick's muscles tightened. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too." Marilyn balanced her hands on his shoulders. She rose on her toes and touched her lips to his.
Heat shot through him, making him catch his breath. He struggled to find control but need was a fire consuming him from the inside out. Only for this woman. Always for this woman. He clasped Marilyn against him, pressing her breasts to his chest, holding her hips hard to his. Marilyn gasped and Warrick swept his tongue inside her mouth.
Their tongues danced, sliding over and across each other, wrapping around one another in a simulation of the way their bodies would move. Marilyn moaned in her throat. The low, sexy sound made Warrick lightheaded. Her body moved with his, telling him what she wanted, what she needed, what she liked.
On the edge of his consciousness, Warrick felt her fingers at the waistband of his pants, working his belt. He stepped back and stripped off his khakis and underwear. Marilyn reached out and molded her palms against his pectorals. His heart beat painfully under her hands. She ran her short, neat fingernails down his chest, over his abdomen, and into the hairs at his groin. Warrick's muscles quivered with anticipation.
He pulled her into his arms and held her to him. Her skin was warm and soft. Warrick buried his face in her neck. Marilyn trembled in his arms. His hips rocked her. Warrick hooked a hand behind her knee and drew her thigh high against his side. Marilyn moaned and pressed tighter against him. She covered his chest with nips and kisses, licking his nipples and grazing his pecs. She lifted her head and claimed his lips. Her touch made him feel wanted, cherished. Warrick opened his mouth and let her in. His head spun as she pulled his tongue deep into her mouth. She suckled him, caressed him, stroked him. Each intimate caress stoked his desire.
Her hands moved up his back and Warrick trembled. Her fingertips kneaded his muscles and he sighed. And when her nails scratched his bare skin, he stiffened. Her delicate physician's hands grasped his glutes and worked him against her. Warrick felt her dampen.
He turned with her in his arms, settling her hips on the kitchen table. Warrick reached behind Marilyn and unhooked her bra. He stripped the garment from her and tossed it aside. Warrick dipped his head and kissed Marilyn's nipples, first the left, then the right. He drew her right breast into his mouth. Her taste was full and sweet. He palmed her left breast, its weight familiar in his hand. Her skin was delicate to his touch.
Warrick lifted his head and looked at her. Her hot chocolate gaze scorched him. Her features were tight with a shared hunger.
He kissed her quick and hard. "You are so beautiful."
A slow smile curved her lips. "So are you."
Warrick chuckled and kissed her again. He loved the way she tasted on his mouth, the way she felt in his arms. Marilyn wrapped her legs around his hips and shimmied closer to him. Warrick cupped his hands under her and lifted her from the table. With Marilyn's arms and legs around him, Warrick sank to the floor. Marilyn released him, allowing Warrick to shift back between her long limbs. His gaze touched on her firm breasts and tight waist before returning to her face.
Her eyes glowed with desire. "I need you now."
Warrick reached out and stroked her cheek. "I need you forever."
He closed the distance between them. He kissed her neck, then nibbled his way down her chest to cover her right breast with his mouth.
Heat shot through her breast and settled between her legs. Her head pressed back and her lips parted in a gasp. Warrick's mouth worked her breast. Marilyn ached with desire. She held her breath as his teeth grazed her nipple. His tongue licked and laved it, twirling its tip. His mouth suckled her harder. Her hips pumped against him, matching the rhythm of his mouth.
Warrick released her. Marilyn bit her lower lip, rolling her head back and forth. He'd lit a fire with his mouth that coursed a path between her breasts and her thighs. He paused at her navel, stroking his tongue in and around the dip. He kissed and licked her before moving on to her hips.
His mouth teased and tormented her as it drew closer and closer to her femininity by centimeters before moving away. Again and again she felt his breath nearing her core before Warrick shifted course. He kissed her hip bone. He nipped her thigh. His tongue grazed her belly—but always at a distance.
"Rick, please." Marilyn's fingernails scraped against the smoke and white marble tile flooring.
"What is it, honey?" His breathing stirred between Marilyn's legs.
She gasped. Her heart tried to punch its way free of her chest. "Stop torturing me." Her voice was tight.
Warrick's laughter was low. "All right." He drew her knees up over his shoulders and kissed her deep.
Marilyn screamed her surprise at the intense sensations igniting her body. She arched her back, lifting her hips higher. Wave after wave of pleasure crashed over her, liquefying her bones. Her muscles strained. Her nipples tightened. Blood rushed through her veins. The muscles inside her pulled to the breaking point.
Then Warrick stopped.
Marilyn gasped. Her eyes shot wide. Her muscles shrieked in frustration. Warrick surged over her. He captured her mouth with his own. His hands clasped her hips and he dove into her. Marilyn screamed as pleasure burst inside her. She trembled in Warrick's embrace. His lips gentled on hers until she finally caught her breath.
Warrick's hips moved with hers, longer and deeper. Slower. Harder. He pressed into her. He rocked inside her. Their sweat mingled. Pressure built again. His scent was soap and sandalwood, above her. Warrick released her mouth. His breath came in short, sharp pants like music to her ears. Intense and exciting. She'd missed him. She'd missed this—and so much more.
Tension stretched tight as Warrick continued to move in her. Blood pounded in her ears. Marilyn's muscles strained. Warrick lifted his head and caught her left nipple with his lips. A jolt shot through Marilyn to her deepest muscles and shook again. Warrick's back arched. His hips crushed into hers—hard. He buried his face into her neck. Marilyn wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he shivered above her. She kissed his throat. In this moment, nothing and no one else existed. It was just the two of them. If only they could stay like this always.
Warrick didn't want to move. He didn't think he could. His body was firmly planted to the ground, warm and relaxed. Beside him, Marilyn stirred, pulling a smile from him. "I'm too old for this."
A wicked grin parted her full lips. "Oh, I don't know. I think you're in your prime."
Warrick chuckled, happier than he'd been in weeks. "I mean too old to be making love on the kitchen floor. I need a bed." He rolled to his feet and stood. He stretched his arms above his head. A movement in his peripheral vision drew his attention to the kitchen window. "What the hell?"
Marilyn sprang into a sitting position. "What's wrong?"
Warrick pulled on his pants. "I saw someone at the window."
"What?" Marilyn snatched her blouse and pressed it against her chest. "Someone was watching us?" She leaned over as though trying to make herself smaller while straining her neck forward to see through the window five feet away.
"Stay inside." Warrick circled Marilyn on his way to the back door.
She wiggled around on the floor, trying to put on her clothes and still remain out of sight. "Wait. I'll come with you."
"No, you won't." Warrick pulled open the door and stepped outside, wearing only his hastily zipped khakis.
He crossed the cedar deck in two long strides, then jumped its four steps and landed lightly on the lush green lawn. He rounded the house toward the left side yard past their vegetable garden. Marilyn had planted lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and other vegetables days after they'd moved into the house two years ago. He must have the best diet in the NBA.
The side yard was empty. Warrick glanced at the kitchen window. The blinds were turned up to allow light in while still protecting their privacy. But, if you stepped closer to the window, you could see the kitchen table. A chill rolled down his spine. Warrick continued to the front of the house. The gate was closed and no one was nearby. The movement outside their window must have been his imagination. He was chasing shadows.
Warrick turned back to his yard—and almost walked into Marilyn.
"Did you see anyone?" She leaned to the left, trying to see around him.
Her thick brown hair was tousled. The straight tresses swung around her shoulders with her every move. Her cream blouse hung loose over her baggy brown slacks and revealed much of her cleavage. Her narrow feet were bare. Her neat toenails, polished silver with multicolored sparkles, peeked from beneath the pant legs.
Marilyn's buttoned-up physician's identity had slipped, exposing his wife's sensuality. He wanted her again.
Warrick swallowed to ease his dry throat. "I asked you to wait inside."
Marilyn stilled, frowning into his eyes. "If there was an intruder, I could help you."
She was fit and toned from regular and strenuous workouts. Still the mental image of her confronting an intruder would keep Warrick awake for weeks. "Help me by calling nine-one-one."
With his hands on her shoulders, he turned Marilyn toward the backyard. Warrick wrapped his right hand around her slender waist and escorted her back to the house.
Excerpted from Keeping SCORE by REGINA HART Copyright © 2012 by Patricia Sargeant-Matthews. Excerpted by permission of Dafina Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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