ONE – STORM TOSSED
The windows of Anthony Frost’s loft bedroom shook with excitement. Tony couldn’t tell if it was from the storm or the love-making.
Jenni Malone arched her back and panted as she rode him. She looked so lovely there in the darkness, distant flashes of lightning illuminating her thin body, tan lines dappling her skin in the dim glow. He circled his hands around her waist, caressed her sides, and then reached up and squeezed her small breasts.
She cooed and leaned forward and kissed him. He ran his hands around to her back and crushed her body to his. Jenni ground her hips into him, making soft grunting sounds. He felt the fire begin to well up within his loins. He caressed her soft, dirty-blond hair, pulling her mouth to his. She kissed him. Their tongues met in the moist darkness and danced together. She circled his head with her hands, running her fingers through his short-cropped black hair.
She pulled her face away from his and gazed into Tony’s purple eyes. He smiled at her. She smiled back, her green-blue eyes glittering in the storm’s light.
“I love you, Tony,” she whispered in a soft, husky voice.
“I love you, too, Buttercup,” he replied breathlessly. His mouth found hers again.
She lingered only a moment, sucking his lower lip between hers. Then she pulled away, arched her back, and rode him once more, this time increasing her pace.
Tony groaned and rolled his head back on the pillow. He grabbed her hips and gently pushed her ass into him. Jenni sighed. Sweat began to form a thin sheen on her skin. He caressed up her side and found her breasts once more. His fingertips painted gentle circles on her warm brown areolas.
She gasped and said, “Squeeze my nipples.”
He did, gently rolling her nipples between his fingers. Jenni’s hands played down her own body, expertly touching just the right spots to heighten her excitement. She found her crotch and began to rub.
“Oh, God, Tony! Oh, God!”
Even in the dim light, he could see her face begin to flush with the onrush of orgasm. Soon she was bucking her hips and screaming, riding the wave of her climax.
Tony grabbed her hips and held on, thrusting up to meet her.
She collapsed against him, panting heavily, her moist hair brushing across his face.
She chuckled softly. “Mmm. Your turn now.” She kissed him lightly on the lips.
He wrapped his arms around her and rolled her onto her back. Jenni spread her legs wider and locked her ankles behind his ass. She stretched up her arms and gripped the brass rails of the headboard with her hands.
“C’mon, Tiger,” she purred. “Come for me.”
Tony leaned on his elbows and pressed into her. She gasped with every thrust.
“Oh, yes! Oh, yes, baby! C’mon, baby!”
He silenced her with a kiss, their tongues momentarily intertwined. She squeezed him with her legs, and he moaned, his breath mingling with hers. Their mouths slid apart, and he panted into her ear as his own orgasm approached. She teased his left earlobe with her teeth and then sucked on his neck.
“Oh, Jenni!” he gasped. “Oh, Jenni!”
Then the world became white fire, and his senses reeled. He thrust deep as he climaxed; Jenni’s head swayed dizzily. She let go of the bedrails and grabbed his ass, holding him inside her.
For a moment they were one.
And then they shuddered, and it was over. He collapsed on top of her, burying his head in the pillow beside hers. For a moment they lay there, their bodies quivering. She kissed him gently on the neck.
He let out his breath in one long, low groan. Then he wrapped his arms around Jenni and hugged her.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Any time,” she replied.
They kissed again. Outside the thunder receded into the distance.
After Jenni had fallen asleep, Tony got out of bed. She shivered as he left, and he paused briefly to cover her nude body with a blanket. He gave her shoulder a gentle caress as he went.
He walked downstairs, his bare feet making almost no sound on the soft wall-to-wall carpeting. Far away, he heard the thunder still booming over Lake Superior. He picked his way carefully through the clutter of his living room studio, avoiding the easel and stacked canvases.
I must clean this up one day, he thought—but he knew it wouldn’t happen. He just never had the time or inclination to put his art materials away. And though he had access to money, both from his own work and his family’s considerable wealth, Tony Frost had never been big on maids or servants.
He was a loner, and glad of it. Though not as glad lately as he might have been.
He went to the fireplace and removed a rock from the mantle. The stone slid out of its resting place easily. The masonry was seamless; when the rock had been replaced, no one would suspect a hole hid behind it. Tony chuckled. Despite his efforts to distance himself from his family, it seemed he hadn’t entirely avoided their love of secrets.
He reached into the recess where the rock had been and pulled out a small box. Royal blue velvet covered the box’s exterior, and it had a golden hinge on one side.
Tony opened the box, revealing the diamond ring inside. It wasn’t a large ring by Frost standards, certainly nothing compared to some of Aunt Brittany’s rocks, but he didn’t want it to be. Tony wanted a ring that said commitment without being a shackle. He wanted one that said love without saying possession. He wanted one that said he was well off, but had earned the money to pay for it on his own. In short, he wanted a ring that said it came from him, not from his station or family.
His hand shook slightly as he took the ring from the box and looked at it. The lightning over the lake flashed through the sliding glass doors of the A-frame and reflected off the diamond’s many facets.
The stone turned the blue-white light into a warm rainbow of colors. The white gold of the ring and its setting felt warm in Tony’s hand.
So perfect, he thought.
He thought of the woman he loved sleeping upstairs. He smiled—and then frowned. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. He closed his hand around the ring and rested his chin on his fist. The stubble of his beard scratched his knuckles like sandpaper.
Tony put the ring in its bed and placed the box back inside his hiding place. Once he’d replaced the stone, there remained no evidence the ring even existed.
The air in the room suddenly felt close around him. Outside, the waning storm and fresh air beckoned.
Tony found his sweatpants and shirt from where he’d cast them before chasing Jenni upstairs. He slipped them on, put sandals on his feet, and then snuck out the glass doors onto the balcony.
He padded down the wooden steps from the deck to the beach and walked to the waterline. Waves from the storm surge still sucked greedily at the sand. A south wind tugged at his hair, as if urging him out into the lake. Though it was warm for the time of year, Tony knew enough to stay out of the water after such a storm.
He started walking southwest along the beach, toward Wind Point. The curve of the peninsula hid the lights of Frosthaven from his view. Behind him, to the northeast, deep forests and high cliffs sheltered his ancestral home, Frost Hall—or Frost Harrow, as Tony liked to call it.
He’d chosen the site for his A-frame with great care, making sure to keep well out of sight from both the watchful eyes of the town and his family. Right now, he felt glad of the seclusion.
Tony’s mind roiled and bubbled as much as the nearby surf. He knew what was the right thing to do. He wanted to give Jenni the ring more than anything. They’d been together, off and on, for a long while. She was his favorite model and the best lover he’d ever had. The two of them fit together as closely as pieces of a puzzle. So, what was holding him back?
Fear, he realized. Fear of commitment. I’ve been alone for so long, I’m not sure I know how to live with someone else.
He half decided to turn back to the house, now only a dim triangle against the darker woods beyond the beach, but something pushed him on.
I need to do it, before I lose my nerve, he thought. But he kept walking.
The waves lapping at the beach flicked at his feet like snake tongues and sent cool spray into his face. The soft breath of the wind filled his lungs with the aftertaste of the storm. In the distance, thunder boomed.
Then, in a flash of lightning, he saw something up the beach. Something large and pale and wet.
A second flash confirmed what his mind had told him.
The object was a body—a woman’s body.