She paces the floor away from him. Suddenly the confines of the study feels stifling. The cologne wafting off his heated flesh usually causes her nostrils to flare from arousal. Now the scent is suffocating.
"You told me you were done," she finally manages to say.
He struggles to control his ragged breaths. "I ... I am," he shudders, rocking back on his heels against the thrill still vibrating through him.
"Then why is there blood on your shirt? On your hands?" Ell swallows at the lump in her throat. "In your hair?"
He lifts his large sticky hands to the light. Most of it has dried in caked patches on his palms.
"How long before you do that to me?"
"Never," Thomas says moving with a quickness that startles her into the side chess table.
The thought scares him more than her. "I would never, ever hurt you."
Even though they are five feet apart, in the dimly lit room she can see that his eyes have darkened.
"I'm going to wash and change," he explains. "And we'll talk in the living room once we've calmed down.
We've both have had a long night."
It takes every ounce of her will to move from the table, but she does. Her eyes are beginning to burn and she feels the familiar ache of oncoming tears. Ell puts up her hands defensively even though he has yet to advance, and lets the words slip from her lips with a hiss: "I can't do this anymore."
He goes eerily still. But she can feel it ... the electricity. It's causing all of the hairs along her nape to rise.
Her heart rate doubles. Triples. Her mouth goes dry as her lover’s handsome face hardens in anger.
He shakes his head in warning. "Don't."
"Please let -" she is three strides away from the door. "Let me go."
"I can't do that. You know that."
Her senses are heightening. Ell can hear the tick of the grandfather clock, the faint sound of music carrying from the ballroom, the rustle of the leaves in the cool November breeze just below the window, the beat of her own heart thudding in her ears. Her panic jumpstarts her adrenaline and her body shivers from its potency.
He can smell her mixture of arousal and fear. It's flooding his system and pulling at his groin and the urge to take her right now intoxicates him. Ell's lifts her shaky hands to ward him off and her nerves cause them to wave at him as she slips back another step.
He remembers how her hands felt braced against his thighs this morning as he poured himself into her. How they dug into his flesh when she cried out in pleasure. Those hands mock him now as they rise to shield her. Her. Ell. His Ella.
"Ella," Thomas finally sighs. "Please. Please come to me," he says stretching out a gentle hand to her.
Her eyes widen in horror and she shakes her head in protest. "No." She feels the hard door suddenly at her back. She has reached the limit of the room.
She knows he can pounce on her in two seconds. With the door closed, she may be able to clear the hallway. She lifts herself out of her heels. Clear the front door.
Her car is parked at the end of the lane. Shit. He can clock 60 miles per hour on that kind of leveled terrain. She would have to be clever. Evasive. Faster than her best self on her best day.
Thomas cocks his head as if he is trying to listen to her thoughts.
"Ella," he says slowly, sounding out each syllable. "Don't," he warns again. "If you run ..." He closes is eyes and when he opens them they are glowing with danger. "I will be forced to give chase. The house is full of guests. You don't want that."
Ell takes a long deep breath, pulling it in through her nose and blowing it out in a whoosh through her lips. "Okay," she decides.
"Okay?" Thomas’ shoulders sag with relief. "You had me worried," he says, rushing a hand across his face.
Ell whips the large oak door open. The weight of it flings her into the adjacent wall as she slams it. She is barreling down the hall on the balls of her feet in lightening speed. Ell is almost to the landing of the stairs when she hears the wooden doorframe of the study explode off its hinges.
"Ella!" Thomas rages.
She's clearing the steps - two, three, four at a time. She wants to scream for help but is afraid of whom may join him in his pursuit. Her feet bang onto the base of the wooden stairs and she is rounding the corner to the main corridor when Thomas leaps from the second floor straight to the first, bypassing the winding staircase all together.
She doesn't turn because she knows he's there. Close, closer. She hears his two feet moving swiftly. The front door is racing toward her. Twenty feet ... Fifteen ... The noise behind her is changing. The sound of hard running feet switch to ... Ten feet away ... She stretches out her hand for the doorknob. Five feet ... She can feel him ... The sound of his feet bang to the floor one last time ... And ... Her hand closes on the knob ... She hears the sound of paws skittering across the floor.
Ell flings the glass door open ... His growl rips into her space ... and she and her love Thomas go tumbling out into the cold night air.