“I don’t know where to begin, Your Highness.” Andrew’s voice was surprisingly sharp and high-pitched. “But we must get the dragon a toothbrush.”
“A toothbrush?” It was Eric, imitating a king by faking a low, deep voice. “But why?”
“Because… after devouring most of the town,” Andrew was on his knees, crawling across Eric’s bed. “His breath is awful!
“He ate the town?”
“Oh, yes.” Andrew raised himself to be at the level of Eric’s face. “First, he ate the tailor and his wife, then he ate the farmer and his sons, and for dessert…” He gave him a nod. “Come closer.”
Eric lowered his head. “He ate the cobbler,” Andrew whispered in a horrified voice.
“That’s a good idea, you fool.” Eric rumbled with laughter. “Go brush the dragon’s teeth!”
“Me?” Andrew was slinking back from the bed. “But he doesn’t like me, and…he’s huge…and…”
“From a distance, I look like a toothpick.”
Olivia laughed while putting away the dishes even as the voices continued to float out of Eric’s room. She was glad about having brought Andrew to their apartment for dinner. How else would she have known that the big, brawny man did not shy away from playing pretend with a five-year-old or that he had the unexpected ability to modulate his deep voice to resemble that of an elf’s? He had even tried on some of Eric’s hats, settling for the one that fit the role of the dwarf.
It made her chest clench painfully. Eric had no friends. Besides going fishing with her father and hanging out with David and Audrey, he spent most of his time at the bakery. He did not get along with the neighbours’ children, and at the park, he was more interested in the dogs than the people.
Watching him from across the flat, Olivia could not decide what was more stirring: Andrew becoming a child with her son or Eric having the most fun she had ever seen.
Dinner had been less awkward than she had feared. Andrew had praised her beef broccoli more than once and looked a little concerned when she sat at the table stabbing her grilled chicken and vegetables. Later, Eric had dragged him back to his bedroom to play with him.
Her stomach tightened when she caught his eye. Suddenly changing into the grown man that he was, Andrew got down from Eric’s bed.
“I admit,” he gave a little laugh. “I’ve never seen such a neat hat collection.”
“Uh-huh. There’s a lot of them.” Olivia’s eyes glanced around the room. “That’s all he ever wants from anyone.”
“When Audrey said he has about two hundred hats, I thought she was exaggerating,” Andrew said, directing his attention to Eric.
“So you thought I have only twenty hats?” he giggled, looking up at him. “I have way more than that.”
“And very organised too.” He surveyed the room, his gaze rolling across the immaculate arrangement of hats on the walls and windows, interspersed with string lights. “Does your mum help you?”
“Oh, no,” Olivia laughed. “His bedroom is his territory. He lets no one touch the decor.”
She saw a flash of genuine admiration on Andrew’s face, his smile achingly tender when he pulled Eric into his arms. He looked uncannily fresh even after a day at the bakery. Olivia was yet to see him tired or worn-out or needing a minute to catch his breath. While the others looked forward to the lunch break, Andrew preferred to work, slowing down only when there were no more orders to send out.
Not for the first time, she wondered how the kitchen would be in two weeks. They would not need Andrew after their head baker returned, and as much as his presence distracted her, she could not deny the energy and vigour he brought to the whole establishment.
“I’m very impressed with your collection,” Andrew’s voice was warm and endearing. “And your room. It’s the neatest bedroom I’ve ever seen.”
“Mum wouldn’t have it otherwise,” Eric yawned, hiding his mouth behind his hand.
“I’m sure your room is neater than mine.” Olivia rolled her eyes, walking over to the wardrobe to fetch his nightclothes for him. “Come on. Time for bed.”
Andrew watched him take off the crown and put it in the right place. Turning to him, Eric smiled. “I’m happy you came to my house. No one usually wants to hang out with me.”
“Eric…” Olivia handed him the clothes and gently nudged him towards the bathroom. “Brush your teeth.”
“Yes, mum.” He grabbed the clothes and ran out of the room. Andrew rose to his feet.
“Is it true?” he asked. “That no one wants to hang out with him?”
Olivia’s breath came out in a rush. “Can we wait?” She cast a nervous glance at the half-open bathroom door. “I don’t want him to hear us.”
Andrew nodded in understanding but said nothing. He came out to the living room in silence, and from the sofa watched Olivia fussing over Eric. She had not changed out of her clothes yet. He could see the svelte form of her legs, the outline of her derriere, her ample bosom highlighted by the shirt… He did not know what she was thinking when she chose that outfit, but if the purpose was to have a physical effect on him, then she had been mighty successful.
Dinner had been a good distraction, as had playing with Eric. But when he saw Olivia tucking him into bed, kissing his forehead, and turning out the light, his body twitched in anticipation.
“Hey.” She shut the door of the bedroom behind her and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I’m sorry if the dinner was too simple. We usually don’t have guests.”
Tapping the space next to him, Andrew offered a small smile. He could still smell the brioche when she came up to sit beside him and gathered her hands in her lap.
“Now is a good time to answer my question,” he began, crossing his legs to hide the growing pressure in his jeans. “Why doesn’t anyone want to hang out with him?”
“He has problems,” she murmured.
Olivia pressed her temples with her fingertips. “He’s too into his own small world. Hats, books, lights… As if there’s no other world outside. The mere thought of playing with other kids scares him into his own shell.”
“I don’t see a problem there.” Andrew shook his head. “He’s five. His world is supposed to be small. With you busy at the bakery all day, he has to find ways to be occupied, right?”
“So it all comes down to me.” She threw her hands up. “I try my best to encourage him to socialise… But he withdraws around people he doesn’t know, and they end up thinking he’s weird.”
“He seems comfortable at the bakery.”
“That’s different. He’s known that place as long as he’s been in this world.”
She looked at him. “I have no idea why he’s friendly with you. He never makes any attempt to know anyone new.”
“Maybe because I showed interest in his hats.” He met her gaze. “It doesn’t seem like he gets enough appreciation for what he has there.”
“Yeah.” Olivia leaned back and closed her eyes. “That’s also what most people find weird about him.”
“I’m sorry… I wasn’t implying that you don’t do enough.” Reaching for her hand, he held it between his palms. “I think you keep a good balance between the bakery and your son.”
“You’re not using him to get close to me, are you?” she asked, eyes still closed. Andrew let her hand slip.
“What?” he frowned. Olivia swallowed hard.
“You heard me.”
“If that’s what you think, why did you bring me home?”
“I didn’t want to disappoint Eric.” She opened her eyes but looked away. “I’m only sceptical. I know nothing about you.”
“And despite knowing nothing about me, you thought I was evil enough to use a child’s affection to have his mother.” He rose from the sofa and reached for his jacket. “I’m not that desperate, Olivia.
He looked over his shoulder. “I didn’t even know you had a son until my first day at the bakery.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Should it?” Turning around, he clenched his hands. “All I know is that nothing in the world can change the desire I have for you.”
Olivia rose from the sofa, her eyes downcast. “Why me?” she spoke quietly. “You can have anyone.”
Andrew let the jacket drop to the floor. When Olivia looked up, he was inches away from her. “Can I have you?” he purred.
“I did warn you I’m not worth the effort.”
The brittle smile on his lips was accompanied by a gruff snort. “We will never know the truth of those words if you don’t allow me to make any effort at all.” Bridging the space between them, he cupped her face, holding it under intense perusal. Olivia tried to close her eyes but failed, his searing gaze hypnotising her and rapidly heating her blood. “I’m ready to make all the effort to win you.”
“Isn’t that out of character for you?” she breathed. “You don’t chase women. They chase you.”
“So you do know something about me, don’t you?” he sniggered, tracing her cheeks with his fingers. “Imagine the extent of my desire if I’m breaking character.”
“I don’t want you to regret this.”
“I will not.” His hands settled on her hips, tugging at her skirt. “But only if you don’t.”
Olivia stepped back from him, until her spine was grazing the wall.
“I’ve never done it here…” she whispered, eyes darting at Eric’s bedroom, even as her hands slowly pulled down the skirt. “There’s a child in the house… there should be boundaries.”
“I know, but he’s asleep and we’ll be discreet.” He arched a sardonic eyebrow while hunching over her. “I don’t intend to force you into this… If you don’t want it, I will leave right away and nothing will change between us. But I think you can see how the potent heat emanating from you affects me. You have no idea how torturous it has been to keep a hold of myself around you or go home rock hard every damn day.”
A burning hot finger played with the buttons of her shirt. “The last few days, I didn’t even make it that far,” he added on a low, ragged breath. Her resistance dissolved, Olivia sagged against the wall, thighs trembling from the heightened arousal.
“Don’t blame me,” she said, past the point of shame or embarrassment. “Have you any idea what you do to me?”
With a wicked snicker, Andrew put one hand on her hip and sneaked the other between her legs. He was on fire, and even though it was driving him close to insanity, he liked it all the same. Particularly when her hot, sticky honey was screaming readiness.
“I do.” The knickers were pushed off, and she let his hands drift past her hips to explore her womanhood and the inside of her thighs. Her heart raced, her skin burned. When he tore open her shirt, she made a soft, anxious sound.
She was more beautiful than he had imagined her to be. After all these years, Andrew had better control over his urges and needs. He had gone weeks without bedding a woman and had been fine, until he saw Olivia. She made him randy and hot-blooded again, and try as he might, he failed to reason this craving that he did not understand.
“I’m not a gentle lover.” Pressing his body against hers, he lowered his head to kiss her shoulder. “And being around you has considerably thinned my restraint.”
Olivia clutched his arms with trembling fingers, letting him claim her mouth with a ferocity that made her ache. Andrew pulled her hair free and grabbed a fistful of her lustrous mane, pushing her deeper into his mouth. She instinctively wrapped a leg around his hips.
“Do you want this?” he gasped against her lips. “Do you want me to finish what I’ve started?”
“Yes.” Her dry throat barely seemed to work. “But we must be quick. And quiet.”
Andrew nodded, reaching for the wallet inside his pocket. With a condom in hand, he pushed his pants down. Riveted, Olivia watched him fist his hard, pulsing length and stroke in an upward motion. She groaned when fluid leaked from the tip in search of relief and was quickly engulfed by the protective sheath.
“I apologize in advance if I’m rough or hurried.” His lips found her mouth again, and he pinned her to the wall with his hot, impatient body. “I need you too much.”
Her legs parted on instinct, and he positioned himself at her moist opening. “Breathe,” he urged, pushing the bell-end through her opening. A violent shudder shook her body. Dear god, she had not expected him to be so generous in size.
“Oh…” she gasped, hands fighting for purchase. Andrew held her tight, letting his shoulder support her chin while he drove the rest of him into her. Teeth dug into his flesh to muffle a scream. If not for his shirt, she was sure to have drawn blood.
“Are you alright?” The strain in his voice was tremendous, his chest heaving like bellows against her bosom. Olivia managed to nod, helplessly clinging to him.
“It’s been a while.” The words were broken and breathless. She had not been with anyone since Allen left, and even if she had, she was certain it would not have been like this. It became all too clear why women wanted him.
“Don’t fight it.” He pressed a kiss to the side of her face, withdrawing a slight inch before lunging forward again. His pace increased quick, the control weakening, their sweat and scents turning the air around them hot and humid. Gasping for air, she followed his lead, relishing the fullness inside her.
“Oh god… Livia…” Pinning her with his weight, he thrust hard, groans smothered against her skin. “You’re delicious… So wet for me…”
Olivia’s eyes stung, the tension so taut, she felt it might snap any moment. Andrew was not seeing or hearing anymore, the scalding heat of her squeezing muscles luring him closer to release. His thrusts were wild and reckless, the sound of their coupling beyond erotic in the quiet apartment. Her smell filled his nostrils with every breath, goading his lust to unreached heights.
“Not long.” The warning was tremulously whispered against her lips. “Tell me you’re close… Please, Olivia…
She whimpered, glancing at the door of Eric’s room and praying he would not hear them. The telltale signs of imminent release started within her, turning her into a writhing, sobbing mess. Andrew’s hand clamped on her mouth, and when she looked at him, he gave her a shake of his head.
It was too much. Her vision was blackening, and she wanted to cry out in pained pleasure, when all she could really do was mewl through sealed lips.
“That’s it,” he panted, hips uncontrollable. “Come with me, Livia… Let’s do it together…”
Biting down on her lip, Olivia scrunched her eyes, the tears spilling over at the same time as her body shuddered to a violent climax, taking Andrew with her. A strangled groan erupted from him, fingers digging into her thigh as he emptied himself in wrenching spurts.
Stilling, he looked at her, the sight of her tear-soaked face and bleeding lips breaking the heart he’d forgotten he had.
“Shh,” he soothed her trembling body. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
Olivia went limp against him, pressing her quivering mouth into his shoulder. Closing his eyes, Andrew tried to catch his breath, his legs weak from the force of being milked so completely. He remained inside her, sensitive and throbbing, sharing in the aftermath.
“What’s happening?” he spoke into her ear. “Are you hurt?”
When she shook her head, Andrew pulled back to look at her face. He took her mouth in a gentle caress, cleaning her lips off the blood. Rosy, misty-skinned, and radiant, she was a wondrous vision. It made him want to see her like that every day, at the end of the night, at the start of the morning, and anytime in between.
“I’m sorry…” she croaked. “It was just…”
The corner of his mouth curved. “Too intense?”
Nodding, she looked into his eyes. “I didn’t ruin it for you, did I?”
Andrew slowly pulled out of her, letting her flop against the wall. Empty and replete, with mouth as dry as parchment, Olivia attempted to regain some of her strength.
“You cannot ruin anything for me.” He brushed a few locks of hair from her forehead, before brushing her bottom lip with his thumb. “Does it hurt a lot?”
“It’s fine. I can go to work tomorrow with the bruises.” she scoffed.
“Ah, scandalous.” He now traced the contours of her mouth. “You’re the same person who didn’t think she could do this. But here you are…” A hand drifted across the fabric of her bra, lightly touching the sensitive nerve endings. “Thoroughly ravished. And loving it.”
Olivia coloured till the tip of her ears, accepting him when his lips sought hers again. “Stay the night,” she murmured.
“Boundaries,” he reminded her. “As much as I would like your neighbours to know my name, I need us to be somewhere more private. Where I can have you without distractions.” She shivered when he licked the lobe of her ear. “Where we can be loud, because I’m going to make you scream.”
“Saturday…” she gulped audibly. “Eric usually spends Saturdays with my parents. I can… ask them to keep him for the night…”
Andrew’s eyes smiled. “Saturday it is,” he nodded. “At my flat.”
He rolled off the condom, before reaching for his pants. Boneless, Olivia watched him pick her knickers from the floor and hold them out for her. She daintily stepped in, allowing him to pull up the waistband until she was covered. He dipped his head for one last kiss.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Patting her cheek, Andrew headed for the door, grabbing his jacket on the way. His hand stopped at the knob, and he turned to look at her, his face alight with masculine triumph.
“You’re totally worth the effort,” he breathed, seductive promise sparkling in his eyes. Without waiting for her response, he walked away, the door shutting a moment later. Olivia sank to the floor and closed her eyes, sated to her very soul.
“I don’t know where to begin, Your Highness.” Andrew’s voice was surprisingly sharp and high-pitched. “But we must get the dragon a toothbrush.”