Stolen By A Sinner: Chapter 25

Lara

Just because I can, I go sit outside by the swimming pool when Nisa turns in for the night.

Pulling up my leggings to beneath my knees, I carefully dip my legs into the cool water and wiggle my toes.

This is nice.

I glance over at the flowers, illuminated by the garden lights, thinking how mystical everything looks at night.

Once again, my chest fills with gratitude, my lips curving up at how happy I feel.

I wish my mom could’ve experienced this before she died.

You were right, Mom. Fairytales do come true.

I glance up at the dark window of Gabriel’s bedroom, thinking how handsome he looked in the tuxedo. He’s pure power and testosterone.

My heart flutters, and I quickly dip my chin to hide the shy smile.

I don’t know what to do with the emotions and attraction he makes me feel, and I can’t talk to Nisa about it.

I love the way his face transforms whenever he smiles. It always makes my stomach flip-flop.

Mostly, I love how his eyes fill with satisfaction whenever I do something that pleases him.

God, I hope I never disappoint him.

“Want some company?” Gabriel suddenly asks.

My head snaps up, and I watch as he walks closer. He’s still wearing his suit pants and dress shirt, but he’s removed the jacket.

My lips instantly curve up, and I nod.

He rolls up his pants, and sitting down next to me, he dips his legs into the water. His arm presses against mine, then he glances down at me. “How was your evening?”

“I got to make a batch of Turkish delight,” I tell him, glad to have finally gotten it right.

Looking into his gold eyes, my heart starts to beat faster.

“Do you like cooking and baking?” he asks, his gaze drifting over my face with a peaceful expression. It makes me feel safe.

“Very much.” My smile grows. “I like everything Nisa Hanim and Elya Hanim teach me.”

He stares at me for a moment, then murmurs, “It must be overwhelming for you.”

Wiggling my toes in the water, I tilt my head. “What?”

“Experiencing everything all at once.”

It is, but I’m slowly learning to deal with it. Glancing down at the water, I wiggle my toes again, loving the feel of the water.

“You should swim,” Gabriel mentions.

“I can’t.” I shrug, then admit, “But one day, I’d like to learn.”

“Do you have a bathing suit?”

I shake my head, then my eyes widen as Gabriel starts to unbutton his dress shirt. He pulls the fabric off his shoulders and sets it down on the paving.

Holy crap.

I stare at his muscled chest, my mouth going dry from the sight.

My lips part as he removes a gun from behind his back, dropping it next to his shirt. I watch as the muscles in his arms, shoulders, and back move when he slips into the water.

My abdomen tightens so much, I quickly press a hand to it. My heart keeps skipping beats.

“Get in,” Gabriel orders.

“What?” I gasp, still in shock from seeing his bare chest.

“Get in the water, Lara.” His tone leaves no room for argument, the command sending a wave of tingles through me.

Unable to deny him, I scoot a little closer. My hands grip the paving around the pool, and then a shriek leaves me as Gabriel grabs hold of my waist. I’m tugged forward and slam into his body, water splashing around us.

Gasping from the cold, my hands find his shoulders, and I hold on for dear life.

“It will get warmer,” he says as he moves us away from the side.

Feeling awkward, I try not to hold onto him so tightly, but then he says, “Take a deep breath.”

After I’ve inhaled deeply, he pulls me down beneath the water. It’s only for a couple of seconds before our heads break through the surface again. Not thinking, I wrap my arms around his neck as I suck in a deep breath of air. The warmth from his body seeps into mine, making my stomach do a series of flip-flops.

When his hand brushes up and down my back, I realize I’m practically plastered against him. I quickly pull my arms back and let my hands drift through the warming water.

My eyes focus on his attractive face, the drops spiraling over his skin. With my heart scampering off at a crazy pace, I stare at Gabriel, who looks more handsome than ever.

He has one arm tightly wrapped around my lower back, and without much effort, he moves us through the water.

“How does it feel?” His voice is low and deep, the timbre vibrating through my body.

Incredible.

“Good.” I try to focus on the water caressing my skin, then my lips curve up. “I feel weightless.”

He brushes his hand through his hair, making him look hotter. I quickly glance away, staring at all the garden lights.

You need to calm down before he notices how attracted you are to him.

His voice is softer when he asks, “Do you trust me?”

Slowly, I bring my gaze back to his. I’m not holding onto him. He could let go of me any second, and I would drown. But I know he won’t do that.

I still fear him because he has the power to end this beautiful life he’s given me. But I also feel safe with him because he has never hurt me.

I know it’s only been a month and a half since I came to live here, and a lot can change at any moment, but my survival instinct tells me Gabriel meant it when he said he wouldn’t hurt me.

“Yes.”

Emotion wells in my chest at the realization. I trust these people who’ve become like family to me.

I’m really safe with them.

Lowering my eyes, I’m met with the sight of Gabriel’s broad shoulders and some of his muscled chest. There’s a crazy fluttering in my heart, all my insides tightening as a wave of attraction hits again.

I’ve never experienced these emotions. They leave me feeling inexperienced and confused.

“What are you thinking?” he asks, the low tone of his voice making everything feel intimate, as if he’s pulling me under a magical spell.

My voice is soft as I admit, “I feel stupid.”

“Look at me,” he demands, and my eyes dart up to meet his. There’s a serious expression on his face. “Why do you feel stupid?”

Because I’m feeling all these things for you, and they’re overwhelming. I don’t want to do anything that will risk my staying here, and I don’t know what to do.

Not willing to admit the truth, I answer, “Everything is new, and I don’t know how to process it all.”

Gabriel pulls me against his body, and his arms wrap me in a tight hug. His manly scent is in every breath I take, the heat from his body warming mine.

God, it feels magical to be in his arms.

“It will take some time, but you’ll get used to everything.” He clears his throat, then adds, “And you’re not stupid, just innocent. There’s a difference.”

Unable to resist, I wrap my arms around his neck again. I close my eyes and relish in the feel of his embrace. It’s soothing, secure, and… perfect.

“What’s the difference?” I ask as I carefully splay my fingers over his warm skin. Tingles sap through my nerve endings, making goosebumps erupt over my body.

“Innocence is when you just haven’t had the opportunity to experience things. It’s actually rare.” He pulls back until our eyes lock. “I like it.”

When I see the truth in his eyes, a smile spreads over my face.

My hands have shifted to his shoulders, and before I know what I’m doing, they drift down to his biceps to take in the feel of his arms.

God, so much strength and golden skin.

The veins. Sigh. The veins.

Realizing what I’m doing, I yank them away from his skin, my cheeks flushing.

Gabriel tilts his head to catch my eyes, then asks, “Why are you blushing?”

I quickly shake my head, pressing my lips together so the secret won’t escape them.

“Lara.” There’s a warning tone to his voice, then he demands, “Tell me.” The order is filled with dominance.

Once again, I’m unable to disobey him. I squeeze my eyes shut. “Touching you feels intimate.”

“Are you uncomfortable?”

I shake my head.

That’s the last thing I feel.

“Do you feel it’s wrong?”

I open my eyes, and frowning, I answer, “No, that’s not what I meant.”

Gabriel moves us back to the side of the pool, then he takes hold of my hips, and without any effort, he lifts me out of the water and sets me down on the paving.

With his hands still on my sides, he looks up at me. A predatory look shutters his eyes, then he mutters, “Put on my shirt.”

As I reach for the dry fabric, I glance down. Seeing my own shirt is practically see-through, an intense wave of self-consciousness hits. I quickly shove my arms through the sleeves of his shirt and cover myself.  

Instead of getting out, Gabriel pushes away from the side, his body gliding through the water. Only when he’s on the other side of the pool does he turn to look at me. “Don’t mistake gratitude for something it’s not.”

Huh?

Shaking my head, I admit, “I don’t understand.”

Gabriel lifts himself out of the pool and sits on the other side. With the light shining on him, I have a clear view of his muscled chest and abs, and Lord help me, his strong arms.

He’s breathtaking.

I’m well aware of the weapon lying next to me and know it’s a test. Gabriel is checking to see whether I’d shoot him if I got the chance.

That will never happen.

“I didn’t save you, Lara. I shot you and stole you from Mazur, hoping you’d be able to give me information on him.”

I still don’t understand.

Letting out a sigh, Gabriel wipes the water from his face. “Don’t make me out to be the hero, because that’s the last thing I am. You’re grateful and experiencing life for the first time. Don’t confuse that emotion for more.”

My eyebrows pinch together. “I’m even more confused now.”

Gabriel gets up, and the wet fabric of his suit pants hangs so low on his hips, there’s a V carved into his hips, pointing down. My mouth goes bone dry, and there’s an intense tightening in my abdomen.

Wow.

I can’t tear my eyes away from his beauty as he walks around the pool. Stopping in front of me, he holds out his hand, and once I’ve placed mine in his, he tugs me onto my feet.

He leans down, his eyes burning on mine. “You look at me as if I’m becoming your entire world, Lara. Don’t mistake gratefulness for love.”

Oh…

OHHHH.

Having been caught out with the silly infatuation I have for him, awkwardness and embarrassment wash over me. I pull my hand from his and nodding, I quickly turn around and walk toward the house.

Oh. My. God.

I’m going to die of embarrassment. I’ve been drooling over him, and he knows.

Kill me now.

My chest fills with a weird pressure, all the happiness being sucked into it until I feel empty.

“Lara!”

I stop on the spot, my body tensing.

Please, please, please, I just need to shove my head under a pillow until the mortification disappears.

I hear Gabriel behind me, and taking a deep breath for strength, I turn to face him.

There’s a dark frown on his face, and it makes my heart sink. He stops in front of me, his eyes locking with mine.

“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you.”

Lowering my head, I nod, almost saying, ‘yes, sir.’

He lifts a hand to my chin, nudging my face up so I’ll look at him. The touch is too much at the moment, making my bottom lip tremble.

I swallow hard on the embarrassment still whirling in my chest.

Gabriel shakes his head, his eyes softening on me. “Jesus, this is hard.” Pulling his hand away from my face, he takes a step back before his gaze finds mine again. “I’m just saying to not mistake one emotion for the other.”

He looks uncomfortable as well, and I start to worry, I’ve really gone and ruined things between us. I can’t keep the words back and whisper, “I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head, giving me an incredulous look. “What for?”

“For making you feel uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to do that.” My shoulders slump, and I wrap my arms around my middle, lowering my eyes to the cobblestones beneath my bare feet. “It wasn’t my intention for you to find out.”

No one was supposed to find out. I’ve barely had time to explore the things he makes me feel and none whatsoever to enjoy them.

Again he nudges my chin up. His eyes search mine, then he seems to realize something. “You really like me?”

I nod, my arms tightening around me. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop it.”

“Don’t!” As I blink at his strong response, he adds, “There’s nothing wrong with it, Lara. You’re allowed to feel whatever you want. I just don’t want you confusing your emotions for something they’re not.”

“It’s really new,” I admit.

His hand moves to my shoulder, and he pulls me against his bare chest. My eyes drift shut from how good it feels as he hugs me. His chin rests on the top of my head. “If you’re ever unsure, you can talk to me about it.”

I nod, my cheek brushing against his warm skin.

When Gabriel pulls back, I feel better and not as embarrassed.

“Thank you,” I whisper. I gesture to the house. “Can I go inside?”

“Yes.” Gabriel takes a step back, giving me a full view of his bare chest and the damp pants clinging to his strong legs.

Before he can see the strength of the attraction I feel for him, I quickly turn around and dart into the house. I don’t stop until I reach the safety of my bedroom, and placing a hand over my heart, I try to calm the frantic organ down.

So, am I allowed to like him or not?

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