Love, Artifacts, and You by Sarah Ready



For the secondtime in my life, my world has changed drastically in less than twenty-four hours. I’m still deep inside Emma and I don’t want to pull out. Ever. She’s mine. I brush another kiss to the corner of her mouth.

Never in my life have I experienced so much pleasure. I never even imagined so much pleasure existed. There was a moment when it felt like the universe stopped expanding, and Emma and I stood still at its center. She’s right, she’s always been my other half.

For this moment right here, I’d spend another dozen years trapped in the mines. Knowing this was on the other side of hell, I’d brave it again a thousand times over. Emma wraps herself around me and leans her head on my shoulder. I kiss her silky hair and breathe in her scent. She still smells like forest leaves, fresh water, and mint. That’s the smell of innocence and love. I shift inside her and realize that I’m ready again. I want her, need her, that much.

“I’m taking you upstairs,” I say.

She nuzzles my neck and I feel her smile against my skin.

I take the stairs two at a time and drop her on the four-poster bed in the master suite. She stretches out on the plush red comforter and gives me a heated look from beneath her eyelashes.

“So, this is where you tie me up?”

She looks around the room. The decorating fits the grandiose style of the old mansion. The four-poster canopy bed is dark wood with a wine red comforter and sheets. There’s a chaise lounge and an antique armoire. Heavy velvet curtains are tied back with gold drapery cords. There’s a stone fireplace with a thick wood mantle and a French impressionist landscape on the wall. On the nightstand next to the bed is a fruit basket, a bottle of wine, a corkscrew and glasses. My suitcase sits on a luggage rack near the armoire. The armoire has a mirror on the door. I look at myself. My face is hard. Even now. My jaw is dark with stubble and my eyes glint. One might say that I don’t look any different than the devil that came out of the mine promising revenge. Except my clothing is wrinkled, my hair sticks straight up, and the edges of my lips curve upward ever so slightly. I’m a new man.

“Do you want to be tied up?” I give a small smile.

Emma looks at the tall wooden beams of the four poster bed. Then she nods yes. A bright red blush covers her from her pink breasts to her cheeks.

I let out a surprised huff. Then I walk over to the curtains and pull the gold tassel cords free. I yank the curtains shut, leaving the room as dark as fallen dusk. At the edge of the bed I slip out of my shoes and socks.

I lean over and switch on the soft yellow light of the bronze and glass table lamp. A small circle of light wicks away the night. I breathe a little easier. I haven’t slept in a completely black room in five years, and even tonight, I can’t face the darkness.

Emma reaches over and fingers my shirt. She starts to pull it up, over my head, but I stay her hand.

“Not yet.”

“But I haven’t seen all of you.” The line between her brow wrinkles as she looks at me still in my clothes.

An uncomfortable feeling moves over me and I roll my shoulders and push the feeling aside. I walk to my suitcase and pull out a silk tie. “You don’t need to see me for what I have in mind.” I keep my voice light and teasing.

Then, just in case she decides to argue, I gently push her back to the bed. “Lay down.”

She settles back into the down comforter. I breathe out in relief. I’m not quite ready to let her see me. Not yet. I’m also not ready to face the dark. Apparently, I haven’t completely left the past behind.

I take the silk tie and wrap it over her eyes so that she’s blind to me.

“Can you see anything?”

“No. Nothing.”

“Good.” I place a kiss on her lips, lingering over the taste of her.

Her hands alight on my shirt and she pulls it up. I let her guide it over my head, then toss it onto the floor. Her fingers brush against my chest. They feel like fire against my bare skin and I suck in a painful breath. I move her hands to my jeans and let her pull them down over my legs. Her fingers drag over my skin and I groan at the painful heat rising from her touch. I kick my jeans to the floor.

“Let me touch you,” she whispers.

I take her hand, kiss each finger, then the center of her palm. Then I put her hand to my heart. It’s one of the few places on my body not covered in a web of thin white scars. My back, my shoulders, my legs, all of it was cut into with a knife. Most of the scars are courtesy of escape attempt number twelve. Some are from the sharp, stabbing rocks of the darkened mine.

Emma presses her palm into my chest and then slowly trails her hand down my abdomen. My heart beat quickens as her hand moves lower. Finally, she grasps my length in her hand.

I groan as she holds me tight. She strokes my length once, then again. Then she bends down and places a kiss on my tip.

My length jerks in her hand and I nearly drop her to the bed and bury myself inside her again.

Instead, I pull her up and kiss her mouth.

“My turn,” I say.

I take her left wrist and run my thumb over the underside. I place a kiss on her pulse, then I tie a loose knot around her wrist and secure it to the bedpost.

I trail my mouth along her arm, over her chest and then up her other arm, until I reach her right wrist. I secure it to the opposite post.

I work my way down her body. Touching her, drifting my hands over her, kissing her soft skin. I lick her breasts and she arches her back, offering them up to me. Then I work my way down the dip of her stomach, her lush thighs, her calves, all the way to her ankles. I kiss the inside of her ankle and tie another knot around her. I secure it to the bottom bedpost. Then I lift her other leg, drag my fingers along the inside of her calf, and kiss her there. I tie her final leg and knot it to the bedpost. When I’m done I look at her spread out beneath me. Her arms are open, her breasts are laid out before me, her legs are spread wide with her completely open to me.

She’s panting. Her chest rises and falls in rapid, needy breaths. She looks like a gift from heaven, and she’s offering herself to me. Completely and without reservation.

A wild, possessive need sweeps through me. One that urges me to claim her, again and again.

“Andrew,” she whispers.

“I’m here.”

And then I begin my onslaught. I touch her in all her sensitive places. I drag my fingers up her calves to the inside of her thighs. She raises her hips. I move on to her breasts. I lick them and suck them, I drag them between my teeth until she cries out for more. I move up to her neck, where I find her pulse point, and I wrap my lips around her and suck. She bucks up, so I lay my body across hers. Feel the heat of her under me. My length throbs against her, aching to be back inside. I run my fingers through her hair and pull her braid free.

I push into her and she lifts her hips again. “Andrew,” she cries. She strains against the arm restraints. “I need to touch you.”

“Not yet.”

“I need to see you.”

I move down, trailing kisses over her stomach.

“Not yet.”

She lifts her hips again and lets out a low cry.

“Trust me?”

She lifts her hips again. “Yes.”

I place my mouth over her swollen clit and suck. She lets out a sob and bucks against me. I hold her hips in place and run my tongue over her. Then I send a finger inside her. She’s wet and tight and hot. I move my tongue over her and taste her pleasure. Every cry, every lift of her hips sends a jolt of happiness through me.

“Andrew!” she shouts, and her voice is hoarse with pleasure.

I pull hard on her clit and she convulses around my finger. I keep licking her, drinking in her pleasure until her spasms fade and she collapses back to the bed.

I look down at her. Her skin is flushed pink, it sheens with sweat, she has red marks on her thighs from my stubble, and there’s the beginning of a purple love bite on her neck. She’s so beautiful my heart could burst.

And because she can’t see me and can’t touch me, I let my face relax and reveal how much I would give up for her. How much I love her.

“I’m going to love you now,” I whisper.

Then I lay over her and slowly push inside her.

When I do, my chest expands and I feel like I’m coming alive again. Coming into the light.

Inch by excruciating inch I settle myself inside her until I’m fully buried.

She gasps and I swear. I didn’t imagine it when I made love to her in the kitchen. When I’m inside her, it feels like I’m in the center of the universe, touching the sun. I’m burning up from the heat of her.

I pull out and groan as her slick walls clench me. I can’t think. I only know I need to be inside her again. So I start a rhythm, bury myself in her, find the sun. Pull out to the darkness. Plunge in her again and see the light. Until finally, even when I pull out, I’m so connected to her that the light’s always there.

“Please,” she cries.

When I try to pull out, she lifts her hips, keeping me inside her. She tightens down on me again and I feel the beginnings of another orgasm. She’s clenching around me, tighter and tighter. Until I feel the cum moving up my length, aching to fill her. She clamps down on me and I shout out. Stars burst in my vision until the room is full of bright white light.

I roar as she convulses around me. A cataclysm of pleasure engulfs me as I pour myself into her. Everything I have. Everything I am.

The room is bathed in light.

I collapse to the bed and stay buried deep inside her.

Finally, my heart slows and the room fades back to semi-darkness.

“My word.”

“Thank you,” she whispers and I see a tear slide from beneath the silk tie.


I reach down and untie her ankles, then her wrists. Before she can pull the tie free from her eyes, I pull the blankets over us. Then I turn her into my chest and wrap my arms around her. She lifts the tie free and tosses it aside.

When she looks up at me, her eyes are luminous and I can see the golden stars there.

“Don’t ever leave me again,” she says.

I kiss her brow. “I won’t. I promise.”

It’s not me that I’m worried about leaving. She has more reason to leave than I do. I shift her closer.

“Tell me more about this soul mate prediction.”

She makes a happy sound and wiggles her backside into me.

“There’s a lady in town. Apparently, she’s predicted hundreds of soul mates. She’s never wrong. She told me my soul mate would come to me if I started looking for the Lost Treasure. I prayed it was you. Even though I didn’t think it could come true, I prayed it would.”

I stroke my fingers through Emma’s hair and think about what she said. “What does she mean ‘soul mate’?”

“You know. That one person in the world who makes you feel as if you’ve finally come home. Like after a lifetime of darkness, there’s light in the world again.”

My heart stops then starts again at her words.

“A soul mate is your perfect match. The solution to your Gordian knot.”

I smile at her ancient Greek history reference. She’s describing exactly how I feel about her. I press another kiss into her hair.

“You think that’s you and me?”

She looks back at me. “Who else?”

I think of the engagement ring back at her cabin. “There’s no one else?”

“No.” She looks into my eyes and the hazel bleeds into the gold. “I love you.”

A sharp jolt hits me in the chest and for a moment I can’t breathe. By the look on her face I know she’s waiting for me to say it back. And I want to. With everything in me, I want to.

But I can’t.

She didn’t tell me about the ring. She lied by omission.

I can’t tell her about the dark, or my scars. Or her father’s role in my abduction.

Suddenly, I can see that although we’re lying naked together, there’s a chasm between us.

The words “I love you” are stuck in the darkness inside me. Unable to reach the light.

There’s a deep-seated fear stopping me from laying myself completely bare.

“I love you,” she says again.

I squeeze her to me. “I know.”

A heaviness settles over me and for some reason, a foreboding too. Like the feeling I had when I held The Heart in the cave.

“Tomorrow we’ll look for the Lost Treasure together. Just like old times.”

“That sounds perfect,” Emma says, but there’s a hint of sadness in her voice.

“Let’s go to sleep.”

“Should I get the light?”

I shake my head. “No. Leave it on.”