I pushed my way through the crowded room, my body exhausted by the time I got to the exit. I reached out for the handle, but was yanked backwards as my fingers brushed the cool metal.
"Where do you think you're going?"
I tried to scream, but no sound came out. I fought as hard as I could, but it was no good. My ribs felt like they were going to break. I was struggling to breathe, and my vision was going blurry.
"You will always be mine. I'm never letting you go."
His hot breath tickled my ears, and this time I screamed, tears running down my face.
"Sophie, Sophie wake up."
I sat up and gasped for air, clawing at my throat. I felt arms holding me, and I shouted, pushing them away and scrambling off the bed.
"Shh, it's ok. You had a nightmare."
James turned the bedside light on and I froze on the floor, tangled in the sheet. He moved towards me cautiously, his face filled with concern.
"You're safe with me. Don't worry."
I reached out, and he lifted me up, cuddling me into his warm body. I didn't even realise I was crying till he wiped tears from my face.
A loud clap of thunder made me jump, lightning illuminating the sky.
"Shh, it's fine." He muttered, kissing the top of my head.
"I need a shower."
I'd learnt it was the best way to ground myself after a nightmare. I tried to stand up, but my legs were like jelly. James caught me, and he stood up with me in his arms.
"I'm fine, I can walk..."
"Let me look after you." He whispered, as another crash of thunder made me jump.
I nodded, and he carried me into the bathroom. He placed me carefully on the toilet and brushed my hair back from my face.
"Would you prefer a bath?"
I shook my head.
"It has to be a shower, that's the only thing that helps."
I knew I was talking, but I felt so disconnected that it was like I was watching someone else.
James nodded and wandered into the massive wet room. I heard running water, and then steam was filling the space.
My eyes were stinging as I made my way underneath the showerhead. The water washed over me and I closed my eyes. It felt like all my disturbing thoughts and memories were being rinsed away.
"Do you want to be by yourself?" James asked.
I opened my eyes as water cascaded over both of us.
He was looking at me with so much love and devotion. I couldn't remember the last time anyone had looked at me that way. I slowly raised my hand till I was touching his cheek.
"Stay." I whispered, pressing my body into him.
"You don't have to do that." he said, his voice trailing off as I rubbed my hand over his cock.
"Help me forget." I muttered, burrowing my face into his chest.
I moved my lips over his neck, gently kissing him till I reached his mouth.
"I need you to make me feel better." I whispered, my lips brushing over his.
He let out a quiet moan as I rubbed my thumb over the tip of his cock. Then his mouth was against mine, and we were kissing as if our lives depended on it.
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as he hoisted me up and pushed me against the wall. Our bodies were sliding together as the water rained down over us, although he somehow kept a firm grip of me.
He reached between my legs, his thumb caressing my clit as his fingers plunged into my hot core. Pleasure filled every part of me, and I squeezed his cock.
Hearing him moan my name was the most erotic thing I'd ever heard. He moved his hand to his erection, and I lifted myself as he eased inside me.
Then we were fucking hard, each thrust ripping through me as I dug my nails into his shoulders. His lips pressed to my throat, the water making them slide over my skin. Heated pleasure tore through me as I cried out, my core contracting around him.
A loud groan escaped his mouth as he held himself deep inside me, and I felt the warm sensation of his release. James buried his face into my neck, softly kissing me as my hips jerked against him.
After a few minutes, he dropped to the tiled floor. I wrapped my body around him, and he held me tightly, neither of us saying a word.
The thunderstorm was directly over us by the time we were back in bed.
My head was resting on James's chest, and he was playing with my hair. He'd opened the curtains, and the view was pretty impressive. Multiple bolts of lightning lit up the sky, turning the darkness purple and white. The rain was falling so heavily you could almost hear it over the loud crashes of thunder.
"Do you often have nightmares like that?" James asked, his voice husky.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
"Not as many as I use to."
I felt his body tense against mine.
"I'll never forget seeing you like that, I felt helpless."
I sat up so I could see his face, worried that I'd freaked him out so much that he wouldn't want me anymore.
We were growing closer, and I knew that was what had triggered my dream. Tommy was so interwoven in my psyche. I couldn't ever escape him.
"Don't apologise. I just hated seeing you so scared."
A loud clap of thunder made me wince, and James reached for my hand.
"What happened to you? You can trust me, Soph. I want to know."
I felt like I owed him some sort of explanation, but there were a million reasons I couldn't tell him about Tommy. It was far too dangerous, and I knew James would want to try to fix everything.
"I don't enjoy talking about it."
He caught my hand in his and kissed my knuckle.
"I understand that, but it might help. You were shouting some stuff out as well, you said the name Tommy."
My whole body stiffened at the mention of his name. James's face flashed in realisation, and he pulled me into his arms.
"What did he do to you? Tell me now."
I hesitated, reluctant to lie. Maybe if I told him a few details, he would drop the subject.
"He was violent and abusive. It wasn't a good relationship, that's why I can't bear talking about it."
James swore, his jaw set and his eyes blazing with anger.
"What happened? Is he in prison now?"
I shook my head and laughed bitterly.
"Men like him don't go to prison. I was lucky to get away, and I'm even luckier to still be alive."
James tilted my face so he could look in my eyes.
"Is that why you went to New York?"
I nodded, and he shook his head in disgust.
"Who is he? I'm going to find him and make him wish he was dead."
He was furious, I almost didn't recognise him as the man that had comforted me moments ago. I had expected him to be angry, but not on this level. It was another sign that we were getting too close and too involved.
"I'm not telling you. He's dangerous, and I won't let you put yourself at risk for me." I said, shaking my head.
James moved away from me and sat on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. He was struggling with his temper, the same way he had when that guy had harassed me on the dancefloor.
"Tell me his full name."
He practically growled at me, and a shiver ran down my spine.
"If you keep asking, I'm going to go. I don't want you to get involved."
He turned and stared at me, his eyes dark with anger.
"I can't ignore this, Sophie. If there is someone out there who has enjoyed hurting you, then I'm going to find him and make him suffer. I have to."
I froze, completely taken aback by the intensity of his response.
"He's not worth it. Don't waste your time even thinking about him."
He shook his head in disagreement.
"You are worth it, Sophie."
His voice trailed off, and we both went quiet. I crawled across the bed and wrapped my arms around his back.
"Please leave it, James. I'm fine, it's the past."
His whole body was tight, but as I stroked the smooth skin of his stomach, he relaxed.
He unwrapped my arms and turned, pulling me onto his lap.
"I'd do anything for you. You know that, don't you?"
My heart felt like it was going to explode. His fierce protectiveness was such a turn on, especially after the way Tommy had treated me.
"Then please, stop asking me about it." I pleaded.
A conflicted look passed over his face.
"If that's what you want, then I'll respect it." He finally muttered, kissing me lightly on the mouth.
Georgia had listened as I'd told her what happened last night. I was careful to keep my voice low, so we couldn't be overheard.
"What are you going to do now?" She said, turning to her side so we were facing each other.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"I don't know. James was acting strangely this morning. It's like he feels sorry for me now. We didn't even have sex…'
She nodded, and I felt relief that she understood.
"Maybe he needs some time. It's not nice seeing you have one of those nightmares."
That was the last thing I wanted.
"I don't want his pity." I sighed.
Georgia leaned over and squeezed my hand.
"Have you seen the way he looks at you? He's totally hot for you. Nothing will change that."
I wasn't convinced, but I nodded in agreement. The last thing I wanted was Georgia worrying about me. The party was in a couple of days, and I didn't want to ruin her excitement.
"I need to get Richard. We have to meet up with the chef and decide what we want at the buffet." She said, sitting upright and pulling on her kaftan.
"Richard, come on!"
He turned to look at her and gave her a thumb up. I watched as he got out of the pool, closely followed by James.
As they approached us I felt the familiar rush of blood to my head at the sight of James. His body was in prime condition. I only had to look at him and I was turned on.
I'd missed having sex this morning. It always started off slowly and sleepy until we both lost control. Then we were clawing at each other in a frenzy of passion. It had become my favourite part of the day with him, and this morning I'd missed it more than I thought was possible.
"Here's your towel." Georgia said, thrusting it in Richard's arms.
"Thanks, my dear." He replied, earning him a glare from his new fiancée.
"What did I say about calling me dear? You sound like an old grandad." She barked, tutting and picking up her bag.
I smiled at James and he rolled his eyes. They sounded like a married couple already.
"And so it begins..." Richard sighed, winking at me.
James sat down on a lounger beside me and stretched out. I felt a wave of anxiety. Normally he'd scoop me up and pull me onto his lap.
"So we'll see you guys later." Richard said, pulling on his t-shirt.
"Yeah, I'm going to get Graham out of bed, so we can watch the England game." James said, repositioning his sunglasses.
I looked at Georgia, and she gave me a supportive smile, although it did little to make me feel better. We hadn't talked about what we were going to do today, but I'd just assumed we'd do something together. I bit my bottom lip. James was backing off, and it had to be because of what happened last night. It was the only explanation I could think of.
I watched Georgia walk off with Richard, both of them holding hands and laughing. When I looked at James, I saw he was watching them as well, a wistful look on his face.
I got up from my sun lounger and moved between his legs, lying down, so my head was against his chest. He wrapped his arms around me, and I relaxed. Maybe things would be ok, I just needed to remind him that nothing had changed.
"I missed our normal routine this morning..." I said, kissing my way up his chest to his neck.
His grip tightened on me.
"Sophie, I can't act like everything is normal. Not after what you told me last night." He said.
I pulled his arms off me and sat back. I didn't want to cry, but I could feel my eyes water.
"So that's it then? You find out about my fucked-up past and decide it's over."
He rubbed his forehead and took a deep breath.
"Of course not! I feel like I've come on too strong with you and the last thing I want is for you to feel pressurised. Maybe a bit of space is a good idea."
I flinched as my eyes filled with tears. My instinct had been right. Now he knew about my past, he was going to back off and treat me like I was some kind of delicate flower. That wasn't James's style, and it wasn't how I wanted him to treat me.
I got up and walked away.
"Sophie, don't be like that." He shouted.
Anger came over me in one large swoop and I spun around.
"Why don't you admit the truth? You can't look at me the same way, and I understand it. Nobody wants to fuck someone who they feel sorry for."
I marched away before he could reply, my heart aching more than it ever had before.