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Page 30

Author: Jill Shalvis

Against him, she smiled. He’d been her neighbor. Her protector. Her greatest friend. But her favorite thing was what they were now. Lovers. They fit together as if they were made for each other. Knowing it, reveling in it, she took him into her mouth. Beneath her, hands still tangled tight in her hair, his hips bucked, control slipping. “Fuck, Leah.”

“Later,” she said, and made him snort. And then she made him sweat. And pant. And swear like a sailor.

And then finally, she made him come, hard.

Afterward, he hauled her up his body to kiss her with enough heat to let her know he’d liked the birthday gift.

Then he flipped them so he was on top, his arms bracketing her body. Every part of him slid against every part of her, and she wrapped her arms and legs around him, anticipation swimming through her.

As she’d done to him, he slid his hands to hers and slowly guided them above her head to the armrest of the couch. He squeezed her fingers and met her gaze, his message clear. Leave them there.

She drew one breath before he took possession of her mouth, and it was like she’d never been kissed before. She’d never even dreamed that a kiss could be so…soul searching.

Perfect.

It was different from their earlier kisses, which had all been just as hot, but also flirty. No end destination.

This was different. This was…intense, demanding everything from her, and her heart started to pound against her ribs.

Lifting his head, he stared into her eyes, trailing his fingers down her jaw, his mouth following, along her throat, where he stopped at the pulse point.

His thumb lightly glided over the spot. “You’re either having a heart attack or I’m really doing it for you,” he murmured.

“Both. Jack—”

“Shh,” he said, his gaze hot enough to scorch. “It’s my turn now.” And then he lightly nipped her throat before soothing the sting with a kiss. Her collarbone was next, and then her breast. He took her nipple into his mouth and laved, nipped, and teased until she was writhing beneath him. Then he switched sides, taking his sweet-ass time about it too, until she whispered his name. And then said it again in a rather commanding tone that matched the frantic rock of her hips.

This only encouraged further torture on his part. He slid to his knees on the floor as he finally, God finally, kissed his way down her stomach.

Her skirt was still shoved up to her waist, and he seemed to really like the look as he stroked a hand over one thigh, urging her to open for him, to hook her leg on his shoulder. His other hand rested low on her belly, so low his thumb could lightly scrape over her. And then not so lightly. “I have condoms,” she managed. “An entire box of them. In my purse.”

He looked up at her, his eyes dark and intense with concentration, though now there was also a light of humor. “That’s a big box.”

She felt herself flush. “Well, I thought maybe we weren’t done yet.”

Turning his head, he rubbed up against her inner thigh with a day’s worth of scruff on his jaw.

She nearly came. “Jack—”

“I bought some too. Also a big box. Because I was sure we weren’t done yet.” He glided his thumb over her again and followed it up with his tongue, eyes still on hers.

A man had never looked at her like that, not in her entire life. And okay, so she wasn’t all that experienced, but she was feeling things, so many, many things, and she could tell that he was feeling them too. She breathed more than said his name, and he let his eyes drift closed as he went back to what he was doing—driving her out of her ever-loving mind. He was quite thorough about it too, and she lost it completely, coming with a shuddering cry that rocked her to her very core.

Jack staggered to his feet. “Bed,” he said firmly.

“I can’t feel my legs.”

“I’ve got you.” Bending over her, he stilled when she slapped a hand to his chest.

“You’re not going to carry me like I’m some silly girly-girl in the movies all romantic-like,” she said. “It always brings me out of the scene because I worry about his back, and— Hey!”

He’d scooped her up and over his shoulder into a fireman’s hold.

“Jack.” She laughed and squirmed to get free, but then realized that she had a most excellent view of his most excellent backside as he strode down the hall as if she were light as a feather. “Put me down.”

“I’m dragging you off to my cave.”

Well then. Willing to play, she tried to bite his ass. Since she couldn’t quite reach, she settled for low on his back, but the bastard didn’t have an ounce of fat on him so she couldn’t really get a good hold.

He swatted her butt. “Behave.”

She tried to bite him again, but then she was flying through the air and landing on his bed. Before she could bounce twice, he’d pulled a condom from his bedside drawer and was on top of her.

And then in her.

He stilled and pressed his face to her neck. “I’m a dead man,” he murmured, and then, holding her right where he wanted, he began to thrust, pulling out with each stroke, rolling his hips, and then grinding back in. She could feel him hot and hard, deep inside every time he moved. He gripped her thighs and pushed them forward slightly so he slid in more, pressing a spot deep inside of her. She’d never experienced anything like it. When he groaned her name, she knew neither of them were going to last. Everything about him was causing sensations in her body that she didn’t even know what to do with. Squeezing her legs around his waist, she clutched him, crying out.

They came together. Or at least she thought they did. She couldn’t be sure because she lost track of all her senses.

When she came back to herself, they were damply entangled and she was breathing like a lunatic. Holy cow… She tried to roll free and found she couldn’t move. She was pinned by one-hundred-and-eighty solid pounds of muscle, and he was breathing just as hard as she, the small of his back slick with sweat. And her only coherent thought was, if they kept at this whole naked friends thing, they were going to kill each other…

Eventually Jack got up to get them some water and sustenance, and Leah managed to roll over and shove her hair from her face. His bedside drawer was open, the box of condoms torn into and spilling out over a colorful stack of envelopes—

Leah went still, then reached out and brushed the condoms away, even though she didn’t need to. She knew what that stack of cards was.

Her own cards, sent to Jack when she’d first left Lucky Harbor. Christmases, birthdays, Valentine’s Days…she’d used them all as excuses to keep in touch, her own way of hoping he would keep her in mind.

He still had them. Every one of them, by the looks of things. Her throat tightened as she wondered what it meant. But she knew. It meant that she’d been important to him.

And she’d hurt him.

She could have had something here with him, something real. Instead, she was now stuck in this…fake relationship that was quickly turning not so fake at all.

And it was all her own doing.

The next morning, Jack knew the minute Leah woke up because, like Kevin always did, her entire body tensed without moving a muscle.

He wondered if she expected him to do what he did with Kevin: point to the floor and say, “Get down.” The truth was, he was far more likely to roll over and expose his vulnerable underbelly.

Instead, he let her have the moment of pretense as he watched her in the early morning light. God, it felt good to wake up with her, which begged the question—how long was she sticking around? She seemed to be settling into Lucky Harbor, though this didn’t make any sense at all if she’d won Sweet Wars. And surely she had won. This meant she had the prize money to start her own pastry shop and was financially stable, probably for the first time in her entire adult life.

Maybe she’d continue to revamp her grandma’s bakery. Surely she wouldn’t have started this thing between them if she’d been in a hurry to go anywhere. He tried to figure out what that might mean but couldn’t. “Morning,” he said quietly.

She didn’t move.

This didn’t surprise him. If he knew her, and he sure as hell did, he knew she was panicked right about now and reviewing her options.

And most likely the closest exit.

He could feel her heart kick into high gear, and he had some sympathy. She wasn’t alone in this. This whole new lover intimacy they had going between them now was going to affect their friend intimacy, no matter what they said or did.

“I know you’re awake,” he said.

She cracked open one eye. “How? How do you always know?”

“You stopped breathing.”

She sighed. “What time is it?”

They’d called in for pizza late last night, ravished it in the same manner in which they’d ravished each other, and then fallen asleep, the heavy sleep of the dead—or two people who’d fucked their brains out. “Eight,” he said.

“Eight…” With a gasp, she sat straight up. “Eight? Omigod, we fell asleep? The bakery—”

“I thought today was your day off.”

“No! I told Grandma she could have the day for herself. I’ve gotta go.” Rolling to her feet, she staggered until she got her sea legs, and then she whirled to look for her clothes.

Jack tucked his hands beneath his head and enjoyed the view of her, all naked and rosy and… “Damn,” he said, sitting up. “Sorry about that whisker burn.”

She glared at him and then strode—still bare-ass naked—to the mirror over his dresser. She took in the sight of her reddened neck and growled. “Is it too hot for a turtleneck?”

He bit his lower lip to hold in his grimace.

She looked at him, narrowed her eyes, and then looked down at her body.

The whisker burn extended to her breasts, belly, and inner thighs. “You suck,” she said.

“Actually, you’re the one who—”

“Stop!” She clapped her hands over her ears but did let out a low laugh that pretty much made his heart swell too big for his ribs. “Where the hell is my bra?”

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