Shattered, actually. Breathing like a lunatic, hot, sweaty, desperate, she surged up and undid his jeans and shoved them down to his thighs and found him as impressive as she’d imagined.

They put on the condom together. Or rather, he worked at rolling on the condom while she attempted to help but really was just using the opportunity to stroke and caress him.

He didn’t seem to mind, but she wasn’t nearly done teasing him the way he’d teased her so mercilessly when he apparently decided the hell with playing and slid into her in one smooth, hard thrust.

The air left her body as she rose to meet him, pulling him closer, digging her fingers into his flesh as he began to move. Mindless, she rocked up into him, the pleasure was so intense, she cried out with it.

How had she not missed this?

But she knew. It was him making her feel like this. No one else but Dell could do it, the way he moved inside her, his muscles hot and tense beneath her fingers, his eyes dark and fiercely intense on hers.

Just looking at him, something in her chest cracked and opened.

Her heart.

It shattered right along with her body as she pulsed and throbbed, tightening around him. He was filling more than just her body and she knew it. God, she knew.

He sped up his pace and she met every thrust with her own startling level of passion. She could hear his ragged breathing in her ear, feel his heart pounding against her chest.

Or was that her breathing, her heart . . . she didn’t know. “Dell.”

His hands tangled in her hair, pulling her head to meet his mouth. This kiss was rough, demanding everything of her and she willing gave it. Her hands traveled everywhere on his body that she could reach and it still wasn’t enough. She planted her feet on the couch and lifted her hips, pushing into him, doing some demanding of her own.

His control snapped and he thrust into her one last time, taking her right off the edge with him.

When she came back to herself, her heart felt as full and achy as her body. She didn’t know what she expected to happen next. She never knew with him. But he stayed deep inside her, holding her tight, his breath warm against her temple. Snuggling in, she let her eyes drift shut as her heart pounded against his.

After a few minutes, he stirred. “You okay?”

“Mmm.” It was all she had.

But it was apparently all he needed, because he grabbed the throw blanket from the back of the couch and covered them, then settled them more comfortably and kissed her. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”

“How long?”

“Long.”

All the yearning and wanting in the world wasn’t going to change anything between them but in that moment, with him holding her close, obviously content to stay here, right here, it was enough.

It had to be enough.

She woke up the next morning from a really great dream and stared into Bean’s green eyes.

“Mew,” she said. The cat was sharing Jade’s pillow.

It was the same story every morning. But unlike every other morning, Jade was wrapped up in another body. A big, warm, mocha-colored hunk of tough muscle that was still deeply asleep.

He’d expelled a lot of energy last night. All night . . .

There was stubble on his square jaw, and his lashes were jet black and sinfully thick.

Definitely not a dream, she thought, and though she had to get up, she took a long moment to just look at him, knowing if she didn’t move fast, get out of his arms instead of remaining snuggled in all perfect like she was made for him, it was going to be hard to ignore what had happened here last night.

Real hard.

Thirteen

One minute Dell was deep in the land of the living dead, the kind of sleep that comes after great sex, and then in the next, he was blinking at the sudden light.

“It’s time to get up.”

He squinted blearily at the woman wrapped in a sheet at the side of the bed.

Jade. Mmm, Jade. She looked good in nothing but a sheet but he knew how she looked even better.

Reaching out, he took a hold of a corner of the sheet and tugged.

There was a female squeak, then the flash of bare ass as she ran for the bathroom.

Grinning he rolled out of bed and followed, but she’d locked him out. “Hey.”

“Just because we slept together does not mean we’re going to share a bathroom,” she said through the door. “Go away.”

“Jade, I’ve seen every inch of you. Hell, I’ve had my mouth on every inch of you. Let me in, I have to—”

She opened the door and came out wrapped in a robe. She looked him over and her gaze softened.

Yeah, now that was more like it. With a smile, he stepped into her, the part of him happiest to see her arriving first, bumping into her belly.

“Oh, no,” she said, slapping a hand on his chest. Her other went to his mouth. “No. Don’t say or do anything more until I’ve inhaled some caffeine. I need caffeine.” She closed her eyes when he slid a hand down her back to grip her sweet ass. “Dell, help me here. I can’t be strong and make the right decision without caffeine.”

He sucked on the tip of her pointer finger. “Decision?”

Her fingers began making their way slowly down his chest. “Yeah. The age-old question—round two or the walk of shame?”

He had both hands on her arms now, one working southward to get beneath the robe. “I vote for round two.”

“We have work.”

“I can hurry.” Hell, if her fingers kept on their current southern trajectory, this whole conversation was going to be a moot point.

“I don’t know,” she said. “You weren’t very good at hurrying last night. You took your sweet time, kissing and licking and touching . . . everything.” She was a little breathless now.

He liked her breathless, a lot, and with a flick of his fingers, he tugged open the loose knot on the front of her robe. God, there was nothing as perfect as a woman all soft and warm in the morning. Pushing her robe off her shoulders to the floor, he kissed her hard.

“Dell—”

“Your way,” he said against her mouth. “Whatever you want, Jade. Take it.”

She took the suggestion with a seriousness that made him want to smile. “My way,” she repeated, and nipped his earlobe between her teeth before pushing him up against the wall.

“I think I’m going to like your way,” he managed as she dropped to her knees.

“That’s a safe bet,” she murmured.

After Dell left, Jade got into the shower and told herself that what had happened last night—and this morning, good Lord, this morning!—was nothing more than an expression of pent-up lust.

And now that they’d given in to it, it was over and done.

Pent-up lust quenched.

She had no idea what Dell was telling himself, he tended to keep his own council. Although holy sweet Moses, he’d looked knee-knockingly fine in her small shower, bumping those long legs and arms on the tile every time he’d moved. He’d used her soap and shampoo, and now he was going to smell like her all day.

The big Dell Connelly, smelling like peaches and cream.

She dressed and moved through her living room, stopping to stare at the couch. None of the cushions were in the right place. One of the three was on the floor, another upright on the arm, and the third lying haphazardly in the center of the room. The memory of what they’d done there made her flush, and not with embarrassment. She righted the cushions, found a condom wrapper on the floor and then caught sight of herself in the bathroom mirror when she went to throw it away.

Her eyes were bright, her cheeks flushed. Her ni**les visibly hard. There were invisible reactions going on, too, and she rubbed her thighs together, feeling that she was damp from just thinking about Dell. You need to get a grip, she told herself sternly, and left for work.

Dell’s first appointment of the day was with Lilah, who’d brought in a new rescue, a two-week-old kitten. Dell gave the little thing the once-over and pronounced her in decent health for being undernourished and abandoned.

Lilah nodded with relief and hugged the kitten close. “She’s so little and yet so tough. It makes me want to keep her.”

Dell’s eyes drifted out the open exam room door to the front desk, where Jade sat running his world. She stopped typing to gently admonish Beans, who’d just taken a swipe at Gertie’s face, then went back to her computer. He wondered if she was making one of her spreadsheets.

And if he was on it. She’d certainly had some Things To Do to him earlier, and though they’d “hurried,” he’d still nearly been late.

But not too late for her to stop him as he was leaving and look solemnly into his face. “What just happened between us doesn’t change anything.”

Actually, it changed everything. “Like?”

“Like no preferential treatment at work from you. And in return, I won’t be looking for a ring and a white picket fence.”

“Well, that’s a relief. I don’t like white fences.”

“Dell.”

She’d been serious, and he could admit a huge relief that she felt so strongly about not getting attached. Getting attached to him was never a good idea. He hurt people that way because he didn’t get attached back.

Ever.

He was pretty sure he was missing the attachment gene. Then he realized Lilah had said something to him several times and he’d missed it all. She was now staring at him with open amusement.

“I said,” she repeated patiently, “like someone else we know.”

“Huh?”

She patted him on the shoulder. “I said Beans is coming along nicely, too. Like someone else we both know.” She paused. “She looks good today. Happy.”

“Beans?”

“Don’t be stupid, Dell.”

Right. He busied himself with the chart, knowing exactly why Jade was happy. It was called multiple orgasms.

“Probably you never even looked in a mirror this morning,” Lilah said, running her fingers through his hair fondly, then giving up when she couldn’t get it in any sort of order that pleased her. “But you’re wearing a matching expression.”

“I’m always happy.”

“Not always,” she said. “Let’s talk about it.”

“Let’s not.”

“Oh, come on! Obviously something’s up.”

“Your hormone levels. You should have them checked.”

She rolled her eyes, then her smile faded. “Seriously, Dell.”

“Oh Christ, Lilah. You have a fiancé now. Bug him with this emotional shit.”

“You know Jade’s leaving.” Lilah’s eyes held worry, for the both of them. “What’s going to happen then?”

“Nothing.”

She stared at him. “Nothing? What do you mean, nothing?”

She was the closest thing he had to a sister. Which probably explained the urge to wrap his fingers around her neck. “Does Brady realize how annoying you are?”

“Yes, and he loves me, anyway. Dell, we have to do something.”

“We?”

“Yes. Clearly you need my help.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Oh, for chrissake.” She clapped a hand to either side of his face and made him look at her. “You get that this isn’t just about Jade’s issues, right? That your abandonment issues are coming into play here, too?”

He stepped back from her. “What? I don’t have—”

“Hello! You were abandoned by your mother, your father, then a handful of idiotic foster care providers, Sol, and every single bonehead bimbo you’ve ever dated, and now Jade if she really leaves as planned. So yeah. You do, Dell. You have abandonment issues.”

Dell looked out the door. No one was paying them any attention but he shut it anyway. “Okay, first of all, my dad died. Sol died. They didn’t leave me on purpose.”

“It’s still abandonment.”

“Lilah,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re wrong. And I have people. I have Adam and Brady.”

“Because they’re the same as you, you’re just all so frigging stubborn, you stick together like glue.”

Okay, that might be true. “The women,” he said, continuing his defense. “I’ve always been the one to walk away from any woman in my life.”

“Yes. You’ve made sure of it. Walking the walk, talking the talk, but keeping it all deceptively shallow and casual so that you’re alone. You’ve made sure of it. Because then you aren’t going to get hurt.”

He stared at her. “If I’m so busy being alone, why are you still in my life?”

“Because I’m a bully.” She smiled and hugged him. “Oh, Dell. You’ve always been there for me, you’ve helped me so much. I love you, you know.”

He sighed. “I love you, too.”

“Then, for once, let me help you.”

It’d be easier to just bash his head in.

She pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Let her in.”

He’d deny that as a possibility but there was a problem with that. Because he was pretty sure Jade was already in. All the way in.

In general, Dell was excellent at compartmentalizing, and he could reason and logic away most problems with little trouble. So it was frustrating that he found himself unable to do that with Jade, especially after Lilah’s visit earlier. His day ran long. He lost track of how many dogs, kittens, and various other creatures he saw.

Let her in . . .

Dell trusted Lilah, but he wasn’t altogether sure she knew what she was talking about this time. Both Keith and Mike had left when Jade appeared in his office doorway. “I need you a sec.”

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