“Not here,” he said, voice rough, his mouth never pausing in its quest, moving along her collarbone now. “Not on the mats. I need a shower, and we’re going to take our time. Not here,” he repeated.

“Here.” Her fingers slid into his hair to direct his face back to hers. “Now. Right now, you . . . you—”

“Orgasm hog?” he offered.

“Why are you still talking?” she asked, tearing at his shirt. She could hear the need in her own voice and didn’t care, didn’t care about anything other than getting him inside of her.

He made a noise deep in his throat and came up on his knees to yank his shirt over his head, tossing it aside.

God, he had a beautiful body. While she was admiring it, he shoved her skirt up.

“My boots,” she said.

“The boots stay.” Still on his knees, he tugged the straps of her bra to her elbows and watched as her br**sts popped out the top of her demibra. “You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he murmured hoarsely, taking her in from messed up hair to boot-covered feet.

The words shouldn’t have moved her. This was nothing more than a mutual satisfying of needs. Not emotion-based. Need-based. But she shivered with desire. “Why are you still talking?”

“I can multitask.” He stroked a finger over her lace panties. “So demanding on the outside, so tough.” He slid his finger beneath the lace, unerringly finding the exact spot to have her writhing beneath him. “So soft and creamy on the inside.”

She made a sound that revealed her desperation, and he lifted his intense gaze from what he was doing to look at her. “Be sure, Jade. Because once we get on this train, we’re riding it home.”

“Do I feel like I’m not sure?”

“Fuck, no. You feel ready for me. You feel amazing.” Leaning over her, he kissed her hard and deep, then pulled back to look at her sprawled out beneath him, then swore reverently beneath his breath. His body was hard all over and she wanted him. Tired of thinking, she planted her feet on the floor, knees bent, and grinded shamelessly against him, drawing a groan from him.

Good. Rearing up, she licked her way over a pec, flicked at his nipple, and headed downward, nibbling at his six-pack abs. Loving how unsteadily he was breathing, she pulled at the drawstring of his shorts and dipped her hand inside.

She didn’t have to reach very far to wrap her fingers around his silky hard length.

He groaned and she watched the muscles of his abs contract as she tightened her grip and stroked. Then she tugged the shorts to his thighs and leaned in to tease him with her tongue.

“Oh Christ,” he gasped. “That’s good.” His hands went to her hair and tightened for a minute, his head falling back on his shoulders.

But then he pulled free.

In one smooth motion, he rose fluidly to his feet and grabbed her up in his arms.

She wrapped her legs around his waist and lifted her head for a kiss. Holding her up with a hand on her ass, the other still in her hair, he started moving.

Up the basement steps.

Through the kitchen.

Up another set of stairs.

Into a dark room and then . . .

A bathroom.

“Condoms,” he said, and plopped her on the counter. He yanked open a drawer and then another, swearing as he rifled through them.

“Why aren’t they by your bed?”

He glanced at her. “I told you, I don’t bring women here. And while we’re talking again, I didn’t sleep with Melinda. Haven’t in months. Haven’t slept with anyone but you. So really, if anyone’s been an orgasm hog, it’s you. If you go by sheer ratio, anyway . . .”

She stared at his broad back as he tried his last drawer, swearing roughly as he emptied it out on the counter. Comb, deodorant, new toothpaste . . .

Box of condoms, unopened.

“Thank Christ,” he said fervently and tore the box open. Grabbing one, he turned to her, reaching out as if to pick her up again, probably to take her to his bed.

She didn’t want that. That would be personal. That would be lovemaking, and she’d come for sex.

Angry sex. Because she’d been so angry. Or hurt. Actually it was some terrible combination, but he kept defusing her without even trying. Dammit. Dammit, how was she supposed to hold on to her temper with him? And she needed to hold on to it, needed that badly because with angry sex, she couldn’t mistake this for anything else. Or so she hoped. So she snatched the condom from him. Hands freed, he used them on her, gliding them up her torso to her breasts. Her ni**les were still peeking out of the demibra, and he bent and kissed her right nipple, then drew it into his mouth, sucking until she clutched at him.

He kissed his way to her other breast.

Her head fell back against the mirror, her body humming with need. “Dell,” she said, her boots clunking against the cabinet below.

He ran a hand down her leg to her ankle, lifting it so that the bottom of her boot rested on the countertop, effectively opening her to his gaze.

Stepping back, he looked his fill and groaned again, then grabbed her h*ps and rocked into her. At her needy whimper, he slid a hand across her belly and then beneath her panties, expertly stroking her with the calloused pad of his fingers before moving one into her. She heard herself cry out and bit her lip.

“No,” he said. “I want to hear you.” He scraped the lace to the side to watch as he teased her slippery folds until she writhed and cried out again.

“Yeah,” he said. “Like that. More, Jade.”

“In,” she gasped. This wasn’t like her. She didn’t sit na**d except for boots on counters with her legs spread, she didn’t demand sex, she didn’t talk dirty, but she couldn’t stop herself. Not with Dell. “I need you inside me,” she said. “I need you in me now.”

But he wasn’t done with her yet because first he drew the agonizing torture out until her toes curled, until sensations were flowing through her hot, heavy body, until she was an inch from bursting. Then he replaced his fingers with a most impressive erection, pushing into her body inch by delicious inch. When he finally began to move, she gave herself over to the pleasure.

God, the pleasure. “Please.”

“Anything, Jade. Anything you want.”

“You.” It was all she could manage as he changed the angle of his penetration, making her gasp and clutch at him. “Just you.”

He began to move, one hand gripping her bottom, the other sliding between them, using his thumb to apply exquisite pressure on her swollen flesh.

It sent her skittering right off the edge, crying out his name, barely conscious of the fact that he followed her over, gripping her in his big hands as he came hard, grinding his h*ps to hers to savor the last of the pleasure.

When she came back to herself, she realized she’d snuggled into his arms, her face pressed to his throat. He was nuzzling her hair, his breathing as ragged as hers. “You okay?” he murmured.

Still unable to speak, she settled for nodding. But her head was spinning. Because that? That had been a hell of a lot more than angry sex. “I need some room.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m still mad at you.”

“You’re still mad at me?” he repeated, clearly baffled by this.

She sighed. “You didn’t sleep with Melinda,” she explained.

Dell lifted his head and blinked once, slow as an owl. “So you were mad when you thought I slept with Melinda, and now you’re mad because . . . I didn’t?”

She hopped off the counter. “I have to go.” She adjusted her bra and panties and looked around for her clothes, remembering she’d left them in the basement.

Great.

“Jade.” He blocked her exit. “What the hell are we doing? Tell me what’s going on.”

Admit that she’d done the unforgettable and fallen for him? No thank you. “Move, please.”

“No.”

Fine. He wasn’t going to let this go so she searched her brain for a plausible lie. “I wanted to give you your messages.”

He looked at her. “Try that again, your left eye twitched.”

“So?”

“It always twitches when you lie.”

Dammit. She put her finger to her eye.

“Jade.”

She blew out a breath. “You already know.”

“Tell me, anyway.”

“Fine, but it’s not pretty. I thought you were ha**g s*x with Melinda. And . . . I turned a ridiculous, ugly shade of green.”

He went brows up.

She tossed up her hands. “And even though I told myself that was great, that you could do whoever you wanted, I kept picturing it . . .” She closed her eyes. “And I got . . . I don’t know.”

“Green.”

“Yeah.” She covered her face. “Maybe.”

He pulled her hands down. “Green looks good on you.”

A terrible confusing combination of annoyed and amused, Jade walked out of the bathroom, cursing herself for having to make the walk of shame through his entire house for her clothes. She couldn’t find her shirt fast enough, so she grabbed his.

“You don’t have to go,” he said as she shimmied back into her skirt.

“Yes, I do.”

Because it was getting harder and harder to hold her heart from him. In fact, if she kept this up, she knew she wouldn’t be able to do it at all.

“Jade.”

Throat tight, eyes burning, she turned back, then gasped softly as he cupped her face and kissed her. If he’d kissed her long and deep, she might have been able to resist, but he was far more devious than that. His mouth was devastatingly gentle. Tender. A sweet good-night kiss.

But not a good-bye kiss.

Oh, damn, she thought when he pulled away and walked her out to her car. Damn. She was in big trouble.

The next day Jade got out of bed before dawn. Actually, to be exact, it was four thirty A.M. It wasn’t a time she’d seen often and she yawned more than once on the drive.

She’d watched the calendar and told herself she was merely indulging her curiosity, but she knew it was more than that.

Much more.

She pulled back onto Dell’s street less than seven hours after she’d left and saw that his truck was still there. Finding it unlocked, she sighed in relief and climbed in to wait. Ten minutes later his front door opened. It was still dark, but she could see his outline as he headed for his truck carrying what looked like grocery bags and his medical bag.

He stopped short, presumably at the sight of her car. Then he turned to his truck. She gave him a little wave.

He walked through the dark, foggy, chilly morning, stowed his stuff behind his seat, and angled in behind the wheel. “You didn’t want to stay last night, so what’s this?”

“You said I could ask you anything, that you’re an open book.”

“Yes,” he said, with a great deal of wariness.

“Where are you going?”

He paused. “If you’re asking, you must already know.”

“All I know is that every Monday, you start about a half hour late. And until I got my hands on your laptop, I had no idea why. But you’re going somewhere and providing your services to someone, a bunch of someones, who clearly mean a lot to you. I figure it can’t be too close or you’d just have them come to Belle Haven. So I got here extra early just in case.”

“Jade, why does this matter to you?”

Because you matter . . . “You said you wanted to get to know me. Maybe I feel the same.”

He studied her a long moment, then shook his head but started his truck.

They drove for an hour straight out into the middle of nowhere before Dell turned off at some invisible landmark, because Jade sure as hell didn’t see a sign. Or even a road. He switched into four-wheel drive and kept going.

“Getting nervous?” he asked when she white-knuckled the dash over a particular bad rut.

“It has occurred to me that out here would be a great dump site for my body.” The next rut nearly rattled her teeth right out of her head. “Probably I should stop watching Criminal Minds before bed, it makes me see a serial killer in everyone.”

“I know something else you could do before bed . . .”

Yeah, yeah.

He flashed a grin in the rising dawn. “You know, you hopped into my truck. I didn’t coerce you.”

“My mistake.”

After another ten minutes, they began to pass some signs of civilization. Mobile homes and trailers, each more run down than the last. He parked in front of a double-wide with bars on the windows and turned to her, smile gone. “You can wait here if you want.”

“Are you going to tell me what this is about?”

“I told you. Pro bono work for people who can’t afford pet care.”

She knew there was more, it was in every line of his body, but he said nothing more, just grabbed his black medical bag and got out. He waited for her, and together they walked to the trailer.

It was that brief beat of time between dark and dawn. Purple and pink light hovered in the air, made evanescent by a low-lying fog.

The door to the trailer opened before Dell could knock, revealing a woman somewhere in her fifties. She had dark skin, dark eyes and dark hair streaked through with silver. She took a look at Dell, then Jade, and arched a brow.

The movement, the subtle, almost wry surprise, was so instantly recognizable to Jade that she almost gasped.

The woman was clearly related to Dell.

Stepping back, she allowed them access without a word.

Dell set his hand on the small of Jade’s back and urged her into the trailer. He didn’t introduce her to the woman. In fact, he pretty much dismissed both of them and walked through to the small living area.

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