Page 38

Author: Jill Shalvis

She was still trembling from the aftermath when she felt him push the damp hair from her face. She kept her eyes closed because oh, God.

God, she’d really done it now.

She’d fallen for him.

She had no idea how he felt as he held her snug up against himself, stroking her slowly cooling skin, and that was for the best. Knowing she was desperately close to making a complete fool of herself, she turned over to crawl out of the bed, but found herself pinned flat.

“What?” she asked, not liking how her breath hitched, how her body wanted to rock into his, unable to get enough of him.

Matt flipped her over and looked into her face. He searched for something, probably for a hint that she was still on board with the whole trusting him thing. Whatever he found made him smile. “That’s more like it,” he said, all male smug and satisfied, the big, sexy jerk.

“Move,” she said, trying to buck him off.

“Why? Going somewhere?”

“Yeah, and so are you. Back to the station.”

“Not yet.” He rolled to his side and pulled her in, kissing her slowly and leisurely until she curled right into him like she belonged there. “Your side hurt?” he asked.



She waited for him to make a move for round two but though he pressed his mouth to her temple and ran a hand down her back, he just held her. “Last night shook you,” he finally said quietly.

Her gut tightened. “Well, yeah.”

“You were scared.”

“I was terrified. For Riley.”

“I know. But it was something else, too.”

Her heart took another hard leap—into her throat.

“You don’t scare easily,” he said. “You waded right in to protect her. You were brave as hell.”

She didn’t like where this was going and tried to push him away. “You really have to get back to work.”

“Soon.” His grip was gentle but inexorable. “What got you, Amy? Something triggered some bad memories. What was it? That it was Riley’s brother hurting her?”


He nodded. “You’ve told me about your grandma, about how after she died you went back to your mom’s. You didn’t last there long, leaving when you were sixteen, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So what happened to send you running from your only family?” His gaze was steady, calm, his body warm and strong around hers as he delivered his final, devastating question. “And what happened last night that reminded you of it?”

She opened her mouth to deny it but her breathing hitched, audibly. She closed her eyes, pressing her face into his throat, finding comfort in the scent of him. He smelled like the woods, like his soap, like Matt the man, and it had the most amazing calming effect on her.

But Matt pulled her face back and met her gaze before lowering his head, brushing his lips sweetly over hers, letting her know he was there, right there. She was safe with him, safer than she’d ever been. She could tell him.

But in his eyes, she was strong and fierce and could handle anything. She liked that he saw her like that and not as a victim. If she told him about her past, about who she’d once been, that would change, and it would break her.

Matt slid a hand up Amy’s slim spine. So deceptively fragile. But in truth, she was a rock. And she was holding back. He slid a hand into her hair and tilted her face up to his.

She met his gaze. “I… I was a horrible teenager.”

“Horrible is the definition of teenager.”

“No, I mean really horrible. And it got worse after my grandma died.”

“You were grieving.”

“Yes, but I was awful about it,” she said. “I acted like my grandma had left me on purpose. My mom had this new husband, and he was rich. I never realized how poor we’d been until I moved in with my mom. Suddenly we had things, and I was in a very different environment, with no experience on how to handle it. I really stuck out like a sore thumb. I think I did it on purpose.”

“Probably for attention.”

“Yeah.” She lifted a shoulder, not meeting his gaze, and he knew there was more, a lot more, and that it was bad.

“My mom,” she said. “She’s not good at picking men. But this guy, he seemed different than her usual. He was on the board of some exclusive school, so they sent me there. I didn’t fit in any more than I’d fit in anywhere else.” She paused. “I stole stuff. I ditched. And if I wasn’t ditching, I was cheating. I got in a lot of trouble, and every single time I had a ready lie about how it was never my fault.”

“Seems about right for the age,” he said.

“No.” She shook her head, and her hair spilled silkily over his arm. “I was really rotten, Matt. To the core. The girls hated me and with good reason. The boys… they didn’t hate me. I made sure of it. I led them around by their egos, which at that age is between their legs.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I was constantly looking for trouble and then weaseling and scrambling my way out of it and blaming someone else.” She paused. “Until I couldn’t.”

It was her grim tone, more than the words themselves, that sent a chill up his spine. “What happened?”

“I finally ran up against someone bigger, older, and smarter than me, someone I couldn’t control or manipulate. He wanted—He wanted something I didn’t want to give him.”

His gut clenched. “And what was that?”

“Me.” Her heart kicked as she said it. He could feel it beat against his own.

“He—” She broke off and shook her head.

“Ah, Amy. No.” He pulled her in a little closer, hugging her tight, wishing like hell he could fight this years-old battle for her. “Did he rape you?”

“No.” She swallowed hard again, and he thought maybe she wasn’t going to say anything more, but she forced the words out. “I was able to stop him.”

“Good,” he said fiercely.

“It wasn’t out of the blue, what he wanted. I mean I’d been promiscuous at best and totally indiscriminate. Everyone knew that.”

“I don’t care if you were selling yourself,” Matt said tightly. “No is no. And you were just a kid. Tell me you turned him in. That you told someone.”

“I did. I told my mom.”

Something in her voice told him he really wasn’t going to like what came next.

“She thought it was another of my stupid lies.”

Yeah, he’d been dead right on that one. He didn’t like it, not one fucking bit. He opened his mouth, but she put her fingers over his lips. “I was the girl who’d cried wolf,” she said quietly. “I’d lied for so long, no one would have believed me.”

“Who was it?” he asked, knowing by what she’d said and everything that she hadn’t said, that she’d known the fucker. “Who did this to you?”

She hesitated. “My stepfather.”

He tensed, and Amy ran a hand down his arm. She was trying to soothe him. Jesus. Still holding her tight, he cupped the back of her head in his palm and pressed her face into the crook of his neck. He needed a moment, maybe two.

“It was a long time ago,” she murmured.

“I know.” Just as he knew it didn’t matter how long, not if it still came back to her in an instant when she’d seen Riley with her stepbrother. “I’m glad you told me, Amy. I’m so sorry it happened to you.”

“It’s okay. I’ve got some perspective now. I was hardly blameless.”

“You were fucking sixteen. You were blameless.”

“I wasn’t sixteen when I spent the next five years using sex to manipulate anyone in my orbit.”

“You did what you had to.”

“I was at least smart enough to always use protection,” she said softly.

“You did good, Amy.”

“No. I used sex as a weapon. As power, as a tool.” She pressed her face into his throat. “At least at first. I stopped when I realized I was becoming immune to emotions, especially during…”


“Yeah,” she said softly, face still hidden.

“Until me.”

She didn’t say anything, and he pulled back to see her. “Until me,” he repeated softly.

“Until you.” She paused. “But maybe that’s because it’d been so long.”

“Bullshit.” He’d been there, experienced just how explosive it’d been every time. How before, during, and after he’d been so into her he couldn’t breathe, and hell if she hadn’t been right there with him. He knew she had been. He’d lay everything on the line with that bet. The way she’d wrapped herself around him when he’d been buried so deep that there’d been no telling where he ended and she began. How she’d kissed him like she was going under for the count and he was the only thing that could save her. The look in her eyes as she clung to him, those unbelievably sexy little whimpers in her throat when he’d taken her where she’d needed to go.

Everything he’d ever dreamed of he’d found there in her arms with her mouth hot on his, her body moving against him, all warm, soft, desperate hunger and need, and she’d felt it back.

So fuck no, it hadn’t been just because it’d been a long time for her. He met her gaze and shook his head. “You know it was more than that. Much more.”

Chapter 21

Coffee, chocolate, men… some things are just better rich.

Amy didn’t know how to respond to Matt, but her body didn’t seem to have the same problem. It was responding to just his voice. It always had. She kept figuring it would stop, any minute now, but that hadn’t happened yet. “It’s nothing personal,” she said, not wanting him to be angry. “I’ve just never been one to feel much.”