Page 46

Author: Jill Shalvis


He looked as if she’d handed him the moon. She waited until he’d downed it. “Matt,” she said quietly, “you love your job.”


“I do. But I loved my last job, too, and I put that job ahead of everything else, including my own instincts and my marriage. I’m not doing that ever again.”


“Ever is a long time.”


“Ever,” he repeated firmly. “And something else I’m not doing ever again…”


“What?


“Taking off my shirt unless you take off yours.” He knocked her backward off the log and followed her down.


“Careful of your shoulder!” she squeaked, flat on her back, held to the ground by two-hundred-and-twenty pounds of sexy forest ranger.


“It’s not my shoulder you should be worried about,” he said, then covered her mouth with his. She cupped the curve of his jaw, feeling his stubble scrape against the pads of her fingers. His lips moved against hers, and though she meant to stop this craziness before he got hurt any further, she found herself kissing him back hungrily, not able to get enough of him.


How could she have forgotten how she felt when he kissed her like this? She was panting for air when he rolled to his back. “Are you okay?” she managed.


“No. Come here.”


She moved over him. His fingers were surprisingly dexterous given that he had limited motion and had to be hurting like hell. Dexterous and gentle and tender as he got her out of her clothes in record time. He urged her up, then up some more, until she was sitting on his chest. “Matt, what—”


“More,” he said, pulling at her until her knees were on either side of his ears. “There,” he said with deep satisfaction.


There was nothing gentle or tender about him now, not when he nipped her inner thigh, or spread her legs even farther and buried his face between them. With one stroke of his tongue, he had her in a heated frenzy, crying out as she climaxed. Before she’d stopped shuddering, he’d guided her down onto his body and shoved his pants down enough to push inside her as his mouth found hers again.


She could taste herself on his tongue. She was trying to be careful with his shoulder but her nails dug into his back. He swallowed her cries as he thrust up into her, powerful and primal. She couldn’t think, all she could do was feel, and what she felt so overwhelmed her that she felt her eyes fill.


His eyes were dark and heated as he looked up at her. “Again,” he said. “Let go for me again.”


That was all it took to send her flying. He was right with her, shuddering in her arms, his good hand gripping her hip as he pulled her down and tucked his face into the crook of her neck. She could feel the heat of his breath against her skin as he struggled to control his breathing.


She couldn’t have controlled hers even if she’d tried. He was still buried deep inside her, and she held him close, savoring the feel of their bodies joined together.


Finally she lifted her head and looked into his clear, gorgeous light brown eyes, and that’s when she knew.


He was it for her.


No matter what happened, no matter what he said now, that fact remained.


“I’ve made some pretty spectacular mistakes in my life,” he said quietly. “The latest was when I let you think I’d given up on us.”


She tried to climb off him but he held her tight, pulling her down to him, pressing his lips to her temple. “Stay. Stay with me.”


“I understood why you might have given up,” she said. “I’d lied to you.”


“Yeah.” He nodded. “Which just proves that I’m not the only one who can make a spectacular mistake.” He smiled at her. “That’s good to know.”


She couldn’t smile back. Her heart was in her throat. She’d learned a lot about herself lately, mostly that it was hard to ask for forgiveness, and harder still to give it. To let go and trust. But worth it. Oh, God, so worth it. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.


“I know,” he said. “And I’m sorry, too. So damn sorry that I hurt you. But I swear to you, Amy, if you give me another chance, I’ll never hurt you again. Not for anything. You can trust me.” His gaze held hers prisoner, and it was too much.


Way too much. She felt too open and… naked. She dropped her head to his chest. “I do trust you,” she whispered. “I just don’t know what I’m doing.”


He stroked his good hand down her back. “You’ll figure it out. I have faith in you.”


Lifting her head, she stared at him, then laughed. “You’re not going to be the hero and offer to solve all my problems?”


“I’m not here to solve your problems. I’m here to support you in your own decisions. I’m not going to walk away, Amy. Not now, not when the going gets tough, not ever. I’m right here at your back.”


“For how long?”


“For as long as you’ll have me. I love you, Amy.”


Staggered, she stared at him. “But you don’t do love.”


“I never said that. I said love hasn’t worked out for me. But all it takes is the right one. You’re the right one.”


No one had ever said such a thing to her before, and it made her heart swell hard against her ribcage. “I love you, Matt. So much.”


He smiled like she’d just given him the best gift he’d ever had. She settled against his good side, and they stared up at the star-laden sky. “I knew I’d find something on this journey,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it’d be something special.”


They pulled into the North District office at nine a.m., one full hour late, and Matt knew that hour was going to cost him, in a big way.


He didn’t regret being late. Couldn’t. He’d meant what he’d said to Amy, that he was no longer putting his job ahead of his life. That had been habit, a self-preservation technique.


And it was chicken shit.


He’d learned something about himself here in Lucky Harbor.


The town trusted him. His friends trusted him. Amy trusted him. And he could trust himself and let happiness in.


Amy was his happiness.


The ranger station parking lot wasn’t usually a hotbed of activity, but this morning the entire lot was jam-packed with cars.


“What’s going on?” Amy asked.


Matt was staring at the lot. “I have no idea.”


They got out looking like a ragtag team from The Amazing Race. Matt was still shirtless, the sling in place. Amy’s clothes were torn from her breathless, in-the-dark climb down to where Matt had fallen. She was disheveled and glowing.


Not from the climb.


Just looking at her warmed Matt from the inside out.


“Mallory’s car is here,” Amy said, pointing it out. “And Grace’s. And isn’t that Josh’s car? And Ty’s truck? And Sawyer’s cop car? What—Why is everyone here? Do you think they’re all here supporting you?”


Yeah, that’s exactly what he thought.


Proving it, the station door opened, and people filed out, his coworkers, and then Jan, Lucille, Lucille’s entire posse… half the town.


“What the hell?” Matt said.


Sawyer reached him first. “Got Riley’s assailant in custody. The idiot showed up at the diner last night with a knife, threatening everyone in sight if they didn’t produce Riley, and Jan beaned him with a frying pan. She’s pressing charges, and Riley will do the same.” Sawyer looked at Amy. “Jan told Riley that they were even now. The slate was cleared, and Riley could rent out that little hole-in-the-wall studio apartment above the diner if she wanted.”


Ty and Josh reached them. Josh’s attention narrowed in on Matt’s makeshift splint. “Ah, hell,” he said, sliding the torn shirt aside, examining the shoulder until Matt hissed in a breath. “You did it again, didn’t you?”


Lucille pushed her way between the two big men, barely coming up past their elbows. “Well?” she demanded of Matt. “I came out here and missed my morning talk shows. The least you can do is give me an exclusive quote on the situation.”


Matt shook his head. “I don’t know the situation.”


Lucille went brows up, looking as if she’d just swallowed the canary. “So if I told you that we all came here to see your sexy tush fired, you’d believe me?”


Matt slid a look to Josh and Ty, both of whom were wearing dark sunglasses and matching solemn expressions, giving nothing away. Some help.


Lucille smiled and patted him on the chest like he was a sad puppy. “Aw, you’re too cute to tease. We all came this morning to plead your case. Ty and Josh here told your boss that you couldn’t be here because you were busy saving a woman who’d gone into the forest alone.” She turned to Amy. “Did you need saving again, honey?”


“Actually,” Matt said, holding her tight to his good side. “She saved me.”


“Sweet,” Lucille said. “I saved you, too, don’t forget.” She elbowed Ty. “See, Facebook isn’t completely evil.” She beamed with pride. “Oh, and you’re cleared of any inquiries or blights on your record,” she said to Matt casually. “Those Facebook pics were pretty damning.” She turned to Amy. “I was thinking an exclusive show.”


“Show?”


“Your art. You came to Lucky Harbor to follow your grandma’s decades-old adventure, hoping for the same life-changing experiences, right? Do you have any idea what a great story that makes to go with the art? It’s fantastic. I can’t even make that stuff up. You’re going to sell like hotcakes. We’re going to make buckets of money.”


“How did you know all that?” Amy asked. “About my grandma and everything?”


“Honey, I know all. The question is, did you get your life-changing experience?”


Amy looked at Matt and smiled. “I did.”


Matt’s entire heart turned over in his chest. “Damn,” he said, pulling her in. “Damn, I love you.”

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