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Then of his Mary and Bit.

Blinking quick, he kissed the top of her head. “You always know just what to say.”

She rubbed her cheek against him and pressed her lips to his sternum. Then she looked at the big-as-a-drive-in screen in front of them. “So … is Die Hard your favorite movie?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He squeezed her hand. “Either this or The Godfather. Shoot … I really like The Wrath of Khan. And then there’s Ryan Reynolds setting the new standard. I don’t know. It’s like ice cream flavors—too many to choose from and depends on my mood, right?”

“Mmm-hmm. Are you sure you don’t want to eat?”

“I like sitting here more.”

As she yawned, he trained his eyes on the movie and tried to find his way back to where he had been. He couldn’t get there.

Like a glass shattered, he couldn’t put the feeling of safety and security back together again.

Lassiter loomed even though he wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

FOURTEEN

In the dream, Axe was back in Elise’s bedroom. He was in the clothes he’d been wearing when he’d gone up there, and he was sitting where he’d actually parked it at the end of her bed. The double doors into that bath of hers were wide open, and everything was as it had been in terms of furniture and decor—but it was all so hazy, like there was a smoke machine in the corner coughing out wafts of white fog.

He couldn’t see Elise, but he could hear her voice. She was talking to him from her bath, her voice coming and going out of earshot as if somebody was adjusting the volume on the world and had a bad hand tremor.

He was aware of being seriously aroused.

Really. Fucking. Hard.

And that was before she came into the jambs of the arched doorway.

Elise was incredibly, spectacularly naked, not one stitch of clothing keeping his eyes from her skin—and yet the specifics of her body were lost to him, that haze airbrushing out her breasts, the plane of her stomach, her clefted sex.

“Do you want me?” she said in a distorted voice.

“God, yes, fuck yes … I ache.…”

“Tell me you want me.”

Spreading his knees wide, he put his hand on his sex and squeezed. “So bad … I’m dying.…”

“Say the words.”

“I want you …,” he breathed.

Elise came to him like a summer breeze, walking across the fancy rug with a graceful stride that had him moaning in the back of his throat. And then she was in front of him, and he was reaching out to touch her, to caress her warm, vital skin. As he pulled her in between his legs, her scent filled his nose and his cock roared, his fangs descending in his mouth.

“Elise …”

Looking up at her, he moved his hands to her upper arms, urging her to kiss him. But the more he tried to get her to lean down and let him take her lips, the more she slipped from his grasp, her body becoming ether as she disappeared before his very eyes—

The alarm went off next to his head like a gunshot, the shrill electronic beeping goosing him in the ass as he jumped up and panted.

The fire was long dead, not even embers remaining, and the cottage’s living room was cold as the inside of a refrigerator. He’d crashed in the clothes he’d been wearing after he’d left Elise’s, only a leather jacket pulled over his torso holding any of his body heat in.

His joints were stiff.

And what do you know, they weren’t the only thing.

Rearranging himself, because it was either hands down the pants or he was walking like Quasimodo, he went up to the bathroom on the second floor and cranked on the hot water. Backing out, and shutting the door so that shit would warm up in there, he got a change of clothes, remembering everything from the socks to the combat boots—and then only started to strip when he was locked in with the humidity.

The first thing you learned about living in upstate New York during the winter with no heat was that you made sure you had what you needed before you got yourself wet. A dripping trip back to your room for a forgotten whatever was like cozying up to an electrical fence.

As shower stalls went, the one he stepped into naked was approximately the size of a salt shaker, its narrow plastic walls—which were about as structurally reliable as a Barbie playhouse’s—offering shocks of cold if you didn’t watch where you stood. The water was bliss, though, and he lifted his face to the roasty-toasty rush, letting it fall down his shoulders and his chest, his back and his ass.

It didn’t take him long to find the soap.

And where he went with it wasn’t good.

But his erection was killing him and it was getting worse instead of better as the caressing sensation of the spray got magnified and modified in his head, his faulty gray matter translating it into Elise’s hands, lips, tongue.

He was thick and heavy in his own palm, hard and unyielding as he gripped himself, and on the first stroke, he saw Elise’s face clear as day in his mind. And yeah, he told himself he should feel guilty for this, and he did. There was something nasty about jerking off to her when they had both drawn the line the night before.

His need for an orgasm was so strong, though, it wasn’t going to be denied.

Leaning to the side, Axe got a pump going and had to put his head into his bicep, his fangs scoring his own flesh as he went faster and faster. Heat roared through him along with more images of that female from the cigar bar and even her father’s study.

Which was so wrong.

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