Page 7

“No!” he shouted. “Don’t! No! Please.”

Heart in her throat, Jamison dropped onto the floor beside him. “It’s okay, Ryder. It’s just a dream.”

He was too lost in the nightmare to hear her.

She’d read somewhere that you weren’t supposed to wake someone who was in the middle of a bad dream, but she couldn’t leave Ryder like this. He was obviously suffering, was making low, animalistic sounds in the back of his throat. She couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t, leave him like this.

“Ryder, please.” She put a light hand on his shoulder, shook him gently. When that didn’t work, she grabbed his hand in her own, squeezed tightly even as she wrapped her free arm around his waist in a loose kind of hug. “It’s okay. I’ve got you, sweetie. I’ve got you.”

His free hand shot out, fastened like a steel band around her wrist. Jamison squeaked in surprise, but she didn’t fight him. Even when he tugged her closer and rolled her onto his prostrate body, she didn’t fight. This was Ryder, and even asleep, even tormented, she knew he wasn’t like Max. Knew he would never hurt her.

“Ryder, honey. Wake up,” she whispered, her face only inches from his.

He didn’t respond, didn’t acknowledge with so much as a blink or a nod that he’d heard her. That freaked her out a lot more than being splayed on top of him did. Still, she scooted around, tried to sit up, hoping that the movement would pull him out of whatever strange sleep state he was in. But all her squirming around got her was one large hand on her hip anchoring her in place and another one tangled in her hair.

“Ryder,” she gasped, shocked at how breathless she sounded. But she couldn’t help it. His body—his hot, hard, aroused body—was pressed intimately against her own. And though she knew he didn’t have a clue what he was doing, that didn’t seem to matter. Her nipples were hard, her breasts aching, her sex damp, all from the feel of Ryder beneath her. It was wrong, and she hated herself for it, but she couldn’t prevent her response any more than he could prevent his nightmares.

At the same time, she couldn’t let this continue. She needed to get off him, now. But as she shoved at his hands, tried to scramble onto the floor, he opened his eyes and stared directly into her own.

“Stay,” he whispered.

She froze. Was he seeing her, talking to her? Or was that one desperate word meant for someone else?

“Please, Jamison, don’t go. Don’t leave me.” His voice was low. Gravelly. Pleading. And she was lost, even before he tugged her down and buried his face in her neck.

Chapter Five

The last vestiges of Ryder’s nightmare faded away, helped along by the honeyed peach scent of Jamison stretched above him. He knew he was still dreaming, knew in a few minutes he would open his eyes and these moments of peace would be gone. But for now he would take the comfort this Dream Jamison was offering and lose himself in it. Revel in it.

Taking a deep breath, he held her scent deep inside of himself as he battled once again to put the specters of his past behind him. It was an unwinnable fight, one that was tearing him apart a little more with each day that passed. But he had to try, had to search for just a small reprievefrom the pain of all the ways he’d failed and all the things he’d done wrong.

Above him, Jamison crooned wordless sounds of comfort. Her fingers combed gently through his hair, smoothing the tangled mess of it from his face. He stiffened for a second—it had been so long since he’d taken solace from anyone that at first he didn’t know how to accept what she was offering. But eventually he relaxed, gave himself up to her.

How could he do anything else when her touch was soothing him in a way nothing else had in far too long? He had no idea why she was here, now, in his dreams, but he wasn’t going to question it. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to give her up, not when he could feel the tension and self-loathing slowly leaking away, burying themselves deep inside of himself where he kept them locked away when he was conscious. The absence of pain, even for a little while, felt amazing.

He wasn’t sure how long he lay there, lost in the unfamiliar relief of having Jamison surround him. But he was grateful for every second the dream went on. She didn’t move, barely breathed, just wrapped herself around him and let him absorb her warmth and tenderness. It had been so long since he’d felt these emotions, even longer since he’d let himself accept them.

But nothing lasted forever, especially not dreams. It was how he’d gotten through every night of the last decade since Carrie had died—by knowing that eventually day would come and his nightmare would end.

This was different. He didn’t want it to end, didn’t want to leave behind the serenity he was feeling. But Jamison started to squirm a little, her body moving over and against his until a different heat started to build between them.

He groaned at the feel of her, tightened his hand on her hip and pulled her closer until her sex ended up centered directly above his cock. He would hate himself for this dream later, for reducing Jared’s little sister to the basest sexual fantasy, but right now it felt so good that he couldn’t stop himself. Couldn’t resist. Besides, it wasn’t real. No one else had to know what twisted, fucked-up ideas went on inside his head. This was just one more thing for him to add to the pile of his self-loathing.

But later. Much later.

Arching his hips, he ground himself against her seductive wetness and reveled in the shivers she didn’t even try to hide. Her hard little nipples stabbed at him through the thin material of her shirt and his mouth watered with the need to taste. To lick. To suck.

He slid his hand up her rib cage. He wanted to see her, to find out if her nipples were the same delicate pink as her lips. As his fingers skimmed against the underside of her breast, she jerked against him, gasped.

He liked the sound, wanted to hear her make it again, so he flicked his thumb over her nipple. Once, twice. Then again and again until her entire body was trembling.

“Ryder, what are you doing?” she demanded, her voice breaking on the last word.

He had no fucking clue. But it felt so good he didn’t want to stop. Not now. Not ever. Bringing his other hand to her hip, he pressed Jamison more firmly against him even as he swiveled his hips. Pleasure—sharp, powerful, overwhelming—shot through him at the contact and he groaned with the need for more. With the need for everything.

He wanted her, wanted Jamison, and suddenly no one else would do. Not when his brain was filled with images of kissing and touching and fucking every part of her with every part of him.

He wanted to tie her up, to have her completely at his mercy as he gave her as much pleasure as she could stand.

Wanted to bend her over the arm of this couch and fuck her until she couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anyone but him.

Wanted to sit her on his face and lick up every drop of her honeyed sweetness until she came, screaming his name.

It wouldn’t take much. He could smell her arousal, could feel the wet heat of her even through the thin cotton of her panties and his pajama pants.

The thought gave him pause for the first time since his nightmare had shifted into this much more pleasant erotic dream. What the hell was his subconscious up to? Why was Jamison wearing panties? And why the fuck was he in pajama bottoms? She should be naked, her sex wet and open to him so that he could slide right in—

“Ryder!” She was gasping now, her fingers tangling in his hair, tugging at him, even as her lower body rocked gently against his. “Are you awake? Are you—”

He darted his tongue out to lick at the hollow of her throat. Mmm. She tasted as good as he’d hoped. He nipped at her collarbone and the sensitive skin of her neck, then used his tongue to lave away the small stings. Her heart was going crazy, beating so hard and fast that he could feel it against his chest even as he traced the frantic pulse at the base of her throat. He appreciated her excitement—reveled in it, in fact—but again found it strange that her physical responses felt so real.

And then her fingers were in his hair, tightening to the point of pain. Her other hand slapped against his chest as she tried to shove herself up and away from him. His arms went around her back and he tightened his hold, trying to keep her—to keep the dream—from slipping away. He didn’t want to go back to the cold, didn’t want to be alone anymore. Not when the dream Jamison had showed him just how much he was missing.

But she was insistent, her voice urgent now as she called his name. “Ryder. Ryder! Come on, Ryder, wake up for me. Open your eyes.”

She shook his shoulder, pulled at his hair, and the last vestiges of his dream fell away.

With a groan of dismay, he pushed himself into a sitting position. But something was off. There was a soft, warm weight on his lap, pressing against his chest. A soft, warm, womanly weight.

Alarm jolted through him, chasing away the last of his sleepiness. He flipped open his eyes, tried to focus on the concerned face only inches from him. And that’s when he knew. None of the last few minutes—hours?—had been a dream. Jamison was on his lap. Her knees were straddling his hips. And her sex, her soft, damp, glorious sex, was nestled intimately against his cock.

Jared was going to kill him. That is if Ryder didn’t do the job first himself.

If she’d needed proof that Ryder wasn’t really with it when he was touching her, Jamison got it the second his eyes cleared and he was obviously awake. A look of abject horror crossed his face, and then he stood up so quickly that he sent her sprawling, ass first, onto the carpet.

“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, extending a hand down to help her up. But he looked so freaked out by what had happened that she ended up batting his hand away. Far be it for her to make him touch her when he so obviously didn’t want to.

“Are you okay?” he asked after she made it to her feet.

She shot him a disbelieving look. “I only fell about a yard.”

“I meant—” He broke off, ran a hand over the back of his neck. “You know. I didn’t mean to grab you like that. Did I hurt you?”

Only by completely freaking out once you realized who you were touching. She couldn’t say that, though, no matter how much his obvious revulsion hurt her. What did it say about her that Ryder Montgomery, lead singer and sex god extraordinaire, was—for all intents and purposes—traumatized simply because he’d touched her breast?

Oh, there was a part of her that knew this was more about who she was than what she looked like, but that part was nothing compared to the one screaming at her for being a fool. For thinking, even for a second, that Ryder might have wanted her. Might have been responding physically to her. Bad enough that she was Jared’s sister and five-eight instead of the cute, pixie type girls Ryder usually liked. Add in the fact that she was a size twelve instead of a two and she might as well have a reject-me sign plastered across her chest.

“It’s fine. You were asleep. I get it.” She crossed back to the bar and got another bottle of water, more for something to do than out of any real thirst.

“Still, you should have hit me or something.” His foot was tapping against the carpet now, a surefire sign that his agitation was escalating. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I wasn’t scared! Jesus, what kind of pansy ass do you think I am?”

He blinked at her for a few seconds, like he was shocked by her outburst or something. But really, how many times could a guy apologize for touching a girl before her ego got a little—more like a lot—bruised?

“Max nearly—”

“Give me a break. There is no situation in which I would ever mistake you for him. Remember, I was the lucid one, not you. If I were really concerned that you were going to hurt me, I would have racked you. Then I’d be the one looking sick and apologizing while you were the one telling me to knock it off.” She paused, pretended to consider. “Although, there is a chance you might not be as understanding as I am.”

He snorted. “Just a chance, huh?”

“Okay, a big chance.” She tossed him a bottle of water. “So, are we cool? You’re done beating yourself up for something you did when you were asleep?”

He drained the water in one long gulp, then slowly lowered the bottle so he could look at her with those crazy onyx eyes of his. “I wasn’t beating myself up.”

“Dude, I can practically see the bruises from here.”

“I was just worried about you. I didn’t want you to think—”

“And I was worried about you. Whatever you were dreaming about seemed pretty awful. That’s why I went over to you to begin with.” She said it deliberately, to get him to stop apologizing, but the second the words actually hit the air between them, she wished she could take them back. He literally shut down in front of her.

“Did it?” He shrugged, but his face was carefully blank. “I don’t remember anything, so it must not have been that bad.” But he crossed to the bar, set down the water and pulled out a glass and a bottle of tequila instead.