He waited for her answer by the end of her bed where he’d laid her bags. An image of sharing that bed with her flashed in his mind. He imagined her naked, stretched out underneath him, moaning his name like she’d done countless times before. He’d kiss a trail down her jaw to her soft neck. Then he’d—
“Are you sure?” Her question jerked him back to the present. The hesitation in her voice and on her face was obvious, and he didn’t blame her.
He didn’t know anything about kids, but how hard could watching one little boy be? “I’ll be fine.” He took a step forward and started to cup her cheek in an effort to comfort her. Let her know he’d protect her. The action was instinctive even after all these years, but he yanked his hand back instead. What he wouldn’t give to rub his thumb over her soft skin just one more time. When he looked at her like this, he could feel the years melt away and pretend things between them hadn’t changed.
Her pulse point went crazy as he stared at her. He didn’t touch her but he couldn’t seem to walk away either. She could likely read the lust in his eyes. And she wasn’t backing up.
“What are you doing?” Her words came out as a shaky gasp.
Hammering nails in my coffin. Maybe he really was a masochist. He couldn’t have her so he thought he could caress her cheek as if she were his. As if he had a right to touch her. “Nothing,” he muttered, stepping back. What the hell was wrong with him?
Before he had time to think of any sort of response, Jonathan raced into the room. “I’m ready now.”
She squatted down so she was eye level with Jonathan. “Hunter’s going to take you down to the beach, but you have to stay by this house. No wandering, do you understand? I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He kissed her on the cheek before looking up expectantly at Hunter.
“I’m ready if you are,” Hunter said. At least he hoped he was. He thought he’d been prepared for anything, but when Alexis had introduced them, he’d felt his heart actually swell with ridiculous pride. Leaving Alexis again was going to be the hardest thing he’d ever have to do, but leaving Jonathan… He closed his mind off to the thought before he let himself imagine a real life with a real family. The kid deserved better than him. What kind of person would he be if he inserted himself into the boy’s life after all the things he’d done?
When Jonathan placed his tiny hand in his own much larger one, there was blatant mistrust in his familiar dark eyes. Not that he blamed the kid.
The room Alexis ended up in had a distinct island feel to it. Different shades of blue and plum accented it, and black-and-white pictures of lighthouses were strategically grouped on the walls. After unpacking a few things, she went in search of Jonathan. No matter how much she trusted Hunter to keep their son alive, she didn’t like him being out of her sight.
The large deck was empty, but she found two pairs of shoes at the end of the walkway leading to the beach. One pair was definitely Jonathan’s, and the other was no doubt Hunter’s, but she couldn’t stop the bile that rose in her throat. She kicked off her shoes and ran to the beach. Along the coast, she saw a few couples strolling along the coastline, probably watching the late sunset. But no Jonathan. She curled her toes into the sand and pressed a hand to her stomach. She’d told them not to leave the area.
Her heart beat an erratic tattoo against her chest. She’d never lost track of her son. As she turned back toward the house, she heard familiar laughter. She started back up the wooden walkway when she heard it again. Ducking under the ledge, she strode across the sand and found Hunter and Jonathan crouched down behind a sloping sand dune and a cluster of sea grass. The knowledge that they were only a few feet from the deck did little to soothe the panic curling through her.
“Hunter James Cassidy. What are you doing?” Alexis heard the tremor in her voice, but couldn’t control her anger. Or fear.
“Uh-oh, I think you made her mad. She used your whole name.” Jonathan tried to speak in hushed tones as he stood, but Alexis heard him.
“Yeah, I believe you’re right.” Hunter grimaced and took the red bucket from Jonathan.
“Just kiss her. That’s what I do when I’m sorry. She never stays mad then,” Jonathan said in an authoritative voice.
Her hands balled into fists at her side. She knew she was being irrational. It was hard to care, though. “Jonathan, why don’t you go upstairs and get ready for your bath?”
“Okay, Mom, but don’t be too mad at him. He was showing me cool bugs,” he said as he ran up the walk.
“I thought you left!” She didn’t know why she was shouting. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, her heart raced wildly and it was all she could do not to break down.
“Whatever opinion you have of me is probably justified, but just know that no matter what happens, I would never take Jonathan away from you. I’ve done a lot of shit, but that…” It was imperceptible, but he shuddered slightly. “I swear to you, I’d never take our son from you.” The quiet declaration held conviction, and it caused a strange flutter deep inside her.
His words sucked all the steam out of her. Even if she wanted to feign being mad at him, she couldn’t. Not when he looked so dejected. “Just don’t wander off anywhere in the future without telling me first,” she muttered.
“I wouldn’t dream of it. I was hoping you might stay mad a little longer.” Closing the divide between them, he stepped closer.
“What? Why?” Her throat clenched and she took a step back only to make contact with the railing along the walkway. She recognized the look in his eyes and knew what he planned to do.
“Jonathan told me all I had to do was kiss you and you’d forgive me. I wonder what would happen if I kissed you now. What would it take for you to forgive me for doing that?” His deep voice rolled over her in sensuous waves.
When he half-smiled, revealing an elusive dimple, her traitorous body reacted. Underneath her sweater, her nipples hardened painfully. She hated that he still managed to get her heart rate up with a simple smile. No one had ever done that to her before or since him. The first time he’d smiled at her, a warning bell had gone off in her brain. She’d known he was a man with a capital M. Not like the boys she’d been used to dating before. They’d been introduced at a friend’s party by Gwen’s nephew. When Hunter had set his sights on her, it hadn’t been long until they were tangled between the sheets talking about the future. A future that had never happened.
“Hunter, you need to…” She wanted to say stop. It was on the tip of her tongue. The stupid word wouldn’t come out, though. “This is a bad idea,” she muttered instead.
An annoying heat built inside her, spreading from her lower abdomen and pushing out to all her nerve endings. She tried to duck out of his way, but he braced his hands on the ledge next to her. His stature of five foot eleven compared to her five foot three normally wouldn’t bother her, but for some reason Hunter seemed to tower over everyone regardless of height—herself included.
“I think it’s a very good idea,” he murmured as he leaned closer. An involuntary shiver ran down her spine as he pulled her to him with a fierceness she remembered all too well.
One arm wrapped around her waist, and she was strangely thankful for the support. Despite the almost palpable tension humming through him, and his firm grip on her, the way he stared at her held nothing but gentleness and raw need. As their bodies meshed together, she tried to catch her breath but found it impossible.
“I swore I wouldn’t touch you but…I’ve missed you, Alexis. For years this is all I’ve thought about. Having you in front of me after so long is too much.” His voice was rough and strangled.
She’d forgotten how he could take her from zero to hot-and-ready-to-go in milliseconds. And when he said her name in that intoxicating, toe-curling voice, everything else around her ceased to exist.
Which was exactly how she’d ended up pregnant and alone. Like a bucket of ice water being thrown in her face, her thoughts instantly cooled.
As if he read her mind, he dropped his embrace and stepped away. He rubbed a hand over his face and let out a string of colorful curses. Finally he looked her in the eye and she was surprised at the shame she saw there. “I know it’s wrong, but I see you and I want to touch you. You’re like a drug. I… It won’t happen again.” He brushed past her and ducked under the railing.
“Mom!” Jonathan’s distant voice and the sound of footsteps pounding along the nearby deck finally brought her out of her trance.
She ran an unsteady hand through her hair and turned to find Jonathan streaking back toward her. Why did she feel such acute disappointment when Hunter said it wouldn’t happen again? Hunter might not have kissed her, but he’d come close. And worse, she hadn’t been thinking about her fiancé. No, she’d been remembering all the things Hunter could do with his mouth. Embarrassment and guilt washed over her. Michael would never put himself in a position like this.
Hunter was right. This wasn’t going to happen again. She wouldn’t let it.
With an edginess she wished she could ignore, Alexis opened one of the packets of oatmeal. She’d barely slept two solid hours last night. Every slight noise had her jumping out of bed to check on Jonathan. And every time she did that, Hunter checked on her.
It was enough to give her a heart attack. He might as well have been completely naked for how her body reacted. Perfectly chiseled abs—and not the kind from working out at a gym. No, his lean muscles were honed from some sort of outdoor labor. Which led to even more questions. Exactly what kind of undercover work had he been doing? He’d looked good before, but the past few years had been very kind to him. Now he had an edgier, almost feral look to him that made her think getting snared in his trap might not be such a bad thing. An involuntary shiver raced through her. A man didn’t have the right to look that good.