He grinned. “You’re wrecked.”
“Am not.” Little bit… “So what’s the pity party about?”
“Not a pity party.” The alcohol hadn’t seemed to affect him all that greatly, though the way he was easily slouched back on the dock was evidence he was feeling pretty damn relaxed.
“All alone on the dock with a bottle of booze feels like a pity party,” she said. “What’s the matter?”
He looked at her for a minute and then shook his head. “What the hell, you’re not going to remember this anyway.”
“I’m not that drunk.”
“Yeah you are. You’re a lightweight.”
She’d have attempted to dispute that, but her tongue wasn’t cooperating. “Tell me.”
“All day,” she agreed with a nod. In truth, she couldn’t remember what day it was.
“I have to go to San Francisco by this weekend,” Luke said.
“No. I’m visiting here. I’m going back to stay.”
Her smile faded. “Oh,” she said softly, “right.” She’d almost forgotten there for a minute.
He tossed back another shot.
She grabbed the bottle and did the same, and then went to set it down—or at least that’s what she meant to do, but she missed the dock and it fell into the water below.
She stared down at the black, choppy water swirling beneath them. “Whoops.”
He stared at the water too. “I wasn’t done with that.”
“I’m so sorry!” She turned to fully face him, surprised to find her world spinning good now. Apparently she was a lightweight. “Want to go in after it?”
“Hell no. That water is damn cold tonight.”
She looked up into his face, taking in the square, scruffy jaw, the mouth that could be both firm and soft, the eyes that missed nothing, and felt her breath catch.
He was leaving.
And her mom and Edward were right. She was in love with him. “Luke?”
“You’re so pretty.”
He smiled. It was an uninhibited smile. A wolf smile. And it made her nipples get very perky. “I think I’m indicated.”
His smile widened.
Oh my, she thought, heart fluttering at the sight. Trying to be cool, she leaned back and ended up going the same way as the Scotch—ass over kettle backward into the waves.
Luke was right, she thought with a gasp that filled her mouth with water. The ocean was damn cold tonight.
Shit,” Luke said, rising to his feet as Ali surfaced, sputtered, and went back under. “Shit,” he said again, and dove into the water after her.
The shock of the cold water sucked the air from his lungs as he hauled Ali into his arms, treading water for the both of them.
She was shivering, but not hurt or scared—or so he assumed by the way she laughed with abandon and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“You didn’t have to come in,” she said. “I can swim.”
Except she wasn’t. Still laughing, she was holding onto him, making no attempt to keep herself afloat. Her sundress clung to her skin, and her hair lay in dark tendrils on her shoulders.
“You weren’t kidding about the water,” she said. Clueless to the fact that he was the only thing holding her up, she wrapped herself around him like Saran Wrap. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’ll let you know when my balls defrost.”
This set her off laughing again, and she dropped her head to his chest.
Shaking his head and smiling in spite of himself, he gathered her in close and got them both to the shore. When he dragged her out of the water, she dropped to her knees.
“That was fun,” she said. “Let’s do it again.”
He took in her grinning face. Her eyes were shining as bright as the stars, and just looking at her was a kick in the gut.
He was leaving.
How was he going to leave her?
And why did it matter so much? They’d known each other for a blink in time. But already she was a tie, binding him here to this place he loved so much. He felt his mouth curve in genuine amusement when she stared at him. “Whoa,” she said, “you’re making my world spin.”
“Pretty sure that’s the Scotch,” he said, but he dropped to his knees next to her.
She leaned into him, letting out a soft, dreamy sigh. “I’m pretty sure it’s you,” she said softly. Then she cupped his face, pulled it to hers, and kissed him, long and hot and wet.
He let himself get lost in her for a deliciously long moment, then pulled free. “You’re toasted.”
“Mmm…toast,” she purred. “I really like peanut butter toast. When I first moved out on my own, I used to eat peanut butter for dinner ’cuz it was cheap. I’d stick a spoon in the jar and lick it slowly, like a lollipop, to make it last.”
He felt his heart clench again, hard. And utterly unable to help himself, he tugged her back in and kissed her again. She tasted of Scotch and warm, sweet Ali. And something else.
She tasted like his.
“You know,” she said very seriously, “you’re all wet.”
She grinned up at him, clearly pleased at the sound. She spread her arms and lay back, eyeing the sky. “You don’t see this many stars in White Center, you know. Too many lights. Plus going outside at night was a huge, big, no-no. My cousin Lacey went outside at night once, to get her schoolbooks out of her mom’s car, and never came back.”
“Jesus,” he said, all amusement fading. “What happened?”
With a sigh, she closed her eyes. “They found her body two days later in the river.”
He leaned over her, stroking the wet hair from her face. He wanted to erase all the bad in her world and leave only the good, but as he was a part of the bad, he had no idea how to do that. “Tell me they caught the guy,” he said.
“It was her boyfriend. Turned out, he’d won a big pile of cash at the slots that day, and she’d stolen it from him.” She sighed again, maybe thinking about the money she was accused of stealing. “Can I have another shot?”
“It’s gone.” He stroked the wet hair from her face. “And besides, that’s not what you need.”
“No,” he said, and picked her up into his arms.
“Oh,” she said, clutching at him. “Are you taking me in, Officer?”
“Are you gonna interrogate me?”
“No, you’re going to exercise your right to be silent.” He carried her into the house, set her down by her bed and stared at her sundress, which was clinging to her like a second skin.
A sheer skin, and there were no buttons or zipper on the front.
“I don’t do silent so well,” she said.
“Maybe you should get out your cuffs,” she said kinda hopefully.
His body went from zero to sixty at the image of her cuffed to his bed, begging him to take her however he wanted.
And he wanted. He wanted her in every possible way. With a hand to her hips, he turned her away from him and finally located a zipper. He slid it down and gulped.
Close your eyes, asshole, he told himself as he peeled the drenched and clinging dress down her curvy bod.
But he didn’t close his eyes.
Biting back the groan at the perfection in front of him, he reached past her, pulled the blankets down, and poured her into the bed.
“Can’t go to bed with wet hair,” she said, rolling to her back, exposing her breasts. “It’ll get crazy.”
He wasn’t sure how she could tell the difference, but he loved her crazy hair. “It’s good,” he said, stroking it from her face.
“Really.” Her nipples were hard, two perfect gumdrops, and his mouth watered. He yanked the covers up to her chin. There. He was sweating, and feeling like he should be awarded a medal for being a saint.
Ali made a soft, disagreeable sound and kicked the blankets off, revealing her glorious body again. And then, before he could stop her, she grabbed his hand and tugged until he fell on top of her.
Well, okay, so he could have stopped her, but he didn’t, and he didn’t really want to think about that, because then she wrapped her arms and legs around him, holding him there.
“Mmm,” she said dreamily.
He let out a low laugh against her temple and tried to extricate himself, but every time he freed a limb, she tightened another. She was silent through this, eyes closed. Then suddenly she opened them and looked right into his. “You haven’t left yet.”
Sucker punched right in the gut because he knew she didn’t mean right this moment. She meant that the men in her life left her. All of them. “It’s my house,” he teased, not in any shape to have this conversation.
But she didn’t laugh, and that took him aback. He stopped trying to free himself. “Ali,” he said, low. Desperate. “I’m trying to do the right thing here.”
“Well, don’t.” She rocked up into him and moaned.
The sound gave him a rush. “You’re going to sleep,” he said firmly.
“Who will keep my feet warm?”
“I’ll get you an extra blanket.”
“A stick in the mud,” she muttered. “Who’d have thought that the hot, sexy Luke Hanover’s nothing but a stick in the mud?”
“You’ll thank me in the morning.” Again he pulled the blanket up to her chin, firmly tucking her in so that he wasn’t tempted to do anything stupid.
“My panties are wet.”
He dropped his forehead to hers.
“And my shoes are still on.”