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"Shh." He soothed with his mouth and hands. "Right now it can be."

Creamy skin. All for him. No barriers. He dipped his face to her breast.

She was right. This was so easy, losing himself in the taste, scent, feel of her. No roar in his head other than the blood charging through his veins.

And even as he touched her in every place he knew she enjoyed, even as she reciprocated, somehow it all felt new. As powerful, impulsive—reckless—as their first time.

Without the fumbling.

He stroked down her side, delved past damp lace to trace along her folds, dip two fingers into even damper heat that contracted around his touch. Her nipple grew even harder in his mouth as she moaned.

Flat surface. He needed one. Now. Sooner.

His mind raced with options, the Astroturf floor too rough, the bed too far away. Time for creativity.

Turning, he backed her toward the weight bench, and thank goodness she seemed too absorbed in cupping his ass to question his intent since—oh yeah, her soft hand slipped around front—no way did he want to move his mouth from his current sweet target long enough to explain himself.

Bending forward, he eased her down along the bench, then knelt between her knees.

Her hands glided along and off his shoulders as she relaxed against the padded bench. "So much better than any trapeze."

"Hell, woman, you turn me inside out anywhere, anytime, and you know it."

Skimming her panties down slender legs and off, he flung aside the purple lace. He hooked her knees around his arms, spread her thighs slightly, her upper body totally there and on display just for him. For his hands. For his mouth.

He pressed his lips to her ankle, over to the still-pink scar from her stitches as if he could take all her pain into himself. He nuzzled the crook of her knee, worked his way up, and man, but did she ever sigh and make all those sweet sounds to guide him. Affirmations somehow became clearer, more arousing now that he realized how close he'd come to losing her.

His smile caressed her inner thigh just before he continued his path up until her scent filled his senses—roses and pure her.

"Yes," she sighed.

Again, he heard, agreed, settled between her legs and parted her to drink, deeper, fuller, his tongue circling the tight bundle of nerves. Her next sigh hitched on a sweet whimper-moan that encouraged. Urged. Guiding him to what she wanted, needed now, right now from his hands and mouth.

From him.

And then he heard the sweetest sound of all in her completion. But different, edgier somehow. Torn from her throat in a way he totally understood because this woman tore the breath from him sometimes.

J.T. pressed a lingering kiss that drew another tremble of aftershocks from her.

He may not be able to control forever with Rena, but he could make sure he heard that echoing completion again tonight. And again after that until she was damn near hyperventilating, if he had his way.

But first, he allowed himself a second to look at her—couldn't have looked away anyhow as more of that "first time" sensation rolled over him anew. Instead, he took in the image of her long dark hair spiraling to the floor. Her arms overhead, fingers still clenched tight around the steel grips, her perfect br**sts rising and falling so fast, her body flushed from the release he'd brought her.

Her eyes fluttered open. A hesitant smile flickered. "You're making me a little self-conscious here."

He shook his head slowly, kept right on staring his fill.

"No need for that, babe. I'm just…" He paused, swallowing, words scarce for him on a normal day, and right now with so much of the past, present—damn it all—emotion clogging his throat and brain, words came tough. "There are times I can't believe I'm the lucky bastard who gets to sleep with you."

He extended a not-so-steady hand, traced the fragile line of her hipbone up, along the curve of her breast. She gazed back at him, her eyes unwavering, unblinking, glistening with tears when he'd vowed never to make this woman cry again.

She arched up and he forgot how the hell to think. One of the things he appreciated most about losing himself in Rena. She scooched toward him, wrapped her legs around his waist and guided him home. Oh yeah.

Gripping her hips, he steadied her, nudged into the tight fist of moist heat. Waited for her to accommodate, waited for her sigh. Then moved. Again, in time with her, their bodies in sync if not always their minds.

He kept his pace slow, controlled, careful. Her heels dug into the small of his back, urging him deeper, and he let her take the lead, let her body dictate, easy enough since they wanted the same thing.

Eventually, as always, he couldn't tell who controlled anymore. Neither probably, because the driving need had hold of both of them. Something that had controlled them for years.

Eyes closed, his face settled against the damp curve of her neck, his skin equally as slick, growing wetter as she rocked against him. More of that frantic edge slugged through him, the sense that he had to hold on to this moment because he might never have another chance with this woman.

An unacceptable thought.

"Don't stop." Her nails jabbed into his back with urgency. "Not yet."

"Don't worry, babe," he growled into rose-scented hair. "I have no intention of stopping or going anywhere."

Damn straight on that.

She pulsed around him, harder, massaging him in her release that threatened to send him over with her. Still, he held back, took her cries into his mouth, absorbed her trembling, drew out her fulfillment until his body roared for relief. Her cries building, fading, she sagged against him.

Only then did he allow himself the final thrust that would send him flying into the mist. Rena's husky voice and sighs, right there with him, steered him through the haze. Damn, but he loved listening to her.

Shuddering, he gathered her close, his face still in her hair. How long? Who the hell knew? Finally the world, concerns, their son, his work—the promise of Rena's talk—all started echoing through the fog to drag him back. And he would deal with all of it.

He knew his duty, never cut out on responsibilities, always kept his word. But for right now, the world could just shut the hell up, and Rena's talk would have to wait.

He reached for more of the total escape he could only find in his wife's body.

Sprawled on top of her husband on the floor, Rena tried to ignore the dark cloud edging into her brain. It had to be because of Chris's mess. Not because of anything to do with J.T. They'd made progress. They were both on the same page now about talking, working to improve things.

Then why was she afraid of tomorrow?

Their legs tangled, she listened to the percussion of his heartbeat in her ear. "The Astroturf must be giving you a serious case of carpet burns."

"Worth it."

"We could go upstairs," she felt obligated to offer even as she yearned to stay here, in the moment.

"In a minute," he growled, his eyes still closed, hands warm on the small of her back. "Don't want to think enough to walk yet. Not sure I could put my shorts on to head that way anyhow."

She swirled a finger through the hair sprinkling his chest, his skin slick with sweat. "It's cooler upstairs."

His eyelids snapped open. "Ah hell, I'm sorry." Bracing her waist, he sat up. "I didn't even think about how uncomfortable this must be for you. Let's go."

He stared back at her in his lap, his gray eyes intense, resigned and fortified for what would come next.

Déjà vu left her swaying, transporting her to nearly four months ago when he'd worn that exact same heartbreakingly intense expression. Just before their final argument that had sent him walking.

Her throat closed as if to hold back words and the possibility—probability—of a repeat showdown. Something she couldn't face yet with her emotions so bare. Vulnerable.

To hell with getting cerebral right now. Surely she could enjoy the physical nirvana of just lying with J.T. after bow many hours she'd dreamed about touching him, tasting him. "No, really. I'm okay. I wanted to make sure you're all right." She tickled his chin with a lock of her hair. "Let's stay here a while longer."

"How much longer?" He nipped the tip of her finger.

She wriggled until her knees landed on either side of his hips. "As long as you can last, flyboy."

"Now, what man could resist that challenge?" He cupped her br**sts while she rolled her h*ps until he throbbed hotter, harder against her. He lifted, shifted, guided her down.

So what if this was a reliable delay to their talk? It was an incredible way. And she would get around to doing the right thing soon enough.

Damn. She hadn't changed one bit in twenty-two years. She was still totally at the mercy of her body's craving for this man.

Right now she wanted to enjoy the shimmering sensations and connection and a blissful moment when she was absolutely certain they could work things out because they couldn't have something this perfect that wasn't meant to be. They couldn't deny this connection for the rest of their lonely lives.

Yes, she understood it was carnal and elemental, but this wasn't just sex. It was almost as if when reason, defenses, human foibles and stupid, stupid pride fell away, their souls recognized each other at the most simple level, so right. Mates. For life.

She wanted to believe they would make changes this time, but her wary heart couldn't escape a fearful sense brought on by years of experience with this man. That as soon as the sweat chilled on their sated bodies, they would hurt each other again.

Chapter 13

Morning sunlight streaked through the bedroom curtains, throwing lacy patterns on the walls. A familiar enough image for J.T., but one he hadn't experienced in nearly four months. Not in this room, with his wife curled against his side. Naked. Something he intended to enjoy for a few more minutes before life intruded.

J.T. stroked her arm, watching the digital clock blink away minutes. They'd never gotten around to a conversation the night before, and he couldn't say he regretted the delay.

He'd braced himself for the discussion, even to the point of planning where it should take place. At the kitchen table with a bowl of peach ice cream. He hoped the ice cream would remind her of happier times and soften her up before the tough talk.

Only, she'd faded into one of her pregnancy narcoleptic naps. He'd wrapped her in a quilt, scooped her up and carried her to bed. If he'd even considered sleeping elsewhere, she'd put an end to that with a groggy arm around his neck pulling him down to join her.

Fair enough. No need to ask him twice.

His gaze skated from her feet peeking out of the covers, along her curves draped in a sheet patterned with a thousand little flowers, up to the creamy skin of her shoulders and neck.

Damn, but her hair looked good on his pillow.

His hand explored her arm, along her hip. Sighing, she flipped onto her back, landing his hand square onto the tight curve of her belly. Shock stilled him. Longing held him there.

He'd been careful the night before not to touch her stomach. Only a bonehead wouldn't realize she had hang-ups about reconciling because of the baby after their shotgun wedding. Hell, maybe he had a few of those hang-ups himself—wondering if this was the only way to work himself into Rena's life.

But for now, while she slept, he allowed himself a moment to meet his new kid. He palmed the slight swell, turned onto his side until his face rested against the top of his wife's head while he rubbed a slow circle greeting.

Rena snuggled closer, still asleep and warm, mumbling stuff he couldn't make out.

He smiled into her hair. "It's okay, you have a while longer before you need to get up."

"Hmm. Good. So sleepy. Love you."

Sucker punched, J.T. couldn't move. She rolled to her other side, away, and clutched her pillow while her breathing resumed a steady snoozing rhythm.

She was probably stuck in some time-warp dream state from twenty years ago when she'd said those words all the time and he hadn't appreciated how much they meant. But did she mean them now and if so, how would he keep from hurting her this time, too?