Page 29

Supposedly women were the moody, emotional creatures. According to men. But men were far more guilty of being volatile. Up and down. One minute he was sweet, tender and absolutely adoring. The next? Silent and brooding over God only knew what.

Maybe he just wasn’t a morning person. Admittedly, until recently, she had zero experience with him in the mornings. She’d never had cause to see him or interact with him in the early hours of the day. Her exposure to him had been limited to afternoons and evenings, and he’d been nothing but charming on those occasions.

Oh well, she’d have to have enough morning cheer for both of them apparently. She’s always been an early riser and what she considered a morning person. Carson had teased her about being disgustingly cheerful the moment she rose from bed.

Thoughts of Carson brought back the disturbing dreams from the night before. Her lips turned down into an unhappy frown. What did they mean? Dreams were inexplicable, a manifestation of the subconscious. Who the hell knew what they really meant? Maybe they meant nothing at all. Maybe it was just a battle between her past and present, colliding at night when her thoughts were unguarded.

At any rate, she wished they’d go away. Carson was gone. He wasn’t coming back. Last night’s dream had bothered her immensely. The heaviness followed her into the waking hours, weighing on her as she remembered the impossible choice she’d faced in the dream.

It was silly because she’d never face that choice. It was pointless to even dwell on it and think about which way she’d go because it was never going to happen. The choice had been made for her.

Would she choose Carson if she could have him back? Would she turn her back on Dash and everything he offered? She shook her head, refusing to go there. It would only lead to guilty feelings on her part because in her dream she hadn’t chosen him.

“Stop thinking about it, Joss. You’re only upsetting yourself and feeling unnecessary guilt. Carson would want you to be happy. He wouldn’t want you to mourn him forever. Get over it and move on.”

She briefly wondered if she should see a doctor. Not a shrink. God, anything but that. But perhaps her doctor could give her something to make her sleep more soundly so she wasn’t tormented by dreams of her husband and her current lover.

Filing that away and making a mental note to place a call to her physician, she forced herself out of bed, wondering what she’d do the entire day while Dash was at work.

What had she done before she’d moved into his house?

More and more she considered going back to work as a nurse. She needed a purpose. Something to occupy her time so she wasn’t doing nothing day in, day out. Her CEUs were current. She had her license. She could go back to work at any time.

What would Dash think? He’d made it clear that he wanted her time to be his own, but he had to work. He couldn’t just drop everything to be with her twenty-four-seven, and she wouldn’t expect him to.

She didn’t necessarily want to go back to shift work, and it wasn’t probable that she’d score a day shift job, coming in as low man on the totem pole. Yes, the swing and night shift made more per hour, but she didn’t need the money. She was financially secure thanks to Carson. What she needed was something to occupy her time.

Maybe she could seek employment at a doctor’s office. At least then her hours would be normal and she’d have weekends off.

And there was the fact that she’d planned to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. She had classes and credits toward that goal, but she’d quit when she’d quit her job. She only lacked a year and she could have her license and go to work under a doctor in private practice.

It was something she was going to give serious thought to. She was tired of being at loose ends and it was time for her to take charge of her life once more. She was young. She’d already taken charge of her sexuality and taken the plunge with Dash. All that remained was for her to decide on going back to work.

She would discuss it with Dash and get his thoughts when he was in a better mood. Not that she needed his approval. She was perfectly capable of making her own decisions. Yes, she’d given him her submission, had wanted him to have absolute control over her. But she still retained the option of making the important decisions that affected her happiness. And if Dash truly cared for her, he wouldn’t stand in the way of her happiness.

Feeling marginally better about her future, she went through the motions of the day. She spent half an hour on the Internet looking up recipes. She wanted to make Dash something special. Finding a yummy-looking chicken and cheese casserole dish that would be simple to prepare, she then took stock of Dash’s pantry and fridge and realized she’d have to go out to pick up the necessary ingredients.

For that matter his pantry was pretty empty and his fridge wasn’t much better. Happy to have something to do, she made a list and planned a series of meals, making sure she wrote down the necessary ingredients for all the recipes. When her list was completed, she then took stock of the bathroom and toiletries.

She hadn’t brought all of her girly stuff, though she’d gotten most of it from home. She’d run by her house and pack more of her things to bring over to Dash’s since it appeared he had no intention of her spending the night anywhere but in his home.

By the time she was on her way, her mood had lightened and some of the heaviness had lifted away. She was nearly to the grocery store when she realized she hadn’t let Dash know where she’d be. She wasn’t used to having to answer to anyone, but it was common courtesy now that she was living with Dash to at least let him know her whereabouts.

She sent him a quick text letting him know what she was doing and that she was cooking a special dinner for him, adding a smiley face and a heart at the end of the text.

She cringed, wondering if he’d find the emoticons annoying. Carson had found them endearing and cute. They were “so her,” as Carson had put it. She sighed, catching herself in mental comparison yet again. She had to quit it. Carson was gone, as she reminded herself on a daily basis now. The endless thinking back to what he liked and didn’t like was getting old. And it would most certainly get old with Dash. Thank God she hadn’t voiced her thoughts aloud to him and only went through them mentally.

Her phone went off and she smiled at Dash’s response. And to think she’d worried that he’d find her text annoying.

Thanks, honey. Looking forward to it. xoxo

It had been a long time since she’d cooked for someone else. Oh, she’d fixed lunch and dinner a few times for the girls, but she hadn’t prepared an intimate meal for a lover since . . . No, she wasn’t going there, damn it.

She enjoyed her trip to the grocery store and realized halfway through that she should have stopped by her house first because she’d have perishable items waiting in her car and the temps were well into the upper eighties today.

Oh well, she’d just have to make her stopover at her house quick.

She cranked up the radio on the way to her house, singing along as she rolled up in her driveway. With a smile, she hopped out and hurried inside to collect the things she needed.

Five minutes later she shoved an extra suitcase into the minuscule backseat—if it even classified as a real backseat since a person certainly couldn’t fit—because her tiny trunk was filled to bursting with the groceries she’d purchased, and she headed back in the direction of Dash’s house. Her home now.

It would take time for her to consider it hers. She still very much considered it Dash’s house. But if things worked out long term . . .

She stopped, realizing this was the first time she was thinking long term. She’d been hesitant to put her hopes into it becoming more. Permanent. But things were off to a very solid start if she didn’t count his morning moodiness. But she could deal with that. She could be cheerful enough for them both.

It took her five trips into the house to get all the bags out of her trunk and one last one to collect her bulging suitcase. Dash would laugh at all the stuff she considered essential.

After putting away all the groceries, she laid out the ingredients for tonight’s dinner and wondered if she should start it now or wait until he got home.

Her forehead wrinkled as she pondered her options. Dash had been clear on how he wanted her to be waiting when he got home each day, but she hadn’t heard from him on when he would arrive. She glanced at her watch. It was only four thirty. A typical day was five o’clock, and he’d said he might be later today.

She’d decided to go ahead and get a start on supper when her phone rang. Glancing at the screen, she saw Dash’s name and smiled, reaching eagerly for the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey, honey. I’m on my way home.”

A light shiver worked over her shoulders. “I’ll be waiting,” she said huskily.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said in a low voice that matched hers.

“See you soon.”

“Bye, honey.”

She punched the button to end the call and then hurriedly put away the stuff for supper. It wouldn’t take much time to prepare at all and she could do it after he got home. For now she wanted to focus on being exactly as he wanted her. On her knees, na**d, waiting in the living room so she was the first thing he saw when he walked through the door.

TWENTY-TWO

DASH pulled into his driveway and saw Joss’s car parked there in the space next to his. He sat for a moment, hands clenched tight around the steering wheel. He had no idea what to expect when he walked into his house. He’d been a jerk this morning. He knew that. But he hadn’t been able to summon his usual tenderness when his mind was eaten alive by Joss crying over Carson after making love to Dash.

He hadn’t slept, and the result had been him acting like a grumpy bear with a sore paw.

With a sigh he kicked open his car door and got out, determined to see this through.

He opened his front door and walked inside, moving automatically to the living room.

The sight that awaited him took his breath away. Joss was kneeling on the rug in front of the fireplace, na**d, her beautiful hair streaming over her shoulders, her ni**les playing an erotic game of peekaboo through the tendrils.

He was being the worst sort of ass and yet she waited, just as she’d agreed, na**d and kneeling. For him.

She was making the effort. No matter what was going on in her head, she was trying. She was trying to make this work between them. How could he do anything less?

Forgotten was the previous night as he absorbed the image of her, transfixed by the sight of her kneeling in submission.

“Ah honey,” he whispered as he crossed the room to her.

All thoughts of dominance fled. He only wanted to hold her, to apologize for the way he’d treated her this morning. He wanted her in his arms, soft and precious. He looped his hands underneath her armpits and lifted, her startled gaze fixed on his face as he hauled her up and into his arms.

He wrapped himself around her, kissing her until they were both breathless, their chests heaving for air. He delved his hands into her hair, wrapping the silken mass around his fingers only wanting to touch her. To surround himself with her.

Again, he kissed her, devouring her lips, tasting and licking. His body surged to life, hard and aching against her belly. He had to have her now. Right now.

He walked her back to the couch and settled her on the cushions before hurriedly freeing himself from his pants. His dick jutted forward, straining, so hard his balls hurt.

When she leaned forward to take him in her mouth, he took a step back and placed his hands on her shoulders.

“No, honey. You aren’t pleasuring me right now. I was an ass this morning and I have a lot to make up for. Let me pleasure you. Let me make you feel good.”

Her eyes warmed, instant forgiveness in her gaze. But that was Joss. Never one to hold a grudge. He felt infinitely unworthy of her in this moment. Unconditional and unwavering. This was the woman he loved and adored, and he was doing his best to f**k up everything before they even had a shot.

He stood back and stripped his clothing off, barely able to control his urge to take her hard and deep. But he’d promised her the ultimate pleasure and he’d do it even if the waiting killed him.

“Spread your legs and lean back against the back of the couch,” he said in a husky voice.

Desire made her eyelids heavy and she looked up at him with drugged, intoxicated eyes. He knelt in front of her, running his fingers lightly down the insides of her thighs.

Her pu**y was open and bared to him, perfect pink folds, delicate and feminine just like her. He traced a line over the hood, brushing her cl*tand continuing down to circle her opening before pushing in the barest of inches.

She moaned softly and went wet around his finger. So responsive and receptive. Her body clutched at his finger as he withdrew as if it didn’t want to let go. Then he lowered his head, his tongue lapping at her sweet moisture.

“Dash!”

His name came out, explosive in the silence. His name. Not Carson’s. That fact gratified him immensely. Her husband may occupy her dreams, but Dash had her in the present. For now he’d take that and hold on for all he was worth. Sooner or later he’d have her dreams as well as her in the waking.

He nibbled lightly and then sucked, rolling his tongue over her clit, exerting just enough pressure to make her wild beneath him. Her fingers thrust into his short-cut hair and then dug into his scalp, encouraging him, holding him in place.

She was in control, and he found he didn’t mind at all. For this moment, she was calling the shots and he’d allow it. Whatever she wanted. He was hers to command.

A soft hum blew from her lips. Satisfaction and desire all rolled into one. She arched upward, moving him to the places that brought her greater pleasure. He was an apt student, taking in her body’s response when he hit a particularly sweet spot.

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