Page 23

“Let me touch you,” I whisper a second before kissing her.

She lets go of a soft sob before her lips respond to mine, our tongues seeking something deeper, her hands snaking around my back, fingers curling into my skin like she’s never needed anything more than she needs this kiss.

My fucking heart feels like it could splinter into a million pieces, because in this very moment I feel like I deserve this, and I haven’t felt deserving of anything in a decade.

She peels my shirt back more. I release her hand to let her pull the starched white fabric from my arms, adding it to the trail that we make as I back her toward the bedroom.

“Rats?” I mumble against the soft flesh of her neck while lifting her shirt up her body.

She lifts her arms for me to shrug it off her and grins, eyelashes still wet with emotion. Vulnerability has never looked so stunning.

“In their cage for the night.”

I palm her butt and capture her mouth as I lift her up. She wraps her legs around my waist, grinding against the head of my erection.

“Condom?” she asks between kisses.


She giggles against my mouth. “You planned on this?”

I kick her bedroom door shut behind us, still not entirely confident those rats are all caged up. “Ms. Rodgers …”

Her lips grin against my skin as her tongue traces the hollow area above my collarbone.

“I may have planned on sex … but I sure as hell never planned on you.” I ease her to her feet, and she sits on the bed, unfastening my pants with way more patience than I have at the moment. My hands take over, discarding the rest of our clothes before claiming her mouth again, pressing my body against the soft, warm curves of hers.

She tastes like forgiveness and feels like freedom. And she sounds like a prayer, humming against my mouth—not a moan, an actual tune that I don’t recognize. Her eyes drift shut, back arched and lips parted with her head turned to the side as I sink into her.

Since my wife died, I haven’t been able to have sex with another woman without closing my eyes and wishing she were Heidi. But right now, I can’t stop staring at Ellen Rodgers writhing beneath me, humming, smiling, and peeking open those breathtaking eyes to look at me with unmistakable want—need. All I can think is how ineffable she is through and through.

“Flint …” She jerks her hips against mine.

I dip my head down to taste her.

“Elle …” I whisper over her lips just before my tongue flicks hers.

Her lips curl into a smile. “Elle…” she breathes out “…does that mean we’re friends?”

I lace our hands together, pressing them into the mattress just above her head, searching for deeper penetration because she feels so fucking good. “Yes, I think we’re officially friends.” As much as I want this to last all night, I can’t stop. I can’t slow down. And when she locks her ankles around my waist, and whispers “yes” over and over, I lose it.

Her relaxed gaze and sexy smile greet me when I open my eyes. “Don’t cry,” she whispers.

I shake my head. “Zip those pretty lips of yours.”

“Or what?”

Releasing her hands, I grab her head and bite her lips together like a duck’s.


I roll over onto my back and laugh. This unguarded moment of spontaneous laughter feels so foreign to me.

“Biting? Really? If that’s how you’re going to play.” She bites my bicep.

I roll to the side.

She bites my shoulder blade.

I laugh some more.

Then she presses her lips to the middle of my back for a few seconds and molds her naked body to mine. “Thank you,” she whispers.

Rolling toward her, my grin fades at the solemn look on her face. “For what?”

Her fingertips float over my abs, one at a time, tracing the V below my navel before retracing their path, over my chest, up my neck, and along my jaw. “For letting me touch you … for touching me.”

I press her hands together between mine. “I can’t stay.”

“I know.” Her gaze focuses on our hands.

“Harrison has school, and I have to take my parents to the airport.”

She looks at me and cranes her neck to kiss mine all the way to my chin. “Don’t leave your condom on the floor where my rat babies could get a hold of it.”

“I was just thinking about how incredibly sexy you look tangled in these sheets next to me and how hard it’s going to be to leave your bed. But then you said ‘rat babies,’ and my erection died.”

“Harry lights up around my rat babies. You should get him some rats.”

I give her a small smile. I chose you. That’s what’s going through my mind. I chose to get the girl instead of rats. But if I’m honest with myself, I don’t know what any of this means. I can’t bring another woman into our lives until I tell Harrison the truth about his mom. The problem is I’m not sure he’s mature enough to truly understand. And it’s not just the Asperger’s, it’s that he’s twelve and reason hasn’t settled into something his mind can completely do.

“I know this woman who likes to play the guitar, and she has rats. In lieu of getting him his own, I might just check with her to see if she’d let him come visit them when he needs his rat fix.”

Ellen rolls on top of me, straddling my waist, and sitting up straight. The view is fucking spectacular.

“I think I know this woman to whom you’re referring. There’s a good chance she’d be willing to barter with you.”

“Barter, huh?” I grab her hips. “Sex?”

She rolls her eyes. “She’s not that easy.”

“No?” I lift a single eyebrow.

“She needs some legal help.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” Her hands cover mine. “Her landlord has been trying to evict her, but she wants to stay.”

“I’m sure he has a good reason for evicting her, and if he finds her a great place to rent, then it’s a win-win situation.”

Her jaw drops, I think. I’m too busy focusing on the curves of her breasts.

“I’m sitting astride you naked! How can you kick me out?”

“I’m relocating you, not kicking you out.” I sit up, burying my face in her neck, thinking I should have brought more than one condom. “It’s business, not—”

“I will break your dick off if you use that line on me one more time.”

I chuckle, nipping at her neck while my hands explore the rest of her. “You’re too loud. I’m sorry. It’s just a fact. I have to work. I’ll find you something just as good if not better.”

“Ugh!” She shoves me back and climbs out of bed, leaving me with a dirty condom and a new erection. Slipping on her robe, she gives me a look—a look I don’t trust. “You fire Amanda every day, but she’s still there.” Her voice fades a bit as she disappears out the door. “Can’t you evict me without forcing me to physically leave the building?”

Glancing around her room, I shake my head. She’s a messy creature. Stacks of books on the floor, clothes strewn all around and hanging out half-opened drawers, a guitar in the corner next to a basket of other instruments like she has at her office, and an old turntable on an equally old square table in the corner. I may be in over my head.

“You didn’t answer my question.” She brings in the half of my wardrobe that landed somewhere between the bedroom and the front door.

I slide out of bed, grabbing my briefs on the way to the bathroom. “While Amanda can be annoying at times, she doesn’t prevent me from getting my work done.”

Ellen hands me my pants when I come back into the bedroom. I slip them on, followed by my shirt. Her fingers go to work on the buttons. How could any man deny her touch?

Easing my tie around my neck, she grins. “Is it the noise or is it me?”

I don’t need to wear a tie home at this late hour, but I don’t say anything because I want her this close—touching me, making something as simple as buttoning a shirt and tying a tie feel like a slow seduction. It makes me want to strip down again just to let her dress me.

“Why do I get the feeling you’ve tied a lot of ties?”

Ellen shrugs. “Not really. But I’ve watched my dad do it a million times. He unknowingly taught me many things.” She holds out my jacket for me to slide my arms into it and grabs the lapels, giving them a gentle tug, bringing her chest close to mine. “Flint Hopkins, you sure do look the part.”

Threading my fingers through her hair, I bend down, pressing my lips just below her ear where I can feel her pulse. “What part is that?”

She leans into my touch, drawing in a shaky breath. I don’t need to look at her to know vulnerability bleeds in her eyes like the ocean swelling at high tide. “I’m not sure yet,” she whispers.

Savoring every inch of skin, I kiss my way to her jaw, over her cheek, stopping to hover over her lips. “No?”

She shakes her head.

“Let me know when you figure it out.”

She lifts onto her toes until our lips lock. I kiss her as if I deserve this. I kiss her as if my past doesn’t exist. I kiss her until reality crashes down.

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