“Hey!” She slaps my ass and then braces herself on my hips as I slap hers back.
“Stay still, baby.”
“I was right, you are a caveman.”
“At least I’m not dragging you by your hair.”
“No, but can you still pull it later?” She giggles, earning another slap on her ass.
“You sure slap my ass a lot, caveman.”
“I fucking love your ass, baby.”
* * *
“What the hell are you doing?” I ask, and come to a stop in my bedroom.
“Packing?” She glances back at me over her shoulder and offers me a small smile. “Did you get your morning chores done?”
“Yeah,” I automatically respond, surprised the sound came out over the lump in my throat.
She’s leaving me.
“I took Jill to the airport this morning. Just got back a bit ago.” She’s calmly folding her clothes and placing them in a box, and I can barely wrap my mind around the words coming out of her mouth.
“Okay.” I shove my hands in my pockets and rock back on my heels. What do I say? There’s no way in hell that I want her to go, but it’s too soon to suggest we live together.
Although, I love having her here, in my home, in my bed.
She belongs here.
We both turn toward the door at Zack’s calling Cara’s name from down the hallway.
“In the bedroom!” she calls back.
He stomps into the bedroom, his jaw tight and hands in fists, but otherwise not showing any emotion. “Where is Jillian?”
Cara frowns at him in confusion and tilts her head to the side. “On an airplane.”
“Yeah, her flight was this morning. She said you left before she woke up this morning.” Cara raises an eyebrow at him, clearly wanting to know more.
“I had to be home when Seth woke up,” he mutters, and runs a hand over his head, scrubbing his scalp with his fingertips. “She didn’t mention that she was leaving today.”
“I’m sorry, I figured you knew.”
“Thanks.” He turns and leaves the room, and a few seconds later we hear the front door shut as well.
“Well”—she cringes and offers me an apologetic smile—“that didn’t go well. Jill wasn’t very forthcoming about what happened last night.”
“You can’t figure it out on your own?” I pull her against me, her stomach against my pelvis. “I could show you.”
“Ew.” She wrinkles up her nose and then laughs.
“That’s not what you said last night.” I slap her ass. “In fact, I believe your exact words were ‘Harder.’ ”
“Those were my exact words?” She laughs and leans her forehead against my chest.
“Well, it might have been something more like ‘Harder, Josh, you’re the best I’ve ever had and I can’t believe what a sex god you are.’ ”
She’s laughing in earnest now, shaking her head and slapping my chest gently. “I know I didn’t say that!”
“You were drunk, it’s okay.” I nuzzle her neck and laugh with her. “I love it when you laugh.”
She pulls back to smile up at me, and my gut clenches just as it does every damn time she smiles at me like that, as if she can’t get enough of me and I hung the moon especially for her.
She takes my breath away.
I lean down and rest my forehead against hers and take a deep breath. She cups my face in her hand and I lean into it. “Love the way you touch me.”
“Love to touch you,” she murmurs, and pushes her hand up into my hair, combing it through her fingers.
“When are you leaving?” I ask softly, watching her face carefully.
She frowns and clears her throat, almost as though it’s hard for her to get the words out. “Tomorrow after my lesson with Seth.”
“Why?” I ask bluntly.
“Because my house is done, Josh. Thank you for letting me stay here, and everything you’ve done for me. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” The last few words are said in a soft whisper, and her thanking me pisses me off.
“You don’t need to thank me. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, Carolina.”
She smiles sadly and kisses my cheek. “I know.”
She pulls away from me and returns to folding her clothes and placing them in that damn box.
“I’ll be back every morning for Seth’s lessons. I won’t be able to stay for lunch this week though because I’m helping out downtown with the Huckleberry Festival. I’ll be serving ice cream.”
“I love huckleberry ice cream,” I murmur, and watch her pretty hands fold her underwear. I have to ball my fists to refrain from plucking the underwear out of her hands and unpacking the rest of her things and making her stay here with me.
“I hate it,” she responds with a wrinkle to her nose. “It’s disgusting. I’m a chocolate-ice-cream girl, so I figure I’m safe serving the ice cream. I won’t be tempted to eat it and gain a million pounds.”
Just tell her, you idiot. Tell her to stay. Tell her you don’t want her to go, that she is your world and you can’t imagine going one day without waking up with her by your side.
“Cara . . .”
She stops what she’s doing and turns to me, her hazel eyes big and smiling, biting her lower lip, and I can’t get the words out. Instead I pull her to me again and bury my face in her hair, gliding my hands up and down her back, hugging her close.
“Josh? What’s wrong?”
“I love you.”
She pulls back and narrows her eyes as she watches me, looking for what, I don’t know. She finally drops her shoulders and sighs in defeat, but offers me a wobbly smile.
“I love you too.”
I’m sitting in my favorite chair, a cup of hot tea in my hands and Daughtry singing “Tennessee Line” over my sound system. It’s late in the evening, and my home is cool, thanks to the air-conditioning unit my parents had installed ten years ago when the summer heat was becoming too much for them.
It’s everything that I love about my house, and I hate it.
I glare at the cell phone in my hand and wish for the fortieth time in the past fifteen minutes that it would ring. I haven’t seen Josh since this morning when he came in the house to wake me up and say good morning before he was called back out again because of an emergency. Louie called, frantic, having found several calves killed in the pasture by what they think are wolves.