“Cracked ribs, broken wrist, collarbone fracture. Some internal injuries and the leg. That was the worst of it for me. All survivable injuries.” He paused again. “Unlike everyone else.”
She couldn’t even imagine the horrible pain he’d suffered. For days. And the others…He’d been the only one to survive. Aching for him, she ran her fingers lightly over his chest, feeling the fine tremor of his muscles. Aftershocks of great sex, maybe.
“Your friends,” she said softly. “The ones you’ve mentioned before. That’s where you lost them.”
“Yeah. My team.”
“Mallory.” He shook his head. “I really don’t want to talk about this.”
“I know.” She clutched the infinity charm around her neck, knowing the pain. “No one ever wants to talk about Karen either. But she was really important to me. For a long time after she was gone—after I failed to save her—I couldn’t bear to remember her, much less talk about her.”
He sighed, a long, shuddery exhale of breath and drew her in closer, burying his face in her hair. “How did she die?”
“She took a bottle of pills.” She felt him go still. “She was eighteen,” Mallory said. “And pregnant. It was ruled an accidental OD but…” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “It wasn’t. Accidental, I mean. She did it on purpose.”
“Oh, Christ, Mallory.” He tightened his grip on her. “Doesn’t sound like you could have saved her.”
“We were sisters. I knew she had a drug problem. I should have—”
“No,” he said firmly, pulling back to look into her eyes. “There’s nothing you can do, nothing, to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.”
It was so regretfully true, she could barely speak. “How do you get past it?”
“You keep moving. You keep doing whatever keeps you going. You keep living.” His hands were on the move again, tender and soothing…until her breath caught, and she murmured his name, hungry for him again.
His touch changed then, from tender and soothing to doggedly aggressive and doggedly determined, stealing her breath.
“Keep living,” she repeated. “That’s a good plan—Oh, God, Ty,” she whispered when he sucked a nipple into his mouth, hard. “I thought we were talking.”
“You go ahead and talk all you want,” he said gently, then proceeded to not-so-gently once again take her right out of her mind, in slow, exquisite detail.
Much, much later, she lay flat on her back on the floor, completely boneless. “Good talk,” she whispered hoarsely.
Ty woke up flat on his back, the wood floor stuck to his spine and ass, a warm, sated woman curled into him. He’d taken her on the floor and had the bruises on his knees to prove it. Somehow he staggered to his feet, then scooped up Mallory. He’d have to tell Josh that if his leg could hold out through marathon sex, it could hold out through anything, and see if that got him cleared.
“No,” she muttered, the word a slur of exhaustion as she stirred in his arms. “Don’t wanna get up yet.”
He knew she’d been working around the clock, on her feet for twelve hours and more at a time. She worked damn hard. “Shh,” he said. “Sleep.”
Her muscles went taut as she woke. “Ty?”
Well, who the hell else?
“Where we going?” she asked groggily, slipping her arms around his neck.
“Bed.” He was going to tuck her in and get the hell out, before he did something stupid like fall asleep with her. Sex was one thing. Sleeping together afterwards turned it into something else entirely.
You idiot, it’s already something else…
At her bed, he saw the two big stuffed animals he’d won for her leaning against her pillows. An odd feeling went through him, the kind of feeling that stupid, horny teenage boys got when they had a crush. This was immediately chased by wry amusement at the both of them.
He leaned over the bed to deposit Mallory into it, but she tugged and he fell in with her. “Cold,” she murmured with a shiver and tried to climb up his body.
Pulling her close—just for a minute, he told himself—he reached down and grabbed the comforter, yanking it up over the top of them. He’d share some body heat with her until she stopped shivering. Once she was asleep, he’d head out.
“Mmm,” she sighed blissfully, pressing her face into his throat, tucking her cold-ass toes behind his calves. “You feel good.”
“I’m not staying,” he warned, not knowing which one of them he was actually telling, the woman cuddled in his arms or his own libido. So he said it again.
It didn’t matter. Two minutes later, Mallory was breathing slow and deep, the kind of sleep only the very exhausted could pull off. She was out for the count.
And all over him.
Her hair was in his face, her warm breath puffing gently against his jaw, her bare breasts flattened against his side and chest. She had one hand tucked between them, the other low on his stomach. In her sleep, her fingers twitched, and she mumbled something that sounded like “bite me, Jane.”
Smiling, he ran his hand down her back. “Shh.”
She immediately settled in with a deep sigh, trusting. Warm. Plastered to him like a second skin.
Christ. He didn’t want to wake her, but he didn’t do the sleepover thing. He never did the sleepover thing.
But unequivocally lulled in by her soft, giving warmth, he closed his eyes. Just for a second, and fell asleep wrapped around her.
At some point, he felt the nightmare gathering, pulling him in. Luckily, he managed to wake himself up before he made a complete ass of himself. It was still dark. Too dark. Rolling off the bed, he grabbed up his jeans and was halfway out the door before he felt the hand on his arm. He nearly came out of his skin and whipped around to face Mallory.
Way to be aware of your surroundings, Soldier. Unable to help himself, he twitched free and took a step back, right into the doorknob, which jabbed him hard in the back. “Fuck, Mallory.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Lit only by the slant of moonlight coming in through her bedroom blinds, she stayed where she was, a few feet away, concern pouring off her in the way that only hours before passion and need had. “You okay?”
And here was where he made his mistake. He should have lied and said yes. He could have done it, easily. If he’d added a small smile and a kiss, she’d have bought it for sure. She’d have bought anything he tried to sell her because she trusted him.
That was who she was.
But it wasn’t him. He didn’t want to do this, get this close. So he shoved his feet into his running shoes and grabbed up his wallet and keys.
He headed down the hallway. She came after him; he heard the pad of her bare feet. She’s going to get cold again was his only inane thought.
She caught him at the front door. It wasn’t until he felt her fingers run down his bare back that he realized he’d forgotten his shirt.
“Did you have a bad dream?”
He went still. “No,” came the instant denial.
She merely stroked his back again. “That night in the storm,” she said quietly. “you had a nightmare. I thought maybe it happened again here.”
He dropped his head to the door. “That’s not it.”
“Then what happened? Things get a little too real?”
He straightened. “I have to go, Mallory.”
“Without your shirt?”
He turned to face her, and she smiled.
She was wearing his shirt. “Stay,” she said with a terrifying gentleness. “Sleep with me. I won’t tell.”
He knew she was treading softly around the crazy guy, only wanting to help. But he didn’t want her help. He didn’t want anyone’s help. He was fine. All he needed was to be able to get back to work. And maybe to be buried deep inside her again, because there he didn’t hurt. There he felt amazing. But if he took her again, he’d never leave. “Can’t.”
He pulled open the door and stepped into the chilly night sans shirt, leaving before she could finish the rest of her sentence.
Mallory plopped back onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling, haunted by the expression on Ty’s face as he’d left. He’d been rude and abrupt, and she should be pissed.
But she couldn’t put a finger on exactly what she was.
This, with him, was supposed to have been about fun. Just a little walk on the wild side.
But it had become so much more. Unnerving, but it was the truth. She wanted even more.
And he was so Mr. Wrong it was terrifying.
She wanted him anyway. How was it that she wanted him anyway?
She was good at making people feel better, at helping them heal. Or at least she liked to think she was. But this, with him…She couldn’t heal what ate at him, any more than she’d been able to heal herself.
The next morning she got up and went to work. A few hours in, she was paged to the nurses’ station. “What’s up?” she asked Camilla, who was sitting behind the desk when she got there.
Camilla jerked her head toward the hallway. Mallory turned and found a very familiar, tall, broad-shouldered man propping up the wall. His stance was casual, his body relaxed.
But she knew better.
“I’m on break,” she said to Camilla and walked toward Ty. “Hey,” she said.
“Hey.” His eyes never wavered from hers. “Got a minute?”
“Maybe even two.”
He didn’t smile. Huh. That didn’t bode well. All too aware of Camilla’s eyes—and ears—on them, she gestured for him to follow her. They took the stairs down to the ground floor cafeteria, and Mallory led him to a corner table.