Author: Jill Shalvis


And then she realized something else. She wasn’t breathing.


He wasn’t, either.


Of their own accord, her hands slid up his chest, wrapped around his neck, and then… oh God, and then.


Ford said her name on a rough exhale. Holding her against the hard planes of his body, his eyes filled with a quiet intensity, he lowered his head. “Stop me if you’re going to,” he said in quiet demand, all humor gone.


Tara sucked in some air, but didn’t stop him. Not when his lips came down on hers, and not when he kissed her until she couldn’t remember her own name.


Chapter 7


“Accept that some days you’re the bug, and some days you’re going to be the windshield.”


TARA DANIELS


Dazed, Ford tightened his grip on Tara, hearing the groan that her kiss wrenched from deep in his throat. She was kissing him. He couldn’t have been more surprised if she’d hauled off and decked him. But having her push him up against the counter and kiss him hard like she was… oh, yeah. Way better than anything that had happened all day.


All damn year.


Ah, hell. Clearly she’d finally done it, she’d driven him bat-shit crazy, but she felt so good against him. Warm and soft, willing. Amazing.


And aggressive.


Christ, there was nothing more irresistible than Tara on a mission. And that he was that mission made it even better.


She pulled back slightly and he smiled. “Was that supposed to be punishment?”


“Yes.” Her fingers curled into his shirt. “So be quiet and take it like a man.”


Ford was still smiling when she kissed him this time, but the amusement faded fast, replaced by a blinding, all-consuming need.


All too soon, she pulled back again, eyes dark, mouth wet from his. “Is there anyone in your bed?” she asked, her voice low and extremely southern.


He loved the way her accent thickened when she felt something particularly deeply. “No,” he said. “There’s no one in my bed.” Except for her, hopefully. Soon. Because this was waaay better than pushing each other’s buttons.


“Just wanted to make sure.” With each word, her lips just barely grazed his, making him all the hotter. Tightening his grip on her, he whipped them around, trapping her between him and the counter. The scent of her was as intoxicating as her kiss, and when she stared at his lips and licked hers, something inside him snapped. Hauling her up against him, flour and all, he let loose the pent-up yearning and temper and ache he’d been barely reining in.


She hesitated for less than a beat before tightening her grip on him and kissing him back with a passion that nearly knocked them both to their asses. “No one’s here?” he asked against her mouth.


“No one.”


He had her divested of her short, lightweight sweater and was working on the buttons of her dress, thinking this was the best idea he’d ever had. No more dancing around each other. From now on, all their dancing would be done naked. Naked was good. Naked was great.


Tara appeared to feel the same. Her hands were everywhere, his chest, his arms, his ass, stroking and tormenting. The only sound was their heavy breathing and the sexy little murmur she let out when he cupped her breasts.


He remembered that sound. He’d dreamed about that sound. She writhed under his touch, pressing closer, like she needed to climb up his body—which he was all for, by the way. Her fingers found their way beneath his shirt, running lightly over the skin low on his abs, just above his low-riding jeans.


Ford wanted more and took it, letting his hands do the walking and talking beneath her clothes. There was no question about what they were doing now, or why. No thinking. Just feeling, and God help him, he was feeling a whole hell of a lot. Soul-deep, wrenching hunger. And need.


Nothing new when it came to Tara.


His next staggering thought, more than the feel of her hands beneath his shirt gliding downward, caught him. The last time they’d done this, they’d nearly destroyed each other.


Or at least Tara had destroyed him. Ford still wasn’t clear on what she’d felt. She’d been good at holding back. She didn’t seem to be holding back now. Her touch felt so damn good his eyes nearly rolled back in his head, and that was before she went for the button on his Levi’s, banishing his ability to think. Yeah, baby. Go there.


She played in the loose waistband of his jeans for a minute and he groaned. He had one hand threaded through her hair. The other was cupping a breast, his thumb teasing her nipple as he deepened their kiss until they were both panting.


“Ford,” she sighed when he finally released her mouth. Her lips traveled down his throat to the base of his neck, where she licked at his pulse. “Mmm,” she said, then nipped him. When he jumped, he felt her smile against him.


“You think that’s funny,” he asked, dipping his head to return the favor, his hands sliding south, down her back to her sweet, sweet ass. He sucked at her neck and—


“Wow,” Chloe said from the doorway. “Now that’s a way to unpack a kitchen.”


“I especially like the flour accents on your pretty dress, Tara,” Maddie said from next to Chloe.


Ten more seconds and they wouldn’t have seen the pretty dress at all. It would have been on the floor.


Tara jerked away from him, and given her pale face, she’d realized that same thing. Or maybe that was the flour. In any case, in an irresistible bout of multi-tasking, she was busy simultaneously brushing off her dress, checking her hair, and doing her best to look innocent.


“What happened to your date?” Chloe asked Tara.


“I got a headache.”


Chloe’s brows went up. She started to say something but Maddie covered her mouth. “Pay no attention to us,” Maddie said, dragging Chloe to the door.


“If only that was possible,” Tara muttered. “And what happened to going out with Jax? And the yoga class?”


Chloe shoved free from Maddie’s hand. “Still happening.” She looked at her watch. “We have some time yet. We just didn’t realize you’d be having casting calls for Pimp My Chef… or was that Ride My Chef?”


“Internal editor,” Maddie murmured to her, which meant nothing to Ford.


Chloe smiled.


“We were just having a little trouble with the flour,” Tara said, still brushing at her dress.


“Yes, I can see that,” Chloe said. “I especially like the handprints you left on Ford’s butt. Nice job there.”


Ford couldn’t see the handprints himself but he’d sure enjoyed getting them.


“This is all your fault,” Tara said. Ford assumed she was talking to him, but she was actually looking at Chloe. Good. He was off the hook.


Chloe tossed up her hands. “How is it always my fault?”


Tara turned to Ford for backup. So much for off the hook. Probably he’d have been safer in a gunfight. Chloe was looking at him, too. He shrugged vaguely and took over wiping down the countertops to avoid opening his mouth and making everything worse.


“You got Ford to unpack the kitchen?” Tara asked. “Without telling me?”


“Sort of the definition of ‘surprise,’ ” Chloe said.


“Honey, you’re looking at this all wrong,” Maddie said. “This was about you. About how you’re there for us, always. We wanted to be there for you for a change.”


“Well, I voted to get you a stripper,” Chloe said with a reproachful look at Maddie. “But I was vetoed.”


Tara let out a short laugh. “Good call,” she said to Maddie.


“We really were just trying to help.”


“I know,” Tara said with a sigh. “And thank you. It was sweet. I’m sorry if I overreacted.”


Chloe pulled out her iPhone and hit a few keys.


“What are you doing?” Maddie asked her.


“Marking the event of Tara’s apology on my calendar.”


Maddie snatched the iPhone, then turned to Tara. “We’re sorry, too. We should have thought that you’d want a hand in the unpacking.”


“No, it was a lovely gesture and saved me from obsessing over it.”


Ford did his best not to smile at that, because he knew that nothing short of the apocalypse could stop Tara from obsessing.


“And you made a good choice with Ford,” Tara admitted.


Wow. But when all three women looked at him, he remained quiet, deciding that silence was the best course of action here. They were actually communicating and trying to get somewhere.


Sort of.


In any case, his purpose seemed to be as mediator of some sort, so he tried to look wise.


“Ford,” Maddie said, “I have a large ficus in the back of my car. Would you mind unloading it to the deck?”


He recognized a ploy to get rid of him when he heard one, but he was game. “Sure.” As he brushed past Tara, taking the time to shift closer than necessary, he pressed his mouth to her ear. “We’re not finished.”


When the back door shut behind him, Tara sagged against the counter, scrubbing her hands over her face. “Good Lord.” She dropped her hands to her sides and found both sisters staring at her with twin expressions of amusement and avid curiosity.


Maddie cracked first with a grin.


Chloe followed.


“Fuck all y’alls,” Tara said without much heat. She did like to see their smiles; she just wished it wasn’t at her expense.


“Hey, we’re not judging,” Chloe said. “If I had that fine a man sniffing after me, I’d grab his butt, too. In fact, I’d grab a lot more than that.” She rustled through her purse and pulled out a string of condoms, which she slapped on the countertop with great ceremony. “Consider this an early birthday present.”


Tara’s jaw dropped. “I don’t need those.”


“You sure about that?”


“There’s no sex happening here!”


“Really? So you were just what… playing doctor, checking his tonsils, that sort of thing?”

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