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Ava pressed her mouth against him. “Thank you,” she whispered against his lips, running her hands over his hard member.

Mason kissed her back, exploring her mouth, tasting her, and keeping his desire in check for the moment. He wanted to feel her hands on him forever. She lifted herself up with her legs, guiding him to her entrance that he’d exposed moments before.

Her heat surrounded his head, and lights shimmered in his brain. She lowered herself onto him the slightest bit. Teasing? Taking her time? He didn’t care. She was prolonging his release, and the pain of it was the best pain in the world. She lifted slightly and lowered a little further, easing him into her. Mason sank his hands in her hair and kissed her lips, her cheeks, her ears, and her neck. He wanted to devour all of her. Now.

Her thighs tensed, she lifted, and she sank again.

He was buried. She shuddered, and he felt her gently quiver inside.

Mason lifted his head from her neck, looking up at the face in front of him. Ava’s lips were open, her breath short, and her eyes closed.

She was gorgeous.

He grabbed her thighs and pressed her down as he ground up and into her. Her eyes flew open, and she gasped. He did it again, loving the hoarse sounds she made.

He needed deeper.

He pulled her to him and spun her over on her back.

Her sounds made explosions dance up his spinal cord. Her gaze met his, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his face close to her.

She whispered in his ear. “Don’t hold back.”

Mason didn’t.

Ava relaxed, enjoying the heat of a solid man at her back. She felt sore, well used, and giddy. The usual effects of sex. Mason hadn’t surprised her. She’d had a hunch there was a lot of hidden passion and emotion under that calm exterior. And she’d been right. He saved it for special occasions, and this had been one of those occasions.

What a night. The vigil. Jayne’s accident. And now this. At least her night had ended on a good note. After her fight with Jayne, she could have easily gone home and cried herself to sleep.

Mason’s hand slid up her arm. “You’re thinking really loud.”

Ava laughed. “I was. Sorry about that.”


She sighed. “Yes. I think tonight was a new low for both of us.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like her. And I’ve seen a lot.”

“I don’t know how to help her anymore.”

“You’ve done more than any sister should. Until she sees that she needs to change, all of your help goes to waste.”

Ava rolled onto her back and stared straight up. A neighbor’s light at the back of the house cast shadows across the ceiling. “I always feel like I’ve failed her and myself. Sometimes . . .” She couldn’t finish her thought.

“Sometimes what?” Mason asked, his voice soft as if he knew what she wanted to say.

“Sometimes I’ve wished she was dead.”

Mason lay silently beside her. His hand found hers, and she wanted to cry.

“Everyone wishes that at some point in their life. Especially when the other person has created nothing but heartache. And I don’t think you wish she was dead. You wish she would simply vanish. No pain. No loss. Just gone.”

“Yes.” That was her feeling. Exactly.

“You want the sorrow she creates to disappear. Not necessarily the person.”

“Yes,” Ava repeated. She loved her sister, but she hated what her sister did.

“I’ve caused death before. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone,” Mason said quietly. “Have you ever shot anyone?”

Ava drew herself up on an elbow and tried to meet his gaze in the dark, but his face was in the shadows. “No. I’ve never pulled my weapon on a person.”

“You’re lucky.”

“I know. I pray all the time that I’ll never have to do it.” She wished she could see his eyes. “What happened?”

A long silence ticked by, and she wondered if he’d open up to her.

“Three people. I’ve taken three lives. Two were in the same incident.”

Her heart cracked at his quiet tone. “A long time ago?”

“Decades. But both times are as fresh as yesterday. It never goes away.”

“No, I don’t think it ever will. It’s part of the curse of our profession. We do it to solve crimes, to help the people who can’t help themselves, but sometimes we’re forced into horrible situations.”

Mason exhaled loudly. “Amen. Both times I know I had no choice. But my mind still reexamines whether or not I could have done something slightly different. I drag myself down into a well of depression and then slowly climb back out, arriving at the same conclusion each time.

“The first time a guy leaped out of his car at a traffic stop. He took one step and fired at my partner, who was approaching his vehicle. I’d just stepped out of our car. I shot. He died instantly.”

“And your partner?” Ava breathed.

“Saved by his vest. The bullet hit directly on his sternum. It would have killed him.”

“You would have been next.”

“Yes. He was already aiming at me when I fired.”

Mason shuddered, and Ava ran a soothing hand down his cheek to his shoulder. “What else happened?” She could feel his need to tell her. He wouldn’t have brought it up if he hadn’t wanted to get it off his chest. She wondered how long it’d been since he talked to someone about it.