Sara Wade stood on her suite’s balcony overlooking
the villa’s private beach of tropical white sand and stared unsmiling
across miles of blue Pacific at the horizon awash with the first rays
of the sun. She’d been up long before dawn.
Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, an unfamiliar
room, no matter how comfortably lush, never came easy. But last night’s
insomnia had another name.
The man she’d been seeing for
three years, in love with for two, living with for one.
The man who, six months ago, had proposed.
The man to whom she’d said no.
He’d taken her refusal better than she had. She’d
wanted immediately to call back the word, retract the shake of her head.
What she had not wanted was to replace it with a nod, or to say yes.
She’d only wanted not to hurt
He’d told her that she hadn’t, that he understood
her reticence-hell, he’d known her long enough, loved her long
enough, to get where she was coming from, especially considering the
It was hard for both of them to watch marriages of friends
and family disintegrate around them and want to risk their own status
quo. Why mess with a relationship that was perfect by putting matching
rings on their fingers?
They didn’t need an outward symbol,
a document, a ceremony to prove to anyone what they already knew.
That their love was meant for a lifetime.
She’d felt even worse after that.
His steadfastness meant everything to her; her refusal reduced his
needs to nothing. And
he was arriving today. Any moment, in fact. Her stomach fluttered madly
at the thought.
It had been a spur of the moment decision
that had her booking the long weekend at the plush resort nestled into
Pacific coastline. A decision as right as the reason behind it. A reason
that, right or not, had her as nervous as did the wait for Jax.
She’d spent a tidy sum from her savings-money earned
billing clients for a Houston law firm-after he’d assured her he’d
have no problem getting free. He and his partner often traded weekends;
their auto body shop was closed half days on Saturdays as it was, and
going in late Monday would be no big deal.
The sun now sparkling on the rippling
ocean waters, Sara breathed deeply of the salty air, of the chlorine
rising from the private
pool on the suite’s first floor, of the tropical blooms turning
a kaleidoscope around hovering butterflies. She had come a day early
to make certain the place was as wonderful as her travel agent promised.
It was more than wonderful. It was perfect.
The service, the food, the facilities made for the perfect getaway.
The ambience made
for the perfect lover’s tryst. All she could do now was hope it
also made for the perfect magic she needed to pull together her full
Oh, but wasn’t Jax going to be
She curled her fingers over the balcony’s dark green
railing and leaned forward, eyes closed, absorbing the tingle of the
ocean cooling the breeze. The sun hadn’t yet risen fully to heat
the surf and the sand.
It would be a good time to walk down
and enjoy the secluded beach, to get a grip on her emotions, to organize
her thoughts so he
wouldn’t see her anxiousness and worry.
Because he would worry. He would.
And she loved that about him. The way he was so perceptive
of her moods. How he knew when to coddle, when to protect, when to back
off because she needed to step up to her own plate and swing.
Sighing, she wrapped her arms around her middle, and silently
shook her head, wondering what in the world she had done to deserve him.
Here was this big gorgeous man who worked with his hands,
who could crush a skull if he had to, yet understood her so well he seemed
to be capable of reading her mind.
She’d never find anyone else to compare, had never
known anyone else like him. She never wanted to imagine her days spent
without him. He was the love of her life. He had been since the moment
She startled. Surprise skittered the length of her spine,
settled at the base, and spread deep into her bones. Her body resonated
with his voice as it would from his embrace. She inhaled slowly and turned.
Jax Stacey was a beautiful man, and her stomach clenched
so hard she ached with it. He stood in the rectangle of the open French
door, one forearm braced shoulder-high on the frame. He wore indigo jeans
and biker boots, his waistband dipping low due to the hand shoved down
deep in his pocket.
His hair was short and dark and tousled,
as if he’d
tried to sleep on the early morning flight but had managed to do no more
than muss himself up. She liked him mussed up. Liked the sleepy look
in his dark gold eyes. Liked the way his thick lashes drooped down and
fanned out to shadow his cheeks.
He made her hungry. He made her knees
weak. He made her wonder what she was going to do if this time he turned
her down. Her
lips trembled. It was almost a smile. Almost, but not quite. She wasn’t
quite ready for that.
“You were so quiet. I didn’t
even hear the door.”
He stared at her for another long moment, searching, seeking,
studying . . . then finally shoving away from his perch to join her.
He came closer, moving the way he always did, his steps purposeful yet
unhurried, his body fluid and loose and built to make her think about
She tilted up her chin as he drew near, holding his gaze
that simmered. The one time she opened her mouth, he simply shook his
head to shush her. She swallowed hard and took a step in reverse.
When her backside contacted the railing, she reached back
with both hands to hold on. And when he reached her, he cupped her arms
just above her elbows and pulled her hands forward. He wanted her to
hold onto him.
It made so much sense to do so. He had never let her down.
He had never turned her away. She knew, as well, that he would never
hurt her. He would never hurt her the way she had surely hurt him. His
denial all those months ago had only been halfway convincing.
And so much had changed since then.
She sighed as he held her, moving her
hands to the small of his back, pressing her face to his chest and
breathing him in. He
smelled of clean air and woods, grasses and Ivory soap. “You feel
so good. You smell so good.”
He cupped the back of her head with
one big palm. “You’re
not too lumpy or stinky either.”
She rolled her eyes, pushed back far
enough to look up into his face. “You flew all this way to tell me I’m
not lumpy or stinky?”
“No, Sara.” He shook his head, reached up to
brush stray wisps of hair from her face. “I flew all this way to
tell you this.”
She closed her eyes as his head descended, parting her
lips to accept his kiss. He was gentle, and he tasted like home and like
heaven. Like her life and her future. Like the Jax she knew and loved
so very much.
He caught her bottom lip between both of his and tugged,
sucking it into his mouth briefly then letting her go. She returned the
show of affection, and so it began, that way they had of speaking without
speaking, of turning a kiss into an act that said everything neither
of them needed words to say.
When his tongue pressed for entrance, she opened up and
let him inside, melting at his touch, at the way he filled her mouth
even as he filled her soul, at the way his hand move from the center
of her back to the base of her spine and lower still, until he cupped
her bottom, squeezed and drew her flush.
She felt him against her belly; he was
thick and hard already. Thick and hard and so very tempting, yet he
wouldn’t push or press
or insist. He would wait until she was ready. And, oh how easily he made
her that way.
Even now she responded, splaying her
palms between his shoulder blades, absorbing his body’s heat
as well as the tension tightening his muscles.
She loved how he held back, hated how he held back, wondered
where he found the control when she had next to none. She wanted so much
from him. She wanted it all. Things that surprised her with their insistence.
Things that never before had seemed so right. Things that had always
been a dream, one from which she was slowly waking up.
She wanted everything.
And she wanted it with Jax.
The reminder brought her back to the truth of why they
were here. She slipped out of the kiss, eased her mouth away, her body
away, sighed in his arms and turned. He continued to hold her; she leaned
back into his chest.
In the near distance, the shadow of
the villa had retreated leaving a long stretch of white sand to welcome
the sun. “Jax,
we need to talk.”
“I’m listening.” He
said it as he would were they discussing replacing the refrigerator
or the habit his shepherd
mix, Bongo, had of burying Milk-Bones. And then he did what he always
did, what he was so good at doing.
He nuzzled the skin beneath her ear,
rubbing his coarse two-day-old beard against her until she shivered
and her nipples tightened. “Maybe
so, but I can’t think when you do that, much less talk.”
Instead of backing away, he dipped his
knees, fitting his lower body into the curve of hers. His hands found
their way to her waist
and slipped beneath the loose Indian cotton of her sleeveless shell to
her bare middle. “I like it when you’re speechless.”
She tucked her head back into the crook
of his shoulder, closed her eyes, lifted her chin. “You like shutting me up, you
mean.” Even though she could hardly care that he had.
He shook his head. “No, baby.
I like this.”
He brought up his hands, skated his palms over her gumdrop
nipples, teasing her, only just touching her. The link between them tugged
at the tightrope strung from that barest point of contact into her womb.
“I like the way you always respond.
I like making you breathless.”
“You like making me horny.” Though
that had never required much effort on his part at all.
“What I like, is making love to the woman I love,” he
murmured close to her ear, his hips grinding into hers, one hand now
kneading the breast he held, his other hand busily gathering up the loosely
woven fabric of her madras print skirt.
When his fingertips grazed her thigh,
teased the elastic edge of her plain white panties, she shivered. “We
really need to talk, Jax. I need to tell you something.”
“So, tell me.” His hand left her breast and
moved to her other hip. The breeze whispering through the balcony’s
bougainvillea whispered over the backs of her thighs bared completely
now that he’d lifted her skirt to her waist.
“How am I supposed to put anything into words when
you’re doing that?” This time she was the one who whispered,
her voice hardly louder than the sound of her cotton panties being pulled
“And I thought I was the one with the one-track mind,” he
teased, his fingers teasing, too, sliding beneath the curves of her ass,
slipping between her legs.
She spread them, she opened, how could
she not? “Jax,
“Please stop? Please don’t
stop? Tell me, Sara. Tell me what you want.”
What she wanted was to tell him how their lives were about
to change. How nothing about their world would ever be the same. How
much she loved him, wanted him.
How he would always come first in her life.
That one thing she had to convince him
of. That one thing he had to know. That she would never push away his
needs or wants. “Don’t
stop, Jax. Don’t ever stop. Touching me. Loving me.”
She turned in his arms, saw the clear and raw, the unshuttered
emotion welling in his eyes before he did that guy thing he was so good
at and masked his feelings with a smile that was all about sex.
“Are you kidding?” He laced his fingers in
the small of her back, rocked their bodies in a gentle side-to-side sway. “You’re
everything I could ever want. I don’t know many guys as damn lucky
as I am. But then, I’ve always been about getting lucky.”
That killer smile again. White teeth
and dimples in a shadow of dark sexy beard. She slid her hands from
his chest to his shoulders. “You,
Jax Stacey, are such a man.”
“Do something for me, Sara?” he
“Anything,” she said and
“Undo my pants."