Jamie knew better than to drink. She had no
tolerance for alcohol. She was an easy drunk, the cheapest of cheap.
And a barefoot Kell Harding, wearing nothing but his jeans, was going
to make her cheaper and easier than she’d been in years. She could
feel it in her blood, in her bones, a fire of lust and stupidity and
She knew he was standing in front of her, but she kept her eyes closed.
It had been hard enough not to touch him when he’d been sitting
on the stoop beside her. She could smell him then, and now.
He’d showered before bed, and the heat of the night had warmed
his clean skin until she wanted to crawl beneath it, and wrap it around
her like a cloak, and remember what it meant to be safe.
“Let’s go in. You need sleep. I need sleep. The glass will
wait till morning.”
Still hunkered down, she shook her head. “If I sleep, I’ll
dream, and it won’t be one I can stomach alone. Not tonight. Not
with . . . all of this happening. And with tomorrow.” Don’t
cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, she told herself. Please, please,
“I’ll be in the next room. And I’ll be with you tomorrow.” He
touched her hair then, brushed his knuckles against her temples. “I’m
But he wasn’t here in the way she needed him. He was here as a
cop, a watch dog, here to keep her smart and sober and on time, though
he was running late on the first two counts. She grabbed his wrist to
stop him from moving his fingers along the shell of her ear, used her
hold as leverage to gain her feet, rising along his body.
And then she couldn’t help it. He was in front of her, looming,
big, his chest bare and calling her. She placed her hands there, the
heels of her palms just beneath his pectoral muscles, her fingertips
skating the edges of his nipples.
The wedge of hair in the center of his chest was soft, thick, thinning
as it descended his abdomen. She followed it with her thumbs, her eyes
wet, her cheeks wet, her belly tight with wanting him, with wanting.
He stopped her when she reached his waistband. She felt him there, just
beneath, swelling, but he kept her from closing him in her hand and held
her arms at her sides. “Not a good idea.”
His body said otherwise. “Are you sure? I’m getting some
mixed signals here.”
“I’m sure,” he told her, his grip tightening when
she tried to pull away and prove him wrong. “Another time, another
“You’re saying no because of tomorrow?” Not because
she was a spinster, damaged and broken and lost, with nothing to offer
a man? Not because she was ugly and drunk and pathetic? Not because he
didn’t want her?
“I’m saying no because we both need sleep,” he reiterated,
his voice rough, rougher than the hands holding her, than the concrete
driveway she was standing on. “And because the reasons right now
are all wrong.”
What did that mean? That he could only tumble her into forgetfulness
if it fit his white hat sense of right and wrong? How fair was that,
when she was the one who wanted no strings attached?
She pulled against his effort to keep her at a distance, lifting her
hands to his chest again, to his shoulders, lacing them around his neck.
All the while he held onto her wrists. All the while he pretended to
She shimmied close, pressed her nipples to his bare chest and rubbed
against the cotton of her camisole. “What do the reasons matter?”
He groaned. The rumble rose from a spot just beneath his ribs and made
it all the way up his throat before stopping. His heart drummed, a thudding,
primal, near violent beat. “We can’t. Not now. Not . . .
like this. Here. It’s late. You’ve been drinking.”
Exactly. She could do anything she wanted to do. She had Jim Beam on
her side. Eyes closed, she leaned her forehead against him and breathed.
His chest hair tickled, her nose, her lips. She licked them, caught
the edge of his nipple and licked that, too, smelling the alcohol in
his pores, the heat of the night, something wholesome and sweet.
He ground out her name like a curse. Or a caress. She wasn’t sure
which one. She didn’t care. She brought her mouth to the hollow
of his throat, drank of his taste and his scent. He lowered his head,
nuzzling his chin to her temple.
It was good and soft, but it was still need, and she turned into it,
finding his mouth, biting until he parted his lips and bit back. Oh,
he was going to be good, greedy and giving, hungry, hard.
She cupped his head, kneading the base of his skull as she kissed him,
her tongue on his, her chest against his, her sex aching where the ridge
of his pressed, his hands on her ass lifting her like a puzzle to fit
It was her whimper that ruined everything. He was hard everywhere, his
fingers bold and questing, and it had been so very long since she’d
wanted anyone to touch her as intimately as Kell was doing now. And so
she whimpered, but just barely, with pleasure and need and an appreciation
for the bad boy way he kissed.
Kell’s hands on her bottom stilled, then dropped her cheeks like
two hot potatoes. He broke the kiss, found her wrists and broke her hold
on his neck, cursing to himself as he took a step away. His face was
in shadow, but his darkness was more than the lack of light.
He was angry – At her? At himself? – and his whole body
raged, stiff and tight and pulsing. “I said no, Jamie. Not here,
not now, not without a better reason than dreading tomorrow.”
If he didn’t think dreading tomorrow was reason enough, then he
was right that this wasn’t the time or place. But then that would
mean he wasn’t the man. Good thing Jim Beam wasn’t so righteous.
“Goodnight then, Ranger Sergeant Kellen Harding,” she said,
walking away with a wobble, but without a single look back, and picking
up the whiskey bottle before opening the screen door. “I’ll
do whatever it takes to deal with tomorrow. And I’ll get help from
whomever will give it.”
No matter how very very much I want it to be you.