I didn’t know who he had close to him, but something told me he didn’t have many. Maybe no one. I wanted to kiss that scar, take the pain of it away, care for him better than anyone ever had. Softly, slowly, I drew the cloth along his skin, caressing every inch.
My hand rested on his sheet. A glimpse of his hip lay exposed. Bare. I realized that he probably had nothing on at all underneath that sheet. My breath caught in my throat.
I remembered the last time I’d been in his cabin, that night he’d caught me. So naughty, I’d turned the key in the lock, opened up his door and walked right in. I hadn’t made a conscious decision to get into his bed, it just happened. I’d lain on his bed, between his sheets still rumpled from where he’d last slept. Enveloped in the darkness surrounded by his scent, I couldn’t help it. So desperate for his touch, my carnal craving dominated all of my senses. I’d driven my fingers down into my soaking wet sex, working myself and coming so hard against my own hand.
I remembered the sound of his voice from the doorway when he’d said my name. The feel of his hands, rough down on my wrists after he’d come to me on the bed, pinning my hands above my head. He’d shocked me, touching my fingers and asking me if he’d smell my sweet pussy on them. I’d never heard anyone talk like that, never thought of anyone doing such a thing. But instantly I could see it, him sucking on my fingers, licking my own juices off of him. I nearly came again right there pressed underneath the hot, solid length of his body.
And now he lay before me, stripped naked. No washcloth now, I trailed my hand along his chest, up along his tattoos and hard, honed muscles. Down I swept my fingers along the ridges of his abdomen.
“Kara,” he whispered, hoarse, filled with longing.
I pulled away, sitting up straight, guilty as charged. His eyes remained closed. He didn’t move a muscle. Had he said my name, or had I made that up?
Tentative, I couldn’t help but bring my hand to him again. My full palm to his hot skin, I ran my fingers along his perfect chest.
“Kara,” he groaned again, yearning for me. No, I hadn’t made it up. He was calling my name, eyes still closed. Maybe he was half-awake, maybe still asleep and dreaming. He wanted me.
My eyes traveled down again to the sheet and then widened, because now I could see a huge bulge, outlined, thick and long against his thigh. I’d touched him and he’d gotten hard. He looked enormous.
I stood up quick in alarm. What was I doing? Molesting a feverish man while he lay passed out in his sick bed? Had I truly lost my mind?
Declan was going to be fine. His fever was coming down. My father was probably about to walk in here any minute to see what was taking me so long. I had to get back up to the house and tell him everything was all right.
But everything wasn’t all right. I stood shaking by Declan’s bed for another second before turning to go. Everything had changed. And whatever was happening, I knew it would give me no rest.
In a bright, whitewashed store with ABC letters hanging in the window, I took my time looking through gift options. There was a newborn baby boy in Bozeman who needed to be spoiled. Everything looked so sweet, cloth books a little one could gnaw on, stuffed giraffes to snuggle with, keepsake baby books for all of the firsts. They had the softest blue baby blanket I’d ever felt plus a fuzzy zip-up hoodie with bear ears up top. I could just picture a chubby little baby face in it.
“Are you shopping for a gift for someone? Or…” A salesperson came over, glancing at my flat stomach.
“A gift,” I acknowledged. Though I had to admit, a store like this pulled at my heartstrings. One day I hoped I’d be buying a zip-up hoodie with bear ears for my own baby. Or two, or three. I did want a family some day. And wow was it easy to start dreaming about that with Declan.
I needed to stop that slide and fast. This morning, the way he’d taken me, so savage with need, claiming me as his own, my whole world had exploded. We’d lain there panting and I’d wanted to stay like that in his arms forever.
Not him. He’d leapt up, showered and gotten to work.
This week together was nothing more than a transaction. I had to remember that, keep it front and center in my brain. Maybe I should make myself an index card. THIS IS A BARGAIN NOTHING MORE. I could flash it in front of my face when I started gazing at him with little dancing hearts in my eyes.
I might feel like I still knew him, all those old emotions so raw and ready to clamor to the surface, but Declan lived in a different world now. He’d ascended into a life of wealth and power, while I remained a simple rancher with dirt under my fingernails. And I couldn’t afford to let my heart get broken again.
My cell phone blipped. I pulled it out and read a new text message.
Do you have an answer for me yet? My offer won’t stand much longer.
Lymon Culpepper, aka the toad man who wanted to buy my family’s ranch. I shuddered. Something in the way he looked at me with those black, beady eyes, I didn’t know what it was but I did know that man wasn’t right. I wanted nothing to do with him—and it was more than just not wanting to sell my family’s ranch. That man gave me the creeps.
My fingers hovered over the screen. Words sprang to mind that I’d love to text to him right now real fast. But I didn’t tell him to fuck off or get lost or any other choice retorts. I had enough realism in me to recall that his was the only certain offer I had on the table right now. Sure, Declan had promised, but did I really know how this week was going to go down? No, I sure as hell did not.
I’ll let you know next weekend.
I sent the text, another cold shiver running down my spine. I took a deep breath. Sometimes when too much was going on all at once, I’d learned it worked to focus simply on the task at hand. Right now, I had a baby blanket and zip-up hoodie in my hands. I’d buy them. And then I’d keep putting one foot in front of the other and somehow everything would work out. I didn’t know how, but I told myself it would.
First I popped into a florist. After all, fairy godmothers in consignment stores deserved huge thank you bouquets. That woman with the ostrich feather had saved me on Friday. Plus Declan’s penthouse could use a bit of color. Then I forced myself back into the fancy boutiques. The saleswoman had been aloof at first. After all, I was still wearing my same old t-shirt and jeans. But then I’d explained that I needed a whole bunch of outfits for a week with a man in New York City. Suddenly she became my best friend and partner in crime.
Standing in a spacious changing room in the boutique, I checked myself out in the mirror. Apparently, there were white button-down shirts and then there were white button-down shirts. The one I had on was nothing like my father’s faded Sunday best, more cream than white after years of use and laundry lines. It was neither prissy nor fussy nor boring nor any of the other things one might associate with something that sounded so run-of-the-mill.
First of all, this white shirt had stretch to it. It was subtle, though, not molded to me so much as brilliant in clinging and draping just so. Somehow it accentuated both curves in the top half of my hourglass, making my breasts look full and lush and my waist look tiny. All while still looking like a million bucks. Give me some tortoise shell glasses and I’d morph into an A-list lawyer gunning down the opposing side’s star witness. The shirt had class. It might even have an Ivy League degree. Who knew that they made shirts like that? For $150, I guessed they did.
“Sizzling secretary,” the salesgirl had called the look.
I paired the shirt with her suggestions, a narrow charcoal gray pencil skirt and some Christian Louboutin patent-leather 4-inch pumps, all glossy black except for a flash of flirty red underneath. Looking at myself in the mirror, I felt as if I’d been sent to the principal’s office. If the principal was me.
I tilted my head and turned my body so I could check out my ass. I filled out every inch of the tight skirt. I felt nervous and excited, imagining showing it to Declan. He’d told me he’d want me to model it all for h
im tonight. Why did it arouse me to think of doing that? I could picture him sitting and watching me with his dark, hot gaze as I strutted around in front of him. I turned front and center again, checking out the way the shirt clung to my breasts. The thought of pleasing him turned me on so much my nipples started to harden. I could see them pushing against the soft cloth.