Read Darker Than Midnight Online

Authors: Maggie Shayne

Darker Than Midnight (28 page)

BOOK: Darker Than Midnight
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“Beautiful,” he whispered. And he kissed her again, open and exposed and vulnerable. He kissed her again, and then again, and then he licked her the way he had licked her breasts. Long, slow strokes, then short hard ones that flicked and punished. He used his hands to spread her wide, so he could delve deep into her, taste and take the depths of her. He wanted to drink her. He wanted to devour her, and he did. He drove his tongue into her, flushing her inside—ravaging her. He had to have her, all of her. He had to make her come.

He lifted his eyes to her face, but couldn't see it. Only her hands on her breasts, the tips of her nipples swelling from the
pressure of her own fingers pinching and rolling and tugging on them.

He ate her deeply, and when his teeth scraped over her clit, which was bulging as if it would pop, he devoted his attention to that little nub. He flicked his tongue over it, and then he sucked it into his mouth and gnawed it with his teeth.

She screamed. He loved it. He reached up with his hands, closed his fingers over hers on her nipples and pressed, making her pinch herself harder while his mouth worked to ravage her center. And then he left her to keep his unspoken command, and he moved his hands between her legs again. He slid his fingers into her, invading her and licking and sucking her. He felt it when she started to come. He felt her muscles tighten around his fingers.

She screamed again as she came. Screamed and tried to push his head away from her, but he wasn't finished, and by the time he was, she was quivering. Just lying there in spasms, shivering and shaking and crying. He crawled up her body. He stopped to lick and nibble her breasts as he settled himself in the cradle of her thighs, and slid inside her.

She groaned as he moved, drawing back and sinking into her again and again. He slid his hands underneath her buttocks so he could tip it up and hold her to him, and then he drove into her again. She lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist.

She was his. His. Maybe not forever, but right then, at that moment. She gave herself to him, and he wished he would never have to let her go.

Cassandra didn't complain, didn't seek escape. If anything, she pushed harder, took him deeper by arching her body to meet his. He sat up, pulling her legs around his waist, his hands at her backside. Her breasts were within reach of his mouth in this position and he took one of them. They moved together as if they were fused somehow, and he could
almost believe he felt the sensations rushing through her as well as his own.

She moaned his name as her body exploded around him. She went tight, so tight he thought she might break, and she clung to him, quaking and shaking until he joined her in the heights of pleasure.

They clung that way until the aftershocks began to fade. He held her so close he could feel her heartbeat as their bodies slowly unclenched. Eventually, he lowered her to the nest on the floor, and lay down with her, pulling her into his arms, cradling her against him, holding her and rocking her and loving her….

Yes. Loving her.

Damn, he was in serious trouble here.

* * *

Jax lay there, wrapped up in River's arms, for a solid hour before her brain cells returned to their proper alignment and she realized exactly what she was doing. She was
with him.

Her eyes widened a little and she sat up fast, so startled by her behavior and his that she almost shot all the way to her feet. But instead, she managed to stay seated.

“What's wrong?”

He sat up, too, but slowly, with an expression on his face that looked for all the world like utter satisfaction. Like a man who'd just finished packing away a feast and wanted nothing more than to lie around and digest it.

She, on the other hand, felt more like throwing up.

“I…I need a shower.”

She started to rise, but he caught her hand and held on. “Wait. Wait. I'm sorry. I didn't mean…I mean, I thought you wanted…Jax, tell me this wasn't a mistake.”

She shook her head. “River, I don't—”

“You don't want love,” he said softly.

That wasn't what she was going to say. She was going to say she didn't have any regrets, or that she didn't know what the hell she wanted anymore.

He stroked her hair before she could figure out how to reply, and he said, “Don't worry, Cassandra. I don't, either.”

He didn't? Well, that should be a relief, shouldn't it? Why did it feel so horrible then? She faked a smile and got to her feet. “Then I guess we understand each other.”

“Yeah.” He licked his lips and looked away from her. She got the distinct feeling he had a lot more to say, but didn't.

“So…I guess I'll go take my shower.”

“All right.”

He let go of her wrist, and Jax hurried away as fast as she could without breaking into a run. She felt pursued. She felt panicky. She closed the bathroom door, leaned back against it and tried to catch her breath, analyze the feelings and thoughts chasing through her mind. But she couldn't. She couldn't even catch hold of one, much less explore and examine it.

She felt just the way she had felt the handful of times when she had been under fire on the job. When bullets were flying at her, doing their best to hit her, to kill her, her entire body would become tense and hyperaware. She'd be half expecting the blow of one of those hot pieces of lead, and half focused on avoiding it while shooting back, the fight-or-flight response. Her adrenal glands were pumping and she wanted to do something. Scream at River and throw him out of the house. Sneak out the back door and run away, never looking back. Or run back down the stairs and wrap herself up in him as completely as she could.

“Jesus, what's wrong with me?”

She went to the shower, turned on the faucets and adjusted the temperature a little hotter than she usually liked it. Then she stepped into the spray and let it pound her.

By the time she got out the sun was only a few hours away from rising. She went to the bedroom, rather than back downstairs, and collapsed on the bed, wrapping herself up in the covers, hiding beneath them, wondering why her belly was still queasy and her skin still tingled and her heart was still misfiring. God, she couldn't be falling in love…could she?

Hours later, she woke slowly, sitting up and blinking away the sleep as she realized the sun was high, and there was a sound disrupting her rest. She glanced at the clock through bleary eyes: 9:15. Hell, she never slept this late. Not even on Sundays. It was totally unlike her. She woke at six every morning, with or without the aid of an alarm clock, and being up most of the night before seldom had any impact on that.

She realized she would probably still be sleeping if not for that sound….

That sound. The soft steady purr of a motor running. And footsteps…on the front porch? Rex growled from somewhere far away.

She got to her feet and hurried to the closet for a robe, pulled it on as fast as possible, and ran to the window to look outside just in time to see Ethan Melrose's Mercedes pulling away.

“Hell.” She turned and raced down the stairs. Then came up short at the sight of River lying there in the blankets on the floor. The fire had burned hot during the night, and he'd thrown the covers off of his chest. He lay on his back, arms splayed, head flung to one side, eyes closed as his chest rose and fell with the steady rhythm of his breathing. Rex had apparently decided to take the spot Jax had left vacant. The dog was curled close beside River, head resting on one arm. Apparently he hadn't been disturbed enough by the noise to get up and investigate. Only enough to lift his head and growl a little before snuggling down again. “Some police dog,” she muttered, deliberately using her mother's term.

River was gorgeous. He was filling out the way he ought to, and she loved to look at him. And to touch him. And…

She pursed her lips and remembered her mission, dragged her gaze away from him and focused on the front door. Its lock was still turned, but the curtain gaped. Anyone looking inside…

She stepped to the door, opened it, very careful not to let the movement change the curtain's position. She wanted to see what their morning visitor might have seen, had he peeked inside. Stepping outside, barefoot on the cold wood of the porch, she pulled the door closed again, and bent her head to peer through.

River lay in plain sight, still bathed in the glow of coals and the dying flames from the fireplace. His face was perfectly visible.

Sighing, she straightened again, glancing at the porch itself, but there was no snow to hold any footprints, and the path from the driveway to the porch steps was also clear.


She opened the door and went back inside, rubbing her arms against the cold. She headed to the fireplace, removed the screen as quietly as she could, and tossed the last two logs from the pile onto the coals. Then she tiptoed to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee.

It was as she was pouring water into the pot that she felt soft hands close on her shoulders, soft lips nuzzle her neck and sleepy whispers reach her ear. “You didn't come back last night.”

Man, this had to stop. It
to stop. It was too intimate, this early-morning, pre-coffee nuzzling. So why did it feel so good? So…right? She moved slightly, just enough to escape his touch. “Yeah. I, uh—I got to thinking it probably would be better if we cooled it for a while. With the sex, I mean.”

She glanced up at him. He looked so hurt that she had to avert her eyes from the pain in his. She felt like an assassin.
And it hurt her so badly to say it that she knew she was right. It was the only possible thing she could do. She needed to sort out the foreign feelings swirling around inside her. She needed clarity. Objectivity. Distance.

“Oh,” was all he said. Then, “Are you worried about—we didn't use protection either time. Do you think—”

She shook her head. “I'm pretty sure I'm at the wrong part of my cycle for that to be a problem,” she said.

“I think someone may have seen you here, River.” Amazing, she thought, that she was saying it more to change the subject than due to the urgency of the fact. Even though it
urgent. “Whoever it was left in Ethan's car, so I'm guessing it must have been him. Had to have been someone with a set of keys. The set he gave me are still hanging on the rack by the front door.”

“So…?” He knew there had to be more.

“I heard footsteps on the porch just before the car left. And I'm telling you, if he peered through the window, he saw you. You were in plain sight.”

“Hell.” River lowered his head quickly. “That clinches it, then. I have to leave.”

“No you don't.” Wait a minute, hadn't she just decided she needed distance?
Not that much distance. Two feet is more than I want. I'm pathetic.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “If Ethan knows I'm here, he's going to have to try to find me. To see me. He might even turn me in. And that would ruin your career, Cassandra.”

She shrugged. “It's going to
my career when we find proof you were set up, River.”

“If we do.” He swallowed. “If I was.”

She shook her head, refusing to consider the alternative. “We'll talk about where you're going to stay later. This morning we've got some errands to run.” She looked at him more thor
oughly, in search of signs of pain or trouble with the leg. “You're not supposed to be on that leg without a cane or a crutch.”

“It's a lot better this morning. A little sore. I'll be fine. I think I can even manage the stairs now.”

She nodded, deciding to take his word for it rather than fussing over him. It was so unlike her to fuss. And yet she was having trouble keeping herself from doing it. “Go on and get ready then, River. I'm going to fill a couple of travel mugs with coffee, and give Rex his morning meal and a quick run outside. He's going to be cooped up all day in the car with us again.”

Rex barked, and she knelt and rubbed his head. “What you need is a doggy door and the backyard fenced in, don't you, boy? Then you could come and go as you pleased. Yes, you could.”

“I always intended to do that for him,” River said.

She shrugged, and realized Rex was River's dog, not hers. If they did find proof of his innocence he would probably want his dog back. Hell, he'd probably want his house back, as well.

“I'll be quick,” he told her. “In case Ethan tips off the authorities. Search party could show up any minute.”

“I have a feeling Frankie would give me a heads-up before raiding the place,” Jax said.

“Yeah, and if that's true, Ethan has probably already thought of it. He can read people.”

“Like he read you?” she asked. “As insane, as a killer?”

He closed his eyes. “We don't know he was wrong about me. Not for sure.”

“I know,” she said. And it sounded a little too…breathy and romantic, and she rolled her eyes. “Go take your shower, will you? We don't have all day.”

BOOK: Darker Than Midnight
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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