Authors: Ava McKnight
The hilltop to the immediate left was dotted with solar lights illuminating the tall cacti and other vegetation. The awesome cityscape still captivated me, but I loved how the smooth boulders this area was known for, along with the desert flora and fauna, were backlit by tactically placed lights on the hill.
Jack had been right. This was precisely the view I’d enjoy.
We stood at the railing again and I said, “This is stunning.”
“I thought you’d like it. We have some things in common, I discovered when I started reading your articles.” He was quiet a moment, then told me, “You have a way of revealing so much about yourself in your writing without even saying anything too specific.” He laughed at the paradox, then added, “What I mean is, your passion for nature and your love of animals comes through in your writing. So does your adventurous side. I really liked your series on the desert tours you took last fall and your hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”
“I thought that hike would kill me,” I admitted with a laugh. “I should have been in better shape before I agreed to take on the assignment. My guide stopped every half hour or so to make sure I ate something.”
“Protein supplements would’ve helped.”
“That’s what he said. I think he was worried I was going to wilt away on the trip down and he wouldn’t know what to do with the body.”
Jack chuckled. “But you made it.”
“And loved every second. Have you hiked it?”
“Yeah. I went to elementary school in Flagstaff and in the sixth grade, the annual end-of-the-year science project was to hike the Canyon and identify the sedimentary rock layers and the various flowers. We had to train all year by running the perimeter of the playground before we started class.” He frowned. “You can imagine I always brought up the rear.”
“I would have too,” I told him. “But you made it, right?”
He nodded. “And loved every second.”
I so liked him. No, it was more than that. With every passing moment in his magnetic presence, I knew I was absolutely crazy about him. His humility was refreshing and engaging. He didn’t try to convince me he was some macho stallion to be revered. He had the face and body of Adonis, but he knew his roots. He didn’t shy away from his past shortcomings. And the fact that he spent so much time processing his next steps told me he didn’t make impulsive moves he might regret. This guy knew what he was doing, and I found a huge amount of comfort in that. I also found his honesty and forthrightness endearing.
I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to know everything. “I read somewhere you moved to Scottsdale when you were in junior high. That’s when you started playing football?”
“Yeah, my dad was my inspiration for trying out in the first place. He’s pretty amazing. My parents were just starting college when I was born. They really struggled when I was a kid, but the more difficult the situation, the more he seemed to excel. He opened his first business when we were still in Flag. He’s always loved working on cars and ended up with two shops here in Scottsdale. One specializes in mechanical and body repairs, the other does full-blown builds of classic car and hot-rod kits.”
“So you got your talent for tinkering with things from him?”
With a nod, he said, “Yeah. I was always running around his shop with a wrench, wanting to adjust nuts and bolts. Spending so much time with him helped me with the mechanical aspects of building a workout machine.”
“He must be proud of you.”
“He does like to brag,” Jack said with a soft laugh. “My mother’s worse.”
“Are you all still close?” I asked.
“Yes. Very much so. Though my Dad’s successful in his own right, I bought them a plot of land a few miles down the road last year for their anniversary and we built a nice house on it.”
“That was generous of you.”
“They’re my parents,” he said with a grin. “I’m happy to be able to return the favor, considering all the sacrifices they made for me since birth. Plus I really like having them close by. We have dinner together every Sunday. Watch football during the season and barbecue. Or enjoy a simple pot roast or chicken in the winter. Salads in the summer when we’re all sick of the heat. You know, the usual.”
I swallowed down a hard lump of emotion. The “usual” for Jack Reed was something I’d longed for since I was seven years old. I didn’t begrudge him his wonderful family life. But I certainly envied it.
“Hey,” he said as I remained silent. His fingers skimmed my bare shoulder as his head dipped to mine and he asked in a low voice, “Did I say something wrong?”
“No,” I was quick to assure him. “Oh God, no. Of course not.” I had to blink back the threat of tears, though. “No, it’s not you. It’s just… That’s very touching. About you and your parents. What does your mother do?” I found myself asking, though my stomach twisted in knots.
Jack let out a mocking groan that was playful. “Oh she obsesses over my dad working too much and me playing football, because she was always afraid I’d get hurt. Or wondering when I’m going to meet the right woman and bring her to Sunday dinner.”
“So basically she’s nuts about you and your dad.” A lump of emotion swelled in my throat and I fought to dislodge it, to swallow it down.
Jack said, “She was a stay-at-mom when I was growing up. When we moved to Scottsdale, she became extremely active in the community. I have immense respect for her. The woman is a gift to volunteerism and charitable organizations, and she’s always been a solid presence in my life.”
I tore my gaze from his and stared out at the city in which I’d been born. The solid presence in my life had been a nanny who’d passed away five years ago. I’d adored her, but I’d never been able to love her, despite how wonderful and maternal she’d been. My emotional deficiencies were not a result of anything she’d done or not done. I’d simply not been able to transfer any sort of feeling to her, aside from gratitude that she’d taken such great care of me. That doom-and-gloom fear had started with her. Every time she was a minute late in picking me up because of a traffic jam or a flat tire, I’d panicked. And believed the worse—that she’d abandoned me like my mother had.
I could have easily lost myself to melancholy at this point, but as Jack’s fingers brushed along my nape, beneath my loosely pinned hair, I knew I wanted to move on from my despair. Literally as much as figuratively.
Before he could inquire about my family, I said, “I like your house, Jack. And your hospitality.”
He gazed down at me, a sparkle in his eyes. “And my ulterior motives?”
“I haven’t discovered any yet.”
“I didn’t want to share you with everyone downstairs. I realize that means I should have invited you out on a proper date, just the two of us. But I didn’t know I was going to feel quite this way.”
My breath hitched. “What way?”
His fingers swept slowly down my spine, making me shiver. “The second you walked through the door, all I could think was, ‘I hope she never wants to leave’.”
I stared at him, wondering if I’d heard him right. Wondering if the one greatest fear I’d always had could be quelled with those simple words.
Despite my best effort to hold it at bay, a tear welled in my eye and crested the rim, sliding slowly down my flushed cheek. “That’s about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me,” I told him. Then I shook my head and amended, “That
the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” More accurately, it was the most significant thing anyone had ever said to me.
But Jack had no idea of my internal strife. He asked, “Then why am I making you cry?”
“You’re not,” I said with a half laugh. I swiped at the fat drop on my jaw. “I’m not crying. I’m just…overly emotional. Don’t mind me.”
He stared quizzically at me, his concern apparent, though he didn’t pry. His fingers continued to caress my back with a featherlight touch that made my skin tingle and my stomach flutter. I gripped the railing in front of me with one hand, to steady myself, as I clutched my small bag in the other. Jack’s very simple touch was highly arousing.
When he dropped a soft kiss on my bare shoulder, I let out a sigh that seemed to echo my yearning for him to touch me everywhere, not just my back. He got the hint. He brushed the strands of hair from the side of my neck and placed a gentle kiss there, just below my ear. I pulled in a long, ragged breath. My heart hammered in my chest and my body trembled.
“You are insanely beautiful,” he whispered. “Very Nicole Kidman, but…even sexier. Every time I see you, I can’t take my eyes off you.”
I’d felt the same way about him since I’d met him in person. He had a very commanding and captivating presence that had immediately sucked me in. I wasn’t inclined to break the bond that seemed to have instantly formed between us when we’d met. If anything, I wanted to strengthen it.
I turned in his loose embrace as his lips skated over my jaw before lightly touching the corner of my mouth. His warm breath teased my skin and smelled of spearmint. Anticipation of tasting his kiss, and knowing I’d feel the effects of it all the way to my toes, made my pulse soar.
My body gravitated to his until we were almost melded together. I balanced my small purse on the railing and then pressed a hand to his upper arm. My other hand slid between us at his chest and my fingers curled around the material of his dress shirt where it was opened at the neck. My thumb toyed with the button that would release more of the flap and reveal his pectoral muscles. Because of my height, my left breast rested below the hard ledge of his chest. I desperately wanted to feel his skin against mine, so I didn’t hesitate any longer in freeing the button from its hole.
I splayed my hand over his hot, smooth flesh and his muscles bunched beneath my touch. He let out a low groan, and then his lips tangled with mine in slow, sexy kisses that turned me inside out. His tongue only gingerly teased my lips, not yet delving inside my mouth. I liked the prelude. Heat flooded my veins and a dull throb built deep in my pussy, a tantalizing ache that wasn’t uncomfortable. It was erotic and tempting, and sparked carnal cravings I hadn’t ever experienced.
As my body went up in flames, my hand on Jack’s chest moved to the back of his head, my fingers tangling in his spiky hair that was actually very soft. The slight though clearly insistent pressure I applied coaxed him into covering his mouth with mine as he kissed me deeply, his tongue expertly leading mine into a sensual dance that left me weak in the knees.
His arms tightened around me, crushing my body to his. I instantly fell in love with the way we fit together and how wonderful it felt to be wrapped in his embrace, his heat and muscles surrounding me.
The desire to feel his skin against mine intensified and I eventually pulled away—no easy feat because I’d just as soon give up breathing than break our kiss. I did anyway, and took him by the hand, guiding him away from the railing and the watchful eyes below us into the shadows that lingered closer to his bedroom.
I was no seductress, but then again, I didn’t need to be. Jack had made his intentions quite clear, so I let my instincts take over. We’d only made it to the glass door when he pulled me back to him and kissed me again. I was wedged between him and the cool glass, a titillating contrast of temperatures enveloping me. Actually, the slight chill at my back provided relief from the blaze roaring through me.
My arms wrapped around Jack’s neck and our bodies sealed together. I was amazed by how natural it felt to be this close to him, to let his hands roam free, moving over my ass and then sweeping upward to my breast. One hand palmed a braless mound through the thin material of my bodice while the other flattened against my bare back, easing me away from the glass and even closer to Jack.
His mouth left mine and glided over my jaw and down my throat, his tongue and teeth teasing my sensitive skin. His lips pressed to my neck and he suckled the flesh, eliciting riotous emotions that twisted and knotted with the sensations his hand on my breast evoked. The pad of his thumb whisked over my pebbled nipple, tightening it even more.
The sparks along my clit and deep in my cunt made me reach for that hand on my breast and guide it down the front of me. Jack’s fingers curled around the hem of my skirt and lifted the material so he could accommodate my silent request. His fingertips grazed my labia through my satin thong panties and a sharp moan fell from my lips at the electrifying touch.
He continued to kiss my neck and hold me to him as his fingers slipped behind the swath of satin at the apex of my legs. With skill and obvious determination, he massaged my clit until I was teetering on a precarious edge. My breathing was shallow, turning into sharp, short gasps of air. My fingers tightened around the strands of hair.
As his mouth left my throat and his head moved down to my breasts, where his lips pressed to an areola through my dress as his tongue teased my nipple, he pushed a long finger deep into my pussy. I fought back a cry of pleasure. There were people below us, after all. But a strangled sound eked out anyway, followed by a very unexpected, “Holy shit,” as I came.
The tremors that shot through my body had me vibrating from head to toe. Jack’s head lifted and he kissed me, his masterful tongue intensifying the electrical current coursing rampantly through my veins.
I should have known the effect he’d so easily have on my body. From the moment I’d met him, I’d needed a
Warning, High Voltage!
sign around my neck.