Authors: Carla Neggers
Tags: #Detective and Mystery Stories, #General, #Romance, #Suspense Fiction, #Missing persons, #Suspense, #Fiction
“That’s more or less what they did with Drew,” Beth said quietly.
“Do you know what that tells me?” Hannah looked out the window, although it had been dark several hours. “Whoever hired them didn’t want attention focused on Black Falls.”
Scott gave a low whistle. “You’ll make a hell of a prosecutor, Hannah.”
She turned to him with a small smile. “I’ll take that as a compliment. I hope I’m wrong. Either way,” she added, “those of you in law enforcement have your work cut out for you.”
Jo didn’t comment. Dominique shuddered, and they continued in that vein for a long time, until the entire tray of fresh scones was gone. By the time Jo drove back to the lake, she figured she’d have to run a marathon in the morning to burn off her share of the scones.
It was a crisp, clear, late-autumn evening, quiet and downright cold in her cabin. She tried twice to get a call out on her cell phone, but it just wasn’t going to work. Finally she gave up, grabbed her flashlight and walked out the road to Elijah’s house in the woods.
She saw him up on his deck and called to him. “There’s a bat in my cabin.”
He ambled down to her in his canvas jacket and baseball cap. It was bad, she thought. Even the way he walked struck her as sexy. He said, “I warned you about the bats.”
“You’re handy. Think of something.”
He smiled. “Already have.”
Of course, there was no bat. When they got to her cabin, he didn’t bother to look for one, just grabbed her in his arms and fell onto the old iron bed with her. They tore at each other’s clothes—coats, sweaters, wool socks, everything going, tossed onto the floor. Jo felt as if she was eighteen again, bursting with the need for him, wanting nothing more than to make love to bad boy Elijah. But the air was colder than those hot June days and nights fifteen years ago, and she wasn’t eighteen or twenty-five or even thirty—but it didn’t matter. He skimmed his palms over her bare skin, setting it on fire, and she knew she was as in love with him as ever.
“I should have answered your letters,” he whispered between kisses. “Jo. I’m sorry.”
“I shouldn’t have written. I should have let you go.”
“No.” He gave her a long, tender kiss, even as one hand drifted over her hip. “I kept the picture you sent me of us together here on the lake.”
Her heart almost stopped. “Elijah…”
“Maybe it wasn’t smart, hanging on to a picture of an old girlfriend, but I kept thinking it was bad luck to throw it out.” He raised himself up, his eyes locking with hers in the dim light. “I’d have died without you. I know it.”
She held back tears. “I’m glad you didn’t die.”
She draped her arms around his neck and pulled herself up, their mouths meeting as she lowered her head back against the pillow. His hand eased over her hip, and she parted her legs for him, arching toward him as his fingertips, then his fingers, worked an erotic magic on her. She slipped a hand between them and touched him, stroked him, matching the rhythm of his fingers inside her.
“Jo.” There was a catch of pure desire in his voice. “Ah, Jo.”
And she guided him into her, welcoming the feel of him as she eased both arms around his back and smoothed her palms up his hard muscles. He thrust deeply into her, and she responded, moving with him, not holding back even a little as she abandoned herself to the heat pulsing through her, the sweet ache of wanting him.
Then she couldn’t think anymore. Every fiber of her mind and body—her soul—was caught up in the feel of him, his powerful strokes, the way he drove her to the edge, then pulled her back again.
She’d never wanted a man as much. She’d never loved a man as much.
She buried her face in his shoulder when the spasms started. He didn’t relent, and she didn’t want him to, and when she cried out, she heard him say her name, over and over, and realized they were in unison, their timing perfect as they spun into a long, almost endless release.
“Jo,” he said softly again when it was over, as he lay next to her.
She smiled. “I like hearing you say my name.” And she propped up her head on one hand and looked down at him. “Elijah, Elijah, Elijah.”
“You couldn’t even talk there a minute ago.”
They both laughed, and they got dressed again, drawn, as if by an invisible force, back outside and down to the lake. The air was still but very cold, and the water sparkled in the moonlight. Jo’s eyes adjusted quickly to the dark. She didn’t miss the city lights.
Elijah stood very close to her, their toes almost in the water. “Right here or at the falls. My deck. The lodge. Washington. I don’t care.” He turned and brushed a knuckle gently across her cheek. “I love you, Jo.”
She grabbed his hand into hers and took a breath, and she tried to speak but couldn’t get any words out.
He kissed her hand. “I want to love and cherish you for the rest of our lives.”
“The rest doesn’t matter. What we’ll do, where we’ll live—it doesn’t matter, so long as we’re together. Jo, I’m asking you to marry me.”
She couldn’t get a decent breath.
He smiled. “Speechless, are you?” With his free hand, he dug into his jacket pocket, producing a diamond ring. He held it between his thumb and forefinger. “I don’t know what happened to the little box it came in. Maybe there wasn’t one.”
“You’ve been chasing bad guys, Elijah. When have you had time—”
“I bought this ring for you the day you graduated from high school. I helped old Pete Harper cut cordwood out here to earn the money. I didn’t buy it in town. I knew your father would shoot me if he knew. It’s not expensive, but I thought for now…”
“Forever.” It was all she could think to say. “It’s perfect.”
“I’m sorry I hurt you, Jo. I’m sorry I never answered your letters.”
She blinked back tears. “I’m sorry I hung on. Elijah…” Finally, she laughed, squeezing his hand. “Nothing’s changed after all, has it? I love you. I always have. I’ve never stopped. I never will stop.”
He slipped the ring onto her finger and put his arm around her, pulling her close to him as he kissed the top of her head. “Can you picture it, Jo? Our kids. Out here. I can see them now.” He laughed as if he could, indeed, see them. “We’ll have our hands full.”
“We will,” Jo said.
Elijah’s arm tightened around her as a breeze stirred, floating down from Cameron Mountain and across the moonlit lake, and she leaned against the man she’d loved for as long as she could remember.