Authors: Alexis Morgan
While he uncorked the bottle, she tossed the salad, sliced the bread, and took the chops out of the oven. By the time they were both seated at the table, her pulse had returned to normal and her good mood was pretty much restored.
“I hope you like blueberry pie.”
Emmett’s eyes lit up. “Seriously? After putting in a long day at the clinic, you did all of this
made a pie for me?”
His obvious pleasure drove away the last of the shadows. “I did indeed.”
He gave her a look hot enough to melt steel. “I’d love to show you my sincere appreciation—several times.”
Okay, then. With the deep rumble of his voice, she could have sworn that each word he spoke caressed her skin. For sure, her body responded that way, leaving her breasts feeling heavy and a damp ache between her legs. She’d put a lot of effort into this meal and didn’t want to rush through it. On the other hand, if he affected her this strongly with a hot look and a few words, she couldn’t wait to experience his appreciation firsthand.
• • •
Emmett hoped like hell that he’d done justice to the meal, but he couldn’t be sure. At the moment, he wanted to shove the dishes aside and take Jana right there on the table. He also had a few ideas involving the couch in the living room, the big shower he’d spotted in the bathroom, and for the grand finale, her bedroom down the hall. Considering he hadn’t had a lover in a decade and a half, he wasn’t all that sure about his stamina, but a man could dream. Regardless, it had taken all the concentration he could muster to carry on even simple conversation as they ate.
He’d brought his toothbrush, but he’d left it in the car along with the box of condoms he’d picked up just in case. As soon as he’d seen Jana wasn’t alone, he’d tucked the paper bag under the seat of the truck. There was no way he’d have come strolling up the sidewalk with those in hand.
All things considered, he wasn’t going to assume that the rest of the evening was going to turn out the way he’d hoped. Maybe, though. There’d been a definite gleam in Jana’s dark eyes when he’d offered to show her his appreciation. Despite the long drought in his love life, he hadn’t forgotten what feminine desire looked like.
If he didn’t get up and move a bit, he feared his head would explode. He topped off her glass of wine. “You enjoy that while I take care of the dishes.”
“You don’t have to do that, Emmett. I’ll wash them later.”
But he had plans for later. “It won’t take long. Besides, it would only be fair for me to clean up since you did the cooking.”
She finally gave in, but he was well aware of her eyes following his every move as he loaded the dishwasher and washed a few things by hand. When he was done, he dried his hands and leaned against the sink as he considered his next move. There had to be something that would ease them into phase two of the evening’s entertainment.
One thought occurred to him. “Do you dance?”
Jana blinked and looked confused. “You want me to dance?”
He walked around the table and tugged her up to her feet. “No, I want
to dance, preferably to something slow and sexy.”
Her eyes lit up in delight. “Let’s go into the other room. The television in there has better sound.”
He followed after her trying to make sense of what she’d said. Seriously, the television? But sure enough, she turned on a channel that played soft pop. They lucked out and the first song was something low and smooth with lyrics that spoke of broken hearts getting a second chance at love. Jana slid into his arms, as always a perfect fit. The two of them swayed from side to side, her head tucked under his chin and her arms wrapped around his neck. He breathed deeply of her scent and soaked in the warmth of her skin. Damn, this might be the closest to heaven as he might ever get.
One song faded into the next. By the third one, they’d coasted to a stop. Emmett pressed a soft kiss to her temple. Jana eased back but stayed within the circle of his arms. She touched his cheek and then trailed her fingers along the line of his jaw and on down his neck to his shoulders. Then she laid her palm over his racing heart and then let it wander to all points south. “Do you want to dance all night or should we take this into my bedroom?”
Emmett had always found action to be easier than words; he swept her up in his arms and carried her down the hall. Jana squeaked in surprise but then settled her head against his chest.
“Good answer, big guy.”
ana sat on the edge of her bed and counted the seconds until Emmett returned. As soon as he’d carried her into the bedroom, he’d muttered a curse word and something about having to make a trip to his truck. She could only deduce that he’d brought protection with him, another example of his thoughtfulness.
She heard the front door open and close again, so he was already on his way back. Good. Sitting there waiting for a first-time lover was a bit scary. This was a huge leap forward in their relationship, something she’d never done this quickly with any man she’d dated. Emmett reappeared, his broad shoulders filling the doorway, his gray eyes staring right into the heart of her. She stood up, wanting to meet him on equal ground.
“Tell me you still want this.” Emmett set the bag on the bedside table before once again wrapping her in his arms. At his touch, her jitters melted away.
Jana let a slow, deep kiss answer for her. God, she loved the feel of his big hands as they touched and tested and teased, slowly coaxing the embers of passion back into full flame. The soft knit of his shirt molded to his body in perfect detail, but she wanted to feel the heat of his skin. When she tugged up the hem of his shirt, Emmett took the hint and peeled it off and tossed it onto the rocker in the corner. Jana smiled and splayed her hands on his chest, loving the play of the powerful muscles under his warm skin.
After letting her explore for several seconds, he caught her hands in his. “Your turn.”
She obliged him, adding first her sweater and then her bra to the pile on the rocker. They both moaned when they came together their first skin-to-skin kiss. The silken sensation stole the strength in Jana’s legs, leaving her clinging to Emmett for support. She loved knowing his strength would be enough for both of them. Once again he lifted her, this time to carry her the few steps to the bed and settle her on the edge. Her breath caught in her throat as he knelt in front of her, bringing his eye level down to hers.
“I love spiky heels on a woman, especially one with such great legs.”
She watched as he took one of her feet in his hands and slowly stripped off her boot and then did the same with the other one. After setting them aside, Emmett reached for the snap on her jeans; his gray eyes were the color of molten silver as she lay back to let him slide the jeans down her legs, taking her lace panties with them. Still, he remained where he was, staring up at her as he ran his hands up the inside of her thighs, gently pushing them apart. She supported herself on her elbows as she watched and waited to see what he was going to do next.
Emmett murmured, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”
She flushed hot yet shivered under the impact of his scrutiny. Then he cupped both of her breasts in the palms of his hands. “These are perfect, and I bet they taste sweet.”
As he captured one with his tongue and lips, he smiled as her nipple beaded up in response to his gentle assault. Each tug of his tongue on her nipple echoed in her core, making it all but impossible to remain still. When he turned his attention to the other one, he slipped his other hand between her legs. Waves of pleasure cascaded through her body as his mouth feasted on her breasts and his fingers gently stroked her slick folds. It was at once too much and not nearly enough.
She moved back to stretch out on the bed. “I want you here with me—without the jeans.”
Emmett rose to his full height, casting a shadow on the bed as he kicked off his shoes. His fingers fumbled as he tried to undo the buttons on his jeans; she liked that she wasn’t the only one who was trembling with need. Finally, he took a deep breath and flexed his hands as if trying to regain some control. This time he was more successful, and both his jeans and boxers went flying. She got her first look at her fully aroused lover and purred. Was all of that just for her?
Before joining her on the bed, he got several of the foil packets out of the box. After putting one on, he left the rest within easy reach.
The bed dipped when he finally lay down beside her, rolling her right into his waiting arms. He rose over her, his expression serious. “I’m a bit out of practice with all of this. I haven’t . . . not since . . . well, let’s just say it’s been a long, long time.”
She loved his honesty but wasn’t sure how to respond. Finally, she decided on some direct action and took matters into her own hands.
• • •
Emmett wasn’t sure how she’d react to his confession, but a second later she reached down to stroke his erection once, twice, three times. The sensation nearly drove him over the edge, but her next comment startled a laugh out of him. “Well, Emmett, all I can say is that it sure looks like everything is still in good working order.”
All right, then. He couldn’t remember any of the few girls he’d slept with ever being playful. He grinned back at her. “I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure.”
With that in mind, he eased Jana over onto her back and moved to cover her lush body with his own. She rewarded his efforts by drawing her legs up around his hips. He rocked against her, loving the small noises she made as the head of his erection rubbed against her clit. By the time she was digging her nails into his shoulders, he was more than ready to take it to the next level.
It took several short thrusts before her body took most all of him. God, she was so damn tight, but the fit was perfect. She gasped, though, when he pushed forward that last little bit of depth. It took what little sanity he had left to hold still long enough for her body to adjust to the sudden invasion. “Sorry, Jana. Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head. “It’s been a while for me, too.”
A second later, he felt her slowly relax beneath him. Still, no need to rush things. He kissed her again, his tongue moving in the same slow rhythm as his hips. Had he ever known anything as perfect as the way this woman’s body fit to his? Not that he could remember.
“Emmett! Please, I need more!” Jana’s kiss-swollen lips pouted as her body rose up to meet his. She stroked her palms down his back to grab his ass, causing him to flex hard and deep.
He held back again. “More of what? Tell me what you want, Jana.”
Staring up at him with such amazing hunger in her eyes, she slid one hand between them, seeking out the point where their bodies were joined. “What I want is for you to give me everything you’ve got, Emmett. Now.”
He nodded, ready to take her at her word. He pulled back until he’d almost withdrawn completely and then thrust forward hard and fast and with no hesitation. When she keened out her approval, he did it again. This time his control snapped as the sensation of their bodies pounding together over and over again drove away all coherent thought. Jana arched up and cried his name as her climax ripped through her. That’s all it took to have him panting in desperate pleasure as his body went rigid while he shuddered in release.
Afterward, he had the presence of mind long enough to roll over to lie beside Jana before he collapsed completely. Both of them were breathing hard; his pulse raced as if he’d won a marathon, and the victory was sweet.
He ran his fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her face. “You okay?”
Her answering smile was everything he could have wished for. “All I can say is that if that was how much you appreciate blueberry pie, I also make a mean apple pie.”
His body was already stirring back to life. “Considering that’s my second favorite kind of pie, mind if I show you a little appreciation in advance?”
In a quick move, Jana sprawled across his chest, her legs bracketing his hips. “Not at all. I might even consider attempting a peach pie, if you’re lucky.”
He laughed and turned the tables on her, flipping her on her stomach and immobilizing her with his weight. “There’s one thing I’ve learned, Jana, and that’s that a man makes his own luck.”
And then he set about doing exactly that.
t was Friday and almost quitting time. Could life get any better than that? Well, yes, it could. Her last patient could be gone and Jana already on her way down the street to Dan’s bar to meet up with Emmett. With their work schedules, it was difficult to find time to be together, but she liked that he made the effort to spend every minute he could in her company.
It had been three weeks since that first night he’d spent in her bed. They’d managed a handful of other nights together, a couple of shared dinners at Dan’s, and one breakfast at a local café noted for its omelets. She cherished each moment, each memory they’d built, and looked forward to making many more. Sometimes, though, she’d catch Emmett looking at her in such an odd way, almost as if he couldn’t believe she was real. Her fear was that he couldn’t believe what they had together would last.
And maybe he had good reason to have qualms. He seemed so rock solid most of the time that she found it hard to remember that he’d lost fifteen years of his life due to the treachery of another man. Trust was bound to come hard to a person after that kind of betrayal. All she could do was be patient. What choice did she have when the man was rapidly becoming the center of her world?
But there was also that one evening when they’d been watching a movie on television and Emmett had started rubbing his chest. In a matter of seconds, he’d gone from relaxed to so revved he couldn’t sit still. When she’d asked if he was all right, he’d insisted nothing was wrong. Then, a few minutes later, he announced he needed to go for a walk and headed out into the night. Although he hadn’t invited her, Jana had grabbed a jacket and gone after him. She’d struggled to keep up with the pace he’d set until he came to an abrupt halt somewhere near the Seattle Underground.
There, he’d silently stared at an unmarked doorway at the end of an alley for the longest time. She’d been about to insist that they go to the clinic so she could check him over when his strange agitation disappeared just as quickly as it had come. He’d apologized for dragging her all over hell’s half acre and called a cab to take them home. Once they were back at her place, he’d given her a quick good-bye kiss and headed home with no further explanation. The next day he’d acted as if nothing unusual had happened at all.
All things considered, it shouldn’t surprise her if he had the occasional rough patch adjusting to life on the outside. That didn’t bother her. What did, however, was the fact that he wouldn’t tell her what was going on. Did he think she couldn’t handle whatever it was that had set him off that night?
That worrisome train of thought was derailed when her medical assistant knocked on her office door. “Mr. May is in room two. He’s the last one.”
Crossing her fingers they didn’t get any more walk-in patients, Jana picked up his chart and headed down the hall to the examination room. Give or take thirty minutes, she’d be on her way down the block to where Emmett and one of Dan’s double cheeseburgers would be waiting for her.
Yep, today life was good.
• • •
Jana had half expected Emmett to be outside watching for her as she left the clinic behind. Although she was disappointed, maybe it meant that he’d come to accept that she was a grown woman and capable of walking a few blocks on her own. She hurried her steps, ready to enjoy dinner with Emmett.
Jana stepped inside the bar and hung her coat on one of the hooks on the wall. Before she spotted Emmett, a loud argument broke out on the far side of the room. Like everyone else there, she turned to see what was going on. A man she’d never seen before bellowed in fury as he yanked the woman next to him up off her chair by her hair. She screamed in fear as she pleaded for mercy. “No, Ray! I wasn’t flirting with anybody!”
“You lying bitch! I saw you talking to that guy.”
To Jana’s horror, he drew back and backhanded the woman hard enough that the smack could be heard over the rest of the noise in the bar. Jana started forward, not sure what she could do, but she couldn’t stand by and watch the woman suffer further abuse. Before she’d gone two steps, Emmett vaulted over the bar and charged across the room to confront the couple. With his hands clenched in fists, he towered over the other man.
“We don’t allow that kind of shit in here. Let go of her, and you can walk out of here alone but in one piece.”
Jana held her breath, hoping against hope the man would listen to reason, but he was stupid as well as a bully. He glared up at Emmett and snarled, “Stay out of this, asshole. Tanya had it coming. Besides, she’s my wife, and I can hit her if I want to.”
He raised his hand as if to strike the woman a second time, and Emmett took him to the floor in a flurry of flailing arms and legs. Now free, the woman stumbled back a few steps. Dan led her into the safety of his office, then immediately headed back into the bar to help his other patrons clear out. Jana should go after the woman in case she needed medical treatment, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the vicious fight on the floor.
Evidently Ray had a friend with him, because out of nowhere another man jumped on the pile of bodies rolling on the floor. Jana shuddered at the sound of fists pounding on flesh, and the feral expression on Emmett’s face scared her. Even so, she could tell that he was trying to subdue his opponents while doing the least amount of damage. When Emmett bucked the second man off his back, Dan and the other bartender immediately wrangled the guy into the far corner away from the fight.
With a look of fierce determination on his face, Emmett finally strong-armed Ray over onto his belly. Then he jerked Ray’s wrists behind his back and sat on him. Emmett was breathing hard but appeared to be unharmed. Jana couldn’t find it in her to regret the blossoming shiner on Ray’s left eye, which matched the one he’d given his poor wife. The room grew quiet as everyone waited to see what happened next.
The wail of sirens drawing near could be heard now that things were calming down. Good, someone had had the good sense to call the police. As soon as the first officers appeared outside the bar, Jana opened the door to let them in. She recognized both men and knew them to be levelheaded and fair.
“Come on in, Officers. Thanks for getting here so quickly.” She pointed to where Emmett was still sitting on Ray. “That guy facedown on the floor is named Ray. Right after I got here, he started smacking his wife around. That’s Emmett, one of Dan’s bartenders, sitting on the husband. The guy on the floor over by Dan jumped into the fight for no reason. His attack on Emmett was totally unprovoked.”
The first officer said, “Thanks, Ms. York. We’ll take it from here.”
• • •
Emmett tossed the ice pack Dan had handed him down on the bar. His jaw still ached, but the pain would fade soon enough. It had been thirty minutes since the whole evening had gone to hell. At least Ray and his buddy were in cuffs and on their way to jail. Emmett had been half afraid the cops would take him along for good measure since he was an ex-con. Granted, his record had been cleared, but they might not have cared about that.
The worst thing was that as the adrenaline wore off, he realized a small part of him wished they had hauled his ass along for the ride. A night in jail would have been easier to deal with than having to face Jana. He figured both the fight and his part in it had scared her shitless. She’d done her best to hide it, but there was no missing the worry in her dark eyes when she’d asked him if he was all right.
Hell, no, he was not all right. But it had nothing to do with the few blows Ray had landed before Emmett had flattened him. Had she somehow sensed how much he really wanted to mete out some vigilante justice to Ray and his buddy? If it wouldn’t have landed him right back behind bars, Emmett would have gladly knocked their heads together a few times to get their attention and then maybe broken a few bones just to get his point across. Maybe then they’d think long and hard before raising a hand to another woman.
The door to Dan’s office opened again. The paramedics must have finished checking over Ray’s wife. When she walked out of the office, Jana was with her. The two women were talking softly, but Tanya backed away when Jana held out a business card.
“I can’t go to no shelter. Ray wouldn’t like it none if I’m not at home when he gets there.”
Emmett bit back a curse. Why the hell would she care what Ray thought? From the resignation on Jana’s face, the woman’s attitude didn’t come as a surprise to her. “At least don’t go home tonight, Tanya. What if the police don’t keep Ray in jail long enough for him to cool off?”
Emmett reached for his wallet and pulled out a stack of bills. He crossed the room to where the two women stood, moving slowly so he didn’t scare Tanya. She had good reason not to trust men right now.
“Ma’am, I understand why you might not want to spend tonight at a shelter with a bunch of strangers, but Jana here is right. Ray will need some space when he gets out.” He held out the cash. “Take this and check into a motel. In the morning you can call that number Jana gave you and at least see what they have to say.”
“Maybe I will.” But she was already shaking her head. “Even so, I couldn’t take your money, mister. You’ve already done enough.”
He smiled at her. “Yes, you can. I understand all about sometimes needing a helping hand. Let me do this for you.”
Finally, she took the money and shoved it in the pocket in her jeans just as Emmett’s boss joined them.
“I think this must be yours, Tanya.” Dan held out a purse. “If you’re done here, I’ll give you a ride to your house to pick up a few things and then take you wherever you want to go.”
He glanced toward Emmett. “Can you lock up?”
Emmett and Jana stood in silence until Dan and Tanya were gone. As soon as they pulled the door shut, Jana slammed her hands down on the bar. “I hate knowing she’ll go right back to that bastard.”
Jana was probably right, but he tried to give her at least a little hope. “You don’t know that. She took the money and plans to go to a motel. Maybe she’ll make that call tomorrow.”
“I really hope so, but I see this all too often. When Ray sees her again, he’ll swear he didn’t mean it and be all nice and apologetic. Then the next time he has a beer too many or his favorite team loses or she looks at the wrong man, Ray will lay her out flat and tell her it’s all her own fault. All we can do is pray she finds the courage to walk away from him before he actually kills her.”
Emmett wanted to hold Jana in his arms, but he had his own bridges to burn. “I’m sorry I scared you tonight, Jana, but I can’t stand to see a man hit a woman. I warned you that I have a nasty temper when I see some bastard picking on someone smaller than he is.”
She tilted her head a little to one side as she studied him. “So you did.”
“I won’t apologize for taking him down and not being all that gentle about it.”
Her chin came up as her eyes narrowed. “Funny, I don’t recall asking you to apologize. If you hadn’t intervened, Tanya would have been hurt a lot worse.”
Might as well lay it all out there. “Fine, but part of me actually
punching both of those guys. Yeah, maybe they deserved it, but that was only an excuse. I’m telling you straight up: I’ve been itching for a fight ever since I got up this morning. If it hadn’t been the two of them that set me off, something else would have.”
Now she looked shocked. “Emmett Sloan, don’t talk that way! I know you better than that.”
He snorted. “No you don’t, Jana. I told you how I ended up in prison. The fact that I didn’t actually kill that gangster doesn’t change the fact that I waded into that fight with a grin on my face. Hell, when I was in prison, even the guards thought twice about crowding me.”
“Why are you acting this way, Emmett? Are you trying to make me scared of you?”
Obviously she didn’t get it. He hated—HATED—this feeling of being out of control, as if some outside power was driving him somewhere he didn’t want to go. At least in prison he could take refuge in his cell, safe behind bars where no one could get to him. “Yes, lady, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Hell, I scare myself.”
When she started toward him with a look of concern on her face, he backed away and held up his hands. “Stay back, Jana. I’m not in control. I’ve been this way all day, and it’s not getting any better.”
She froze midstep. “It’s like that night when you had to go walking, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is.” Only worse. He ran his hands over his buzz cut, wishing he could make sense of what he was feeling. “It comes and goes, sometimes not for days and days and maybe even then only for a short time. Other days it hangs around for hours and hours. All I know for sure is that it’s getting worse, and right now my control is shot.”
“I think we should schedule you for a complete physical and then go from there.”
Damn, Jana looked intrigued, not afraid. Emmett suspected she would wear that same expression whenever a patient presented her with a confusing set of symptoms. Well, he didn’t want to be some kind of interesting lab specimen. He wanted to be normal. He wanted to know he could trust himself around people. And most of all, he wanted her. For her sake, that couldn’t happen, not again, not now.
What more could he say to make her understand?
It was getting harder to talk around the lump of shame wedged in his throat. “Come on, I’ll walk you to your car, and then I’ve got stuff to do here.”
“I can wait.”
“No, you should go home, Jana.”
He started walking toward the door and hoped she’d follow without arguing. When he held out her coat, she dutifully let him help put it on, but she was clearly not ready to raise the white flag. She turned to face him and put her hand on his chest. He didn’t have the strength to deny himself that one last touch.
“Listen, Emmett, it’s been one heck of a night, and neither of us got dinner. Why don’t I pick something up on the way home while you finish up here? We can eat at my place.”
Emmett told himself it was best to treat the situation like ripping off a bandage fast. It would hurt like hell but get the pain over with quicker. “Jana, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”