Authors: Jessie Evans
“I’ve wanted to touch you like this since you wrapped your fingers around my thumb at the donut shop,” he said, abandoning her breasts long enough to pull her tank top over her head before he rolled on top of her and let his tongue take over.
She gasped, arching into his mouth as he licked and sucked at her nipples. At some point he removed her bra, but she didn’t remember when it vanished or when her fingers threaded through his hair and fisted tight. She was lost in a haze of pleasure, so consumed by the things he was making her feel that she didn’t realize she was completely nude until his hand slid between her legs.
“Oh, God,” she whispered, shuddering as his fingers thrust in and out of where she was already slick with wanting him.
“Is that a good oh God?” he asked, lifting his head from her breasts.
“Yes,” she said, her breath shuddering out as she parted her legs, silently begging him for more. He responded immediately, adding a third finger and pushing in harder, deeper, summoning a cry from low in her throat.
“This is how I want to be with you,” he said, pressing a kiss to her forehead as he continued to make love to her with his fingers. “I want to be so deep inside of you, to feel you hot and tight around me when you come.”
“Yes. Please,” she begged, one hand reaching for the close of his jeans. “I want you.”
“I can’t. I don’t have any protection,” he said, bringing his thumb to circle the top of her, ramping up the tension building low in her body.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, raking her fingernails down the bulge in his jeans. “Neither of us will be around to regret it.”
He groaned as she found his zipper and tugged it down. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said, pulse leaping as he pulled his hand from inside her and made quick work of his jeans and boxer briefs.
As he moved back between her legs, she only had a moment to appreciate how stunning he was, with his finely muscled body and thick cock that lilted slightly to the left, but it was a moment she knew she’d never forget. Just like the moment he positioned himself and looked up, his eyes finding hers before he began to push inside.
She held her breath and his gaze, electricity coursing through her as his cock stretched her inner walls. It was the first time she’d been with a man who was still a stranger in many ways, but it didn’t feel casual or cheap.
It was beautiful, an offering of comfort and pleasure in the midst of pain, a reason to hope again. She felt so very close to him…which was strange considering they hadn’t even kissed.
It was only when he was buried deep, her legs wrapped tight around his waist, and his face inches from hers, that she realized they’d skipped right past the first step.
“You didn’t kiss me,” she said, biting her lip as he withdrew and then thrust slowly back inside, making her aware of every delicious inch of him and the perfect way he filled her.
“I’m a little afraid to,” he said, a pained expression flickering across his face. “It’s already so close.”
“It is,” she whispered, eyes filling with fresh tears. “But I want to be closer. Kiss me, Canyon. Make me forget everything but you.”
“Sweet, Grace,” he murmured against her lips, and then he kissed her and something beautiful became sacred.
And as they made love, Lily forgot about pain and loss because, for now, there was light and communion and a man who promised her with every touch that she wasn’t alone. She would never be alone as long as she was in his arms.
When he woke up from his mid-morning nap, Grace was sitting on the other side of the tent reading her book. She was dressed in her bikini and the filmy cover-up that did nothing to conceal the beautiful body beneath it and had her hair pulled into a ponytail.
She glanced up as he shifted onto his side, her lips lifting gently.
It wasn’t a full smile, but she wasn’t crying anymore and the lost look in her eyes had faded. Canyon decided to take that as a sign that she didn’t regret what they’d done.
He wasn’t sure what he felt, only that it had been ages since he’d touched someone with anything but his body. But Grace had awoken his heart and he’d had no choice but to use it. Making love to her had been sweet and sad, but…right. Nothing had felt so right in years, but he couldn’t let himself think too much about it, not when so many things were still left unsaid.
“Hello.” She let her book drop to her lap.
“Hello,” he said, feeling shy. It had been a long time since he’d let himself be so vulnerable with a woman in bed and he was decidedly out of practice with the morning after. “Did you sleep?”
“A little,” she said. “But I got hungry so I made a sandwich. Then I figured I might as well get ready for my swimming lesson.”
Canyon blinked. “You still want to go?”
“I do,” she said. “If that’s all right with you.”
“Sure. Just let me get changed.” He sat up and reached for his discarded boxer briefs, wanting to spare Grace the Full Monty as he crossed the tent to dig around in his backpack, but she was already halfway out the tent.
“I’ll wait outside,” she said, disappearing through the flap, proving she’d sensed the awkwardness of the moment.
“What have you done, you idiot,” he muttered softly to himself. He’d known he wasn’t in a place to start anything and that Grace didn’t have the luxury of making long-term choices, but he couldn’t regret being with her. At least if they were destined to break each other’s hearts, they wouldn’t be broken for long.
Canyon changed into his suit and met Grace outside. He made a sandwich while she bustled around the campsite gathering the beach towels from where they were drying on the line and packing up sunscreen and water for the afternoon. They didn’t talk much, but that was okay with him.
He had no idea what to say without going back to the breakdown that had set everything else in motion. He still didn’t understand why she’d been so distraught or what she’d been talking about when she said she’d been gone fifteen years and that her babies were grown.
Grace was only twenty-two years old. Any way you worked it, the timeline for her giving birth and then disappearing for fifteen years didn’t add up. But her devastation this morning had been so complete he hadn’t had the heart to question her then. And now, he was too relieved to see her calm and seemingly happy to do anything to upset her.
Besides, there was probably nothing he could do to help.
A serious illness could affect the mind as well as the body. Episodes of clouded, delusional thinking might simply be part of what she was going to suffer through before she died.
She wasn’t delusional; she was grieving. You of all people ought to know what that looks like, fool.
“You want me to pack snacks, too?” Grace set the backpack down on the picnic table across from him. “I’ve noticed you seem to have a hollow leg where food is concerned.”
He smiled, letting his troubling thoughts and his unanswered questions drift to the back of his mind. “Snacks would be great. Thanks.”
After he finished lunch, they headed down to the public beach, where there was more shallow water and a gradual progression from shallow water to deep.
He started Grace out with a lesson in push and glide, letting her get comfortable with having her face in the water and finding the right body position to stay afloat. Then they moved on to the different strokes and finished up with flutter kick practice. He held her hands, pulling her through the water while she kicked. When she was ready, he let go and she paddled with her arms, traveling ten feet horizontal to the shore before she stood up and turned to him with a triumphant look.
“I did it!” she said, smiling widely as she pushed her wet hair away from her face.
“You did,” he said, his chest aching as he walked through the water to meet her. She was so beautiful, even when her cheeks were streaked with tears, but when she smiled she put every other pretty thing in the world to shame.
“You’re a fast learner.” He stopped in front of her, catching the drop of water about to fall from her nose on his finger.
“I guess.” Her grin dimmed. “Though it felt more like remembering than learning. I don’t want to take too much credit.”
“You should absolutely take credit. That just means you’re a natural,” he said, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut so he could have enjoyed that smile a little longer. “Do you want to try floating next?”
“Sure,” she said. “Should I just lie back?”
He nodded. “Take a deep breath and lie back. I’ll hold you up until you feel ready to go it alone.”
Her arms floated out to her sides as she relaxed into his hands. He let his palms linger beneath her shoulders and her bottom, doing his best not to respond to the feel of her tight ass cupped in his palm or the tempting way her swimsuit cradled her breasts. But when he glanced up to find Grace watching him with a wry smile, he knew he’d been caught.
“Sorry,” he said, heat creeping up his neck.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” she said. “I guess we should talk about what happened in the tent, huh?”
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to. I just don’t know what to say.” Her arm curled around his waist, her fingers tracing back and forth above the top of his trunks.
He drew her closer until her side brushed against his stomach. “I just want you to know…the last thing I want to do is hurt you.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, either.” She trapped her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment before she continued in a softer voice, “But I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. You think it would be okay for us to share a sleeping bag?”
“I think so.” He curled his fingers into the firm muscles of her ass. “Especially considering the only way I’m going to be able to keep my hands off of you is if I sleep in the truck.”
She smiled as she stood and looped her arms around his neck. “That doesn’t sound very comfortable.”
“No, but I would do it,” he said, catching his breath as her hip brushed against where he was hard enough to pound tent stakes with his cock. “If you wanted me to.”
“I don’t want you to.” She pressed a kiss to the center of his chest. “I want you to come back to the tent with me and make love to me again.” Her hand slipped between them, caressing him through his shorts. “Right now.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Canyon stifled a groan. “You go ahead. I’ll be there in five minutes. I can’t get out of the water like this or I’ll embarrass myself.”
“Okay.” She kissed his chest again, her tongue flicking out to tease his nipple before she bit down, sending an electric shock through his body.
He squeezed her bottom beneath the water. “You’re not helping, woman.”
She laughed as she stepped away. “Sorry.”
“You’re not a bit sorry,” he said, with a mock glare. “But you will be when I get back to the tent.”
Her eyebrows lifted and fire flashed in her eyes. “Oh, I hope so. I hope you’ll teach me a long, hard lesson.”
Canyon cursed beneath his breath, summoning another laugh from the temptress in the red bikini.
“See you soon,” she said, blowing him a kiss as she turned to go.
He closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath, trying to talk himself down, but images of Grace naked and reaching for him as he slid inside her kept flickering behind his closed lids. He opened his eyes, walking back and forth in the water, concentrating on the cool river flowing between his legs and reciting multiplication tables in his head. Still, it took a good ten minutes to recover from what she’d done to him with a few kisses and a naughty smile.
She was something else, that woman, he thought as he started back toward camp. She’d proven he wasn’t as locked away as he’d thought. He was dying to make love to her again, not just fuck the loneliness away for a while.
If their situations were different, that would be enough reason to make him bolt, but he didn’t have to run from Grace. Fate had ensured they only had a short time together. He didn’t have to worry about letting her down; he only had to do whatever he could to make her last days as sweet as possible.
He was imagining all the ways he was going to sweeten her afternoon—with his mouth between her thighs, and then with her on top, riding him while he cupped her beautiful breasts in his hands—when the campsite came into view and his erotic thoughts vanished in a wave of panic.
There was another truck parked next to his and a barrel-shaped man with long black hair had Grace pinned against the picnic table, his arms on either side of her slim body. She pushed at his chest, but he didn’t back off, he leaned closer, his knee moving between Grace’s legs, spreading them roughly apart.
Rage washed through Canyon, strong enough to make his vision blur.
He broke into a run, closing the distance to the picnic table in seconds, hurling himself at the bastard who’d touched Grace and tackling him to the ground.
Lily backed away as Canyon and Rudy—the man who had claimed to be a friend of Canyon’s—rolled across the earth to crash into the bushes at the edge of the campsite. Rudy ended up on top, but before he could get his bearings, Canyon punched him hard across the face, sending the other man tumbling into the bushes, where he remained, cussing the dense limbs stabbing into his arms and legs.