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Authors: Laurelin Paige

Last Kiss (32 page)

BOOK: Last Kiss
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I set it on the table, and with shaky hands, cued up the saved messages and skipped to the second one. It started playing – thankfully – and bit my lip, not wanting to hear her message again but wanting to be there for Reeve when he did.

I watched him as he listened, following every shift in his expression. I could tell when he realized she’d heard us by the slight twitch of his eye. And when the color left his face, I could tell he’d figured out what she’d done.

Before she’d finished, he sank into a chair. Then, when it was over, he sat motionless, processing.

“My God,” he said softly after what seemed like forever. “I had no idea. That she would do that. Did you?”

“She’d mentioned that she wanted to end things once before.” I didn’t add that it had been when he’d kept her on the ranch. He didn’t need that extra guilt. “That had been in the past, though. I had no idea she still felt that way.”

“We couldn’t have known,” he said emphatically, as if he feared I would blame myself.

“No. We couldn’t have known.” I leaned against one side of the arch that served as the entrance to the room, hating that the distance between us was a barrier when there were already so many other less tangible barriers between us as well. I wanted to hold him.
Shouldn’t
I be holding him? Shouldn’t we be consoling each other and comforting each other and loving each other at a time like this? Shouldn’t we be doing that all the time?

I supposed that’s what he’d been trying to do all along. And I’d pushed him away.

Damn, did the truth ache.

Reeve glanced at the answering machine. “Was that message the reason this was on the floor?”

I blushed. “Yeah. It, uh, made me mad.” I furrowed my brows trying to figure out how to explain how I’d felt and what I’d realized in the last thirty minutes of my life. I knew that getting the words right wasn’t as important as just getting them out. “It made me mad because it was so damn manipulative.”

His head lifted slightly. “Oh?”

“It was all manipulative. Everything she did. I see that now. She controlled me, and I let her.” I avoided his eyes and scratched absentmindedly at my collarbone. “You were right. All the things you said about us – about
me
– they were right.”

“I shouldn’t have —”

“No, you should have,” I said, interrupting him. “I appreciate that you said it. I mean, I didn’t at the time, but I do now. I’m sorry I didn’t get it earlier.” I braved a glance up at him, and when my eyes met his, so full and earnest, I thought I’d melt.

But Michelis.
“So Chicago! What happened?” I barely dared to ask.

“Chicago.” He stood, drawing out the word as he walked toward me, and for a minute I forgot I was waiting for him to talk and instead hoped he was coming to me, finally. Hoping he would finally put his arms around me.

I swore, if he did, this time I’d never let him let me go.

But he passed by me, ending up at the opposite wall of the arch. He leaned against it, mirroring my stance. “I just got back, actually.”

“You said that. Did you…?” It worried me that he hadn’t just come out and said what happened already. “Is it bad?” I wrung my hands, waiting.

“Emily,” he said softly. “I didn’t hurt him.”

Relief filled my chest so fully I was surprised my bra still fit comfortably.

“I couldn’t,” he continued. “I know you want me to be that kind of man. The kind who could kill someone, and I could. But not him. Not for this. I thought I could. But then I was there and I realized…”

I was still and composed on the outside, but inside, my heart was running a million miles a minute and my belly was twisting, coiling with anticipation. “Realized what?”

He pinned his eyes to mine. “She wasn’t you.”

“What?”

“Amber wasn’t you. I could kill someone if they took my whole life away. But he didn’t. Because he didn’t take away
you
.”

The only reason I wasn’t already running to him was because I was too stunned and overwhelmed with emotion.

“I came here to get you back, Emily. I came here to get what’s mine.”

Then I
was
running to him, because I couldn’t go another second without touching him, without kissing him. His arms wrapped around me and our lips locked and he tasted faintly like bourbon and mints and salt because, it seemed, I was crying and my tears had mixed into our kisses.

When I could bear to release his mouth – or, rather, when I had to come up for air – I cupped my hand against his cheek and said, “That’s not the kind of man I want you to be. I know it seems I like I might. But you’re dark and dangerous enough for me just as you are.”

He searched my face, as if trying to decide if I were telling the truth.

“And I’m so glad you came back here for me, but even if you hadn’t, I was coming to look for you. Not just to stop you from going after your uncle, but also to tell you I want you. I want the things you give me. I want to be yours.”

It was the first time I’d ever remembered making such an important decision for myself. It felt good. Really good.

“Oh, Blue Eyes,” he sighed, and I pressed tighter against him and into him, wanting to be as close as possible, to be inside him, for him to be inside me.

Abruptly, he spun us so that I was the one with my back against the wall and he was the one pushing into me. He caught my wrists in his grip and pinned them above my head. My breasts perked up in this position, and his gaze flicked down to them, searing through the flimsy material of my tank top, arousing me as though I were already naked and he was already sucking my nipples into his mouth.

“What now?” I asked hoarsely, and I meant
how are you going to make love to me now,
but I also meant
I’m yours

now teach me how to belong to you
.

“Well.” His expression darkened. “Now I’m going to fuck you against the wall.”

My chest rose and fell heavily against him. “Then what?”

“Then, if we make it to the bedroom, I’m going to fuck you again. If not,” he glanced at the apartment around him, “we’ll do it there on the floor.”

“Yes,” I gasped, moisture pooling between my legs.

“Tomorrow,” he let my arms go, and his hands came to play gently at my neck, “I’m moving you into my house, and you’re letting this place go. Then, in a few days, few weeks maybe, I’m going to give you a ring. And you’ll wear it. And when you agree it’s appropriate, I’ll take you to a church, and you’ll tell everyone that you’re mine once and for all.”

I clutched onto him. “I want that.”

“I know.” He always knew. Knew me better than I knew myself.

“And babies? Do I want babies?”

His lips crept into a smile. “You do. At least five.”

“Five?” It was half exclamation, half
no fucking way
. “I think I maybe want two.”

“That’s not what you want.”

“Oh, really?”

“Really. I know, remember?”

I raised an eyebrow, the extent to which I’d argue with him at the moment. Later we could hash it out, and just the idea of a
later
with Reeve did the funniest warm things to my insides.

He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against mine. “Right now, though, you want me to tell you I love you.”

“I do. But I already know.”

“And you want to tell me that you love me too.”

I choked up and my voice barely made it past the lump lodged in the back of my throat to finally tell him what I’d felt for so long now. “I do. I love you.”

His eyes shut briefly, as though he were relishing the sound. When they opened again, he said, “That’s the first time you’ve said it.” His words were gruff and thick and affected.

“Yes, the first,” I admitted, staggered that I’d waited until now, astounded that I’d
been able
to wait when it felt like it was bursting from every part of me, desperate to be set free. “I promise it won’t be the last.”

And his love
was
heavy and hot, but not at all the burden I’d imagined it would be because he carried it for me, I realized now. He held it around me like a blanket. Like a nest that had been built just for me.

And the love I felt for him was weightless, like a feather, like a beam of light, like falling forever and never touching the ground.

BOOK: Last Kiss
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