Authors: Desiree Holt
Tags: #Western romance, #erotic western romance, #contemporary western romance
As they walked into the parking lot, a white convertible squealed in and stopped in front of them. Cassie was stunned to see Claire emerge.
“I can’t believe you got up at this hour.” Cassie gave her friend a tight hug.
“I wanted one last look at the gorgeous hunk,” Claire whispered.
Griff leaned against the car, giving them some space. In his soft jeans, T-shirt, and aviator shades, with the wind riffling his wheat-colored hair, he could have stepped from the pages of a romance novel.
“Don’t let him get away,” she told Cassie. “He loves you. It’s there in his eyes and the way he touches you. If you ask me, he always did.”
“Don’t worry. I’m hanging onto him this time.” She gave Claire a lingering look. “I’ll call you when we get to Stoneham. Thanks again for taking care of everything. And you’d better start planning a trip out west.”
“If there are any more like him back there, I’ll be hard on your heels.”
One more stop at a drive-through for coffee and they said good-bye to Tampa. They followed U.S. 19 north almost to Jacksonville where they picked up Interstate 10 heading west. Cassie tried to find a comfortable place to put her body, but the activities of the night before had left her tender in places she didn’t even know she had.
Griffin reached over and squeezed her knee, trying to hide the self-satisfied smile teasing at his mouth. “A little sore today, are we?”
“Get that smug look off your face, buster.” She grimaced, but said, “I’m fine.”
He laughed, a rich, full sound. “Can I tell you that making love with you is a most extraordinary experience?”
She laced her fingers through his where they still rested on her knee. “For me, too, Griff.”
She started to say something more when his cell phone rang. He spoke briefly then snapped the phone shut, his jaw clenching.
“What?” She tensed, knowing the call hadn’t been about anything good. “What is it?”
“That was Phil. He’s been cruising by your house like I asked, checking things out.”
“And?” she prompted.
“It seems that sometime last night our mysterious visitor decided to show up again and got inside.”
“What do you mean?” She was stunned, her heart racing. “Are you saying someone broke into my house?”
“Got it in one. It happened sometime between about ten last night, when Phil went by the first time, and four this morning, when he checked it on his way home from a late night out. He decided for some reason to walk around the house, just in case, and found the glass in the back door broken.”
“Did he go inside?” Her mouth went dry. “Was anything taken?”
He shook his head. “He didn’t go through the whole house. He said it was obvious from what little he could see that someone had been in there searching, but he didn’t spend much time checking it out.”
“What should I do? Should I call Dangler?” She looked over at Griff, trying to think. “You were afraid something like this might happen.”
“Don’t call anyone yet.” A muscle twitched in his jaw. “First of all, I don’t want to put Phil in a spot. Second, I don’t think whoever it was will be back, at least for the moment. They don’t know when we’re supposed to return. Plus, people are around more on the weekends, and the intruder won’t want to take any more chances than he or she has already taken.”
“I need to call Carol. What if she’s showing the house while we’re gone?”
Cassie swallowed against the nausea rising in her throat. Someone had actually broken into her house. She felt violated, defenseless. Griff reached over again and took both her hands in one of his. The warmth from his body seeped into hers and chased the away the cold creeping over her.
“Don’t sweat it. As a matter of fact, it might even be good if she were the one who found the break in.”
“I know it will be hard,” he said, “but you’ve got to put it out of your mind till we get back. Besides, this is good, in a way. It means we were right. Someone’s looking for something. We just have to figure out what it is.”
Before either of them could say anything else, Cassie’s cell rang.
“This is Carol,” the breathless voice said. “Something awful has happened. Where are you?”
“Passing Mobile.” Cassie made herself found as calm as possible. “Why?”
“I have a showing already, believe it or not. I went by to check on your house and it’s a disaster.”
When Griff glanced at her, she mouthed
“What do you mean by a disaster?” she asked. “The showing or the house? What’s wrong?”
“Honey, someone’s broken into your house. It’s just awful!” Carol’s tone was a mixture of horror and excitement.
Cassie could almost hear her drooling at the thought of the gossip she’d have to pass around. “I-I don’t know what to say. Did they do much damage?”
“Luckily no. I called Barry Dangler, and he said he’d send someone by to take a look, but I couldn’t wait. I did make arrangements to get the back door fixed, though, since someone broke the glass in order to get in.” She paused. “But I don’t think I can show it again until you come back and figure out what’s going on. My client won’t want to buy a house that’s a target for robbery.”
“I think someone just saw an empty house and tried their luck.” Cassie rubbed her forehead. “I’ll call Barry and see what’s going on. Can you hold onto your client a little bit?”
There was a long pause. “Did you say ‘we’?” Carol said at last.
Cassie wanted to laugh. Her house had been burglarized, she had a jittery buyer, and Carol was looking for dirt. “Yes, I did. Griffin Hunter is with me.”
“I see.” More silence. “I know it’s none of my business, but—”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re right, Carol,” she interrupted. “It
none of your business. Anyway, we should be back very late tomorrow night. I’ll call you first thing Monday.”
“Carol giving you advice?” Griff grinned when she hung up.
“What do you think? Let me tell you something. She may be holier than thou, but she and every other woman in that town would give their household treasures to trade places with me.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” His hands on the wheel tightened in anger. “All those
ladies would run me out of town in a hot flash if they could.”
ladies would rip their clothes off for you if you gave them half a chance,” she contradicted. “It’s all about forbidden fruit, Griff. When the town bad boy is wickedly sexy, it makes the forbidden fruit that much more tempting. You were every female’s guilty pleasure. They might point fingers at me now, but every one of them wishes they were in my shoes—or bed.”
He threw back his head and laughed, the sound breaking the tension the calls had generated. “Well, damn, Cassie. If I’d known that, I’d have figured out how to take advantage of all the free flesh long before this.”
She thumped him on the thigh again.
“You’d better quit that or we’ll have an accident,” he teased, then sobered. “That was just a joke, sugar, although I must say, it was good for my ego.” He reached his arm over and slid his hand between her thighs. “They’re nothing. This is where my heart is.” He gave her a slight squeeze that made her squeal before he pulled his hand back. “And don’t go thinking it’s just sex again because you have to know it isn’t. Sure, we’re great in bed. But that’s because of how we feel about each other. You’re the one good thing that’s ever come into my life. Like I keep telling you, this is real.”
She slid over as close to him as the seat belt would allow. “It is real,” she told him. “I can’t tell you how free I feel when we make love. That’s because I do know it’s more than sex.”
“For me, too, darlin’. I do things with you that with anyone else would just be physical exercise. Every time we make love, every way, I feel as if our souls are mating.”
Her throat tightened. Griffin was not a man given to poetic declarations, so his words had all the more meaning for her. She touched the locket around her neck where the tiny heart was enclosed. “I’ll always keep your heart safe, Griff. Always.”
They pushed themselves hard for two days, pulling into Cassie’s driveway late Sunday night. She sat staring at the house.
“I’m not even sure I want to deal with this now.” She was tired, depressed, dreading what they’d find, and angry at the violation of her privacy.
“Tell you what.” Griff opened his door. “Let me go take a quick look and I’ll tell you if we need to do something tonight. My guess is no.”
“Uh-uh.” She shook her head. “I need to go in and see for myself what the damage is. Then we can make a decision.”
He made her give him her keys, though, insisting he should go in the front door ahead of her. What she found when she stepped inside wasn’t as bad as she’d imagined. Things were moved around a bit. Some drawers in the old-fashioned desk were still pulled out a little, and the kitchen cupboards hung open. She could tell where furniture had been repositioned .
Griff went through the upstairs and came back to report it appeared to be the same up there. “No real damage,” he told her. “But you can tell someone’s been through here.”
“I checked the back door. I guess Carol had them replace the entire door with one that doesn’t have glass panes.”
“Probably a good idea.” He pulled her against his side and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “I say leave it for tonight, and, in the morning, you can call Dangler and get him out here. You at least need to make a report, and Carol’s alerted him.”
She sighed. “You’re right. At this moment, I want a shower and bed more than you can imagine.”
“Come on, then.” He hustled her out to the car, locking the door behind him.
“Where are we going?”
“My house.” He backed out of the driveway. “I can pull your car into the garage, and I have an alarm system.”
“Griff, I don’t think….”
He reached over and brushed his fingers over her cheek. “I know what’s on your mind, and I understand. But our only other option is going to a motel, and you know everyone in town would be parked outside our room come morning.”
“I hate this.” She pounded a fist on her knee.
He pulled over to the curb and put the car in Park. “Listen, Cassie. Diane and I slept in that room, but it was a long, long time ago, if that’s what’s on your mind. I’ve lived in it by myself for most of my life. It’s my personality, not hers in there.” He grinned. “I even bought a new bed and sheets.”
“Oh, Griff.” She leaned over and laid her head on his shoulder. She was too worn out even to cry. “All right. I guess if you can do it, I can. Maybe it’s just one more thing to get past.”
It seemed just a few minutes before they were at his house. He opened the garage door with the remote control he’d taken with him and pulled her car into the space. After disarming the alarm panel, he led her inside, carrying the overnight bag they’d used the night before at the motel.
She stopped in the living room and stared. Whatever she’d expected, it wasn’t what she found.
The house was spotless. The kitchen they came through gleamed as if it had just been polished, and the living room, although threadbare, was neat as a pin. When she followed Griffin upstairs, she got another shock. There was no mistake that his bedroom had been furnished for a man. A navy and tan quilt covered a king-sized bed. Book shelves lined two walls. And everything, not just the bed, looked almost new.
Griffin chuckled. “Were you imagining one step up from the homeless shelter?”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I’m amazed.”
“Bad boys don’t have to live like slobs, you know.” Pain flashed across his face. “After my father died, I was determined never to let the house go the way he did.”
In the bathroom, he handed her towels and soap, and gave her privacy to shower.
“I’ll use the one that’s off what was my folks’ bedroom.”
“Listen, Dewdrop.” He gave her a tired smile. “I know you need time to adjust to being here. But I promise you there’s no trace of Diane left anywhere.”
Tears clouded her eyes at his thoughtfulness, and she hurried into the bathroom before she embarrassed herself and slobbered all over him.
She sat in his bedroom, waiting for him, when he walked in still damp from his shower, a towel wrapped around his hips.
“It’s okay to get in the bed, sugar,” he told her. “No one’s ever slept in it but me. Come on. Let me show you.” He led her to the bed, turned back the covers, and gently nudged her into it.
She laid back, her eyes never leaving his face. Then he was next to her, cradling her in his arms, soothing her with his hands and his voice. She was strung tighter than telephone wire, grateful when he began rubbing her back, her shoulders, her neck, his hands warm against her.
He put his lips next to her ear. “Shall we chase some ghosts, Cassie?”
Then his mouth came down on hers.
Tired as they were, it was what they both needed. A door needed to slam shut for them, and this was the time to do it.
It wasn’t the frantic lovemaking of that first night, or the sensual, exploratory kind they’d indulged in since then. It was more a blending of soul and mind and heart, a recognition that while the past might always be with them, they wouldn’t let it hurt them.
Griff’s mouth and hands were everywhere, kissing and licking, teasing first her nipples, then her throbbing clit. He penetrated her first with his fingers and then with his mouth, building the pleasure in her body.
Panting, she pushed hard and shoved him onto his back. Rising to her knees, she took his shaft into her mouth, probing the slit in the head with her tongue and stroking his balls with teasing fingers. When she squeezed them, his whole body tightened next to her, and he pulled her head away then flipped her over.
“Inside you,” he whispered. “I want to be inside you when I come.”
Remembering in the nick of time to sheath himself, he pushed her knees back against her chest to open her wide to him and slid inside. She gripped him with the muscles of her cunt, milking him, knowing they were both close. So very close.
The climax this time was like the gentle rolling of a heavy tide, the spasms like whitecaps beating against a shore. Griff dropped the condom into the wastebasket beside the bed and pulled her against him. She could feel the rhythmic beat of his heart at her back, feel his breath against her skin.