THE NEXT DAY PROVED TO BE HELL FOR RYDER. SHEER FUCKING hell. He’d wanted to wake Lily up slow and easy, with his dick already buried deep inside her, where he knew she would be soft and wet . . . soaking him, hugging him. Had wanted to squeeze himself in, forcing that mouthwatering cunt to give way for him, and then ride her with gentle nudges, like a lapping sea, until she’d finally opened her eyes and stared up at him. There would have been a small, sexy smile on her pink lips. And it would have been his signal to fuck her harder, until they were pounding away like a storm. Hot and raw, with sweat flying and her short nails digging into his back, urging him on. It was a hell of a fantasy. But he hadn’t been able to play it out, since he’d had to leave her to take over for Mike in the early hours of the morning.

Like a bad sitcom, his luck hadn’t improved as the day progressed. Once everyone was up and moving around, he’d kept trying to snag a moment alone with her but shit just kept getting in his way. First there were the calls from Ben, giving him frustrating updates on the search for Radovich that was so far going nowhere. When he’d finally gotten off the phone with the sheriff and tracked Lily down in the living room, where she was reading, Mike had walked into the room announcing that lunch was ready. Getting desperate, Ryder had cornered her in the kitchen when they’d finished eating and managed to steal a hungry, mouthwatering kiss from her. She’d tasted delicious, and the innocent blush on her cheeks when he’d finally pulled away to suck in some much-needed oxygen had only cranked up his need to fuck her. But before they’d even made it out of the kitchen, there was another interruption when Reese showed up at the front door with her friend Brit. The women had come over to keep Lily company for the afternoon, and while Ryder appreciated the friendly gesture, he’d still wanted to wring their damn necks for getting in his way.

Listening to the women chattering away in the living room, he’d hunkered down with Mike in the control room and focused his mind on the Radovich problem. He knew Mike had to be aware of what had happened between him and Lily during the night, considering how loudly she’d been screaming. But Mike had been smart enough not to say anything about it, which was a relief. She might be gutsy as hell in some ways, but Ryder wasn’t sure how much teasing she could take about the two of them fucking each other’s brains out. Especially when it was just a temporary thing.

A scowl wove its way between his brows as that last thought twisted through his mind, same as it’d been doing all damn day. He hated the cramp in his gut that came every time he thought about the fact that what they had wasn’t permanent. He had no doubt that the end would . . . suck. For both of them. But it wasn’t going to keep him from getting as much of her as he could until the Rado situation was over and she could haul her little ass back to Virginia.

Where I’ll never get to see her. Or talk to her. Or hear her laugh.

Muttering a guttural curse under his breath, he pushed away from the desk in the control room, breathing a sigh of relief when he heard Reese and Brit saying their good-byes. The women had even stayed to help clean up after dinner, and Ryder had tried to work out his frustration in the fitness room, then grabbed a shower while everyone had coffee. But now they were finally leaving, Mike was taking the first watch again, and Ryder couldn’t wait to get Lily alone.

With a comfortable pair of jeans hanging low on his hips, he waited in the hallway for Lily to head to her room, anticipation making his heart pound like a bitch when she turned the corner. She gave him a shy, sweet smile the second she saw him, and his damn dick nearly burst through the denim.

“Jesus. I didn’t think they were ever gonna leave.” He grabbed her by the waist, jerking her against him, and buried his face in the curve of her throat. “I can still taste you in my mouth, Lil. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s kept me hard the entire fucking day.”

Her arms wrapped around his neck, and he could hear the smile in her voice as she crooned, “Aw. Poor baby. That can’t have been comfortable.”

“You’re telling me,” he muttered, herding her into her room and locking the door behind them. It took him only a handful of seconds to get rid of her tank top and lacy bra, and then he lifted her against the front of his body, his face buried between her perfect tits as he carried her to the bed. “I need help, Lily. I need you to help me.”

Her touch was gentle as she sifted her fingers through the damp locks of his hair. “Not that I’m complaining, but what exactly has gotten into you?”

“What’s gotten into me?” He was already leaning over her and pulling down the zipper on her jeans, his shaking hands making the task anything but easy. “How about the fact that I’m dying to get my tongue back into you? It’s damn near the only thing I can think about, which is seriously fucked, seeing as how I’m meant to be thinking about how to keep you alive.”

“You want to go down on me again?” she whispered, still touching his hair, petting him like a wild animal. Which was exactly how he felt with her. Wild and savage and completely out of control.

“Again?” He wrenched her panties down with her jeans, pulled them off her slender legs, then tossed them over his shoulder, his lungs working even harder as he took in the beautiful sight of her spread out naked before him. “I never wanted to stop in the first place. But you were tired last night and needed to get some sleep.”

A warm blush started to burn beneath her creamy skin, her bright eyes glowing in a way that made her look impossibly happy, and it pierced something deep in his chest. “You really like it that much?” she asked him, scooting back a little to make room for him as he climbed onto the bed with her.

Loving the way her breath quickened as he crawled over her, he said, “You have the sweetest little cunt I’ve ever tasted and I just want to keep my face buried in it. So yeah, baby, I definitely like it.” He flashed her a sharp smile. “I fucking love it.”

She gave him a teasing look through her lashes, her tone coy. “And is your tongue the only thing you were hoping to get back inside me, Deputy? ’Cause I was kinda hoping we could do more.”

“I’d love that, too, but we can’t,” he said wistfully. He’d noticed her wincing a few times when they’d been clearing the table after dinner, and when he thought about how hard they’d gone at it the night before, it hadn’t been difficult to figure out why.

Her expression fell. “What? Why not?”

He gave her a knowing look. “Because you’re probably sore as hell, Lil.”

Oh . . . She was, but Lily wasn’t going to let that stop her when there was no telling how much longer they had together. “It doesn’t matter.”

His response was gruff. “It matters to me.”

Before she could argue, he shoved his hand between her legs, his long fingers slipping through her swollen folds, opening her. He pushed two into her, working them deep, pumping into her tight, wet heat before pulling out. Then he lifted his hand to his mouth and sucked the glistening digits clean. “Fuck,” he groaned. “I swear you taste even sweeter today. How is that possible?”

She pushed against his chest, making him roll onto his back. Kneeling beside him, she started yanking at the buttons on the fly of his jeans. “No more of that until I get to mess with your mind the same way you’re always messing with mine.”

He went so still she didn’t even think he was breathing. “You want my cock in your mouth?” The husky rumble in his voice left no doubt that he liked the idea. A lot.

“That’s exactly what I want.”

He raked a hand back through his hair and grimaced, as if the idea caused him pain. “Fine,” he growled, lifting his hips to help her as she struggled to pull down his jeans, stripping him bare. “But it’ll probably kill me.”

Lily started to scowl, until she realized he was teasing her. “I might not have a lot of practice, but surely I can’t be that bad at it,” she said, throwing his jeans over the side of the bed.

He seemed to be having a little trouble breathing as she situated herself between his long, powerful legs, and his eyes were getting heavy. “I have no doubt it’ll be the best I’ve ever had. But my heart might not take it.”

She snorted, pressing her forehead to his muscular thigh as she took him in hand. “You’ll survive.”

“You think I’m joking, but I’m not.” He pulled in a deep breath, then slowly let it out. “Seriously, Lil. You have no idea how far this is going to push me.”

“Come on. I know you, Scott.” And thanks to some of the comments she had heard Mike make, she knew he had a helluva reputation in this little beach community as a guy who liked to fuck but not commit. “You’ve probably had more head than any other man I’ve ever known.”

•   •   •

SHIT. EVER SINCE he’d walked away from her, Ryder had tried screwing Lily Heller out of his memory in a never-ending stream of women. But it hadn’t worked, and there’d always been a part of him that felt like hell for even trying. As if he were betraying her somehow. Of course, he’d justified his actions with the belief that she probably had her choice of handsome men whom she willingly shared her body with. Only, that hadn’t been the case. Oh, he knew she’d had the opportunity, and that she’d dated, but after last night it was obvious she’d never let anything get too serious between her and another man. He, on the other hand, had slept with more women than he could remember, and it made him cringe. They might not have meant anything to him, but it didn’t change the fact that he’d fucked them. If Lily had done the same, he’d want to hunt down every man who’d lost himself in her beautiful little body and make him hurt for it.

Not that he had the right to feel that way. All he’d offered her was sex. It seemed like so little in comparison to what they could have had if he wasn’t so screwed up inside. But at least he could offer her a little honesty to go along with it.

Lifting himself onto his elbows, Ryder gave her a sharp look. “I don’t give a fuck how many mouths I might have been in. They weren’t yours.”

She lifted her brows. “And I’m supposed to think that makes a difference?”

His jaw tightened. “Think what you want. But I’m telling you the truth.”

She didn’t say anything at first. Just stared back at him with those big green eyes. “I guess I better make it count, then,” she finally murmured, the husky words followed by a slow lap of her tongue over the very tip of him. Then she took the heavy head inside her mouth, sucking on it, and Ryder felt every drop of blood drain from his brain.

Damn it,” he gasped.

She pulled back, keeping her lips against the broad, flushed crown as she asked, “Good damn it? Or bad damn it?”

He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes as he fell back to the bed, his chest shaking with a gritty burst of laughter. “Uh, that was a I think I just saw stars damn it.”

“I can live with that.” Then the crazy woman set about driving him out of his ever-loving mind.

“Oh, God. Go slow,” he panted, reaching down and digging his fingers into her hair, curving them around her head. “Make it last. I don’t want this to be over too soon.”

She sucked him a little deeper, and he cursed, his back arching as if he’d been jolted with a sharp burst of electricity.

“Fuck!” he snarled, when his legs started to shake, the base of his spine tingling. It was crashing down on him, hard, and he couldn’t hold it much longer. “I said slow, Lily!”

Her soft curls whipped against his thighs as she shook her head. “No. Just let go. I want to feel it.”

And she got exactly what she wanted. The instant she sucked him deep again, Lily felt his incredible power blast against her as he slammed over the edge, coming in hot, violent bursts. His flavor was incredible, driving her hunger higher, pushing her craving for him to a place she hadn’t even known existed.

“Wow,” she whispered, when she finally pulled back and looked up at him. “That was really hot.”

“Yeah.” Ryder blinked, not even sure what he was saying. He lowered one hand, rubbing his thumb against the corner of her swollen lips, where a drop of his cum was glistening. He could feel his expression tighten, the way she was smiling at him the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“What?” she asked, her head tilting a bit to the side as she studied him in that way that always let her see too much. But in this moment he had nothing to hide. She’d ripped him wide open.

“You.” He shook his head, his voice shaking a little, too. “You’re so fucking sexy.”

A shy laugh slipped from her lips. “Naw. I’m just kneeling here.”

He touched his thumb to her bottom lip, rubbing the tip across her white teeth. “You were doing a hell of a lot more than that. And now it’s my turn,” he said, quickly grabbing her and pinning her beneath him as he reversed their positions.

“You’re obsessed!” Lily squealed, laughing as he kissed his way down her torso, until he had his broad shoulders wedged between her legs.

He muffled his laughter against her inner thigh. “You complaining?”

“Hardly. It’s just that—”

He cut her off. “Based on the moaning and the screaming you did last night, and in the motel before that”—he lifted his head a little and winked at her—“I kind of thought you like it when I go down on you.”

She blinked at him across the trembling length of her body, thinking he was the most gorgeous man in existence, with that hungry look on his face and his mouth already damp from the way he’d rubbed his lips across her tingling sex before looking at her. “Of course I like it,” she panted. “If I liked it any more, it’d probably kill me. My heart wouldn’t be able to take it.”

He laughed, a crooked grin on his lips as he kept his eyes locked on hers and stuck his tongue out, giving her clit a slow, deliberate lick. “Mmm,” he hummed, pressing his lips to the sensitive bundle of nerves. “I promise not to kill you. So just shut up and let me do my thing.”

And, God, was he good at it. As his eyes slid closed and he tilted his head a bit to the side, he went kind of wild on her, leaving no part of her untouched and untasted, the sounds he made only making her burn hotter. Then he slowed, moving his tongue inch by inch, taking his time, making sure she was feeling every second of it. Cranking the tension to an unbearable level. She could see his right biceps flexing as his arm moved faster and faster, and knew he was touching himself while he went down on her. It was sexy as hell, and she wished she had mirrored doors on the closet so that she could watch him in action.

He brought her off so many times she lost count, the breathtaking orgasms melting into each other until she couldn’t tell them apart. He was groaning now, breathing hard, his clever tongue rubbing across her pulsing entrance, and she knew he was getting close. Wanting to be wicked and turn him on, she reached down and touched her finger to his tongue, feeling it move against her drenched flesh, and he gave a shocked, guttural growl that she understood perfectly: He thought her touching him like that, when he was doing what he was doing, was hot as hell . . . and he was about to shoot his load.

“In my mouth!” she burst out, suddenly pushing against his shoulders.

He lifted his head, blinking, his dark eyes nearly black with passion and lust and achingly emotional things that made her heart skip a beat. “What?”

“I want you in my mouth again,” she said in a rush, already scrambling around so that she could put her mouth on him as he moved to his side, looking dazed, his huge fist still pumping his shaft. She licked her lips, then took that dark, gleaming crown between them, moaning at his hot taste, letting him do the rest. Seconds later, he exploded with a harsh shout, blasting in a series of heavy spurts against the back of her throat, his body shuddering from the violent force of his release.

“Christ,” he groaned, “you really are going to be the death of me.”

She smiled as she scooted up beside him, both of them still breathing a little heavy as they lay on their sides facing each other. He stared back at her with an arrested expression on his face, and then slowly, as if he was waiting for her to tell him no, he pushed his hands into her hair and brought her closer as he shifted forward, touching his mouth to hers. She was shocked, wondering if he would actually go through with it—slide his tongue into her mouth after coming in it—when he did. And there was nothing half-assed about the kiss, either. His hands tightened around her head, and he kissed her harder, clearly getting off on tasting himself inside her.

“Never done this”—his voice was low, rough, his lips rubbing against hers—“but I like the way you taste with a part of me inside you, Lil.”

She licked his lower lip, which was still sticky with her juices. “Me, too. We taste good together.”

“Mmm. We’re good together in lots of ways.”

He froze, and Lily knew he immediately regretted the words. He was probably beating himself up inside for even thinking them.

Pulling back a little, she reached up and pushed her fingers through his thick, glossy locks. And then she said to hell with everything else, and finally asked the question that had been burning inside her for three long, heartbreaking years. “Why did you leave?”

Rolling to his back, he draped a powerful arm over his eyes and winced. “I don’t want to talk about it, Lily.”

She absorbed that for a moment, hating it but knowing that she had to accept it. She couldn’t make him trust her and open up. But she needed something, no matter how small. “Then tell me something else. Anything. Tell me what you did after you left. Why you never called or wrote. Why we never heard from you again.”

“It’s nothing you need to know or hear.” He exhaled a ragged breath, then lowered his arm and turned his head to look at her. “There’s a lot you don’t need to know or hear. Just enjoy the moment.”

She blinked, unable to believe that was his response. “Please, don’t do that. Don’t treat me like I’m stupid. I’m not a child.”

His voice was cold. “And I don’t touch you like one.”

“But that’s how you treat me,” she told him, determined not to shout. For once, she didn’t want their conversation to spiral into a pointless argument. She just wanted answers. Just needed to know why things had turned out the way they had. “I don’t need to be coddled, Scott. I just need to be . . .”


She gazed at a distant point on the wall over his shoulder, shaking her head. “Never mind.”

“No. Say it.”

She forced her gaze back to his. “You want to know why I waited for you?” she asked, sniffing as she swiped at the hot tears that filled her eyes. “Why I couldn’t lose myself with another man? Why I can be the way I am with you? It’s because I love you, Scott. I’m in love with you. I have been . . . for a long time. For what feels like forever.”

He sat up, giving her his back as he threw his legs over the side of the bed. With his elbows braced on his knees, he hung his head forward, his voice little more than a graveled whisper. “You think you know me, but you don’t.”

She moved to her knees behind him, pressing her hand to the center of his back. “I know I love you.”

“Christ, Lily. Don’t do this,” he groaned, dropping his head into his hands.

She could feel him pulling away from her, closing himself off, and it made her want to scream. And cry. And pray for a way to reach him. “Is this because of your mother? Because of something that happened when you were growing up? Please, just talk to me. I’m begging you.”

He flinched, and the powerful muscles beneath his warm skin went rigid. “There’s nothing to talk about. Just try to get some sleep.”

Letting her hand fall, she shook her head, her heart splintering. “Would it kill you to just open up and tell me something?”

“It might,” he muttered.

“God. What happened to you?” she whispered brokenly. “I tell you I love you and you can’t even talk to me? I . . . I deserve more than that, Scott.”

She was right. She did. And the knowledge made him want to fucking roar with frustration. He knew he needed to get up and leave, but he found himself turning toward her instead. She’d started to move away from him, crawling to the far side of the bed, and he reached for her, shoving one arm under her hips and then yanking her against him as he knelt behind her. She gasped, bracing herself on her elbows, her sweet little ass pressed against his groin. But she didn’t say anything. Didn’t tell him to fuck off. Already granite hard, Ryder fit his cock to her delicate entrance, a low, guttural sound ripping from his throat as he clutched her hips and rammed himself deep. Her plush, slick sheath fit him like a glove, and he had to suck in a few desperate breaths to keep from shooting off then and there. Then he started to move, the rhythm urgent and raw, and before he knew it he was giving her every part of him. She was too small and he was built too big for this kind of fucking between them, but there didn’t seem to be any other way.

With their breathless moans filling the air and the sweat flying, Ryder gave it to her like he’d never allowed himself to do with any other woman. He gave her everything inside him. Everything. All the gut-churning hunger and want and need. Because it was all hers. Anything he’d ever thought he’d known about lust or pleasure was nothing compared with this one searing moment, her inner muscles convulsing around him as she came in a wild, beautiful rush, her hot little cunt milking him with each tight, breathtaking spasm. He gritted his teeth, never wanting it to end. Wanting it to go on forever. But it was crashing down on him, and his head went back with a guttural shout as he shuddered and pumped inside her, blasting her with hot, heavy shots of cum, then collapsed over her, his forehead pressed between her trembling shoulders, her own climax still shivering through her.

He hoped like hell that he hadn’t hurt her. And wished to God that he knew how to stay away from her.

“Of course you deserve better,” he eventually rasped in her ear, when he could finally find his voice. “That’s what I’ve been trying to make you understand, right from the start.”

Her hands fisted in the sheets as he pulled his cock from her tight clasp. “I want you.”

“Christ, Lily. You sure as fuck deserve better than that.” And with those hoarse words standing between them, Ryder got up, yanked on his jeans, and walked away.


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