Chapter 14

ZACHREMEMBERED, ALL RIGHT. He REMEMBERED every single second. And staring down at Lily, with that curvy body that made his fingers itch, and those electric-blue eyes that seemed to see into his darkest corners, he wanted nothing more than to pick her up, toss her on the bed, and have at her.

Jesus. He was a man who took pride in his self-control—so what the Sam Hill was it about her that brought him so close to throwing it all away, time after frigging time? To prevent himself from grabbing her, he crossed his hands behind his back and assumed the time-honored “at ease” position. But damned if she got to wiggle off the hook and just bebop on her merry way.

“Why are you really in my room?” he demanded. “You looking to pick up where we left off?” Say yes , he thought fiercely. Just say the word, sweet thing, and I’ll be happy to oblige you .

“No, of course not,” she snapped indignantly. “I told you—” Cutting herself off, she shook her head and blinked up at him thoughtfully. Then she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she admitted with the inherent honesty he was beginning to understand was an integral part of her. “Maybe. I’d like to say you’re crazy even to suggest it… but maybe I am.”

His hands came out from behind his back and he took a step forward, crowding her so closely she had to tip her head way back just to maintain eye contact. But she didn’t step away, and triumph exploded in his chest. “Good,” he said in a low, intense voice. “Because that’s sure as hell what I’d like to do. I’d like to pick right up where we left off before we were interrupted—and then some. I want to strip you naked and touch you every place I’ve ever thought of touching you. Spread you out on that bed and lick you from head to toe.” His gaze took a slow, leisurely journey down her body, and the sheer lust that roared through his gut tempted him to jettison his control, if only for a while. Hell, self-restraint was probably overrated, anyhow.

Christ, Taylor. Wise up. “Or maybe”—he snapped his gaze back up to pin her in place—”I should leave you in those cock-teasing shoes you always wear and just lick you from head to ankle.”

There. That oughtta do it. He’d noticed that Lily never swore, so his deliberate crudeness ought to put some distance between them. And as much as it galled him to admit it, he needed her to be the one to do it, because he simply didn’t have the strength to voluntarily pass up the chance to get naked with her.

Her eyes flared hot, and she made a soft, yearning sound low in her throat. “Maybe…” She licked her lips. Cleared her throat. “Maybe you should go with that idea.”

Zach’s much prized constraint hit the skids. His right hand whipped out and hooked her by the back of her neck. Pulling her flush against his body, he bent and rocked his mouth over hers.

It was like splashing white lightning over the coals of a fire believed to be extinguished, but which had only been banked. When Lily’s mouth immediately opened beneath his own, red-hot lust exploded in his veins and incinerated the last bit of common sense he had left. He was all urgent need as he licked into her, all burning sensation as he felt her plush breasts flatten against him when she rose onto her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck. With a rough sound deep in his throat, he picked her up by her hips, took two giant steps forward, and toppled them both onto the bed.

Immediately, he rolled until he was half on top of her, throwing one leg over her thighs to pin her in place and pressing his forearms to the mattress on either side of her shoulders. He plunged his hands into that soft, cotton-candy hair and held her head still for his kisses. Triumph rolled through him when she kissed him back with unbridled enthusiasm—until a soft sound that struck him as more anxious than aroused purled in her throat. Frowning, he raised his head and looked down at her.

Lily’s eyes were still closed, the fine skin of her eyelids looking fragile and vulnerable. Her Marilyn Monroe do clung in soft strands to his fingers, and her mouth was reddened and swollen. Shit. He was behaving with all the finesse of a high school geek who’d suddenly found himself getting lucky with the hottest cheerleader in town.

“Lily?” He stroked his thumb slowly over her cheekbone and down to her full bottom lip. “Are you all right?”

Lily was slow to drag herself from the hot quagmire of sexual enthrallment, but surprise at the question pried her heavy-lidded eyes open, and she blinked up at him. His pale gray irises, ringed in darker charcoal, were full of fire. They stared back at her, hot, horny… and full of concern.

Ah, jeez. How was she supposed to not care about this guy, when he disrupted his own gratification in order to worry about her welfare? There was no question that Zachariah Taylor could be tough, hard-nosed, and occasionally downright impossible to get along with. But the man was also a caretaker right down to his big old size-thirteen combat boots. And more than anything else—more than his hard body and knowledgeable mouth, more than his propensity for smart-aleck remarks and his occasional loss of temper— that was the thing about him that really got under her skin.

So just how the heck am I supposed to stop myself from caring?

A cool dribble of unease trickled through her hot blood, but she shoved it aside. It wasn’t a crime to care; heck, she’d probably never be able to feel this level of attraction if she didn’t . That didn’t mean she was in love , or that this was anything more than a temporary fling. Whatever this thing was that she and Zach had going between them, it would no doubt end once Glynnis was brought home safe and sound.

So until then, why not enjoy it? Did it really matter that flings weren’t her usual style? Zach could be her exception.

Face it, the man was in a class all his own, anyhow.

Parting her lips, she gave the rough-skinned pad of Zach’s thumb a tiny suck, then curled her arms around his strong neck and arched slightly to press her breasts against his chest. “Are you worried about me?” she asked with a slight smile. “I’m not sure how we got from ‘lick you from head to ankle’ to being anxious about—”

“I’m not anxious” he growled. “But when you made that little noise in your throat, it sounded as if you were—I don’t know—in pain or something. I don’t want to hurt you, or push you somewhere you don’t want to go.”

“Why, Zach, that’s so sweet of you.” And it was— sweet and accountable. But sweetness from him was the last thing she wanted at this juncture. Thankfully, as she suspected, simply using sweet and you in the same sentence made him react as if she’d just complimented the size of his penis by squealing, “Isn’t that precious?”

“Sweet?” His head reared back and his eyes darkened. He was fully upon her now, and when he pressed his hips forward she felt the hard bulge behind his fly. “Men aren’t sweet !’

His erection felt solid and competent, and it hit just the right spot between her legs. She managed to keep her eyes from crossing, but her voice emerged more breathy than the ironic she was shooting for as she suggested, “Responsible, then?”

“Yeah. Responsible’s good. A helluva lot better than sweet .” He lowered his head and touched his lips to a vulnerable spot behind her ear, then moved his mouth along her neck. “That’s a good word for you, though. Considering that’s the way you smell, the way you taste.” His lips moved back up to her mouth. ” God , you taste sweet,” he repeated hoarsely before his mouth once again claimed hers.

Lily clung to his broad shoulders and allowed herself to be enveloped by his heat and his strength, to be seduced by his mouth. She retained just enough presence of mind to warn herself not to become addicted to Zach’s kisses. But they were soft and lingering, then strong and fierce, and it would be so easy to become dependent upon them, especially when his tongue went from teasing hers gently to demanding full capitulation as he boldly countered her every parry and thrust.

Absorbing his heat, she undulated restlessly beneath the weight of his body. The scent of him surrounded her, an amalgamation of the triple-milled soap from the bathroom they shared, laundry detergent from his T-shirt and jeans, and the healthy musk of aroused man radiating from his hot skin. Excitement burned in Lily’s veins, and with a need to touch him, to feel the strength and heat of his muscular body, she reached down to tug his red Henley tee from his pants.

It had barely cleared his waistband when he slid off her onto the mattress, and without breaking their kiss, propped himself half over her. He disentangled a hand from her hair and stroked his fingertips down the side of her throat and along the V neckline of her thin sweater. Lily stiffened a little, waiting for him to transfer all his attention to her breasts. It had been her experience that where those particular curves were concerned, men often forgot there was an actual woman attached to them.

But she should have remembered from her session with him in the hallway that Zach never did the expected. Instead of diving into her cleavage, or enthusiastically fine-tuning her nipples like a radio operator trying to dial in a static-filled station, he seemed perfectly content to trace lightly along her sweater’s neckline. When his fingers did stray lower, it was with a touch so gentle she found herself holding her breath and thrusting her breasts out for closer attention. Behind the lace of her bra, her nipples distended.

When a moment later, he removed the only true source of satisfaction she had going for her by raising his head until their mouths were connected only by the light play of his tongue, Lily growled in frustration. Lifting up she kissed him hard, then grabbed the hand that teased her and dragged it over the aching swell of her breast.

The impact kicked Zach like a mule. Finally, he had his hands on her. When he’d felt her stiffen a moment ago, he’d forced himself to go slowly, but damn , the temptation had been strong to fill his hand with her breast. Now that he finally had, its tactile impression was everything he’d known it would be. It was firm and round with that marvelous inner jiggle that made tits such a magnet for men. A guttural groan rumbled in his throat, and he returned her kiss with a strength that drove her head back into the coverlet as his fingers massaged her breast’s full softness. He moved his palm lightly to feel the fluid movement beneath it, and was so enthralled with the result that it was a moment before he even noticed the thrust of her nipple trying to drill a hole through his palm.

He ripped his mouth free to look down at her. “I’ve been a good boy scout, Lily; I’ve been patient and true. But you have on way too many clothes, and I want to see you.”

Hot color washed up her throat and onto her face, but she coolly raised her eyebrows and met his gaze with the directness he expected from her. “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.”

“Oh, honey, now that’s what I call a sweetheart deal.” Pushing back to sit on his heels, he reached for the hem of his T-shirt.

By the time he’d tugged it over his head, Lily had divested herself of her pullover sweater, and Zach’s shirt fell from suddenly nerveless fingers. “God,” he whispered and stared at her, all lush golden skin and killer curves in a wine-colored lace bra. “You’re even prettier than I imagined. And trust me,” he said with a slight smile as he tore his gaze away from her body to meet her eyes, “I’ve spent a lot of time imagining.”

Lily might have stuttered out an unimaginative, “Ditto,” if every drop of moisture hadn’t suddenly deserted her mouth. Instead, she simply stared. But ho ly petunia.

His shoulders were wide, his arms were powerful, and his stomach was flat and ridged with muscle. But it was his broad chest that tempted her to check her chin to make sure the moisture missing from her mouth wasn’t a result of having drooled it all out.

His chest was all sculpted brawn that looked harder than granite. But stone usually denoted a certain gray chill, and she already knew Zach’s tanned skin would be hot to the touch. Flat copper nipples played peek-a-boo behind the fine fan of ebony hair that covered his pectorals, and Lily wanted to search them out and catch the tiny nail-head points of them between her teeth. More than that, however, she wanted to feel her breasts flatten against all that hard muscle, only this time without any clothing to separate them. Sitting up, she rolled onto her knees and reached behind her to unhook her bra. Peeling it down her arms, she knee-walked across the short space separating them.

“No, wait,” he said. “Wait, Lily. I want to look at you.”

But she didn’t stop until she was pressed against him, and they both sucked in a sharp breath at the first bone-melting contact of hot, naked skin against hot, naked skin. Lily reached up and looped her arms around his neck.

She felt the quick wash of goosebumps that shivered over Zach’s skin, but he didn’t say a word. Instead, he tucked in his chin to gaze down at where her soft curves pressed against his solid muscle.

Lily discovered she liked watching him look at them. He clearly got off on the sight, for his bottom lip developed a sensual droop, his steel-colored eyes a molten heat. She didn’t have to look down herself to envision the contrast between her curves and his planes, his tanned skin and her paler olive coloring. She felt the strength of him pushing her breasts back against the wall of her chest, and she undulated a bit to rub them against the smooth, bare skin of his torso.

Zach whispered a swear word and reached behind her to direct the movement. With the heels of his hands cupping her sides and his fingers splayed wide, it felt as if her entire back was enveloped within his hard-skinned grasp as he moved her against him in voluptuous circles. Then he widened the spread of his thighs to lessen the height disparity between them, and her breasts suddenly dragged over his hair-roughened pectorals, rasping heat into her nipples. Her head dropping back, she sighed.

“Ah, man, look at this,” he said hoarsely, and Lily felt one of his hands slip forward. ” Pink .”

“Pink?” She couldn’t seem to concentrate, and she blinked up at him. “What’s pin—?” A high-pitched uh ! exploded out of her when her left nipple was suddenly captured between Zach’s finger and thumb and gently compressed.

“This,” he said, watching as he tugged at the small, stiff crest in his grasp. “I wondered what color your nipples would be, and now I know.” He flashed her a wolfish smile then went back to gazing at his captured bounty. “Pretty, pretty pink.” He gave it another pinching tug, and Lily moaned.

Heat flared in Zach’s eyes. “I want you naked,” he growled and laid her back on the bed. “Now.” Knees splayed wide as he knelt at her side, he bent to tease her nipple with his teeth and tongue as he reached for her waistband. But despite his words, he didn’t immediately divest her of her jeans the instant he unfastened them. Instead he slid his hand inside the opening.

He stroked her stomach, and eased beneath the elastic band of her bikini panties. His fingers lightly brushed the downy stripe of hair on her mound before moving lower to cup her in his hand. He pressed with his fingers, then slid deeper to alternately cup and flatten his palm over her. She was so wet with arousal his actions caused a faint squelching sound, and her face flamed with mortification. But Zach groaned in wholehearted approval and insinuated his fingers between the dewy lips of her sex.

“Oh, God, sweet” he said reverently, and his eyes slid closed. They reopened almost immediately, but his eyelids remained at half-mast when he stared down to where his hand disappeared beneath her open fly. “This is exactly what I wanted—to feel you hot and wet.” He licked his lips and raised his gaze to her eyes. “To feel you all slick.” His fingers slid leisurely up and down slippery feminine folds, and every nerve in Lily’s body screamed for more.

He gave it to her, too… but just as her breath grew choppy and the rocking of her hips began to strain upward in search of release, he eased his hand out of her pants. “I want you spread out naked beneath me,” he said, and tugged at her pants.

“Do you?” Disgruntled at having been brought so close, only to be left hanging, she nevertheless lifted her hips to facilitate her jeans’ removal. “How very macho of you. What happens if I want to be on top?”

“Then, honey, climb aboard and show me how you like it.” He grinned at her. “You want on top, you get the top. You want the bottom, it’s your choice whether you wrap your legs around my waist or prop your ankles on my shoulders. You prefer it doggie style, I’ll grab those gorgeous hips and bark with the best of them. I’m not fussy about position, sweet thing, as long as you let me in.” He finished peeling her pants down her legs, but ran into a snag when they puddled around her faux alligator Cuban-heeled shoes. There was no way the legs of her jeans would go over them.

“Damn,” he muttered. “Guess I have to take these off you after all. There goes my big fantasy.” He unbuckled the straps around her ankles and slid the shoes from her feet.

Lily laughed, kicked free of her jeans, and pushed herself to sit up, clad in only a minuscule pair of wine-colored panties. “Tell you what,” she offered. “I’ll put them back on while you make things a little more equitable by taking off your pants.”

He climbed to his feet. “I like the way you think.” He watched her put her shoes back on and fasten the straps as he shucked out of his pants. “You’ve probably heard this a lot, but you’ve sure got one killer body.”

Pure pleasure suffused her, leaving no room for even a flicker of her usual compulsion to catalog her flaws. She simply flashed him a radiant smile. “Thanks.” Watching him slide his hands beneath his jockeys and push them down his narrow hips, she blinked. Then she blinked again. And licked her lips.

“Wow,” she whispered.

He gave her a crooked grin. “Thanks yourself. I’m hardly in Rocket’s class, but I can promise you I’ve never had any complaints.”

This time when she blinked it was in confusion. “You’re not in a rocket class?”

“No, I’m not in Rocket’s —” Smiling wryly, he shook his head. “Forget it. It’s not important.”

“Wait, are you talking about your friend John? That Rocket?”

“Yeah.”

She stared at his erection so long it began to bob and weave, and he reached down to hold it still. Then she raised her eyes to his. “I don’t know, soldier boy. If a guy came at me with something more than what you’ve got there, I’d probably run for the door. Seems to me that’d be a major case of overkill.”

Damn. He dove onto the bed and snatched her up. Clearly surprised, Lily gave a shriek of laughter, and Zach found himself laughing, too, as he rolled them both over and over until they rocked to a halt perilously close to the edge of the mattress. The playfulness caught him by surprise. The kind of sex he was used to was all about being hot and driven and getting to the goal. He’d never thought of it as having fun. But this was fun. And when Lily, who’d ended up draped atop him with her fingers tangled in the hair on his chest, pushed up slightly to grin down at him as if she were queen of the mountain, Zach suddenly felt happier than he had in ages. For a brief moment the realization made him uneasy. Because it didn’t pay to get attached to people.

Then he shrugged it off, telling himself not to be an idiot. Hell, he was about to get lucky, and it had been an age since that had happened. So big surprise he felt happy about it.

“You look good on me,” he said and ran his hands along Lily’s soft-skinned shoulders and down her back, appreciating the tinyness of her waist before smoothing his palms onto the voluptuous curve of her lace-clad butt. Her breasts rested warm and heavy against his diaphragm and they were full, pale, and pink-tipped. He slid his hands back up to cup her elegant little jaw, tunneling his fingers into the soft hair at her nape. ” Damn good.” Thumbs softly pressing her flushed cheeks, he exerted pressure to bring her face down to his. Raising his head off the mattress to meet her halfway, he kissed her feverishly and all the heat that had been banked between them exploded back into full flame.

Usually he was big on prolonged foreplay, but he wanted inside her—and he wanted inside her now. Luckily for him, Lily seemed to feel the same, for when the head of his dick brushed up against her wet, lace-covered heat, she slowly rocked against it. When she lifted her head and stared down at him, her mouth looked debauched, her blue eyes hot and slumberous.

“I don’t think I can wait,” she said breathlessly. “You have any protection handy?” She squirmed atop him. “I need… Oh, man, Zach, I need—”

“Satisfaction,” he agreed. “I know. Me, too.” Clamping her to him, he tipped them toward the edge of the bed. “Can you reach the nightstand drawer?” He sucked in a harsh breath when her stretch for it rasped her nipples across his chest. Then she pulled the drawer open. “Excellent. Inside there’s a—”

“Got it.”

Her hand emerged from the drawer clutching the tin foil packet, and he immediately rolled them back to their former position. Hands on her narrow waist, he scooted her up until one of her beaded, pink nipples was directly above his mouth. Raising his head, he gently bit it.

She cried out and dropped the condom. While he enjoyed himself nursing away the small hurt he’d inflicted, she swept up the protection and ripped it open with her teeth. Reaching behind her, she patted around blindly until her hand suddenly brushed the head of his cock.

She immediately glommed onto it, and then it was he who rapped out a curse. His mouth went slack, Lily’s nipple eased free, and she pushed up to sit astride his stomach. A second later, she climbed off as if dismounting a horse, and knelt by his side to roll the condom down his erect length. He hissed through his teeth not only at the feel of her small competent hands unfurling the rubber down his hard-on, but at the sight of them.

“Are you dead set on being on top?” he demanded, then gritted his teeth when she tightened her grip on him. He thrust up into her touch.

She seemed to have her work cut out dragging her gaze away from his erection as it pumped through her fist. “Hmm?” she asked vaguely. But then she blinked, gave her head a slight shake, and smiled up at him. “No.”

“Good.” And in a few efficient moves, he had her flat on her back beneath him. “Then let’s satisfy my fantasy.” He patted his shoulders. “Let’s see those pretty shoes up here.”

She laughed and started to comply, but before she could follow through he reached between them.

“Whoops—forgot to remove these,” he said, and pulled her bikini panties off her hips and down her legs. Tossing them over his shoulder, he looked down at what he’d revealed and smiled. “And here I thought you were a natural blonde.”

“I am,” she replied dryly, then sucked in a breath when he eased his thumb into her silky-wet cleft and slid it up and down. “A natural L’Oreal number ten, Lightest Ultimate Blonde, blonde,” she informed him breathlessly. Then her eyes lost focus. “Ohmigracious, Zachariah. Oh. My. Gracious .”

He tapped his shoulder again with his free hand and experienced a possessive sort of satisfaction when she immediately swung her feet up to prop her heels on them. Wrapping his hand around her slender ankle, he turned his head to press a kiss into her instep. Then reluctantly disengaging the hand that stroked between her thighs, he used it to grasp his hard-on and line up its broad head with her entrance. Leaning forward, he slowly pressed himself into her until he was buried to the hilt in her wet, furnace-hot, vise-grip depths. Pleasure shivered over his skin as he held himself still deep inside her. “Damn, you feel good.”

“Oh, my gosh. Do I ever.” She moved experimentally. “I. Feel. Full . So full. Which feels wonderful. Except—”

He eased his hips back, then pressed them forward. “Except?” Eased them back again, and pressed them forward.

“Well, except, you’re too far away. I want to hold you.”

He dropped forward, catching himself on his palms on either side of her shoulders. It drove him deeper into Lily, and she moaned as her legs slid down his arms until they hooked on the inside bend of his elbows. She reached up and locked her fingers behind his neck. “Oh, please,” she murmured. “Zach, please.”

And he began to withdraw and thrust back into her, withdraw and thrust, with increasing speed and force. Lily started making desperate noises deep in her throat and her Cuban-heeled pumps bounced in the air with every slam of his hips. Zach stared down at her, and she returned his look with an unfocused, lust-blinded gaze. “Christ,” he muttered, and lowered his head to catch her mouth with his own. She kissed him back hungrily and sank her fingernails into his shoulders. Then her soft moans began to escalate and grow higher in pitch, and she strained to meet his pistoning hips. Suddenly she stiffened all over, her pelvis thrust high, and hard contractions deep inside of her clamped and released around his dick, milking its length furiously.

Ripping his mouth free, he threw back his head. Then, grinding out her name, he slammed his hips forward one last time and in scalding, bone-rattling pulsations, he began to come.

And come.

And felt her climaxing around him all the while as he continued to come.

Until, finally, totally boneless and feeling like a homeless stray suddenly in possession of his very own hearth, he collapsed atop her.

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