Animal magnetism, p.28
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       Animal Magnetism, p.28
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         Part #1 of Animal Magnetism series by Jill Shalvis

  “Do it,” he commanded softly. “Let go for me, Lilah.”

  The timbre of his sexy voice alone nearly sent her over the edge. Combined with his caressing thumb as he thrust upside her with every other heartbeat was all it took, and she burst, collapsing into him.

  He held her tight through the trembling. He was still rock hard inside her, and she arched her hips, eliciting another rough groan from him. “Don’t.” Tightening his hands on her, he pressed his forehead to hers. “Don’t move. Not even an inch.”

  His voice was rough and strained, even lower than normal, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her mouth to his. He took control of the kiss, his fingers digging into her hips to hold her still, the muscles in his arms quaking with the effort not to move, not to take his own pleasure. She kissed his shoulder, his throat, his mouth. They were drenched from the water, but there was a heat coming from him, as if he had a fever.

  Slowly he pulled out of her, closing his eyes when she made a helpless little sound of loss. Gently she kissed his jaw, then gave him a not so gentle shove toward shore. And then another. Eyes locked on hers, he let her, and when she had him in the very shallow water, he also let her kick his feet out from beneath him.

  Laughing, he went down to the sand, bracing himself on his elbows, the water lapping at his thighs. She crawled between them and lapped at him, too.

  With a low groan, his head fell back as she worked her way up until she came to his most impressive erection. Kissing the very tip, she absorbed the way he breathed her name. “Trust me,” she whispered again.

  “Already there.”

  When she drew him into her mouth, his fingers slid into her hair, guiding her into the rhythm he wanted, until with a deep breath, he lifted his head. “Lilah—”

  “Shh.”

  He made a sound of frustration and closed his eyes when she resumed, his hips rocking up to meet her every move on him now. He said something completely unintelligible, gasping, his hands curling into fists in her hair. His eyes were shut tight, his teeth gritted. “Lilah—Christ! I’m going to—”

  “Do it,” she commanded, mirroring his words back at him. “Let go for me, Brady.”

  He shuddered and came hard. While he struggled to regain his breath, she kissed his thigh, his hip, the spot low on his ridged abs where his skin was so satiny smooth.

  He was still laying there, eyes closed, still as a rock, as if he couldn’t possibly move a muscle. She lifted her head. “You okay?”

  The sound he made might have been affirmation or maybe evidence that his brain had been thoroughly scrambled. Feeling quite pleased, she sat cross-legged by his hip and waited for him to collect himself.

  The water lapped at them gently. From a distance came the hoot of an owl and the song of crickets. Finally Brady turned his head and met her gaze.

  She grinned.

  A soft smile curved his lips as he took in her naked form by moonlight. “So who’s cocky?”

  She laughed, and his smile deepened as he pulled her close, pillowing her head on his shoulder. Pulling her in closer, he brushed a dazed kiss to her temple. “You undo me, Lilah. Every time.”

  “Do you like that?”

  “You nearly rendered me unconscious with pleasure. I fucking loved it.”

  “Can you move yet?” she asked.

  “That would be a firm negative.”

  Nodding, she rose and gathered all their clothes. And then started walking back to the cabin.

  “Hey.”

  When she didn’t stop, she heard him swear, heard the sounds of him staggering to his feet. “You took my clothes.”

  She kept going.

  “We left my truck—”

  “It’ll keep.”

  “Lilah, Jesus. We can’t walk through the woods naked.”

  “You trained for all conditions, soldier,” she called back. “Keep up.”

  He didn’t respond to that, but she could hear him right behind her, silent as they walked buck-ass naked beneath the moon.

  “That was crazy,” he said a moment later as they walked into her cabin. “Anyone could have seen.”

  “But no one did.” Turning to him, she dropped their clothes onto her couch and smiled. “You swam in the magical waters, Brady. At midnight. You know what that means?”

  He was very busy running his gaze over her body like a caress.

  “The myth says that now you’re in danger of finding your true love,” she reminded him.

  He snagged her by the hips and rubbed his naked body to hers. “I don’t buy into myths. I buy into realism. I make my own fate.”

  “Yeah? And what does your fate say?”

  “It says I’m about to make love to an amazing woman, right here . . . ” He dragged her down the hall, grabbing a condom out of her bathroom drawer as they went. Then he wrestled her onto her bed and covered her body with his. “Right now.”

  When he put his mouth to her breast, she cried out in sheer pleasure. She’d barely recovered from that before he was inside her, whispering in her ear to give him everything she had, every little piece, that he wanted no less.

  She had no choice but to give it to him, give him everything, her only solace was in knowing that he was doing the same.

  Twenty-Three

  Brady woke the next morning alone in Lilah’s bed with Boss on his chest and Twinkles on his feet, both of them staring at him balefully. He scrubbed a hand over his face and let out a breath. Alone again.

  “Arf,” Twinkles said.

  “Mew,” Boss said, and turned in a circle on Brady’s chest, using claws.

  “Jesus!” Brady pushed the kitten off of him. Bare-ass naked, with all the blankets and sheets tossed to the floor, man and kitten stared at each other. The kitten’s eyes narrowed in on Brady’s morning wood and crouched, butt wriggling, ready to pounce.

  “Do it and die,” Brady said, and rolled out of the bed. “Just once,” he muttered on the way to the shower, followed by both animals like they were all in a parade. “I’d like to be the first one up.”

  He’d always been the first one awake in the past. Hell, he’d never spent much time sleeping with a woman period. But Lilah seemed to throw his entire universe into a tailspin.

  Setting the shower tap to scalding, he climbed in and put his hands on the tile. Head down, he let the water bead down over his shoulders and back.

  The icy spray hit him without warning at the three-minute mark, and he swore the air blue. Christ, Lilah shouldn’t have to live like this. He was taking a look at the hot water heater himself before he left town. He dressed and headed down the hall, tripping over Boss, who yowled his feelings on the matter and vanished under the couch. Brady sighed and dropped to his knees, bending low to peer into two pissed-off glowing eyes. “Well, you can’t run in front of me, dammit.”

  “Arf.”

  “Stop it,” Brady told the dog, who was trying to lick his face. “You’re not helping. Boss, out now.”

  Nothing but daggers coming his way.

  “Nice view.”

  Brady straightened and met the amused eyes of Lilah as she came in the front door. She was carrying two coffees and a donut bag, and right then and there, he fell in love. “If you tell me you have a chocolate-frosted,” he said with great feeling, “I’ll give you my life’s savings and anything else you want.”

  “What if I brought something healthy, like a wheat-grain muffin.”

  “Then forget the life savings.”

  She laughed. “What if all I want is a repeat of last night?”

  He grinned. “Then I’d say you’re easy.”

  “When it comes to you, anyway.” She set the bag and coffees on the counter. “Enjoy.”

  “Wait a minute,” he said as she started out the door again. “Where are you going?”

  “It’s this little thing called work.”

  “You can’t just show up and go.”

  “Sure I can. Watch me.” She pulled open the door
, then looked back. “But thanks for last night.”

  “Oh no you don’t.” He snagged Boss by the scruff of the neck and dragged him from beneath the couch, cradling the pissed-off kitten to his chest. Then he grabbed Lilah, too. “Thanks for last night?” he repeated, suddenly feeling a little pissed off and not sure why. “What exactly is it you’re thanking me for, Lilah?”

  She opened her mouth, but his cell phone rang. Ignoring it, he kept hold of her and reeled her in closer. And because he was also pretty fucking pathetic, he pressed his face into the curve of her neck and breathed her in. “You smell so damn good you’re making me hungry.” He licked her throat and felt her shiver.

  “New lotion,” she said. “Mango peach. Aren’t you going to answer that?” she asked of his phone.

  “No.”

  “It might be important.”

  At the moment he couldn’t think of anything more important than making her respond to his question, but the moment had passed and she was looking at him as if he’d lost his marbles.

  And it was entirely possible that he had. Swearing, he let go of her, yanked his cell phone out of his pocket and glanced at the screen. “It’s work.”

  “Dell or Adam need a pilot?”

  “No. Tony.”

  “Oh,” she exhaled, taking a step back. “He’s calling because—”

  “Because it’s been a month, which is what I said I needed. He’s been calling me every day for a week telling me to get my ass back to work.”

  “You’re leaving.”

  “I should have already left, Lilah.”

  She swallowed. “When?”

  “Like I said, he wanted me yesterday.”

  “When, Brady?”

  “Today or tomorrow maybe. Depends on what he says.”

  She nodded. “I see.”

  Yeah, except she couldn’t. She couldn’t possibly see, not when he couldn’t. And he honestly couldn’t see how the hell he was supposed to go. He answered his phone with a terse “Miller” and watched as Lilah grabbed one of the coffees and walked out of the cabin.

  Lilah entered the kennels, made her way through the rooms to her office and stopped before sitting at her desk.

  No.

  Not where she wanted to be. She swiveled and walked out the door again and alongside the back of the building, where no one could see her. Slowly she slid down the wall, giving in to her weak knees.

  Brady was leaving.

  She could still see him coming out of her bedroom wearing only a pair of jeans that molded his sculpted legs to perfection and cradled her favorite part of his anatomy, a part that had never failed to deliver on its promise. His feet had been bare, his chest, too, and just looking at him laid her heart bare as well. He’d looked as if he’d belonged there in her place. Just as he’d made himself at home in her heart.

  And he was leaving.

  His month was up and now work was calling him. She’d known he’d already turned a few jobs down over the past few weeks, but she’d also known that he wouldn’t do that forever.

  Maybe he was even packing at this very moment.

  She heard a car drive up and, realizing she had tears on her face, rose. Dammit. Swiping at them, she headed back inside, where she got busy fast with the usual drop-offs, feedings, walking, and general care of the animals, not to mention the dreaded paperwork.

  At lunchtime Cruz showed up, tanned and rested from a week on Maui with friends. They caught up with each other, and Lilah showed off her new scar from being shot. Cruz was suitably horrified and impressed.

  Later, when she was off shift, Lilah made her way to Belle Haven for a late lunch with Jade, walking in the back door before remembering that Jade had taken today off to visit an old friend. Redirecting, she turned around to leave and passed Dell’s office.

  He was behind his desk on the phone, looking his usual easygoing self, even though his other phone was ringing off the hook and the sounds from the waiting room and patient rooms related more to a mob scene than a veterinarian’s office.

  That’s when she remembered that Adam was gone, too. He’d left last night for a trip back east to an S&R conference. “Need help?” she asked.

  Dell nodded in relief and pointed to the waiting room.

  She walked into chaos. There were dogs and cats, several birds, and a lamb. None were particularly calm, and neither were the humans that went with the pets.

  Brady stood behind the reception desk, scowling darkly at the computer as if he were considering tossing it out the window. Which was undoubtedly why everyone waiting was giving the front desk—and him—a wide berth.

  It didn’t surprise Lilah that he’d obviously stepped in to help. Or that he’d worked as hard as he had from the moment he’d arrived in Sunshine doing whatever was needed or asked of him. Because for as big and tough as he was, he’d pretty much dedicated his entire life to others’ safety and/or well-being.

  What did surprise her was how well he fit in. With the town, with Adam and Dell. With her. For all that he wanted to be the lone wolf, he’d made sure to have their backs, all of them. He had a real bond here, one that she knew startled him.

  And made him uncomfortable.

  Well, it startled her, too. But it didn’t make her uncomfortable. It made her feel good, feel connected. It made her feel happy.

  That would change, very soon, when he left. And yes, she’d known this day would come, but she wasn’t ready. And worse, she didn’t think she ever would be.

  How scary was that? The room was so noisy she had to come up very close to him to be heard. “Problem?” she asked in his ear.

  He barely looked at her. “What makes you think that? The fact that my head is spinning around and around, or that there’s twelve people in the waiting room here for the same appointment block and only one doctor?”

  “Ah. A scheduling snafu.”

  “That, or someone’s messing with me.” He gave her a second, longer look, eyes narrowed and dark. Very dark. “It’s not you, is it?”

  With a low laugh, she lifted her hands and shook her head.

  “Don’t even try that look of innocence. I know better.”

  “Hey. I’ve never messed with you.”

  “I have one word for you.” He gestured with his chin beneath his desk. “Twinkles.”

  Lilah bent low and saw Twinkles sprawled out and fast asleep on Brady’s boots. “Aw. And clearly, you’re both hating the situation.”

  The phones were still ringing.

  People were still glaring at him.

  That’s when Brady did something Lilah knew he rarely, if ever, did. He sank to a chair, put his hands on her hips, dropped his head to her belly, and said, “Please help me.”

  “Sure.” She’d have even done it without the please, but he didn’t need to know that. Because she couldn’t help herself, she stroked a hand over his hair. “Move over.”

  He stood and gave her the chair. She tapped her fingers on the keyboard and pulled up the schedule. “Well, damn. You’re double-, triple-, and quadruple-booked.”

 
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