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Branded Sanctuary, Page 5

Joey W. Hill

Page 5


  He braced a booted foot on the bottom step. She liked the combination, scuffed black cowboy boots underneath his stressed jeans. When hed been at the Jeep, shed tried not to obviously linger on the nice presentation of his groin as hed leaned against the door, ankles crossed, one hand hooked in the jeans pocket. The casual blazer and button-down shirt complimented the outfit, screaming sexy college professor. A ll his female students probably had wet dreams about him. Hell, she was feeling that response now.

  How did you know where I lived?

  I have friends in law enforcement who owe me favors. You were worth calling one in.

  Before she could untangle her tongue at that, he withdrew his left arm from behind his back. In his hand was a stuffed puppy, a Rottweiler with a floppy red felt tongue and a blue bow tied around his neck. The laugh snorted out of her like a Jack-in-the-box surprise that made her jump a little, startled at her own noise.

  Thought you could use a guard dog.

  The bow kind of ruins the ferocious reputation, dont you think?

  He says hes as capable of being cuddly as he is of ripping someones throat out. Something a little dangerous went through his gaze, making that aroused response intensify. The tingle reminded her of a satellite photo shed seen of a star cluster, one solid ball of heat in her stomach, light flashes radiating out from it into the other parts of her body.

  His gaze remained on her face, making her suspect he was studying the shadows under her makeup free eyes, the lines around her mouth. I dont know what to say, she ventured.

  Then dont say anything. Sliding an arm around her waist, leaving the puppy between them, he drew her down to him. Her arms automatically threaded over his shoulders, and when he brought her close, she pressed her face into his neck and all that silky hair.

  Oh he was a dream come true, for sure. She should know better. But a part of her still wanted to be the Chloe she was months ago, who wouldnt question good fortune, who would embrace it wholeheartedly. She hadnt marked time. Instead, when something ran its course, she anticipated the next stroke of luck, beauty or happiness, rather than grieving on what had changed or passed.

  But this Chloe saw all the shadows, the dark corridors and remembered her fear of a thumping branch in the middle of the night. The sly, malicious voice in her head told her this wasnt real, that she was merely using this temporary shelter to hide from those things.

  Then Brendan turned his head toward hers, brushed his mouth over her lips. Not a sweet brush, but a sensual, lingering drag that came back to center and steadied as the comforting arms tightened, one hand palming the back of her head. Instead of pity, he gave her heat, a simmering, slow curl-the-toes-up-in-the-shoes heat, teasing her mouth open, tangling with her tongue so everything from chin to knees went tight, tingling, fluttery or wobbly.

  The bag slipped off her shoulder as she slid her own hands up under his arms, inside the jacket, and dug her fingers into his back through the thin stuff of his shirt. She was acutely aware of the body under the clothes. How could she not be? Hed lain naked in his bed last night, gripped his cock and followed her direction to climax, leaving her vibrating, taking her to wonderful dreams.

  Okay, instead of being flighty Chloe, staying home to hug trees and balance her chakra flow, she could be raging hormone Chloe, staying home to fuck the daylights out of the most irresistible thing that had ever shown up on her doorstep.

  No, she couldnt. Because here it came, the pleasure turning to desperation, a simultaneous need to pull him closer and shove him away. Shed never been a needy, clingy kind of girl. She wouldnt become that. She wouldnt do that to herself or Brendan.

  A s if he knew, though, hed already eased up, lifted his head to give her a sexy half-smile. I hadnt planned that, but after last night, I couldnt get this close and not taste you. Feel you.

  Okay, she said.

  His smile became a grin. Can I give you a ride to work? A nd a ride home tonight? He drew her down the steps and to the Jeep, where he leaned back against it, bringing her close again.

  Im a little out of your way.

  She wasnt sure where he lived, but she was pretty sure that he lived in town. Hed told her that during their conversations at the wedding, which had been light and easy as two butterflies playing and chasing one another over a moonlit meadow, occasionally stopping to sip nectar from flowers. Or, in their case, champagne.

  Youre as out of my way as a fork in the road, and just as intriguing. He was still holding her close, but Chloe realized she was pressed against him as though she was using his ability to stand in lieu of her own. Every curve fitted into the shapes and planes of his body, so his chest was against her breasts, his groin against her belly, for hed shifted his legs apart to cradle her in between. Long thighs stretched out on either side of her, his hands gripped low on her hips.

  His aftershave was mixed with faint chlorine pool smell. When she slid her fingers through his hair, he tilted obligingly, eyes locked on her face.

  It was like passing her fingers through flowing water. She dropped her touch to his side, then his thigh, following it to his fingers at her hip. They flexed beneath her touch. His cock had gotten hard from her proximity, the increased pressure of it against her belly, but he didnt seem concerned about acting on that. He simply let her keep moving her hands over him. That increased pressure brought a sharp need of her own, though, one that had sharp teeth and the threat of darkness.

  I want you to take me back inside and have sex with me, she said abruptly. Right now.

  Holy God, where had that come from? She didnt know, but it was a plan of action, something to do other than this stillness, this standing by his car, in his arms, the world slowing down so that all the things racing by would stop as well. They would see her, and worse, they would make her see them.

  Chloe. A muscle flexed in his jaw as he released her waist, brought his other hand to cradle her face, drawing her eyes to his, but that wasnt what she wanted. Everything in her pooled between her legs, driving all of the focus there. Shed earned him, earned the mindlessness. She didnt want a Tantric stillness or lazy, building pace that had to involve the mind, the spirit, the inner chi or whatever the fuck shed normally bring into it to make her think it was something extraordinary. She was against a visceral wall of muscle and testosterone, and her blood was pumping hot with the need to embrace it. A hard fuck, no gentle kisses, no hands on her. Shed tie his hands to the rail of the bed, tie them tight so it would hurt a little.

  Shed bite and tear, consume, devour and take, until there was nothing left.

  Stretching on her toes, she found his mouth, growling with pleasure as it opened for her. A clever tongue tangled with hers again and sent sensation rippling through her nerves, sweeping away the debris inside her like a hot, scorching wind.

  Chloe. He repeated it then, and though he held her face in a gentle grip, it was unshakable. She closed her eyes. Tell me again what you want. I need to hear it. What do you want?

  What was it in his voice that pulled her out of that whirlwind, even as she tried to claw back to it, wanting to spit at him? But he said her name again, in a whisper this time. Just her name.


  It became an echo through all those empty spaces, the places she hadnt known were empty, or maybe they hadnt been. Whatever had populated those rooms was gone, and she wasnt sure how to bring back the comfortable, quirky furnishings that had been there before.

  I want to be me again. I want to feel safe.

  A sigh left him, a warm breath that caressed her face as he curved his hand around the back of her neck then, bringing her face into his chest.

  Shed been close to him a moment before, pressed tight, but this was somehow closer, maybe because some of that tension left her and she melted into him in truth. Her arms slid up under his again so she could flatten her palms over his shoulder blades, her nose burying in his chest, seeking the
comfort of shirt and skin and their nice smells. His other arm wrapped around her waist, holding her between his braced legs so close. He was still aroused, but it was a natural, easy pleasure now, a reminder of all the wonderful things it meant, that were possible.

  She prided herself on being independent, but she welcomed the subtle message hed been sending to her with that blue bow on the Rottweiler.

  Male, protective.

  How long they stood like that, she wasnt sure, but he held her while the sun warmed the Jeep and emanated against her. Myriad bugs, frogs and other creatures that lived in the thicket of tangled foliage shed encouraged around her cottage sang, chirped and made their discordant morning noises. Clicks, sawing violins, pops. Sounds hard to describe, but everyone understood the feeling, the familiar reassurance of them, that came on a sunny early morning. Much like this feeling.

  He brushed his lips across her forehead. Why dont I take you to work now? His mouth pulled in a smile against her temple. But if you want to revisit that other idea later, I wont object.

  * * * * *

  * * * * *

  In fact, Brendan knew if shed made the demand once more, he would have swung her up in his arms and taken the stairs two at a time, even knowing it was the wrong thing. Well, wrong was the incorrect word. It would have been sweaty, slick and satisfying to the parts of their bodies that were impatient with emotions, though. But he knew how it would have played out. Shame would have drowned her because I want to have a rough fuck with somebody I barely know didnt mesh with the Chloe hed met at the wedding, or talked to in such an extraordinary way on the phone a mere few hours ago. He didnt want to lose that Chloe. He was more than a little concerned she was in danger of losing it herself.

  The person hed met at the wedding had let her emotions lead her, despite her injuries and close brush with death. He knew magical nights like that made nightmares temporarily go away, but even so, hed sensed hed been talking to the real Chloe. Unabashed, unrepressed. That Chloe might have made the impetuous decision to make love to him so quickly, but if she did, it would be because she felt a connection that told her coming together physically would be a joyous, fulfilling experience. Where, if there wasnt love, there would be learning, friendship, laughter, things worth taking the emotional risk.

  Her desire to be taken now, such an abrupt, harsh and cruelly worded decision, was just the opposite of that. She was completely shielded, the quick desire a way to avoid or outrun her feelings, not open them.