Falling in deeper, p.15
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       Falling in Deeper, p.15
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         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  this far, they usually had sex. She’d once offered to relieve him with her mouth or hand. He’d told her that he didn’t want her to confuse the issue—whatever that meant—so she’d still never gotten a man off without penetration. “I can try to give you a blow job.”

  She could hear the hesitation in her own voice and winced.

  Stone eased down on top of her, caressing the hair back from her face. Lily felt his weight pressing on her, the hard column of his erection jabbing her mound. Panic began to creep in. She sucked in air, tried to tell herself to stay calm, that Stone wouldn’t hurt her. She focused on the pleasure she’d just experienced, the tenderness of his expression.

  All she could see in her head was Erin fighting as Timothy Canton held her down with his superior size and strength and raped her.

  Lily couldn’t help it. She lost her calm, fighting and bucking and shoving, screaming all the way.

  Stone jumped off of her instantly and scrambled to his feet, putting distance between them. “It’s all right. I’m backing off.”

  But he looked worried. She sat up, realized how crazy she probably looked, and hung her face in her hands. Damn it. She was worried, too. After tonight, she would have sworn she’d broken through some mental barrier.

  “It might take more than one night, you know?” He crooked a finger under her chin. Even as she tried to resist, he gave her his quiet resolve and patience. “I’m not giving up. Neither are you.”

  “It’s been years.” She wanted to cry, and the fucking tears still wouldn’t come.

  “But not with me. We’ve tried this once. Tomorrow is another day, huh? Smile for me.”

  “I can’t leave you like this, wanting and aching and . . .”

  “Without relief? Baby, that self-pleasure thing is a breeze for me. I mastered it at twelve. I can spend a few minutes in the shower and be fine. Would I like it as much as sex in any form with you? Fuck, no. You have no idea how much I’d give up—one eye, a nut, and my entire Star Wars collection. But I won’t give you up. We’ll get there, if that’s what you want.”

  “Isn’t sex supposed to be about give and take? I only took.” That devastated her. So much for normal.

  “You gave, too. Besides great spank-bank material, seeing you in pleasure will linger longer than any fleeting climax of my own. I’ll remember that moment and replay it over and over in my head.”

  She chewed on her lip, trying to hear what he said. Guilt and disappointment stifled her. “But—”

  “Shh, I’m good with tonight being about you.”

  Even as Lily wondered if he was right and she wasn’t ready for sex, oral or otherwise, she felt almost disappointed that he wasn’t insisting on more. “Can’t it be about you, too?”

  “I hope it will be soon. But don’t sweat it now.”

  Before she could argue again, his phone buzzed insistently, cutting off the music that had filled the background and added to their mood.

  Stone jumped to his feet and grabbed it. “Just a minute,” he said into the device, then held out his free hand to her. “Baby, why don’t you go to bed? You look exhausted.”

  In other words, their time together was over and the real world was calling. Why couldn’t she have kept her shit together and opened her arms and body? He’d done nothing to freak her out or make her wary. Once she’d gotten over her violent-ex-con misunderstanding and realized she’d never met a gentler man, she really should have been able to share herself with him.

  Was she even more broken than she’d thought?

  Lily ignored his outstretched hand. On shaky legs, she got to her feet and headed for the door, feeling somewhere between embarrassed and broken. “Good night.”

  * * *

  STONE watched Lily walk out of the playroom with her head hanging and her shoulders slumped. It fucking hurt his heart, but she always said she needed time to think. Maybe some of that now would do her good. He wasn’t sure how she would have handled it if he had tried to . . . What would he have done, given the chance? He wanted to do more than have sex with or fuck her. He didn’t merely want to mount and take her. No, he wanted to make love to Lily. Shit, he’d never really done more than scratch an itch with a woman before, and now he wanted to use his body to tell Lily Taylor how crazy he was about her.

  Oh, hell. A) He had it bad. B) It would crush him if he tried to make love to her again and she freaked. And C) What the fuck should he do next?

  All of the above was swirling through his head when he heard the familiar male voice call from the phone in his hand. “Hello?”

  Stone jerked the device to his ear and shut the door so Lily couldn’t hear. “Here. Sorry. What’s up?”

  He hoped it was quick because he really didn’t want to leave her alone and dejected for long.

  “Lots, and none of it good,” Jack Cole said, his tone almost apologetic.

  Motherfucking son of a bitch. “Lay it on me.”

  “I’ll give you the ‘good’ news first. We can’t find Canton. No one has seen him near Galveston, at least not camping. We took his picture to every state park and campground within a fifty-mile radius. Nothing. I think Hunter really wanted to pound someone’s face because the baby’s still not sleeping and he’s grouchy, but we couldn’t find anyone who seemed remotely suspicious.”

  If that was the good news, Stone wasn’t sure he wanted to hear how terrible the bad was. “So Canton is out in the wind somewhere?”

  “Yeah. I had my buddy Tyler call a few contacts back in Los Angeles from his LAPD days. There’s definitely no one at the house except a maid and a pet sitter. His car is still in the garage. He’s locked his phone and I haven’t been able to trace it. You might try.” Jack rattled off the number and the e-mail address associated with the device.

  Stone didn’t want to know how the other man had gotten the info and he didn’t care. “Depending on the phone, I might be able to hack and track it. Some have operating systems designed to enable a full lockdown unless you have the password, but I’ll see what I can do.”

  “Since we don’t know where Canton is, he could be anywhere. It’s possible he’s nowhere near Lily.”

  But Jack didn’t sound as if he believed that. Stone didn’t, either.

  “What else?” he prompted.

  “The bomb that blew up Lily’s car was grade-A professional stuff. None of this homemade shit thrown together with PVC pipe and household chemicals. My guess is that whoever he’s employing had some military training—the elite kind. Hunter said he saw the pictures of what was left. It looked like something he would have learned in advanced demolitions training after becoming a SEAL. It was also programmed to detonate via remote control, not a simple timer. Which means that whoever pressed the button was probably watching her.”

  Stone replayed the sequence of events in his head and frowned. “If he had eyes on her, he waited too late and missed his window of opportunity. She’d just climbed out of the car a minute before it exploded. Why wait?”

  “Malfunction? Fuckup?” Jack sighed. “Don’t know. We should count ourselves lucky and move on. Do you remember seeing anyone hanging around outside at her apartment complex? Anyone who might have been watching her?”

  Not really. He hadn’t been thinking about anything except reaching Lily before she fled for good. Pacing, he mentally replayed his drive to her complex and into the parking lot. “I remember seeing gardeners and thinking I felt sorry for the poor bastards out there in the middle of the day because it’s August. But they all had lawn mowers and edgers in their hands. Nothing that could detonate a bomb.”

  “Yeah. I’m not surprised you didn’t see anyone who looked suspicious. It is fucking hot out there, and the guy who blew up her car wouldn’t want anyone to notice—”

  “Wait! I did see someone else.” Stone suddenly remembered. “A guy on one of the balconies. I didn’t get a good look at his face since he was wearing a ball cap. Dodgers, I think. I remember him holding an iPad. When I drove in,
he looked up and saw me. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I was driving like a maniac. But now I’m wondering . . .”

  “Where in the complex did you see him? Can you describe which balcony?”

  Stone reconstructed the drive in his mind again, mentally slowing down the sequence of events. Doing his best to explain what he saw and where, he told Jack everything he recalled. “Sorry it’s not more detailed. That wasn’t my focus.”

  “I’ll send Sean over there to check it out, see if he can lay eyes on this guy, maybe figure out what he saw or where he’s gone. Maybe he was a random resident out there enjoying the choking, wet heat while he played his solitaire or whatever.”

  But probably not.

  “That would be great. Keep me posted. This whole fucking mess gives me a bad feeling.”

  “Can’t say I blame you.” Jack sighed. “Now for the really crappy news.”

  What? “Because you’ve been a bundle of cheer so far?”

  “Oh, yeah. That was my happy voice.”

  He sounded anything but. Stone shook his head. “Well, if you’re going to piss in my cornflakes, then let it all out.”

  “Axel landed in Dallas an hour ago. He wanted to drive out there tonight and see Sweet Pea. I mean Lily. After talking to him, we realized how much he really didn’t know about her past. Out of respect for their . . . friendship, we wanted to give her the opportunity to tell him everything, but he’d guessed enough to punch holes in our cover story. After that, we had to give up the rest of the truth. So Axel is up to speed now. He knows exactly who Lily is and about our plans to coax her to testify—and he’s pissed.”

  “At her for not confessing all of her past?” Sure, the guy might have wanted to know it, but Lily didn’t owe shit to the man who hadn’t loved her. “Or at us?”

  “At you for using her to get out of jail.”

  Stone didn’t care what the ex thought. “That’s not why I saved her or why I’m with her.”

  He might have started this because he’d wanted out of prison. Now he only wanted Lily to be happy and free. When had that change happened?

  “Axel doesn’t see it that way. But his first priority is reassuring himself that she’s all right. Thorpe talked him out of driving the five hours to you by convincing him that he’d never find the cabin at night. Sean is trying now to persuade Axel that they need boots on the ground to help ferret Canton out more than that girl needs her former overprotective mentor to watch over her. I don’t know if the argument is working.”

  “Axel is that determined?” Stone had hoped that the guy would merely call or want to be close by in case Lily needed him. He could picture Axel demanding that Stone bring her back to Dallas, in which case he was more than happy to tell the ex to fuck off. But Axel coming to this cabin and getting in Lily’s personal space would only mess with her head.

  “More,” Jack murmured. “If I were you, I’d prepare for incoming. We’ll do our best to hold him, but don’t expect that we can keep him away from her for long.”

  How the fuck was he supposed to surpass nearly three years of the trust and loyalty Axel had built with Lily and become her number one in a couple of days? With a psycho on the loose who knew a shitload about making bombs?

  “Son of a bitch. You got any good news?”

  “The sun will come up tomorrow . . .” Jack mimicked the song from that musical about the redheaded orphan.

  “Shut the fuck up, Annie.”

  Jack barked out a laugh, then sobered. “I’ll keep working here. Thorpe, Sean, and the Edgingtons are on your side, too, man. If that’s any consolation.”

  Not really. Helpful, maybe. But he didn’t care as much about suddenly having brofriends as he did about keeping Lily safe.

  “Keep me posted. Thanks.”

  “Will do.”

  Jack ended the call, and Stone marched out of the playroom and into the hall. His gaze was immediately drawn to the bedroom door. Lily had left it slightly ajar. She’d killed the lights. When he stuck his head in, it looked as if she’d already fallen asleep.

  Out in the living room, he hunted up her phone, which he’d temporarily hidden in an empty cookie tin in the back of one of the cabinets. He turned it on. Sure enough, Axel had texted about ten million times and called nearly that many in the last twenty hours—with a nine-hour gap in the middle for his flight.

  Stone could hack into her phone and listen to her messages, but she’d see it as a betrayal of trust, and he could guess what Axel had said. He was just surprised that the guy hadn’t actually called him.

  Right on cue, Stone’s phone began to buzz. Axel. The number on his display matched what Lily had in her contacts. His first instinct was to answer so he could growl into the phone and cuss out the son of a bitch for so obviously not loving Lily and for abandoning her, leaving her uncertain of her own future and appeal. He also wanted to chastise the bastard and tell him not to drive the fuck to Louisiana. He would get in Lily’s face—and mess with her head. She’d backtrack. And admittedly, Stone didn’t need her attention on the other man when he was trying so hard to reach her.

  But he stopped himself. Stone didn’t know Axel well but from everything he’d gleaned, probably nothing he said or did would keep the big bruiser away. If the guy had flown back from Europe, he was clearly determined to set eyes on Lily. Whatever. Stone would rather spend his time and energy on a cause that did matter—cementing his bond with her.

  Declining the call, Stone pocketed the phone and headed back to the bedroom. If he had forty-eight hours or less to earn Lily’s trust and a place in her heart before Axel crashed in, then he intended to put every moment to good use.

  Chapter Ten

  LILY woke in Stone’s arms again. This time, she wasn’t nearly as rattled by finding herself plastered to his side, her nose filled with his scent, as she had been yesterday morning.

  In fact, now she found it almost comforting.

  From high in the sky the sun slanted through the windows, telling her that she’d slept long and soundly again.

  Because on some level she felt safe with Stone.

  Gently, she rolled away so she didn’t wake him, then stretched. The muscles of her thighs were slightly sore from all the tensing and trembling she’d done last night while chasing orgasm. But she savored the sensation. His words, the pleasure, the intimacy they’d shared all crashed through her head. She slanted a glance back across the bed to his powerful torso and rugged face relaxed in slumber. With just his words and a few touches, he’d given her amazing bliss. Why did this particular man have such a magical effect on her body? On her psyche?

  Slowly she crawled out of bed and made use of the bathroom, including a gloriously hot shower. Leaving behind a cloud of steam, she dressed in a pair of short shorts with shiny buttons lining her hips from thigh to waist and a bright red blouse. After black liner, two coats of mascara, and crimson lipstick, she blinked into the mirror. Close enough. With a simple roll of her bangs, she secured them back with a polka-dot bow, then tiptoed into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee and sat, sipping at the table.

  Usually this was her favorite time of day. The quiet before the rush started, a time of reflection when she could organize her thoughts without being disturbed. Right now, she felt jumbled. And terribly alone. Though Stone lay in the next room, she missed him. Oddly, as attached as she had long been to Axel, she’d never pined for him in quite this way. She’d never wanted him as deeply.

  Lily nibbled on her lip. What did that mean? Was she falling for Stone?

  Probably.

  At the realization, she bolted from her seat and paced. But she couldn’t run from the truth.

  Falling for someone wasn’t part of her plan. On the other hand, she didn’t know how to stop it. Logically she asked where they could possibly go from here. It was one thing to have a screwed-up sex life when the man you shared it with didn’t actually want it. Stone, on the other hand, seemed to crave whatever she cou
ld give him. For as long as they remained together, Lily ached to give him all he sought. He deserved nothing less.

  As limited as her comfort zone was, could she even begin to satisfy him?

  She swallowed. Of that, she was less sure.

  A moment later, she heard his footsteps cross the hall. The bathroom door shut. Lily wasn’t ready to see him, to talk. She headed outside, slinking onto the wraparound porch to gather her thoughts.

  An overhang jutted out on the side of the cabin to provide welcome shade this time of year. Someone had built a bench under
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