Falling in deeper, p.9
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       Falling in Deeper, p.9
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         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  future, my family—everything. That answer your question?”

  “Yes.” It certainly was honest. She let out a breath as she scoured the nearby cabinets for a pair of plates.

  “How did the rest of your family die?” he asked.

  She should have known he wouldn’t simply give up.

  “It doesn’t really matter because they’re gone now.”

  Stone looked as if he disagreed but didn’t say so. “Where are you from?”

  She checked the burgers and grabbed the sandwich rolls, slicing them in half while trying to keep her calm. “Not talking about my past.”

  “How long have you been in Dallas?”

  “Longer than I should have apparently.”

  Lily glanced at Stone. He didn’t look thrilled by her answer, but he was far from losing his cool. “I’m not the enemy.”

  “That remains to be seen. I told you when we first met that it takes me a long time to trust.” She plopped the burgers down on the buns, then cracked open two eggs into the hot pan.

  “You did,” he acknowledged with a nod, then rose. “I’ll check to make sure we’re locked up tight. Don’t want anyone getting in.”

  Or out.

  As the eggs fried, she listened to the air around her. Everything sounded so still, quiet. She wasn’t used to it. At Dominion, something always seemed to be going on. People talked and played, often loudly. Even in her apartment building, her neighbors had been young professionals and single parents. She’d always heard voices and televisions or doors slamming.

  Now? Absolute silence. It made her uneasy. For the first time, she wished Stone would come back. She’d say she was better off with the devil she knew, but she didn’t really know much about him. An ex-con with a sad story, he’d jumped in to save her for reasons only he understood. She bit her lip, uncertain what to make of him.

  Frowning, she flipped the eggs, waited a few moments, then finished plating the sandwiches and threw some Parmesan on top, along with a little salt and pepper.

  As she set the food on the table, Stone entered again and sat. “Everything smells good.”

  She scrounged up a couple of paper towels and some silverware. “If you’re still hungry after this, I can make you another.”

  “Thanks.” He rose from the table and hunted through a cabinet in the living room, then returned with a bottle. “You object to vodka?”

  “You changed your mind?”

  He gave her a single sharp nod. “You stop when I say so. Is that clear?”

  Lily swallowed. Something in him had changed. He’d morphed from interrogator to Dom. She heard it in the tone of his voice. She risked a glance his way. Yeah, it was all over his face.

  Against her will and better judgment, arousal laced her blood, making her tingle in some uncomfortably personal places. A disturbing excitement left her breathless. She couldn’t seem to not stare. And that only made her nipples pebble and the ache between her legs coil tighter.

  She ripped her gaze away. “Yes.”

  He looked as if he had something else on his mind. Her lack of protocol? She refused to call him Sir. She was afraid that once she started, she would never stop.

  With a defiant glance, she lifted her chin. “Are you pouring?”

  “Yep.” He produced a shot glass from his big fist and tipped the bottle, filling it. “Go.”

  “Why are you giving me booze?” To interrogate her while she was under the influence?

  He cocked his head and sent her a shrewd stare. “Why did you ask for it? And don’t give me some flippant shit that you’re thirsty.”

  No, she knew that wouldn’t be smart. “Because I still feel as if I’m shaking all over from the car bomb. I haven’t slept in days.”

  “And you were hoping to escape for a few hours by passing out?”

  “Something like that.”

  “You’ll sleep. I’ll make sure of it. Drink.”

  “Are you going to ply me with more questions?” she asked suspiciously.

  “Not tonight.”

  Lily wasn’t sure she believed him, but the chance for a little bit of oblivion was too much to pass up. She lifted the glass and sent him a mocking salute. “Cheers.”

  Without another word, he dug into his sandwich, eschewing silverware in favor of good old-fashioned eating with his hands. As egg yolk ran down one of his fingers, he licked it off. Instead of being annoyed or disgusted, she found him sexy . . . primal. He moaned and closed his eyes when he ate. His strong jaw worked. His Adam’s apple bobbed. She couldn’t stop staring.

  What was wrong with her?

  Lily wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to that question, so she tossed the vodka back, relishing the burn of the alcohol down her throat. Then she dug into her sandwich, carefully carving it with her knife and fork.

  When she looked up again, she found Stone watching her. “What?”

  A glance revealed that his plate was empty. “That was fantastic.”

  His opinion probably shouldn’t matter, but she couldn’t help the thin ribbon of pleasure that wound through her at his approval. “Thanks.”

  He fell silent as she finished what she could of her sandwich. Knowing his eyes were on her, she couldn’t eat anymore. With his big presence and intent stare, he rattled her. Tension thickened the air between them. Lily had never felt anything like it, but she understood damn well that it was sexual.

  Licking her lips, she shoved the shot glass closer to the vodka. “Another?”

  Stone took a long time to answer. “All right. If you’ll agree to try to sleep afterward.”

  As tired as she felt? And to avoid more questions? “Sure.”

  He poured. She drank and savored the burn. Funny, she felt more relaxed but not unwired. And nothing was going to make the terror of her car blowing up less than twenty yards away from her disappear.

  Stone screwed the top back on the bottle of vodka. “I’ll do the dishes. You take a shower. The bathroom is the first door on the left. The bedroom is directly across the hall. Meet me there when you’re done.”

  She stiffened. “Why?”

  “Not to violate you against your will. I haven’t hurt you yet and I’m not planning on it.”

  Lily had to admit he had a point. “All right.”

  With a nod, he began clearing the table and washing the dishes. She retreated to the bathroom with her tote and suitcase. After a relaxing bath in the old claw-foot tub that felt like a little slice of heaven, she should feel more relaxed. All she could think about was that Stone would be waiting for her in the bedroom.

  Lily dug through her suitcase. She found a blush silk-and-lace number that Callie had given her for her birthday. It was great for luxurious slumber in the summer but way too seductive. Instead, she grabbed one of Axel’s old T-shirts, stained with dye from one of her many hair-color experiments. The short sleeves hung down to her elbows. The hem fell to her knees.

  She washed her face and took down the victory rolls that swept the long bangs from her face. Then she brushed the curls from her hair, letting the strands fall past her shoulders. After a quick brush of her teeth, she dragged in a deep breath. Now or never.

  The five steps across the hall were some of the hardest she’d ever taken. When she walked into the bedroom, Stone stood beside a four-poster bed. He’d tugged down the cozy blankets and sheets.

  “Get in,” he instructed.

  When he stepped back to give her room, she climbed into the bed, her gaze never leaving his. She pulled up the covers as if they would protect her. As if some part of her didn’t want to strip off everything she wore and try to actually enjoy the touch of a man.

  But no, she’d just freeze up. Like she always did.

  Stone swept her hair back from her face and bent to her. Lily’s heart revved as he came closer, closer . . . But he only kissed her cheek.

  “Close your eyes. Rest,” he murmured.

  “Where are you sleeping?”

  “I’ll figur
e it out. I want to check in with Jack and reassure Thorpe before I call it a night.”

  He didn’t say anything else, just shut the door behind him. She felt alone—in a bad way. Usually, she preferred solitude. Tonight, she simply felt lonely.

  Lily tossed. Turned. Shaped her pillow. Rolled to her side, then her back. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw terror or sadness or . . . Stone, who confused her. Lily had no idea how long she’d been seeking sleep, only that the sheets had turned warm, the ceiling fan was completely ineffective against the August humidity, and she didn’t want to lie there alone anymore.

  As if he’d read her thoughts, Stone opened the door a moment later and eased inside, his footfalls nearly silent. “You’re not asleep.”

  Why rehash the obvious? “No.”

  He watched her, taking her in. Then he reached behind his head, grabbed a handful of his shirt, and peeled it off. His tattoos covered both shoulders and spilled onto his pectorals. He was every bit as powerfully built as she’d imagined, and as she stared, she couldn’t breathe.

  “Stone?”

  He didn’t answer, simply kicked off his shoes and shucked his pants. Her breath caught at the sight of him in nothing but a pair of dark briefs. He put underwear models to shame. His body—and his erection—looked beyond hard.

  But the expression in his eyes undid her most. Understanding, concern, tenderness. Caring. God, why was he looking at her that way?

  He sauntered to the bed and pulled back the sheets on the other side. Lily thought she should object but she didn’t. She wanted to know what he intended, was desperate to find out what thoughts bounced around in his head.

  When he climbed in bed beside her, he did nothing but open his arms to her. “Yes, I have an erection. I know it, just like I know you saw it. Rest assured, I can control it. Come here. I want to hold you until you fall asleep.”

  It was a sweet notion. “I won’t be able to nod off with someone touching me.”

  Even the idea made her shudder.

  “Humor me.” He motioned her closer.

  No denying that he scared Lily, but a part of her just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to touch him, feel his strength. Besides, he wouldn’t leave her in peace until she complied.

  With a sigh, she rolled over and laid her head on his chest and listened to the beating of his heart.

  Chapter Seven

  WHEN Stone woke just after six a.m. with his arms all full of Lily, he wanted so badly to wake her with a kiss, then roll her onto her back and bury himself inside her. For now, he found himself equally content to hold her close.

  Through the gray fingers of light filtering through the bedroom’s lone window, he watched her sleep. She looked young and so innocent that it hurt. Nestled against his body, she’d relaxed utterly, giving him her trust, even if temporarily and unconsciously. But if he lay with her much longer, he would wake her up in a way guaranteed to freak her out and earn him a kick in the balls. Besides, he had work to do if he wanted them both to be free.

  Stone crept from the bed and brewed a cup of coffee. No doubt, he needed the liquid brainpower before starting this day.

  He’d barely swallowed his first sip when Jack Cole strode through the door, carrying a few bags, which he set on the kitchen table. “Morning.”

  “Hey. Lily is still sleeping.”

  “Perfect. How did you two get on last night?”

  Not half as well as he would have liked, but she wasn’t ready for any of the million and one sexual thoughts burning behind his retinas. “She’s wound tight. Like we suspected, trust is going to be a huge issue. Another woman might soften up enough to tell me something that resembles the truth about her past in the next two weeks, but I’m not sure about this one. I can’t afford to chip away at her slowly.”

  “Nope,” Jack agreed, grabbing a cup of coffee for himself.

  “I’ve been devising a plan to cut through her subterfuge about her name and past. I just need to gather more research. Shouldn’t be hard. Then we’ll get the truth on the table so we can start dealing with it.”

  “Is this plan going to set you back in the trust department?”

  “Probably, but not for long. I just don’t see a more expedient way to start talking about the truth.”

  “You work on that. In the meantime, I have some information for you. The press says that Canton and his wife are headed to an undisclosed location for a lovely vacation off the grid before what’s expected to be his announcement to join the race to the governorship.” Jack sneered. “That’s a tall tale, from what I’m hearing. His wife is in rehab—again—and he’s supposedly gone camping with a couple of his aides somewhere in Texas near the coast.”

  “In August? In the heat?” Stone shook his head as they sat at the kitchen table. “That’s bullshit. This time of year, the mosquito population there is in the millions. If he’s staying in a tent, they’ll eat him alive.”

  “He would know that since he spent his summers as a kid with his grandparents who lived near Galveston.”

  “On the other hand, it wouldn’t take him too long to drive from Galveston to Dallas . . . or wherever Lily might travel. I assume he brought the aides along to do his dirty work? After all, a guy like that has people.”

  “Unless Lily is personal enough for him to risk everything, yes.” Jack shrugged.

  Yeah, they could speculate about the plans of this violent asshole all day and still be wrong. Stone didn’t want to waste the time or energy now. “Thanks.”

  “Everything else good?” At Stone’s nod, he went on. “We’ve finally got decent cell service out here recently, so that should make communicating easy. I’ve brought you a few more groceries. Holler if you need anything else. I’m going to keep drilling down on Canton’s location.”

  “If that son of a bitch is close, I need to know.”

  “You do.” Jack sighed and looked as if he knew something he didn’t want to impart. “I have some other news. Somehow Axel got wind of Lily’s exploding car. He’s heading home on a flight to Dallas this afternoon.”

  That was all Stone needed, for Axel to come racing out here and undermine what little progress he’d made with Lily. If she had someone to rely on that she trusted more, Stone knew she’d never look to him. “Fuck.”

  “Exactly. Thorpe will try to hold him off for a few days. I’ll do my best to embroil Axel in something else but . . . I can’t make any promises.”

  “Thorpe still doesn’t want to tell Axel that ‘Misty’ isn’t real?”

  Jack shook his head. “He thinks it will only suck Axel deeper into the situation. I’ve known the guy for a long time. He’s got a hell of a protective streak. He’ll take that girl under his wing again. Probably insist on hiding her, too. And maybe she would let him. I think she’d rather go on pretending that Lily Taylor no longer exists.”

  “I agree.” And Stone intended to absolve her of that notion this morning. “Thanks for everything.”

  He and Jack worked well together, and it was nice to have an ally in his corner right now. They almost felt like friends. Stupid because Stone knew he was no hero. But that didn’t seem to matter to the man who sat across the table, sipping a cup of joe.

  “No problem. Oh . . .” Jack stood and fished into his pocket and retrieved a key. “I forgot. If you want to use the playroom, you’ll need this.”

  He dropped the little slice of precisely formed metal into Stone’s palm. No one had said that he should begin earning Lily’s
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