Carter reed 2, p.19
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       Carter Reed 2, p.19

         Part #2 of Carter Reed series by Tijan
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  “No, but sitting around doing a Sudoku puzzle will just put me back to sleep. I figure it’s the two birds with one stone thing.” She nodded to the bag again. “Thought it would help both my body and mind.”

  “Emma,” I said as I stepped inside and shut the door. “You need to rest.”

  She shot me a look. “You’re not resting.”

  Because I couldn’t. Because there was no time. “Emma.”

  “Stop.” She rolled her eyes and resumed the stance to punch again. Arms up. Feet apart. Shoulders back. “I’m useless right now, so let me do this. It makes me feel helpful, at least.”

  “Emma, you have to rest. That will make your mind strong again.”

  “No.” She closed her eyes and seemed in pain as she lifted her hands to press against her temples. “You don’t understand. I—fuck it. They took her, and I can’t—” Her face contorted. She looked in agony. “They took my sister because of me, and I can’t do a damn thing about it.” Rearing back, she punched the bag in a savage motion. “My sister—because of this.” Her hand curled up and shot toward her face, like she was going to punch herself.

  I grabbed for her, but she stopped just short of hitting herself. She looked at her hand, a hair’s width away from her nose, and a sickening laugh left her. Tears rolled down her face as she bent over, still laughing, still crying.


  She looked up. “I’m miserable, Carter. They’re torturing her because of me.”


  “Yes. Me!”

  “No.” I grabbed her and hauled her close. “They’re torturing her because of me, because I love you, because I won’t let you go. That’s why.” My pulse raced. I loved her, and I was almost crazy because of it. She couldn’t blame herself. “Me, Emma. It’s my fault. Not yours. If you want to punish someone, punish me. I should’ve let you go a year ago—”

  Her eyes went wild, and she surged up on her toes, moving against me. “No.”

  “—but I couldn’t.” I gentled my tone. I needed to get control of myself. “I couldn’t. I’m sorry. I couldn’t let you go.”

  “No, Carter.” A whimper slipped out as she shook her head. “No. You can’t say that.”

  “It’s the truth.”

  “I love you. This was my fault—”

  “Stop it!” I shouted.

  She kept hurting herself. I saw the pain that flashed in her eyes as she cast blame on her actions, on her being herself.

  “She’s your blood family, and you can be curious about her,” I said, trying to be calm. “You can want to get to know her. That’s normal. That’s the right thing, a person should be able to do that. But you can’t, because of me. All of this is because of me. My god, you’re allowed to want to have a family. That’s what she is. That’s what I did. That’s the whole reason we’re in this mess, because I couldn’t be alone. AJ was dead. You were safer away from me than with me. So I let you go, but I went to the mafia. Because of that choice, your sister was taken.”

  “Carter,” she whispered.

  “Stop, Emma.” She was breaking down, and I couldn’t stop it, any of it. Every day she broke a little bit more—every time I came home without her sister. She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t healing. This was because of me. “This is my fault. Never yours.”


  She wanted to fight. Fine. I’d teach her how to fight. I gestured to the punching bag. “Show me your stance.”


  “Show me. If that was me, how would you stand against me?”

  “I…” Her eyebrows furrowed, and she tilted her head to the side. “What do you mean?”

  I moved around the bag to stand beside it and gestured for Emma to square against me. “I’m a Bartel. I’m coming at you. How would you fight me?”

  She raised her little hands, already formed into fists.

  “No,” I said.

  “What?” She lowered her hands.

  “Raise them up again.”

  She did, and I swept an arm around her, tucking her against my side. I walked in a small circle, carrying her. She couldn’t kick me. Her arms were trapped against my body. Her only weapon was her teeth. She could bite me, but that wouldn’t kill me. After setting her down, I asked, “Do you know what you did wrong?”

  “Besides doing what you told me to do?” she retorted. The tears and hysterics had ceased. The fighting spirit had come back to her, putting color in her cheeks again. She blew a short puff of air, cooling herself. Her hands went to her hips, and she struck a defiant pose. Her chin lifted. “Okay. Show me what I did wrong.”

  She was challenging me. Good. “You failed my test just by being in front of me. If you’re going hand-to-hand with a guy, especially someone who knows how to fight and is bigger than you, you won’t win. You come sideways. You come from behind. You catch him off guard.”

  “How do I do that?”

  “Distract him.”

  She looked down at her boobs and puffed out her chest. “With these? It’s you. Besides taking my clothes off, I don’t know how to distract you.”

  “Not me.” I fought back a grin. “Though your girls look especially good right now.” They strained in her sports bra and sweat-soaked shirt. They perked up even more under my gaze.

  She cursed. “Stop it. Teach me how to fight.”

  “Know your opponent.” I tapped the side of my head. “Get in here. Figure out what he wants. If it is knowledge, attention, his ego stroked—whatever it is, you give it to him. And you get a weapon. As soon as his guard is dropped, you hit him hard. You put all your weight behind that weapon. You have to make the first contact successful. He needs to be knocked unconscious, or he’s ready, and he’s pissed. If you don’t have a gun, he’ll get you. That’s a guarantee. Don’t set yourself up for failure.”

  She sighed. “That’s easier said than done. I don’t know the Bartels—”

  “Yes, you do. What do they want?”


  Ice plunged through my veins at her answer. Hell no. That wouldn’t happen.

  “So use that,” I said, forcing my voice to stay even. “Use me. They want me. They want information. You can give that to them, but once the wall is dropped—”

  She nodded. She was so eager. “I got it. Disarm. Weapon. Crack. Knock him unconscious. I can do that.”

  I should have taught her some moves, maybe some kicks, lunges, how to twist and evade, but as I kept looking at her, the idea of teaching her faded fast and the idea of taking her to bed quickly replaced it. Fuck. I wanted her. Every day. Every night. She was mine.

  Her chest heaved up and down. The rest of her body was soaked in sweat, and she’d even taped her hands, like I did. She’d gone through so much, and the idea that she was training to go through more knotted my own hands into fists.

  She noticed my reaction. Her eyes lingered on my hands. “Carter?”

  “You shouldn’t have to learn how to do this.” My voice dipped low and hoarse. It was my job to protect her. I wasn’t doing that job well enough. “I’m so goddamn sorry for this.”

  “Stop.” Her shoulders dropped, and she came to stand in front of me. Her hands rested on my hips, and she looked up at me. Her eyes were warm and soft. Her lips opened, and she swallowed. I saw concern in her eyes. “Carter, I’m not in the life because of you. Stop blaming yourself. I came to you. Remember? My roommate was being raped. My brother was killed. I killed Jeremy Dunvan. Me. You wanted me to see past Ben’s manipulations, remember? I did. I saw the other side of the world, and I’ve gotten myself prepared. All of this isn’t because of you. You’re forgetting one thing. I wouldn’t have my sister if it wasn’t for you. She found me because the media is obsessed with you. I have you to thank for my sister.”

  There was still a bruise at the corner of her eye. It was tiny and yellow, but it was there. It shouldn’t have been. “Emma,” I whispered, dropping my head to rest my forehead against hers. “I’ll get her back. I pro

  “Stop.” Her hand went to my lips. “Stop.”

  Her eyes darkened, and the need for her spiked in me. I reached for her without thinking and hoisted her in the air. Her legs parted as I peeled off her shirt and bra. She fit against me, like she was made for me. Grasping the back of her head, I pulled her lips down to mine. One touch from them, and I was in a desert. I needed more, just more of everything. My blood was damn boiling. As I backed her up to the wall, Emma arched backward, pushing her breasts against my chest. I reached out to lock the door, and after that, it was just her. All of her. All of me.

  I kissed everywhere. I caressed all over her. My god, I loved this woman. Cupping her breast, I ran my hand over her nipple. It sprang up, and she gasped.

  “Carter,” she moaned, grinding into me.

  I knew. I know. I needed to be in her. She was beautiful. So damn beautiful. I wanted to savor every time with her. I wanted to relish every inch of her. Setting her against the wall, I knelt and kissed my way down. Her lips. Her chin. Her throat. Her chest. Between her breasts. Each of her breasts. My tongue swept around her nipple, and I sucked before continuing down to her stomach. My hands cradled her hips, and I felt her starting to tremble as my mouth lingered there.

  She grabbed a handful of my hair and held on, like she was guiding me. A jolt of pleasure surged in me, and I lowered her shorts, then took her in my mouth. She bucked under me and another moan came from her. Her whole body shuddered now. I kept licking and sucking. I loved this woman. I was going to love every part of her.

  “Carter.” She tried to pull me up. “Please.”

  I thrust my tongue inside her, but she’d had enough. She jerked on my hair again, so I stood and used my fingers. They thrust inside her, going deep, and lifting her off the floor. One of her legs wrapped around my waist as I leaned over her, my fingers going in and out. I held her weight and kept her still. I kept moving. In and out. Deeper, then pulling out, plunging back in.

  I looked up to see that she was watching me. Her eyes were lidded, darkened with lust, but I saw the love she had for me. I groaned. I couldn’t stay out of her anymore. “Fuck it.” I hoisted her up one more time, and Emma was waiting for me. She was ready. Her other leg wrapped around my waist again, and then I was in her. All the way.

  We moved together.

  I kept thrusting, and she grinded against me. Our hips strained against each other. I didn’t think I could get more inside her, but she changed our angle, and suddenly, I was there. I was so deep. As I kept sliding in and out of her, I closed my eyes and just felt her. She trailed a hand down my face, tracing my lips.

  That small touch. So gentle. So loving. That was Emma. Then she took hold of my hip and began matching my movements. She pounded down on me, as hard as I was going. We were screwing and making love, all at the same time.

  I felt my climax coming. I didn’t want it to. I wanted to hold out, and I slowed, gripping her hips so she slowed as well. As she did, she held herself still, and my hand went to her entrance. I began rubbing over it, applying pressure and then softening as she gasped. Then, when I felt her body starting to tense, I began moving inside her again.

  She was coming.

  I kept touching her, kept thrusting in her.

  Her legs suddenly convulsed, wrapping my waist in an ironclad grip, and I felt her come. Her entire body lifted, arching against me. She kept trembling, and I waited, going a little slower. As she started to subside, I watched. I waited. Then her eyes opened, and she bit down on her lip, nodding to me.

  It was my turn.

  I began pounding into her. Harder. Deeper. Shit. I would never have enough of this woman. Ever. Emma worked with me, holding my hips as an anchor while she lifted her body up and down, too. I leaned a hand against the wall above her head, my other hand grabbed her thigh, and I kept going. I was going to come. It was nearing. I closed my eyes, once more going into her, and it washed over me. Waves of pleasure rolled through me, leaving me weakened and satiated. No, that was Emma. No other woman made me feel like this. It was her, only her.

  Opening my eyes, I found her watching me and smiling as her chest heaved for air.

  “I love you,” she murmured.

  Goddamn. I kissed her and whispered against her lips, “I love you, too.”


  She sounded so sad. I pulled back and waited. A hand always punched through my chest when I heard that tone from her, when she was hurting.

  “I’m scared you won’t get her back.”

  That hand was still in my chest, and it rammed further down, all the way to my gut. I shook my head. The hand kept ripping through me, but I said, “I will find her. I promise.”

  A voice in my head warned me not to lie to her, but I told him to shut up. I would, but I couldn’t promise to find her alive. I prayed Emma didn’t push that. I couldn’t say those words. I couldn’t lie to her.

  She didn’t.

  She nodded and leaned against me, letting me hold all of her weight. I was grateful to hold her there, just enjoying the feel of her in my arms. I would hold her till my last breath, if I could.


  We tensed, hearing Michael clear his throat on the other side of the door.

  “I don’t know what I’m interrupting in there, but I have to interrupt,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m going to keep apologizing because, again, I have no idea what I’m interrupting, and I have to do that. Interrupt. That’s what I’m doing right now, and I’d punch a guy for doing this to me—”

  “What is it?” A growl formed in the back of my throat.

  “Uh. Yeah. Peter and Drake are back.” He paused. “They found Andrea.”

  Emma gasped, shoving me back. She dropped to the floor and ran for the door, but I caught her arm, swinging her back to me. “What?” A snarl twisted her lips.

  I grabbed her shirt from the floor and pushed it against her chest.

  “Oh.” As she covered herself, I pulled up her shorts. She glanced down and another, “Oh,” left her lips. “Yeah. Thank you.”

  I zipped myself up, grinning down at her. “You’re mine. Not theirs.”

  She reached up and pressed her lips against mine. “You’re mine, too.” Then she had the door open and ran through it, asking, “Where is she?”

  Peter and Drake had found her. That information was cemented in me, securing my hope. She was alive. She had to be. I was ready to go with them, fight beside them, but Carter wouldn’t have it. Peter had been shot as they got away. They were going to regroup, but I had to stay back and tend to Peter.

  At first I refused, but I saw the warning from Carter. If I didn’t, he said he would lock me in the bathroom and be damned the damage I would do as I tried to get out. Fine. I told him I would stay back. I would dress Peter’s wound.

  That was what he wanted to hear. So that’s what I said.

  And now, after seeing that the bullet had gone all the way through Peter’s shoulder, and after finishing his bandages, I had another item on my agenda.

  Spying a bungee on the floor behind his chair, I pulled it through a loop on his pants, tying it in a firm knot to the chair where he sat. It wouldn’t stop him, but it would give me the element of surprise. That was all I needed. I waited another second, but he wasn’t paying attention. It was now or never.


  I secured the end of the bandage over his wound and stepped back. He’d put his gun on the counter behind us. I knew what I was going to do, but I was an idiot. Still, I didn’t see another way around him, and with my decision finalized in my head, I stepped backward. He inspected the bandage as I took one more step backward and reached behind me. My hand closed around the gun’s end.

  “Hmm?” He lifted his arm to look. “What’d you say, Em?” He looked now.

  I held my breath. He didn’t know what I had in my hand. He just saw the set of my jaw and the determination in my eyes.

  “No, Emma.” He
shook his head. “Let them handle it. It’s for the best.”

  It wasn’t. My alarms had been going off since he got back. He’d been wounded. Drake had been taken. Carter and Michael left to rescue him, but it was all wrong. Why let him go? Why now? It was a trap. Carter knew it, too. I could tell by the way he seared me with a look, but he had to go. They had one of his men, and Drake was family now. He had to go, but so did I.

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