He sighed, and his eyes flicked down to the half-empty glass. He pulled it to his lips, and took a quick sip. I gave him a look, and he took the rest of it in one gulp.

I smiled in victory, and I had the overwhelming urge to taste what was left of it on his lips. I was leaning forward to do just that when he said, “My turn.”

I frowned, but a deal was a deal.

He paused, his gaze boring into mine, and his thumb traced my jaw. I could feel the pull of pleasure on my eyelids, and I had to fight to maintain eye contact.

“The other night . . . what did you mean when you said you were tired of being?”

His words crashed over me, and I flinched backward like I’d met a wall of water instead of his curious eyes.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I turned my face away, but he nudged my jaw back to look at him.

“It’s just . . . I look at you, and I see a beautiful woman in the prime of her life, traveling to exotic places, with the world at her fingertips. But I think that’s just what you want people to see.” I glanced around me, panicked and uncomfortable, as he continued. “And maybe I love a mystery too, because I can’t seem to make myself stop thinking about what’s underneath all that, what you don’t let people see.”

His other hand came up, one finger grazing my temple like he could unlock some secret gate there. I flicked his hand away, and pulled out of his grasp.

“I told you . . . I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was wasted. You shouldn’t take one person’s drunk ramblings as truth.”


With my back to him, I leaned against the bar, and picked up his abandoned drink, taking a long pull.

He said, “I don’t believe you. I think it was the most honest thing you’ve said to me. Maybe to yourself, too.”

Jesus Christ. Like I needed him trying to play therapist.

“Again with the knight-in-shining armor bullshit. I don’t need you to take care of me.” I hadn’t needed that for a long time. “You don’t know anything about me. So whatever you think you’re doing, whatever you’re trying to fix in me, you can fuck off.”

I took another big swallow of his drink, but I didn’t taste any of the sweetness of it.

“Hey, I’m sorry. Don’t be upset.”

I could feel him at my back, and my heart was beating up in my throat. How had this derailed so quickly? I’d thought we were heading in the right direction.

“I’m not upset.” I finished his drink in another big gulp, and then tried to wave down the bartender. Before he could see me, though, Hunt took my hand and pressed it flat against the bar. He stood close behind me, and when he breathed in, his bare chest brushed my back.

He said, “Kelsey, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed. But don’t drink because you’re mad at me.”

I angled my head back at him, not bothering to turn around. “Apology accepted. And I’m drinking because I want to.”

“Just talk to me for a second.”

I’d had quite enough talking for the evening.

I raised my other hand to get the bartender’s attention, and Hunt spun me around, pressing me back into the bar.

“What the hell is your problem?”

“I just needed to talk to you for a second.”

“So you manhandle me like a caveman? Jesus!”

His lips curled into a devastating smile, and I swear if he made some crack about me calling him Jesus, I was going to smack that smile right off his face.

“I just wanted to apologize.”

“You already did that.”

“I know. But I really am sorry.”

“I don’t think you are. There’s this pattern that keeps cropping up, where you judge me when you have no right to do so. And when you’re not judging me, you’re prying into my life.”

“I’m not judging you. I promise. And the rest? That’s just the soldier in me . . . I’m too straightforward. If I want to know something, I just ask. If I want to do something, I do it.”

I rolled my eyes. That much was abundantly clear.

“Yeah, subtlety is definitely not your strong suit.”

His smile widened. “No. It definitely isn’t.”

“Well, then. If you’ll let me go, I think I’m going to go find Jenny and the others. Since I’m not allowed to order another drink and—”

I didn’t get to finish my rant as his hands cradled my jaw, and he kissed me.


I froze for a few seconds, in denial that this was actually happening. His lips brushed mine softly once, then twice. I exhaled and his grip on my jaw tightened. Then the softness disappeared as his mouth covered mine. He kissed me carefully, thoroughly, like a man who knew that desire hid with the devil in the details. He angled my head, explored my mouth, and I gave up control to him.

The first taste of him made my toes curl, and when he tugged me forward, bare skin colliding with bare skin, my brain took a much-needed vacation.

He kissed me feverishly, fiercely, like I was a battle he wanted to win, and with all the desperation of a man with nothing to lose.

I gripped the back of his neck and returned his kiss, faster and harder, want quickly burning into need. A low groan spilled from his mouth into mine, and his hand left my face to smooth across the curve of my ribs to the middle of my back. Fire followed his touch, and when his fingers tangled in the ties of my swimsuit, my back arched, pressing us tighter together.

He nipped my bottom lip, and I dug my fingers into his shoulders. His lips coasted down my chin to my neck. The heat of his breath touched my skin first, followed by the tip of his tongue. He pressed me back against the bar, and I was glad for the support at my back because I suddenly felt dizzy.

I pulled in a breath and even though there was no space between us, I tried to move closer. He was hard to my soft; and for a moment it felt as if my brain detached from my body, like I could see the way his hands clasped me tight and his body curled over mine, but I couldn’t feel it. The world took on that hazy quality of a dream, and a whimper escaped my lips at the thought that this might not be real.

Then his teeth grazed the sensitive skin over my pulse point, and the world snapped back into focus.

It was deliciously real.

He hummed against my neck, the movement of his mouth like a foreign language on my skin—exotic and unpredictable, and sexy as hell.

His kisses burrowed beneath my skin, sparking every nerve ending in my body. And like his kisses really were electric and short-circuited something in me, my legs grew weak, almost numb beneath me.

I took hold of his jaw, just the faintest feeling of scratches against my palm from his facial hair. Pulling his face up to mine, I met his cloudy eyes.

“I think I like your lack of subtlety.”

That familiar smirk tugged at his lips seconds before he tugged my mouth back to his. We were touching—from lips to toes—only touching. His hands gripped me tightly, but only in innocuous places. An ache bloomed low in my belly, and the neglected parts of my body were practically singing with need. I wanted him so bad, I was dizzy with it.

Really dizzy.

I began to have trouble matching his pace, unable to move my lips fast enough. I pulled back. My head was heavy, filled with sand, and I had to clutch his shoulders to keep from toppling backward.


His forehead leaned against mine, and he growled. “I should have just done that from the start.”

I tried to agree, but he must have kissed away some of my brain cells. I couldn’t get the words to leave my mouth, like there was a disconnect between my body and my brain.

His fingers brushed my cheek, but I couldn’t feel it. That was odd. How much had I had to drink again?

The dizziness swarmed in my head, thick and buzzing, and the world began to move of it’s own volition in my peripheral vision.

“Don’t tell me you’re speechless, princess.”

A giggle poured from my mouth, and he looked as surprised by it as I felt. I let go of his shoulder to cover my mouth, and without that grip, I began tipping sideways.

“Whoa!” His arms wrapped around my waist, and he pulled me up against him. My head tipped forward, too heavy for my neck to hold up, and I lay my numb cheek against his chest.


I tried to open my eyes and look at him again, but my eyelids were so heavy. I felt like I was on some atrocious carnival ride, one spin or flip away from coming apart at the hinges.

Was his saliva alcoholic? I didn’t understand how I could be feeling this way after one and a half drinks. That’s all I’d had, right? He’d finished the last of mine, and then I’d had his.

“My cheeks,” I mumbled.

His hands settled low on my back, hot and possessive. “What about them, princess?”

I tried to shake my head, but all I managed was to turn my head, my lips grazing the center of his chest. He sucked in a breath, and his grip tightened.

I leaned my forehead against him and whimpered a little. I could feel my insides pushing and pulling, reminiscent of the way I’d felt the other night when I’d been sick. But that didn’t make any sense.

He cradled my jaw, and lifted my head back. Our eyes met, and his went from interested to confused in seconds flat.

“Kelsey? What were you saying about your cheeks?”

“Can’t feel.”

“You can’t feel your cheeks?”

I couldn’t feel anything.


He tilted my head back farther, searching my eyes. The neon lights overhead flashed, blinding me. Black splashed across my vision, and I pulled away, stumbling. He caught me, holding me so tight against him that there was barely any weight on my feet.

He opened his mouth, but no words came out. He looked at me with dark, glassy eyes and a hanging jaw. He reminded me of a broken doll. I reached out and touched his lips, and his mouth closed. He looked less broken now, but his eyes were still clouded.

“Kelsey, you didn’t have anything to drink earlier, did you?”

I opened my mouth to say no, but my tongue felt too big for my mouth. So, I shook my head instead.

“Damn it. My drink.”

He lifted me up and sat me on the nearest barstool, and then he turned and called the bartender.

“This drink,” Hunt said. “Did you see anyone mess with it? Anyone touch it besides me or her?”

I didn’t hear if the bartender replied. My body just felt so heavy.

God, I was exhausted. When did I sleep last?

I didn’t even realize I was falling until Hunt’s arms closed around my middle, and he righted me. His face appeared before mine, our foreheads pressed together. He said something, but the sound was delayed, a couple seconds behind the movement of his mouth, and I couldn’t make sense of it. Hunt said my name, then again a few more times. I laughed because the more he said it, the less familiar it sounded.

“I’m taking you home,” he said.

I sighed. That sounded perfect.

I placed another kiss on his sternum, and then lay my head against him. I felt his heavy exhale above me. I wanted to keep kissing him, until there was no breath left in his lungs . . . or mine. But I was so tired. I touched his chest, directly over where his heart should be, and the calloused skin of his fingertips touched my bare waist in a grip that was strong and possessive and maddening.

“I’m sorry,” he said, low in my ear. “This is my fault. I should have been watching.”

Everything was spinning, while my cheek lifted up and down with his heavy breaths. I was on a carousel, moving in too many directions at once.

I wrapped my arms around his neck, wanting to reassure him. My fingers were numb, and all I got was pinpricks of feeling when I tried to move them.

Then his arms swept beneath my legs, and he held me against his warm chest, and I sighed in relief.

Most Popular