“You need to decompress, unwind.”
She choked on a laugh. “Are you propositioning me?”
“No… God, no.” He stroked back her tangled hair, his mind finally settling on a way he could help her, something productive he could do during this downtime until morning. “Not that I wouldn’t welcome the chance to be with you again, but it’s clear you need something else from me right now.”
“What would that be?”
His fingers forked through her silken blonde—dirty—locks. “I’m going to wash your hair.”
Anticipation curling through her, Amelia looked from Hugh to the opaque curtain over the nursery nook, then back again. As he stood by the open bathroom door, his steady gaze met hers and she couldn’t miss his intent. She also couldn’t ignore the need inside her, the desire to be with him again.
Hugh raised an eyebrow along with a bottle of shampoo. “There’s homemade shampoo, and soap with bay geranium and another with orange sage, all locally grown, I’m guessing. Your choice. What do you say?”
“You’re offering to wash my hair?” She closed the last few steps between them and flattened her palms to his chest. Her fingers played along the soft cotton of his shirt.
“I live to serve.”
She looked up at him through her eyelashes. “Perhaps I can take care of that myself.”
“The nozzle on the shower is insanely low and I wouldn’t want you to get a backache.” He stroked along her scalp in a tempting, teasing preshow. “Thought I would do you a favor, since your hand is bandaged.”
“Hmmm… I had such good medical treatment, my hand hardly hurts at all.” She trailed her palms down his chest, over his abs, which were so ripped she could count through the six pack. “I could just sit in the tub and let all that amazing well water wash over me until I’m finally, finally clean.”
“Yes, you could.” He linked his fingers with hers and tugged. “Or you could sit in the tub while I clean every inch of you.”
A shiver of possibility tingled through her. “What about Joshua?”
“The kid’s asleep behind that curtain. Exhausted. Out for the count.” He grazed his mouth over her ear, hot breath and even hotter proposition flowing. “We can leave the bathroom door open to listen for him.”
He dispelled concerns with a few sensible words. Sounded perfect. His hands along the back of her neck felt even better than perfect, and exactly what she needed after the hell they’d endured together. Why wasn’t she pitching off her clothes and racing for the tub?
Because she was finally feeling safe enough to think about the future. “Are you suggesting we pick up where we left off in the supply closet?”
“Whatever does or doesn’t happen in there will be different than the first time. Right now is about us making decisions rather than just reacting.” His forehead fell to rest on hers for two deep exhales before he continued, “I’m suggesting that I wash your hair, since you mentioned wanting it cleaned three times over.”
Her eyes drifted closed as she savored the gentle pressure soothing away a headache she hadn’t even realized was there. “You sure do know how to make a pitch.”
“So what’ll it be?”
She snuggled closer, hugging him low around his waist. “Orange sage and your magic fingers.”
“And just so you know, this will be different than that time in the storage closet.” He backed her into the retro pink washroom.
“How so?” She chewed her bottom lip as his next step danced her farther, the heat of his hard thigh pressing between her legs.
“This time will be slower.”
Goose bumps prickled along her skin. “And?”
“It’s not going to be as easy for you to make a speedy exit afterward.”
His hands on her hips, he backed her the rest of the way. Her bare feet padded along the raspberry tile until her calves bumped against the old-fashioned claw tub. Moonlight streamed through the skylight in a romantic rosy glow.
Her chin tipped. “I hear you, and I don’t have plans to go anywhere. Rather, I wouldn’t go anywhere even if I wasn’t completely dependent on Jocelyn’s hospitality right now.”
He dipped his head and she waited, anticipated his kiss, only to have his words caress her ear again. “Do you want me to help you undress?”
“I think I’ll take care of my clothes.”
“By all means, take your time. I’m not in any hurry.” He leaned against the sink, crossing his feet at the ankles.
Grabbing the edge of her shirt, she tugged up, inch by inch. His heated gaze warmed her bared flesh.
Grinning, she toed off her shoes one at a time. He folded his arms over his chest, seemingly a disinterested observer. Except she could see how thickly, how obviously aroused he was. So much so, he would have to ditch his own clothes soon.
She shimmied off the pants and stood in just the white cotton underwear and bra. And how ironic that the passion she saw in his eyes far surpassed anything she’d seen with her husband, even when she’d spent a fortune at the lingerie store.
Argh! She cut that train of thought off short. Right now she didn’t want to think about her ex-husband. The past needed to stay there for the moment.
She yanked off the bra and scraped down the panties, kicking them all into a heap. Hugh raised an eyebrow at her abruptness. She stepped into the old-fashioned tub, the spray from the low-set shower hitting her. Her stomach muscles contracted at the luxurious spray of water.
“It’s warmer than I expected,” she said, her ni**les beading from the bliss. “Lukewarm, sure, but it’s water, water, water, and more water…” She tipped her head back and let the stream hit her on the face.
“Your bandage is getting wet,” he cautioned.
“Then you’ll just have change it for me afterward.” She glanced sideways at him, rivulets trickling down her neck. “Now hurry up and undress so you can warm me.”
“Military talk for oh yeah.”
Muscles rippling, he tugged his borrowed T-shirt over his head. It was such an everyday thing, taking off a shirt, but this was Hugh, bronzed and defined, with a tattoo across his left pec, some kind of musical scroll that made her curious.
Hugh stood in just khaki pants, low-slung on his hips. Only his pants. And that skylight let in just enough moonlight for her to see him.
The hair on the back of her neck prickled with awareness. His chest and feet were bare and damp from water misting out of the shower. Somehow it was the naked feet that made things feel more intimate. He wasn’t just some ripped man of the month, eye candy with his shirt off. He was a man alone with her—a man she happened to have had sex with not too long ago. Back before they’d actually known anything about each other.
She extended her hand for him to join her, waggling her fingers. “Join me.”
“Not yet.” He shook his head. “I told you. I’m going to wash your hair.”
His hands landed on her shoulders, gently easing her down to sit again. Moaning, she sank into the tub and clutched her legs, her forehead resting on her bent knees. Porcelain was cool against her bottom, then warm and warmer as the water gathered… Yeah. This was good.
He grabbed a plastic bottle with a homemade label—“Orange sage” written in calligraphy with a piece of fruit drawn in the corner, signed JPS, Jocelyn Pearson-Stewart. Would a wheeling-dealing criminal make her own soaps and shampoos? She relaxed a little deeper in the tub. The lukewarm beads caressed her like a liquid orgasm tingling over her dry, scraped skin.
Hugh sat on the edge and rubbed the shampoo over her hair, gathering up the ends to work it all into a lather. His fingertips pressed along her temples. He thrust his fingers through her hair and massaged her scalp.
He was thorough, God, he was thorough, with all three shampoos and rinses that tingled from the roots all the way to her toes. The scented suds cascaded down her body, washing away grime, exhaustion, and something else indefinable. Barriers, maybe? Or the will to hold herself together. And in this vulnerable turned-on moment, emotions slammed over her faster than a tidal wave.
A shaking started deep inside her. Was she losing it? After all they’d been through, now she had to unravel? She hadn’t even realized her heel was stuck in the drain and the tub had started filling up. Her jaw trembled and she was pretty sure her legs wouldn’t hold her. Much longer and she would start crying over, hell, everything.
She turned her head on her knees, letting the spray caress her face. “Really, you should join me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Somberly, he shucked his pants and underwear at the same time.
What a time to realize she hadn’t seen him completely naked before. The supply closet had been too dim, their encounter too hurried. But she looked him fully over now, taking in the raw strength of him. Not just bulging arms and muscular roped legs, but his ridged stomach, the breadth of his back declared his strength beyond anything she’d ever witnessed. She’d certainly seen all that strength in action, the power that couldn’t be gained from just pumping iron in a weight room.
And the tattoos. Plural. While she’d noticed the music scrolled across his chest, she definitely hadn’t noticed the green footprints inked on his calf. There was a story there, no doubt.
Except then he stepped into the water and her thoughts scattered. He sat behind her, bringing the water higher around them as his legs stretched out the length of the tub. His thick erection pressed against her back with a promise as large as everything else about the man.
He cupped her shoulders, guiding her to rest against his chest. “Relax…”
Really? Really? She was far from relaxed, with tension of another delicious kind seeping through her.
Then his hands slid forward to cup her br**sts and she eased down into the water, giving him fuller access to keep caressing, soothing. The lingering soap on his hands made his touch slick against her nipples. The calluses along the pads of his finger rasped an added pleasure with each stroke, touch, plucking. His hands splayed wide, palming her in his broad, possessive hold.
Heat pooled between her legs, a sensation that had more to do with Hugh than the shower. And from the way he throbbed against her spine as she moved, he was enjoying this every bit as much as she was. Although, she could take things even higher by being a more active participant.
Swiping the washrag from the hook and the bottle of homemade liquid soap, she lathered a cloth, eyeing his muscled hairy legs on either side of her. She skimmed her fingers carefully around the angry red scratch on his calf where Oliver had cut him during their struggle in the van.
She dabbed along the angry red line. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m a medic, remember?” He kissed and nipped down her neck and along her shoulder. “I can take care of myself. I’m also military, which means I get a crap ton of immunizations. Think tetanus times twenty.”
Her hand slowed along his leg, the water chilling around her. “In case you’re injured in the line of duty.”
“Uh-huh,” he mumbled against her neck.
“And have you been?”
He stroked down from her br**sts to her stomach, inching lower still until his fingertips were under the soapy water. And then he reached lower still, dipping one hand between her legs. “Do you really want to talk about that right now?”
Her knees parted and it was her own slickness, her arousal, that smoothed his touch back and forth along her plumped, oversensitive flesh.
“Guess not.” She shook her head against his chest, her breath hitching as his fingers dipped lower, lower… just low enough. “Oh… Definitely not.”