“Harder,” he orders, his voice a gruff command, his h*ps arching into the suckle of my mouth, and I can feel him throbbing against my tongue.

My gaze lifts, and I watch him watching me, the grit of his teeth, the tightness of his jaw, the lust and fury, in his hot stare. It’s arousing to have this powerful, sexy man respond to me, want me, need me. And he does. I have never been as sure of this as I am now.

My fingers tighten around him and I draw on him with more force, taking him deeper. He pumps against me, driving to the back of my throat, f**king my mouth, and his desire is a living, breathing thing that possesses me. I can’t get enough of it, of him. My tongue slides down the pulsing underside of his cock, and he moans, deep and guttural. His head falls back against the tiles and I feel him slip into mindless oblivion.

My body burns from the taste of him, the feel of him against my tongue, with the power I have to take him away from his pain. I wrap my hand around his thigh for leverage, the tension there telling me how close he is to release.

“Good, baby,” he murmurs, his voice low, husky. Sexy. “So good.” His hand tightens on my head and urgency surges through him into me. He begins to pump harder, pushing his c**k deeper into my throat and I take him, I take him, hungering for the moment that arrives with a hoarse moan sliding from his lips. His shaft spasms in my mouth and I taste his salty release seeping into my taste buds, where his anger had bled not long before. I drag my tongue and lips up and down him, slowly easing him to completion.

His chin lowers and Chris gasps and stares down at me. I push to my feet and he drags me against him. “Tell me I helped,” I say, and it’s a demand. I need to know I can be what he needs, that we can get through the darkness together.

“You do more than help. You’re the reason I take my next breath.” The hoarse declaration whispers against my lips a moment before he kisses me, the tenderness in the touch of his tongue caressing mine telling me more than his words.

The kiss ends and we don’t speak. We lather each other up, lost in each other, and it has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with the deepening bond between us. When the moment comes that he presses me against the wall, and slides inside me, our eyes connect the way our bodies have, and what passes between us fills me in a way I have never been filled. He needs me and I need him. I’ve never doubted that to be true. I’ve always known we were two puzzle pieces that fit together in a hollow that is our pain. There was a time when I was certain we were too damaged not to destroy each other. Now I think we are saving each other.

Nineteen

My hope that the turbulence in Chris has passed is quickly dashed not long after we arrive at a charity luncheon. We sit at one of twenty-five tables and listen as a man tells potential donors the story of his child dying of cancer. I cannot help but think of Dylan and my gaze leaves the speaker to study Chris. He’s in profile to me, his expression impassive, his spine stiff. I know he knows I’m looking at him but he just stares forward, the muscle in his jaw flexing back and forth. I reach down and take his hand and he slowly turns to me, and for just a moment, he lets me see the pain splintering in amber flecks through his green eyes. I trace his cheek, silently telling him I understand, and he squeezes my hand, his attention slowly returning to the front of the room.

Once again, a stark certainty fills me. Chris is darkness and pain, and no matter how much he says he has that part of him under control, he doesn’t. I’m not sure he truly wants to have it under control. I want to heal him, to be there for him, but I wonder if I really can be. I’m not sure he will let me.

This thought lingers with me through the rest of the speakers, and I am relieved when the luncheon comes to a close, but there is no fast escape from the event. Chris and I mingle with the guests and I’m amazed at how well he maintains a façade of lightheartedness, tossing out just the right comments at the right times, to bring smiles to many faces.

An hour later, we are at the hospital visiting some of the kids, and Chris crafts sketches of funny animals and cartoon characters. Amazingly, no one but me seems to notice how troubled he is. I watch him, seeing beyond my gorgeous, sexy man to the man who, despite his own pain, gives so much to these families, and I fall even more in love with him.

Once we’ve finished our visits, Chris and I are heading down the hall toward Dylan’s room, which we plan to make our final destination, when Chris stops walking and glances down at a text message.

The grim look on his face has me worried. “What?” I demand.

He punches in a message before replying. “Blake says the lock on the storage unit wasn’t changed but the unit looked rifled through. He wanted to know if things were thrown everywhere when we were last there.”

“No. Tell him no.”

“I already did.” He reads another message, starting to relay information as he does. “He thinks that lowlife PI changed the locks while the power was off and the combination was popped open.”

I see where this is going and fill in the blanks. “We didn’t seal the unit with my lock. We popped his into place so he could return when he was ready.”

“Right. I’m sure he was looking for that opportunity the night you met him. We can assume he replaced the original lock that was yours when he got what he wanted out of the unit.”

My head begins to throb. “How bad was it rummaged through?”

“Sounds like her things are tossed all over the place.”

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