The sound of my mother’s scream rips through the air again and I ball my fists at the agony in the high, pained sound, knowing that she’s dying. Knowing that I can’t get to her.
“Mom!” Lara screams. “Mom!”
Flames encroach on me and I’m out of time. “Jump now, Lara!” I shout, my voice guttural and fierce as I shove open the bedroom door and go for the window, hoping I can get to her and my parents from the roof.
“Chad. Chad! Wake up.”
My eyes open and the motel room comes back to me. I’m squeezing Gia so tightly that I don’t know how she’s breathing. I’m barely breathing. I ease my hold on her. “Shit. Did I hurt you?”
“No, you just scared me. I was worried about you.”
I release her and sit up, grabbing my head and willing away the scent of smoke that I can’t seem to escape and the echoes of my mother’s screams—those damn gut-wrenching screams. Made worse by that bitch named Guilt who lives in my head and laughs like a wicked madwoman at the effort I make to shut her out.
Beside me, the bed shifts, and Gia scoots closer to me, her leg pressed to mine, her hand coming down on my back. “Are you okay?”
“No,” I growl roughly, irritated at the way she gets under my skin, the way she seems to magnify every sensation in my body. “I am not fucking okay.”
“I have nightmares. I understand.”
I snap, turning on her, pressing her to the mattress, holding her hands by her head like I’d done before. “That wasn’t just a nightmare. It was a memory. I was in my burning house, listening to my mother scream as she burned alive and I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t get to her.”
“Your sister was in the house?”
“Yes. Amy was there. But she was Lara then. She thankfully survived the fire and I had someone help me hide her. Then I left her alone, or thinking she was alone. She doesn’t know I’m alive.” More guilt burns through me and I release her and stand to pace the room, cursing the beam of sunlight coming through a tiny gap in the curtains that irritates me for no logical reason, wishing for the darkness that an adrenaline rush gives me. But all I have is this tiny room and the memory of my mother screaming. At least my father didn’t know what happened to him, or her. I press my fists into the wall, letting my head fall forward and fighting the urge to punch a hole in the damn thing.
Gia’s voice, directly behind me, radiates through me, and with it unwelcomed white-hot need. Desire. Lust. I tell myself that it’s wrong. She’s wrong for me, and yet for some damnable reason I can’t begin to understand, this woman feels right in a way that nothing else has in a long time. Every muscle in my body tenses in anticipation of her touch, and the moment her hand comes down on my back, that blast of adrenaline I desperately need burns through me.
I grab her and pull her in front of me, stepping into her, my legs framing hers, my hands on her waist, fingers flexing into the soft flesh there. And when she looks up at me, I see none of the blame I feel toward myself. The understanding that I didn’t think she could have is there.
And she’s here.
Not offering words of sympathy that do me no good—offering herself. I see it in her eyes, her desire matching mine, and even if I believed she was still loyal to Sheridan, which I don’t, I’m not sure I would care.
Wrapping my hand around her neck, I pull her to me, flattening her body against mine, bringing her mouth a breath away from the next kiss I’ve denied myself too long. “I don’t care who’s going to hate who later. I just want to fuck you.”
She curls her fingers around my shirt. “Then stop talking and do it.”
“You can’t handle this part of me.”
Her chin lifts defiantly. “Try me.”
“Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.”
“If you’re trying to scare me, it won’t work. In fact, it might make me want it more. Just like you want to escape your memories, I have a few of my own I’d like to forget right now.”
That’s all the encouragement I need. My mouth slants over hers, tongue pressing past her lips, and the heady taste of her, all sweet honey and temptation, fills my senses. I deepen the kiss, drinking her in like a drug I cannot get enough of. But she is more than a drug. She is now in my care, and I cannot, will not, let her die because later she might be looking for a rush or a high that I’m not around to give her. But I’m here now, and I have this oddly possessive, entirely selfish need to be the person who gives her that escape, who shows her what I sense she’s never known: complete, utter sexual overload that leaves no room for anything else. The very idea has me deepening the kiss, licking into her mouth and demanding more. And when that soft, sweet tongue of hers, so innocent in its response, tries to match my command, it drives me wild.
A low, raw growl escapes my throat and I turn her to face the wall, forcing her to hold herself up with her hands. For a moment I feel the pain of that nightmare, and I wonder why I never used Meg as an escape, why I always contained who, and what, I am . . . but this woman is different. Reaching for her dress, I yank it up her hips to find her backside bare but for a thong with a happy face on it. She glances over her shoulder, offering a breathless, embarrassed explanation. “I didn’t pick it.”
“Good. I don’t like it.” I rip it away, leaving her gasping as I pull the dress over her head and toss it aside to find her braless, before stepping toward her. My hands cover her breasts, fingers teasing her nipples. Leaning into her, my lips near her ear, I say, “I’m going to own you before this is over.”