Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her to bedroom. “Should’ve brought my cell phone into the shower and videoed it for prosperity.”

Another small smile buoyed his heart.

Tucking her between the sheets wasn’t hard, but dragging himself away was. “You really didn’t have to set your house on fire in order to get me to sleep with you.” He grabbed a pair of boxer briefs and pulled them on. “I’m not that complex of a man.”

Black lashes lifted, revealing blue eyes full of anxiety and a deep pain. “I don’t have any clothes.”

That was the last thing he expected her to worry about, and sorry bastard that he was, it was the last thing on his mind. “I’ll leave straightaway. Think the mall’s open?” He glanced at his phone, checking the time. It was nearly midnight. Nothing was open, not even the local Wal-Mart since it wasn’t ‘super-sized’.

Her hand caught his arm and he froze. “Don’t leave.”

Whether she meant the bed, the room, or her life, he didn’t care. He would stay in whatever capacity she’d let him. Nodding, he gently grabbed her hand and kissed the knuckles.

Sliding over, she lifted the covers and met his eyes.

The selfish need to hold her overruled his sensibilities. He joined her and she went willingly into his arms, her body soft and warm. Feminine and sweet.

“Strawberry Grove can be rebuilt, you know.” He brushed his lips against her temple.

She shook her head. “I don’t have insurance.”

Well, that certainly made things more difficult, but maybe he could find a way to help her. He was definitely sure she wouldn’t take his money, so he’d have to go another route. “You can stay here with me. I’ll put off leaving for a couple of weeks.” His mother was safe for the time being and Vladimir had always allowed him to take a holiday after his work was finished. For once he’d actually like to think or say the word holiday without feeling like a fraud.

“I’ll think about it.” Her voice was soft and serious. She sounded exhausted and felt like a dream. She shifted closer to him, the parts of her body that he was trying hard to ignore getting his attention. “Everyone I love is leaving me.”

Did that include him? He brushed the thought away. “Skye’s close by.”

“She’s leaving for Colorado on Monday.” Rose let out a shaky breath. “She finally got off the waiting list for their midwifery program. It’s for two years.”

Ah, hell. He wanted to fix it for her, make things the way they used to be. Before he’d shown up and ruined her life. Wasn’t that what a man was programmed to do—fix things for his woman? No, he reminded himself, Rose was not his woman.

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

“No need to thank me. This is what…” He paused, wondering with what word exactly he should use to fill in the blank. Friend or lover? While desirable, neither seemed appropriate at this point. “...people who care about other people do for each other.” He winced. That sounded lame to his ears.

Rose remained silent.

After what seemed like an eternity, he risked a peek of her face and exhaled the pent up breath he hadn’t been aware he’d been holding. She was asleep, her chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. One that indicated she’d been that way for a while. There was a great chance (and his great hope) she’d fallen asleep during his ‘people caring about people’ fail.

Rolling to one side, he turned off the lights.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Sasha had hardly slept last night. The woman laying so trustingly in his arms had seen to that. Every time she’d moved or made the smallest of noises, he’d tried soothing her. And every time her bare br**sts or sweet ass had pressed against him, he’d tried not to notice.

He’d failed miserably. However, he’d kept his own promise of thinking of her needs and ignored his body’s insistence to make love to her.

Rose slid a silky soft leg over his thigh, her intimate curls brushing his skin and he hardened. Of its own volition, his hand drifted lower and cupped her. She was wet and warm. Damn, she felt so good. Her hips undulated against him and one of his fingers nearly slipped inside of her. She moaned and he glanced up at her face.

Her eyes blinked open, sleepy and heavy lidded. “Sasha?”


“Want you.” She grabbed his wrist and pulled up, his fingers slid inside of her. “Need you so bad.”

He kissed her and whispered, “I’ll take care of you, sweetheart.” He would take care of her forever. For as long she allowed. “Relax.”

Letting go of his wrist, she pushed the covers away. Her legs fell open and for the longest time he watched himself touch her there. As he made her body shake and tremble. As her moans filled the room.

Dipping his head, he tugged a cherry red nipple into his mouth and sucked hard. She cried out his name, arms rising to find her pillow. She fisted it between her hands.

His c**k was so f**king hard right now, but he wanted to remain selfless. He closed his eyes and circled her nipple with his tongue. He wanted—

Her hands grasped his cock, stroking him. Rolling to the side, he kissed her deeply, his tongue mimicking his fingers.

She gasped his name into his mouth as she came. As he moaned hers, his own orgasm shaking him to his very core. Jesus Christ. He couldn’t leave her. Not now. Not ever. There had to be a way for them to be together.

She smiled at him, tears in her eyes. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me.” He smoothed a stray curl from her face. “Go back to sleep, love.” She nodded and closed her eyes.

After cleaning himself off, he shot from the bed and headed to the bathroom. He made use of the facilities and dressed in record time.

Pressing a soft kiss to Rose’s cheek, he left the room and jogged down the stairs, surprised to see the owner, Haven Crawford, lugging in a large box through the front entrance.

“Need some help?”

Haven shot him a grateful smile and handed it over. “Didn’t take you for an early riser.”

“Rose’s still sleeping, and I couldn’t.” Sasha followed her to the back and set the box down on the floor in Haven’s private quarters. “All of Rose’s clothes were burned in the fire, and—”

Haven gestured to the box. “Already taken care of.”

“For Rose?” He knelt in the floor, prying the flaps apart. He pulled out jeans and sweaters. Skirts and shoes. Everything from the mentionable to unmentionables filled the box. All were clean, most still had tags, but it didn’t matter because someone or someones cared enough about Rose to help her out. Before she had to ask.