Page 38 of Stinger

"Have you talked to your mom recently?" she asked quietly.

"No, I don't even think she knows I went into the military. Not that she'd really care. My roommate Dylan lived in the apartment we had shared in L.A. until he moved to Vegas a couple months ago, and she never contacted him there looking for me…"

She breathed out. "She has no idea what she's missing out on." She paused for a minute. "Do you know what happened to her… I mean, why she might have done what she did for so long?"

I shook my head. "I don't know exactly. She mentioned an uncle once when she was strung out. I got the feeling that he had done something to her, but she didn't go into it. I don't know. Maybe there was no reason. Maybe the drugs were the reason. I don't know."

She was quiet for a minute and then kissed my chest gently again, rubbing her lips whisper-soft on my skin.

I couldn't see her face, but I could tell her wheels were turning. "What are you thinking?" I asked quietly.

She was silent for a second before she leaned up on her hands again, her eyes glittering at me in the dim room. "What I was thinking, Carson, is that you glow as well. To me, you shine too."

Warmth filled my chest and I let out a shaky breath and smiled at her, but I didn't say anything. I just pulled her closer and said a silent prayer of thanks that she was in my arms.

We cuddled and whispered until I felt her still beside me. A few minutes later, I slipped into sleep too, a restful, dreamless sleep.

CHAPTER 33

Grace

"Wake up, sleeping Buttercup," I heard whispered close to my ear.

"Grrrhmmph," I moaned and turned my head away from the annoying sound and snuggled back in to my pillow.

I heard a low, sexy chuckle and my blood started pumping just a little bit faster in response, but not enough to want to drag myself out of sleep. I was so warm, and this bed smelled so good. I turned my face into the pillow and breathed in deeply. Carson. That was crazy though. I hadn't seen Carson in years. I missed him. I missed his smell and his touch. And so I'd stay in this dream world just a little longer. He was here and I didn't want to leave.

Something shook the bed violently and I squealed and sat up, blinking at the room around me.

"Still not much of a morning person, huh, Buttercup?" Carson grinned down at me from where he was standing at the base of the bed.

"Were you jumping on the bed?" I asked groggily.

"Yup. It's like waking the dead," he said, climbing down.

I snorted and flopped back down. "What time is it?" I grumbled.

"Five a.m. Come on! I want to be on the slopes by the time the sun rises and we still have to rent gear for you."

I grumbled a little more but finally lugged myself out of bed and followed Carson into the bathroom as he started the shower for me.

I brushed my teeth and when I was done, I shooed him out so that I could pee and get in under the water.

"I'll make coffee," he called behind him. Some people really were annoyingly chipper in the morning. It was hard to like people like that.

I climbed under the hot spray and lathered up my hair. Yes, it was difficult to like morning people. Even ones who had broad shoulders and rock hard abs. Even ones who had smiles that made your heart skip a beat and sparks shoot down your spine. Even ones who had a little dimple of happiness right under his full bottom lip–God's last paintbrush flourish to the masterpiece that was Carson Stinger.

Even ones who rescued women as their self-appointed job.

I stopped mid-lather and just stood there for a minute, letting that reality take hold. He rescues women. Women who were slated to exist in back alley brothels, little girls who would end up as some sick tourist's plaything somewhere in a small, dark room. I wasn't the most educated person in the world when it came to human trafficking, but I knew enough that even thinking about it made my stomach turn violently. My God, I was still stunned when I thought about what Carson and his friends were doing.

I rinsed my hair and conditioned and smiled to myself. Okay, so I really, really liked my morning person. He was exceptional actually. A hero.

I got out of the shower and pulled a towel around my body and pulled my hair dryer out of the small bag of toiletries I had brought into the bathroom. Once my hair was dry, I walked back to the bedroom and pulled on jeans and a thick, white sweater.

As I was pulling on socks, Carson walked in with a steaming cup of coffee and grinned at me. "More awake?" he asked.

"Hmmm…" I said. I was more awake and capable of thought, but not capable of too much conversation just yet. I'd need a little more caffeine for that.

I finished my coffee at the kitchen island as Carson got our stuff together, and then he came over and put my boots on me.

I smiled down at him. "This is one of those bad things about me. I'm a grump in the morning."

He chuckled. "I already knew that." He winked. "And I came back for more anyway."

I laughed softly, and he stood up and put his arms around my waist and lifted me down from the barstool.

I put my arms around his neck and gazed into his eyes, hoping he saw all my emotions there.

"Let's go watch another sunrise together, Buttercup," he whispered, his face intense, his eyes studying mine.

I nodded. "Yes," is all I said.

**********

I wrapped my arms around Carson's waist as we waited for the sun to rise from the top of the ski trail. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and leaned down and kissed me gently.

I looked up at him. If I knew that a boy in a beanie and snow goggles pushed up on his head was so damn sexy, I would have been trolling the slopes long ago. I grinned.

"What?" he asked, smiling down at me.

"Nothing. I like this look on you. No, I love it actually. Especially the goggles."

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Because I could wear them later in bed. Naked with goggles."

I burst out laughing. "Actually, that sounds kind of creepy."

"Hmmm, you have no idea," he growled and pulled me into him.

I laughed again but the light hit my eye and I said, "Shhh, the sun's coming up."

He leaned down close to my ear. "I'm pretty sure it will keep rising whether we whisper or not, Buttercup."

I swatted him. "Haha. I just meant, let's give it the proper respect it deserves."

He kissed me quickly and pulled me in closer to his body. "Good point," he whispered.

We watched it until it had broken over the horizon and the snowy hills surrounding us were glittering and bathed in yellow light. Then Carson took my hand and so began my first snowboarding lesson.

I sucked. No, I really sucked. By the time I was competent enough to go down a hill without falling down, it was only because the pain of pushing myself back up with my arms was so utterly intolerable, that I remained standing through sheer determination alone.

I didn't think I had ever laughed so hard at myself though, and Carson was patient and funny and didn't show off… too much. Although, honestly, I didn't mind. He was a thing of beauty on the slopes. He was as comfortable with his feet anchored to a board, sliding over the snow, as he was walking through a parking lot. A couple times, he brought me up a higher hill and he went up and down a couple times while I practiced staying upright, and then finally joined up with me again to continue my lesson.

Eventually, when my body couldn't take it any longer, Carson took my hand and grinned at me and said, "You're a trooper. You did really well today."

"Well?" I groaned. "I was awful. I was on my ass more than I was on my feet."

"Everyone starts out that way. We'll try again."

I shook my head. "I don't think so. You're amazing at this and I would love to come back here again. But you snowboard and I'll keep the hot tub warm back at the cabin."

He laughed. "We'll see."

"Hmm. Yeah, we'll see. Hey, before we turn my gear in, I want to see you do a jump."

He raised an eyebrow. "You sure? You'll have to go down another hill."

My arms screamed out in protest. "I'll sacrifice," I said.

"Okay," he smiled. "Let's go then."

We took the lift up to an even higher run, and Carson told me to go about halfway down the mountain and watch the jump that would be off to my left.

I made my way down and stopped off to the side of the ski run, watching the jump. It was after noon now and I was starving since we had only had coffee for breakfast. But I wouldn't leave the slopes without seeing Carson perform some of the jumps he had described to me earlier when I'd asked him his favorite part of snowboarding. He had called it "catching air."

It was the day before Christmas and the slopes were practically deserted so it was easy to keep my eye on him.

After a minute, I saw him coming down the slope, fast and sure as he lined himself up with the jump in front of him and my heart started thumping loudly in my chest. God, he was magnificent.

I breathed in a sharp breath as he went soaring off the edge, bending his knees and doing a full rotation in the air. I squealed and tears came to my eyes. It was one of those moments when a human being does something so remarkable, so unbelievably amazing, that your heart soars and a lump immediately forms in your throat at the sheer beauty of it. And in that moment, you are able to believe that we really were created in the image of God.

Carson landed, bending his knees and absorbing the impact perfectly, steady and sure. I could barely make out his face as he turned around at the bottom of the hill, but I could tell he was grinning.

I put my gloved hand over my heart on my ski jacket. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all she wrote," I whispered to myself, knowing I was a goner. But somehow, I was just fine with that.

**********

Carson

I lathered Grace's hair and rubbed her scalp with the pads of my fingers, working the shampoo through.

"Hmmm," she moaned out in front of me in the shower, making my groin throb. I ignored it though for now. My Buttercup was in so much pain that she couldn't even reach her hands over her head to shampoo her own hair. Of course, I didn't mind being of service when it came to Grace na**d under running water. But I did feel badly that she had worked her body so hard that she could barely move.

I turned her around and backed her up slightly so that she could tip her head and I could rinse her hair out under the spray. She smiled lazily up at me.

"Better?" I asked, wondering if the combo of the Advil I'd given her and the hot water was helping her achy muscles.

She nodded her head, closing her eyes as the water ran over her head and down her body.

After we had left the slopes, we had gone to the restaurant in the lodge where the rental shop was, and enjoyed hot soup and sandwiches.

After that, Grace had insisted that we go find a small tree. The next day was Christmas and she laughingly said that even though we were our gifts to each other, and we had already been opened–we still needed a tree. I didn't care about a tree so much, but I'd do anything to make her happy, and so off we went to find one.

We asked at the restaurant we ate lunch in and were told that there was a Christmas tree lot right out of town, and so we drove there and picked from what was left, which wasn't much. But when Grace's eyes lit up at a Charlie Brown looking thing near the gate, I laughed and told the guy working there that we'd take it.

We'd made a stop at the hardware store in town and bought a couple strings of lights–outdoor lights, all they had. They'd have to do as decoration. Grace seemed happy and that's all that mattered to me.

By this point, the stiffness was setting in and she was moving more and more slowly, so I took her home, gave her some Advil, and told her to go take a hot shower.

I brought the tree and lights inside and stood the tree up in the stand, and that's when I'd heard her groaning in pain. I'd gone in to see what was wrong, and she was practically crying with the effort to raise her arms above her head and wash her hair. Clearly, my services were necessary.

Once her hair was rinsed, I turned her around again and I massaged her shoulders and arms. She moaned out, "Oh, God, that's like heaven," as she rotated her head.

With her moans and small whimpers, my c**k came to full attention. She dropped her head forward and rubbed her ass gently against me, and I sucked in a breath.

"Grace…" I warned.

She turned to face me and reached down and stroked me lightly. I hissed in a breath. "Grace, you're sore. I wasn't trying to…"

"I know you weren't. But I'm not in such bad shape that I can't enjoy you… I mean, unless you suspend yourself over my head. Then we'll have a problem." She grinned.

I laughed, but then moaned as her hand moved faster, the water lubricating my c**k so that her hand slipped up and down it easily.

She went down on her knees in front of me and my c**k jumped. Holy Christ, she was going to take me in her mouth. My breath hitched.

She looked up at me a little uncertainly and I knew exactly what she was thinking.

"Baby, anything you do is going to be perfect, I promise you that."

She smiled slightly and moved her fist to the base of my erection, and then sucked my tip into her mouth and swirled her tongue around.

"Oh God, that feels good, Buttercup," I moaned out softly, letting her know how incredible her mouth felt.

She slid her mouth fully over me and started moving up and down on my length, her eyes closed now as I watched. Holy mother of God, that felt good.

When she moaned, I felt the vibration, my c**k twitching in her mouth, and I felt a small burst of pre-cum.

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