Eyeing the running shoes in her suitcase, she disregarded them for the massive bathtub. She needed chocolate, too, but she’d have to wait for later for that comfort. Stripping off her clothes, she stormed into the bathroom, resisting the urge to slam the door. What was the point when the only things that would hear her were the damn woodchucks outside?
And why was she so ticked off? Nothing had changed between them. Sure, they had shared two moments of pure insanity, but things were the way they’d always been. Chase just didn’t want her—not badly enough and not enough to get over whatever reasons he had for not being with her.
Part of her knew it had something to do with his parents’ relationship and not really her at all. All the Gamble boys seemed a little damaged. Chad was too carefree, not taking a damn thing in life seriously. Chandler only did one-night stands, and Chase…Chase was the playboy. He liked relationships, but he just never allowed them to last beyond his self-imposed three-month marker. Short and sweet, he liked to joke.
Groaning, she ducked her head under the frothy bubbles overflowing the tub and stayed there until her lungs burned. Bubbles lapped at the edge of the garden tub as she resurfaced, pushing long strands of hair out of her face.
“Maddie, are you in there?” Chase’s deep voice boomed through the closed bathroom door.
Her eyes widened as her gaze darted around the bathroom. Had she locked the door? And why in the hell did she leave the towel all the way over there, folded neatly on the shelf above the toilet? She gripped the edge of the tub, wondering if she should pretend to be asleep.
Like that was a stellar plan.
And like all stellar plans, it backfired in her face.
The bathroom door swung open, and Chase’s broad shoulders filled the gap. Her mother would’ve called those shoulders door busters and damn if she wasn’t right.
Madison squeaked and frantically started moving the bubbles up over her chest. Seconds later she realized how stupid that was, considering he’d seen her goodies only a few hours ago, but hell, she wasn’t holding peep shows.
“Why did you bust in here?” she demanded, striving to sound calm and unaffected by the fact he was near and she was naked.
Chase folded his arms. “I called for you, but you didn’t answer.”
“So the next logical step was to bust into the bathroom?”
He shrugged. “I was worried you were hurt.”
“In the bathroom?”
“With you, anything is possible.” He stared at her, not even attempting to look anywhere else like most guys would. But Chase wasn’t most guys. He was a walking contradiction.
Her gaze narrowed. “Gee. Thanks.”
Chase said nothing as he stalked into the bathroom and leaned against the his-and-hers sink.
Madison’s heart rate skyrocketed into uncharted territories. “Um, can I help you with something?”
His lashes lowered, and she knew where his gaze went—to the rapidly thinning bubbles—and heat zinged through her veins. “I’m not sure,” he said finally. Then his eyes settled back on her face. “We need to talk.”
“Right at this very moment?”
“What’s wrong with right now?”
Was he daft? “I’m in the bathtub, Chase, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Oh, I’ve noticed.” His voice dropped low, husky, and sexy as hell.
And her body went right into take-me-now land. God, there needed to be an anti-sex pill or something for when she was around him. She eyed the towel across the room and sighed. “Can it wait until I’m done?” They had a few hours left before dinner, so time wasn’t an issue. Being in the bathtub was, however.
“I’ve seen you naked before, Maddie.”
Her mouth dropped open. “You have not seen me completely naked, thank you very much.”
His eyes glittered. “Actually, once before I have, when you were like five. You ran through the house buck-ass naked when you had chicken pox.”
“Oh, dear God, why do you remember these things?” She was going to drown herself, right here in the tub.
A half smile appeared. “It was kind of traumatizing.”
“Yeah, well, this is traumatizing, so we’re even.” Since it appeared he wasn’t leaving, she scooped more bubbles over her breasts. “Okay. What do we need to talk about?”
“You. Me. What’s been going on between us.” He said it so matter-of-factly she thought she’d misheard him at first.
But she hadn’t.
She sunk her hands under the water as she stared at him. He seemed transfixed by where her hands had gone. “There’s something going on between us?”
Chase’s expression was unreadable as he nodded. “First off, I didn’t mean to…insult you about the not…going there thing. That came out the wrong way.”
Unwanted hope sparked in her chest.
“Pretending nothing happened between us within the last twenty-four hours is as stupid as pretending nothing happened three years ago. We can’t keep pretending.”
Madison’s head bobbed.
“And I think it’s obvious that I’m attracted to you.” His gaze dipped again, and the bubbles were almost gone. Parts of pink flesh peeped through. “That I want you.”
Her breath stilled as her heart galloped. Okay. Wow. This was so unexpected, she had no idea what to say or do.
Chase’s eyes were like chips of heated blue ice that melted her as he continued. “You’ve gotten under my skin, and I’ve done everything to ignore it, because caving to it…it isn’t right.”
She blinked. “Why? Why isn’t it right, Chase?”
He moved to sit down on the edge of the tub, so close to her, his presence swamped her. “It’s not what you think, Maddie.”
She had no idea what she thought anymore. “Then tell me.”
Drawing in a short breath, his gaze moved to where her feet popped out of the water, the nails painted a crimson red. He didn’t answer.
Unsure if his lack of response was a good thing or not, she lowered her feet under the water. It was growing colder and she was going to be pickled if she stayed much longer.
He shook his head, that half smile back again. “Wanting what I want from you…it’s never going to work out. You know my history. You know…what I grew up in. And you’re Mitch’s sister. It’s like spitting in his face.”
Madison blinked. “You’re not your father.”
Chase said nothing.
“And…Mitch does trust you, but you’re not disrespecting him. It has nothing to do with him.” Lifting her chin, she met his eyes. “I understand what you’re getting at, but…”
“But?” His brows rose.
Madison took a deep breath. “But we’re consenting adults, Chase. We don’t need my brother’s permission. And you’re your own person.”
“It’s not just about getting his permission.”
It struck her then that Chase needed someone to believe in him, because his hang up wasn’t Mitch, it wasn’t even her. And suddenly the comment he made earlier about her being too good made sense.
He honestly thought she was too good for him.
Her heart squeezed. Couldn’t he see what everyone else saw, that underneath it all, he was a good guy with standards? Could seeing his father mistreat his mom have warped him to this point, where he believed himself incapable of being in a relationship? Even with her, someone who had known him his whole life? Maybe all he needed was a tiny push over that hang up. And that push would have to be from her, and it would have to be drastic.
Swallowing, she placed her hands on the cool edge of the ceramic tub and pushed herself up. Water ran in rivets down her body. Soapy bubbles slid over her thighs. The air was cool against her warm flesh, and she couldn’t believe she had done it. Stood completely naked in front of Chase, and if he refused her now, gave her any excuse, she would never be able to come back from that rejection.
Chase’s nostrils flared as he leaned back, his hands clenching in his lap. “Jesus Christ…”
Feeling exposed, she fought to keep her arms at her sides and let him look his fill. And boy was he ever looking his fill. Everywhere his gaze went, she felt the heated intensity igniting her flesh. Her skin pricked and flamed. Warmth flooded her, pooling in her core.
“Towel?” she said, voice husky.
He stared at her so long she began to wonder if he’d lost the ability to speak. And then she saw it—the moment he cracked wide open, and she was thrilled. “No.”
Her pulse pounded. “No?”
Chase placed his hands on her hips. The touch of his skin on hers sent chills over her. She let him help her out of the tub, made no sound as he tugged her between the V of his thighs. She waited with her heart in his hands as he leaned forward, pressing a sweet kiss against the flare of her hip.
Madison’s chest swelled and heat speared her body as his mouth moved up her flat stomach, his tongue dancing around her navel. She grabbed his shoulders as her head tipped back, and his mouth traveled up…and up.
Her body went weak at the first touch of his mouth on her breast, hot and demanding. His lips were soft yet firm, lingering and coaxing tiny moans from her parted lips. Her body turned to liquid under his skilled touch.
“Open your legs for me,” he ordered.
Beyond control of her own body, she obeyed and jerked when she felt the first light touch of his hand between her thighs. Chase’s fingers were feather light, teasing as he worked her into a state where her hips were moving against his hand, back arching, begging for more. And then he gave her more, slipping a finger inside her and then two.
Panting, she felt her fingers dig through the shirt he wore, into the hard skin of his shoulders as her body rocked. His thumb moved in circles over the bundle of nerves at the juncture of her thighs. Her body coiled deep inside her core, and she felt herself start to splinter, to come apart.
Chase removed his hand, and before she could cry out in denial, he pressed his lips to the inside of her thigh. Her heart stopped and then doubled up erratically. It had been long, so very long, since something this intimate had been done to her.
“I want to taste you,” he growled, nuzzling the inside of her thigh. “Tell me you want me to. Please.”
“Yes,” she moaned, and then nodded, just in case he didn’t get the picture, because if he didn’t, dear God, she was going to drown him in the bathtub. And wouldn’t that be embarrassing to explain to the police and all the family?
He slid to his knees, and the first touch of his mouth nearly broke her. It was a gentle sweep of his lips, a sweet, chaste kiss that started off as a slow boil and then exploded as he deepened the touch, his tongue slipping the length of her and then inside.
Chase burrowed into her flesh, sucking, tugging, and licking until her back bowed and she cried out his name. She was on the verge, hanging over the edge and then her release sped through her, pitching her so high, to a place where only white heat and sensations existed. And he kept going, drinking her in as another climax started and broke apart again, her cries hoarse as her body spasmed.