“You are not a knight.” She stumbled forward and then spun around, patting him on the chest hard enough to make him grunt. “But you kind of are. You have a good heart, Chase Gamble.”
Wow. She had blown past ‘just tipsy’. “Okay. I think I might have to carry you.”
She huffed. “I can walk, thank you very much. I was just tired.”
“Thought you weren’t tired.”
“I’m not,” she argued.
He stared at her.
“You’re such a bore.” Maddie staggered ahead and then stopped, tilting her head back on her long, graceful neck. When her hair was loose, it hung clear to her hips when she did that. “The moon is so big.”
There was something big growing in his pants. And he was pretty sure that made him the worst kind of bastard. But he couldn’t help it. Chase was still a man and, off limits or not, Maddie was…she was just Maddie.
Looking over her shoulder, she smiled. “I’m really happy for my brother,” she rambled on. “They’re going to have babies, and I’ll get to be an aunt. I can take them to the Smithsonian, teach them about history and…and stuff.”
“You’re going to turn those kids that don’t exist yet into nerds.”
She held up her finger, placing it an inch from his face, and he had an urge to lick it. “Nerds are cool. You are not.”
Chase laughed as he took her hand, gently pulling her down the pathway. “What kind of stuff will you teach them?”
“Oh, you know, stuff…like the Civil War and how important it is to take care of our battlefields, preserve history…and I’ll get them to volunteer.”
“Will you?” They were almost to the door. Just a few more steps.
She pulled her hand free and pushed him lightly. “Yes, I will. I’m good at my job.”
“I have no doubt.” And he didn’t. Granted, he’d never told Maddie he was proud of all she’d accomplished or how in college she’d always been on the dean’s list.
Maybe he should’ve.
Confused by that, he followed her to the door. Once inside, she made her way to the edge of the bed and sat down heavily.
He turned on a small lamp with a fuchsia shade in the corner and then flipped the switch off on the wall. Less light was probably a good thing.
“So how are we going to do this?” She glanced at the bed and then at him. “Are we having a real sleepover?”
Chase hardened painfully at the thought of just being in bed beside her. “I’ll be taking the couch.”
She stared at him but said nothing. Needing to distance himself, he went over to his luggage, pulled out a pair of lightweight lounge pants and a shirt. “I’ll get changed in the bathroom.”
Was he seriously going to have to explain this to her? By her wide eyes, that would be a yes. “Get changed while I’m in there, Maddie.”
Her lips thinned. “I might have drunk one…or four…too many glasses of wine, but I’m not drunk or stupid.”
Chase was on the fence about the first. Sending her one last meaningful glance, he went into the bathroom, closed the door, and quickly changed. That was when he noticed her little bag of personal items open on the sink.
Toothpaste, hairbrush, a few items of makeup. Little stuff, but all hers. He reached out, running his fingers over the handle of the brush. A weird, totally inappropriate image of her stuff spread across the sink in his condo filled his head. An ache sprung in his chest, tight and familiar.
Man, he needed meds or something. It was a nice fantasy, but it was only a fantasy.
When enough time had passed, he went back into the main room. Maddie was still on the bed where he’d left her, staring at the bear rug on the floor.
He sighed. “Maddie, what are you doing?”
“That rug is really creepy, don’t you think?”
Moving to the center of the room, he folded his arms over his chest. “It’s not something I’d put in my place.”
She winced. “I’m going to have nightmares about the thing coming alive and gnawing on my foot while I sleep. Totally ruin my pedi.”
His gaze dropped to her dainty feet. He wouldn’t mind gnawing on one himself. “Maddie, you should get changed for bed.”
Standing up, she picked at the edge of her dress. When he’d seen her earlier, he had thought that shade of the blue had been the perfect color on her.
Maddie sighed. “I sleep naked, so I didn’t bring any night clothes. Didn’t think it would be a problem…”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Images of her glistening skin, flushed and smooth like satin, sliding under the sheets, filled his head. His body had been strung taut as a bow all night, but now his cock was throbbing. He hungered for her on a primitive, raw level. The things he’d do to her…
And that was why he wouldn’t do anything. Not to Maddie. She was too good.
Turning away from her, he frantically searched for a resolution. “I have some shirts that will be long enough for you to wear.” He started toward his luggage, the swollen member between his thighs making it hard to concentrate on anything other than what it wanted, which was to spread those pretty thighs and plunge deep inside her, over and over again. Not gonna happen, boy, so just settle down. He grabbed a dark shirt and turned.
Maddie stood behind him. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? Getting a little tipsy?” Chase shook out the shirt. “Hold your arms up.”
She obeyed, lifting them into the air. “I’m sorry about all of this.” Her voice muffled as the cotton shirt got stuck for a moment over her head, and he couldn’t help but grin as he tugged it down. “You must hate this,” she said as her head popped through.
“Hate what?” He yanked the shirt down, and thank God, it was just as long as the dress. Sneaking his arms under the shirt, he fumbled for the zipper in the back. The sides of his arms brushed the swell of her breasts, and he stepped closer without realizing it.
“Being stuck with me,” she said, tipping her head back to meet his stare.
He frowned. “I’m not stuck with you, Maddie.”
She didn’t say anything.
His fingers found the zipper and he pulled. The dress eased down, pooling around her feet, and his hands… God damn it, his hands were on the bare skin of her back. Like he remembered, her skin was as soft as satin.
Chase needed to remove his hands pronto and step back, but she swayed forward, placing her smaller palms on his waist, her bare thighs brushing his. Then she placed her cheek against his chest and sighed.
“I’ve missed you,” she murmured.
He felt something in his chest lurch. “Baby, how can you miss me? We see each other every day.”
“I know.” A tiny sigh leaked out. “But it’s not the same. We’re not the same. And I miss you.”
God, wasn’t that the truth? Ever since that night in his club, things had been different. And right now, he was frozen, caught between knowing he needed to put distance between them and wanting to hold her in his arms. And how many times had he held her like this? Not in recent years, but when she was younger, many times.
The odd, empty spot in his chest he usually ignored warmed. As a kid, he and his brothers couldn’t stand to be in their cold house, surrounded by their mother’s crushed dreams of marriage and their father’s absence, so being around Mitch, Maddie, and their family had always eased that loneliness.
Especially Maddie. She had this way of hers, wiggling herself around his heart. Even during the times they hadn’t really talked, she existed in the back of his mind like a constant ghost, haunting him.
Closing his eyes, he rested his chin atop her head. “I…I miss you, too.”
She lifted her head and smiled sleepily, staring up at him with so much trust in her beautiful eyes, and God, he bet she’d let him do anything to her, right here and right now. His body screamed for it, demanded it, really.
With more willpower than he knew he had, he guided her over to the heart-shaped bed, pulled back the covers, and gently sat her down. In a surprising turn of fate, she didn’t argue with him but slid those curvy, sexy legs under the blanket and laid down.
“Where are you going to sleep?” she asked, lids lowering.
Chase hovered over her, drinking in the sight. He knew exactly how many freckles she had across her nose and cheeks. Twelve, to be exact. Knew that the tiny scar under her full bottom lip, a shade whiter than the rest of her skin, was from a bike accident when she was seven. Knew those lips, depending on her mood, could be so expressive.
He looked over his shoulder. The couch was long and narrow, no doubt as comfortable as sleeping on a pile of boards.
“Chase?” she whispered.
Forcing a smile, he brushed a strand of hair off her face and then, without meaning to, his hand lingered along her cheek, cupping it. She turned to the gesture and another soft sigh leaked from her parted lips. “The couch has my name on it,” he said.
“There’s more than enough room here.” She rolled onto her side, facing him. “I don’t bite.”
The problem was, he kind of hoped she did. “I’m fine.”
Remarkably, she was asleep before he could say anything else, which was a good thing, because if she offered the bed to him again, he wasn’t sure he could refuse a second time.
Chase lowered his lips to her cheek and pressed a kiss there before backing away. Turning off the light, he went to the couch and stretched out, doing his best to get comfortable. That ache was back in his chest again, and this time, he knew it wasn’t for the lack of her hugs.
It was for the lack of her in his life.
With half a bottle of Tylenol trying to work its magic on the wine-induced headache, Madison winced behind her sunglasses as she shuffled alongside her mother. Touring the vineyards sounded fun, would probably have been pretty interesting, too, if she wasn’t certain a psychotic drummer had taken up residency in her head.
God, she really drank a little too much last night. Dancing on a bench? Having to be escorted back to the cabin by a surprisingly rational Chase? Shamed and more than a little frustrated with herself, she kept close to her family as they piled onto the seats in the back of the bed of a cattle truck, where they’d view the vineyard up close and personal.
Bobby? Robby? Whatever his name was, he’d ended up in the other car, thank God. She couldn’t even look at him without wanting to hide herself under the hay covering the bed of the truck.
Every bump went straight to Madison’s temples. She gripped the seat, jaw clamped tight as the vehicle swayed along the narrow road.
Under the brim of her mother’s wide straw hat, she grimaced. “You’re looking a little peckish.”
Before she could respond, Chad cut in with a grin. “She drank, like, twenty glasses of wine last night.”
“Madison,” her mother admonished, her brows slamming down.
She rolled her eyes. “I didn’t drink twenty glasses.”
Her father rubbed his trim beard. “How many did you drink?”