I’d told her I loved her, she’d burst into hysterical tears, then went after me like if I wasn’t inside her soon she’d explode. If I didn’t know the monsters in her past, the nightmares she still battled I may have not stopped her. How many times had I taken her wild reactions to our sex as a turn on and used it for my pleasure?

God, I was a bastard.

“Scarlet,” I said gently taking her hands in one of mine, then brushing a stray tear from her chin. “You are very much awake. And I am in love with you. I have been for a while but was scared to accept it. Trust this. Trust me, even though I don’t deserve it. Give me a chance to prove that I will do everything I can to love you. Protect you. Make you happy. To erase all the shit I’ve done in the past.”

She didn’t speak. Her eyes never leaving mine. Her pupils were dilated. Lashes wet and eyes red. She was the most beautiful thing in my world. Inside and out. She taught me what it was to be tough. To be brave. To fight to live. Things I thought I’d known but I had no fucking clue. Until Scarlet.

“How?” she finally whispered. I could see she didn’t believe me. She wanted to but the fear to do it held her back.

“How do I love you?” I asked for clarification.

She nodded, and that stake in my chest twisted. Love wasn’t something she knew how to receive easily. And I had run from it and been given it my entire fucking life.

“I was broken. I didn’t believe I could love, when in reality I didn’t love myself.” I took her right hand and pressed it to my cheek. “You loved me. Even when I couldn’t love myself.”

She reached up with her other hand and touched my other cheek.

“You’ve taught me a lot, Scarlet. What real bravery is, what determination is, how to be strong, but more than anything, you’ve taught me to love.”

Tears filled her eyes again. I moved to sit beside her and gather her in my arms again. This time her tears weren’t so violent and her hands weren’t grasping at me as if I were about to vanish. Instead, her hands fisted in my shirt and she sank into me.

I didn’t know what she was thinking about. Was her past and the hurt and destruction she’d endured haunting her? Had she learned to block it out? Or was this her giving in to relief. That she wasn’t alone. She had me. I’d love her. I’d protect her. I’d hold her.

“I love you,” she said, tilting her head back to look at me.

She’d screamed those words in the throes of an orgasm more than once. And although what she was loving was how I made her feel, I knew when it changed. I knew when she did love me. I had felt it, seen it. I was fucking terrified, but I wanted to hold onto her and how she made me feel, and how her love made me feel.

I bent my head and kissed her lips. Trailing my bottom lip over hers as I held her gaze. I would be satisfied holding her like this all night. But I’d be lying to myself if I said that loving her body the way I should have before wasn’t making my hands itch to explore her. With my lips, I touched her jawline then her ear before gently caressing her neck.

An almost silent gasp escaped her mouth and I took that as an invitation to take more. No . . . I would give more. Show her how it felt to be loved. To be given pleasure without pain. Without harsh words but sweetness only.

Sliding my hand under her shirt I covered her right breast then tugged it free from her bra so I could give her nipple attention while I nibbled and licked her collarbone. Her soft skin was salty from fallen tears and sweat. Scarlet arched her back and pressed her breast into my hand with an excited cry.

I wasn’t hurrying this. No matter how badly she wanted me to. I pulled the other cup down and the lacy fabric let her left breast pop free. I ran my palm back and forth over both of them while moving my mouth back up to hers and tasting her. She always reminded me of honey. I savored the sweetness and her little cries against my mouth.

After enjoying how she scratched my arms and wiggled in my lap, I took my hand and slid it down her stomach tracing her belly button with my fingertip, then unbuttoned her shorts so that I could continue my journey. The warmth that met my fingers the moment they slid inside her panties caused me to groan. She moved against my hand impatiently and I smiled as I kissed my way down to her cleavage.

With a careful, drawn out touch I gave the gentlest attention to her swollen clit. The begging began with her head thrown back and her neck exposed to me. I took a bite of the tender skin and she grabbed a handful of my hair. “Bray.” My name was a raspy sound from her lips.

I studied those lips, swollen from my extra attention. I eased my hand out of her panties. That made her eyes fly open all dazed and glassy while her hand grabbed my wrist.

“No!” she cried.

I slid my arms under her and stood up. “I’m making love to you, Scarlet. But not on this tiny excuse for a couch.”

I carried her to the bedroom, sure my dick had never been this damn hard. Scarlet didn’t say anything at first. Not until I laid her down on the bed and began stripping my shirt off.

Her mouth finally opened and she said, “I smell like fried food.”

Laughing at this moment wasn’t exactly romantic but damn if I could help it. The sudden realization had her looking mortified. I knew if I didn’t act quickly this moment would be gone.

I jerked my jeans off and covered her quickly. “Lucky for you, I love the smell of fried food.”

She shook her head. “Not on a woman,” she ended it with a gasp because my teeth pulled one of her nipples into my mouth.

“Not a woman,” I agreed. “This woman. It’s an aphrodisiac. I swear. You let me get these bottoms off and I’ll show you how hungry it makes me.”

She inhaled sharply, then slowly lifted her hips. I took the invitation with a smug grin and discarded her shorts and panties. She leaned up and pulled her shirt off, tossing it to the side of the bed.

The bed touched all four walls of the room. There was no floor for anything to fall to except at the entrance where I had stood when I’d undressed. I liked the idea of being closed in a room with a big bed and a naked Scarlet. I may never leave.

I wrapped my fingers around her ankles and pulled her legs over my shoulders, then began to show her exactly how much I liked her scent. Hearing her cry my name while begging me not to stop was even sweeter.


RINGING. THERE WAS a ringing. Far off. I stood in the middle of a desert and turned in circles looking for the sound. It wasn’t until I began to panic because I couldn’t find the noise that I realized I was alone in the desert.

It finally hit me. I was dreaming. Then I began to fall backwards into nothingness.

My eyes snapped open, my arms flew out hitting the bed on either side of me in an attempt to catch myself . . . and the ringing continued. The sun was so bright coming through the blinds I had to squint. I don’t remember it being that bright in my bedroom before. My covers were tossed aside and when I looked down at my body, I realized I was naked. A light sheen of sweat covered me. Why was it so hot? I slept with the windows cracked for the breeze. And why was the sun so bright?

The ringing started again. Rubbing my eyes, I yawned. My body felt as if it had taken that fall I’d been dreaming about. The tenderness between my legs . . .


I sat up in bed and began looking around. My phone was still ringing so I jumped off the end of the bed and ran the four steps to the table in the kitchen to grab it.

Tags: Abbi Glines South of the Mason Dixon Romance
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