Page 49 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but I missed our closeness. Blake had been careful with me. Exceedingly careful. I hated that what happened had put an invisible wall between us, separating us by our fear of hurting each other when I needed Blake more than ever.

I pushed my jeans past my hips to the floor and tugged off my bra and shirt at once. He turned to watch me, his countenance reflecting the quiet hunger that was simmering through me. I stepped into the shower behind him. He let me pass to share the water. Our bodies brushed close, setting off all the familiar alarms. My nipples grazed the soft hairs on his chest, hardening instantly. I paused my journey there, perfectly content with our proximity, the hot water pulsing down on us.

“I missed you,” I said.

“I missed you too, baby.”

I placed my hands on his chest, eager to feel every ridge slide under my fingertips, to entwine with him. I grazed lower over the taut muscles of his abs. I wanted to go lower. I wanted to feel his hot flesh in my hands, to know he wanted me as much as I wanted him. After all of this madness, I longed for his touch, for the reassurance that nothing had changed between us. I traced the line of hair that led from his navel downward. He caught my hand, halting my journey.

“Turn around,” he said quietly.

I gazed at him from under my lashes, my breath hitching with the simple command. Good things were usually in store when he told me to turn around. I spun and braced my hands on the cool marble of the shower wall. I closed my eyes, imagining his hands on me, while the water ran down my back between us.

I heard a small click, and then his hands were in my hair, massaging and lathering. While it wasn’t the touch I expected, I welcomed it all the same. I let my head fall back as he rubbed ten tiny circles over my scalp.

“Feel good?”

I hummed. “Very. Thank you.”


I smiled. He moved the spray to rinse me and cleaned the rest of me from head to toe. He washed my shoulders, massaging the tense muscles as he went. Turning me so we were face to face again, he left no expanse untouched, between my breasts and over my belly. He avoided lingering anywhere I especially wanted him. The whole process was driving me crazy, but he didn’t seem to be in a rush, nor did he seem to be enjoying the usual game of sexual torture that we so often played.

He knelt to rub the loofa along the soles of my feet. The sensation tickled, but seeing him crouched at my feet, unable to hide his desire bobbing under its own weight in front of me seemed to cancel that out. Every innocent contact piqued my craving for a more intimate touch. He was hard, and I was burning with need.

When he rose, I took the loofa from him and tossed it to the floor. I caught him by the hair and levered against him, bringing us chest to chest. He groaned and pushed me back against the shower wall. Instinct took over, and in seconds I was climbing him. Thigh over hip, arching into his hard body. He cupped my ass, increasing the contact. We couldn’t be close enough.

“I miss you. I want to feel you,” I whimpered.

I caught a breath of air, before sealing my mouth over his again. His erection pressed against me, teasing against me. The connection sent a tingle of desire through me. But the sensation was tainted. I kissed him harder, drowning the doubt. He moaned, sliding his hand down my thigh. He trailed a slow path between my legs, slowing over my mound before cupping me. I tensed in his arms, not immediately understanding why. My chest heaved, my rapid breathing betraying the battle raging inside me. Shit.


I kissed him fiercely, closing the small separation between us, answering any question he might have. Damn it all, I needed him. No less than I’d ever needed him.

He pulled back and caught my roaming touch, stilling me. “We don’t have to do this.”

“I want to.”

He hesitated. “I know. I want to too, but…give yourself some time.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted, even as my voice wavered.

Was I? I knew what I wanted, what I craved, but I recognized the tension. On edge, ready to react, I battled with my desire. The battle made me as angry as I was horny, starving for him to love me, to fuck me right through the feeling that I didn’t want to face.

He kissed me, a slow chaste kiss that I barely felt through the heat and mist that collected on my skin. The gesture seemed to repeat his words.

“I’m fine, Blake,” I repeated. “He didn’t do anything. I’m fine. Nothing’s changed.”

He stared down, concern swimming behind his eyes. “Just because he didn’t get a chance to follow through doesn’t mean you haven’t been through emotional hell. We’re not talking about banged up knuckles. You know as well as I do those wounds go deeper than either of us want them to. You need time. We should take some time.”

I hated that he was probably right. I hated that I’d become so flawed and vulnerable in a matter of days. “Maybe I’m stronger than you give me credit for.”

He let out an exasperated sigh. “I have no doubts about your strength, Erica. I’m talking about your state of mind, your well-being. You can’t brush this whole thing off like it’s nothing.”

“How about you let me tell what you what I can take?”

My embarrassment mingled with the rejection. I left him there alone. In the bedroom I slammed drawers as I collected underwear and a shirt and then went to bed. Huddled onto my side, I tried to ignore his presence when he joined me. A moment passed before he came behind me, wrapping an arm around my waist. Pressing his lips to my shoulder, he caressed down my arm, eliciting a shiver that almost made me forget my irritation.

“I pushed you past your limits before. Let me honor them now, even if you won’t.”

I closed my eyes at the truth in his words. Truth and love and all the concern that the men who’d lodged this emotional wall between us had none of. I sighed heavily, giving myself over to trusting him.

“Look at me,” he whispered.

Reluctantly I turned, positioning my body to face his. A smile softened his features as he traced my jaw, running a sensual line over my lips.

“I love you, even when you’re marching around all pissed and indignant.”

“I hate this.”

His eyes dimmed. “I know you do. I know we both want more, but it’s worth waiting for. Tonight, all I want is to taste your sweet lips and hold you. I have the rest of my life to make love to you. Tonight, I just want you in my arms.”

Something cracked in me, that need to fight wilting under Blake’s gentle insistence. My muscles weakened, and I surrendered.