“You gonna take that last step now?”

Ripley drummed her fingers on the table, then sighed. “Let’s say I’m going to takea step and see what happens next. Can I use the phone?”

“What for?”

“I need to call in a pizza order.”

It took Macmost of the day to fix the sensor, and even then it was only jury-rigged. It would take a day or two to get the replacement parts, and with Friday looming, he was in a crunch.

I’m not sure what to expect on Friday,he wrote.It’s better that way. It’s a mistake to go into an experience anticipating specific results. Closes off the mind to possibilities. I do, now, have a theory on the events in the Logan cave. The Gaelic phrase carved into the cave wall translates to “My heart is your heart. Ever and always.” While it will take time to ascertain the age of the carving (send rubbing and scraping to lab, ASAP) I continue to believe it was made within the last twenty years. Based on that, the location of the cave, and Mia Devlin’s reaction to finding me and Ripley there, it’s a logical assumption that the cave has particular and personal meaning for her. The carving, I believe, was done by her or for her.

The Logans had a son, Samuel, who was raised onthe island. No one speaks of him in connection with Mia. It’s a studied, deliberate omission, which naturally leads me to conclude that he and Mia Devlin were involved, most probably were lovers before he moved off-island.

This, in turn, may be the foundation for the last step of the legend, which is mirrored by the descendants of the original sisters.

Nell to Zack being the first, and hypothetically, Mia to Logan being the last.

Which leaves Ripley in the middle. Ripley and . . .

His fingers fumbled, so he stopped, sat back, rubbed his eyes under his glasses. He reached absently for his coffee mug and knocked it off the table. The obligatory cleanup gave his system time to settle.

I’m connected to the pattern,he continued.I sensed it before I came here, and with the documents I’ve yet to share with the others, I’ve formed certain theories. But theories and reality are different matters, with different effects on those involved. On me. It’s more difficult than I’d imagined to maintain objectivity, to stay in the role of observer, documenter when . . .

I can’t stop thinking about her. Trying to separate feelings from professional judgment is hard enough, but how can I be sure those feelings don’t stem from professional interest?

“And glands,” he muttered, but he didn’t write that down.

Does Deputy Ripley Todd fascinate me because she has a preternatural gift that has come down to her over three centuries? Or because she’s a woman who has managed to attract me on every possible level?

I’m beginning to think it’s both, and that I’m already in too deep to care where these feelings come from.

He sat back again, and as his concentration level dipped, he tuned in to the beeps and buzzes of his equipment in the living room. He shoved away from the little desk, rapping his knee sharply on its underside, then limped cursing out of his office.

Ripley stood inside the door, scowling at his machines.

“Don’t you ever turn these things off?”

“No.” He had to resist rubbing his stomach. It ached, just looking at her.

“I knocked.”

“I was in the office, working. Didn’t hear you.”

“You’re lucky I’m persistent.” She held up the cardboard box she carried. “Pizza delivery. Large and loaded, as requested. In the mood?”

His mouth watered, and his belly tightened. “It so happens I’ve been craving a pizza for weeks now.”

“Me, too.” She set it down, on top of what happened to be a machine that cost in the high six figures. She shrugged out of her coat and let it fall on the floor. She pulled off her cap, tossed it in the general direction of her coat as she walked toward him. “Hungry?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Good. I’m starved.” She leaped, hitching herself up, wrapping her legs around his waist and crushing her mouth down on his.

He stumbled back two full steps. Every rational thought slipped out of his brain and drained out of his ears.

“Sex now,” she said, breathless as she raced her lips over his face, bit his neck. “Pizza later. Good for you?”

“Excellent.” He staggered toward the bedroom, made it as far as the doorway before he had to brace her against the jamb. “Just . . . let me . . .” He changed the angle of the kiss, sinking deep until her moan echoed his.

“I taste you all the time.” He scraped his teeth along her throat. “All the time. Drives me crazy.”

“Me too. I want you naked.” She began to tug at his sweatshirt.

“Wait. Slow down.”

“Why?” Laughing, she did tormenting things to his ear with her tongue.

“Because . . . Jesus. Because I’ve been thinking about this a while.” His fingers dug into her hips as he started toward the bed. “Feels like centuries. I don’t want to rush it.” He managed to get a handful of her hair, to draw her head back until their eyes met. “I want to savor it. Savor you. I want . . .” He leaned in, nibbled at her mouth. “To take years to make love with you. To touch you,” he continued as he lowered her to the bed. “Taste you.” Gently, he lifted her arms over her head.

She quivered beneath him. “You talk a good game,” she managed, “for a geek.”

“Let’s see how it plays.” He traced the exposed line of her belly when her sweater rode up. “With a little teamwork.”

He lowered his head, and at the last instant angled away so his lips rubbed over her jaw.

Her body was taut under his, pumping off energy in almost visible waves. He wanted that, all of that. But first he wanted her limp, weak and stunned from pleasure.

Her hands flexed under his, but she didn’t struggle. Her heart pounded against his, and her lips yielded when he asked for them. That alone was arousing, knowing she would let him set both pace and tone.

She was strong enough, what she felt was strong enough, to give him that gift. Now, he would show her he treasured it.

She’d never known a man who could light so many fires with his mouth alone. Even as she yearned for his hands, her bones, her muscles, melted under the heat. She sighed, and surrendered to it.

Her pulse thickened. Her mind blurred.

When he released her hands, her arms felt soft, heavy. She lifted them, slipping off his glasses, tossing them aside so she could frame his face to bring his mouth back to hers again.

He touched her now, a skim and glide of fingers as he inched her sweater up, off. A lazy journey over her breasts just at the edge of her bra, then a teasing dance over the center clasp.

She tugged his sweatshirt off, let her hands roam in turn.

Then his mouth came to hers again and brought out a quiet sound of pleasure. Weightless, she floated on the kiss. She nuzzled, stroked, contented as a cat when his mouth skimmed the curve of her shoulder. Shivered lightly in anticipation as his tongue trailed down the side of her neck. Moaned when it dipped under cotton to tease her nipple.

Then cried out, arching helplessly as his mouth closed, hot and hungry, over her breast.

She fought for breath, for balance. Her fingers dug into the bedclothes as her system was plunged abruptly from contentment to desperation.

It was like throwing open a door to a furnace, he thought. A man could be consumed by all that heat. Still he craved more. He snapped open her bra, found flesh. He felt her gather beneath him—storm clouds merging into one electric mass—and shuddered at her strangled cry of release.

As she went limp again, he moved down her, down the lean, taut lines of disciplined female form. Angles and curves, dips and lovely, lovely lines. He wanted to wallow in them, exploit them, absorb them. The jump of her pulse here, then here, matched the leap of his own. And the taste of her grew warmer. Stronger. Until he wondered how he’d ever lived without it.

She was helpless. H

ad never been helpless. Had never been taken with such ruthless patience. He owned her, and there was a thrill in it. In knowing she would let him do anything he pleased. In knowing she would enjoy it.

Her skin was damp, hot. It seemed he knew every nerve in her body and would send each quivering, one by one. She reached for him, opened to him, gave to him with a freedom she’d never felt for another.

Every move seemed impossibly slow, as if they swam through water. His body trembled for hers, his heart raced. She felt it all, and the tensing bunch of his muscles under her stroking hands.

When his senses were full of her, the scent, the flavor, the texture, he rose over her. Waiting, waiting until those eyes, clouded now with pleasure, opened.

He slid into her. Deep, deeper.

Tags: Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island Romance
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