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Authors: Lauren Faulkenberry

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BOOK: Bayou My Love: A Novel
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My
breaths quickened as I pictured exactly how he might take his time with me.

He
unbuttoned my shirt so slowly it made me shiver. I thought at any second he’d
rip the blouse from my shoulders and scatter buttons all over the floor. But he
seemed to want to stretch this moment out as long as he could. I leaned into him,
dragging my fingers down his back.

“So
stunning,” he said, as he dropped my shirt to the floor. “I can’t decide where
to start.”

My
heart hammered in my chest. His lips moved over my collarbone, and I struggled
to undo the snaps on his shirt while my hands were free. He let me push his
hands away just long enough to free them from his sleeves, and he grinned when
I pulled him against me again.

He
somehow knew exactly where I wanted to be touched, and I laughed a little,
thinking that maybe I needed to offer up another challenge just so he didn’t
think I was too easy to please this way, either.

“Can
I tell you something?” he asked.

“What
is it?”

He
slipped his hands down over my hips. His lips moved against my neck as he
spoke, and I shuddered. “I’ve wanted you ever since you walked into this house.
Does that scare you?”

“It
takes more than that to scare me,” I said, grasping his hips. “Show me how much
you want me.”

He
lifted me then, pulling my legs around his waist. He sighed when I squeezed
myself tighter around him, and kissed me harder. Still holding me against him,
he moved away from the wall and stumbled down the hall to his bedroom.

We
landed on his bed in a tangle, and I unfastened his belt, unzipped his jeans.

“I
knew you’d drive me crazy,” he said, raising up enough to strip off his jeans
and toss them to the floor. He pulled my shorts and panties to my ankles,
tracing his tongue from my hip down to my knee as he went. My breath caught in
my throat, and I wound my fingers in his hair. His lips grazed my thigh so
deliberately that it made me ache. I’d never wanted so badly for a man to keep
touching me, keep trying to get closer.

Jack,
it seemed, couldn’t get close enough.

Why
he was so different and why I could let my guard down with him didn’t make
sense to me—but I pushed those thoughts aside. His tongue, his teeth, his hands
roving over every curve of my frame—that’s what I preferred to concentrate on.

“Jack,”
I breathed, “Stop this teasing.”

His
lips moved against my inner thigh as he said, “I want to take my time with
you.”

I
trembled as his tongue slid along the curve of my hip, and I tugged on his hair
until he brought his face back up to mine. I kissed him hard, and he grunted in
surprise. I couldn’t feel enough of him, taste enough of him. I clutched his
shoulders as if I was about to fly away and he was the only thing anchoring me
to the earth.

His
grip tightened. Then a buzzing filled my ears. I thought it was because of his
cheek sliding along my collarbone, but when he leaned over me and reached for
his jeans on the floor, I realized it was not.

He
was stretched across me, holding me down as he dug through the pockets and
pulled out his cell phone.

I
tightened my leg around his waist, and he groaned, reading the number on the
phone.

“What
is it?” I asked, my breath ragged.

Still
halfway off the bed, he held the phone to his ear and listened. Then, all
business, he said, “Yeah. Be there in drive time.”

I
relaxed my grip on him, and he settled back over me, placing his forearms by my
ears.

“I’m
sorry,” he said. “This makes me a real bastard.” He hovered over me, kissed me
lightly on the lips. “I have to go.”

“You’re
joking.”

“It
seems I gotta go put out somebody else’s fire.”

I
covered my face with my hands and groaned. “You did not just say that.”

He
climbed off me and fumbled to get his pants on, wincing as he zipped them.
“God, you’re beautiful. I hate my job right now.” He slipped his boots on and
grabbed his shirt, never taking his eyes off me.

“What
happened to your day off?”

“It’s
a big one,” he said. “They need everybody that’s around.”

I
sighed, falling back into the pillows. My skin already felt cold without his
against it.

He
smiled that crooked smile. “Don’t worry, darlin’. I’ll be back soon.”

I
propped my head in my hand, still dizzy, wishing he’d pretend he didn’t get
that call and climb back into bed. Then I felt guilty. After all, somebody’s
house was on fire, and right then, they needed him more than I did.

But
only slightly.

He
leaned over and kissed me, a slow, delicious move that made me want to stay all
tangled up with him for the next three days.

“Hey,”
he said. “Don’t forget where we were.”

He
jogged to the door, and I called out, “Wait!”

“What
is it?” he said, leaning against the door frame.

“Be
careful.”

He
frowned. “That’s like saying
Macbeth
in the theater, cher.”

“Shit,”
I said. “Well, break a leg, then.”

“You
get one free pass. Then the gods start raining irony and brimstone down on all
of us.”

He
winked at me as he dashed out the front door.

 

~~~~

 

I
lay back against his pillows, listening to his boots thumping down the porch
steps.

What
the hell had I been thinking?

I
vaulted from the bed, and scooped my panties and shorts up from the floor.

“Jesus,
Enza,” I muttered, retracing our steps to find my shirt. Back in the study, I
marched straight to the wall that now had the faint texture of cotton blouse
and denim shorts embossed into the surface. I frowned, grabbing the roller and
dunking it into the paint tray.

Was
I out of my mind, climbing into bed with a man I just met? I couldn’t even
blame it on the paint fumes because my paint was top-quality water-based. I
rolled a thin coat over the smudges, careful not to make the first layer peel
off. It was too soon to add another layer, but those smudges needed to be smoothed
away. Immediately.

I
dug through the hall closet until I found a box fan, then aimed it toward the
touched-up wall. I collected the last bits of wallpaper into a garbage bag and
took it out to the porch. Bella was stretched out on her side under the hammock.
She opened one eye and stared at me dubiously.

With
Jack gone, I could finish up the room. Erase all the evidence that the last
hour ever happened.

The
drop cloths were splattered with buttercream, but the floor was clean. It could
use a quick polish, but I’d wait to do them all at once. I uncovered the
furniture, put some scraps of cardboard under the feet of the chairs, end
tables and the monstrous floral sofa, and shoved the pieces back where they
belonged.

I
willed myself to forget Jack’s husky laugh and the way his lips felt moving
down my belly, over my hip. I would not think of the wrinkles that formed at
the corners of his eyes when he smiled his easy smile. I would not think of his
big square hands holding me under him as he told me he couldn’t wait to taste
me. I could will myself to forget the way his lips had felt on mine.

Thank
God that building had caught fire.

 

~~~~

 

When
I woke, I had the sinking thought that I was in Jack’s bed, but no—I was on the
couch downstairs. It must have been hours since I’d sat down with my glass of
wine, my reward for finishing one room and swearing off all future physical
entanglements with Jack Mayronne. The house was as dark as the inside of an ink
bottle, with just a faint hint of moon outside. When I reached for the lamp,
there was only the click of the chain. No burst of light. I tripped over my
tool box, then slammed my shin into the coffee table and cursed as I reached
the far wall. When I flipped the light switch, nothing happened.

“Great.
Something else to fix.”

Lightning
flickered outside, casting the room in a blue glow just long enough for me to
navigate into the hallway and stumble into the kitchen. While rummaging through
the drawers to find a flashlight, I heard the dog’s toenails clacking on the
floorboards. Barking, she ran into the hall. There was the sound of a key in
the lock.

I
froze, though I knew it could only be Jack.

The
door squeaked open. There was the flip of a switch, then a groan.

“Hey,”
I called, “the power’s out.”

“Jesus,”
he said, dropping his keys. “I didn’t know you’d be up.”

I
could barely make out his silhouette as lightning flashed behind him.

He
brushed past me and opened the pie safe, where he fished out a small
flashlight. “It’s probably just the breaker. Happens a lot when the window
units are running at the same time. Power surge.”

Down
the hall, he opened the closet under the stairs and checked the breaker box.
After a couple of clicks, the lights came back on.

He
ambled toward me, like he thought I might bolt. For a split second he looked
like he’d kiss me, but he stopped short. He smelled like a candle just blown
out.

“Hi,”
I said.

“Hi,
yourself.”

“How
did it go?” As soon as I said it, it seemed like a ridiculous thing to ask.

“I’ll
tell you over a beer,” he replied, walking into the kitchen. “You want one?”

“No,
thanks. What time is it?”

“Nearly
eleven.”

I
sat on one end of the couch, studying the way he moved toward me. He looked
like he felt bad about earlier and wanted to take it back too. Even though it
was disappointing to think of him feeling that way, it was for the best.

“It
was a warehouse,” he said. “Burned right to the ground. After two hours they
called us off.” He stretched out next to me, propping his feet on the coffee
table.

“What
caused it?”

He
shook his head, his hand resting next to my thigh. “No official word yet. The
chief thinks it’s squatters. I think it’s something else.”

“Like
what?”

He
took a long swallow. “Like an arsonist.”

“Damn.
Was anybody hurt?”

“No.
We got lucky.”

“You’ve
been there all this time?”

He
nodded, taking a long pull from the beer. His eyes were dark.

“You
must be exhausted.”

“Nothing
I’m not used to,” he said, sliding his hand over my knee. “What did you get
into around here? I know you didn’t just sit here eagerly awaiting my return.”

I
felt a ripple of warmth pass over my skin. “Mostly finished the study.”

He
stared at me, his fingers squeezing my knee. “You’re all I could think about.”

The
starving, wanton part of me wanted him to pick up where he left off, slide his
hands all over me. But the practical, rational part of me said I should get a
hold of myself. Be professional.

“I
figured you thought it was a mistake,” I said.

“Why
would you say that?”

“Well,
you did leave me naked and alone.”

He
brought my hand to his lips. “You’re going to love the way I make that up to
you.”

I
took a drink from his beer and said, “I’ve been thinking about that.”

He
grinned. “Not as much as I have.”

Easing
back to my side of the couch, I said, “I think we should cool it for a while.”

He
stared at me like I’d just slapped him.

“Let’s
take care of the house first,” I continued. “There’s a lot riding on this for
me. And it’s going to be impossible to do if I’m thinking more about you than
this job.”

“You
can’t multi-task?”

“I’m
serious, Jack. We could have a good time together—that much is obvious. But I
think we should call a time-out.”

“Look,
I’m sorry I had to leave.” He leaned closer, his hand on my thigh. “But that’s
my job. I wasn’t trying to be an ass.”

“I
know,” I said. “It’s not that.”

“I
wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.”

“I’m
supposed to be down here working—not having a wild fling on the company tab.”

“That’s
cold, cher.”

“I
don’t mean it to be. I just think we need to keep this relationship
professional.”

He
sighed, folding his hands in his lap. “So you still want my help.”

“Well,
that was our agreement.”

He
nodded. “Work first, then?”

“Seems
to be our way.”

It
took him a minute to realize what I meant. Then he laughed, but he wasn’t
amused. “Next thing I know, you’ll make me sign a contract.”

BOOK: Bayou My Love: A Novel
12.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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