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Authors: Rebecca Yarros

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BOOK: Ignite (Legacy)
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I’d parked in front of River’s house before I even realized I was headed there. I meant to go home, but I guessed my subconscious knew what I really needed.

Zeus didn’t bark as I approached the door, so I knew he wasn’t inside. That meant he was out for a run with River. My hand paused on the door handle. Was I allowed to just walk in anymore? I still had a key, of course, but we’d done some really weird transitioning, and I didn’t know where we stood.

Keys for best friends? No big deal.

A key for your girlfriend? Huge. Like iceberg and
Titanic
huge.

Like moving to Colorado huge.

I opted for the three o’clock sun, which hung directly above me, and stretched my legs out on the steps that led to the porch. Peace seeped into me in the quiet, filling more of my chest with each breath, spreading through me in the way only being near River—or even just his house—could.

Gravel crunched nearby, and my breath caught as I opened my eyes.
Holy. Shit.
River ran with Zeus unleashed at his side, his strides eating up the ground as he came closer.

He was shirtless, all of that gorgeous, bronzed skin basking in the sunlight. I’d always known he was hot. I wasn’t blind to the girls who flocked to him, or my own attraction. But my need to check my own drool level was new. The tribal tattoo that stretched across his chest rippled with his movements, and as he came toward me, I made out the tiny rivulets of sweat that slipped down the cut lines of his torso to his carved abs.

The man was a walking advertisement for sex.

I shifted my legs under me as he slowed, a smile spreading across his face. “Hey, you,” he said, breathing heavily but not over-exerted.

“Hi,” I said, suddenly shy. The last time we’d spoken had been right after he’d pulled his tongue out of my mouth.

The way he looked at me—blatant hunger in those brown eyes—made me feel like he was thinking the same exact thing.

“What are you doing out here?” he asked as Zeus licked my face.

“Waiting for you.”

His forehead puckered, but he pulled me to my feet easily. “Good answer, want to come in?”

I nodded, and he led us inside, heading straight for the kitchen. He pulled two bottles of water out of the fridge and offered one to me. “No thank you,” I said, scared that if I drank the water it would come right back up in a second.

“Okay,” he said, then chugged the water.

Damn, even the muscles of his throat were sexy.

“So why were you sitting on my porch like some kind of stranger? You have a key,” he said as he put the empty bottle into the recycling bin.

“I feel like that key just became complicated,” I said, dragging my eyes up the muscles of his back as he turned away to grab the other bottle. I knew Bishop pushed him at the gym, but damn. Just…
damn.
In the past, he’d always thrown a shirt on around me unless we were at the lake, and to be honest, I hadn’t looked.

No point wanting what you knew you couldn’t have.

But now I could have him. It was like seven years of pent-up sexual frustration were hitting me all at once, hitting the walls of my defenses with a battering ram made out of pure steel…kind of like his body.

“Uncomplicate it. You have a key, so use it.”

He hit me with those eyes, and I nearly melted. Was this the charm the other girls at the bar raved about? Had he simply never used it on me before?

“You gave it to me…you know…before.”

“Before what?” he asked.

I blew my breath out through a rumble of my lips. “Come on, you know.”

His smirk caught my panties on fire.
Good thing he knows how to put those out.
“Say it.”

“Before you kissed me and I stopped being best-friend Avery and turned into…I don’t even know. Kissable Avery?”

He stalked forward until he stood just a breath away, close enough to touch, but not. “You have always been kissable Avery, I’ve just never been allowed to kiss you like I wanted. You’re also fuckable Avery—”

“River!” My cheeks ran hot.

His grin was wide and so very beautiful. “Oh no, I have nothing to lose. I’m done pulling my punches. Done being careful around you. Done trying my best not to let it show how badly I want you.”

Oh God, he was
good.
His words alone had me ready to strip him in the kitchen.
Or maybe that’s a year plus without sex.

“Okay,” I whispered.
Lame.

He stroked my cheek with his thumb. “But you’re still best-friend Avery. That’s never going to change no matter how many times I get to kiss you or how often you’ll let me touch you. If you decide that was the only kiss we’ll ever share, you’ll still be my best friend.”

The thought soured my stomach. “You’d be okay if I cut you off?”

“No. I’d just work my ass off to convince you otherwise.”

“Oh.”

“Oh,” he repeated, and kissed my forehead lightly before backing away.

A stab of disappointment hit me right between my thighs.

“So what made you stop by?” He looked at his phone and put it right down. “I know you have to be to work in twenty mintues.”

“I just kind of ended up here.”

“That’s okay. I like seeing you.” He lifted the second bottle of water to his lips and took a sip, never once looking away.

There was something so ordinary about the motion, the ease there was between us that made me long for a different future—made me wonder if it was possible to change my course in life.

“I’ll go,” I said suddenly. “For the weekend,” I corrected.

“Really?” His face lit up like the time I’d given him Mumford & Sons concert tickets for his birthday.

“Yes,” I answered.

I was in his arms before I finished the word as he swung me around the kitchen against his very hot, very sweaty chest. “You’re going to love it!” he promised as we spun.

Laughter bubbled from my chest, and I felt lighter than I had in years, like he’d picked up more than my weight—he’d lifted my soul.

“Can I kiss you?” he asked, his eyes dropping to my lips.

“Yes,” I said. “But you’d better make it fast. I have to leave in five minutes.”

I sighed when his lips brushed over mine, relearning the feel of them. Then our mouths opened, and the sweet kiss turned hot so fast my head spun.

Good God, the man could kiss.

He consumed my every thought, until my only concerns were how close I could get and how much deeper I could kiss him.

Finally he pulled my hands from around his neck. “You’d better go before I keep you here with me.”

“I’m not sure I would mind.”

He groaned and set me down, backing away slowly. “Go. Now. Just be ready for the perfect trip to Colorado, because then you’re mine.”

“I like the way that sounds…
mine.

“Me, too,” he said softly.

This was good. No, this was better than anything I’d ever felt. And when he looked at me like that—like he’d been waiting a lifetime to sample me and now he was planning his attack—I melted.

How had we done this? Flipped from friends to horny teens in the span of two days?

“Go, Avery.” He ran his tongue along his lower lip, and I knew if I stayed a moment longer I’d never make it to work. Ever.

I ran.

5
River

D
amn
, that thing was long. I looked back at the trench we’d dug in to the south side of the fire and examined it for weak spots. We’d chosen the only feasible place to dig in and tried to clear as much of the fuel as possible.

“You good?” Bishop asked, sliding his chainsaw into its case.

“Yeah, finished.” Sweat ran in rivulets along my face. I couldn’t wait to get down from this ridgeline and get my helmet off.

The fire was a small one compared to our last blaze, but when the call had gone out shortly after Avery left my house, I’d answered. I would always answer. I thought of it as my last hoorah with the Midnight Sun crew.

I’d also cursed like a fucking sailor. This fire, as small as it was, had cost me four days with Avery. Maybe in the larger scheme of things, four days didn’t mean much. But when I was only guaranteed a couple of weeks with her, four days was forever.

“Let’s get out of here,” Bishop said, hoisting his chainsaw to his shoulder.

I gave the ridgeline one last look. Would this be the last time I was called to the Alaskan wilderness? It was a bittersweet thought. Next year this time I’d be on the Legacy crew, as long as we could pull back the numbers the council wanted.

“River?” Bishop called as the team started down the mountain.

“Yeah, I’m coming,” I said, turning to join the line of guys. If we got down in the next couple hours, there was a chance we’d make it back in time for me to see Avery tonight.

“You ready to head home?” Bishop asked as I fell in next to him.

“Which one?” I asked.

“Both, I guess.”

“I’m ready to see Avery.”

A grin spread across his face. “So that’s how it is now, eh?”

“To be honest, I don’t really know how it is. She agreed to come to Colorado for the weekend, so I’ll take it.”

“And anything else she has to offer?” He shot me a little side-eye.

“I’ll take anything she’s willing to give,” I answered softly.

Never one to talk about his feelings, Bishop’s jaw tightened. His mouth opened and closed a few times, until it was downright painful to watch.

“For fuck’s sake, just say it. Whatever it is.”

“Do you want to reconsider the Legacy crew? You have a life here, a house, a great team, and a great girl. I wouldn’t think any less of you if you didn’t want to go.”

I thought about it—the simple act of staying. I loved Midnight Sun, my house, the landscape…hell, even the crazy hours the sun kept were growing on me. Staying gave me a shot at keeping Avery, really seeing what we could turn into. If being in a relationship was as easy as being her best friend, then I knew we could be extraordinary. But as certain as I was of how perfect we’d be, I also knew that the actual chances of her moving with me were insanely small.

She’d never leave her father, and he’d never agree to move.

But if I didn’t go, Legacy wouldn’t get her Hotshot crew back, and I’d lose the last piece of my father. So would Bishop and every other Legacy kid.

So I was pretty much fucked either way.

“River?” Bishop asked again as we continued our descent.

“Sorry, just a lot on my mind. I haven’t changed my mind about the crew. I’m just hoping that visiting Colorado is enough to make Avery want to come with.”

Bishop whistled low. “That’s a lot to ask of a girl you’ve been dating for a week.”

Were we dating? We hadn’t really had the whole “what are we” talk. “It’s a Hail Mary. The whole thing with her is, but I couldn’t just leave and not try.”

“You’re in love with her.”

My grip tightened on the axe handle. “How long have you known?”

He shrugged, moving the chainsaw. “Since the first year we were here. I figured you’d get your shit straight sooner or later.”

“It’s pretty much the latest moment possible.”

“Yeah, well, we don’t remember the easily won games, right? The victories we remember are the ones where the outcome came down to the last minute, the overtime.”

“The Hail Mary,” I said.

He slapped my back. “The Hail Mary.”

* * *

T
he bar was
busy for a Tuesday, but it was Ladies Night, which brought the women out for the drinks, and the men out for the ladies.

I made my way through the crowd and took a tall table at the back, sitting so I could see Avery at the bar.

Fuck, she was beautiful. Her hair was up in a ponytail, swishing with her every movement as she poured drinks.

“So you and Avery, huh?” Jessie said, grabbing the empty chair to my right.

“How did you know?” I asked, my eyes still locked on Avery. She went up on her tiptoes to grab a bottle off the shelf, giving me a perfect view of her ass, and I sucked in a breath reflexively. We were in a room with at least thirty of our neighbors. Common sense told me that this wasn’t the place for me to ogle, let alone fantasize about propping her up on the bar and sliding her jeans down her thighs so I could taste her. I’d never had an issue controlling myself around Avery. Sure, my body had always reacted to the sight of her, but now that I’d had a taste and knew that she wanted the same thing…well, my body was trying to overrule my common sense.

And the bar really was perfect height.

“Please. Like you can keep a secret in this town? Just about everyone has seen the way you guys have been looking at each other these last few years. We were just waiting for Avery to find the courage to say something and you to stop fucking around in Fairbanks with co-eds.

“The way we look at each other?” I parroted, focusing in on Avery. I could see how I’d been obvious. Hell, I couldn’t take my eyes off her if we were in the same room—hence my cycle of breakups—but Avery had never once hinted that she wanted more than what we had. If she’d so much as breathed in my direction, I would have jumped before she said how high.

But she’d never thrown me signals. Maybe that was one of the reasons this whole situation was terrifying. Was she only kissing me back because she didn’t want to lose her best friend? Was I pushing her for something she didn’t really want?

Feeling unsure of myself was a foreign concept and damned inconvenient seeing as I had less than a week in Colorado to convince her to uproot her whole life for me.

“Please.” Jessie snorted, playing with her beer bottle. “You look at her like you’re ready to eat her alive.”

“Fair assessment,” I admitted, done hiding how I felt about her. I swallowed, my throat suddenly tight. “And her?”

“Seriously?” She arched an eyebrow at me.

“Seriously.”

“She looks at you like you’re everything she’s ever wanted, dipped in chocolate and ready for a tasty bite. Always has.”

I ripped my eyes from Avery to look at Jessie. She nodded slowly as she laughed. “You should see your face right now. If your jaw was any lower you’d be hitting the floor.”

My gaze went back and forth between the two women. Avery looked at me? Why the hell hadn’t I noticed? Was I blind? Or was she really that good at hiding her feelings?

“Never thought I’d see the day where River Maldonado was speechless.”

“First time for everything,” I said softly. Maybe this would work. Maybe she really did want me enough to leave. My mind raced with different scenarios as I swiped open my phone. She could stay through the school year if Addy needed that much time, or just to give her dad a few more months to come around, and be in Colorado by summer. I’d have the house set up by then, and they could stay with me until they figured out what they wanted to do.

Or maybe Avery would never move out. Maybe my house would become
our
house.

My chest tightened to the point of pain as she smiled at Maud. I couldn’t push her too fast—just because I’d been in love with her for the last seven years didn’t mean that she felt the same. But I didn’t exactly have another option with the deadline for the Legacy crew.

As much as I loved watching her, I also couldn’t wait another minute to get my arms around her.

River:
what are you up to?

I hit send and watched as she pulled out her cell phone, grinning as her thumbs worked on the small device.

Avery:
working. you? how is the fire?

River:
fire’s one hundred percent contained. i’m thinking about taking this really hot blonde out.

Her eyebrows puckered together and her face fell.

River:
it’s definitely the green ribbon in her hair that has me turned on
.

Her eyes shot up, wide and excited as she scanned the bar, her ribbon moving with the swish of her ponytail.

She jumped when she saw me, racing around the end of the bar. I had barely pushed away from the table and stood when she was in my arms, all sweet-smelling and soft.

“Hey, baby,” I said into her hair as I held her to me, lifting her against my chest.

She wrapped those incredible legs around my waist and burrowed her face into my neck. “River.” She sighed my name like a prayer. “Why didn’t you tell me you were back?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” I said, easily supporting her weight and loving the feel of her pressed against me.

Her arms tightened around me, and her fingers moved through my hair, lightly scratching my scalp. “I was so worried.”

Damn, I loved her. “I was fine. Promise. I’m sorry we were out of service up there, but it really was an easy one.”

“Good. I didn’t know if you’d make it home before we had to leave.”

I urged her back and she met my eyes. “Nothing’s going to stop me from taking you to Colorado this weekend.”

Nothing. Not her dad, or even Addy—as much as I adored her. This weekend was for us.

Her eyes dropped to my lips and want slammed into me, more intense than any time I’d ever come home from a fire. “Keep looking at me like that and you’ll get kissed in front of all these people. I’ve never minded gossip, but you might.”

Her tongue snuck out to wet her lower lip. “I don’t care.”

Fuck it.
My fingers threading through the base of her ponytail, I crushed her mouth to mine. I tried to remember where we were, that I couldn’t strip her down in the middle of a crowded bar. I tried to keep the kiss short, just enough to satisfy the craving I’d had for her mouth since I’d been called away.

I failed.

Her tongue moved against mine and I was gone. I sank into her, tilting her head so I could find a deeper, sweeter angle, and I forgot where we were. Hell, I forgot there was anyone else on the planet besides us.

Her ass pushed into my hand as she arched, her breasts stealing my breath as they pressed against me. She made that sexy little noise in the back of her throat, and I was ready to carry her the hell out of there and take her in my damned truck if it meant the throbbing in my dick would ease up just a little.

Someone cleared her throat near us, and I remembered that we were, in fact, the very opposite of being alone. I pulled away, but Avery held my lip with gentle suction, her teeth grazing the skin lightly as she finally released me.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

My breathing was too fast, too uncontrolled, and I was way too turned on to be this public at the moment.

“Welcome home,” she whispered, those blue eyes hazy with passion and happiness.

“I love the sound of that,” I admitted as I let her down. Her curves rubbed against me every. Inch. Of. The. Way. “You’re killing me.”

“Feeling’s mutual.”

“It’s about damn time!” someone in the bar called out.

He was followed by a round of applause that had Avery burying her beautiful, flushed face in my shirt. “Yeah, yeah,” I said as the clapping died down.

“Oh my God,” she mumbled.

I tilted her chin and kissed her scrunched nose. “I’d better get out of here and get packed for tomorrow.”

“You are cutting it pretty close.”

“Yeah, well, you know me. I have to do everything at the last possible second.”
Like tell you that I want you.

She grinned and kissed me lightly. “Pick me up in the morning?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

I kissed her goodbye just because I could, then made my way to the door before I ended up kissing her again. She waved when I looked back, and suddenly the eight-or-so hours I had to wait to kiss her again seemed like an eternity.

She was all I thought about as I packed a small suitcase, and all I thought about as I tried to get a few hours of sleep. After the last seven years, it was hard to believe that everything would come down to the next few days.

I had to find a way to convince her that she’d be happy in Colorado—that I was worth the risk. It wasn’t a small thing I was asking. Hell no. I wanted her to uproot her whole life and transplant it thousands of miles away, all because I knew that the only way we’d thrive was together.

But what if her dad wouldn’t come?

What if she wouldn’t leave him?

The clock ticked steadily on the nightstand, reminding me that I had to be up in a matter of hours, but that didn’t stop my brain, or the nauseating turn of my stomach that reminded me that no matter how much I loved her, she’d never abandon her family.

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