Authors: Melanie Shawn
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
She shivered again, this time solely from the baritone vibrations of his voice. Her eyes shot up to meet his. He looked down at her, his gaze intense and…hot. She felt a tightening in her stomach (and a fluttering a little farther south) from just the expression in his eyes alone.
Wow. He had such amazing eyes.
It was almost as if she could lose herself in them, they were deep and always held so much emotion. She had forgotten what looking into them made her feel. It was like when you didn't eat a favorite food for several years. Obviously, you remembered how much you loved it, but the passing of time makes that memory almost academic.
Until, of course, you taste it again. Then, the flavors hitting your taste buds bring all the memories of every time you ever tasted that food flooding back to you at once, all the emotion connected to it, and you truly remember how much you loved it. And you're amazed that you could have ever forgotten.
When you put a forkful of that long-forgotten favorite food into your mouth again, it was like a mouth orgasm. This was like that. But with eyes. It was an eye orgasm. An eyegasm, if you will.
She felt her breath begin to quicken.
Riley took a step back from the side of the bed and cleared his throat. “Why don’t you take a shower or a bath or whatever and I’ll go make some breakfast.”
He turned and started towards the bedroom door, walking with purpose.
“Umm, I’m not sure there’s anything to make.”
He stopped mid-exit. Without turning back to face her, he said lightly, “Then I’ll go down to the market on the corner. Do you have any requests?”
Riley stood perfectly still and Chelle took a moment to appreciate the view from the back. Man, he looked as good going as he did coming. His back muscles were taut beneath the thin white cotton of his t-shirt, and HOLY MOLY, he had a perfect rear-end. He had the kind of physique that people carved marble statues of. It really wasn’t fair for one man to be that insanely hot.
“Chelle?” He turned back towards her, and she realized belatedly that she had let the silence go on an uncomfortably long time.
She immediately shot her gaze up to his face, her eyes becoming as big as saucers. Embarrassment caused heat to race up her face, coloring her cheeks a deep red, she was sure.
She was pretty certain that he had caught her staring at his backside, but he didn’t make a comment about it. “Huh?” she asked innocently.
“What sounds good for breakfast?” The corners of his lips twitched as though he was trying to suppress a smile.
Well, even if she had been caught, at least Riley was too much of a gentleman to call her out on it.
“Oh, right. Umm, yeah. If you could just get me some orange juice and maybe bread for toast that would be good,” she stammered. She wasn’t sure if her stomach could handle much more than that.
“Got it,” he smiled and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him – but not before he favored her with a small wink. She smiled weakly. So, he had seen.
She flopped back on the bed, letting out a loud groan as she covered her face.
“Oh, and Chelle?” she heard him say as the door cracked back open.
She popped back up into a sitting position, and said, “Yes?” in as non-nonchalant a tone as she could manage.
“Take a picture next time,” he said, a light teasing tone playing at the edges of his voice, “It'll last longer.”
As Riley stepped outside of the apartment building onto the street a cold gust of wind hit him smack dab in the face.
Good, he thought. Since he wasn't in a position to take a cold shower then the chill of the wind would be the next best thing.
Damn it. Big mistake. Thinking of a 'cold shower' made him think of any kind of shower...and that had him imagining Chelle, upstairs, naked...water dripping down her skin...
He shook his head. That was not a visual he should be entertaining. It was bad enough he had been sporting wood for about five hours now.
The first thing he had done last night after checking on Chelle was call Jason and let him know that he could tell Katie that Chelle was fine, and that he was letting her sleep but would be staying the night to make sure she was alright. Jason had thanked him, a relieved tone in his voice that let Riley know that Katie's worry over Chelle had probably been impacting their enjoyment of the honeymoon.
As soon as he had hung up he gave the apartment a thorough cleaning and then he went into the bedroom to wait for Chelle to wake up.
The last thing he had expected was to get hard just watching her sleep but, damn. She was just so beautiful.
It also didn’t help that she kept twisting and turning under the covers, giving him brief glimpses of skin. Then she must have gotten warm, because at about 4 am she started kicking the covers completely off.
That wouldn’t have been any cause for concern except for the fact that she was only wearing a thin grey t-shirt and white cotton panties. The t-shirt kept riding up her waist exposing her tight, flat, sexy-as-hell belly. Which in turn kept making Riley picture trailing his fingertips over it...oh, God. It made Riley’s mouth water just thinking about it now.
And that didn't even begin to cover her gorgeous long, toned legs and her ass...damn. Her ass was, in and of itself, a thing of dreams. In fact, her whole body was like a walking, breathing wet dream come to life.
Riley must have covered her back up with the blankets at least a half a dozen times, but she just kept kicking and shoving the covers back off of her. It was like, even in her sleep, she knew how profoundly she affected him and wanted to make the effect as powerful as possible. It was enough to drive a man crazy!
He had almost laughed out loud when she apologized to him for how “boring” it must have been to sit up all night and watch her sleep. Yeah, right. If she knew what he had been thinking about the whole night, she wouldn't be the one apologizing, that was for damn sure. He would.
Then she had looked up at him, the same way she used to when they were kids, on those nights when they would stay up talking till the sun came up. It was almost too much for him. He had almost lost control. Because, when it came down to it, she wasn’t some naïve young teenager smiling up at him anymore.
Rachelle Thomas had grown up. She was a woman now. She was
woman. And it took every ounce of self-discipline, self-control...hell, self-
that Riley could muster to resist the urge to pin her back down on the bed and kiss that look of wonder off of her face and replace it with a look of ecstasy.
Add to that the fact he had caught her checking his ass...well, he knew if he didn’t get out of there ASAP he would not,
not, be responsible for his actions. He was only human.
Now, as he stepped into the small grocery store on the corner, he knew he was going to have to come up with a game plan to make it through the day, and one thing that game plan was absolutely going to include was leaving the apartment and getting out into the city. He was just a man, after all. A mortal man of flesh and blood. He knew that he absolutely could not trust himself to be alone in that apartment for the entire
day until eight pm, when he needed to leave to catch his flight.
He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but he knew he only had a little bit of time to figure it out. Once she was showered and done eating breakfast, if he didn’t have a plan of action solidly in place, he honestly didn’t think he could control himself.
Chelle finished her shower and stepped out onto the yellow floor mat. She dried off with a white fluffy towel and then wrapped it around her body snugly.
She was feeling a little more human...which was both good and bad. She was glad to have her wits about her again and to be thinking more clearly, that was true enough. But with that clarity came the knowledge that Riley Sloan was here.
In the flesh. And WHOA NELLY what flesh that was!
Riley had always been handsome. He had always made her heart skip a beat. As a pre-teen and teenager, butterflies would flitter around in her stomach whenever he had been near - but nothing...NOTHING...could have prepared her for what he looked like now, or the effect he was having on her in...well, not so much her stomach...let’s just say an area slightly
south of her stomach.
On the bright side, she had been spending the last week feeling sorry for herself, and wondering if she could ever have any feelings for a man that wasn’t David. So...question answered! And that answer was a loud and resounding YES.
She had always been attracted to David. He was a good looking guy. She had enjoyed the physical aspects of their relationship. When they did have sex it was fine...
was fine. But he had never made her feel anything close to what she had felt just a moment ago when she had simply looked into Riley’s gorgeous hazel eyes.
Riley. HOLY MOLY! Riley was hot.
Like...flames-coming-off-his-body-that-will-burn-you-if-you-get-too-close-or-dare-to-touch-him kind of hot.
Hmm. She hadn't phrased the metaphor that way intentionally, but it brought up a good point. It was probably a good thing to keep in mind - the fact that if you play with fire, you get burned.
She put a hand to her forehead. This was ridiculous. She was getting so far ahead of herself, cautioning herself for nothing! She was thinking of the situation as if Riley even wanted to play. She knew he probably still thought of her as Eddie’s little brat of a sister. An annoyance. An inconvenience.
And why shouldn’t he, she thought. Just look at the facts. Case-in-point, this very situation. After not seeing each other for over a decade, their very first re-introduction consisted of a situation where he was being asked to look after her, to check on her, to make sure she was
She squared her shoulders with renewed determination. She was going to take back some control in a situation that felt 100% out of control. She was going to solve both his problem and hers in one fell swoop.
As soon as he returned, she would let him know that she was fine, thank him for his time, and send him on his merry way. Problems solved! There was no possible way she could get burned if the fire was gone. And if she asserted herself and let him know in no uncertain terms that, yes, she had been having a bit of a rough patch, but she was doing better now - then he could be on his way. She would be out of his hair. True, she may have been a slight inconvenience when she was passed out, unconscious. BUT now that she was up and about, he didn’t have to worry about her. No sirree!
Quickly and efficiently, she towel
dried her hair and pulled on the first clothes she saw, which were a pair of jeans and a blue thermal. She took in her reflection in the mirror.
Wow! An entire week of nothing but junk food and alcohol seemed to have caught up with her.
There were deep purple bags under her eyes, and her jeans were a little tighter than she remembered them being the last time she'd worn them…which had been last week.
Oh well, damn it. It would have to do! She shouldn’t even care what she looked like. It’s not like Riley would notice anyway!
Taking one last deep, fortifying breath she turned the knob and opened the bedroom door. She might as well get this over with, quick and painless - like pulling off a Band-Aid. The sooner she sent him on his way the sooner she could be certain that she wasn’t inconveniencing him, and - more importantly - the sooner she could stop worrying about getting burned.
She stepped out to a bright clean apartment, she blinked several times at the light flooding the room. The drapes were pulled back, blinds were up and all the windows were wide open. Chelle looked around. It was like seeing the apartment for the first time.
Since she had arrived she had kept everything shut up tight, closed and dark. She had not even noticed how beautiful the small space was.
Katie had carved out quite a life for herself here in San Francisco. Even with most of the items that had filled the apartment now packed up and shipped back to Harper’s Crossing, the pieces that were left really made the space feel like a home.
A home which, right now, smelled like bacon, eggs, and coffee. At first Chelle thought the smells would cause her to get nauseous again, but that didn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite occurred, and she heard her stomach rumble loudly.
“Sounds like someone’s hungry,” she heard the light, teasing tone in Riley's voice and felt herself fall right back into the bond of camaraderie they used to share. Effortlessly, like a tongue in groove joint, her soul fell back into lockstep with his. She closed her eyes, reveling in it and refusing to think about the consequences right at that moment.
She turned to look toward the kitchen, which was where his voice had originated. Riley stood with his back to her, cooking at the stove. Chelle’s heart melted, just a little. Damn fire.
No man had ever cooked for her before. She knew it wasn’t like he was cooking for
. He was just making the two of them breakfast.
But it did kinda sorta feel like he was cooking for her.
And, since no guy had ever cooked for her, she had never realized how sexy it was. She stood watching him at the stove. Her mouth was watering, sure enough, but it had nothing to do with the food and everything to do with the cook.
Riley glanced over his shoulder, “Do you want coffee
with your OJ?”
For an instant, she felt caught, like a deer in headlights. She thought that somehow Riley had read her thoughts, felt her energy, knew what she was thinking. She thought his question was some kind of double entendre, like when idiots replaced their wolf-whistling with some clever phrase like, “Can I get some fries with that shake?”
It took her only an instant to mentally process the words and realize that wasn't what was going on, but it was an important instant - it served to snap her out of the trance that she had begun to fall into.
“Um, yeah...but I can get it.” She forced her feet to start moving and headed into the kitchen. She moved to the far left corner cabinet where the mugs were kept.
“Thanks for cleaning up,” she said awkwardly, “You, um...you really didn’t have to do that.”
“Not a problem,” his baritone voice rumbled.
The sound made Chelle’s toes curl and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up as a sensual chill ran through her. Fire, she reminded herself, four-alarm fire. You don't need to get burned right now, girl!
Do you want a cup?” She asked as she stepped around him and reached for the mugs on the top shelf of the cabinet. They were just out of her reach, so she went up on her tip toes. She could feel the cold ceramic of the mugs brushing her fingertips...almost there...just stretch a little higher...
Chelle felt Riley move so that he was standing directly behind her. He easily reached the top shelf and pulled two mugs out, setting them down on the counter. She froze when he didn’t immediately move away. She felt as if she couldn't draw a breath. She was utterly paralyzed – but not just her. She felt like the entire world now existed in a state of suspended animation.
She waited. She could sense more than actually feel his solid form directly behind her.
Her first instinct was to lean back and melt against him. Nope! Melting was probably a bad idea. Not just probably. Definitely. Bad idea. Bad, BAD idea. Melting indicates heat, heat comes from fire, and fire equals burn. Chelle decided to play it safe and turn to face him, thinking he would back away.
She thought wrong.
Riley stood perfectly still in front of her, his golden eyes staring down at her, the liquid pools boring into her own. Oh yeah, definitely fire. Hot-hot-hot. She couldn’t take the heat, in fact, so she dropped her gaze and looked toward the ground.
Riley's large frame surrounded her, encompassing her, becoming her whole world. Soon she was aware of nothing but the nearness of his flesh. He slowly placed both of his large hands on the counter, one on each side of her so that his arms formed a barrier. She was trapped in the corner of the kitchen. She wasn't sure she ever wanted to escape.
She started to look up at him to ask what he was doing, but her eyes were sidetracked midway through that journey. As soon as they alighted on his sexy, muscular chest she forgot that she wanted to ask him what he thought he was doing...hell, she forgot her own name. Suddenly, there was nothing in the world to her but the fact that Riley Sloan was mere millimeters away from her and, if she wanted to touch him, all she would need to do was reach out the slightest little bit.