Authors: Melanie Shawn
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
Her breathing quickened. Her heart raced. Her belly tightened.
The electricity running between them was palpable, at least on her end. There wasn't even room in her consciousness to wonder what he was experiencing, so overwhelmed by the sensations that she was feeling.
She could feel her chest rising and falling, could hear nothing but the pounding bass line of her heartbeat in her ears.
She tried to get herself together. Figuring
that ‘panting’ at Riley’s mere nearness may not be what one would consider ‘playing it cool’ - nor would it be the most attractive thing in the world - she decided she should try and alleviate the tension a bit.
Not having the slightest clue how to go about doing that, she simply looked up into his sexy hazel eyes and smiled and squeaked out a simple, “Hi.”
Emotion flooded those amazing hazel eyes, and a deep rumbling sound, one that could be likened to a growl, vibrated from his chest. It sent a delicious thrill running down Chelle’s spine.
She stood perfectly still, her lower back pressed up against the counter. She never wanted this moment to end...but at the same time, she was excited to see where it would go.
She stood, remaining stock still, waiting...just waiting...for his next move.
Yesterday, if you would have asked her if Riley Sloan would be standing in this small kitchen, pinning her in the corner, desire flashing in his eyes...Good God! She probably would have snorted and shot back that the scenario was too crazy even for her wildest dreams. But right now, in this moment, it seemed as if her wildest dreams might just be coming true.
Breathe, just remember to breathe!
Riley leaned down and rested his forehead against hers, just for a moment. “Hi,” he whispered. Chelle breathed out, her knees weakening.
But then, with ninja like quickness, he was gone. Before she even had time to blink he was standing a few feet away from her, back in front of the stove pulling pieces of bacon off of the fryer and placing them on a plate.
She stood frozen where he had left her and tried to decide if she had, in fact, just imagined that little encounter or if it had in fact really just occurred.
Wildest dreams much?
It had felt real...but as she watched Riley walking calmly to the small kitchen table, two breakfast plates in hand, she thought that she may have indeed taken a trip to crazy town.
He was behaving for all the world as if nothing had just passed between them.
Then, when he leaned over to set the plates on the table, she looked down and noticed how snug his jeans looked in the groin area. She smiled to herself. Aha! So she hadn’t imagined it.
been affected by her. For some reason, this made her want to rethink her plan of immediately kicking him out. Suddenly, spending some time with Riley didn’t seem like all that bad of an idea. Not that bad of an idea at
, as a matter of fact...
No, wait…must not play with fire! She knew she needed to stick with the plan. She had gotten burned, and burned
, by David – and he was barely even the tiny flame of a candle in the heat department. Riley Sloan was a four alarm inferno! If she tangled with him, she would never make it out unscathed.
“So after breakfast, do you want to catch a cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf? Have you been down there yet?” He sat at the table and began eating.
No, she hadn’t been there.
Yes, she wanted to go with him.
Why did he have to make this so much harder than it already was?
“Actually Riley...look. I appreciate you stopping by and checking on me.” She finished pouring the coffee and carried both steaming hot mugs to the table as she sat down. “But I am fine, really. You don’t have to stay and babysit me. I promise I will keep my phone on and return all phone calls I miss,
alright? That way no one will be worried about me.”
“I don’t think I have to babysit you.” He looked serious and his jaw flinched. “My flight isn't until 8 o’clock tonight and I’d like to see some of the city today. You don’t have to keep me company if you don’t want to.”
Well, when he put it like that...
“No! I mean...yes...I mean...” she stumbled.
Riley gave her a good-natured half smile, “Well, which is it?”
She smiled back, “Yes,
sure, that sounds like fun.”
What had she just agreed to?
An entire day with Riley Sloan.
That thought should make her nervous, and it did…a little. But mostly she just felt happy. She smiled.
He made another noise that sounded like a groan and then snapped at her, “Eat.”
She looked up at him, a little shocked by his tone, expecting to see him giving her a stern look or something. But he was just bent over his plate, shoveling food in his mouth.
, looks like someone’s in a hurry, she thought. Well, there's only one thing to do. Eat.
Riley was starting to relax a little now that they had left the all-too-confining space of the tiny apartment. He almost hadn't
been able to control himself when he had stepped behind Chelle to grab the coffee mugs.
He had wanted so badly to turn her around, pick her up, and place her on the counter. Oh, God. To step in between her legs and pull her against him. To kiss her sweet mouth until coffee and breakfast were the last things on their minds...
He had just about gotten himself under control, but then when she looked up at him with those incredible almond-shaped brown eyes and smiled...his control had just about snapped.
Then she had taken it to another level entirely by voicing that tentative, “Hi.”
Good Lord! His resolve, at that point, had almost completely snapped. There was just something about her smile that had always gotten to him.
Whenever she smiled at him, it was like her whole face lit up. It was sexy as hell. Just thinking of it now he was growing harder by the second.
He had to stop his mind from going there or he was going to have a permanent imprint of his zipper on his dick by the end of their little sightseeing adventure. Plus, walking around with a hard-on wasn't the most appropriate or comfortable way to spend the day.
It occurred to him then that it had been a good long while since he had gotten laid. Maybe that was it. Maybe he just needed to hook up with someone, release a little of that pent up tension. Yeah. That had to be the issue.
Well, it would be taken care of soon enough. He and Megan had been sending messages back and forth on Facebook. He shrugged to himself. He had always liked Megan well enough when they had hooked up back in high school, and he had already made plans to see her when he got back to Harper’s Crossing. So that would take care of that.
Now he just needed to concentrate on keeping himself under control and enjoying this beautiful day in San Francisco. And it was a beautiful day – that was an understatement, as a matter of fact. The weather was perfect, eighty degrees with a slight breeze. The air was so bright that it actually seemed to sparkle. It almost felt magical.
He just had to get his head on straight - the one that ought to be doing the thinking, that is...not the one that actually was.
Riley and Chelle walked several blocks to Powell St., got their tickets, and stood in line. Riley tried to think of something to say – and not just something, but the
thing. Chelle seemed preoccupied. She was quieter than he remembered her being. Then again, he thought, she probably has a lot on her mind. It’s not like she's here on a real vacation. She's here because of that douchebag David.
Riley wasn’t sure if he should ask her about it. She was probably aware that he knew what had happened, but it seemed like an awkward conversation to have. Plus, she may not even want to talk about it. Better to stick to safer subjects.
“So Eddie mentioned that you're a nurse now.” He felt ridiculous making small talk with someone he'd known practically his whole life, but he wasn’t sure what else to do. It was either that or grab her by the waist, pull her against him and kiss her senseless.
So, yeah. Small talk was probably the way to go.
“Yep, I really love it,” she responded, turning toward him. Her face lit up with one of
smiles, and it almost knocked him flat on his ass.
Well, damn it. Maybe silence is the way to go, Riley thought as he tried to keep his reaction to her under control.
She continued, “I work in labor and delivery. I just love being around all those babies.”
Suddenly a picture popped into his mind unbidden. An image of her sitting in a rocking chair, holding their baby, looking down at the child as she stroked its tiny head and whispered and sang, pausing every once in a while to kiss the tiny, perfect nose... he shook his head to clear it, to no avail. In fact, instead of erasing the image like an etch-a-sketch, it seemed to be making the vision more clear like, say, a Polaroid picture coming into focus.
He was, honestly, stunned that his mind would even go there. A very long time ago Riley had decided that a wife, kids, and white picket fence would never be in his future.
He just wasn’t that guy.
He had nothing against it. In fact, sometimes he really wished he
that guy. He knew part of his reluctance to even hope for anything like that came from all he had been through with his Mom. Well, actually, all he had seen his Dad go through
her was more like it.
He never wanted to end up like his Dad had - trying to take care of kids and a depressed wife. Being the breadwinner, disciplinarian, cook, and maid. Of course, he and Seth had helped
out with Alex and Bobby. Jason had always been pretty self-sufficient, but the younger ones needed a lot of time and attention.
Looking back, he wished he would have done more. He wished he could have managed to not have been such a problem child. He realized now, as an adult that he was just acting out because of being angry and confused about his Mom. But, damn, he certainly hadn’t made life any easier for his poor Dad!
For quite a few years now he had been wanting to reach out and apologize to his Dad, to tell him that he was sorry for being a little shit, especially when what his Dad really needed was support. But, he never felt right having a conversation that important over the phone or email. That was definitely a dialogue he wanted to strike up with his Dad in-person.
They climbed onto the cable car and sat down on the wooden bench.
Chelle was looking down, fidgeting with her hands, “So, how does it feel to be home? I mean in the states. You’ve been overseas for a few years right?” She seemed to be nervous.
Great. He wanted her to have a nice day, not be worried about trying to filling awkward silences. He needed to remove his head from his ass, and he needed to do it now. He needed to get real comfortable real fast, because she was obviously picking up the awkward vibe from him.
He turned towards her and put his arm around the back of the seat, smiling casually, “Honestly, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I mean, I've known this time was coming for a while now. I wasn’t even close to being tempted to re-enlist this time around, no matter what they offered me. I was definitely ready to get out.”
“Really? You didn't like the military? I don't know where I got this impression – maybe from Jason, or maybe from Eddie – but I always thought that you loved it.”
Riley nodded thoughtfully, “I do love...or, you know, I did love it...it had just turned into something that I didn't recognize. The whole philosophy of the young guys coming in, the way that tactics are evolving...it's more about drone strikes than hand to hand combat now, and the younger guys understand that. They recruit them that way. I don't. I've always believed that you look the enemy in the eye as you attack, at least metaphorically, if not literally.”
Riley stared off into the distance, then shrugged, “It was time for me to put myself out to pasture,” he said with a self-deprecating smile, “Let the young bucks take over.”
Chelle placed a hand gently over his and said lightly, “I wouldn't exactly call you ancient. Not quite yet.”
Riley felt his pulse begin to speed up and realized that he needed to get the conversation back on more neutral ground. “Anyway,” he continued, “It still seems more like I’m on leave, you know - it doesn’t quite feel permanent yet.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.” She smiled up at him.
Her smile slammed into him like a Mack truck. God, he didn’t think he would ever get used to the way that smile made him feel.
“I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I should be checking in with David,” she continued, “I keep catching myself glancing at my phone to see if he’s called.”
Riley felt himself tense up at the mention of David’s name. He didn’t like the feeling that David’s name on her lips caused in him. It felt dangerously close to jealousy.
Her eyes widened and she quickly added, “Not that it’s the same thing at all, you know...my relationship status is nothing compared to your military service.”
Riley mentally forced himself to relax, she had no idea his reaction had nothing to do her comparison of their situations and everything to do with the fact the he was having a completely irrational reaction to the mere mentioning of David’s name.
He smiled, “Actually it is the same in a lot of ways. We are both closing the door on big chapters in our lives.”
She paused a moment, and then added playfully, “And we're both handing over the reins to 18-year-olds.”
They laughed, relaxing as the gorgeous architecture flew by them, and the tension between them was broken.
As they went up and over Nob Hill, Riley looked over the shimmering surface of the ocean. He had always loved water. Over the last twelve years he had seen a lot of it - oceans, seas, rivers, gulfs - and no matter what the circumstances were that surrounded him at the time, when he saw large bodies of water, he felt a sense of calm wash over him.
But right now, sitting next to Chelle in a cable car in San Francisco, he realized that it felt a million times better seeing it with her beside him.
He didn't think there was a whole lot that wouldn't be a million times better with her by his side.
Damn. What had he gotten himself into here?
He absently rubbed her shoulder with his thumb and he felt her jump a little under his touch.
Holy crap! He hadn't even realized that he intended to touch her. It had been completely natural. If he was going to keep his hands to himself today, he was going to have to actively be monitoring himself at all times. He was just too drawn to her. If he let his guard down or relaxed even a little, he would touch her. It felt like she was a magnet that his body was drawn to.
He placed his hand on the wooden bench and wrapped his fingers around it to anchor himself. Because no matter how much he wanted to touch her, Rachelle Thomas was off limits. Completely, one hundred percent, off limits.