Authors: Lorhainne Eckhart
Brad was gone when Emily stood up. She wandered into the small square kitchen. Brad had unloaded her groceries onto the round hardwood table, surrounded by four small pine chairs. Brad faced Emily and held up the bag of ripple chips and gestured toward the dip, Cheezies, a can of ginger ale and carton of milk. He raised his eyebrows. “Planning a party, Em?”
Ha, ha,” Emily stepped in and grabbed the bag of chips and stuffed it in the cupboard by the fridge, along with the rest of the junk food. “I was planning on treating myself—dinner and a movie.”
He frowned and looked around. “Where’s Katy?”
Smiling, she put the milk in the fridge. “Bob has her for the weekend. His mom’s in town.”
Brad leaned on the counter beside her. There really wasn’t a whole lot of room in the kitchen. Brad, all lean, solid, a tall gorgeous man, took up more than an average man’s share of space. She moved around him, brushing his arm, his back. Sweet torture, Emily had to wonder if he deliberately continued to stand so close. She couldn’t think and felt heat rush her cheeks. So she grabbed the kettle and filled it with water. “Excuse me, Brad.” He slid over a step, so she needed to reach behind him to plug in the kettle. She couldn’t think. “Tea?”
He shook his head, smiling in a most unsettling way. “No thanks. So how are things going with him?” He flicked his hand.
Paperwork’s done for legal separation and I’ve asked my lawyer to file for divorce as soon as it’s signed. He’s finally agreed to pay some child support.” He blinked and then narrowed his eyes, his face taking on a darkness Emily had only seen a few times. “Are you telling me, he never paid you? I thought he was sending you something.”
The truth was Emily hadn’t told anyone. She’d been embarrassed by his childish behavior. “He sent a little bit at first. Then he’d forget.”
God dammit, Em, why didn’t you say something? You need any help with him, you call me. I’ll make sure he pays you.” He moved away from the counter stalked toward Emily, and then leaned back against the counter.
She should have stopped herself. But it was too late by the time her reasoning brain kicked in. She slid her hand across his cheek, the stubble. His deep brooding eyes had her pausing and she pulled her fingers away as if she’d been burned.
Thankfully, the kettle whistled so she now had something to focus on. She yanked the plug from the outlet, grabbed the kettle and somehow sloshed out a heap of scalding water onto her hand. She dropped the kettle, steaming water pooled on the counter and covered her pink throbbing hand. “Shit.”
She exhaled hard. Brad grabbed her hand and dragged her over to the sink, shoving her burned hand under the icy cold water. “Hold it here. Are you okay?”
Emily gritted her teeth and shook her head. “That was stupid. You must think I’m a klutz.” She peered under lashes at the man who glanced at her in such a subtle way. What the hell was he thinking? She could never tell. He held his cards so close to his chest.
No, I think you’re a little nervous having me here.”
When Emily tried to pull her hand away and out of the frigid water, Brad held tighter. “Leave it, you’ve got a bad burn. You got a towel?”
In the bathroom.” Emily glanced out the small single pane window above the sink. The sting decreased as her hand numbed. She could hear his heavy walk across the creaking floorboards on his way down the narrow hall to the only bathroom. She hoped he didn’t notice the bare, dingy walls. She’d not unpacked yet, let alone hung pictures. This place was merely a stopgap to her permanent home. The tiny backyard was crammed with Katy’s climber and an old swing set inherited with the property. The old wood fence was missing boards here and there and needed painting.
How is it?” She didn’t hear him come back.
Doesn’t hurt as long as I keep it in the icy water.” She turned off the tap.
Brad handed her a small peach towel. “Sit down.” He pulled out one of the wooden chairs. Brad dragged out another chair, stretching out his long legs in front of him when he sat. “How about some coffee? I can make you some?” He burst out laughing.
I think in order to save your other hand, let’s skip the coffee. I need to get Trevor home for dinner anyway.” Brad glanced around the corner. Emily could hear Trevor rustling in the toy box.
Stay for dinner, please.” He tilted his head and allowed a cat like grin to lighten his face. “That’d be nice, I’ve missed your cooking. I’m sure Trevor would appreciate a home cooked meal.”
Emily didn’t wait. She jumped up and yanked open the fridge, pulling out a package of ground beef. She fried the hamburger, adding seasoning, and sauce, boiled potatoes and threw together a casserole. She tossed together a salad while Brad chatted and lingered beside her.
Even through dinner, the conversation remained light and carefree, and she didn’t miss the appreciation he groaned after his first bite. Trevor was restless. He ate some with his fingers, and then slipped away leaving his fork sticking out of his mashed potatoes, back to the toys. When they finished eating, Emily washed and Brad dried. He searched her cupboards as he put the dishes away. “I’ve missed you, Em.”
She dropped the dishrag in the soapy water, and met his reflection in the darkened window in front of her. The illusion he cast toward her was one filled with yearning and regret. She turned around, her heart hammered in her chest. She couldn’t catch her breath. She glanced at the clock on the wall. She didn’t want him to leave. Her mind raced, doing everything it could, short of pulling a rabbit out of her hat, to find a way to keep him here. “Let’s go sit in the living room. Unless you want coffee?”
No, I’m good.”
Emily wandered behind Brad. Her eyes dropped to ogle his swagger and the fine way he filled out his jeans. She loved the way he walked, and she remembered all too well how tight his ass was the one time they’d almost… Emily nearly choked when she realized what she was doing. And Brad watched her in way she was positive, he knew where her thoughts had gone. She cleared her throat and darted to the TV. “Let me put a movie in for Trevor.” She threw in
, turning down the volume. Trevor jumped on the faded leather sofa, the one that had seen better days. Brad sank into the matching loveseat angled beside the sofa. Emily darted a glance at the cozy spot beside Brad, but curled in beside Trevor. She wrapped the purple afghan over Trevor’s legs when he rested his head on the pillow.
It was a great meal Em. I’ve been cooking for me and Trevor and I’m probably the worst cook around. Mary comes only two days a week, she won’t stay long. I’ve asked her to come more, but she refused, said those two days take everything out of her having to deal diplomatically with Crystal.”
Emily watched him. She missed the time they’d shared at night, talking.
So who looks after Trevor when you work, Brad? I mean you have a ranch to run.”
I take him with me. Needless to say I don’t get much done.”
She didn’t realize she was holding her breath, until it escaped in a whoosh.
You can’t honestly believe I would leave Trevor with her, do you?”
Emily flushed. She reached out to touch him, but he pulled away. “Brad, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to think. Everything that happened … when you allowed her to stay… How could I not? I don’t think you know how much I care about you. When she showed up, you turned your back on me, on us. I didn’t know what to think.”
He shook his head and leaned forward; brushed away the tear that traced it’s way down her cheek. “No, Em, I’m sorry, I let you think the worst of me. I was trying to protect you. I didn’t want to drag you into the mess I created.”
He pressed his back into the loveseat, running his fingers through his hair.
I screwed up, Em, big time. I should have filed the minute she walked out the door. Instead, that is the one area of my life I allowed to slide. If that were a business, I would have protected myself. Instead, I kept putting it off and now look. The other night she actually had the nerve to suggest we have another baby in the same breath she brought up the institution for Trevor. Trying to justify they could help him. It was as if she wanted him replaced, out of sight, out of mind. I’ve started paying real close attention. She leaves the room whenever Trevor’s there and goes out of her way to not spend any time with him. She has this iron wall around her heart and won’t let him in.” He moved closer and intertwined his fingers with Emily. “It’s not that she’s not capable of loving him, but I realized what it is. She’s scared. She’s not strong like you. She’s closed herself off to protect herself.”
So what are you going to do?” Emily asked with a slight catch in her breath.
I’ve filed for divorce, if she fights me for the ranch, so be it. It’s been in my family for two generations. But this is about Trevor. I’ll fight her for him. She’s already threatened to take Trevor if I try to leave, but my lawyer says I’ve got a real good chance. Especially since she’s already left once.” He let out a heavy sigh and then glanced over at the clock in the darkened room. Well past nine, and Trevor had fallen asleep beside Emily.
He stood up. She knew he was going to leave. “Don’t go. Trevor can sleep in Katy’s bed. Please.” What was he thinking? He studied her in an odd way before framing her cheeks with the palm of his hands. He then slowly lowered his mouth to hers, tenderly at first, brushing her lips with a light and teasing air, and then something snapped in him as he pulled her up. It was by no means anything gentle, a fierce possession letting her know what she’d hoped would happen tonight, was going to.
Brad broke away; he rocked her heart. The soft play of Disney music filled the background. Brad scooped Trevor off the sofa and set him in Katy’s bed. Emily covered him with the pink comforter and stepped into the hall with Brad. The way he watched Trevor, she realized this man would move mountains for his son.
When he turned to her, she reached out to him. But her hand trembled, when she wondered if she was what Brad really wanted. He must have sensed her hesitation, as he leaned down and whispered to her the words she needed to hear.
It’s all right. It’s just you and me in this moment, Em.” He lowered his head and his lips touched hers. His passion was unrestrained; a kiss hard, deep, one that told a woman she meant something. He lifted her in his arms, breaking the kiss only to ask, “The bedroom in here?”
Her heart thudded as he set her on the bed, pressing his body into her, once again capturing her mouth with his. It was amazing how this man, and his overwhelming power, could tell her with a touch, a caress, that she was wanted—she was needed She ached for him, he too seemed hurried as he broke away, unbuttoning her blouse and her jeans and had her naked beneath him. He yanked off his shirt and pants, tossing everything in a heap on the floor. The hall light teased the room with a hint of light, enough that Emily swallowed hard at the image of this man.
. With clothes on, he looked great. Seeing him now in all his naked splendor, took her breath away. He had a solid mass of muscles on his wide expanse of chest. Slim hips, no beer belly on this man, his lean hard stomach, the shape and strength of his thighs were solid and artfully constructed. There was no indecision, just anticipation and awareness that this man knew how to make love to a woman.
He moved with her. She twined her legs with his; he gazed deeply into her eyes for a few seconds, before leaning down and paying homage to her small perky breasts. His tongue touched and licked the first nipple, then he slowly took it in his mouth, lavishing, while being attentive to the other, to all of her. His hand drifted down, touching, caressing. Sweet torment was building, as she rustled against him when a tremble unearthed her.
Tossing her head back and forth, she didn’t know how much more she could take and she finally pleaded with him, “Brad … please, now.”
Not yet, we have time; tonight I’m going feel you buck beneath me, over and over.” His hand continued to explore up the line of her thighs, pressing as he spread her legs wide. He explored and teased, lightly tracing the soft jewel where her legs joined, feeling how wet and ready she was for him. She couldn’t hold still as he slipped his finger in. He was enjoying her torment while she begged him to complete her.
Emily grasped his shoulders. She tried to pull him to her, but he wouldn’t move, instead he watched and held her burning gaze. It was maddening how he toyed with her bringing her to the brink of madness. She moaned, unable to suppress it any longer. He covered her mouth with his, a kiss so powerful and deep, his tongue mimicking the age-old art of loving. He spread her legs wide, guiding her to wrap them around his waist, running his hands smoothly over her curves. Cupping her buttocks, he slowly entered her. The way he watched her, she knew she was completely at his mercy. He touched her lip with the tip of his tongue; peered at her through hooded eyes. She gave herself up completely. A full surrender that left her gasping, flying and soaring together to music all their own. Something cracked the thin wall around her heart and she shut her eyes, swallowed in the age-old dance they shared together and allowed herself to let go. When she opened her eyes, he was watching her with a catlike grin, as he lay sprawled on top of her, pressing her into the mattress. She didn’t want him to move; she wanted to absorb the magnitude of the feelings he’d managed to elicit from each cell, deep inside. A paradise she didn’t want to end. Never in her life had she experienced this intense passion. A man, who knew what he wanted, understood what she needed and how to make her lose control.