Authors: Lisa Cardiff
“Ignacio will figure it out. He’s a survivor. He said as much to me many times,” I spat, packing as much disdain as possible into my words.
“No, he won’t. He won’t last three months,” he countered, his voice harsh.
“What do you mean?” I asked, struggling to make my face as expressionless as possible.
“He’ll be killed, or the U.S. Government would indict him on drug trafficking charges along with a hundred other things.”
Remorse trickled through my veins, but I clamped down on the emotion before it took root. Even though I didn’t like Ignacio, I didn’t want Ryker to suffer. “You really believe that would happen?”
Ryker exhaled loudly, deep lines bracketing his mouth. “I know it would. Senator Deveron told me as much. The minute he rips the veil from the Vargas Cartel, it’s over.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m not going to hand you over to Evan or Senator Deveron, if that’s what you’re asking. I tried, but I’m too selfish to give you up.” His voice was simultaneously soft and rough, like the syrupy nectar dripping from the prickly blue agave plant.
Relief coursed through me. “You’re not?”
“No.” He grabbed my hand, threading his fingers through mine, and this time I didn’t resist. “I told you. I choose you. I want you. We’re going to make this work.”
I chewed on my lower lip. “Then what’s going to happen?”
“If he follows through with his threats, I’ll take him down.”
“How would you do that?”
He shrugged, but his metallic eyes glittered with anger. “I’ll expose him.”
“Does he know that?”
Ryker rubbed the back of his neck, and the muscles in his jaw constricted. “He knows. I told him.”
I gazed at him for a few agonizing beats, processing the implications of his words while my heart splintered. I hooked my arms around his neck to steady my anxiety as a puzzled frown creased my forehead. “Won’t that mean exposing you and your family too?”
He hauled me against his chest, eliminating any space between our bodies, and a frisson of desire zipped through my nerve endings. “It might, but I’m more concerned with keeping you safe. I’ll figure out the rest as we go.”
I nodded, inhaling his scent, absorbing his nearness. Being around him, touching him, made me feel safe again. I wanted to forget about all the dirty details he confessed and trust Ryker to make everything right. He said he’d take care of it, and he hadn’t let me down yet. Blindly believing him might make me naïve, but I didn’t want to worry about it right then. “What now?” I whispered as I pressed soft kisses against the thick column of his neck.
“I want to take a shower, and then I believe I owe you dinner.” His face radiated intensity, desire, and something primal. Suddenly, the air crackled with lust instead of anger and betrayal.
With a tremulous smile, I brushed the pads of my fingers over the cut on his lower lip. “Okay.”
Without second-guessing myself, I guided Hattie into the bathroom with me, my hand pressed into the small of her back. All week I wanted to move beyond a few heated kisses, but I’d been waiting. For what? I didn’t know. The right moment. With the way things were going, I didn’t think it’d ever happen, but it was virtually impossible for me to walk away from her and never look back. She had chiseled her way into my heart, infecting me with her smile, long legs, and her golden, cat-like eyes.
I closed the bathroom door behind us and turned on the shower. She leaned against the bathroom counter as I scrubbed the blood from my hands. Steam filled the bathroom, fogging the mirrors and sheltering us from the outside world.
I unbuttoned my shirt and tossed it on the floor. My shoes, socks, pants, and boxer briefs followed. She still hadn’t moved, but her eyes tracked my movements beneath the fringe of her lashes. With her lips pursed into a straight line and two deep grooves between her brows, she looked conflicted, as if she didn’t know if she wanted to stay or go. She didn’t need to worry. She was definitely staying. I’d already decided. She just didn’t know it yet. I needed to claim her again, remind her she was mine. But more than anything, I needed to be inside of her again. It’d been too long.
Not allowing her to fight the magnetic pull between us, I trapped her against the bathroom counter with my hips and framed her face with my hands. Suspended in the moment, steam billowed around us as my lips hovered just inches from hers, and then I pulled her toward me. When my lips crashed against hers, a muffled moan escaped her lips, throwing fuel on the lust I barely held in check over the past week. Damn, I missed her. I had tried to close the box on our time together, compartmentalizing it and burying it, but it never disappeared. It never faded.
My tongue curled around hers, rough and demanding, taking her, showing her she was mine. I didn’t hold anything back. The fruity taste of her wine lingered in her mouth. Her breathing accelerated in time with mine, and my stomach tightened with desire. By some sick twist of fate, we were meant to be together, and I intended to take advantage it.
I unzipped the back her dress as I kissed the smooth skin of her neck and her collarbone, savoring her, consuming her, and biting her. Her yellow shift dress pooled at her feet and my breath splintered. She looked even more beautiful than I remembered.
Long toned legs.
Perfectly molded curves.
The seductive upward tilt of her lips.
Right then, I realized she owned me long before we exchanged a single word in that bar in Mexico. Now, the damage was complete. I was hooked. Addicted. Obsessed. Strung out for her, and I couldn’t force myself to regret it.
Not wasting a single second, I reached around the curve of her waist and unhooked her bra. I bit back a groan as the black lace slid off her body, exposing her pebbled nipples. I slipped her matching panties down her legs, trailing my fingers along the contours of her legs. Goosebumps tumbled like dominos down her arms and legs. And fuck if that didn’t make me twice as hard as I was thirty seconds earlier.
Gathering her close, I pressed my lips against hers again as I blindly guided her to the shower. We bumped into the hamper, the shower door, and I nearly tripped over the shower curb, but none of it mattered as the hot water poured over our bodies and the steam clouded our already lust muddled vision. This moment was about us. Not Senator Deveron. Not Evan. Not the Vargas Cartel. Just us.
I moved my palms along the soft angles of her body, tracing every curve, swell, and dip. I couldn’t get enough of her.
The curve of her backside.
All of it perfect. Perfect for me.
And then I cupped her mound, rubbing her, caressing her, teasing her everywhere but where we both wanted me to go. She rocked against my hand as whimpers and disjointed pleas spilled like water from her mouth.
“Shh,” I said, touching my fingertips to her lips. Her breath was jagged, heated, and electric against my skin. “I’ll take care of you.”
I slid one finger inside of her, then two, gliding my fingers back and forth. Her head tipped up, arching her body forward, like a pagan offering. The Roman goddess, Venus, in the flesh. I pulled her nipple in my mouth, sucking her until a fractured gasp fell from her parted lips. Like someone struck a match, my insides lit on fire.
“More,” she whispered. I moved to the other nipple, sucking, biting, and giving it equal attention. Equal love. Her entire body tensed, vibrating with desire. She was close. So fucking close, and I didn’t want her to go over the edge yet. I needed to explore and taste every inch of her, bringing her to the brink over and over until she couldn’t imagine life without me. I pulled my fingers from her wet heat.
“No,” she murmured, her eyes popping open, glazed, dilated, and a little confused. She was adorable and she was mine. Nothing would separate us again. I didn’t care what I had to do to keep her. I’d do it without a second thought. I was done playing games. I was done fixing the problems of the greed-corrupted, power-obsessed one percent of the population. I wanted to live my life, and that life would include Hattie.
Even without Hattie in my life, my career as a fixer had come to an end. My cover was blown. My confrontation with Senator Deveron’s men illustrated that fact loud and clear. It wouldn’t be long before the rest of the world connected the dots between Ry Fallon the campaign bundler and Ryker Vargas the fixer.
I lifted one of her knees, propping it on the marble shower bench. Her hands clamped around my shoulders, digging into my skin. I kneeled in front of her, and her hands knotted in the wet strands of my hair.
My eyes never left hers as my hands slid up her thighs. A red tinge colored her cheeks. I flicked my tongue along her opening, tasting her, worshipping her, and devouring her honeyed pleasure until her sighs and moans echoed like a sonata off the marbled walls. She was flushed and shaking, and I was harder than I ever remembered as she cried out her release. Her knees buckled. I steadied her with my hands as I kissed her hipbone, her navel, skimming my mouth up her torso, reacquainting myself with every detail of her body. I wrapped her legs around my waist and turned off the shower.
She buried her head in the crook of my neck. “Where are we going?”
“Mm,” she hummed. The simple sound vibrated like an electrical current through my body.
Without turning on the bedroom light, I placed her on my bed and grabbed a condom from the nightstand. As I rolled it on, I watched the way the moonlight from the window danced over her skin. Being with this woman did crazy things to me.
I crawled onto the bed and guided her onto her back. I spread her legs one at a time, positioning her so she was open and waiting for me. I traced the lines of her face with my fingers, committing every angle to memory. My mouth closed over hers, taking pleasure in the sweet taste of her mouth. Our hips rocked together, and my cock slid back and forth against her entrance. Each pass along her sex extracted a needy whimper from her parted lips. One flex of my hips and I could be buried deep inside of her, but I held back.
“Please,” she whispered as her fingernails dug into my back, trying to guide me inside of her.
My tip penetrated her sex an inch, and I gritted my teeth to stop myself from thrusting into her. I wanted to draw out every second of this reunion. I never wanted it to end.
“I’m dying here. It’s been so long,” she pleaded as I pulled out again.
“I know,” I growled, slowly moving inside of her again, just halfway. Her walls twitched around me, and I bit the inside of my cheek.
“Ohh.” Her hands clawed at the sheets, and her hips lurched off the bed in invitation. “That’s perfect. Keep going.”
Satisfaction rushed through my veins. Sweat beaded my brow, and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I couldn’t deny her or myself for one more second. I slammed into her, giving her everything I had. Taking more than my share. A long groan burst from my mouth.
Without much effort, our hips synchronized like we’d done this hundreds of times. God knows, I had replayed every moment I was inside of her at least a hundred times over the past month.
I sucked on the top of her collarbone, branding her as mine. The thought fueled my need for her. I gripped her hips as I pounded into her. She circled her legs around my waist, pulling me deeper and deeper, meeting me thrust for thrust until we were two halves of a whole.
The bed frame squeaked. The headboard crashed with methodical repetition against the wall. Vaguely, I remembered Rever in the guest bedroom adjacent to mine, and the open blinds. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it. The way her walls contracted around me and the tension building at the base of my spine with every mindless thrust demanded every ounce of my attention and more.
And then Hattie exploded, her scream the crescendo to our symphony of moans and groans. She tightened around me, and I teetered on the edge seesawing back of forth, trying to maintain my rhythm, trying to keep going, trying to keep thrusting. But it was too hard. She felt too good. Sparks shot through my body. Her name tumbled from my lips, sounding more like a howl than a word, and I couldn’t stop the pleasure induced insanity as it ripped through my body, hurling me into oblivion.
I stopped moving and opened my eyes. She was staring at me. She looked soft and dreamy.
“Hi,” she whispered as her fingers traced my jaw.
“Hi,” I whispered back, at a loss for words because everything felt too perfect to describe. The vulnerability of the moment rattled my heart and tore at my gut, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. She was in my blood, and I was ready to accept it, regardless of what happened. Good or bad.
I kissed her, explaining without words what she meant to me and how I’d never let her go.
I rolled off her and gathered her into my arms. “Promise me something.”
Hattie turned her head to the side, a faint smile on her face. “What?”
“Don’t confront Evan or say anything to your family. Let me take care of it.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Hattie, give yourself a few days to process this, and then if you still want to confront him, I’ll go with you.”
She nodded, propping her body up on her elbow. “When are we going to eat? I’m starving.”
I laughed. “Now.”