I would have never believed his words if I didn't see the truth in his eyes. And what I saw there broke me.
"Tanner," I said, and suddenly I couldn't stop kissing him. His fingers, his hands, his cheeks, his lips.
He pulled me onto his lap, cupping my ass tightly as he kissed me back. His mouth was just as hungry as mine, tasting my ears, brushing my neck, moving down between my breasts.
I lifted my shirt and threw it aside impatiently. Tanner tore off his own and I felt a sigh escape my lips when his naked chest brushed my own. I wanted more. I wanted there to be nothing in between us any more. My secret heartbreak was no longer in the way of me belonging to him completely.
When he leaned me back onto the floor of the bus and slid my jeans down my hips, I bit my lip. "Faster," I whispered.
"No can do, darlin'," he drawled. "I'm gonna make love to you the way I've wanted to that first time we were together. Now that you understand that there ain't no damn rush here..." he flicked his tongue lightly over my nub, then took it in between his lips, suckling gently. "Wish it didn't have to be on the floor again, but no matter...."
"Tanner..." I gasped. "Oh god, Tanner," the shock of his mouth on me gave way to pleading as I arched my hips in time with his lapping tongue. He moved slowly, worshipfully, taking all the time in the world to bring me closer and closer to the brink.
I rolled my head from side to side, helpless under his gentle assault. When his fingers trailed up my stomach to cup my breasts, I let out a sharp moan and pressed myself into him. "Tanner, I'm so close...."
His voice rumbled through me. "I know honey, I know all there is to know about you...."
I grabbed his hair, threading my fingers through the short, silken strands and pressing myself upward. He knew exactly what I was asking, focusing the whole heat of his insistence right in the place I needed it most. The pleasure exploded outward from my center, a shattering earthquake of sensation that had me felling and flying at the same time.
Tanner's mouth over mine silenced my cries as I kissed him as hard as I could. I felt him there at my entrance, naked and hard as diamond and I opened my legs wide. I was wet and ready, pulsing with a need that only he could fill.
He slid inside of me, his eyes going wide. I wrapped my legs around him tightly, holding him there. "No, stay," I groaned as he buried himself up to the hilt.
"Yes..." I whispered. The feeling of him was indescribable. I couldn't lose the connection I was feeling right now.
He brushed my hair back, kissing me hard as he moved inside of me. I felt the short, staccato jerk of his hips, his breath coming rough and ragged. "Monique," he growled, a rough warning.
"Stay," I commanded.
He fell forward into my neck, crushing me with his weight as he let loose a ragged animal noise. My own pleasure boiled upward and I was crying out with him, burning up from within until I was nothing but ashes.
Tanner pulled himself up and looked at me. "That was how it should be between us, baby. Don't ever hold back on me again." He bruised my lips roughly. "Now that I know what the real thing is, I'll never settle for anythin' less, you get me?"
"I get you," I breathed.
"Good." He was still inside of me, the slow trickle of him sliding down my thigh. My heart raced, flip flopping between joy and apprehension. What had we just done?
Tanner growled, pinning me back with that deep-blue stare and cupped my face ferociously in his hands. "Monique, goddamnit, don't you start second-guessing what just happened, you hear me? This is real. This is happening. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you, you understand? Goddamnit Monique..." his voice trailed off into a ragged whisper, hoarse with longing.
I knew what he longed for and my body ached with the desire to give it to him. The words bubbled up out of my throat, no longer able to be contained "I love you," I half yelped, half-pleaded.
He pulled back. For a moment I wanted to snatch the words out of the air, he looked so shocked. Had I read him wrong? Was I insane?
"Monique...." a slow grin, the sunshine emerging from behind the thundercloud. "Hot damn, girl. You love me. I knew it. I fucking knew it."
I clenched my hands into tight fists. "Tanner, you incredible prick...."
"Hey." He grabbed my hands and yanked me up into a sitting position. I tried to clutch my knees to my chest but he batted them down. "Stop that. Monique Williams, I have loved you from the moment I first saw you. Fuck, I fell head over heels with you the instant I fished your big-city shoes out of the mud in my drive. You are the most challenging, fearsome, hotheaded and infuriating woman I have ever encountered and I am completely, head over heels in love with you." He grabbed my fluttering hands. "You hear me? And this? This is happening. Yeah it's fast, yeah it's crazy, but it's right. It's the rightest thing I've ever known."
Maybe he might have said more. I don't know, I was too busy drowning him out with my laughter, my tears and my kisses.
I'm a goddamned fraud. Here I've been singing about love this whole time. Like I actually knew what I was talking about.
Now I finally understood. Understood what drove the poets and songwriters to write the words down in the first place. Because now that I had told Monique how I felt about her, I wanted to tell everyone. I wanted to shout it from the damn rooftops. Everyone, pay attention, I'm in love!
I was still singing that tune in my head, the one that had been following me for days now. The one that started up every time I saw Monique's ass.
We were at a rest area, one of those gray, colorless places where faces pass by you in a blur. But I could tell by the landscape, if nothing else, that we were somewhere in Texas, and a piece of my heart yearned to be at the ranch again.
Instead I was sitting in the bus, hiding from the public while Monique and the boys grabbed caffeine and sugary snacks. Privacy was a luxury I wasn't used to anymore, and Blake's laugh startled me out of my reverie. "You sound like you're in a good mood," he laughed as I cleared my throat.
"Was I humming?" I asked sheepishly.
"Like my dad when he works on his car," Blake smiled, plopping himself next to me. "Totally out of tune and not even caring."
"I wasn't out of tune," I protested. "That would never happen."
"Right," Blake looked like he wanted to give me shit, but then thought better of it. "You seem....good, Brock. Gotta say, I kind of like this version of you."
"What version is that?"
Blake smiled an evil grin. "The relaxed version of you. The non-workaholic version. Boys'll probably kill me for mentioning it, but you haven't even given us any set notes in like three whole days. Fitch and Carter think you're on some kind of new meds, but I think I know what's really going on."
"You do, huh?" It wasn't like Blake to beat around the bush like this. "Are you going to keep talking in riddles or do you want to tell me what you want."
Blake sighed a heavy sigh. "So, we're kind of near home here, right? And we're gonna be in the area for three shows,..."
"Spit it out, Blake."
He nodded and spewed it out in an impassioned rush. "I miss LeeAnne and my baby, Tanner. Knowin' they're this close is fucking killing me."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "You've had one foot out the door this whole time, haven't you?"
Blake didn't answer, but his abashed look was all the answer I needed.
I leaned forward and clapped my hand on his shoulder. "And I get it," I told him. "I pretended to get it before, but I really get it now. Yeah Blake, bring her on. I'll check with Keith, see if we can push back a show so you can have a day with them."
Blake's eyes glittered for a moment before he blinked rapidly. "Thanks man," he choked out. He looked around and seemed like he wanted to say more, but then decided against it and hastily ran out the door. I could hear his muffled voice outside of the bus, jubilantly shouting into his cell phone. I looked down at
his head, watching him as he ducked and kicked the ground, overjoyed at the prospect of being reunited with his girl.
"Hey," Monique slid into the seat next to me. "I grabbed you the coffee that tasted the least like ditchwater."
I turned and looked at her. "You're fucking beautiful," I said. I had to say it. It was true.
"Because I bring you coffee?"
"In addition to that," I smiled, blowing through the open lid. Blake whooped outside and we both turned to see him.
"He seems happy," Monique said, snuggling down into my arms.
I pressed my lips to her head. "He is. I am too."