Lilah said she’d have little trouble finding them homes, but before Brady could help her load them up, Ellen had dinner on the table and refused to let them go without eating.
Leo said grace and thanked God for the food, the house, the ranch, and every single animal on the ranch, and then his children, and his children’s children, and then for the past fifty years with a great woman, and just before Brady fell asleep at the table, his ears pricked up as Leo added, “and for bringing a new couple by for company tonight.”
Brady turned his head to meet Lilah’s wide eyes. Couple? she mouthed, looking so horrified he nearly laughed.
Leo smiled. “Sorry, it’s just very obvious that you two are recently together.”
“Yes,” Ellen said. “You keep staring at each other or touching in some way.”
Brady looked down and noticed that indeed he was thigh to thigh with Lilah, and even more telling, he had an arm draped over the back of her chair, his fingers tracing absent circles on her shoulder. His fingers froze midtrace.
“So, how long has it been?” Ellen asked, passing around the thick pot roast and heart-attack-in-the-making mashed potatoes that were the best mashed potatoes Brady had ever tasted. “I mean, I assume this is brand-new,” she said with a secret smile at her husband. “Since there was no mention of a relationship in the Dr. Death article, and we all know how thoroughly invasive that gossip rag can be.”
“Um,” Lilah said, looking uncomfortable. “Well, to be honest, we’re not—”
Brady reached under the table and squeezed her knee. He didn’t know what came over him, probably retribution for how she’d mercilessly teased him in the Jeep, but he heard himself say, “Don’t be shy, honey.”
She stared at him, clearly concerned he’d lost his marbles.
And he had. The day he’d met her.
“Oh, tell us the whole story,” Ellen said, clapping her hands with glee. “I love a real-life romance.”
Brady smiled at Lilah. “Go ahead, darlin’. You tell it.”
Lilah’s eyes narrowed on Brady. Her fork was still in midair, full of potatoes that he suspected she might want to fling into his face as she contemplated him. “Well, sweetheart,” she said, “it’s just that I don’t know where to start.”
Ellen was smiling so eagerly. “At the beginning!”
Lilah looked at her and hesitated. Clearly, she was willing to go head-to-head with Brady in a battle of wills, but she wasn’t so willing to be rude or cruel. But she must have gotten over that because she said, “We met at the beauty salon in town.”
Brady had been smiling, feeling pretty damn pleased with himself for one-upping her—until this.
“Yeah,” Lilah went on, clearly gaining steam. “Brady was at his weekly grooming session.” She leaned into Ellen as if departing with a state secret and continued in a stage whisper, “He’s very hairy, you see.”
Brady choked on his peas.
“Wax or laser?” Ellen whispered. “My son-in-law swears by his monthly male Brazilian.”
“Brady, too,” Lilah said, patting a still coughing Brady on the back. “You okay, baby?” She smiled sweetly at him and began shoveling her food in as if she hadn’t eaten in a week. “Oh, Mrs. Johnson, this is all so delicious!”
Brady finally recovered. “Lilah cooks, too, Ellen. Actually, she’s an incredible baker. She makes the most amazing desserts.”
Now it was Lilah’s turn to go pale. The only thing she baked was store-bought cookie dough.
“Oh, that’s lovely!” Ellen exclaimed.
“And you should see her on the fly,” Brady said. “That’s her specialty—improvising.”
Lilah narrowed her eyes at him but before she could respond, Ellen spoke again. “Oh, that is a talent. Maybe you can demonstrate,” she said hopefully. “I have just about everything you could need for any recipe.”
Lilah sent Brady a look of sheer, undulated panic, followed by a look that promised her own payback.
That was okay. After the male Brazilian thing, he was pretty sure he could take whatever she dealt out. Smiling, he leaned back and shot her his best your turn look, which she returned with a you-are-so-going-down volley.
Fine by him. He’d go down with her any day. With her, on her . . . however and wherever she wanted.
Alittle while later, Lilah escaped to the Johnsons’ very small, slightly fussy bathroom at the end of the hallway and stared at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were bright, and there were two spots of color on her cheeks. She looked under the influence.
And she was.She was under the influence of lust. Damn Brady for baiting her, for making her feel . . .
Alive. The man made her feel so alive.
She was still staring at herself when the door opened. A big, warm, built body nudged her over, making room so he could squeeze in behind her.
“What are you doing?” she whispered.
Brady gave her a look that made her ni**les pebble up against her shirt as he reached out and hit the lock.
It echoed over the pounding of her heart. Staring at him in the mirror, she shook her head. “Brady—”
“Lilah,” he said calmly. Stepping closer, he forced her up against the sink. His hands gripped the tile at either side of her hips, trapping her in. “A male Brazilian?” His voice was that deep half growl she’d heard only when they were na**d and he was whispering erotic, explicit promises in her ear, the ones that never failed to make her blush.
“Well, hey, for all I know you really do wax.”
He pressed himself against her butt. He was hard.
“Oh no,” she whispered on a laugh even as she rocked back against him, causing him to hiss in a breath. She stopped breathing entirely and went damp. “We can’t.”
Seeing right through her, he smiled into the mirror, slow and extremely badass.
Oh no. No, she wasn’t going to melt just because he was giving her that look. “You have to go,” she whispered, attempting to elbow him away. “Shoo.”
He made a sound that might have been a snort of laughter. “Can’t.”
He grabbed her hand and brought it behind her to cup over his crotch.
“Oh my God.” But her fingers stroked him. Bad fingers.
Brushing her hair out of the way, he leaned down to nibble on her neck. “Can’t help it,” he murmured against her skin. “You have this effect on me.”
Her eyes drifted shut, and a horrifyingly needy, hungry little whimper escaped her, loud enough that she lifted her own hands and clamped them over her mouth.
“Mmm,” he barely breathed against her ear. “Love that sound.” His hands slid from her h*ps upward, beneath her top.
“What are you doing now?”
“If you don’t know, I’m doing it wrong.”
Oh, she knew. And the truth was, she’d do whatever he wanted and they both knew it. Ever since he’d come to town with those sharp, assessing eyes and hard-but-oh-so-giving mouth and all that testosterone, her body had been a complete traitor. His tongue rimmed her ear and she had to lock her knees to remain upright. “Oh God.”
“Give me a minute and you’ll be saying ‘Oh, Brady.’” He ran his fingers lightly down her arms and then encircled her wrists, setting them on the counter’s edge, indicating she should keep them there. She wriggled back against him, grinding her bottom into his erection. “Hold still,” he commanded softly in her ear.
She shivered and it was entirely possible she had a mini-orgasm. If he hadn’t been pinning her between the hard sink and his even harder body, she’d have slithered bonelessly to the floor.
Then his hands slid beneath her shirt and ran up her rib cage, stopping just short of her breasts.
She held her breath but couldn’t quite keep quiet. “Touch me!”
He pushed her shirt up and the cups of her bra down and, watching her reaction closely in the mirror, palmed her breasts. Then one of his very talented hands slid slowly down her belly and into her pants. “Oh Jesus.” His breath was hot against her ear. “You’re ready for me.”
She’d been ready for him since she’d first laid eyes on him, and she didn’t see that changing anytime soon.
His hands went to her h*ps and before she could draw her next breath, he’d shoved her jeans to her thighs, groaning softly in her ear at the sight of the baby blue thong he’d bought her. There was something incredibly thrilling about being so exposed while he was fully dressed behind her, watching himself touch her in the mirror.
“I—” She gasped when he gave one quick yank and ripped the underwear off her.
“I’ll buy you more. Hell, I’ll buy you an entire Victoria’s Secret store,” he promised, his voice a rough, barely there growl as he slid his hand between her thighs. “I can’t get enough of you, I can’t.”
She met his gaze. His eyes were no longer playful but dark and filled with a dangerous emotion. Dangerous, because now it wasn’t just her good parts aching. No, the nameless ache spread and hit her heart with deadly precision. Turning in his arms, she twisted her hands into his shirt, and then their mouths connected, hot and demanding. His tongue touched hers at the same moment his fingers slid home. Her toes began to curl, but he slowly withdrew, making her whimper.
“Later,” he murmured, but continued to hold her close.
Panting, Lilah dropped her head to Brady’s chest. “I hate later.” After a minute, she pulled her clothes back into place. Without panties. God. She slumped back against Brady. Beneath her cheek, his heart was thumping steadily. Definitely faster than his usual near-hibernation beat. Lifting her head, she flashed him a tight smile. “I get to you.”
“Are you kidding? You own me,” he said, his voice running over her like silk.
And with that startlingly revealing statement, he unlocked the door and slipped out, leaving her leaning against the sink, heart still pounding, ni**les hard enough to cut glass.
“What are you doing?” Brady demanded an hour later when they were finally back on the road heading home.
The four dogs were in the back, sleeping in a relaxed pack. Outside, the night was dark and chilly, but inside the Jeep it felt warm and toasty, and by the light of the dash, Lilah was moving around, driving him crazy as she pulled off her sweater.“Just getting comfortable,” she said. “I have a long night ahead of me. I still have hours of studying once we get back. I have a big advanced chem midterm tomorrow.”
“You should have told me.” He glanced over at her. “I’d have gone and gotten the dogs for you. And that’s a little revealing.”
She looked down at her shirt and laughed. “It’s a man’s cut beefy T-shirt, and I’m wearing a bra beneath it—as you already know since you had your hands on me earlier. If you’re going to worry about something, worry about the fact that I’m commando.”
His dick jerked inside his jeans.
“And that I’m commando at all is all your fault.”
True. He had the tiny blue scrap of panties in his pocket to prove it. At the thought, he let out a frustrated groan. “And if you could stop saying commando, that might help.”
She laughed again. She was laughing, and all he could think about was getting back into her pants. Where she had no panties. Nope, just warm, wet flesh. He scrubbed a hand down his face and tried to steer his mind to something else. Multiplication tables maybe. Twelve times twelve is—
“You’re going to get a ticket,” she said, glancing at the speedometer. “You in a hurry?”
He knew that she knew damn well he was in a hurry. In a hurry to get her home and na**d to finish what they’d started.
Because when she was in his arms he was content, as he so rarely ever felt. He didn’t want to examine that too closely, because if he did, he’d have to face that not only was he thinking about Sunshine as “home” but that he was also thinking about a future. In one spot. Twelve times thirteen is—
“You seem a little on edge,” she said.
Yeah, he was on edge. On a very narrow one, too. Because he could get her home as fast as he wanted, but it didn’t matter. She had to study and sleep. “I’m on edge, yes. Because I’ve been hard for hours.”
She laughed. “Poor baby.”
He was beginning to wonder if he was addicted to her. There’d been times in his wild, misspent youth where he’d tried just about everything under the sun—all manner of drugs and alcohol. It was amazing he’d never become addicted to anything, but how ironic that after all that he was addicted to one little woman.
Not that she had the same problem with him, of course. Nope. She was over there cool as a cucumber, looking like some kind of hot, sexy trouble.
So what the hell was bothering him? She was a dream lover, wanting nothing from him but mutual sexual bliss. No strings . . .
Only it wasn’t. Not even close.
Lilah turned to Brady as he drove them through the dark night toward Sunshine. The mountains were nothing but black inky silhouettes, the moon a solitary half orb hanging overhead, casting Brady’s face in its glow. He was in his driving zone, giving nothing of himself away.
As if sensing her interest, he glanced over, his features softening when he saw her looking at him. “That dessert you came up with was genius,” he admitted.It had been genius, if she admitted so herself. She’d seen the little pretzel twists on Ellen’s kitchen counter, next to a bowl of Hershey kisses. Lilah had taken a baking sheet, spread out the pretzels, put a chocolate kiss in the center of each and then baked. When the kisses were just slightly melted, she’d pulled them out and added a single MM on top of each, pushing down, spreading out the kiss over the pretzel.