He put his hand over hers when she tried to scoot behind the counter. “I’m also closing, Lilah.”
“Yeah, maybe, but you’re still going back to bed.”
Everyone in the place was swiveling their heads back and forth between them like they were at a tennis match.
“Brady,” she said, the voice of reason even as her legs were wobbling wildly with the need to sit down. “There’s too much work to do. There’s the billing, cleaning cages, feeding—”
“I’ll figure it all out.”
“I can’t ask that of you.”
“Then don’t ask.”
“Stop.” Dislodging the cats, he came around the counter and scooped her up into his arms.
She felt the silly little flutter deep in her belly. She had no idea what it said about her that she was enjoying his bossy, know-it-all attitude.
“You’re done here,” he said and turned to the room. “I’ll be right back. No one move.”
No one did, but the entire room gave a collective sigh, including Lilah.
One minute later, Brady set her on her bed and stood there, hands on hips, a stern look on his face. “Stay.”
“Brady,” she said very gently. Stupid, stupid man. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“The doctor said you were to be kept quiet and still for a few days, even if I had to handcuff you to the bed myself.”
Well, if that didn’t cause a hot flash. “The doctor isn’t trying to run his own business with his partner on vacation now, is he?”
Brady gave her a long look, then let out a breath. “Okay, I give. What’ll it cost me for you to promise to stay here today, right here, all day?”
“Dinner,” she said without pause.
“Goes without saying,” he said, the very corners of his mouth twisting into a smile. “And?”
“And the handcuffs you just threatened me with.”
The rest of his temper faded from his face, leaving something much, much better, something that nearly gave her a mini-orgasm.
“You’re only teasing me,” he said, eyes dark. “But I’m going to remember you said that.”
After being confined to the cabin, Lilah tried to keep busy while imagining the hell that Brady was going through. By the time that Adam came by to see her, she nearly pounced on him. “Oh, thank God. Would you please go help Brady at the kennels?”
Adam laughed. “Just came from there.” He plopped next to her on the bed and grabbed the TV remote, flipping through the channels with male single-minded purpose. “Trust me, Dr. Death is doing better than Dell.”“What does that mean?”
“Your kennels are full up, since Brady’s in the paper again—”
“Again? Why again?”
“Yeah front page this time, for being the big hero yesterday. There’s some talk of featuring him weekly.”
She choked out a laugh.
Adam grinned. “And Dell’s all butt-hurt because he didn’t make the cut. Anyway, now Brady’s got chicks from three counties over dropping off their pets. You’re making a mint.” He tossed the remote aside. “Daytime TV is shit. You need pay-per-view.”
An hour later, Jade and Dell brought Chinese for lunch. They were scowling at each other when they walked in.
“What’s wrong?” Lilah asked.
“Nothing,” Jade said in the tone that of course meant the exact opposite.
“I said I was sorry,” Dell said to Jade, tossing up his hands. “Christ, it was just a little harmless flirting. Women generally like it.”
Lilah divided a look between them. “Who was flirting?”
Jade jerked her chin in Dell’s direction. “Stud man here.”
“With whom now?” Lilah asked.
Jade snorted. “Exactly.”
Dell looked confused. “You. I was flirting with you.”
Lilah felt her brows raise at this.
Jade shook her head. “Me,” she repeated, irritated.
Which clearly didn’t help Dell’s confusion any. “I said it was harmless!” he said, the picture of male exasperation.
“That,” Jade said, poking him hard in the chest, “is the problem.” She glared at him as she sat on the bed.
Lilah decided maybe they needed a moment alone and tried to get up, but Dell sat next to her and threw a leg over hers so she couldn’t move, then carried on like she wasn’t even there.
“You don’t like when a man flirts with you?” he asked Jade over Lilah’s head.
“It’s the harmless part that chaps my ass.” Jade grabbed the food, shoved a container and chopsticks at Lilah, and grabbed the next container for herself, closing her eyes as she chewed.
Lilah glanced at Dell and was startled to see . . . hurt and longing? But when she blinked, it was gone. “Dell—”
He grabbed the third container. “We checked on Brady.”
Lilah recognized the subject change as a diversionary tactic and was just enough off her axis to let it go for now. “And? How bad is it?”
“He’s running the place like boot camp. Even Lulu is behaving, though it’s probably out of fear that she’ll have to run laps if she doesn’t.” He laughed at the look on her face. “He’s doing fine, Lil, stop worrying. In fact, he was telling Lorraine where to stick it,” he said. He smiled. “Best moment of my day.”
Shit. Lilah tried to get up, but Dell’s leg was still over her. “Relax. He’s got it all under control.” He had the fried rice, and Lilah knew from experience if she didn’t demand her share pronto, he’d eat it all in less than two minutes. “Gimme,” she said.
After she’d filled her belly, she felt better and tried to get up but Dell shook his head.
“I’m getting up, Dell.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”
“Christ, what is it with all the stubborn women today?” He spared a glance at Jade, who merely narrowed her eyes at him.
“I feel just fine,” Lilah said.
“No go.” Dell held firm. “If I let you up, you’re going to go check on him.”
“You’re still on bed rest.”
“Since when did you talk to my doctor?”
“Not your doctor, your keeper.”
“Yes, well if you want to keep your pretty face, get off me.”
Jade snorted and kept eating.
“Sheesh,” Dell said, moving. “You’re grumpy when you get shot. And I don’t know what your problem is,” he said to Jade.
“I’d tell you to think about it,” Jade said. “But that might be a stretch for you—” She broke off, staring at him. “Are you kidding me? What, are you twelve?”
“What?” Dell said, looking around. “I didn’t do a f**king thing.”
Jade pointed to his Levi’s, which were low slung and had sunk far enough on his h*ps that when he’d sat, they’d revealed the waistband of his boxers, which were pink and covered in little red lips. He looked down at himself and shrugged. “They were a gift.”
“Pig,” Jade said.
Later, when Lilah was alone again, she fought with discomfort and discontentment and told herself it was from being cooped up.
It wasn’t from wanting things she couldn’t have.Except it was.
At eight, there was a knock at her front door, but before she could move, she heard a key in the lock.
Only three people had keys. Adam, Dell, and as of this morning, Brady. He had her set of keys, actually, so he could come and go between the kennels and the cabin. She listened as footsteps, sure and steady, came down the hall. “You’re lucky I don’t sleep with a gun beneath my pillow,” she said to the tall, dark, built shadow who appeared in her doorway.
Brady propped up the jamb with a shoulder, and a smile flashed from him in the dark. Imperturbable as usual, the bastard.
“I think we’ve had enough accidental shootings for this week.” He crossed his arms. “But out of curiosity, do you really think you could shoot me?”
She thought she could do a lot of things to him. Smack him for the smugness. Hug him for how hard he’d worked today.
Love him for exactly who and what he was . . .
“No,” she answered honestly. “I don’t think I could shoot you. But I could throw a gun at your head.”
He laughed. “Now that I believe.”
“Are you here with the handcuffs?” she asked hopefully.
That tugged another rough laugh out of him. “Thought I’d save that for when you’re feeling better.”
Heat slashed through her, pooling low in her belly. “You worked hard today.”
“No harder than you do every day.” There was admiration in his voice for what she did, and then there was a warmth inside her to go with the heat.
“I don’t bring in women from three counties over,” she said. “That’s new.”
Pushing off from the doorjamb, he came forward until his thighs bumped the bed. Leaning over her, a hand on either side of her head, he bent close.
It was dark, but she had enough of a glow from the moonlight outside to see his exhaustion, and concern.
“I’m okay,” she told him softly. Reaching up, she cupped his face. “Really.”
“Wanted to make sure.” He kissed her softly, tenderly, and she kissed him back. The emotion rocked him, she could feel it in the fine tremor of his body. And suddenly it was all ferocious intensity, and she wanted to show him just how okay she was. She wanted to lessen some of the tension she felt in him, wanted to help him let go. Tugging his shirt up with her good hand, she smiled when he took over and yanked the shirt off in one fluid motion.
“Pants, too,” she whispered, running her fingers down the center of his chest, past his belly button to the waistband of his cargoes.
Almost before she had the words out, he’d stripped down to skin.
And Lord, what beautiful skin.
With his careful help, she shimmied out of her pj’s, then lifted the covers to make room for him. Pulling him over the top of her, she sighed in pleasure, loving the way she felt when his weight pressed her into the mattress. Arching, she wrapped her legs around him, absorbing the groan that wrenched up from deep in his chest.
“In the bedside drawer.”
He pulled out a condom and put it on before he came back over her. She rocked again, shifted strategically, and then he was inside her, the sensation taking her breath away.
“Christ, you feel good . . . ” He let out a long, shaky breath and kissed her jaw, her throat. “So f**king good.”
She tried to rock her h*ps against him but he wasn’t budging. Not until he was ready, and as she already knew, wasting energy on pushing him was useless, his body was like steel. “Brady . . .”
“Shh. Give me a minute. Just feel.”
She let her hand roam, she couldn’t help it. His body was smooth and muscular. And scarred. Her fingers traced a few of those scars, memories of long-ago battles he never spoke of, and then she pulled his face to hers to nip at his bottom lip.
Growling low in his throat, he finally began to move, setting an agonizingly slow rhythm, his h*ps barely grinding in a circle as he did, careful not to jar or hurt her.
She heard herself whimper but not in pain. She was dying with each and every single rock of his hips. She dug her fingers into the cheeks of his perfect ass to try to speed him up, she tried words, she even bit his shoulder, nothing rushed him.
The sensations overtook her. The rush of pleasure at the top of every thrust he made had her orgasm building from her toes. Her eyes wanted to close, but she fought the urge, not wanting to tear her gaze from the look on his face. It was beautiful.
He was beautiful.
And then she was flying over the edge, coming hard. As she gasped and cried out, lost in the pleasure, his vivid blue eyes stayed locked on hers, his expression revealing every flicker of pleasure she gave him as he quietly followed her over.
The next few days were crazy for Brady, shuffling between kennel duties and the flying he did for Adam and Dell.
It was the nights, however, that stuck with him: the long, hot, steamy, tear-up-the-sheets nights.The best nights of his life.
Three days after Lilah had been shot, he ambled over from the kennels, dirty from head to toe. He’d had a record day, including managing to be felt up by the seventy-year-old Mrs. Lyons. At the front door of the cabin he stopped to remove his boots, going still at the wild laughter from inside.
When he walked through, he found Lilah in bed, surrounded by Jade and three other women.
His gaze soaked Lilah up, the low-cut yoga pants and snug T-shirt she wore, the color on her cheeks that said she was feeling much better, the shine in her eyes that assured him she’d finally caught up on sleep and was no longer in constant pain.
Someone had brought pizza, magazines, fingernail polish, lotions, and a bunch of other frilly shit. There was so much estrogen in the room he almost couldn’t breathe. He stared at Lilah in the middle of the bed, the center of attention, wearing no bra and a bandage from getting shot—
She smiled at him and just about melted his bones away. “Hey.”
“Hey right back atcha. Everyone out,” she said, not taking her eyes off him.
No one listened. The talking and laughing continued.