Ryan brought up his other hand to stroke her cheek and she realized he’d wiped a tear away. She lifted her lids, found him studying her face as he eased closer.
“Nothing can keep me down, Red. I won’t go out in something as trite as a car accident. I’ve been through a lot in my years and a flipped car is nothing.”
Piper inhaled, taking in Ryan’s masculine, familiar scent. He stood so close and, not for the first time, Piper admired that stubbled chin and jawline, those broad shoulders and full lips.
Damn, she shouldn’t be admiring her best friend’s lips, no matter how kissable they looked.
“It’s that danger you crave that scares me, Ryan.” She valued their relationship and that she could be brutally honest with him. “You’re so laid-back, so carefree. But when it comes to adventure, you live for it. Do you know how broken I’d be if I lost you?”
Those lips turned up as he shrugged. “Don’t worry about me. I know my limits and I know how to remain in control.”
His eyes darted to her mouth, then back up to her eyes as he inched forward. This time she knew he wasn’t reacting from the concussion and swaying. He had genuine lust lurking in those baby blues.
“This is just both of us coming off adrenaline,” she whispered. “Nothing more.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
His thumb stroked across her bottom lip and Piper forced herself not to slide her tongue out and taste him.
The timer on the oven beeped, making her jump.
She stepped aside, causing Ryan to move, as well. He shoved his hands into his pockets as if he didn’t know where else to put them.
“Dinner is almost ready,” she told him, yanking a drawer out to grab a pot holder. “I’ll bring it to you.”
She silently pleaded that he’d go back into the living room because if she turned back around and he was still there looking at her with those heavy-lidded hungry eyes, she feared she’d succumb and take what she thought he was offering. And, dear God, she’d die of humiliation if she ended up giving in only to find out he hadn’t wanted intimacy.
How in the hell had they come to this point? Was it the adrenaline or had today’s accident been a wake-up call? Surely he didn’t feel that way toward her. They’d been friends for years and he’d never tried taking it to the next level.
But the desire in his eyes said he was ready. If this wasn’t just an aftershock from the accident, she had to consider a whole new angle to their friendship.
No matter what, Piper knew she needed to keep her emotions under control. She couldn’t get romantically involved with Ryan. Being best friends was as far as she could allow her heart to go.
She still had a sinking fear that he would get bored with being home for good. She knew him well enough to know that if he got restless, he’d head back out on the road, leaving her staring at his taillights.
* * *
Ryan closed the bathroom door and turned around to...
Oh, for the love...
Could he not catch a damn break? First he wasn’t steady on his feet because he’d hit his head, then he’d nearly kissed his best friend and now this? Come on.
Lingerie everywhere. Every damn where.
Red lace, yellow satin... Bras, thongs, silky-looking nightgowns. Of course she hung this up to dry. And of course laundry day was the day he had to stay with her.
Well played, Fate.
As if that damn near kiss in the kitchen wasn’t enough to have him cursing his overactive hormones, now he was faced with the very intimate undergarments Piper slid into after a shower or before bed.
He couldn’t help but imagine peeling that bright blue thong down her long, toned legs.
Who knew Piper kept such a beautiful secret beneath flannel, T’s and well-worn denim?
Ryan rested his hands on the edge of the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. What the hell had he been thinking rubbing her lip like that? He knew she was leery of trusting people. After all, he’d been in her life since she’d punched him in the face in grade school for accusing her of lying about the rodeo. Of course, once he’d finally believed her dad was the Walker Kindred, Piper’s cool status had skyrocketed. They’d been near inseparable since.
So why had he taken such a dumb, careless risk with her?
Ryan sighed, reaching to turn on the faucet to splash some cold water on his face. He’d taken a risk because he’d always wondered what that sometimes smart mouth felt like, tasted like.
Oh, they’d shared pecks on the cheek and countless hugs over the years, but Ryan fantasized about peeling back another layer, finding that hidden sexuality.