Her breath caught. At the sound he froze, his gaze going heavy lidded as he stared at her mouth. Then he planted both hands flat on the huge tree on either side of her, framing her shoulders as he let out a long, careful exhale, resting his cheek against her hair. “You drive me crazy,” he murmured, his voice reverberating through his chest and into hers.
The words were such a contrast to his actions that it took her mind a moment to catch up. “Yeah, well, right back at you,” she managed, thrown off by the effortless way he was leaning into her, holding her there with his weight, completely immobilizing her.
And that wasn’t her biggest problem . . .
It was turning her on. “Move.”
He started to do just that and she would never in a million years be able to explain what she did next. She fisted her hands in his shirt, lifted her face, and . . . kissed him.
She felt his big body jerk in shock and tightened her grip, making a shockingly needy little whimper and he stilled. In the next beat he banded his arms around her and kissed her back. He kissed her slow and deep, taking his sweet-ass time about it too.
Tendrils of undeniable pleasure coursed through her, melting her bones away. She was still angry. So angry. And yet she couldn’t even remember why. That, coupled with her own sexual frustration and need, God, so much need, she literally went blank. Well, her brain did.
Not her body.
Her body reacted like it’d been deprived of touch for years, which was actually true. She moved against him, writhed really, trying desperately to get even closer, winding her arms around his neck to pull him into a better position to keep kissing him. When their tongues touched, they generated so much heat she nearly went up in flames and she tried to climb his body like he was a jungle gym.
This wrenched a groan from deep in his throat.
Sexiest sound ever.
Suddenly they were pulling at each other, grappling to get even closer, their hands furiously trying to gain purchase. She couldn’t get enough of him, his heat, the undeniable strength in every inch of his body. They were standing in a place not too far from the fire where anyone could come upon them and she didn’t even care.
When they were finally forced apart by their need for air, they stared at each other for a long beat. Elle would have liked to have the last word by casually pushing off and walking away, but she couldn’t. As in she literally couldn’t because the bones in her legs had gone on vacation, leaving her clinging to him. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said shakily. “I just can’t find my feet.”
Archer let out a low laughing groan into her neck and the movement of his mouth on her heated flesh had her toes curling. Since her hands were still in his hair she merely fisted them and tugged, and then they were kissing again.
It was crazy, insanity really, but it was as if she’d die if she didn’t get her hands on him. Apparently he felt the same way because while she worked her fingers beneath his shirt and all over his chest and abs—and good God, those abs—he wrenched his jacket from her shoulders got his hands on her breasts, like touching her was more critical than the blood in his veins.
She’d have thought his skin would be chilled from his dip in the river but he was hot to the touch. He felt amazing and she actually got to the button fly on his Levi’s before he wrenched free and took a step back from her.
Good thing the tree was still at her back or she’d have slid bonelessly to the dirt.
Not looking all that steady himself, Archer shoved a hand into his hair and fisted his fingers in the silky strands, like maybe he’d gone crazy.
She certainly had. She was . . . stunned. Shocked. And wildly out of breath. She put a hand to her racing heart to see if she could keep the organ in her chest since it was throwing itself against her ribcage with every single heartbeat. “Next time,” she said unsteadily. “We do that without a potential audience.”
He just looked at her and then her heart stopped beating like a drum. It stopped beating period. Because she understood what his look said—there wasn’t going to be a next time. “Okay, scratch that.”
“No. Never mind.”
“We’re . . . friends,” he said. “I’ve known you since you were a kid.”
Oh hell to the no did she want to hear the rest of that speech. Because yes, maybe she had a secret thing for him, and yes, maybe she’d fallen a long time ago, but she’d hoped he’d be able to see her for the woman she was now. A damn successful, strong woman.
But clearly that wasn’t going to happen. Nothing was ever going to happen and she couldn’t stick it out anymore, hoping, waiting. That was just sad and desperate, and she was neither. She had given it a whole year, and what was she waiting around for anyway? Archer didn’t represent any of the things she wanted, certainly not safety or security.
Because that’s what she really wanted. She knew that now.
And maybe he did love her in his own way. As a friend. As someone he’d once protected and always would. She got that, she really did, but it was time to take the reins on this. She started with straightening her blouse—when had he gotten her unbuttoned?—and carefully looked around her rather than meet his gaze, not sure what she would see. Or what she wanted to see. It’d be nice if he felt even a fraction of the crazy discombobulation she felt, but she had a feeling she’d see regret and that was going to make her even madder. Still, she risked a peek and found his default expression—the blank one that told her nothing.
Nor did he speak. The man, damn him, was as obstinate as . . . well, herself. He could outwait Job.
She, unfortunately, could not. She’d never been able to wait for anything, not a cup of tea to brew, not for slow Internet, and certainly not for Archer to speak. So she went on the offensive. “Listen, we’re going to attribute that to . . .” She searched for a logical reason to explain why she’d nearly jumped his bones but logic had deserted her. “High altitude,” she said. Yeah, that was it. “The high altitude makes it hard to think.”
He was a dark outline in the night, not touching her but still standing close. “We’re not at any significant altitude here.”
Seriously? He couldn’t even give her that? She went on the defensive. “Look, I get that I kissed you, but you know what? You kissed me back, with tongue. In fact, you got to second base, Mr. Cool. So feel free to help me out here and come up with something better.”