The couch was comfortable but she couldn’t find her zone. The room was a good temperature but she was at turns hot and then cold. Her pillow wasn’t working.
Morgan had started snoring again in less than two minutes and Elle forced herself to relax. She wasn’t sure exactly when her fantasies became dreams, dreams of how Archer’s hands had felt skimming over her body, the touch of his mouth on her skin. The way he’d murmured hot, sexy things while he’d stroked and kissed her . . .
She woke up and blinked blearily at the low light of dawn peeking in the bedroom windows. Wait—What? She sat straight up and stared down at Archer. His eyes were closed and he looked quite relaxed and comfortable.
She peeked under the covers and found him in knit boxers.
“If you wanted to look at me, all you had to do was say so,” came his sleep roughened voice.
“Why am I in your bed? How am I in your bed?” she demanded.
“You were tossing and turning and muttering and getting no real sleep. Which means I was getting no sleep either, so I brought you in here.”
Where clearly she’d proceeded to sleep like the living dead.
“And that wasn’t me rescuing you,” he was quick to point out. “Or butting in on your life either. It was me doing Morgan a favor because you were keeping her up too.”
She met his gaze, which wasn’t amused. Wasn’t sardonic. Wasn’t anything but dark, warm, and concerned. For her. Because she was probably having a mental breakdown and also maybe pregnant . . .
“You okay?” he asked softly.
“Yes.” It was her ready-made answer but she paused and drew a deep breath. “Maybe.” She paused again. “Archer?”
“If I admit I’m not okay, just this once, you’ve got me, right?”
“Yeah, babe. I’ve got you.” He tugged her into him and she snuggled close, closing her eyes as his arms closed around her.
“What is it with us?” she murmured.
He laughed softly.
“How is that a funny question?”
“Because I try very hard to always know what I’m doing,” he said. “But I’m winging it here, Elle. I have no idea what we’re doing but one thing I’m sure as hell not doing is walking away from you. Not ever again.”
She waited for her heart to hit her toes but it didn’t happen. There was no panic. No anxiety. In fact, she felt . . . warm. Safe.
Secure. “This is just another of those temporary breaks from you staying the hell away from me,” she said. “Don’t forget.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.”
Archer loved waking up with Elle in his arms. It was the second night that he’d held her close with an intimacy born of something far deeper than physical wanting and he thought he wouldn’t mind sharing his space with her every single day of his life.
All he had to do was convince her of that, but he was working on it, one brick of the wall around her heart at a time.
The morning was a serious eye opener in other ways too. Turned out that sharing a bathroom with two females was an experience.
Or rather, not sharing.
They spent forty-five minutes in there. Each. By the time they finally cleared it for him, he was late to his own office meeting for the first time in his life.
When he walked in, the only one who dared say anything was Joe, who had refused to stay home any longer and was on light office duty. “Got the time, boss?” he asked with a smirk.
“You got something to say?” Archer asked him.
“Nothing you’d want me to say.”
“How about ‘I’d love to stay on light duty for another few weeks’?” Archer asked mildly. “Would you like to say that?”
Joe swore beneath his breath. They all hated light duty.
Joe reached out and shoved Max into the wall.
Carl jumped up and started barking, excited that there was going to be roughhousing. Carl loved roughhousing.
Max put Joe into a headlock.
Carl completely lost his shit and jumped on both of them, trying to get in on the action.
“Hey,” Mollie yelled from down the hall. “We just replaced that wall from the last time you two got playful. Knock it off!”
Archer turned to Trev. “What did you get off the phone?”
“It was a burner, but we’re still working on it.”
The rest of the meeting was finished without further damage to any property.
Even though Mollie was back, Morgan stuck around to help her catch up, which was probably an impossible feat. At the end of the day, she offered to stay late with Mollie, and since Max and Carl were staying late as well, Archer let it happen, assigning Max to bring Morgan to Archer’s place when she was done for the night.
This left just the other troublesome female in his life. He went down the hallway and gathered Elle to go home.
“I need to stop by my apartment,” she said.
He thought of the huge duffle bag she already had at his place but decided that pressing further would be a hazard to his health. At her apartment, he walked her in.
“Most likely, the only thing I’m in danger from is you,” she noted, but she humored him, letting him prowl through the rooms, flicking on lights and taking a look around while she stood at the front door, waiting.
When they got to his place, he did a wash and repeat of the safety check.
“You chase away all the scary things that go bump in the night then?” she asked from the foyer when he was finished.
“All but one.” He stepped into her, gratified to notice the hitch in her breath.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He figured it was self-explanatory when he backed her to the wall.
She allowed it, that small wry smile still in place. “You think you’re scary, Archer?”
Christ, he loved when she said his name. She could convey an entire volume of things in the one word. Irritation, amusement, temper, frustration . . . and then there was his favorite—arousal. Right now it was good humor as she allowed him to press up against her and kiss her, and then keep on kissing her until they were definitely no longer amused but something else entirely, something that called to the very heart of him. “Elle?”