And then she was gone.
“You do too much for me. I hate that you’re doing this too,” Elle said.
“You do plenty for me in return.”
“Such as?” she asked.
“Keep me human.”
She looked a little stunned at the admission and he couldn’t say he didn’t feel the same. He stood up, dropped some money into Tina’s tip jar, and then pulled Elle out of the shop. He tugged her past the fountain and into Old Man Eddie’s alley, thankful to find it empty.
Gently he pressed Elle up against the brick wall and kissed her. It was a relentless need, driven by worry for her safety, by the strange sensations in his chest that flooded him at her nearness, and by a driving need to wrap her up in his arms and never let go.
Elle surprised him by seeming to have the same need because she wrapped her arms around him just as tight and deepened the kiss. When her tongue touched his, her taste invaded his senses and he lost his mind a little bit. He wanted to eat her up. Every inch of her.
She pulled away breathless, shaking her head as if to clear it, laughter glinting in her blue eyes. “Trying to kiss some sense into me?” she asked, her fingers still tangled in his hair.
“Trying to kiss some sense into me.” God’s truth. “You’re killing me here. You need me safe, right?”
“Of course,” she said.
“So can you try to understand that I have the same need for you?”
She studied him intently and then slowly nodded. “Yes.”
He trailed a finger down the curve of her cheek, across her lips, and down her throat, absorbing her shiver with his body. “Is that a yes, you’ll let me keep you safe?”
“Yes, I’ll try not to kill you while you do.”
She was playing, but he wasn’t. Couldn’t. He cupped her face. “Tell me you understand.”
Still not breathing all that steadily, she nodded. “I do. Just as you should understand that if there’s any dirt on my backside from this alley wall, you owe me a new dress.”
That night Elle stared at the L-shaped couch in Archer’s living room. It was comfy but if she was being honest with herself, she didn’t want to even bother with the pretense of getting ready to sleep on it.
Once again, Archer was in the shower. Morgan was on the couch, watching her with a knowing smirk.
“Shut up,” Elle said, and she stalked into Archer’s bedroom, shutting the door harder than strictly necessary.
She climbed up on the great big mattress and got under the warm bedding, hugging Archer’s pillow to her face, inhaling his scent deeply. God, he smelled amazing. If she could bottle it, she’d make a million bucks . . . She didn’t know how long she’d lain there drifting on that thought when she realized she wasn’t alone in the room. And given the way her nipples got happy, she knew exactly who’d joined her.
Archer stopped short at the sight of Elle facedown on his bed, apparently trying to inhale his pillow. She froze as if sensing him, and rolled onto her back.
“Your bed is comfortable,” she said.
“Thanks, Goldilocks.” Smiling, he moved to the edge of the bed, admiring the sight of her in it. “Were you just sniffing my pillow?”
“No.” She sighed. “Maybe a little. You always smell so good.” She sat up and let the covers fall to her hips. She was in one of his T-shirts and—he was hoping—nothing else.
“Tired?” she asked.
“Not even a little,” he said as he sat on the bed, planting a hand on either side of her hips, caging her in.
She pulled him in and he let her roll him to his back and pin him to the mattress. She was looking quite determined as she bent over him, holding his hands down on either side of his head.
“I wanted to surprise you,” she said, shaking her head like she was surprised herself. “I don’t even like surprises.”
He flashed a grin. “But you like me.”
She shook her head again. “In spite of myself.”
He flexed his hands beneath hers but let her hold him down. “You seem like a woman with a plan.”
“I always have a plan. But this one involves us being”—she wriggled on him and he bit back a groan—“very quiet.” Then she oscillated her hips and the T-shirt rose up high enough on her thighs to flash him a tantalizing view of heaven on earth. “Can you be very quiet, Archer?” she murmured, bending over him to nip at his jaw.
“I was born quiet.” He slid his hands from hers and up her shirt to cup her bare ass, wrenching a very satisfying moan from her throat. “I think the real question is—can you be quiet?”
She bit her lower lip, clearly remembering just how not quiet she was whenever he got his hands or mouth on her. It made him grin. “Lose the shirt, Elle.”
“My plan, remember?” And then she grasped his hands, pressing them to her breasts. “All you have to do is lie there and look pretty.”
He choked out a laugh that turned into another groan when she slowly lifted the shirt over her head, leaving her in nothing but smooth, soft skin and seriously mouth-watering curves.
“You’re gorgeous,” he said reverently. “The best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He met her gaze. “I’ve never wanted anything or anyone the way I want you.”
She faltered for a beat as if stunned by this statement. “Morgan said I don’t let emotions rule me,” she said. “And she’s right—”
“No, she’s not—”
“She is,” she insisted. “But I feel when I’m with you, Archer. I feel . . . hungry. As in my mouth actually waters for you.” Then she leaned down and whispered in his ear. “And I plan on tasting every . . . single . . . inch . . .”
He pulled in a ragged breath as she traced the shell of his ear with the tip of her tongue. She then spent the next several moments touching every inch of his body with her mouth, leaving the sole part that ached most for her until very last.
By the time she placed her mouth on him he was no longer coherent. And moments later, as the world spiraled out of control, it was apparent that she not only owned his body, she was also the keeper of his soul.