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Her hands slid into his hair, tightening on the strands. “Don’t stop.”

Never was his first thought, his fingers teasing her through her panties until they were wet. Then he hooked his thumbs into the straps. “You’re not going to be needing these,” he said and slowly drew the tiny scrap of material down her legs.

“Your clothes too,” she panted. “Off.”

“And you think I’m the bossy one.” He rose to his knees over her naked body and peeled his T-shirt over his head while her fingertips skimmed his chest and stomach, wreaking havoc on his self-control. Knowing she had to touch him every bit as much as he had to touch her drove him crazy in the very best way. Bending over her, he took a nibble of her hip, then a rib, making her squirm. Gently, he closed his teeth around her nipple and tugged, and she tightened her grip in his hair. That made it difficult to remove the rest of his clothes but he managed, kicking everything off.

Kylie came up on an elbow to watch and reached for him the minute he was finished, her legs parting for him. And as he first protected them both with a condom and then made himself comfortable between her thighs, he felt a deep sense of . . . coming home. There was no other way to describe it as he slid into her.

“Kylie,” he said, staring down at her. “Look at me.”

She opened her eyes and revealed so much emotion that he felt his throat go tight. He kissed her then, hungrily drinking in the little noises she made in her throat as he began to move deep inside her. He tried to hold it together, but she was so tight, so wet, so hot that he thought he was going to blow right then. But somehow he managed to hold on through her first orgasm. He barely reined it in, but he didn’t want this to be just a release like the first time they’d been together. He wanted to show her what was in his heart.

Except his heart had way too many walls up for that, even now, so he had to settle for showing her how much she pleased his body. And he thought, given the way she clung to him after, that maybe he’d given her that.

Much, much later, Kylie rolled over in her dark bedroom and heard a soft growl. “Oops, sorry,” she whispered to Vinnie and rolled the other way, this time coming up against a different roadblock, one of the human variety. She reached out with a hand. Yep. A naked, hard, warm human body.

“Mmph,” said that naked, hard, warm body, the one that had taken her to new heights and back. It reminded her that Joe had brought her home after they’d . . . well, decimated his office. No other word for it. And afterward, still hungry for each other, they’d ended up here, in her bed.

Now Joe reached out and wrapped his arms around her. She thought he’d get up, pull his clothes on over that amazing body, and walk it out her door.

But he didn’t. Instead, he pulled her in close, pressed his face into the crook of her neck, and sighed heavily, his entire body relaxed. Sated.

“I didn’t think you’d stay,” she said.


She bit her lower lip because she didn’t want to mistake this for more than it was, something she could all too easily do if she let herself. “Thought maybe we were going back to separating church and state after, like last time.”

“I can keep it in my pants if that’s what you want,” he said, voice low and husky.

“But you appear to sleep naked.”

He let out a low laugh, but didn’t move to get out of the bed. In fact, he didn’t move at all. Vinnie did though. He came in hot and plopped down on top of them both, making his way to a spot in the crook of Joe’s neck. It was a good choice. Kylie herself loved that spot. Rough with stubble, scented like a man, warm . . . With a smile, she closed her eyes and let herself drift off to sleep, safe and warm and wearing a ridiculous smile.

The next morning Kylie was in the shower when she felt the air pressure change. Then a hand, much larger than her own, took control of her washcloth. Joe’s hands were slow and knowing as they glided over her body, making her heart pound as she melted into him.

Abandoning the washcloth, his slightly calloused fingers stroked her belly, and she shivered in spite of the hot water. When she tried to turn to face him, he held her still while continuing his delicious torture with his knowing fingers, until she’d flattened her hands on the tile in front of her, dropped her head back onto his shoulder, and let herself go. She was still shuddering when he pulled her hips back and entered her from behind, doing what he’d done the night before.

Taking her to heaven and back.

She was still in the afterglow when she finally showed up at work. Gib took one look at her face and closed his eyes.

“What?” she asked.

“So you and Joe are a thing.”

“No,” she said.

He gave her a get real look. “You decide that before or after you fucked him?”

She narrowed her eyes, some of her happy glow dimming. “You don’t get to go there, Gib.”

“He’s going to hurt you, Kylie. He’s not the right guy for you.”

“I don’t want to talk about it, not with you.”

He looked pained. “Look, I screwed up, okay?”

She tossed up her hands. “What does that even mean?”

“It means I should’ve made my move sooner,” he said.

“No kidding!”

He grimaced. “There was just never the right time—”

She laughed. Like really laughed, even when this caused Gib to frown.

“I don’t see what’s so amusing,” he said.

“You had years, Gib.”

“We were kids,” he said. “And your grandpa did so much for me that I couldn’t allow—”

“Come on,” she said. “Be honest at least. When push came to shove, you just weren’t that into me. And no matter what I told myself, it was the same for me or I’d have made a move on you.” She sighed and then reached for his hand because she didn’t want to lose him from her life. She really didn’t. He’d been an important part of it for a long time and life was too short. “It’s okay,” she said. “We’re okay and we’re going to stay okay. But this subject’s closed. I’m going to get to work.”

And that’s just what she did. She went into the back and put her head down and concentrated on the mirror she needed to finish before Molly’s birthday tomorrow, instead of dwelling on the fact that she had only a week left to find her penguin, one week until playtime—or until whatever she and Joe were doing—was over.

Chapter 21


The rest of the day was a blur for Kylie because she was so swamped with work. Whether due to guilt or otherwise, Gib had once again passed some new jobs on to her, leaving her in the throes of no less than five different projects. It was both wonderful and overwhelming but at least things were status quo between them.

By lunchtime, her brain was flatlining, so she took off her apron, dusted off as much as she could, and grabbed Vinnie, heading out to the courtyard to clear her head.

At the fountain, she sat on a bench. Vinnie lifted his little leg on a bush and then came to sniff at the water.

“Careful,” she warned him. Not too long ago he’d gotten brave and had jumped in. Only problem was that because of his squat build and heavy head, he couldn’t swim. Panic had ensued until she’d rescued him.

But smart and bright as he was, he was also overconfident and believed himself invincible—hence the reminder. “No swimming,” she said.

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