Lifting a hand, he wrapped it around the nape of her neck and drew her in. “You need some more time to be mad at me?”
“Let me know when you’re about done.” He knew he had no right to touch her, crave her like air, but he did both. And when he put his mouth on hers, he recognized the taste of her, like she’d been made for just him. Which made him far more screwed than he’d even imagined.
But suddenly she was pulling free, shaking her head. “Ty—I can’t.”
“You can’t kiss and be mad at me at the same time?”
“Oh, I can do that. What I can’t do is this. I can’t do this and keep it…not real.”
“Yes, but real for you means an erection. For me, it means…” She rubbed her chest as if it hurt and closed her eyes. “Never mind.” She took a step back and then another. “I’m sorry, this really is my fault. I shouldn’t have—”
“No, it’s okay. Really. But I’m going now.”
He watched her get into her car and drive off. Yeah, he thought, definitely time to go back to work. Past time.
Mallory parked behind her brother’s truck in her mother’s driveway.
Dinner with the Quinns.
It’d been a full day since she’d left Ty standing in his garage, hot and dirty and looking a little baffled, like maybe he’d lost his copy of the rule book for their little game.
But even though she’d started the game in the first place, she no longer wanted to play. Somewhere along the way, her heart had flipped on her. She could pretend to be a bad girl all she wanted. It was only an illusion. The truth was, she needed more than just sex. And that really pissed her off about herself.
And what pissed her off even more was how much she already missed him.
Her mother was in the kitchen pulling a roasted chicken out of the oven. It looked perfect. Mallory wouldn’t even know where to begin to make food that looked like that and she sniffed appreciatively.
“Did you bring the dessert?” her mother asked. “That cake you brought to Joe’s birthday party was amazing. I had no idea you were so talented. Tell me you made another of those.”
Mallory held out the tray of cupcakes she’d gotten from the B&B this morning. Tara had promised they were absolutely to die for. Mallory knew this to be true because she’d already inhaled two of them.
“A woman who can bake like this,” her mom said, “should have kids. I wouldn’t mind some grandchildren.”
“Well, stop just sayin’.”
Joe walked in and rumpled Mallory’s hair. “Hey, think you can convince that cute new LN to go out with me?”
“No, Camilla’s too good for you. And how do you know her?”
“I work with her brother at the welding shop. She brought him lunch.”
“Stay away from Camilla,” Mallory said.
Ella was shooing everyone to the table. “Joe, put your phone away. Oh, Mal, I almost forgot. Tammy wanted me to ask if you’d take Alyssa’s shift this weekend so she and Tammy can have a girl’s night out.”
Mallory grabbed two rolls. “Can’t.”
Ella took one roll back. “You’ll hate yourself in the morning. And why can’t you take the shift?”
“I’m working at the HSC this weekend.”
“No, but I need a day off.”
Ella blinked. “You never say no. You’re always so good about helping everyone.”
Oh how she hated that adjective applied to her—good.
Joe grinned and took two rolls without comment from Ella, the skinny rat-fink bastard. “I don’t think Mallory likes being called good, Mom.”
“Of course she does. Why wouldn’t she?”
Right. Why wouldn’t she…
She escaped as soon as dinner was over. Her family was…well, her family. She loved them but they had no idea how much their opinion of her wore her down, that she yearned for so much more, that she wanted to be seen. Seen for herself.
Ty saw her for herself.
Too bad he didn’t see her as someone he wanted in his life.
She was halfway home when her phone rang. She pulled over and answered Amy’s call.
“You see Facebook lately?”
Mallory’s heart sank. “What now?”
“Someone caught a picture of you and Ty in what looks like the hospital parking lot. He was…under your hood.”
Oh boy. “Tell me you really mean that. And not as some sort of euphemism.”
“The picture is hot, Mal. No one can deny that you don’t look good together.”
“We’re not together. And what the hell are we doing in the picture?”
“Kissing. And he’s got a hand on your ass. They’ve relabeled him from Mysterious Cute Guy to Good-With-His-Hands Guy.”
“I think you’re ready to teach your own Bad Girl Lessons now.”
Mallory thunked her head on the steering wheel.
“Oh, and chocoholics unite tomorrow. I’m getting a chocolate cake from Tara. It’s got yours, Grace’s, and my name on it. You’ve got a story to tell.”
“So do you. I want to hear more about this thing with Matt—”
“There’s no ‘thing.’”
“Sorry, bad connection. Must be going through a tunnel.”
“You’re at the diner!”
“Oh, well then it must be something I don’t want to discuss.” And she disconnected.
Mallory shook her head and got back on the road, hitting the gas hard. She wanted to see that Facebook pic. Two blocks from home, red and blue lights flashed in her rearview mirror.
She pulled over, rolled down her window, and glared at Sheriff Sawyer Thompson as he ambled up to the side of her car. She and Sawyer had gone to high school together, though he’d been a couple of years ahead of her. She’d done his English papers, and he’d handled her math and science. Later, she’d patched him up several times when his wild, misspent youth had landed him on the injured list.
Then he’d settled down and become a sheriff of all things, now firmly entrenched on the right side of the law. There’d been a time when having the big, bad, sexy sheriff pull her over might have made her day. But that time wasn’t now. “What?” she demanded a little crankily. “You don’t have a bad guy to catch? You have to pull over people who are just trying to get home?”
“Give me a break, Mal. You were doing fifty-five in a thirty-five zone. I whooped my siren at you twice, and you never even noticed. What the hell’s up with you?”
Crap. She sagged in her seat. “Nothing.”
He shook his head and leaned against her car, apparently perfectly happy to take a break on her time. She sighed. “Long day?” she asked sympathetically.
“Yeah.” He slid her a look. “But clearly not as long as yours.”
“Is that right?” He pulled out his iPhone and thumbed his way to a page, then turned it to her.
A picture had indeed been posted, just as Amy had said. It was small and grainy but it was her. In Ty’s arms.
With his hand on her ass.
She stared at herself. She had a dazed, dreamy smile on her face. Not Ty. His expression was possessive as he stared down at her hungrily, and she felt herself getting aroused all over again in spite of herself. This was quickly followed by a surge of her supposedly rare temper. “Are you kidding me?”
Sawyer slipped the phone back into his pocket.
“That’s an invasion of privacy!” she said. “Arrest someone!”
“You were in a public place.”
“I didn’t know someone was taking pictures!”
“Obviously,” Sawyer drawled, still leaning back against her car as if he had all day.
“I’m going to kick someone’s ass.”
His brow shot up at that. “You don’t kick ass, Mal. You save people’s asses.”
“I’m over it! Give me my damn speeding ticket and get out of my way before I run your foot over.”
Sawyer flashed a genuine grin now. “Are you threatening an officer?”
“My ticket, Sawyer.”
“I’m not going to give you a ticket, Mallory.”
“Hell, no. If I gave you a ticket now, I’d get skinned alive by…well, everyone.”
This was thankfully true. “That’s never bothered you before.” If she wasn’t so mad, she might have found humor in this. “It’s Chloe. Having a girlfriend has softened you up.”
He grimaced. “I’m tempted to ticket you just for saying that.”
She found a smile after all.
He returned it and leaned in her window, tugging on a strand of her hair. “Want some advice?”
“I want to run your foot over.”
“You’re not going to run me over, because then you’d have to give me first aid and you’re not in the mood.” But he stepped back, proving he wasn’t just all good looks. “Slow down,” he warned her and tugged on her hair again. “Everywhere.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Well, it was too damn late for that, wasn’t it. She already hurt, thank you very much.
She blew out a breath and eased out into traffic. She was careful not to speed again, even with her phone going off every two seconds. She ignored all calls, parked in her driveway, watered Mrs. Tyler’s flowers, watered her grandma’s flowers, and fed Sweet Pea.