She put aside the plate, unconcerned with whether it tipped over on the couch. He stared at her for a moment as if gauging whether she was ready. If she was any more ready she’d be stripped down and holding a sign saying Take Me.
As soon as Cam pulled Pippa to her feet, adrenaline surged like an electric charge through her veins. For a moment he pulled her close, their bodies touching. His warmth leaped to her and surrounded her. Then he dragged a gentle hand through her hair and leaned down to kiss her.
It was brief, just a brush, but she felt it to her toes. He drew away, his breath harsh in the quiet.
“Your bed,” he said.
Swallowing hard, she started to drop his hand to go past him toward her bedroom, but he tightened his hold and rubbed his thumb over her wrist.
She went ahead of him, pulling him behind her as she crossed the short distance to the steps leading up to the small loft where her bed was. Her legs trembled as she climbed and then came to a halt, the bed in front of her, unsure of what he wanted next.
He moved past her, this time taking her with him. He eased her into a sitting position on the edge of the bed and then unbuttoned her top.
He went down on his knees as he pushed her shirt over her shoulders, baring her lacy bra. His gaze dropped to the swell of her belly and he went still. She held her breath, wondering if the moment was lost, but to her utter shock, he laid his cheek over the bump and turned his mouth just enough to press a kiss to her taut skin.
She inhaled sharply, the bite of emotion harsh in her throat. She slid her fingers through his unruly hair, her touch gentle and loving.
Slowly he pulled away and then he lifted her just enough that he could ease her pants off.
“I promised you a massage,” he said in a husky voice. “I think I’m going to enjoy it more than you will.”
She cast him a doubtful look, but okay, if that’s what he wanted to think. Right now his hands on her body was about as good as it got.
He curled his arms underneath her and lifted so he could position her on her side. Then he unhooked her bra and carefully pulled her panties down her legs so she was na**d, facing away from him.
During a long pause, she glanced over her shoulder to see him disrobing a short distance away. He had a gorgeous, lean body. He wasn’t pretty or polished. There was just enough edge to his appearance to send her girlie senses into overdrive.
He strode back to the bed and got on his knees behind her. When his hand slid over her hip, then wandered to her back and shoulder, she closed her eyes and sighed in contentment.
His mouth followed, pressing hot against her neck and then gliding over the curve to her shoulder. When he pulled away, he put both hands to her back and gently began to stroke and caress until her eyes rolled back in her head.
He worked methodically, leaving no part of her flesh untouched. He stroked down to her buttocks, molding the plump globes with his palms before working lower to her thighs.
Nudging her over onto her back, he lifted one leg and began working the muscles with those to-die-for hands. He worked all the way down to her ankle and then began massaging her foot.
She floated somewhere else, hovering on a cloud of sensory overload. Then he lifted her foot and kissed her instep. She nearly lost it right there. It was the most erotic sensation she’d ever experienced and it was just her foot! But the man made every single touch so damn sexy.
He moved to her other leg but she was only dimly aware. She let out a blissful sigh and surrendered to the euphoric sensation of having a sinfully handsome man cater to her every pleasure.
Each caress sent warmth all the way to her soul. She opened her eyes and watched in fascination as he rose over her, gently parting her thighs before settling his upper body between them.
For a brief moment he glanced up and those sizzling blue eyes connected with hers. His mouth crooked up into a half smile and then he lowered his head to her most intimate flesh.
She couldn’t call back the moan. She twisted restlessly but he kept her firmly in place with those hands at her hips. He kissed, licked and made love to her with that delectable mouth. He had such a talented tongue and he was driving her crazy.
She reached for his hair, twisting her fingers with almost desperate strength as she arched into him. He delved deeper with his tongue, loving her with long, lazy strokes. Then he moved one hand from her hip and slid his fingers deep into her warmth.
It was more than she could withstand. She bowed beneath him, tightening to the point of near pain and then she reached her peak in a quick, tumultuous burst.
He tenderly kissed the quivering bundle of nerves, eliciting another shudder from her before he moved his mouth up to her belly to lavish gentle attention on it. His hands molded to the swell and there was such reverence in his touch that she had to swallow back the knot forming in her throat.
She wanted to believe so very much that he was coming around. That maybe he was beginning to let go of his past, but she was afraid to broach the subject. Afraid of his rejection. And she couldn’t be patient and understanding. She wasn’t going to wait around forever for him to decide he wanted to fight for their future.
“Tell me if I hurt you.”
He shifted upward, positioning himself between her thighs. He held his weight off her with one palm pressed to the mattress while he used his other hand to guide his erection to her opening.
Tentatively he pressed forward, his gaze never leaving her face as he probed deeper. She pulsed around him, still hypersensitive after her orgasm. As he pushed even deeper, she closed her eyes and dug her fingers into his muscled shoulders.
“Too much?” he asked.
She opened her eyes to see him eyeing her with concern.
“Oh, no,” she whispered. “Not enough.”
His pupils dilated. His jaw tightened and bulged and he drew in a deep breath as if he were trying valiantly to maintain control.
She lifted her hands to frame his face, caressing his jaw as she stared up at him.
“Make love to me, Cam. Don’t hold back. You won’t hurt me.”
He closed his eyes and emitted a harsh groan. Then he turned his face into her hand and kissed her palm. Carefully he lowered himself until her belly pressed into his. He rested his forearms on either side of her shoulders and then pushed deeper.
His mouth found hers. Hungry. Hot. Demanding even as he was exceedingly gentle.
He found a slow, sensual rhythm, rocking against her as he filled her again and again. He was patient, working her up that slow rise all over again.
It was less urgent this time. Mellow. A lazy climb upward as pleasure filled her. She felt weightless, surrounded by him. She felt…loved.
Even as she knew it was foolish to allow herself the fantasy that he wanted and needed her, she couldn’t help but immerse herself in this one moment where everything in her world was utter perfection.
His mouth skimmed down her jaw to her neck where his teeth grazed the sensitive skin underneath her ear. Then he raised his body just enough to send himself even deeper inside her.
She gasped, then clutched at his shoulders, digging her nails into his flesh. She arched upward, wanting, needing more.
“That’s it, baby,” he murmured. “I love how you respond. Always with me one hundred percent.”
Oh, if he only knew just how with him she was and wanted to be. She bit her lip to prevent the words, those damnable words, from slipping out in the heat of the moment. He wouldn’t welcome them.
I love you.
She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down so they were close. So close that his warmth bled into her body and she had no sense of where he began and she ended.
He shuddered against her. Let out a hoarse cry. She moaned softly and then whispered his name as the world crashed around her. Arching. Sighing. Undulating. Their bodies moved in quiet unison until they were wrapped tighter than braided rope.
She melted back onto the mattress, so sated that she couldn’t even contemplate moving. For a moment he rested above her, his weight only barely pressed to hers, and then he rolled to the side, taking her with him.
He pulled her in close, anchoring her head in the hollow of his neck. His heart tripped frantically against her cheek and she inhaled deeply, wanting to capture his essence and imprint it in her memory.
He didn’t speak but neither did she. Anything she’d say would only ruin the moment and anything he’d likely say she wouldn’t want to hear. So she was content to let things lie.
She closed her eyes, knowing that when she woke again, he’d be gone. Just like the other times. She’d wake to an empty bed and an even emptier heart.
She threw her arm and a leg over him, knowing it was pointless but unable to resist the urge to keep him close for as long as she could. Then she snuggled deeper into his embrace and allowed the veil of sleep to overcome her.
* * *
Cam woke in a cold sweat, the horror of his dream still alive and vivid in his mind. For a moment he stared into the darkness, still reliving every moment.
The accident that had taken Elise and Colton from him had been replayed in slow motion. He’d experienced the horrific, numbing helplessness of knowing he couldn’t save them. But still, he’d run toward the wreckage, his heart in his throat, praying with everything he had that this time would be different. That this time he’d find them alive.
Only when he’d gotten there, it had been Pippa’s bloodied face he’d seen, the last, pained cry of their newborn son he’d heard.
Desperate to get away and to make the awful vision disappear, he shoved hastily out of the bed, Pippa’s sleepy murmur of protest dim in his ears.
He yanked on his clothing, nearly tripping in his haste to be gone. He stumbled through her apartment to the front door and lunged into the night, gulping huge, steadying breaths into burning lungs.
He palmed his forehead as he made his way to his car and fumbled with the lock. He got in and slumped against the seat and sat there several long minutes, staring through the windshield, trying to bring to mind Elise’s features.
But it wasn’t his beloved wife he saw every time he closed his eyes. It was Pippa.
Pippa struggled out of bed the next morning. She should be euphoric. She’d had a terrific turnout for her grand opening. She’d spent a wonderful evening with Cam and an even better night in bed. But as she’d known, even though she’d awakened before dawn to get to her café, Cam had been gone.
She trudged into her shop, feeling thoroughly down. The two people she’d hired to help her bake in the mornings arrived shortly after she did and they worked in silence, Pippa shunning any attempt at conversation.
She needed time to think. Or rather time to berate herself for being such a weak ninny. Cam was…well, he was manic and it was driving her insane. She couldn’t continue like this.
Oh, who was she kidding. All the man had to do was smile at her, offer an apology and take her to bed. She’d never envisioned herself as one of those gullible women she and her friends liked to rag on. But apparently Pippa was smart in every aspect except men and relationships.
It was just a few minutes to opening when Pippa’s cell phone rang. It was Ashley’s ringtone and Pippa felt some of her tension ease. Ashley always made her feel better.
“You’re up early this morning. Baby keeping you awake?” Pippa asked as she put the phone to her ear.
“Pippa, it’s Devon.”
He sounded harried and there was a terse quality to his voice that immediately put her on edge.
“Where’s Ashley?” Pippa demanded.
“We’re at the hospital. She’s in labor and wanted me to call you. I can’t reach her mother and she’s in a panic. I think she just wants some female company. I’m driving her crazy.”
Pippa smiled. “It’s all right, Dev. I’m on my way. Hang in there.”
Devon’s relief was palpable. “Thanks, Pippa.”
She rang off and then gave her employees instructions for running the shop in her absence. Leaving her business on its second day wasn’t at all what she wanted but she wasn’t about to leave Ashley when she needed her most.
After making sure they’d call her if any issues arose, Pippa hurried out the door to hail a cab. She could call John, but she didn’t want to wait even that long to get to the hospital. She was nervous and excited to be with Ashley on the big day, but if she were honest, she’d admit that the whole delivery thing scared the bejebus out of her.
She wasn’t yet prepared for that aspect of her pregnancy; she’d been existing in ignorant bliss. Childbirth itself was the part of all the pregnancy books she skipped over. She knew all about the nine months leading up to it. She knew all about what happened after the delivery. But she’d blocked out any information about the actual delivery of the baby.
Not smart, but hey, a girl did what she had to just to get through.
Once at the hospital she stopped by the information desk to find out Ashley’s room number and then headed up to the maternity ward. She tapped on Ashley’s door, half-afraid of what she’d see on the other side.
Devon opened the door and looked relieved to see her there. Pippa hesitantly peeked around Devon, happy when she saw Ashley propped in the bed looking none the worse for wear. Ashley’s face brightened when she saw Pippa.
“Pippa! I’m so glad you’re here.”
Pippa smiled and went over to the bed to enfold Ashley in a hug. “Hey, you. How’s it going? When’s that baby going to get here?”
Ashley pulled a face. “Not soon enough. It could be hours yet. I’m only dilated to four.”
Pippa blinked. “Four what?”
Ashley’s brow furrowed. “Centimeters.”