"Good." Nice to know she hadn't suffered this alone.
"So there's a vindictive streak in you after all." His mouth creased up in a smile she burned to explore with the tip of her tongue. "I was wondering how you could forgive me so easily when you're well within your right to be kicking my ass into eternity for what I did."
"Actually, I think I owe you an apology, as well, for what happened then. I knew you weren't in any shape to make an important decision like going to bed together."
It felt good to finally voice the guilt she'd been hiding for months. As much as his walking away had hurt her, it was about time she accepted her own role.
He flipped to his side, palming the bared patch of skin above her low-riding jeans. "While I still think any culpability rests squarely on my shoulders, we can start clean tonight."
She liked the sound of that. "Does that mean we're back to a first date? Because I won't go to bed with a guy on a first date."
His hand tunneled a hint higher up her sweater. "How about a clean slate with a history of friendship and dates."
"Sounds good to me." Especially if he would keep stroking her rib cage.
He thumbed the underside of her breast, teasing the swell through satin. "Right now I wouldn't mind hearing exactly what you want."
"I want to be with you." She slid the top button free from her lemon-yellow sweater, cool breeze drifting along passion-heated flesh.
His blue eyes lit with shock—and desire. "Uh, I meant back at my place, or yours."
"What's wrong with here?"
A growl rumbled low in his chest, vibrating against hers. "Not a damn thing."
He tracked her hands, freeing button after button until her sweater parted. She wondered at her own boldness for an instant, then gloried in it as his gaze hooked on her breasts. The chill in the air puckered her ni**les tight against the scant satin and lace.
His pupils widened with increasing passion. As if she couldn't already feel the evidence of his growing arousal throbbing against her.
She reached for the front clasp of her bra, and thank goodness she'd put on the good stuff this morning, pale yellow Victoria's Secret. On sale. And holy cow she was rambling in her brain to ward off embarrassment.
The cold kissed her skin a second before his mouth. Moist heat flowed from him through her veins until she longed to shrug away the heavy blanket, but her languid body wouldn't obey commands from her brain. Only instinct. Her frantic hands grappled over Carson, hungry to touch as much of him as possible after yearning for so damn long. Much more and she would combust.
His hands slid lower to her bottom, drawing her nearer. They rolled along the truck bed in a tangle of arms and legs that should have hurt but sensation suffused her to the exclusion of anything else.
Cocooned in the blanket, she kicked free of her jeans, needing to be rid of the confining clothes. Her sweater hung from her shoulders as her bare br**sts brushed along the rough fabric of his flight suit as they lay side by side.
The flight suit unzipped from the bottom for easy access during flight, and she definitely intended for them both to fly now, with the sky and stars, sound of the waves in her ears, the best of both worlds.
"Birth control?" she mumbled against his mouth.
"In my wallet." He combed his hands deeper through her hair, holding her with an intensity that rocked her. "Nikki, I swear I'm going to be around after."
"Can we talk about that later?" She only wanted to focus on finally feeling all of him all over her.
"I'm just doing my damnedest to be honorable here."
One of the things she admired about him, but right now he'd turned her inside out until she couldn't have run enough miles to burn off the frenetic energy zinging through her.
"It would be very dishonorable to leave me unsatisfied." Stretched beside him, she wrapped her fingers around the thick length of him, learning the silken steel texture of him. His groan thrilled her as much as his touch, knowing she brought him pleasure. She suspected the timeless tunes from the stereo would arouse her mercilessly from now on.
He tugged out his wallet, pulled free a tiny packet and sheathed himself with a speed that spoke of an urgency echoed inside her.
Hooking his hand behind her knee, he hitched her leg higher, over his hip until she realized what he intended. No missionary position tonight. Fair enough. She liked the idea of taking this journey side by side.
Then the thick blunt prodding stopped her thoughts altogether as she focused on this moment she knew would change things between them forever. Deeper, deeper still, she took him inside her body and more, slowly, carefully, staring into his eyes and soul in a way she never had months ago when she'd been too wrapped up in her hero worship to see the man.
She winced at the uncomfortable pinch and stretch, settled, waited for her body to adjust around him.
"Okay?" he asked, his jaw flexing from a restraint he couldn't hide.
"Totally." She rocked against him once, twice, again, his grip on her h*ps helping her find a matching rhythm of their bodies together. Moving. Rocking to increase the pleasure of his slick thrusts.
He shifted onto his back, holding her in place during the shuffle, the blanket slithering down around her waist, her sweater flapping open while he laved attention over her breasts.
His hand slid between them, touching where their bodies met, circling in time with her writhing h*ps against him. Her womb clenched tight, tighter, as tight as her legs clamping him to her as she chased the release so close... closer...
Waves of pleasure sluiced over her, pulsing like the breakers gushing against the shore, then receding slowly and stealing her muscles from her body until she slumped on top of him. Two deep thrusts later, his arms convulsed around her in time with his hoarse growl of completion.
Slowly, her senses tuned back in on things other than the residual pleasure pulsing through her.
Waves surged and crashed while the stereo piped one of her favorite songs, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree." Now she knew why.
Nikki grinned against his neck, tasting the sweat on his skin. "After all our talk about being old and mature, here we are in the back of a truck."
His hands roved up and down her spine. "I've never made love in the back of a truck."
"Me, either." Nor had she made love anywhere else for that matter.
A fact she now knew for certain.
She'd been almost sure nothing happened with Gary. The doctor in the emergency room had reassured her there were no signs of penetration, and she'd believed intellectually, but her mind had felt so violated it had been difficult to look beyond that. Now at least she had physical reassurance that she had not slept with Gary Owens—or any man for that matter. Because making love in the back of a truck had been a first for her in more ways than one.
Nikki was a virgin.
Past tense now.
Carson still couldn't wrap his brain around the fact, even as they sprawled in bed—at her apartment, not the garage place at her parents. After they'd untangled themselves from the sleeping bag in the back of his truck, he'd hesitated to take her to his house because of the bad memories it might hold for her, so he'd suggested her empty apartment. Since it was now common knowledge she'd moved out, there was no reason to fear hanging out in the place for a few hours.
An arm tucked under his head, the other curved around Nikki while she slept curled against his side, he stared up at her ceiling fan clicking overhead, circulating the heat. A tiny soccer ball dangled from the chain, spinning lazy rings in the air. Her room surprised him. She was such a no frills and leanly honed person he hadn't expected something so…froufrou. From her ruffly curtains to the poufy spread, patterned with tiny pink flowers and little green leaves.
Then there was that soccer ball chain pull overhead.
The dichotomy was somehow so totally Nikki the image settled in his brain as he grew even closer to this woman he'd fought hard to resist. How many other facets to her personality had he missed because of preconceived notions?
And the biggest mistaken notion of all... Damn it, he should have figured out she'd never made love before he came up against the hint of a barrier. Which shocked the hell out of him.
Although she was a quick study.
Still, if he'd known he would have.. .what? Turned away? Probably not, but at least he could have offered her a gentler, more romantic first time. Being with her blew his mind beyond anything he'd ever experienced. He knew now there wasn't a chance he could have been with her seven months ago and forgotten.
However now he wondered what had happened between them. When he reexamined their conversations about that night, never once did she say they had sex, only that they'd gone to his place. Not that they'd discussed it much—his own damn fault.
He remembered waking up n**ed together, so they must have gotten mighty damn close before he passed out. God. He owed her an even bigger apology than he'd thought.
Nikki stirred against his side and sighed over his chest before pressing a kiss to his shoulder, stirring a good morning down south even in the middle of the night. He willed away the erection—okay, it wasn't going down any time soon, but at least he reined himself in and simply rolled toward her for a simple kiss.
Simple? Not for long.
Carson sailed his hand along her n**ed spine. "You're awake."
Her fingers skipped down his chest. Lower. Gliding one finger from tip to base. "So are you."
He clamped a hand around her wrist. "As much as I would really enjoy an encore, again, you need more time to recover."
"Women don't have a recovery time like guys."
"That's not what I meant." He pressed a kiss to the palm of her hand and resisted the urge to taste more instead of talking about what promised to be a sticky subject. "You were still a virgin."
She stilled for six clicks of the ceiling fan overhead before flipping to her back, sheet clutched to her creamy chest. "I was wondering if you noticed that little fact."
Tough to miss. Just the memory of her tight heat had him throbbing all over again.
While he couldn't have all of her just yet, he allowed himself the pleasure of teasing her tangled hair along the pillow and rubbing a dark lock between two fingers. "Twice tonight was probably already one more time than was wise for your body. Tomorrow, though, I'll be more than happy to take you up on that offer."
"So we're done for tonight?"
Her obvious disappointment stirred him as much as any touch. If she was game, he had a few ideas of how they could spend the remaining hours before sunrise and a return to the real world. "Unless I can interest you in a bath?"
"A bath?" She sat up, flowered sheet slithering down to pool around her waist while she studied him with unabashed enthusiasm.
Forget oysters, this woman was a walking, talking, living, breathing aphrodisiac.
"A steaming bath would be good for all those new muscles you used tonight." He swung his feet from the bed and held out a hand for her.
Linking their fingers, she followed him into the bathroom, leaning to twist on the water—and whoa what a view. Passion fogged his vision.
Stepping over her seashell-shaped bath mat, he lowered himself into the tub, then settled her in front of him while the faucet sluiced steaming water over their feet, her sweet bottom pressing a soft torment against him. Way to go, genius.
His skull was going to explode before he could get around to discussing the pink elephant looming in the middle of her ocean-themed bathroom. "I thought we had sex seven months ago."
Arms draped along the sides of the tub, she tipped her head on his shoulder to look at him, surprise sparkling in her crystal-gray eyes. "You don't remember what happened that night? I think you owe me a new apology."