She writhed against him, scoring his shoulders with her close-cut fingernails, her motions jerky and a little frantic. “Quit thinking and start moving. I need… I want… Now…”
Didn’t have to tell him twice.
Tucking an arm under the perfect curve of her bottom, he angled her closer, thrust deeper, faster, driving them both closer and closer until… her shout of completion mingled with his, echoing around the small room along with the crackle of the wood-burning stove, the slap of the tide against icy chunks just beyond their window.
His forehead thunked to rest against the door as he panted and prayed he wouldn’t drop her. His legs weren’t any steadier than his heart rate. When he could trust his arms to work properly again, he scooped her up and carried her to the split-log bed, caribou antlers over the headboard. She reached a limp hand down to sweep aside the patchwork quilt before he placed her in the middle of the mattress and slid in after her.
Now he just needed to wait for her to go to sleep so he could make his call.
Flynn swung open the door to the tiny attic room at the so-called bed-and-breakfast. More like a barn-and-breakfast. The small space had sloped ceilings, tucked away on the top floor of the A-frame house. The place was probably set up by the old hunter and his wife who lived here so they could close it off when it wasn’t in use.
But it was warm and safe for Misty. Nothing else mattered.
He tossed his duffel bag and Misty’s suitcase in a corner by the only chair and walked to the wood-burning stove to get some heat moving around. And to take his eyes off the iron bed. Not that he would be using that mattress. He would spend the night on the dinky futon that had been billed as a sofa bed on the website.
Kneeling in front of the stove, he opened the grate to find a preset kindling pile. Quietly, he eyed the room while Misty unpacked things from her bag. It was a house, but it wasn’t. The cabinets weren’t made of wood. They looked like wood but it was a veneer with particle board. The rug under his boots crunched. He reached down to test the texture. Nothing like the natural fibers he was accustomed to. The only things that appeared authentic were the hand-painted nesting dolls beside the bed. They looked like some of the crafts his brother’s wife had her students make in school.
If things in this backwoods room seemed strange, how much more out of place would he be if he left the islands altogether? He didn’t even remember another way of living. His parents had been one of the founding families, coming here from Washington State. His father headed up the village community council and talked about the day Flynn or Ryker would run for election. Not that Ryker had much interest in anything other than smoking weed and sleeping with his wife.
Flynn had been the one to dream of having a simple life for himself like his parents’—a life with Misty.
Steeling himself for just how damn pretty she was, he turned to face her. Still, seeing her punched the air out of his lungs. Her silky hair brushed her shoulders as she pulled shampoo and a comb from her bag. Well-washed jeans hugged the curve of her hips. Her green flannel shirt had a little ruffle alongside the buttons that all but shouted to his fingers to slide them open.
He gripped his knee until it hurt. “Sorry there was only one room.”
“I’m not worried.” She added a bar of soap to her pile of toiletries, the scent of some kind of berries drifting across the room. “If you intended to hit on me, you would have done it long before now. It’s been four years.”
Since this was his big chance, might as well go for broke. “That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you.”
“Tough not to, when we bump into each other all the time.” She slammed closed the suitcase again. “You can take the futon.”
“It’s not exactly bedtime yet.” Even to conserve energy, a person couldn’t sleep all the time it was dark in Alaska. “We should eat something.”
A tray rested on the end table, chair on one side, bed on the other. She eyed him for a second before plopping down on the edge of the bed, making it very clear he wasn’t getting near the four-poster even for supper.
He took the chair as she pulled the napkin off a plate of salmon pie and blueberry cobbler. A pitcher of ice water and pot of hot chocolate rounded out the meal, the dinner making up somewhat for the ratty futon. He draped his napkin over one knee and divvied up the meal. At least he could feed one hunger. He tucked into his flaky crust, smoked salmon and cheese oozing out of the sides. With every bite he felt the heavy weight of Misty’s gaze across the table as she pushed her food back and forth on her chipped pottery plate.
As he reached to refill his water glass, she dropped her spoon on the table with a jarring clatter.
“Flynn, I want you to know that I forgive you.”
His hand froze with the fork halfway up, cobbler dripping off the sides. Stunned, he set the utensil down again. “What did you say?”
“I forgive you for what you did with… June. If you need it spelled out. I forgive you for having sex with her,” she said curtly, her tight face not looking happy or at peace with jack squat. “I thought you should know that.”
“Okay. Thank you,” he answered, not knowing what the hell else to say. “I’m not so sure I could be as generous if the positions were reversed.”
She cocked her head to the side. “If I had slept with someone you would still be angry?”
God yes, which is why he didn’t understand why he’d done it in the first place. “If you cheated while we were dating, then yeah, I would still have a problem with it.”
Picking up her fork, she looked away as if mulling his words over—and effectively making it impossible for him to speak, since she wouldn’t see him.
She pushed her food around again, jabbing the cobbler until berries spurted purple juice into the crust the way she used to do with her mother’s cobbler. “What about if I’ve slept with someone over these past four years?”
Her words stabbed him as effectively as her fork into that fruit even though he realized he had no right. He knew she’d dated a few times. He was painfully aware of each time, since his sister-in-law Lindsay made sure to pass along any gossip he might have missed.
But Lindsay had always done so assuring him none of them were serious.
Hell. As if he’d had any kind of relationship at all with June. “I guess I gave up my right to be upset about who you choose to be with, but yeah, it would bug me because I still regret how it ended with us. I wish things could have been different.”
“Me too,” she said simply.
With those two little words, Misty had reached out in a serious way here and he could, he would, do the same for her.
“I’ll go the rest of the way to your appointment with you.” Even if that meant he couldn’t come back. He tamped down the panic, for her. He owed her. “I’ll be right there by your side through the surgery, your recovery, all of it. Before you can argue, I’m not asking you to take me back. I’m only asking to be there for you now.”
The way he should have been there when she got sick. His mom worked at the hospital and had given him reports. She’d told him how Misty seemed to have given up. They all thought she would die. He’d known he was the reason she didn’t fight. It was a miracle she’d lived at all. He’d taken so much from her, from them both. He had to give something back.
She stared into his eyes and he started to hope that maybe, somehow, he could finally fix the mess he’d made. She opened her mouth, her hand sliding up to the side of her neck in that way he’d come to recognize she used to make sure her words came out right.
“You’re misunderstanding where I was going with what I said.” She covered his hand lightly. “I forgive you, but I don’t need you, Flynn. Remember? I have someone else to hold my hand.”
She’d said as much earlier, back at her house, but he’d assumed she was throwing words in his face. Certainly he would have heard about any serious relationship. But he could see the truth on her face now and it sliced clean through him.
The hell of it all? He couldn’t make himself stop soaking up the feel of her hand on his again. “You said you have someone waiting to meet you. Someone who left before you?”
“It’s not anybody you know.” She slid her fingers away and back to her lap, twisting her napkin.
“Then I don’t understand.” He sagged back in the rickety chair.
“I met someone online.”
He sat up straighter. “That’s not safe.”
“I’m not a child. I will be careful. Ted and Madison will help me as well.”
Jealousy scoured his insides like lye on exposed skin. Adding heat to the already raging burn, he realized she’d never confirmed or denied anything that had happened over the past four years. He had no rights anymore.
But knowing it didn’t stop the roar of jealousy inside him. Not that she could hear him even if he vocalized it. “I just want you to be careful. That’s why I’m here with you.”
“I’m grateful for your help. Truly.” Her hand twitched as if she might reach out to touch him again. “I think we both need some closure.”
He realized she was forgiving him so he could go home with a clear conscience. So he could get on with his life. So she could get on with hers.
She was telling him good-bye. Forever. Until that moment he hadn’t realized how much he looked forward even to bumping into her on the street. The thought of never seeing her again slashed though him, incomprehensible.
He half stood and leaned across the table, cupping the back of her neck. The glide of her hair along his fingers almost made his knees fold. He angled his mouth over hers to stop the flow of words cutting him out of her life.
She felt familiar and still so much more than he could have remembered. He knew just how their mouths fit together, the scent of her, cinnamon. The taste of blueberries on her lips. Tracing the seam of her mouth until finally, finally, she opened for him with a sigh of encouragement he could never forget.
Her hands fell to his chest, her fingers twisting in his shirt as she deepened the contact, taking it to a new level. Not two teenagers, but meeting as adults, as a man and a woman. And his body was reacting 100 percent like a red-blooded man’s.
He went so hard, so fast, his hands shook with restraint. After all day sitting in the truck with her, catching the scent of her with every gust of air his way, he hurt all the way to his teeth from having her so close and not being able to touch her.
Now, here she was, kissing him, and as much as he wanted more he was so damn scared that if he pushed her, he would lose this much.
She inched back, her green eyes wide with… horror.
He dropped into his chair, hope deflating as fast as his erection.
Misty scooped up her toiletries from the foot of the bed and scampered across the room and out the door as if she couldn’t get away fast enough. The door clicked closed behind her, her footsteps growing fainter as she raced down the stairs to the shared bathroom on the second floor.
Then it hit him. She had kissed him back. And while that might have freaked her out, she hadn’t slapped him. She hadn’t told him to leave. She’d left, as if maybe she was every bit as off balance as he was.
He’d meant what he said about wanting to stay with her, to help her through everything ahead of her. No way in hell could he just walk away from her once they reached the mainland. He was making progress, but he’d almost wrecked that by pushing too hard, too fast, with the kiss. He needed to take a step back.
He had a chance with Misty, an honest-to-God second chance, and he refused to screw this one up. Even if it meant sleeping on the crappy futon.
Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, wrapped in the quilt, Sunny nibbled the edge of the oatmeal rhubarb bar. Today, she’d learned that amazing sex gave her the munchies. And since they’d had sex twice in the past hour—once against the door and again in bed—she was seriously craving snacks.