His jaw damn near fell there as well. “What are you doing?”
“Going skinny-dipping.” She tugged off one red high-top, then the other.
He eyed the mounds of snow around the edges. “You’re going to freeze to death before you make it into the water.”
“Not a chance.” She smiled at him with bold wickedness, the wind whipping her hair around her face. “Don’t tell me you’ve lived in Alaska all this time and you’ve never hung out in a hot tub naked to watch the northern lights?”
His gaze slid from nature’s hot tub to Sunny.
Best of all, the place was completely deserted. “Is that what we’re going to do? Watch a cosmic laser show?”
“After what, exactly?” He stepped closer, closer still, until her hair brushed his chest. “I need to hear you spell it out.”
“Take your clothes off and join me. I’ll fill your ears full of exactly what I want.” She backed away, crooking her finger and making it clear that she had more in mind than lazing around. “It’s the least I can do for the man who saved my life today.”
Just like that, his body remembered the intense adrenaline surge that had accompanied that moment, the fear and fierceness that had charged through him after seeing her broken snowmobile in pieces at the bottom of the cliff.
Hunger for her, for this moment to celebrate surviving the day, had him reaching for her.
She made fast work of the buttons down his camo uniform and flung the top over the railing. “Take off your T-shirt.”
“You first.” He tugged her undershirt over her head, leaving her bared to the frigid air with only her purple jeans and red bra. Her ni**les beaded in the cold.
“You’re such a guy.” She yanked his T-shirt over his head, careful of his shoulder. “Has anyone checked your shoulder since you tangled with my dog and the car earlier?”
“I’m a medic. I can look after of myself.”
“You can’t treat yourself or your family. I do have some training in basic first aid—comes in handy on survival treks.” Staring down the icy steps, she flung aside her bra, goose bumps raising on her flesh. “And the sulfur in volcanic springs carries healing, revitalizing qualities.”
Her eyes as steamy as the waters, she shimmied out of her jeans and waded in, magnificently naked.
Misty sat on her bed in her bathrobe, towel-drying her hair. She’d never expected to be back in this familiar shabby-chic room she’d decorated with her mother and sister, painting all the reclaimed furniture white. They’d worked together on patchwork curtains and a quilt made from outgrown clothes. Rag rugs lay on the floor to warm her feet in the morning.
Tonight should have ended so differently. She should have been back in civilization, meeting up with Ted and Madison, her heart breaking over saying good-bye to Flynn while trying to convince herself that Brett was really “the one.”
But Ted and Madison were dead. Many more were gone as well. She’d dreamed of leaving here for so long, and now she could only mourn how the place would never be the same. She didn’t even know what to think of her brother and Astrid disappearing. At least her little nephew was settled downstairs with his grandparents, who’d insisted on helping and staying here so he could sleep in his own bed.
She tossed aside the towel and reached for the comb beside her bed.
A cold rush of air blasted over her. She straightened, her stomach lurching with fear. The air smelled of outside, of an open window.
She started to scream just as the patchwork curtains flapped and Flynn’s big head poked through. He pressed a finger to his lips. Just like all the times he’d climbed through her window during high school. She closed her mouth, her stomach flipping with a wholly different sensation that had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with anticipation.
Flynn swung his legs through and stood in her room, his head almost touching the sloped ceiling. “I’m not here to push you. I just needed to see you, to reassure myself that you’re okay, and the stuffy old watchdogs downstairs insisted you need your sleep.”
Her skin tingled with heated awareness under her robe. Her naked skin. She should tell him to leave.
But she didn’t.
“Well, close the window before we both freeze to death.” She swung her legs off the bed, waiting to take her cue from whatever he said next.
He shut the window and draped his parka over a bentwood rocking chair, then turned away abruptly to toss another log in the wood-burning stove, seeming hesitant. How strange to see him unsure, when his body and presence filled her room so vibrantly.
Abruptly, he dropped to his knees in front of her so they were eye to eye. He searched her face, his throat moving with a slow swallow.
His eyes glazing with unshed tears?
His chest pumped, his breathing ragged. “Everything’s gone so crazy, all those people dead. And it could have been you. If that deputy hadn’t died, if Sunny hadn’t come back in time”—his eyes squeezed shut tight as if to hold the tears, the emotion, inside himself—“it could have been you.”
True to his word to keep his hands to himself, his fists stayed plastered against his sides. The pain on his face was so real, so intense, it took her breath away. She thumbed a lone tear escaping from the corner of one eye. His weather-toughened skin felt so familiar, so dear.
She cupped his cheek. “Why did you sleep with June four years ago?”
“I honest to God don’t know.”
“That’s bullshit.” Her hand fell away.
He opened his eyes, finally meeting her gaze dead on. “I was scared.”
A wry smile tucked dimples into his cheeks. “God, I’ve missed you.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.” Her pride still stung over his silence. Sure, he’d made an effort at first, but before that first year was out, he’d given up. People who loved each other never gave up, they never stopped fighting for the people they cared about, even going to the ends of the earth. Her parents had taught her that.
“I was an eighteen-year-old idiot. I heard you and your sister discussing what kind of wedding you would like to have, and I freaked out. I self-destructed. And I would do anything to change that day, anything. I knew it was a mistake the second after—”
She held up a hand. “I do not want to hear about your postcoital thoughts. Although it sounds to me like the sex sucked, and for that I am so, so glad.”
His mouth went wide with laughter and her heart ached all over again that she would never hear the sound. She placed her hand on his chest to feel the vibrations. He stopped.
“Please, don’t quit,” she said quickly. “I miss the sound of laughter more than anything. I miss your laughter.”
She signed, “I miss you.” The same words he’d used back at the bed-and-breakfast.
He signed back, “I am so very sorry. There is no one for me but you. If that means I live the rest of my life alone, then that’s the way it will be.”
This time, she believed him.
Her fingers crawled from his chest, up the strong column of his throat, and over his stubborn square jaw to his lips. She traced the chapped outline, remembered the feel of him nibbling along her bare skin. He’d been intent on learning what she liked, both of them so inexperienced.
So very hot for each other.
Carefully, hesitantly, he lowered his head and kissed her. He sealed his mouth to hers, fully. Her sigh slipped into him, his into her.
Without hesitation, she slid her arms around him, holding tight. His body was broader and harder than the teenage boy he’d been when they were together. The warmed flannel of his shirt was soft against her fingertips, the scent of him and the crisp air filling her senses. Muscles bulged beneath her touch in sleek definition from a combination of hours spent in the gym during the winter months and exertion outdoors.
Her need for him turned frantic until she could almost swear she heard it buzzing in her ears. She fumbled with the buttons, finally giving up on finesse and yanking his flannel shirt off his shoulders. Buttons popped and fell to the floor. She grasped for his jeans fly. He covered her hands and whispered something against her mouth.
She angled back, looking at him inquisitively.
“Are you sure?” he repeated.
“I have never been more certain of anything.” She tossed aside the flannel and stared at his bared chest.
The washboard lines of his stomach contracted from the caress of her eyes, his jeans open at the zipper and revealing a trail of hair. Her breath hitched in her throat, her limbs turning liquid with desire. She shrugged her robe from her shoulders, savoring the glide of the chenille along her skin, anticipating the feel of his touch.
His pupils widened with appreciation, never leaving her body as he tugged off his boots and shucked his jeans. Moonlight streaked across his body, casting shadows over every well-defined sinew. Her eyes dropped farther and her pulse quickened.
The length of him hard and standing upright against his stomach was so much more than she remembered. Before, she’d reveled in making him groan with the touch of her hand, her mouth. He’d returned the sensations to her tenfold. They’d fooled themselves into thinking they were holding back, but she’d shown him every inch of her body. Given him pleasure, taken pleasure, made herself vulnerable to him in sensual ways she’d never let any other man have.
Standing, she let the robe fall away from her body. His hands shook as he touched her, carefully, reverently, cupping her breasts. He stepped closer, the rasp of hair along his legs a sweet abrasion against her thighs.
And then he lowered her to the bed, his hands moving over her with a familiarity that spoke of how deeply ingrained their time together still was in his mind. He knew just where to touch to make her knees go weak, exactly where to kiss, lick, nip to make her thrash restlessly against the sheets, aching for release.
Her hands carried the memory of him just as firmly. Those recollections were burned in her mind, guiding her touch over him, around him, stroking until a slick creamy bead sliding over her fingers told her just how close he was to the edge as well.
His chest vibrated with what she knew must be a growl and he drew himself away from her. The brush of air across her overheated flesh made her whimper.
Until he nuzzled one breast, then the other, on his way lower, lower still. Her head pressed back into the pillow. She almost surrendered to the pleasure she knew was a simple flick of his tongue away.
Quickly, urgently, she grabbed his shoulders, pushing him off. He looked up at her, confusion staining his blue eyes.
“Everything,” she said. “I want it all this time.”
His face flooded with understanding a second before he crawled back up her body. She’d waited four years for the fulfillment she hadn’t received all those nights he’d sneaked through her bedroom window. She wasn’t waiting a second longer.
The weight of him was so dear and familiar she ached in corners of her heart she hadn’t dared acknowledge for years. Inching her legs apart, she made room for him, her hands roving his arms and shoulders, soaking up the feel of him.
He kissed her jaw toward her ear, whispering sweet words that she felt in the movement of his lips and the warmth of his breath on her skin. The words didn’t matter. He knew how he’d wanted this moment as much as she had.
Lifting his head, he pushed inside her, slowly, his eyes fixed on hers until he met the thin barrier of resistance. His eyes went wide with surprise that she didn’t want to deal with right now. She arched up to kiss him and wrapped her thighs around him, pushing, straining… A stinging burn throbbed through her as he broke past, filling her, stretching her.
She buried her face in his shoulder while he waited, holding her, stroking her with his hands and his mouth. His chest vibrated against hers and she knew he spoke, but his face was in her hair.