Tools of Engagement

Page 36

“Goddammit, Bethany!”


She twisted toward the sound of his voice, though she couldn’t be sure where it was coming from because the wind was so strong. As soon as her head turned, the rain lashed her in the face and she flinched, dropping the nail gun. She tried to snatch for it blindly, but missed and lost her balance.

Bethany slid on the part of the roof that hadn’t yet been tiled, a scream ripping from her throat. There was an unnerving moment of clarity where she realized death was imminent, right before her body went sailing over the edge. In a sudden burst of self-preservation, her fingers caught on the ancient rain gutter and clung, but just like everything else attached to the house, it was too old to be viable and a snapping sound was her only warning before it gave, leaving Bethany dangling from the edge of the broken gutter.


“I’m here. I’ve got you, baby. Let go.”

“I can’t. Are you insane?”

“I won’t let you hit the ground, you know that.” His voice was stronger than the storm, tunneling inside her and putting down roots. “Come on. I’ve got you.”

It was the biggest leap of faith she’d ever taken. Perhaps she never would have realized that she did, in fact, trust Wes—maybe more than anyone—if she wasn’t dangling from the roof like a sodden monkey. But she wholeheartedly trusted that he would catch her and she let go with a squeak. His arms banded around her a split second later, her body colliding with his hard one, and Wes stumbled back a pace. He positioned her more securely against his chest and then he was moving.

Bethany’s view of Wes’s face was obscured by the hood of her rain jacket, but she saw his leg strike out and kick open the door to the house. He stomped them both inside and set her down carefully in the pitch black, leaving her to shiver and drip onto the floor. A moment later, one of the hanging lights came on across the room, illuminating Wes—and wow, he was pissed.

The masculine planes of his face were highlighted on one side, blanketed by the darkness on the other. His breaths were harsh and uneven, joining the pelting rain as the only two sounds in the room. Besides her heartbeat, that was. The sight of him was so welcome, her heart seemed to be beating even harder than it had been while suspended from the gutter. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing would come out. What could she say? This buildup inside of her was so unusual and it ached. She had no idea what kind of words it would produce.

Wes had no such problem finding something to say.

He took off his drenched hat and threw it across the room, where it slapped off one of the only finished walls in the house. “Goddammit, Bethany. Of all the stupid—” He pressed a fist to the center of his forehead, slowing his breathing. “I’m rehired. Simple as that. If only to keep you from killing yourself by being stubborn as shit. And it’s permanent. You can haul off and fire me as many times as you want, baby, but I’m going to show up every morning like it never happened. Deal with it.”

A warm cloak of relief landed on her shoulders, wrapping tight. The assurance that he would keep coming back, even if they fought, even if she freaked out and did something she regretted . . . God, she was already breathing easier. Like she’d had a sandbag on her lungs until now. Her knees started to shake, not from weakness, but with the need to go to Wes. She didn’t question the impulse; she didn’t have the willpower to quell it this time. Not after he’d shown up here, not after he’d caught her midair, not after she’d missed him so much.

Bethany walked straight into Wes’s bristling frame and wrapped her arms around his neck. She was grateful for the rain still decorating her face because it camouflaged the warm, salty tears that fell from her eyes.

His arms wrapped around her tightly and her knees stopped shaking.

“Why did you come?” she asked, laying her cheek on his right pec.

“To put tarp down, same as you,” he answered gruffly.

“Even though I fired you?”

He grunted and held her tighter. “You didn’t want to fire me.”

Bethany shook her head, a few more tears escaping. “No.”

“It’s behind us now,” he said, swaying her side to side. “And if you get pissed at me again in a couple of days and we argue or storm off to lick our wounds, we’ll put it behind us then, too.”

“How many times can you put something behind you . . . before all those incidents crowd you out the door?”

“We’re in construction, darlin’. We’ll just build an addition to make them fit.”

At that, Bethany teetered and fell messily into love with Wes. Not only because she believed what he said and the sentiment made her feel secure, possibly for the first time ever. But also because he’d said we.

We’re in construction.

Wes lifted her chin and was visibly gutted by the sight of her tears. “Aw, Bethany.” He brushed them away. “None of that, please. I can’t take it.”

“It’s just rain,” she said, unevenly.

“Sure, I’ll play along.” His fingers traced their way down to Bethany’s lips and hunger darkened his eyes. “We’re going to make a go of this, you and me.”

“Are you asking or telling me?”

Humor reshaped his mouth. “All right, I’m asking.”

Bethany hesitated in the face of the unknown. She’d never been in a relationship with someone for whom she’d felt this much. As much as she’d started trusting him, the problem was she didn’t know if she trusted herself. Her patterns with men had never been so obvious as when she employed them with Wes. Someone she . . . oh God, loved? If she messed this up—and the odds were, she would—it would feel like today had, but in perpetuity.

Worst of all, she risked hurting Wes. Right now, that seemed so much worse than acting as her own worst enemy.

Wes saw her hesitation and visibly regrouped. “We can take it slow, all right?” He nodded on her behalf and dropped his mouth, leaving it an inch above hers. “But you’re not going to avoid me. I’m not going to stay where you put me and wait for attention.”

“No?” she managed, wetting her lips for the kiss that would surely come any second now. She needed it so badly.

“Uh-uh. When I want attention, I’m going to let you know.”


One of his hands had been slowly undoing the buttons of her rain jacket. He pushed the sides open now and yanked her dry body up against his soaked one, tilting his hips and breathing into her mouth at the same time. “How’s this?”

A barrage of arousal-tipped arrows hit their target beneath her belly button, piercing her with bliss and sexual frustration. God, she’d tried to ignore how much this man turned her on for so long. Now that she’d given herself permission to embrace what he did to her body, her need was even more potent than she realized. Bethany wiggled her hips against Wes’s distended fly, biting her lip over the way he groaned. “This is your way of showing me you’re willing to go slow?”

“I meant it,” he rasped, cradling her hips in desperate hands. “Bethany Castle, my dick has been hard for you since that first morning you climbed out of your Mercedes at that jobsite. All business, no time for anyone to step out of line, especially me.” He licked into her mouth, but didn’t kiss her, the smooth friction of his tongue causing a melting-butter sensation between her thighs. “Been wanting to prove you wrong ever since. You’ll love making time for the way I step out of line. But I’m smart enough to know waiting will be worth the payoff of finally having you naked with your thighs open underneath me.”

Oh, brother. On a surge of lust like she’d never known, she pressed up on her toes and kissed him. Her core clenched dramatically over the way he jerked her higher with one arm, shoving the jacket off her shoulders with his free hand before bringing it to her ass and kneading, kneading, his touch slow and possessive.

“How far can we take this and still go slow?” she gasped, letting her head fall back so he could suck and nibble on her neck.

“Long as you let me give this body what it needs, I can remember the boundaries tomorrow,” he muttered into her hair.

What if my body needs everything? Right now?

And it did. Her feminine flesh was throbbing and it was taking all her self-control not to wrap her legs around his hips and grind on him until she hit her peak. Unbelievably, though . . . she wanted to give him fulfillment even more. The way he’d done for her in his backyard, without taking anything in return. Knowing how long he’d spent wanting her from a distance made her desperate to give him relief. There might even have been a part of Bethany that wanted to apologize for scaring him while up on the roof. Whether that mentality was right or wrong, it stoked the flame already flickering wildly inside of her.

Before she could second-guess herself, Bethany took hold of the wet lapel of Wes’s button-down flannel and walked him backward. He broke their ravenous kiss, anticipation lighting his eyes. He couldn’t quite believe his luck and let her see his humble gratitude. His awe. His eagerness.

When they reached a stack of full cement bags, Bethany teased Wes’s mouth while unbuckling his belt and lowering his zipper. His fast breaths could be heard over the storm now and they filled her ears with a sexy soundtrack. She reached into his briefs and circled a hand around his thick erection, loving the choked sound he made while she stroked it hard, nipping at his stubbled jawline. “You’re too huge for these fitted cowboy jeans, Wes.”

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