Tools of Engagement

Page 47

Bethany turned to him with a bemused look. “Yes, isn’t that awesome?”

“Guess we better ease into this,” he muttered.

“I’ll miss you tonight,” she whispered on her way out the door.

“That’s cute that you think you’ll get the chance,” Wes called after her.

As soon as Bethany was out of sight, he let out a breath and leaned back against the bedroom wall. If both females were happy, he would deem the move-in a success. He might be nursing the worry that he didn’t belong in this perfect postcard of a house—hell, he’d once spent a week in between apartments sleeping in a buddy’s van, and that had only been a goddamn year ago—but he needed to put his insecurities aside and focus on making their relationship stronger.

Having Bethany in his life was worth the self-doubt. She was worth everything. And when it came to stability, he couldn’t ask for a better living situation for his niece. So if he was feeling completely out of place and his old fears of being someone’s pit stop were starting to make their way to the forefront, he needed to suck it up and ignore them.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Bethany sat at the end of her bed slowly pulling a brush through her hair.

She’d lit the fire in her hearth for the first time this fall and she smiled into it now, the heat it exuded matching the warmth inside of her. The feel of Laura’s bedtime hug still clung to her, as did the promissory kiss Wes delivered before she’d gone upstairs to bed—and if she kept thinking about it, she wasn’t going to need the fire to stay warm.

Falling back on her bed, she let the hairbrush drop over the edge to the carpet and stay there. She’d pick it up when she darn well felt like it. These small acts of rebellion against her perfectionist nature were starting to come easier now. Though they would be a necessity now, with a child in the house. There were going to be stains and spilled food and tracked-in mud—and so what?

If she got this happiness in return? Worth it.

Worth it times a million.

Tonight after they’d eaten spaghetti and listened to stories about Laura’s day at school, Wes had helped her clean up the kitchen while his niece literally crash-landed on the couch. There had been a little lurch in her chest when the throw pillows went flying, and Laura definitely hadn’t washed the marinara sauce off her face and hands, but it was nothing a little spot cleaner couldn’t fix. And maybe it was time to think about new couches anyway! Something in a color that didn’t show off every speck of dust that landed on it.

Maybe Wes could help her pick them out.

Wow, the mere act of thinking his name made the short silk robe feel extra decadent on her skin. She’d left the lights off, casting the room in nothing but firelight. The dancing flames flickered on the walls and her exposed flesh, reminding her of hands. His hands.

As much as she loved his ritual of reading to Laura in her room every night, she couldn’t wait for him to come upstairs. Not only because she craved the confident, possessive, starving-man way he touched her, but because she wanted to talk to him. She wasn’t the only one dealing with these huge changes. In the space of a week, he’d applied to become a child’s guardian and moved in with his . . . girlfriend.

She was Wes’s girlfriend.

The smile that transformed her mouth was kind of delirious—and it was still in place when there was a knock on her door. Bethany jackknifed so suddenly she got lightheaded, but managed to fall sideways onto her elbow in a seductive pose without tumbling off the bed. “Come in,” she called.

The door swung open in a slow arc and there was Wes, proving their status as total opposites by arriving shirtless in sweatpants, while she was lotioned to death in a silk negligee.

“I feel overdressed,” she said.

“Have to agree,” he drawled, sauntering in, all loose-hipped and cocky, kicking the door shut behind him. “Don’t worry, I have a plan to fix it.”

“Oh, do you—”

Bethany broke off with a yelp when Wes snagged her ankle in a no-nonsense grip. She was flipped onto her back and pulled to the edge of the mattress, the silk of her lingerie dragging higher and higher, until it bunched beneath her breasts. With a dangerous wink, Wes leaned down and kissed her belly button with his hot breath. “That got your panties showing, anyway.” He nipped the waistband with his teeth and her flesh sang like a choir of angels. “Pretty little thing, isn’t it?” The tip of his tongue grazed the silk. “Let’s see what it’s hiding.”

“Wait.” She laughed through a wave of arousal. “Wait . . .”

Was she borrowing trouble or was Wes coming on even stronger than usual? God knew she didn’t mind—she ached for his weight on top of her—but there was an almost inaudible whisper in her ear saying something was off. They’d just taken this huge step of moving in together and they should talk. How was he handling everything? How did he bring up the subject of moving to his niece and what did she say? Did he like her house or did he think it resembled an ice castle?

Wes dropped his forehead to her belly. “Stop thinking, Bethany.”

Was there an edge to his voice? “I just thought we’d talk for a while,” she said, scooting out from beneath him and rising from the bed, the heat from the fire licking her bare calves and thighs. “We have all night, right? We have every night.”

When they found her, his eyes had softened somewhat. Did that mean they’d been hard before? “Of course we do.” Wes closed the distance between them and used the tie of her robe to pull her into his arms, resting his cheek on the top of her head. “What’s on your mind, baby?”


His hard body stiffened a degree. “Me?”

She leaned away to look up at him. “Uh. Yes, you, Wes. You’re taking on all this new responsibility when you weren’t even planning on staying in town—”

“Now I am staying,” he broke in, reaching down to unknot the tie of her robe and push it off her shoulders. “It’s as simple as that.”

What was going on with him? “It’s just a huge step.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what you’re worried about?” he said calmly.

Too calmly?

“I’m not worried about anything,” she said quietly. “I want to know if there is anything worrying you.”

“Not a damn thing,” he said in a firm voice, tipping up her chin so she could look him in the eye. “I’m rock solid, Bethany. Okay? Put your faith in me. I’m here with you because you’ve been my woman since the beginning, even before you realized or accepted it. I’m standing right here and I’m staying right here. There is nothing you or anyone could do to make me want to be somewhere I couldn’t hold you.”

She was at a loss for words, her heart knocking wildly against her ears. What could she say to something so beautiful? That she loved him, yes. But God, they’d moved in together two hours ago; there was plenty of time for that. “Wes,” she whispered, sliding her hands up his chest, into his hair. “I need you.”

They weren’t the words on her heart. But she still meant it in a way that went beyond physical need. She needed his presence, his love, his heart, his character, his humor, his selflessness, his loyalty, and his Texas temper. She needed all of it. And she wanted to clarify that to Wes, but he said, “Goddamn, I need you, too, baby,” as his mouth traveled down the column of her throat, back up the side of her neck and into her hair, messing it up along with any semblance of rational thought or self-control.

Greedy hands shoved at the straps of her negligee, yanking it down to her waist so he could get his mouth on her breasts. As soon as the silk fell to the floor, leaving her in nothing but panties, his hands took hold of her backside and lifted Bethany onto her toes so he could suck her nipples, drawing them into the warmth of his mouth with long, guttural groans and teasing her with flickering licks.

Both times she and Wes had made love, there was a wicked urgency behind it, but Bethany sensed a change in him tonight. Something different. Almost like he was desperate to overwhelm her senses and fortunately—or unfortunately—it was working. So well. He didn’t let her come up for air once, his mouth working magic on her breasts, his index fingers hooking in the sides of her panties and sending them floating to her ankles. It was everything she could do just to keep her balance.

“I’m rock solid,” he said, finding her mouth once more and demolishing it with a hot, marauding tongue. “You’re not just getting words tonight, either. You’re going to feel it.” He slapped her bottom, enough to smart, enough to rake her body with goosebumps and steal her breath. “You’ll feel it best from your hands and knees. Will you do that for me?”

“Yes,” she rasped, trembling. Like she could say no? Her sex was damp in his honor, clenching, looking for that hard part of him to fill it. None of her boyfriends had ever dared to spank her before, either, and a man she trusted doing such a thing allowed her to enjoy the exhilaration left in its wake—and God did she ever. She wanted to get on her hands and knees for him and be the object of his revelry.

Bethany turned and pressed her back to Wes’s front, skimming the curve of her butt side to side on his lap, eliciting a frustrated male groan, before sinking to her knees. And then forward onto her hands. The fireplace cast a glow, allowing her to see the silhouette of her naked body on the opposite wall, and it ripped a moan from her throat. A moan that turned into a cry of “Now, now, now” when Wes positioned himself behind her, seeing to their protection before hefting her hips higher with a forearm. “Feel this, baby.” He worked his shaft into her and pressed himself deep—God it was so good, so good—setting off an erotic tremble in Bethany’s thighs. “Does that feel like a man who doesn’t know exactly what he wants?”

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