Tools of Engagement

Page 48

“No,” she gasped when he started to move. “Wes . . .”

“How about now?” He fell on top of her, stopping just short of crushing her to the ground, always keeping her hips elevated with that powerful arm—and he slapped his lower body tight to her bottom over and over and over again, his erection filling her with deliberate, slippery drives. “That feel like I could live without you for a fucking second, Bethany?”

An intense shudder passed through her, making a stop at her heart, electrifying it. God, she loved this man. He could anchor her and send her soaring in the same moment. “No,” she managed on an uneven exhale. “You couldn’t.”

“No. I couldn’t,” he gritted into the crook of her neck, the force of his thrusts turning punishing. “Fuck. You’re even tighter like this. I can feel you getting ready to come, but you’re going to stay with me a little longer. You work my cock so good when you’re climbing. Dirty and desperate, huh?”

She nodded so she wouldn’t have to issue a verbal guarantee that she’d hold off her climax. His thickness was entering her from an angle that gave her a new appreciation for math, because it doled out continuous friction to her clit and her G-spot until she was panting down at the rug and praying he didn’t change the pace or those snapping upthrusts. Don’t change. Never change. Good God, she sounded like a bad yearbook inscription.

“No you don’t,” Wes muttered hoarsely into her hair. “You’re perfect.”

Wait. Was she talking out loud? Who knew. Who cared? “More. Please.”

“I’m here to give you everything you want,” he growled, pressing his upper body down just those few inches more until her cheek was flush to the carpet, ass in the air, Wes’s hips smacking into hers relentlessly. “I’m not going anywhere. Don’t . . . let me go. Anywhere.”

“I won’t. I won’t.” Their voices sounded distant and she knew there was something she needed to remember. What did he mean, don’t let him go? But the arm holding up her hips shifted and his fingers joined the sensual attack on her clit—and it was game over. Bethany spread her thighs to allow him even deeper and the pleasure rained down on her head like liquid candy. Her orgasm was so good, it was excruciating. And endless. But when Wes groaned her name above her head and slammed deep that final time, his big body shaking, she hit peak fulfillment.

Because they were there together.

Moments later, he cradled her boneless body in his arms and carried her to the bed. He settled Bethany carefully down on her back and climbed in beside her, curving his front to her back. Holding her tightly in the firelight.

Just before sleep claimed her, a worry crept in that nothing could remain this good for long, but it danced away with her consciousness before she could dwell on it.

Chapter Twenty-Four

It was Friday morning, their final day to work on Project Doomsday, and everything was in a state of utter chaos. Ollie and Carl were in the hallway and the second bedroom applying last-minute coats of paint. Bethany was installing light fixtures and sconces from her perch on a stepladder while simultaneously directing the furniture deliverymen who were carting in the items she’d selected. Wes was putting finishing touches on the built-in bookcase, cowboy hat long since discarded on the floor. Even the production interns had hopped in to direct the plumbers and building inspectors who were making their final rounds and approving all the changes.

They had until tomorrow morning to make last-minute fixes, then the judges would arrive to film the final segment and declare a winner.

Bethany would likely spend the whole night staging so the house would be camera ready. It would be different this time, however. She’d had a hand in every little detail of this home, from the direction of the grain in the floorboards to the backsplash tile. She had grout under her fingernails from tiling the bathroom and a sore neck from painting the ceiling. Even though she’d almost gone ass-over-teakettle off the roof, she’d hauled her butt back up there and finished the job—Wes keeping a very close and irritable eye on her. But still.

When she’d thrown down the gauntlet with Stephen at the wedding, she’d thought the whole experience would be summed up by victory or defeat. That was no longer true. She’d already won.

Or, rather, she was winning.

She couldn’t become a different person overnight, but changes were happening inside of her. Positive ones. She no longer had to hide the red mark on her neck because it was gone. When she stood in front of her closet in the morning, she no longer went through a mental checklist of everyone who would see her that day and dress accordingly. She didn’t have to go through breathing exercises before setting foot on the jobsite. Every minute of her day didn’t have to be spent trying to make the next minute count. And this morning when she’d driven Laura to school, she’d said, “I love you, too,” when the crossing guard called, “Good morning,” and she’d only dwelled on it for like, ten minutes.

Feeling a little zing in her spine, Bethany paused in the act of screwing in an energy-efficient light bulb and cast a look across the room to find Wes watching her. Watching and appreciating her as if there weren’t two cameramen capturing their every move. He dragged his tongue along his lower lip and sent her a wink. There was a time when she would have rolled her eyes at him or flipped him the bird, but now? Oh, now all the elements of spring seemed to bloom in her belly at once. Flowers unfolded, birds chirped, sunshine blazed.

Bethany Castle had a live-in boyfriend.

Who would have believed it?

Not her, as little as two weeks ago.

Still, tiny fingers of skepticism skimmed the waters of her subconscious every once in a while, and she couldn’t seem to help it. What if Wes hadn’t needed a stable living environment for Laura? Would he ever have moved in? Would he have eventually gotten his fill of her and found someone less neurotic?

From across the room, Wes shook his head at Bethany and she quickly disguised her thoughts with a smile. Good God. Why was she borrowing trouble? She had a boyfriend who held her through the night like they were fending off a windstorm together—and she loved him. With a child in the house, her life was suddenly a Pandora’s box of crayon crumbles and chocolate smears, but those things were slowly teaching her how overrated perfection was. Who cared what got messy as long as everyone was laughing?

And laugh they did. This morning, Laura had been lying in wait outside the bathroom to jump out and scare the shit out of her. She’d flailed like one of those used-car-lot inflatables and knocked a picture off the wall, landing smack on her butt, all while still in her towel. Wes had come rushing up the stairs to help her, his perplexed horror bringing the hilariousness of the whole situation into sharp focus. If they didn’t have a house to finish flipping by tomorrow, Bethany might still be on the floor laughing facedown into the carpet with Laura perched on her back, hollering for Bethany to act like a bucking bronco.

How would she have spent the morning before?

Agonizing over flower arrangements and which flavor of tea to drink?

Oh, she still had things to agonize about. Her mother had caught wind of her new living arrangements and left approximately seventeen passive-aggressive messages on her voicemail. Bethany couldn’t really blame her, either. A family dinner with everyone was long past due. Wes and Laura were a part of her life now and she needed to stop waiting for some nonexistent shoe to drop.

“Hey,” she called to Wes.

Were his eyes sparkling as he sauntered closer? Was he magical? How had she ever spent a second denying her attraction to this man? “Yeah, darlin’?”

“I was thinking, you know . . . after tomorrow when everything dies down, we could invite—”

Wes’s phone trilled, cutting her off. “Keep going,” he said, waving it off.

“No, it could be something about Laura. You should get it.”

He studied her for another beat, then answered. “Hello?” After a few seconds of listening, his demeanor changed. “Yes, this is Wes Daniels.” He covered the receiver. “Family court.”

Bethany wasn’t given a chance to react. Without disconnecting the call, Wes wrapped an arm around Bethany’s thighs and hauled her off the stepping stool and out of the house. They left a bunch of confusion and amusement in their wake, but she was way more interested in the phone call and the fact that Wes wanted her there by his side while he took it.

“Yes,” he said, setting Bethany down and closing the door behind them, motioning for everyone on the lawn to be quiet. “You want to do the house visit tonight?” Wes turned in a circle while raking a hand through his hair and Bethany knew what he saw. Hours of manual labor that had yet to be completed. “Tonight is going to be hard. Is there any way we could shoot for—”

Bethany waved her hands at him. “Say yes,” she whispered. “Yes. We’ll make it work.”

Wordlessly he asked if she was sure and Bethany nodded vigorously. “I . . . Yes, tonight is fine.” He cleared his throat. “Six o’clock. We’ll see you then.”

Wes hung up the phone and reached for Bethany, but she was already on her way to him. He locked her in an embrace and they stayed that way for long moments, swaying side to side. “She says they’ll likely approve the temporary guardianship if the visit goes well tonight,” he said.

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