The Way You Look Tonight / Page 26

Page 26


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Author: Bella Andre


"Brooke—"


She didn’t just hang up on them, she actually pulled the entire phone from the wall, leaving chocolate handprints on everything she touched.


"Thank God you’re here," she said to Rafe when he stepped inside.


He was instantly worried. "What happened?"


She shook her head, reaching for him. "Nothing you can’t fix." As he caught her up in his arms, she asked him, "How did you know I needed you right this second?"


"Because I need you, too. So damned bad that it nearly killed me to leave you alone so that you could get your work done."


"I don’t want to be left alone." Not when he was everything she needed.


"Tell me what you do want, sweetheart."


"You." She pressed her mouth to the pulse point at the side of his neck. "Just you."


Chapter Twenty


Rafe lifted her up onto the kitchen counter so that she could wrap her arms and legs around him as he kissed her. "You taste so sweet."


"It’s the chocolate."


"No, it’s all you."


Her eyes filled up and her breath hitched in her lungs. Just as she’d told her parents, Rafe was different. Special. And he’d always noticed more than other people.


To distract him from the questions she could see in his eyes—questions she didn’t want to answer until she’d drawn strength from the beauty of their connection—she dipped her finger into the bowl of cooling ganache. "Taste this."


She knew she hadn’t fooled him, but he was kind enough to let her sidetrack him as he lowered his mouth to her finger and licked it off.


"Do you like it?"


"I do," he said before he dipped his own finger into the bowl. Instead of feeding it to her, his mouth curved into the wicked smile she so loved to see. "But I’m guessing it will taste even better like this."


He slowly slid his chocolate-covered finger across the upper curve of one breast above the neckline of her sundress. The anticipation of feeling his tongue in the same place held her breath captive in her lungs. Of course, he made her wait by tracing another stripe of chocolate over the other side.


Finally, he lowered his head and slicked his tongue, warm and wet, over her skin. His shoulder muscles were hard beneath her hands as she held onto him for dear life. It was either that or go sliding off the counter in a puddle of liquid heat.


"I was wrong," he said after he’d licked up all of the chocolate.


The feel of his tongue on her bare skin, especially in the middle of the day in her kitchen while she had her legs wrapped around him, had turned her brain to mush. Somehow, she got her synapses to fire enough to ask, "You were?" even though she honestly couldn’t remember what he could be wrong about.


"You taste so good that even the best chocolate in the world can’t compare."


She’d been with men for months who hadn’t made her feel as special as Rafe had in less than a week. She’d always been a little bit in love with him as a girl, had watched him be wild and free with stars in her eyes. But now she knew just how much more there was to him. He was a man who would do anything for his family. He was the P.I. who helped strangers with their problems by tracking down the answers they needed. And he was her lover who whispered the sweetest words she’d ever heard.


How could she do anything but fall all the way?


Brooke cupped his face in her hands and kissed him with all the love in her heart. But even though his kisses were pure magic, right now she needed more. She needed all of him, needed to feel him move inside of her and fill up all the spaces that the phone call with her parents had left empty.


She grabbed at his T-shirt so hard that it ripped as she yanked it up over his head. Her hands were at the fly of his jeans a heartbeat later, and thank God, he didn’t try to stall her this time, wasn’t planning to tease her today until she was begging.


He kicked off his jeans and boxers, and then he was lifting her hips off the counter enough that she could pull off her own dress. She was unhooking her bra when he reached for the lace between her legs and tore it from her body.


The thrill of being wanted, of being desired this much, shook through her. Completely naked now, she threw her arms and legs around him as he fisted his hands in her hair. Rafe tilted her head so that he could plunder her mouth in a sizzling kiss that told her exactly how he wanted her, hot and writhing beneath him, skin damp as she came again and again at his command.


The next thing she knew, he was pushing her bottom toward the center of the kitchen counter, and he was climbing up onto it with her. The granite was blessedly cool beneath her overheated skin, but Rafe’s hands moving over every inch of her were more than enough to warm her again.


Both of them had slid into the chocolate by then and were covering each other’s skin with it as they stroked and touched, licked and nibbled. What a thrill it was to have her two favorite things in the world at the same time: Rafe and chocolate.


She was just thinking how much easier it would be to never taste or make truffles again than it would be to lose Rafe when he sent all thoughts of loss from her head by moving fully between her thighs and driving into her in one perfect thrust.


"Oh God, Rafe."


Her words sounded as if they had come from a great distance rather than from her own lips. She was faintly aware of one of his large hands cradling her head while the other cupped her hip, protecting her from the granite, but she would have gladly gotten a few bruises. She didn’t care about being safe, didn’t care about anything but loving—and being loved—by the most beautiful man in the world. When they were together like this, nothing else mattered, only the joy that took her over from head to toe, inside and out.


She couldn’t stop saying his name as he took her higher, and then higher still, and she finally realized he was saying her name, too, as their mouths found each other again in a heated kiss. Even caught up in desperation, they moved in perfect sync, from fast to slow and then back again. And when the wicked beauty of their lovemaking finally overwhelmed her, she arched back to take him even deeper as he held her tighter than he ever had before. Brooke had never felt more whole than she did as she came apart beneath him, his own release just moments behind hers.


It wasn’t until he pulled away from her that she realized he must have taken out a condom before he’d dropped his jeans on the kitchen floor. She’d never been careless in bed with a man before, had never truly lost control before Rafe, had never trusted anyone as much as she trusted him.


Yet again, he’d taken care of them both, just as she’d always known he would.


He lifted her from the counter and carried her into the bathroom, holding her tightly in his arms as he climbed into the tub and let the water pour in to wash the chocolate from both of them.


She leaned her head back against his shoulder and closed her eyes. "You’re right. We don’t need any props to be wild." She turned her face to his with a smile on her lips, but he wasn’t smiling back. "You’re not feeling guilty for debauching me again, are you?"


Clearly, he was surprised she’d figured him out so well. "I could have hurt you up on that hard granite."


"You could never hurt me."


She felt him stiffen behind her. Come to think of it, hadn’t he looked a little twisted up about something when he walked into the kitchen? But she’d been so wrapped up in her own emotions that she hadn’t stopped to ask if he was okay.


"Rafe?" She immediately twisted around in the tub so that she was straddling his hips, her hands linked around his neck. "We’re not just lovers, we’re friends, too. You can say anything to me. You know that, don’t you?"


"I’ve never been friends with a lover before."


She caressed his cheek. "Me either, but I think we’re doing pretty good so far."


So good that she knew she couldn’t expect him to be honest with her about what was on his mind if she wasn’t honest with him, too. She could have avoided his earlier question again, the same way she had just minutes before. Especially when he was already hard again. Just the slightest shift of her hips and she could have both of them forgetting for a little while longer.


But for them to truly be more than lovers, even more than friends, meant talking not only about the cute things, the sexy things...but about the difficult things, too.


"You asked what happened when you walked into the kitchen." She sighed. "My parents called."


He slid a chocolate-covered strand of hair away from her forehead. "What did they say to upset you?"


"They still think I’m a little girl who needs their guidance, their protection, their wisdom. I’m not saying I don’t sometimes or that their learned wisdom isn’t valuable, but—" She sighed, the water in the tub shifting beneath the slight movement of her body over his. "All these years I’ve been so sure that one day they’ll open their eyes and see me. The real me, the woman I’ve become, not just a teenager who made a big mistake when she was sixteen. I can understand that they were terrified when I ended up in a car crash, but—"


"Wait a minute, what happened when you were sixteen?"


"I couldn’t stand feeling like a prisoner in my bedroom another second, so when my friend suggested we sneak out to go to a party a couple of streets over, instead of saying no like always, I said yes. But I had so little experience with regular teen stuff that when someone gave me a glass of punch, I drank all of it. And then another, until the next thing I knew, everything was a little fuzzy."


"There was Everclear in that punch, wasn’t there? A hundred and ninety-proof alcohol with no taste, no smell."


She nodded. "I think so. But I probably would have been okay and made it back to my bedroom without my parents ever finding out if I hadn’t gotten into a car with a boy I had a crush on." She winced. "He’d been drinking the punch, too, thus the crash into a tree in someone’s front yard. The air bags caught me and I was fine, but—" She shook her head, feeling foolish about it even all these years later. "Pretty stupid, huh?"


"Yes, it was stupid," he agreed, and her heart started to sink just as he added, "but every teenager is stupid. Stupid is what teenagers do."


"Why can’t my parents see that? Why can’t they see me for who I am now? For who I’ve become?"


"I wish I could promise you that they’d come around," Rafe said softly, "but since I can’t, all I can do is tell you what I see every time I look at you." His eyes were full of much more than desire as he caressed her cheek. "I see incredible beauty." He brushed the back of one hand down the curve of her body from breast to hip. "I see sensuality that shocks the hell out of me every single time we make love." He kept moving his hand down into the water until he’d picked up one of her hands. "I see the talent to make the best damned truffles in the world." He laid both of their hands between her breasts. "I see a heart that’s big enough to take in my family showing up unannounced on your doorstep." He lifted her hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss to it. "But most of all, I see a woman who is so damned smart that she’s done something few people will ever even realize they need to fight for: You’ve built your life exactly the way you want it, doing what you love, in the place you want to be. You don’t need to prove one damned thing to anyone, Brooke. You already have."


With just a handful of the most beautiful sentences she’d ever heard, he’d answered every question she had left about falling in love with her next-door neighbor and friend, and had erased every last doubt.


All Brooke had ever wanted was for someone to actually see her—and to love her—for who she really was. Finally, she’d found him. The first boy she’d ever loved would also be the last.


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