The Way You Look Tonight / Page 9

Page 9


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Author: Bella Andre


She expected to see his head poke out from the open—and still dirty—attic window. Instead, she heard footsteps on the roof and realized he was standing, rather precariously, she thought, on top of his house.


"What’s wrong?"


See, that was just it. He immediately assumed the worst about things. Was it all down to his job? Or had something else happened that had given him this darker view of life?


"It’s out on the end of the dock. Come quick, but be careful getting down from there."


Seeing the concern on his face, she felt a little bad for messing with him, but it was for his own good. Besides, he’d know soon enough that everything was fine. She walked out to the end of his dock and waited for him. He swung down off the roof, his long legs quickly eating up the grass and the sand between them.


"What’s the problem?"


She couldn’t find the words to answer him for a long moment. Not when sweat had made his thin T-shirt stick to his chest. She’d seen pictures of men with perfect abs, but had never been this close to one. So close that she could reach out and touch him...


"Brooke?" He all but waved his hands in front of her eyes to pull her attention back to his face. "You said I needed to come down here to see something. What’s going on?"


"This."


Before he could figure out her intent, she shoved him into the lake, clothes, shoes, and all. The utter surprise on his face had her giggling, right before she jumped in, too.


Rafe was shaking the hair out of his eyes like a wet dog by the time she surfaced. Eighteen years ago, she would have been certain he would have thought what she’d just done was funny. But now? Honestly, she was a little nervous that he’d be angry with her, especially when she couldn’t read his expression at all.


"When you were eight," he began in a deep voice that had her shivering more than the temperature of the water, "I would have let you get away with that." He paused, and she was holding her breath until she finally saw the way he was trying to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching up into a smile. "But you’re not a little girl anymore. Which means I don’t have to play fair."


A second later he was reaching out to try to dunk her, but she was fast enough to swim out of reach before he could. Both of them were laughing now as he continued to chase her, and she managed time and time again to elude him. The water felt deliciously cool as she ducked beneath the surface and shimmied playfully around Rafe’s legs.


She hadn’t had this much fun in a very long time.


Oh, how she loved hearing him laugh, especially when the rumble of his joy danced across the surface of the water, the first real laughter she’d heard from him since last night. And in the end, that was what sank her, that she was paying more attention to the pleasure of finally making him happy for a few minutes, rather than working to make sure she stayed out of his clutches.


With one strong arm, he caught her around the waist, and when she lost her footing on the bottom of the lake because they’d gone out deeper than she’d intended, she instinctively wrapped her arms and legs around him to keep from going under.


In the space between heartbeats, playful fun shifted to heated desire.


Their wet bodies were so close that she could feel his heart pounding against hers. His fingers were flexing on her hips where he was gripping her tightly to him. She was breathing hard from their game of underwater chase, and her breasts were pushing against his hard chest. Her nipples beaded more from their close proximity than from the temperature of the water, and she could feel every hard line of his tendons flexing, every cord of his muscles...along with the thick ridge of his erection as it rose up between them.


A shudder ran through her at the sweet realization that he wanted her as much as she wanted him, and it was pure instinct to rock her hips into his. As the natural movement of the water in the light breeze brought them even closer, his name was a gasp of pleasure on her lips at the same time a groan emerged from his.


Her cheek was pressed against his, and she could hear the harsh rush of his breath in her ear even as he said, "Brooke."


Her name on his lips was full of enough raw passion and heat to keep her warm all winter long. She rubbed her cheek against his, and as her breath came out warm over his earlobe, this time he was the one shuddering.


Everything suddenly made sense, that the crush she’d had as a little girl would only mature over the years, even though they’d spent those years apart.


She’d always cared about him as a friend. Now she wanted him, too, the way a woman wants a man.


But before she could press her lips to his skin, he was unwrapping her arms from around his neck and saying in a stiff voice, "I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that. Forgive me."


She couldn’t understand what had happened, how he’d been hard and hot against her one second and in the next he was leaving her to tread water all by herself as he walked out of the lake and onto the shore.


For her entire life, Brooke had lived by rules of dos and do nots that were supposed to keep her safe, especially after her one stupid mistake in high school. But she was tired of worrying about getting hurt by making the wrong choice. Especially when every cell in her body told her Rafe was finally the right one.


"Rafe, stop!"


Brooke waded through the water to the shore as fast as she could, not knowing if he’d actually stop, or how long he’d wait for her. Just because she’d decided what—and who—she wanted, didn’t mean that she had the first clue how to go about getting it. It was one thing to mull all of this over in her head, but it was another entirely to do something about it.


Something wild.


Chapter Seven


Rafe knew he shouldn’t stop, and that he definitely shouldn’t turn around and drink in the vision of Brooke standing on the beach, soaking wet from the lake. But she was his friend, so he couldn’t just disappear on her and pretend what had almost happened hadn’t.


Damn it, it was just his luck that she was even more gorgeous in her wet tank top and cut-off jeans than any woman had a right to be. The way she’d looked in her bikini the night before had blown him away, but with the thin fabric clinging to her breasts and outlining the lace and silk of her bra beneath, it was taking every last ounce of his willpower not to pull her back into his arms to finish what they’d started.


"Why did you just pull away?"


Instead of answering her question, he hit her with one of his own. "Why do you keep asking so many questions?"


He thought he saw her flinch, but instead of turning tail and running, she said, "Because I haven’t asked any for so long. Too long. I’ve done what I thought I was supposed to do. I haven’t talked out of turn. Or asked for anything I didn’t already know that I could have. I’ve been the good girl. The sweet girl. The cute girl." She tried to sneer the word cute, but even that was gorgeous on her. He was so fixated on her full, soft-looking lips that he realized too late that she’d moved even closer, all gorgeous, dripping curves and irresistible woman. "I don’t want to be afraid to ask for what I want anymore." She took another step closer before adding, "Especially not when I now know you want it, too."


Brooke had just singlehandedly turned what would have been a shitty day into a good one not only by offering him a place to stay and pitching in on cleanup, but by dragging him away from the work, too, to play in the lake.


And how was he thinking of repaying her?


With orgasms.


It didn’t matter that she was all but begging for those orgasms. He was still acting like just as much of a pig as the guys he’d investigated. No wonder none of them could keep it in their pants. All it must have taken was a woman like Brooke looking at them with big, hungry eyes and they were goners.


Every second since he’d seen her again the night before had confused the hell out of him. He’d always known the difference between right and wrong, even as a kid. It was why he’d become a cop in the first place—to keep wrong from winning over right.


Forcefully reminding himself that tangling up with innocent, sweet Brooke in any kind of sexual way was wrong, he said, "You’re great, Brooke, but we’re friends."


"Friends who want each other," she countered, her gaze holding his steadily. "I had a huge crush on you when we were kids, and seeing you again has made me realize it isn’t a crush anymore."


Wow, that was a whole hell of a lot more blunt than he’d thought Brooke would be. Then again, hadn’t he already learned that her soft exterior was just the packaging for determination and focus? Somehow, he needed to grab hold of the reins of this conversation—and make sure nothing more happened than one shockingly hot hug in the water.


"I’m staying with you. And even after I move out, I’ll be right next door. It would be way too complicated if we pushed past friends."


Instead of accepting his perfect logic that messing around with each other would only lead to even messier complications, she smiled at him, the surprising hint of wickedness in her eyes reminding him in the most potent of ways what every inch of her against him had felt like. The curves of her hips in his hands, her legs wrapped around his waist...and how mind-blowingly good it had been to hold her like that.


"Look," she said in a reasonable tone, "I get what you’re saying—that if one of us wants out, it could be awkward being in such close proximity. But I think trying to fight the obvious attraction between us would be even weirder and would only end up causing more tension between us. We’re not kids anymore. We’re both adults who know how to manage expectations and hurt feelings. We’re both single. And…" She paused deliberately. "We both want each other. And just in case you’re worried that I’m looking for a husband and kids right now, I’m not. I feel like I’ve been settled forever already. Now all I want is to have some fun. And be wild. With you."


Caught between what he wanted—sweet Lord, he’d never wanted anyone as much as he wanted her—and what he knew was the right thing to do, Rafe made himself say, "If it’s fun you’re looking for, if you really want to be wild, we can find other ways. If you’ve never been on a motorcycle, I’ll take you out on mine." It would be hell to have her breasts and thighs pressed against him during the ride, but he’d find a way to deal with it.


Her cheeks were already flushed from their impromptu swim, but now that he’d offered to take her out on his bike in lieu of sleeping with her, they suddenly flushed an even deeper rose. "Wow. A ride on your bike. I proposition you, and that’s what you’re offering me instead?" She swallowed hard, looking embarrassed suddenly by how open she’d been with him. "When we were in the water, and last night, even this morning, I thought you wanted me. But if you don’t, then maybe we can both just pretend this whole conversation never happened."


Jesus, he couldn’t stand for her to think he didn’t want her, that she wasn’t the most desirable woman he’d ever seen in his life. "Of course I want you, Brooke. Who the hell in their right mind wouldn’t? I’ve been fighting with myself every single second since I saw you in your bikini last night not to reach out and touch you and make you mine."


She blinked up at him, her clear pleasure at his words mingling now with confusion. "Then if you want me so bad—and you know I want you just as much—why are you fighting so hard not to take me?"


Damn it, he’d wanted to stick with the next-door-neighbor excuse. With the it’s-less-complicated-if-we-just-stay-friends line. She wasn’t holding his screwdriver hostage anymore, but when someone was brave enough to call you on your bullshit, you had to have the balls to give her a straight answer.


"Last night, you called me wild. You’re right. I am."


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