The way Chase’s heart pounded made his ribs ache again.
That was a hell of a confession and he didn't exactly know how to answer. Maybe
he shouldn't say anything at all.
Amanda went pale rather than blushing. “Oh God. I didn’t mean that.
I mean, I did, but not right now.”
He reached for her and came up short, his arms trapped in the sleeves of his
shirt. “Help me out here, would you?”
“I’m sorry, Chase. I’m so sorry,” she murmured as she
reached for the cuff and twisted the button open. “I forgot. I didn’t
mean to leave you—”
He yanked his hand out of the sleeve and slid it into her hair. “Just
shut up.” He stopped another protest by sealing her mouth with a kiss. No
more apologies, no more making up. He finally had her where he’d wanted
since this whole mess started. He wouldn't let her blush and stammer away this
time. Decision made.
“You should sit,” she mumbled when their mouths parted again.
Her eyes were wide and dark behind her glasses, maybe a little afraid. So he sat
without protest and kept his gaze on hers.
She unbuttoned the other cuff on his shirtsleeve and dropped the button-down
to the floor. “Can you lift your arms over your head?”
He shook his head faintly. “Maybe not that far.” He lifted his
hands to her face again instead and slid her glasses off, carefully folding them
closed. “That’s about as good as it gets. That work for you?”
She ducked her head and smiled. “I guess it’ll have to.”
She touched him carefully, curling her fingers in the fabric of his undershirt.
She slid it up over the binding gingerly, fingers brushing bare skin as she pushed
it off. “I’ll try not to hurt you.”
“I’m not feeling any pain.” Not quite a lie. He just bent
the truth a little. Stiffness of another sort now demanded attention. He inhaled
a lungful of the scent of her hair, still damp from the bath, as she leaned closer.
He let his hand ghost over her shoulder, noting the way she shivered under that
simple touch. Beautiful. Delicate. So easy to hurt and he swore right then and
there that he never would.
He straightened when the undershirt joined his button-down on the floor. Her
gaze flickered over his shoulders then skimmed his chest and drifted toward his
waist. Chase wasn’t built like he could bench press a semi, but he had nothing
to hide, so he let her look. Let her see just what she had beneath her hands.
“Hair,” she whispered, and fanned her fingers through the dusting
on his chest.
Goose bumps sprang to life at the touch and sent shivers dancing over his skin
and down, desire tightening another notch. “Yeah. That’s what happens
when you make it past seventeen.”
She laughed. “I figured you for the bare-chested type. Strong and smooth.
I think I like you this way better.” She ducked under his chin and pressed
a suckling kiss to his throat. Her breath tickled his ear when she murmured, “Can
you lay down?”
“I think I’m going to find a way.” He shoved himself back
on the bed. The pain wasn’t so bad. Every now and then, a twinge made him
stop and take an extra breath, but it could have been worse, all things considered.
He could have been alone. He lifted his head to watch.
Amanda took his shoes off first and let them fall to the floor. Then she put
a knee on the bed between his legs and reached for his belt. He expected to see
nervousness reflected in her hands, but they were startlingly still and confident,
as if she knew exactly what to do.
She tugged the buttons on his jeans open with the same careful certainty. He
couldn’t watch her, the effort of propping up on an elbow just a little
too much. It was better this way, he decided. He closed his eyes and let himself
feel instead. She peeled denim down his legs inch by inch, as if she were unwrapping
him or maybe just trying to drive him insane. “Wouldn’t have figured
you for boxers either. You’re more of a briefs man.”
He laughed. “Guess I’m just full of surprises today.” Almost
as many as she was herself.
“I’ll just turn the light out.” She edged off the bed again.
“Ah, ah, ah.” Now he dared the stab of pain pushing up enough to
see her brought. “Not so fast.” When she arched an eyebrow, he grinned
and gestured toward the towel she still wore. “You’ve had your fun
unwrapping me. Now it’s my turn.”
She clutched a hand in the terrycloth. “You’ve got your shorts
on. It’s not fair.” She lowered her voice. “I’m naked
Chase’s voice came out low, as if it had dropped into his chest. “That’s
what I’m counting on, sweetheart.” Not a chance he'd look away.
She blushed to her collarbones. “I'm being brave. I wanted to do this
on my own, without your help.” She laughed, all breath. “It’s
He hooked his thumb in the waistband of his shorts. “Two’s a party.
On the count of three?”
Amanda watched him motionlessly. When he thought he might have to nudge her
again, she took a shaky breath. “All right, you win. But no laughing,”
she threatened, leveling a finger at him. Then she took another breath and slipped
the towel loose, letting it spill to the floor.
Laughing was the last thing on his mind.