Authors: Tara Janzen
“You mean the little vanilla ones filled with mango
mousse with the pineapple cream cheese frosting? Those cupcakes?” She turned her head the other way to look at him, and he glanced back over his shoulder with a grin.
“Yeah,” he said. “One of those.”
“Did you want one with the sprinkles on top?” He was so beautiful, his smile coming easier as the months had passed. He was wearing a pair of green and white swim shorts and a blue parrot shirt, unbuttoned and well worn, given to him by C. Smith Rydell for good luck.
Good luck for what? she’d asked him, and he’d just grinned. But she knew, in his job, every ounce of good anything helped to keep him safe.
He’d come home to Steele Street, and every day, in every way, the chop shop boys rallied around him. It did her heart good to see him back in the fold.
“With sprinkles, yes,” he said, a little warily.
“Oops, sorry, all gone.” She settled back onto her beach towel.
“How about one of the coconut macadamia nut cupcakes with the lime zest frosting?”
“Gone.” She made a little gesture with her hand, as if to say they’d all just disappeared.
“And the raspberry-filled poppyseed cupcakes with chocolate frosting?”
She shrugged her shoulders and adjusted her sunglasses on her face, and she waited.
“How about if I eat you for dessert?”
Rolling onto her side, she faced him with a grin. “I’ll race you to the house.”
He looked up the dock to the path leading through a lush forest of trees and vines and flowers.
“You’re on,” he said, and then he leaned over and kissed her, settling his mouth on hers and wrapping his arm around her waist, pulling her close—and Jane was in heaven.
She never would have guessed life could get as perfect as it had been since the night she’d spotted him on Wazee Street. The missions he went on with the other SDF guys were full of risks. The chop shop boys operated on the cutting edge of Special Ops. She knew that, but she wouldn’t have him be anything other than what he was: a soldier, a warrior, and hers.
The kiss was sweetly luxurious and led to the inevitable need they had for each other, for the intimacy they created and shared. His body was so hard to the touch, so strong. She loved being with him, making love with him, being his woman—and she was all his.
He slid down more fully beside her, and she intertwined her legs with his, feeling the heat rise between them. J. T. Chronopolous, the most dangerous man she’d ever met, made her feel safer than she’d ever been.
She snuggled in as close as she could get, loving the smell of him and the way he felt, like a slab of granite, except warm and vital. His hair was longer now, dark and starting to curl around the back of his neck. She loved the curve of his muscles and the strength in his arms and the stubble along his jaw.
After endless minutes of tasting his mouth and holding him close, she broke off the kiss and met his gaze.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said.
“What a coincidence.” J.T. grinned. “I’ve been thinking, too. What have you been thinking?”
“About my mom.”
He lifted his eyebrow in question, and she continued. “Carpenter, Wyoming, isn’t that far from Denver, a couple of hours, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her.”
“That’s a good idea, babe.” To go up and see her mother, a woman named Leona.
Half a smile curved her mouth for a moment, then faded. “You might want to withhold judgment until
you’ve been there, until you’ve met her. She and the guy she lives with, Wilbur, have a double-wide trailer on ten acres just outside of town. I’ve never actually figured out what it is Wilbur does for a living, except he used to be a rodeo cowboy about a hundred years ago.”
“Is she happy?”
She shrugged. “She’s a wanderer, but she’s been with Wilbur for about eight years now, so maybe that means she’s happy.”
He thought that over for a while before answering. She looked sad, the way she always did when she spoke of her mother, and he didn’t want to say the wrong thing. And truly, he was batting a little low in the mother department himself. Kid had told him the most persistent rumor he’d ever heard about their mother was that she’d gone to Hollywood to be a porn star. Kid also said he’d never bothered to verify or disprove the information.
J.T. was with his younger brother on that one. Apparently, she was heading out for a visit when he and Jane got home, and his plan was to just let her be what she wanted to be, to let her be a mom for a couple of days. He didn’t have anything on the line with the woman.
But his girl had risk with her mother. She cared, and she’d been hurt by Leona’s lack of care, a lifetime of it, but the ties were there, and neither Jane nor her mother ever let go—and he knew that was best, to not walk away from the people in your life. They were a precious part of a person, and in his experience, they had a way of slipping away without any help from you, without warning.
Hold on—that was always his advice.
He was holding on to Jane, with every fiber of his being, for as long as he could possibly make it last, and he was hoping for a lifetime.
“We get back to Denver tomorrow,” he said. “We
could go up and see good old Leona and Wilbur by the end of the week.”
“Thanks,” she said, leaning over and kissing him. “I really want her to meet you, to see that I’ve done good.”
Well, hell, he liked that.
“I love you, J.T.” She kissed him again, and his heart filled with a comfort unlike anything he’d ever known.
. A year ago, he wouldn’t have believed it would ever be true—that he would live long enough to see a day like today, or that there would ever be a woman who knew him well enough to love him.
He would have been wrong. The Wild Thing in her hot-pink bikini was all woman, and the love she professed was true. He knew, because it was the same love echoing in his heart.
“Do you want this?” he whispered against her lips, pressing himself against her. He was already hard. Just the smell of her was enough to arouse him, and he was breathing her in, remembering her, setting her solidly into his conscious mind. He didn’t want to forget her, not for a moment, not ever again.
She nodded, and he kissed the side of her nose, her cheek, and her temple.
“Wrap your legs around me, then,” he said, sliding his hand under her bottom and lifting her as he rose to his feet.
“How’s that?” she murmured, settling around his waist.
An intense surge of pleasure coursed through him, and he released a small groan.
“That’s good, real good. Can you keep it up all the way to the house?”
She laughed, and kissed his cheek, and bit his ear, and when he passed the bench at the end of the dock, he handed her the box of cupcakes, which was still almost
full, as he’d well known, and he took the pitcher of lemonade.
It was fifty yards through the jungle to the house, but it could have been a hundred or a thousand, and it wouldn’t have mattered. He could have carried her all day long. Never, not even in his most generous moments, did he thank Dr. Souk for the strength the bastard had given him, but it had proven to be a real asset for the team, and for that, he was glad.
His tactical skills were even more of an asset, and working with SDF used every skill he had. They were elite, their missions so black as to be undetectable—and that’s the way Dylan and General Grant expected them to be.
He loved meeting that challenge.
And he loved the woman in his arms.
Her skin was so soft and warm beneath his hands, her hair so long and silky against his face. He loved her; with every beat of his heart, he loved her.
The house was a low-slung plantation-style cottage with more porch than house, all of it screened in. They’d set their bed on the east side, where the morning sun would wake them, but where it was cooler in the evenings.
In the privacy of their jungle-bound bower, he set the pitcher and her cupcake box on a table, then lay her on the four-poster bed and followed her down, stretching himself out beside her on a soft cotton, brightly colored quilt, and she wrapped herself around him.
She kissed his lips and the side of his face, and ran her fingers through his hair, and every act of tenderness made him want her all the more.
The hot-pink bikini was nothing but strings with four triangles of material stamped in a white hibiscus print. He had her naked in half a minute—and from there it
was all one long, sweet slide into the sights, and sounds, and the scent of her, into oblivion.
She had little tiny tan lines, and he ran his tongue over each one. She giggled in some places and sighed in others, and he didn’t stop until she groaned—and there, settled in between her legs, he pleased his woman, teasing her with his tongue, loving her with all his heart.
Stroke after lovely, intensely intimate stroke, he made her his, and with every taste, he got harder and hotter and heavier, until the need to be inside her became a craving. She sighed, and he felt her tighten and then tighten again, and he kept licking her, sucking on her so gently while she found her way, and when she came, he played her to the end and beyond, chasing her pleasure with every languid slide of his tongue.
“You’re so soft.” He licked her and she shuddered one last time. “So wet. So mine.”
He lifted his head to look at her, at the satiny, golden curves of her hips and the sweet, mysterious territory in between. She was a need for him, not optional. She was home.
He dipped down and licked her again, just to taste her and hear her sigh. Then he shucked out of his clothes and levered himself up her body.
” Her eyes came open, and a warm smile teased her lips.
“Oh, yeah.” He grinned and wrapped her leg around his waist, and he pressed more deeply into her, feeling the sweet edge of pleasure course through his cock and galvanize his body. Sometimes he made love to her so slowly, their whole world became one hazily sensual hour after another, endless until they melted into each other. Other times the game moved faster and the loving took on a fierceness that stole his breath—up against the wall, laid out on the dining room table, lovely, lovely Jane slick and soapy in the shower.
It was all good, and God, she was gorgeous, her long, silky hair trailing across her breasts, every slender curve moving in rhythm with his thrusts. She was hot, and wet, and welcoming, and he filled her up, sliding into her again and again, covering her with his body, making her his.
This was love, to feel so complete with another person, with his woman.
He pumped into her harder, burying himself to the hilt, reaching deep inside himself, deep inside her, for the raw surge of release. At the end, he thrust faster, harder—and was caught. She tightened around him, and his world coalesced into a single stream of pleasure so intense, he forgot to breathe …
Until it was over, and he collapsed on the bed and drew her into his arms.
“Oh, baby,” she murmured, kissing his face, his ear, the side of his nose.
Oh, yeah. Oh, baby. He’d found heaven, and, safe within her arms, he drifted to sleep.
An hour later, when he woke, she was curled on her side, watching him, her hand slowly stroking his chest, her fingers running through the dark hair that covered him down to his groin.
He smiled and rolled over to kiss her mouth, and she tasted so good, felt so fine, he kissed her again—and some days, that’s the way it went all day long, the two of them in their private world.
Today was shaping up to be that kind of day, at least that’s what he was hoping.
“Do you have any big plans for this evening?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Eat, maybe, if we run out of cupcakes and you’ll do the cooking.”
Ah, cupcakes. He kissed the curve of her grin and reached across her to snag the box, and then he reached
a little farther and grabbed his swim shorts. After handing her a mango mousse cupcake first, he unzipped the pocket on his shorts and pulled out a small, ribbon-wrapped box.
She stopped in midbite, frosting on her lips.
“This is it, babe,” he said, holding the box up between them. “This is the forever ever I want with you.”
She was ready, so ready, sitting perfectly still, perfectly naked in a pile of white sheets with the brightly colored quilt swirling around her, and if he hadn’t been so damn nervous, he might have grinned.
He pulled the ribbon off the box and opened the lid, and offered her his heart along with an emerald to match her eyes.
“Will you marry me, Jane?” Wild Thing, he wanted her for his own.
He saw the emotion rising inside her, the flush coloring her cheeks, the tears welling up in her eyes—and then she was on him, kissing him, a kiss of mango mousse and pineapple frosting, with her arms around him, her mouth everywhere on his face.
“Yes,” she sighed. “Yes, yes, yes.”
A weight he hadn’t even known he was bearing lifted off him at her answer.
She was his, for forever, for however long forever lasted, and he was home.