She had an idea, but still asked, “What?”
“First I want to kiss away your mad, or your confusion or jealousy or whatever it is you’re feeling.”
All of the above, actually, and yes, him kissing it away seemed like a terrific idea. Eyes closed, she sighed. “And second?”
“I want to enjoy dinner with you.”
Her eyes popped open again. She had been expecting something altogether different from him. “Dinner. Really? Oookay.”
Smiling against her sensitive neck, he added, “And then…” His hand crept back up to her breast, this time outside her T-shirt. While cuddling and stroking, he said in a hushed, husky whisper, “I want to touch you some more. Like this, but without your shirt in the way.”
The soft groan came of its own volition.
“Those itty-bitty shorts have me fantasizing all kinds of things.”
Glad that he liked her shorts—because she knew she’d worn them specifically to get his mind back on her—she pressed back into him.
“Yeah. Like that.”
His hand was big, hard, hot, and the way his palm rasped over her stiffened nipple made breathing difficult. “You want me to touch you, don’t you?”
“I do, but—”
“Say you do, Yvette.”
To encourage the right answer, he caught her nipple, tugging gently, rolling, so that her “Yes” came out as a quivering moan.
“There you go.” His hand went down to her thigh. “It’s going to be really easy to get under the frayed hem of these barely there shorts.” To prove his point, he edged his rough fingertips along her upper thigh, higher and higher until he slipped under the fringe—
“Cannon…” She wanted him, so much, but she didn’t want to leave him disappointed when things didn’t go as he hoped. “I’m not sure—”
“Just touching.” Pulling her around to face him, Cannon took her mouth in a consuming kiss. One hand tangled in her hair, the other opened wide on her backside to keep her pressed tight to him. Against her mouth, he said, “I can handle it if you can.”
It took two shuddering breaths before she was capable of answering. “Okay.”
Satisfaction, and something more, grew bright in his mesmerizing gaze. She stared up at him, knowing it’d be agony to have his hands on her without ever actually reaching release. She wasn’t at all certain she could bear it, but denying him—or herself—would only be worse.
At the interruption of a ringing phone, Yvette realized she’d left her cell out in the garage. She was both relieved at the delay and frustrated that she couldn’t discover where the moment would lead.
When she stood there, Cannon brushed the backs of his knuckles over her cheek. “Want me to get it?”
She wanted him to go on touching and teasing her.
“No.” She smoothed her hand over his chest, down his impressive abs, then got her feet moving even though her legs felt weak and she assumed it’d just be Heath pestering her again. “I’ll be right back.”
“Okay. I’ll finish up our dinner.”
Heated from the inside out, Yvette wondered at Cannon’s new plan, and whether or not his detachment was part of that plan, or if he could really do this and remain so unaffected.
Because she couldn’t.
Just as she reached the garage, the phone stopped ringing. Of course it was Heath again. His message went to voice mail. She listened to him rant about loving her while also cursing her for not loving him back. Relieved that he was on the opposite coast, she deleted the vile message and blocked his number.
Cannon had closed and locked the garage door so her packages were secure. Before she started going through everything again, she’d wrestle open the dusty window adjacent from the interior door so that the air could move a little. Maybe then it wouldn’t be so bad.
She might also figure out how to pull down that ladder so she could check out the storage space up over the ceiling.
She got back in the kitchen in time to see Cannon drop angel-hair pasta atop the onions and olive oil, stir it all up and add fresh Parmesan cheese.
It smelled heavenly.
He watched her put her phone on the counter. “Heath again?”
No reason to bore him with the ugly details. “Yes, but I blocked him.” Getting out plates and refilling their glasses, she set the table. And even that, the simple act of two place settings instead of one, filled her with emotion.
Taking her by surprise, Cannon stroked her backside, murmured, “Irresistible,” then stepped around her to load up the plates. “What are you thinking about so seriously?”
Still on high alert from that casual caress and incredible compliment, she smiled at him. “I haven’t done this since I moved away.” She indicated the table. “Sitting down with someone for a home-cooked meal night after night.”
He put diced tomatoes over the pasta. “Tipton was a good cook?”
“Country cooking.” Very different from the healthy stuff Cannon preferred. “Most everything he fixed was a one-pot meal, with chicken and dumplings being his specialty.”
A gentleman to the core, Cannon pulled out her chair. “He taught you to cook?”
“Yes.” Yvette realized that having someone to talk to, especially about her grandpa, was as poignant as the cozy dinners together. “Stew, soup, sauerkraut and ribs, ham and cabbage.” She grinned. “All stuff you don’t eat.”
“All stuff I love.” He sat across from her, then stretched out his long legs so that his feet caged hers in. “Mom was a country cook, too. I took up running early in life just so she couldn’t fatten me up.”
“Bull.” For as long as she’d known Cannon, he’d been a specimen. “I’m not believing that.”
He smiled with her. “Bean soup and ham with corn bread was one of my favorites. I could finish off half the corn bread all on my own. Rissy would have a fit when she wanted seconds and it was gone.”
“When do she and her roommate get home, by the way?”
He went still, making Yvette shake her head.
“What, you thought I wasn’t paying attention? I realize you wanted to be here, so here you are. But you did have options.”
“True enough.” He watched her take a bite, then moan with pleasure. His eyes darkened. “Glad you like it.”
As casually as he’d stroked her rear, he said, “You’ll like me touching you, too.”
Her turn to go still—only that didn’t slow Cannon down at all.
“But if there’s anything you don’t like, I want you to tell me. Or if there’s something you especially enjoy—”
Already overheated, she interrupted him. “We were talking about your sister.”
“Safer subject, huh? Okay, I can work with that.” Watching her intently, he ate another big bite before answering. “I could have gone to Rissy’s, true, but it is her place now, not mine. I respect her privacy and with her and her roommate out of town it didn’t seem right to just make myself at home.”
“She wouldn’t welcome you there?”
“Course she would.”
“What about her roommate?”
“Cherry Peyton. I don’t know her well, but she seems nice enough. Denver might be interested, remember?”
“Yes.” Denver was definitely interested, from what she could tell.
Moving right on past that, Cannon added, “There’s always the Colonial. I’ve stayed there before.”
She gave a tight smile. “Mary expected to find you at a hotel.” And if Yvette hadn’t shown up at the bar that night, he’d have taken Mary back to his room with him.
“Forget Mary,” he said. “Forget Mindi. I wanted to be here. With you.”
Petty jealousy had never been her way. Because he was so special to her, Cannon deserved the truth. “I’m glad it worked out this way.”
He picked up her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Now, if that’s settled, let’s eat. The sooner we get done, the sooner I can get my hands on you.”
With the fork halfway to her mouth, she paused.
He glanced at the clock. “It’s early. We’ll have hours to play before bedtime. I’m already half-hard just thinking about it.” He forked up another big bite of pasta.
Lust, apparently, didn’t dent his appetite. But then, he stayed more active than any person she knew.
For her part, Yvette wanted to melt right off her seat. “You know I can’t—”
“Climax?” More gently, he said, “It’s okay. Touching, that’s all we’re going to do, remember?”
But why? Surely he’d want more than that. Just because she couldn’t didn’t mean he—
Then he finished by saying, “Tonight anyway. Eventually I’m going to want all of you.”
Thinking about it, him over her, in her, sent a sweet clench of desire into every muscle. “Okay,” she whispered.
Gaze playfully stern, he said, “But not tonight. Tonight is for touching only. Touching and kissing and going a little nuts.” He drew in a slow breath. “So finish up. I’ve tortured myself enough already.”
YVETTE HAD BEEN quiet through the rest of dinner and the cleanup afterward.
Maybe feeling nervous, as soon as the last dish was put away she’d gathered up dirty laundry and disappeared into the basement for an hour. Unwilling to rush her, he’d used the time to do other cleaning. When she’d heard the vacuum, she’d charged back up the steps.
It was kind of funny how she’d reacted. Even after he’d told her he was a neat freak and could damn well handle housework, she’d seemed put out. Reluctantly she’d put away the laundry and taken a seat, mostly so that he would sit, too.
As he joined her, her gaze went watchful and wary.
Did she expect him to jump her? To strip off her shirt and start pawing her? If so, he’d disappoint her by going so slow, she’d be the one asking him to take the shirt off her.
Eventually she’d ask for everything.
But as he’d told her, tonight would be a sweet torment. They’d both end up frustrated, but she’d get comfortable with him.
Eventually comfortable enough to let herself go.
She’d put her cell phone on the coffee table, so he did the same, then put his wallet and keys there, as well.
She went wide-eyed, maybe thinking he was going to stop. Hell of an idea, because he’d love to have her hands all over him, but not yet. His iron control, strong as it might be, had limits.
Facing her as he sat, one arm along the back of the couch so he could toy with her long hair, Cannon did his utmost to sound casual instead of primed. “Did I tell you that Rowdy and I agreed for me to work the bar on Saturday? He advertised it all week. Should be a big crush.”
“Yeah.” Twining his fingers in her hair, he used it to tug her closer. “You’ll be there, right?”
Her lips parted and she breathed deeper. “I don’t know.”
Well, he did. She’d go with him, and they’d have a blast. It was important for her to understand the chemistry between them wasn’t just sexual.
As he leaned down toward her, her thick, dark lashes lowered over her eyes. Big, beautiful, green eyes.
But then he found everything about her appealing.
Taking her mouth gently, he kissed her lower lip, then her upper before aligning their mouths perfectly in a soft, hungry kiss.
It gratified him, encouraged him, when she melted against him.
Surely a woman who reacted so easily could be taken over the edge to the big O. With the right man.
“I want you there,” he told her while kissing a path to her ear.
“I don’t mind if other women flirt—”
She started to pull away but he kept her close.
“—as long as they understand the limits.” He traced her ear with the tip of his tongue and felt her shiver. “Seeing you there with me will make others understand.”
Her hands fisted in his shirt as she leaned into him. “Understand what?”
“That we’re together.” He kissed behind her ear, down to her nape. “The guys will be there, too. But they already know how it is.”
“Mmm,” he answered while opening his mouth against her skin. “About that touching…”
Her breath caught. “Yes?”
He took her hand and carried it down to his erection. He was already engorged, throbbing. But giving himself time hadn’t helped with his control.
No, it had only made him more urgent.
“You can go first.”
Now she inhaled sharply. Her hand was small, her touch tentative as she traced along his length.
Dying just a little, Cannon encouraged her with murmured words of pleasure. She wrapped her fingers around him as much as she could through the material of his cargo shorts—then squeezed.
“Damn.” He held himself still a moment until he gained control, then took her hand away. “Hang on a sec, honey.”
She watched with smoky intensity while he pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside. “Let’s try this again, above the waist this time.”
Without hesitation she put both hands on him, stroking over his pecs to his shoulders, then back down again to silently examine each ab muscle. When she bent toward him, he froze, his heart hammering hard.
The first touch of her mouth tested his resolve. She brushed her lips gently over each fading bruise, rubbed her cheek against his chest hair, inhaled deeply, drinking in his scent.
Knotting a hand in her hair, Cannon said, “You should know, babe, everything you do to me, I get to repay in kind.”
Her heated gaze lifted to his. While they stared at each other she brought both hands over his nipples, lightly dragged her nails over him, then bent again to flick with her tongue.
Jesus. He let her play a minute more, then abruptly said, “My turn.” It wasn’t easy to remember his plan with his heart trying to punch through his ribs, but he got it together.
“I like touching you.”
“Yeah?” He went back to kissing her neck, down to the upper swells of her breasts.
“You told me to tell you what I like. I like that.”
“What about this?” Carefully, he closed his teeth over her T-shirt–covered nipple, then pressed with his tongue, leaving the thin fabric damp.
Her hands clenched in his hair, and when he moved to the other breast, she led him to her, arched into him. Right before he kissed that nipple, he asked, “You like this, Yvette?”
“This?” he asked, sucking gently through the material, “Or this?” He plucked with his lips.
And then with his teeth.
Squirming, she gasped, “Yes.”
He kept it up, using his mouth to tease one nipple, his fingers to roll the other until she whispered raggedly, “Cannon…”
Instead she leaned away and nearly leveled him when she pulled off her shirt.
God almighty, she was so hot he didn’t know how much more he could take.
Her soft, pink nipples were pulled tight, her pale breasts full and flushed. She breathed quickly, watching him, anxious.
Savoring the moment, Cannon put a hand to her narrow waist. Her skin was so silky, and incredibly warm. Those sinful shorts rode low on her hips. They barely covered more than panties would.
He stroked two fingers over her hip bone to her navel, getting hotter still when she wiggled. “Ticklish?”
He couldn’t wait to see how she reacted when he stroked those same two fingers deep inside her.
“Come here.” Sitting back, he lifted her over him so that she straddled his lap, facing him. Without their shorts, he could enter her like this. That thought tested his resolve, especially now that her open thighs rested directly over the ridge of his erection.
She moved against him, rolling her hips until he clasped them to keep her still.
Given the difficulty she’d admitted to, he’d expected her to be more reserved.
Instead she seemed starved for release, and that, too, fired his blood.
Covering both breasts with his hands, he kissed her again, long and deep, light and easy, using his tongue, his teeth, until they were both panting. At every second, he was aware of her, her reactions, gauging what she liked, what she loved, what turned her on the most.
“Cannon,” she groaned. “My shirt is off now.”
A hint? “Believe me, baby, I know.” He played with her nipples the same way he teased her mouth, first lightly brushing, then insistently tugging.
Would she tell him what she wanted?
Hopeful, he took her mouth again in a deep eating kiss, all the while his hands moved over her, up and down the toned length of her narrow back, down to the gentle swell of her hips, from the top of her silken thighs to her knees and back up again.
Hooking one arm around her waist, the other under her hips, he arched her forward and trailed wet, hot kisses down her throat to the tops of her breasts.
With his tongue, he taunted her, getting close to her nipple, but never quite touching no matter how she shifted, trying to direct him.
He felt the urgency of her deep breaths, the indecision that held her back, until she cupped a small hand around his neck and drew him forward, saying raggedly, “I want your mouth on me.”
“Where?” Enjoying her like this, he licked her throat. “Here?” Down to her cleavage, where he dipped his tongue. “Like this?” Farther down, lightly touching his lips to her nipple. “Or right here?” And with that, he sucked her in.
She cried out, her hips pressing in to his abs, her runner’s thighs squeezing him, her fingers so tight in his hair that it stung.
Taking advantage of her position up on her knees, her body taut, he locked her to him and drew on her until she was rhythmically riding against him.
Just like that, he thought, more convinced than ever that her only problem had been being with the wrong man.
Which meant any man other than him.
He switched to the other breast, kissing around her throbbing nipple, curling his tongue around her, pulling and licking before treating her to another long, leisurely suckle.
Her reaction was the hottest thing he’d ever experienced.
With her head tipped back, her long hair draped over his forearm and her breasts lifted higher. Open around his hips, her long, trim legs quivered. She gasped each breath, whimpering, moaning.
He loved seeing her like this, a little lost, a whole lot turned on.
She didn’t have any problems, not with him.
Initially he’d thought to drag this out for hours, and then for days, until she was ready. But he’d never seen a woman more ready than Yvette was right now.
Even as he cautioned himself not to rush her, he opened the snap at the top of those itty-bitty cutoffs, then eased the zipper down so he could get his hand inside.
He cupped her over her panties and still felt the damp heat of her excitement.
Straightening, she went utterly motionless except for the bellowing of her deep breaths.
Ever so lightly, he touched her while still lazily drawing on her nipple.
Groaning, her nails bit into his shoulders and he looked up to see her head dropped forward, her eyes squeezed shut. Her dark hair fell around her face like a curtain.
She felt pressured, he realized, and was already worrying about “performing.” He wanted her back to mindless pleasure, so he redirected her thoughts.
“Just touching,” he whispered to her.
She gave a shaky nod, and said, “I don’t know if I can stand this.”
“I know it’s difficult for you, but I love touching you, Yvette. Here,” he said, licking her nipple. “And here.” He pressed his fingers to her sex, able to feel her swollen lips through the slinky material of her panties.
Her hips rocked once, then stilled.
“I…” She trembled as he delved a little deeper, tracing her vulva.
“For me,” he urged her, plucking at her nipple with his lips. “Tell me it’s okay.”
Rather than speak, she nodded.
He withdrew his hand from the front of her shorts and instead slipped it underneath from the back, moving over her perfect ass.
She wore a thong.
Groaning, he drew her nipple deeper while exploring that smooth, firm flesh. As he’d told her, the high, loose legs of her cutoffs made it easy to get his hand inside. He eased her up and forward—and got his fingers on her slick, hot flesh.
Swollen with need.
Leaving her nipples wet and tight, he took her mouth again, drugging them both with a devouring kiss while barely entering her with one finger. She tried pressing down against him, shifting, wanting more, but he outmaneuvered her each time. It wasn’t easy to remember his purpose right now, not when he’d wanted her so long and she was so incredibly hot.
“Easy,” he told her.
But she surprised him by kissing him again, then whispering, “You told me to tell you.”
Curious how bold she’d be, he nodded. “Yes.”
She stared into his eyes. “Then I want your fingers inside me. As deep as you can go.”
Fuck. Control shot, Cannon put his head back against the couch and drew her forward. “Brace your hands on my shoulders.”
Urgently, she did—which brought her up to her knees.
Holding her gaze, he parted her, tested her gently, then slowly worked two fingers into her.
Gasping, she leaned in, rubbing her face against his throat and squirming her hips. “God, Cannon, that feels…”
He knew what would feel better, but, damn it, he was afraid of blowing the moment. Better to let her lead the way right now.
“Kiss me, honey.”
She did, her fingers in his hair, her breasts rubbing against his chest, her body clamping down on his fingers, squeezing each time he withdrew, getting wetter each time he pressed them in again.
She was so tight, so hot.
He brushed his thumb up and found her little clitoris already distended, beaded tight. Teasing over her brought a funny little catch to her breathing. He felt the way she trembled, and he had to believe she was close.
He moved over and around that sensitive little bud again and again, slicking her own moisture over her, rasping, tormenting.
Now, he decided. It had to be now. “Will you trust me, Yvette?”
She kissed his shoulder, bit his chest. Her husky “Yes,” followed by an urgent, “Please,” reassured him that everything would be fine.
“Good.” Taking his hand from between her legs, he turned her to her back on the couch. “Then how about we lose the shorts?”