Just the Way You Are
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She gasped as he dipped between her legs, massaging the sensitive skin, his hands so close to where she needed them.
“That’s why it took me so long to come find you. But by the time I got to you, you wanted nothing to do with me.”
Something squeezed in her chest, and she swallowed hard to force it down. “I wasn’t upset that you took so long to find me. I never intended to see you again.”
He nipped at her neck and growled. “But you let Addy bring you home for Thanksgiving dinner all those years later.”
A mistake? Maybe. But she’d needed what Addy had offered—family, laughter, something to get her through her hardest time of the year.
“You walked in the door and I wanted you all over again. Like a kid nursing his first crush, I wanted you.” His hands trailed up her sides and back to her breasts.
Had she come for more than just the company? Had she needed to see Harrison again? If so, she hadn’t been able to admit it even to herself. “I wanted you too.”
He drew his hands from her thighs and placed them on her shoulders. “Addy put you in the bedroom next to mine and I swear I lay awake half the night wondering if you wanted me to come in there as much as I wanted to. You’d been watching me all night.”
She laughed softly. “I just kept wondering how many people at that table knew we’d had sex.”
His hands froze where they’d been massaging her neck. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
She sighed as his fingers began working again. “I figured that out when Kaleb hit on me.”
He snorted. “You’re a beautiful woman. My brother would have hit on you either way. Hell, you have my ring on your finger and I still wouldn’t put it past him. That man has a weakness for the beautiful ones.”
Beautiful. He threw that word around in reference to her like it was obvious. She knew she wasn’t the petite beauty men fawned over, but enough time around Harrison and she might believe she was some kind of beauty. One a man like him could appreciate.
He trailed wet fingers over her shoulders and down her arms and she nearly screamed in frustration. She wanted more. She wanted his mouth on her, his fingers inside her.
She shifted. His c**k was still hard against her backside, confirming he was as aroused as she. “Are you going to keep talking or are you going to touch me?”
“I am touching you,” he said. He took the handheld showerhead from the side of the tub and adjusted it. “How’s this?” he asked, fanning the soft spray against her belly.
“Mmm.” She closed her eyes and melted against him, letting herself enjoy the heat of his skin at her back and the warm massaging spray of the water as it washed over her br**sts and stomach.
He stroked her skin with the water, starting at her shoulders and down her stomach. When his hand reached her breast, she moaned, the combination of his hand and the water a new pleasure. He rolled her nipple between his fingers and squeezed, and she cried out.
“God, Harrison,” she whimpered. “I want more.” She reached back and laced her fingers into his hair, wanting him as close as possible.
His hand slid down her body and into the water, and she gasped in surprise as he took the showerhead between her legs.
“Oh,” she moaned.
“I love watching the pleasure on your face,” he whispered against her ear. “I want to watch you come.” He adjusted the nozzle and the water pulsed strong and steady against her clit. “How’s that feel?”
“God,” she moaned. “It’s…” She didn’t have words.
“You’re so beautiful.” He slid a finger inside her, then another, trapping the spray against her as he f**ked her with his fingers.
“Harrison…” It was almost too much. The thrumming pressure of the water against her clit, his fingers stretching her. But even as she started to pull away, she needed every bit of the painful pleasure and couldn’t back off.
“Even if I can’t be inside you, I want to watch you come in my arms.” He pressed deeper inside.
Her h*ps rose as the orgasm coiled inside her, tightness squeezed and radiated out to her limbs.
He kissed her neck and pulled the spray from her sensitive sex, but he didn’t remove his hand, and somehow she was glad for the connection.
“I’m not good enough for you,” she whispered. Then she closed her eyes and leaned into his shoulder.
“You have more scars,” he said, tracing the line across her breast then the ugly knotted scar at her hip.
“School of Hard Knocks,” she said softly. She couldn’t ruin what they’d done with the truth.
He carried her to bed not long after, dried her off, and tucked the covers around her.
“Hey,” she protested softly, “aren’t you going to let me return the favor?”
He just smiled and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “If we’re keeping score, I’m pretty sure that one made us even.”
“Mmm,” she said, closing her eyes. “We’ll have to do something about that.” But sleep was pulling her into its grasp and she was too relaxed to fight it.
Ten Years Ago
The apartment walls shook at the loud knock at the door, and Stacey’s pencil snapped in her hands.
She exhaled slowly and dropped the pieces. Maybe she wouldn’t even look this time. They came more often since her mother’s death, and she knew she wouldn’t let them in. Her daddy’s gambling buddies, his drinking buddies, and—worst of all—the men he owed money.
No, she wouldn’t open the door. But what if it wasn’t one of them this time? What if her grandmother had come to visit?
The numbers in her calculus textbook swam before her eyes. She forced herself out of the kitchen chair and across the apartment to check the peephole.
She nearly stopped breathing when she saw who was on the other side of the door. Her hand went instinctively to her belly. He couldn’t know. She hadn’t told a soul.
She rolled her shoulders back and opened the door. “Harrison.”
His eyes ran over her, taking in her baggy sweatshirt and jeans before meeting her gaze. It wasn’t a sexual perusal, more like he was checking to make sure she was still intact. “Can I come in?”
The apartment was clean, but it was small and sparse. She didn’t want him to see it. “You’d better not. What do you need, Harrison?” She asked, not any one of the million other questions she had for him: Have you thought about me? How’d you find me? Can you take me away from here?
She wouldn’t be that girl.
He got the message and shifted away from the door. “You disappeared. I…” He swallowed and ran a hand through his hair. “Jesus. I was so preoccupied with getting to you, and now that I’m here I’m thinking what an idiot you must think I am.”
Her heart squeezed. She wanted so badly for him to hold her. He would if she asked. But then she would cry and, in that moment of weakness, she’d confess her secret and his life would be over.
Instead, she asked, “How’s Dartmouth?”
His shoulders dropped. “It’s…great, I guess.”
She nodded. “Good. I hope…” She bit her lip and looked at her feet—bare against the cold linoleum floor. “I wish you the best.”
“Stacey, we never talked about what happened. That’s why I’m here. I’m not that guy who just walks away.”
And that’s why I can’t tell you. She shrugged. “You’re at Dartmouth. I’m here.”
“But we could—”
“Have a long-distance relationship based entirely on a single afternoon of sex?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it. “There are worse things.”
She wanted to touch him, wanted to reach out and brush his hair out of his face and press her lips to his one last time. But her secret stood between them. “I’m going to save us both the drama and pass.”
Her grandmother was right after all. Harrison deserved better. “Don’t you do that to some nice boy. Don’t you let the poison of being a Parker bring down a man who deserves better.”
He stepped back, hurt tightening that beautiful face. “Right. Okay. Well, I’m sorry I bothered you.”
“Bye, Harrison.” She closed the door and slid down against it, struggling to breathe through the tears filling her throat. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, cradling her belly. “I’m so sorry, but he deserves his life.”
Stacey was living a dream.
She couldn’t believe she got to spend a week on this gorgeous beach with this beautiful man.
He took his eyes off the softly rolling waves and turned to her.
“You going in?” she asked.
He extended a hand to her. “Come with me?”
Stacey’s heart pounded. To her, the ocean was like a beautiful, wild beast. Like a lion on or leopard. Beautiful to look upon but unwise to touch.
Harrison’s extended hand beckoned, and before she consciously decided to do it, she found herself slipping her fingers through his and following him toward the water.
His hand was hot over hers, rough and calloused and already eliciting thoughts of how it would feel elsewhere—skimming the tender underside of her breasts, scraping the sensitive peak of her nipple, gripping the flesh of her hip as he drove into her.
She blinked away the image.
She’d expected him to wake her last night, expected him to make love to her. Instead, she’d woken to the sun peeking in their windows, Harrison’s arms wrapped around her.
He grinned down at her as if he could read her thoughts. “You trust me?”
She did, and that scared her, but she didn’t answer. The rolling waves crashed inches from their feet, rising, falling, and exploding into foam before sliding under and slipping back into the sea.
He tugged lightly and led her in. The cool water shocked her hot skin. Another yard deeper and a wave threw her off balance. She clung to Harrison as she stumbled.
“Easy there,” he murmured, pulling her body against his. “Relax. Bend to it a little, and it won’t take you down.”
She focused on the sensation of his breath against her ear as he guided her deeper.
Once they were waist deep, the waves softened, but Harrison still held her close.
“I like this.” She closed her eyes, enjoying the push and pull of the deeper water.
“Yeah?” He lifted her arms and looped them around his neck. “What about this?”
He lowered his head and kissed her, sliding his tongue inside her mouth without preamble or permission.
She moaned at the taste of him and wriggled her body closer. A gull called overhead. She tensed as his hands slid over her body, her too-generous curves. But then his fingers curled into her ass and he hauled her against him. Any remaining insecurities about her body fizzled away as his thick erection pressed into her belly. She sank into the pleasure of his kiss.
“God, I love kissing you,” he murmured against her mouth as he took them into deeper waters. “It’s almost as good as sex.”
She moaned, already missing his kiss, his lips, his tongue. “Liar.”
His lips tilted in a lopsided grin. “On the plane yesterday, you must have been cold because your ni**les were hard. I wanted to take you to the bathroom and rake my teeth over them.” He found her breast through her suit, applying delicious pressure. “I wanted to test their sensitivity with my fingers and my mouth.”
She gasped, liquid heat pooling hot and fast between her legs. “Harrison,” she said weakly, “I need to tell you something.” She couldn’t keep her secret from him any longer, not when he’d been so sweet and kind. Not when she feared her heart was no longer her own.
His eyes were hot on her as he slid his thumb under her suit and found her nipple, scraped it with the back of his nail.
“Oh, God,” she moaned.
Harrison chuckled. “Are you sure it can’t wait?”
It had waited ten years. It could wait another hour. She smiled. “Two can play this game.” Under the water, she found the band of his trunks and slipped her hand inside.
His c**k was thick, hot, and slick with ocean water.
“Jesus.” He threw his head back and closed his eyes as she stroked him. The power of the moment sent a rush through her. She owned him.
This wasn’t just any man. This was Harrison Duval. Her husband.
She ran her hand up and down the length of his shaft, squeezing and releasing as she moved over him.
“You’re not playing fair,” he grumbled.
“Maybe I am.”
His hand trailed down her body and cupped her sex through her suit. He smiled at her small gasp. “You’re easy.”
Easy. Where Harrison was concerned, she could get off on the sound of her name rolling off his tongue, but he didn’t need to know that. “Can we admit defeat on the rules?”
He stilled. “Stace—”
“I already decided.” She bit down on her lip.
He groaned. “I don’t want to rush you.” He found her swollen cl*tthrough her suit and rolled his thumb over it. “I love hearing you. Watching you.” He dropped his mouth lower, spoke just above a whisper into her ear. “I love making you come. We don’t have to have sex for any of that.”