The Ideal Man (Buchanan-Renard 9)

Page 15

“We now have air-conditioning,” she announced.
“Good to hear.” He turned off the television and stood. “Are you serious about going back home?”
He was walking toward her, and she was feeling breathless again. “Yes, I’m serious.”
“How will your dad feel about your leaving?”
She thought about it a few seconds and then said, “He’ll be relieved, and that will make him feel guilty.”
“When are you going to talk to him?”
“First thing in the morning,” she said. She leaned against the wall, and he stopped in front of her.
“And your mother?”
“Oh God. She’ll have a fit. She won’t believe anything I say once I tell her I’m leaving. It’s not going to be pretty,” she added.
The dark look in his eyes made swallowing difficult. She wanted him to take her into his arms. She wanted him. She tried to block the thought but didn’t have much success. Did he have to be so provocative and mesmerizing?
“There’s no need to tell why we’re leaving,” she said. “Agreed? You are not going to tell my father about Willis Cogburn.”
“Yeah, sweetheart, I am. I’m obligated to warn him of the possible danger.”
“But I’ll be gone—”
“Doesn’t matter.”
She poked him in the chest. “This is exactly why I’m not going to sleep with you. You’d feel obligated to tell.”
Max brushed her hair over her shoulder and trailed his fingers down the side of her cheek. Her skin was silky and soft, and he didn’t think there was a single flaw in her complexion. “I don’t remember asking . . .”
“Then you don’t want . . .”
He leaned down. “I didn’t say that.”
She smiled sweetly. “I could have you in bed in less than ten minutes.”
Max loved the way she smiled. Her eyes sparkled with such devilment. Damn, he wanted her. He leaned even closer until his mouth was just inches above hers and whispered, “Five minutes, sweetheart. That’s all it would take me to get you in my bed.”
Ellie could feel all her resolve melting away. She tilted her head and closed her eyes. His mouth brushed hers.
“This isn’t a good idea,” she said. Her voice was so faint, it was barely audible.
“I know,” he said as he circled her mouth with gentle kisses.
“You’re here because of your job, and we shouldn’t let anything interfere,” she whispered breathlessly.
“You’re right.” His lips moved to her earlobe.
“We’ve got to stop.” She sighed.
“Uh-huh,” he said as he nibbled on her ear.
It took every last ounce of willpower to slowly pull away, but Ellie gently pushed against his chest and stepped back.
“Good night,” she said.
She walked into her room. Closing the door was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life.
Her bedroom felt like an inferno. She looked all over the room, even behind the bed and underneath it, but couldn’t find any vents. Who had her father used to install the heating and cooling system in these rooms? she wondered. Whoever it was obviously gave him a deal he couldn’t resist.
Ellie opened the door and felt a rush of cold air. She noticed Max’s bedroom door was also open, and she wondered if the only vents in the apartment were the two in the tiny hallway.
She quietly got back in bed and was sound asleep in seconds. An hour later the cold awakened her. She was freezing, and the top sheet and thin blanket couldn’t block the arctic blasts pouring into the room. My God, she could see her breath in the air. For some reason she thought that was hilarious and had to stifle her laughter with her pillow. Exactly what kind of a deal had her father gotten? It must have been a doozy.
She got out of bed to shut the door and remembered she had left her cell phone in the living room. She found it on the arm of the sofa, plugged it into her charger on the kitchen counter, and, shivering, headed back to bed.
She turned the corner and came to a quick stop. Max was leaning against the door frame to his bedroom watching her. His hair was tousled, his gaze intense.
It was impossible not to stare at him. He was so incredibly virile. A perfect specimen, she thought. She took a breath and forgot to let it out. No other man aroused her the way Max did. He was bare-chested and had pulled on a pair of jeans. He hadn’t bothered to zip them, leaving the suggestion that he hadn’t worn anything to bed. Picturing him naked made every nerve in her body tingle.
Another blast of frigid air blew across her face. Rubbing her arms to try to warm her skin, she whispered, “Did I wake you?”
He lazily moved away from the door and reached for her, gently pulling her into his warm arms. She could have easily stepped back if she had wanted to, but turning away from him was out of the question given her insane need to touch him.
Heat radiated from his chest, and she sighed against his shoulder as she put her arms around his neck. Even his scent aroused her. And his touch was making her warm all over. His strong hands caressed her back, then moved lower to firmly grasp her hips. His chin rubbed against the top of her head. She leaned back and looked into his eyes, saw the passion there, and knew he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
Her fingers spread upward into his hair as he lowered his head and kissed her. He wasn’t in any hurry. The kiss was slow. His tongue penetrated and rubbed against hers, and when she imitated the action, he growled low in his throat and deepened the kiss.
Holding her in his arms, his mouth slanting over hers again and again, Max backed into the bedroom but stopped when he reached the bed. Her mouth was hot, wet, wild under his, and the way she stroked his neck made him crave more. She didn’t resist when he pulled her gown over her head. Her hands got in his way as she tried to push his jeans down. In seconds they were both naked and fell into bed together. He rolled over, nudged her thighs apart, and stretched out on top of her.
Max let out a long, raspy breath. He wanted to savor the moment. He could feel her heart under his as he lifted a strand of hair from the side of her neck and began to kiss her there.
She moved restlessly against him as he slowly moved down her body, gasping when he began to caress her breasts. His hands moved lower to span her waist then lower still. He kissed her navel, heard her indrawn breath, and knew he pleased her. There was a scar above her right hip. He kissed it, then moved lower to stroke and taste her until she was writhing in his arms and moaning with desire. He lifted up, kissed her again, a scorching kiss with no reservations.
Ellie pushed him onto his back and began to make love to him. She stroked his shoulders, his arms, marveling at the strength and heat she felt under her fingertips. She kissed every inch of his chest, loving the feel of his coarse hair against her breasts. She stroked his tight stomach with her tongue while her hands moved lower to caress his arousal. He sucked in his breath and shuddered.
He pulled her up, kissed her once more, then rolled away from her.
She tried to pull him back.
“I want to protect you,” he whispered, his voice thick with desire.
Seconds later, he pressed her onto her back, and shaking with his need now, he spread her thighs, covered her mouth with his, and thrust inside her.
She cried out and raised her hips to take more of him. Max’s head dropped to the crook of her shoulder and he took deep shuddering breaths to try to slow down. Hot liquid heat enveloped him. It was exquisite torture to stay still. She began to move under him, stroked his shoulders, and drove him wild with her uninhibited response. He moved, slowly at first, and then more forcefully until he was burning.
For the first time in his life, he lost control. He couldn’t slow the pace. She wouldn’t let him. He had absolutely no discipline as he drove into her, trying desperately to give her as much pleasure as she was giving him. Her nails scored his shoulders, and she began to tighten all around him, squeezing him, and as
he pushed harder, she climaxed.
Ellie said his name in a whisper, then shouted it as sensations unlike anything she had ever experienced before rippled through her.
His climax followed and was as violent and satisfying. It consumed him, drained him, took every ounce of his strength. With a loud, lusty groan, he collapsed on top of her.
It took several minutes for both of them to recover. When he was finally able to take a normal breath, he lifted up and looked at her. Passion was still there in her eyes, and her cheeks were flushed from their lovemaking. She was so very beautiful, and he realized he was once again in awe of her.
He leaned down and kissed her. “Are you okay?”
She sighed. “Oh yes,” she whispered. “It’s all good.”
He laughed. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” she repeated.
He rolled onto his back. Their bodies were slick with perspiration, but blasts of freezing cold air cooled their skin.
“I’ll be right back,” he said gruffly as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. He glanced over his shoulder at her golden body and then laughed. Ellie was sound asleep.
He guessed she was right. It was all good.
Ellie was unlike any other woman Max had ever known. The women he had taken to his bed usually wanted pillow talk and sometimes praise after sex, or at the very least to be held. Ellie, on the other hand, wanted to sleep.
An hour later, he made love to her again. He woke her by trailing his fingers down the valley between her breasts and her navel. He watched her face. Her eyes didn’t open, but she sucked in her breath. Smiling, he leaned down and kissed her.
“This time I’m setting the pace,” he told her in a gruff whisper. He tugged on her earlobe with his teeth to get her attention. He was determined to teach her how to relax and take it slow even if it killed him, and it damn near did. If she hadn’t been so responsive, he might have been able to get their lovemaking to last a little longer, but neither one of them could stop their release. She ended up on top of him, and after the tremors left, she put her head on his shoulder and was sound asleep less than a minute later with his arms wrapped around her.
They woke up in a sauna. Ellie was sleeping on her side with her head on his shoulder and one leg draped over his. She opened her eyes as Max was trying to gently move her off of him so he could get up. She was instantly wide-awake. She rolled over him and tried to move off the bed. He caught her about her waist and pulled her down for a long kiss. The flash of embarrassment she’d felt waking up with him was gone, and she kissed him back just as thoroughly. Then she got up and went into the bathroom to shower.
Max went into the kitchen and drank a glass of orange juice while he tried to figure out how to turn the air conditioner down, but the dial on the thermostat wouldn’t move.
Her dad definitely had been ripped off no matter how much of a discount he’d received. Max wondered how he would react the next time he opened his electric bill. If the wiring was faulty, the thing could be a fire hazard. Max decided, before he and Ellie left for the airport, he should talk to him about it.
The air came back on while Max was in the shower. Ellie went into the smaller bedroom to get ready. She applied a little makeup and lip gloss, and even put on a skirt to please her mother. It was short, pale blue, and barely wrinkled. Her crisp white blouse was fitted but not too tight.
Since she hadn’t slept in the bed, she didn’t change the sheets. She smoothed the covers and then went into Max’s bedroom to strip the bed, but he’d already made it. She wasn’t surprised. She’d noticed what a careful, disciplined man he was when he was working, and that spilled over into his personal habits. His shaving kit was organized, and his shirts were perfectly folded in his bag. Max controlled what he could in his environment. She surmised that the trauma of losing his parents at such an early age had a lot to do with his behavior. It was also probably what made him so good at his job.
She stared at the bed a long moment as pictures of what they had done the night before flashed before her. She actually blushed as she remembered how enthusiastic she’d been. Max most likely thought she was a sex fiend, and with him, she just might be.
With a sigh, she went back into the living room. After they had their talk with her father, she’d change the sheets, she decided.
She drank a Diet Coke for breakfast and was leaning against the counter checking her phone when Max came into the kitchen. He was sliding his gun into his holster at his side. She watched him bring the leather strap over the gun and snap it in place.
She was suddenly feeling shy again. “I haven’t changed my airline ticket yet,” she said.
“Let’s talk to your father first, then worry about getting back.”
“Thank you for not fighting me on this.”
“Protecting you will be easier if you’re in the hospital all day and home the rest of the time. We’ll have more manpower.”
“I’m not going back to the hospital permanently,” she replied. Then she added, “Maybe if they’re shorthanded for a little while until . . .”
“Until you find out where Patterson is?”
She shook her head. “No, until I figure out where I want to live and work.”
Ellie heard someone calling her name. She was pretty sure it was her father, and she went to the door to open it. She’d unlocked the dead bolt when Max put his hand on top of hers and said, “You don’t open doors. I do. And I go out first. Understood?”
She turned around and found herself plastered against the door. His hands were on either side of her.
“Last night . . . ,” he began.
He was frowning. Oh no, was he going to tell her it had been a mistake? Or worse, apologize for what happened? She thought she just might kick him if he did.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to ease what she perceived to be guilt. “It’s all good.”
Then she noticed the amusement in his eyes and realized he wasn’t feeling guilty about anything. He kissed her. It was a brief glad-to-see-you-again kind of kiss and definitely unsatisfying.
“Good? Sweetheart, it was a whole lot better than good.”
“Yes, it was,” she said, sighing.
Just standing this close to him made her weak. She had thought that after making love most of the night, she would have moved past this crazy reaction to him. It didn’t happen. He still could turn her stomach into jelly.
Had she not been anxious to get the talk with her parents over and done with and be on their way, she would have kissed Max the way she wanted, but she had no intention of starting something she couldn’t finish.
Her father bellowed her name. She took a deep breath and said, “Okay, let’s do this,” and stepped back to let him go outside first, then followed him.
He made himself a target. Whoever would try to hurt her would have to go through him first.
“I’m good at removing bullets,” she whispered. She didn’t know why she needed to give him that inconsequential information. Was she telling him this so he wouldn’t worry? The possibility of him getting injured was too awful to think about.
“I know you are,” he said. “One of the other surgeons at the hospital told Sean you hit the one hundred mark before your third year of residency.”
“That’s not something I want to be remembered for,” she said. She poked him between his shoulder blades. “Don’t you dare get shot.”
“I won’t,” he promised as he looked around.
Ellie’s parents’ backyard was square, extremely large, perfectly manicured, and surrounded by trees and bushes on all sides, blocking the neighbors’ view. Behind the greenery was a fence, but that, too, was hidden from view. It would be difficult for Cogburn to get a good shot, Max thought. Even if one of the neighbors didn’t notice a stranger cutting through his yard, the fence and the bushes would be a deterrent. No, there were better places to wait for his target. Too many, in fact.
Her father held the door o
pen for them. “I made waffles,” he announced. “Your mother’s starting the eggs, and the bacon is already on the table getting cold. Didn’t you hear me calling?”
“Dad, Max and I need to talk to you and Mom. It’s important,” she said.
“Important can wait until after breakfast,” he said.
“But this is—”
“Eleanor, you heard your father. No worrisome talk before breakfast,” her mother said.
“Is that a new rule?”
“It’s a Southern rule.”
“Yes, all right,” she said. “But directly after breakfast we need to talk.”
Neither parent responded to her demand. “Mom?”
“All right, dear. Now eat your breakfast.”
Ellie wanted only a PowerBar or a piece of toast, but she couldn’t hurt her father’s feelings, and so she ate a little of everything that was offered. Max ate like a man who’d been starving for a week.
“Want to know the secret to my waffles? Club soda,” her father said proudly. “That’s why they’re so light and fluffy.”
“Dad’s an expert on waffles,” she explained.
“And baking bread,” he added. “It’s therapeutic. But that’s all. Waffles and bread.”
“Did you sleep well last night?” Claire asked Max.
The question reminded him about the air conditioner, and he told William that he should call the store where he had purchased the unit and make them replace it.
“It was all sales final,” William said. “But I’ll have a repairman over here today. I know just who to call. In the meantime, would you mind helping me disconnect it?”
Max followed her father outside. “Don’t forget to tell him about the thermostat,” Ellie called.
He raised his hand to let her know he’d heard her just as the door closed.
Now that Claire had Ellie alone, she sat down at the table next to her.
“I see you still drink milk,” she remarked with a smile as Ellie finished her glass.