“Aunt Grace, look what Lock drew for me! Isn’t that the bestest tiger you’ve ever seen?”
Jake jumped up and down shoving a lined yellow page in my face. A strapping purple tiger, fangs bared and ready to pounce glowered at me.
“You don’t like purple?” came the deep voice I knew so well.
My head shot up. All my senses were drawn towards that sound like the tide under the magnetic force of a full moon. Lock stood in the kitchen doorway, one hand slung low on his hips, the other stretched out against the frame of the door. His white T-shirt was smeared with black grease and smudged with dirt. My breath stalled. He held my gaze, his head cocked to the side as he waited for my answer.
I shifted my weight. “I like purple. Majestic color.”
“Majestic,” he murmured, his lips twitching.
Jakey brandished his drawing in the air. “Isn’t he scary, huh? Ready to attack!” He let out a great big howl.
“Yeah, attack.” I mumbled, my gaze still stuck on Lock’s eyes.
Mesmerizing pools of lava that sucked me in and swallowed me whole.
“I’m gonna go show it to Wes!”
Jakey sped out of the room, and Lock and I were suddenly alone. We hadn’t seen each other since that ugly explosion in the hallway three nights ago. Since my stupidity with Butler. Since Iris. Since my evil deal with Jump.
Since my little world blew up in my face.
He stared at me. I stared back, the silence deafening. Roaring.
His teeth grazed his bottom lip.
My heart hammered in my chest.
“How are you holding up under lockdown?”
“I’ve been keeping busy with the Bone Marrow Drive. Writing thank you notes, that sort of thing.” I sucked in a breath. “Oh, did you want some?”
His eyebrows lifted and a grin stole over his lips.
I rolled my eyes, my face heating. “The cake?” I gestured to the chocolate sheet cake next to me on the counter.
The amusement lingered on the taut lines of his face. “Did you make that?”
“Yeah, I did. I thought the kids would . . .”
A sharp prickle raced up my spine as he stalked over to me. Like a fucking tiger. I turned around quickly and began cutting him a thick slice.
The heat of his body brushed up against me, pressing into my back and my side, his warm, breath fanning the back of my neck. The scent of motor oil, metal and sweat swept past me as his arm reached out, a long finger swiping through a dollop of velvety chocolate ganache. On some primal instinct I was powerless to control, I tilted my head to watch his full lips suck on the tip of that finger. The finger that only days ago had swiped at me, thrusted inside my body, inside my most intimate, vulnerable place. The finger that had made me surrender to him.
It had tormented me, bruised me, angered me. And left me hungry for more of what only he could give me.
“This is what I do to you. Remember that.”
I dropped the knife on the counter with a clang. His lips released that now wet finger, and his thumb stroked over a chocolate smudge on the corner of his mouth then dragged lazily across his generous lower lip, his eyes on me. My tongue darted over my lip, a pathetic attempt to satisfy my sudden need to lick his.
His eyes blazed. It was only a second, but I recognized it—a flash of want, of hungry, potent need, a wild, irrepressible, insatiable urge. The tremor of it pulsed deep in my center and simmered in my blood. I should hate him, despise him for making me feel it, especially now, now that things were broken, mangled, dirty.
But I didn’t.
His wet finger trailed gently up the back of my neck like a drizzle of liquid fire, and a shiver snaked through me.
“That’s really good,” he rasped.
I stopped breathing, and my body melted into his magnificent towering wall of sinewy muscle. Into the impulse to throw everything away and dive into a warm, swirling sea of chocolate and cream and hot blinding mess.
His hand swept around my throat, the other around my waist. “Goddammit.” His rough whisper vibrated across the suddenly sensitive skin of my neck.
But I couldn’t afford to indulge in impulses anymore.
“Stop,” I whispered, my hands clasping his wrist.
His body stiffened around mine. “I know you hate me now, and I deserve it. I hate myself more for the things I said to you the other night, for the way I treated you. I had no right. No right to take from you, to be so cruel.”
I squeezed my eyes shut against the humility laced in his words, against the intimate timbre of his voice. I didn’t want to forgive him. That would mean letting him in again, and I wasn’t going to do that. No way. I was done with hopes and wishing and believing. I was going to do what I had to do then get myself the hell out of here. Again.
He lowered his head further, his face against mine. “Grace? You won’t even speak to me?” His lips brushed mine, and I gasped. That mad jolt of electricity, our electricity, coursed through me. His hold on me tightened as his mouth lingered over mine. Teeth tugged, warm lips nuzzled, teased, and coaxed that unwinding hot coil of disaster within me.
The luxurious taste of dark chocolate, sugar and Lock beckoned me to dive in and bathe in its lushness. His tongue nudged my lips open further and delved inside my waiting mouth. My tongue slid against his, stroking, eagerly exploring. The air around us was sucked away. Who needed oxygen? It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered when I had this kiss, his kiss.
His tongue dipped through the ache that swelled inside me, dipping through the havoc, the riot of warring factions on the battlefield of me. A fucking civil war. And silencing everything.
Everything but Us.
The Us that was precious.
The Us that had turned ugly.
The Us that was never meant to be.
I tore myself away from his mouth, slamming into the sharp edge of the counter. A muffled growl caught in his throat. Lock’s hooded eyes were dark, unreadable, his breathing as ragged as mine. His hands gripped my arms, then suddenly let go as if they’d realized their transgression. The craving still drummed between us, but now it snagged and clawed at my insides.
“That cake any good?” Jump’s taunting voice spiked from the doorway. It was the voice of cold, hard fucking reality, a bucket of icy water toppling over us, drenching everything.
Lock’s cold gaze leveled at mine. His jaw clenched, the lines of his face hard. I braced for the burn sure to come.
“Chocolate’s not my thing,” he bit out and strode from the kitchen.
© 2014 Cat Porter