Wicked

PAGE RATING: R

Whispering Cove, Book 3

Danica Kent, MD, has settled into her new role as a small-town doctor. She caters to her Whispering Cove patients, especially the rum-drinking, poker-playing, town grandfathers who have their hands in a bit of everything. But when one of those patients brings her face-to-face with her high school crush, the work she’s done to reinvent herself falters.

Braydon Mitchell sails around the world writing freelance magazine articles. With no desire to settle down, he’s successfully avoided his grandfather’s pleas to come home…until now. Returning out of worry for the old man’s health, Braydon finds old friends in town for their high school reunion. And something he hadn’t expected. Danica, the awkward teenage geek who’s all grown up—and filled out in all the right places.

From their first touch, erotic sparks make Braydon want everything he isn’t built for—small-town stability, a strong woman’s love, family. And Danica wonders if Braydon has dropped anchor for good…or if her lover will be gone with the next tide.

This book has been previously published as part of an anthology series with Cathryn Fox and Mackenzie McKade.

The full story will be re-released right here over the coming weeks.

CHAPTER ONE

Family. Friends. Forgotten memories.

They all waited in Whispering Cove. Waited and taunted.

Already missing the call of deadlines, Braydon Mitchell anchored his forty-foot sailboat in the bay away from the main docks, where the water calmed to a gentle rocking at night, and raised his face to the sun. The salty air and slapping waves, lush foliage and open space failed to ease his spirit or his need for freedom.

The memories he’d set aside in pursuit of life could no longer be ignored and they wouldn’t be chipped away like irritating barnacles. Though they weren’t all bad, he was no longer the idealistic boy who’d attended Whispering Cove High. The death of a friend’s parents had stripped the gleaming gloss off life’s hull. Several of his group had scattered. Few had returned for more than a token visit.

Until now.

Braydon secured the sail riggings and moved toward the back of the boat and the inflatable dingy he’d use to cross the gleaming water. Wood-sided businesses and homes painted primary blues and reds welcomed fishermen home. Nearby, mixed in with the traditionally painted ivory or white homes, were those painted orange or pink or lime green. There were even a couple of purple roofs. Even the homeowners who opted for more sedate colors leaned toward vibrant hues for the trim work or deck chairs.

Whispering Cove.

Its appearance excited him while its unhurried pace slipped through him a little uncomfortably.

He stepped into the dingy and headed toward the shore, past the docks and the fishermen he’d known his entire life. For the first time in ten years he and his friends—most of them anyway—would be together again. How everyone would feel about it remained to be seen.

He could have resisted attending the reunion, but his grandparents… He couldn’t resist the family who had welcomed him when his parents became more interested in the next adventure than in their son.

He might not be so different from his parents.

Adventure excited him.

Ambition drove him.

His jaw tightened as he strained against the urge to gnash his teeth. Pushing his shoulders back, popping the vertebrae between his shoulder blades, Braydon angled the small boat to the spot Grandfather Byron said he’d be waiting.

Yeah, adventure excited him.

Yeah, ambition drove him.

But he wasn’t leaving a family behind. He would never leave a child to wonder why he hadn’t been enough of a reason for his parents to stay. Why he was so un-special, turning away had been easy.

Scrubbing his hand over his neck, Braydon shook himself off the path of useless thoughts. He’d been loved. By his grandparents. By his friends. They were the reason he’d come home.

Grandfather Byron, Granddad, wasn’t doing well and Braydon wouldn’t allow the pursuit of an exciting sporting story to cost him more time with family.

On the shore, a sleek blonde stepped from the glaring green shed at the end of the dock. Slender ankles, well-toned calves and slim thighs teased until they disappeared into white shorts enhancing her tan. A teal tank top hugged perky breasts and nipped in at her narrow waist.

Naked on the deck in the moonlight.

Naked on his bed in the main cabin.

Naked with her nipples calling him to taste.

The images of her on his boat clicked successively through his mind, fast and urgent.

Saliva pooled in his mouth, forcing him to swallow. Whoever she was, he would get to know her during his visit. He would enjoy her no-strings company as much as he enjoyed his freedom.

Starting now.

Braydon cut the small motor, jumped into the shallow water, and pulled the dingy to shore. He looked away from the woman to secure his raft and turned back in time to watch his grandfather step from the shed.

Tall and broad, the brawn he’d built as a fisherman stuck with him. But he was different. More frail and stooped over than before, he leaned on the blonde for support. His hand shook on her arm. Years of tying lures, stringing net and fighting his catch had swollen his knuckles into bulbous joints.

With gravel scrunching beneath his sandaled feet, Braydon quickly closed the distance.

“Hey, boy.” Granddad’s voice shook across the twenty feet still separating them as if each syllable required effort. He pulled free of the blonde and stepped forward. “’Bout time you got home.”

She followed at a cautious distance as Granddad’s left leg dragged a little across the slippery rock.

Emptiness washed through Braydon, leaving his chest hollow with a subtle burn of anxiety. His legs, his chest, his stomach were all empty and suddenly weak. He was shaken and guilt swarmed him at the sight of Granddad’s apparent loss of vitality.

“Got here as soon as I could.” Knowing Granddad wouldn’t approve of attention being drawn to his age or ailments, Braydon closed the remaining distance quickly and pulled his grandfather into their standard, manly hug. “Traffic was hell.” Stepping back he grinned. “Guppies were everywhere.”

The blonde’s small, sweet lips curled into a smile, showing off perfect teeth. She didn’t move closer, and though she seemed familiar, he wasn’t recalling why.

Granddad lasered his gaze into Braydon, alerting him to the hard tone to come. “You could have flown.”

“The boat’s already packed.” Braydon dipped his head in acknowledgement of the woman and offered his hand. “Pardon Granddad’s rudeness. I’m Braydon Mitchell.”

Something sparked in her gray-blue eyes behind her wire-framed and rhinestone-studded glasses. It was almost as if she alone was privy to an inside joke. Intriguing. From her blonde roots to her petite nose—with a fishing-line-thin scar running down one side—to her bodacious curves, she was intriguing.

“I’m not rude, you pain in the ass.” Granddad reached back and tugged the woman forward. “This chickadee is Dr. Dani, the new private-practice doc in town. She didn’t want me coming alone.”

Dr. Dani didn’t take Braydon’s hand. Disappointment at not discovering the feel of her skin slipped through him, but was overruled by concern about his grandfather’s need to be escorted by the town doctor.

Dr. Dani turned to Granddad.

“If you hadn’t insisted on walking the whole way, I wouldn’t have minded you coming alone.” Her voice was soft, underlined with determination and tinted by a strong local accent as she addressed Granddad. A sultry tone subtly emphasized the words walking and coming, sort of rolling the ing.

Braydon’s body jumped to aroused awareness. His head angled slowly to the left as unattainable recognition flirted with his memory. She was local, about his age. He had to know her. She wasn’t the kind of woman he would forget.

“Been walking longer’n you two combined have been breathin’.” Granddad’s customary grit lit a fuse of hope inside Braydon.

His guilt eased. The emptiness in his heart was replenished.

“All the more reason to slow down now.” Dr. Dani shook her head, bouncing her wavy hair around her shoulders. “Ruth wouldn’t have approved of you coming alone.”

Braydon grinned, appreciative of how the woman stood up to Granddad. Most people backed down, unwilling to attempt swaying the bull-nosed shark. “How is Grandma? Where is she?”

“She’s good. Today is her volunteer day at the hospital.” Granddad took Dr. Dani’s arm and headed toward the walkway leading to the road. “She sends her love and says she’ll see you at dinner.”

Braydon fell into step at Dr. Dani’s side. Her wintergreen scent floated up and mixed with the tang of the salty sea. His body screamed for a touch, a taste, of the temptress at his side. His stomach rumbled and, though he’d skipped breakfast and his mid-morning snack, it had nothing to do with hunger for food.

Dr. Dani glanced up at him. “Sounds like you’re starved.”

“Famished. Have anything good in mind?” Like dropping Granddad off at home and joining me back on my boat for a thorough physical?

She dropped her gaze back to her feet.

“Let’s go to The Seafarer,” Granddad suggested.

“Do Mr. and Mrs. Wilson still own it?” The town’s hotspot for great seafood, the restaurant had been owned by a high-school friend’s parents.

“Why change a four-generation tradition?”

“Do things ever change around here?”

“Not much,” Dr. Dani said.

“Tourists wouldn’t come. Locals’d be pissed,” Granddad summed up. He always narrowed matters down to the bloody quick, and he was right. Changing tradition around town impacted the economy. Times were tough enough without adding an unnecessary strain.

As they walked the few blocks to The Seafarer, they were stopped several times. Moms and grandmas patted Braydon’s arm and welcomed him home with a matchmaker’s gleam in their eyes—he’d avoid those women. The men wanted to reminisce and rehash that-time-you-insert-stupid-kid-mistake-here stories—they mostly made him laugh.

Much remained the same in Whispering Cove.

Family. Friends. Forgotten memories.

 

Danica Kent walked between Byron—who she suspected didn’t need help as much as he claimed, but she loved him enough to humor him—and the man she’d had a crush on since she was nine.

Braydon Mitchell.

He’d grown into a walking, talking, adventure-loving, sea-scented sex fantasy. The rebel image projected by thick and slightly too long, sun-lightened brown hair, a strong jaw and almost broody eyes in his byline pictures in sailing magazines fuelled her wet dreams. Lean muscles, flat stomach, narrow hips and powerful legs… Raw masculinity oozing through his pores awoke her body and had her daydreaming about running her hands over him.

A chill of anticipation rushed up her spine and filled her head with dizziness. She stumbled. Byron’s grip on her arm released. Braydon was there. He wrapped his arms around her waist and stopped her tumble to the ground. Turning her in his arms, he held her pinned close. As his erection pressed into her thigh, his green eyes darkened.

Her heart flinched. Her chest rose and fell against his raggedly. She’d been in this position once before, very briefly, and had dreamed of the replay, but her dreams had never come true.

“You okay?” Smooth as her favorite rum, his Herculean purr teased her senses. Awareness flickered in his gaze.

“I…” Mouth gaping, Danica nodded.

The small gesture moved her body against his. Against his arousal. Memories clamped down harder than a crab’s claw. Memories of walking the widow’s peak on the tower of her parents’ home, of using her telescope to spy on Braydon instead of studying the stars, of dreaming he came to her asking to be with her.

The young girl in love was still trapped inside, and she was still desperately awkward.

Braydon chuckled. His green eyes, splintered with lines of brown, reeled her in with promises of wicked nights on the water and in her tower bedroom. Promises of nights in his arms.

Her panties grew moist.

“Seems I’m not the only one who’s hungry.”

He’s not talking food. Her mouth dried up.

She tried to swallow or speak or think, but failed. Failed to think of anything beyond Braydon and sex.

“I’ll leave you two to…well, to whatever is going on in those young minds of yours.” Byron patted Braydon on the back and moved toward the front door of The Seafarer. “I’ll just go eat alone.”

“No you won’t.” Braydon set her away from him without breaking his gaze. “We’ll join you.”

“Suit yourself.” Byron shook his head and stepped into the restaurant.

“You coming, Dr. Dani?”

Unfortunately, no. She’d never been more grateful for her inability to talk to Braydon. Hell, she was shocked he hadn’t figured out who she was by that inability alone. And she knew he hadn’t because when he figured it out, he’d be running in the opposite direction.

She nodded and headed in to join Byron. She would absorb as much as she could of Braydon’s attention, because the sand concealing her identity was quickly washing away.

With its dark wood trim, mismatched captain’s chairs and boat benches turned into seats, The Seafarer was a seat-yourself sort of establishment. Large sheets of white paper covered the tables rather than tablecloths, buckets for dumping shells and tails sat in recessed holes in the middle of each table.

Byron had chosen a table with a view of the water and Braydon’s boat. Not wanting to risk sitting too close to Braydon, Danica took the chair beside Byron. When Braydon sat across from her, folding his long legs beneath the table with his knees bumping hers, she acknowledged the flaw in her thinking.

“Braydon, hey.” With an apron tied around her waist, Katy Wilson stopped by the table with a smile on her fresh, girl-next-door face, the perfect face for daytime TV. She bumped a lean hip against Braydon’s shoulder. “It’s about time you graced us with your presence.”

“Katy!” Braydon pushed out of his chair and pulled the dark-haired, ponytail-wearing sophisticate into his arms. “What are you doing here? I didn’t know you were coming to the reunion.”

“Helping Mom and Dad.”

“What about your show? How’m I supposed to learn to cook if you’re here?” Braydon sat back down and locked his attention on Katy.

His knees bumped Danica’s and shot tingles of awareness up her exposed thighs. He didn’t have any trouble cooking.

“Watch the re-runs. We’re in a hiatus.” Katy’s voice caught with a note of hesitation or uncertainty, which disappeared an instant later. “Not that you can do much cooking on the boat you call home. My stove is bigger than your entire kitchen.”

Katy had been on his boat and seen his kitchen? What else had she seen?

“Hey! Don’t dis my skills in the kitchen until you’ve witnessed them. I make a mean lobster.”

Katy rolled her eyes and turned away from Braydon, much like she might shrug off a pain-in-the-ass brother. “Don’t let him bait you, Danica. He’s more talk than follow through.”

Braydon’s eyes shot to hers. For a second she thought he remembered her, but he gave no other indications of recognition.

“Good to know.” Danica smiled at Katy, feeling at ease for the first time since Braydon stepped out of his dingy. “What’s on the menu today?”

Then he shifted in his seat, brushing his legs against hers with a light tickle of his leg hairs.

Her pussy quivered and begged for attention.

“Well, not to outdo the amateur, but…” Katy leaned forward and nodded toward Braydon, “a shrimp platter including the best shrimp cocktail and richest scampi you’ve ever put in your mouth.”

“Sounds great.” Danica turned to Byron who was being uncharacteristically quiet. “How about you, Byron?”

“None of that fancy stuff. Bring me fried catfish and hush puppies.”

Katy opened her mouth, but closed it again without argument. “How about you, Braydon?”

“I’ll have the same as Danica.” He shifted his piercing gaze to her again. “Maybe she knows something I don’t.”

“That wouldn’t be tough.” Katy chuckled and moved toward the kitchen. She turned back and snapped her elegant fingers. “Oh, Danica. Who is doing your hair? It looks lovely.”

“Victoria over at the Whispering Salon.” Not that the new look was offering her the confidence she’d hoped for.

“She could do the big city proud.”

“I’ll be right back.” Byron pushed his chair back and disappeared.

His walk wasn’t as labored as it had been on the rocky beach, Danica noticed. Was it a terrain thing? Had he needed to rest? He asked her to diagnose him, but his symptoms were all logical for a man his age. They were just illogical in the way they came and went at random.

Braydon leaned forward, bracing his forearms on the table. He straightened his legs, resting his calves against hers, completely unaware, or uncaring, that she’d pulled her legs back to her chair to avoid touching.

“Danica.” Recognition and something she wasn’t brave enough to name infused her name on his lips.

He did remember her.

She nodded.

“Hey, Dr. Dani.” A woman’s voice pulled her attention from Braydon toward Chief of Police Brody McGrath and Andrea “Andie” Adair, who she’d seen last night at the hospital when Byron called her to look in on one of his best friends.

“Brody. Andie. How’s Harold?”

“Home.” Andie breathed a sigh of relief for her granddad. “He’s tired, but doing better. Thanks for helping out with him last night.”

Brody shook Braydon’s hand in some secret shake they’d known since high school. Typical men, they needed no words to catch up on life.

“That’s what I do.” Danica smiled, both to offer comfort and because she was glad Harold was back home. “If you like, I’ll check in on him a little later.”

“That would be great,” Brody grinned. “He suggested I keep Andie out of the house, but mentioned nothing about you.”

“I would think as the big bad cop you could get away with pretty much anything you wanted.” Braydon sat back in his chair, again brushing his leg against Danica’s.

Brody laughed. “You were the one who got away with everything.”

“Please.” Braydon waved his hand. “I’ve been here an hour and have relived enough ‘do you remember when’ stories for three weeks.”

“You gave people a lot to remember.”

“And myself as much to forget.” He turned to Andie. “How are you doing?”

Danica didn’t miss the note of concern deepening his voice. He wasn’t only checking on Andie’s current life. Danica hadn’t been one of them, but she’d seen how close they’d all been in high school. The death of Andie’s parents had hit them all hard.

“I’m holding up.” Andie kissed Braydon’s cheek. “Thank you for asking and for the calls over the years.”

“Hey, we runaways have to stick together.”

“And apparently come home at the same time.” Brody shook Braydon’s hand again. “We’ll catch up later. We just stopped by to check on Katy.”

Danica watched as Brody and Andie walked away. He took her hand in his. She pulled away. He pulled it back. They’d been inseparable in high school, the couple everyone envied and, though the spark still flickered between them, she was clearly holding out. If Brody won the fight for her heart he’d be impossible. Happy, but impossible.

“Now, back to this.” Braydon resumed the same position he’d settled into before the latest interruption. Leaning forward, forearms braced on the table with his calves against hers. “You’re Danica, as in Danica Kent?”

Her name slipped out of his mouth like a seductive caress. His eyes sharpened, but she couldn’t identify the underlying emotion. Anger?

She flattened her hands on the table, stroking the fork tines with an index finger.

“As in the Danica Kent who tutored kids in science?”

Relief swam in her blood. He didn’t remember the rest.

“As in the Danica Kent who watched me through the telescope on her widow’s walk?” He shifted an ankle against hers.

Her muscles twitched. He did remember. Her head bobbed in a nod. She’d wanted him to notice her all those years ago. Now she had his attention and still couldn’t speak. How had she ever hoped to capture his interest?

“You’ve changed.” He traced the back of her hand. The light calluses on his fingers and palms scraped in contrast to the gentle touch. “I wonder how else you’ve changed.”

Danica stared at his hand on hers. He knew who she was and that she’d spied on him, but he wasn’t turning and running. Shock overruled the embarrassment she should feel from him knowing of her teenage obsession.

“I’d say you’re still not much of a talker, but I think you only have a problem with me.”

She swallowed. She would have to talk to him eventually. Hopefully she’d come up with something intelligent.

He took her left hand in his, turned it over and traced her palm with his left index finger. Her stare was riveted on his hand willingly touching hers.

“Do you have nothing to say, Danica?”

“About what?” The words croaked out, but at least she’d managed something.

“About you and me and what we never did together but could now.”

Boat-sinking torpedo dead ahead!

He was referring to sex, and damn if she didn’t want it, even if he was leaving in a few days, right after the reunion. “We have nine feet of blood vessels, six hundred pain sensors, nine thousand nerve endings, thirty-six heat sensors and seventy-five pressure sensors in one square inch of our hand.”

“Really? So which sensors would feel this?” He pulled her hand across the table and blew a warm breath over her palm. “Or this?” He kissed her palm. “Or this?” He swiped the tip of his tongue along her lifeline.

Moisture pooled in her panties. She curled her toes to keep from squirming beneath his attention.

“Braydon.” She hardly recognized her own whisper. She was in a public restaurant and all she wanted was to find a quiet corner for him to keep touching her. She wanted nothing to shatter the mini dream-coming-true moment.

“Mmm. I like my name on your lips.” He linked his fingers with hers and smiled into her eyes. “I like your mouth.”

“I…” Her thighs trembled.

“You what, Danica?” He raised his foot, brushing his leg up the inside of hers. “Tell me what you want.”

“I…” Her pussy pulsed. She rolled her hips, slowly rubbing the seam of her shorts over her clit. She was going to orgasm in public and he had done nothing more than touch her hand or play footsies. “Braydon.”

“Go ahead.” That Herculean purr was back in his voice, enticing and encouraging her, pushing her toward the end of the plank. “Tell me what you want.”

“I want…”

“Say it. No one can hear you.” He placed an open-mouthed kiss on her palm and sucked the skin gently between his teeth.

Her inner walls and core muscles contracted in orgasm. Tingling electrodes of excitement coursed through her body, filling her veins and vibrating her muscles and shutting down her brain. Her vision blurred in a field of brilliant stars.

She gasped and pulled her hand free to grab her glass of water. Her hand shook as she raised it to her mouth.

Braydon Mitchell hadn’t run from her. Maybe she should have run from him.

He could be a fantasy come true she couldn’t handle. But damn if she didn’t want to be the handler.

CHAPTER TWO

After stopping by the fire station to catch up with Trent Parker and dodging questions about Katy—he wasn’t getting into that emotional baggage—Braydon headed back to the boat to get some work done. Country music blasted through the speakers he’d run above and below deck. A perk of living on a boat was no neighbors to bitch about loud tunes, and he loved loud tunes.

Another perk was being far enough away that walking to see tempting salon blondes who were easily excited but unable to talk over a meal wasn’t convenient. Danica. He should have recognized her immediately. She’d changed her hairstyle and lightened it. Her braces were gone and her clothing choices were way more flattering than they’d been in school, but she hadn’t really changed.

She was still shy and a little clumsy. Her mouth was still as tempting as it had been when he’d stopped her from toppling off the bleachers at a basketball game. And if he hadn’t had a girlfriend then he might have taken a taste. He’d almost taken a taste this morning, but Granddad had interrupted him.

The mystery of her taste teased him as tauntingly as her earlier reactions. Her eyes had gone cloudy and her chest had pumped in rapid breaths.

He’d bet the sails on his boat she’d almost climaxed sitting there. Damn if he didn’t want to know what she’d do when he got the opportunity to work at a seduction.

Checking his watch, Braydon saw he had a few hours before needing to shower for dinner, so he headed to the cabin to grab the polish for the rails. He didn’t like cleaning, but living on a boat and travelling the world writing freelance stories for yachting and sporting magazines made hiring a regular housekeeper tough. Besides, he was particular about his boat.

Starting at the bow, he sat cross-legged and cleaned and polished the rails. Steady, slow and even strokes back and forth removed the salty build-up and restored the shine. With the front part of the railing done, he moved to work on the rigging hooks on the deck. The action of rubbing the surface to a gleam brought images of Danica to mind.

Images of her stretched out beneath him on the newly cleaned surface. His hands stroking and rubbing her, awakening her body and the shine of arousal he’d seen in her eyes earlier. His dick hardened, pressed into the zipper of his cut-offs.

When he’d agreed to attend the reunion, he’d been surprised at how much he wanted to be there. He wanted to see old friends and even those he hadn’t been friendly with. How much did ten years change people? Were the cliques the same? Were the nerds still nerds, snobs still snobs, jocks still jocks?

He had one answer. Sort of. Danica Kent, for all her awkwardness, was changed and still the same. Every run-in with her in high school had been stilted and awkward. She’d fawned over him, followed him, and spied on him from her room. She’d been unable to talk to him without stumbling over her tongue or spilling things on one of them or tripping. And okay, some had seen her attention as creepy, but mostly he’d found it kind of flattering.

She was still awkward, but somehow not. Clearly she still had the talking and tripping issues, but she hadn’t spilled anything. And damn if she hadn’t turned into the proverbial swan, even if it was with help from Victoria at the Whispering Salon.

“Nice boat.”

“Shit!” Braydon lurched up, tossed the rag and can of polish into the air, slipped on the newly polished surface and fell overboard with a giant splash.

Treading the cool water, he eyed Danica as she moved to the rail. No, she hadn’t spilled anything. She’d moved on to dumping him off boats.

“Do you need help?”

“No! Just move to the cockpit before you hurt yourself.” Rather than wait to see if she responded, he swam to the back of the boat where their small watercrafts were tied and climbed aboard.

She opened the gate part of the back edge of the boat. Rather than swing it in toward her, she swung it out, smacked him in the forehead and sent him falling backward a second time with a lancing pain to his head. He fell into the inflatable dingy, which was somewhat padded, but his hand slammed into the motor and his left ankle crashed against the boat with a resounding crack.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Damn it. Sorry.” Danica’s voice didn’t rise to frantic levels, but he could imagine her flapping her hands in hysteria.

Instead, she climbed down the few steps and got into the dingy with him. “Don’t move.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re bleeding.” She pulled her T-shirt over her head with no apparent thought to anyone on nearby boats, leaned over him and pressed it against his forehead to staunch the bleeding.

Her white, lace-covered nipples hovered just in front of his mouth. His cock hardened again. His body urged him to listen to desire, to lean forward and pull a nipple into his mouth. To taste more than her tempting mouth.

She moved the T-shirt, now half-soaked with blood, and put it immediately back to the cut. “This is bad.”

“I’m fine.” Ignoring his body’s impulses, he replaced her hand on the T-shirt with one of his own. “I’ve got this, Danica.”

“You’re going to need stitches.”

“I’ve had worse.” He moved to sit up. The boat rolled beneath him from dizziness and nausea rather than waves. Maybe he hadn’t had worse.

“I’m the doctor here. You need to move slowly, and you need stitches.”

“Okay.” If she wanted to play doctor without her top, he wasn’t going to argue. No straight man would. “Help me to the cockpit. There’s a first-aid kit there.”

“My office at the house would be better.”

As tempting as following her home was, there was no reason. “I have everything you could need.”

“If you say so.” She refrained from calling him stubborn, but he heard the suggestion underlying her words.

Neither of them spoke again while she helped him out of the constantly bouncing dingy and up the few stairs. She followed his instructions to find the first-aid kit.

He sat in the captain’s seat with the sun shining down and watched her move around the boat comfortably. With all the supplies gathered, she stood in front of him and cleaned the wound. “For what it’s worth, I didn’t push the door. That latch smacked the frame and it bounced back.”

“So your intention wasn’t to decapitate me?”

“No, Braydon.” She scrunched up her nose, crinkling the thin scar into microscopic puckers, and concentrated on tying off the first stitch. “I took a vow to heal rather than harm people.”

“Well, that’s a relief. I’d hate to see what happened if you set out to harm me.” He smiled through a wince to make sure she knew he was kidding. She was talking without her regular awkwardness and he wanted to keep her doing so.

She chuckled. “I’ve never been accident prone, but judging by the state of your emergency kit, the same can’t be said for you.”

He ignored her remark on the battered case and supplies he’d restocked many times, adding to them with each injury. “So it’s only me who knocks you off your game?”

“I’ll admit you do something to me.”

Damn, but the possibility flopped happily in his gut. A speed boat zipped past, rocking the boat. Danica froze with her needle poised above his eye. He grabbed her hips to steady her. Though she seemed to be well-balanced on her own feet, he didn’t release her. Instead, he wondered if she wore panties to match her bra.

“Something? You won’t be more specific?” He worked his thumbs in small circles over her pelvis. Fully in doctor mode, she didn’t respond.

“No. And stop moving.” She snipped the thread off. “I only have two stitches to go.”

His forehead tingled beneath her touch. The pulse in his neck pounded painfully, and it wasn’t entirely due to the blood loss. Her nipples stiffened behind the thin lace bra with little bumps circling them. His balls tightened. “Am I going to have a charming scar like yours?”

“What?”

“The scar lining your nose. How’d you get it?”

“Fishing hook gone awry.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. The hook didn’t catch in the fish’s mouth right. I pulled it out of the water. It opened its mouth. The hook flipped back and caught me.” She tapped her glasses and smiled. “Now I have a scar and get to live with glasses.”

“It went into your eye?” He studied her face, looking for more scarring than the thin line. There was none. Someone had done great work, yet the lingering imperfection made her more appealing.

“Yeah. Could’ve been a lot worse. I mean, think about it. What’s sanitary about a fishing hook fresh from the fish’s mouth with the bait still on it?”

“Not a damn thing.” He would have laughed at the oh-my-gag-that’s-repulsive look on her face if she didn’t have a needle in his forehead. “When did it happen?”

“Summer before freshman year.” She tied and cut off the last stitch and set the scissors aside. “There. Keep it clean and the stitches will need to come out in four or five days. If you use Vitamin E after that you won’t scar.”

He hooked his index fingers into the waist of her shorts and pulled her closer so she stood between his legs. “Are you that good?”

“I trained with a plastic surgeon and worked in a New York City emergency room.” Her breasts rose and fell with choppy breaths. “If you’re going to be hit in the head and need stitches—”

“You’re the woman to do the hitting.”

“The stitching at the very least.”

“Tell me something, Danica.” He slid his palms over her stomach, tracing the subtle edges of her abs with his fingertips and slowly edged toward her breasts. “What are you doing here?”

“Huh?”

His thumb tweaked her nipple. “Why did you come to my boat?”

“Did you know the human body can function without a brain?”

“Good. You can shut yours off and just respond.” He didn’t care why she’d come to his boat. He’d endured her hands on him for as long as he could. She was there. She was half naked. He was all for getting her completely naked.

Braydon leaned forward and kissed the edge of her bra, swiping his tongue beneath the lace edge. She moaned and canted closer. He popped the button of her shorts and lowered her zipper. His body begged from his goose-pimpling flesh to his tingling scalp to his pulsing cock. Release. Soon. Very soon.

“Be sure, Danica.”

She kissed his ear lobe, pulling the tender skin between her teeth. “I’m sure.”

He didn’t need more encouragement. He shoved her shorts to the ground and pulled back enough to see her underwear. She stood before him with a white lace thong hugging her hips, which flared out from the indentation of her hourglass waist.

“Holy shit, woman. I didn’t think bodies like yours existed.” He licked his mouth in anticipation. “Makes me wonder what secrets you hide.”

“Thanks.” She tugged him to his feet. “Do I get to see yours?”

Another speed boat zipped by, rocking the boat. A group of men whooped and wolf whistled. He hungered for Danica, wanted to spread her before him with the sun beaming down, but not with the other boaters rushing by. “Yeah, but not up here.”

He nudged her toward the cabin door. Down in the cabin, too impatient to go to his bedroom, he backed her to the couch. She released the button and zipper of his shorts and pushed them down. His cock sprang free and swelled more with the freedom.

The expert hands that had sewn him together cupped and squeezed his balls and threatened to shred him apart. “You’re not going to drag this out are you?”

“Hell no.” Wherever the shy Danica with a fondness for the ground before her had gone, she could stay gone. For a very long while.

“Good.” She squeezed him in time with the purr rolling on her tone. “I’ve waited long enough for this.” With her free hand she cupped his neck and pulled his mouth to hers.

Eager to indulge, to take them both farther, he unhooked her bra and set her breasts free. With a gentle nudge he knocked her to the couch, pulled off her thong and tossed it behind him. She lay before him wearing only her glasses, a smile and temptation.

He braced a knee between her legs and bent over her. “I am going to discover your secrets. Know you.”

“Sex now.” The good doctor shifted below him, dropped her left knee aside, offering an unimpeded view of her pussy. “Discoveries later.”

“You’re bossy.” Compelled by her beauty, sexuality and the touches of shyness lurking beneath the surface, he traced a fingertip from the indent of her throat to her belly button to her neatly trimmed mound.

“You’re going to be late for dinner. Your grandparents eat early.”

“You’re worth it.” And Grandfather Byron would understand. Once a man, always a man. And a man never stopped appreciating a naked woman like Danica.

“Prove it.”

“Gladly.” Done wasting time, he lowered himself.

She arched her hips, and when he’d have gone slowly, she thrust up, taking him in. Her blunt, square-tipped nails dug into his hips. Wet and tight and hot, she gripped his cock.

“Danica.”

“Do it, or flip us over and I will.”

The idea of her riding him, of her controlling how fast they got to the edge, thrilled him. Tension gripped the base of his spine. Following her request, he grabbed her close and moved so he was sitting and she straddled him.

Danica wasted zero seconds in her new position. Bracing her hands on his shoulders, she took him in deeper and sighed huskily. Then she began her ride. Up and down, rolling her hips, fast and slow, rolling the other way. Her pussy walls pulsed and squeezed.

His balls drew tighter. The tension gripping his spine spread across his back and radiated up. His cock throbbed. His head buzzed.

More quickly than he’d thought he wanted, she drove his body toward release.

She rose, stopping just before complete withdrawal. She paused. Waiting. Breathing. Kissing him, she invited his tongue into her mouth and devoured him as hungrily as he devoured her. She carried him higher when he hadn’t thought he could get higher. With her arousal slickening his cock, she hovered until his vision blurred with a rainbow of color.

Then she dropped, taking him in again to resume her ride, faster and faster. Sweat dripped from his forehead and dotted her hairline. She didn’t stop riding.

She groaned into his mouth as her inner muscles convulsed. The orgasm spread from his balls and screamed through his dick, shooting into her with abandon.

Danica lurched up and rode him, milked him. Her scream bounced off the cabin walls and incited a new wave of arousal.

 

“Damn.” Straightening her bra and mumbling to herself, Danica sat on the couch where Braydon had just rocketed her to orgasm for a third time. Four orgasms were more than she’d had in…well, a long time. In one day? Never.

He’d only intended to give her the last three, which showed just how sensitized her body had become during her sexual dehydration. The first sign of interest, and years of work to build her confidence up crumbled. She’d willingly led Braydon to believe she was free-spirited and eager for any attention or touch he wanted to offer.

Her body applauded the falsehood. Her mind and heart awaited the damaging judgment.

“Wow.” Part curiosity, part hunger, it had all been wow, but she’d allowed things to go too far.

“Yeah.” Braydon stepped out of his bedroom with a neatly folded T-shirt, not that he’d taken time to dress. His grin—soft and a lot wicked—smelled like amused sexual satisfaction. “I’m not sure I want to loan you a shirt. I could enjoy knowing you’re trapped here.”

He stepped closer with wicked intentions in his gaze. Danica stepped back and held her hand out.

“The shirt, Braydon. I have things to do.” Like avoid a repeat performance. “You have a dinner to get to.”

“Granddad will understand.” He stepped forward.

“I don’t care that he’ll understand.” She stepped back.

“You were invited.” Another step closer.

“I’m not going.” Another step away.

“Will you come back later?”

“I’ll return the shirt.” Via the mail. She was running out of room for evading unless she went topside in her undies. With the sun still shining and boaters still cruising the area, she’d rather not show everyone everything.

“Keep the shirt.” He advanced. “You’ve no need to be afraid of me, Danica.”

The glide of her name, the way he turned three syllables into a seductive purr, had her panties going damp.

“You should know by now I don’t bite.”

Her knees weakened.

“That’s not the problem.” She stepped back. The stair rail leading to the deck, to escape, stopped her. She’d run out of space.

“What is?”

Her belly danced with anticipation as he closed in. If he touched her, desire would capsize her. “You’re a patient’s family member.”

“I’ll hire him a new doctor.”

“You’re not my type.”

“That didn’t seem to be the case three rounds of sex ago. I know it wasn’t for me.” He tossed the shirt over his shoulder and obliterated the remaining few feet between them. Gripping the rails beside her hips, he kissed her just below her right earlobe—a weak spot he’d discovered quickly. “I bet I can make it true for you again.”

Easily.

“Braydon, no.” She grabbed the T-shirt and hugged it to her chest like body armor. “It wouldn’t work.”

“Worked just fine if you ask me.” The callous on his index finger lightly abraded her neck and chest as he trailed a path toward the T-shirt. “We may as well enjoy the next few days.”

“I’m not talking about sex.” If she could stop at sex she’d be tempted to go along. Hell, she was tempted anyway.

“What else is there?”

“Everything. You’re an adventurer looking for a good time.”

“So?”

“You already said it. You’ll be moving on in a few days.”

“Then we’ll still like each other when we’re over. No time for bitterness.”

But plenty of regrets. Regrets of what wouldn’t be. Regrets of what she’d tasted but hadn’t been special enough to deserve permanently.

It had been whispered around town when Byron announced Braydon was coming back. He was wild and unsettled like his parents. The boy will never be built for long term, the townspeople said. He was proving them right with his own words.

“I’ll still be here. I’ll still want the same things in life.”

“I’m not seeing the problem.” He hooked the shirt with a finger and pushed it to the floor. “Fun in bed for a few days isn’t going to make you less desirable to the next guy.”

Ouch. “And no more so to you.”

She bent to grab the shirt. Her chin bumped his erection. Long, hard, ready for another round. Her mouth moistened and her lips parted. Her pussy twitched.

He shifted, spread his legs a little. “I wouldn’t say that.”

Taking him in her mouth, sucking him, learning his most intimate taste would be so easy. Maybe he was right. Maybe they could have fun and go their own ways. Maybe agreeing to his terms would finally expel him from her mind and heart.

He cupped her chin and guided her gaze up. His thumb brushed the corner of her mouth and his eyes glistened green, hungered, like the waters lapping at the boat’s hull. “There’s nothing wrong with this.”

Locking her eyes with his, unwilling to be swayed into suckling the hard-on so close to her mouth, Danica swallowed the desire, picked up the T-shirt and stood.

Braydon had no reason to see a problem. He wasn’t the one who’d been in love for almost twenty years. He could have a fling and move on to the next story, the next conquest, without a thought to the shattered heart he left behind.

She would always remember his touch. His kiss.

“Danica, what’s wrong with spending time together while I’m here?”

“Because you want to spend it with my face and body. You want to spend it having sex without messing it up with talk. You don’t want to spend it with me.” She wasn’t sure why it mattered now when it hadn’t during sex, or even where the courage to speak her mind came from. Maybe her shyness had blasted away when he took her to orgasm, but she didn’t regret her words.

“I don’t see another woman here, so I’m not sure who you think I’m asking.”

“Of course. You’re asking the easy mark who bowed beneath a stupid school-girl fantasy.” One good thing had come from the sex—she was no longer afraid to talk to him. “Well, the fantasy has been fulfilled. The crush is cured.”

If cured meant morphed into full-blown love that made her think the only way to end the pain would be to cut the organ out and feed it to the piranhas.

He stumbled back with his mouth gaping.

Needing the barrier, she slipped the shirt over her head and scrambled up the steps, starved for space. Quickly grabbing her shorts as she passed, Danica hustled off the boat with Braydon’s shirt brushing her mid-thigh and sought the safety of her little motor boat.

A thunk and a curse from the main cabin had her hurriedly untying the line and yanking the cord to set the motor to life.

He didn’t want the Danica who spouted obscure facts when nerves overtook her. He didn’t want the awkward geek who was still learning to be comfortable around people. He wanted the sex-starved blonde who’d indulged in a momentary release of inhibitions.

She’d known every bit of that when she’d had sex. And though the crushing girl inside her had hoped he might change his mind, the smarter woman had recognized the reality.

Danica headed the boat toward home, and when she felt she’d put enough distance between her and Braydon’s boat, she paused to put her shorts on. She’d call Ruth and Byron from home and claim a headache, but she wasn’t going to dinner.

No dinner. No Braydon.

She’d liked the woman she’d been in his arms, but there wouldn’t be another indulgence.

Pleased with her new resolve to avoid Braydon, she docked the boat at home and headed to the kitchen. The phone began ringing before she’d crossed the yard, so she took off running. She burst through the door and snatched the cordless phone from the cradle.

“Hello.”

“Hey, chickadee.” Byron sounded strong, unlike that afternoon when age had shaken his voice. “Where are you?”

“I was just going to call you.”

“You sound out of breath, girl.”

“A little. Maybe.” Should’ve heard me an hour ago on your grandson’s boat.

“Well, catch it and get over here.”

“Listen, that’s why I was going to call—”

“Braydon will be here soon.”

“I’m not coming to dinner.”

“We’ll wait for you.”

“Give Ruth my apologies.” She plunged on before Byron could argue. “Make sure Braydon stays at your place tonight, give him no pain medications and check on him every few hours.”

“What are you going on about?”

“He may have a concussion.”

“What?” Byron’s normal lightheartedness erupted with tension.

“It’s a long story.” One she wasn’t telling anyone. “He can tell you. Enjoy the night with Braydon.”

“Ruth is warming the bread.” The old man was insistent.

In fact, he was as set in his way on this as he’d been on walking to meet Braydon earlier. She adored the old guy, but his wife could deal with him tonight. “I’ll come check on you tomorrow.”

“Come check on me now. Braydon, my boy…” The line clicked off as hard as Byron’s definitive command.

Danica hated to disappoint Byron or Ruth, they’d always been kind to her, and she loved them like her own, but she was going nowhere near Braydon.

He wanted short-term fun. She would accept nothing less than long-term settlement.

They were opposites in every way, and sex was not going to erase those differences. She’d been allowed to eat a slice of her fantasy. The delectable temptation had been left standing on a forty-foot sailboat. Naked.

CHAPTER THREE

“What do you mean you didn’t give him the itinerary? How’s he supposed to know about the happy hour or the post-reunion breakfast?” Victoria Hayes, owner of the Whispering Salon, pulse monitor of all rumors and the only popular girl Danica had ever called a friend, lowered the dryer over a woman’s head. Even at seven thirty in the morning, her salon was a hub of activity and gossip.

Danica pushed her glasses up her nose and wished again they could’ve met almost anyplace else. Someplace not populated with parrots. Small town or not, people wanted to look their best for the reunion and incoming company. And they all loved to talk.

“I’m sorry, Vic.”

“You promised… Didn’t you go to his boat?” Victoria whispered through her teeth as they moved toward the supply-room-slash-back-office with a large window overlooking the main salon.

“I know, and yes, I went.”

“Do I have to do everything myself?”

“Oh please.” Danica pfft’d. Any guilt at not completing her errand as Victoria’s messenger vanished. “I’ve easily put in as much legwork for this reunion as you.”

“I gave you those pretty new purple glasses as a thank you.”

Danica adjusted the frames with delicate studded flowers again. “And I love them, but I’m not your girl when it comes to boat-side invites.”

Danica lowered her voice, not wanting the entire town to start gossiping about her and Braydon. Hell, it had taken the townspeople three months to stop concocting possible motivations for her new hair and waxed brows.

Victoria pulled her into the back room, away from the eavesdropping women with metal curlers covering their heads and heightening their antennae. As if the minimal privacy would stall loose tongues.

“Did you lose your nerve? Can you still not talk to him, because I thought after your lunch with him yesterday…”

Danica’s neck heated and her stomach clenched with the reminder of lunch. His touch on her hand, the brush of his ankle against her leg—they’d only been tastes of his lures. Her lip quivered with excited embarrassment. She hadn’t been as obvious as the famous Meg Ryan scene, but an orgasm in the town’s busiest restaurant? She was surprised wedding announcements hadn’t been posted.

“You still can’t talk to him?” Victoria’s shock registered closer to yelling-whisper than supportive understanding.

“I can talk to him.” She pulled at the back of her T-shirt sticking to her suddenly sweaty back.

“Then why doesn’t he have the information?”

“Email it to him like you did everyone else.” The defensive edge in her voice suggested a deeper hang-up so Danica softened her tone before continuing. “We…” Don’t mention kissing or sex. “There was an accident.”

“Byron says Braydon’s email is unreliable.” Vic’s eyes narrowed. “You’re leaving something out.”

A lot! “He got hurt. I had to stitch him up.”

“What did you do?” The question burst from Vic’s mouth in the hands-on-her-hips-scolding-mom tone she pulled off so well.

A sea of curious women turned to face the office window. Danica lowered her voice and hoped Vic would take the subtle hint. “Nothing. And how do you not have children?”

“You did something. I’m still waiting for a worthy man, and you’re evading. What did you do?” She enunciated the question more slowly.

“It wasn’t my fault.” Danica’s lips twitched. Now that she wasn’t in emergency mode, it was funny. “After he fell overboard, he bumped his head on the frame’s door.”

Victoria swallowed an unattractive snort. “You bashed him with a door?”

“It was an accident.” The salon patrons had turned back to their beginning positions, but several heads were cocked at a listening angle.

“As I recall, you used to have a lot of those around him.”

“No fair. I’ve spilled nothing, and if he hadn’t had the music so loud he’d have heard me coming.” Several heads turned toward her, attracted by the return of her defensive tone. As if they hadn’t already formed opinions.

“Whisper me this. Whisper me that,” a woman’s oversexed voice greeted a new customer. “Your happy ending will be anything but whispered.”

Vic’s customers laughed. Danica chuckled at the salon’s latest upgrade which had greeted her with a different, but no less provocative message. “Is there something you want to share with me, Vic?”

“Whhaaaat? I like my toys.”

“Too much sharing. I don’t want to know about your toys.”

“Then you shouldn’t ask.”

“Danica!” Lynda Crawford, the town’s stress magnet, rushed forward with fretfulness riddling her tone and anxiety kinking her grandma curls tighter. “Thank goodness I’ve found you. I’ve been calling and calling.”

“What’s wrong, Lynda?” Danica wondered if Lynda’s curls would unwind if the woman learned to relax. Nah.

“It’s Rodney. I think he’s broken his arm.” She grabbed Danica’s arm and tugged her toward the door and her husband.

“You should have called 9-1-1.”

“I called you.”

Danica rested her hand over the elderly woman’s and patted her comfortingly. “Where is he? What happened?”

“He fell off the ladder cleaning the inn’s front windows.” Lynda’s anxious accent twisting windows into winduz had Danica smiling with fondness.

Lynda and Rodney owned the Rumrunner Inn, and no matter how old they got, he insisted he could do the upkeep himself.

“We’re going to have to get him to the hospital. He’ll need x-rays.”

“I don’t trust the medics.” Lynda shoved through the door onto the sidewalk. “You shouldn’t be without your cell. People depend on you.”

“I know.” Danica patted her pockets as they rounded the corner that would lead to the inn and Rodney. Shit. She hadn’t missed the phone since most people either made appointments through her main line or hunted her down, but she knew where she’d had it last.

Her avoid-Braydon-Mitchell life preserver had just failed.

 

 

Sitting on Danica’s porch and waiting for her return, he felt at peace.

The setting sun cast a red-orange hue over the town, enriching the already vibrant colors surrounding the slightly secluded home Danica had bought from her parents, according to the town information mill.

Little Blue Herons, with their grayish-blue feathers reminding him of Danica’s eyes, fished for their dinner in the shallow waters. Belted Kingfishers took advantage of their higher perches on the trees to spot their prey before diving into the water for their catch. New England Cottontails scurried through the brush to avoid the falcons and eagles.

Braydon leaned back in the neon-green deck chair with his legs stretched out. He’d never visited the Kent home, but damn if they didn’t have prime real estate with awesome views of the lighthouse and lush green pines and bustling water from their wraparound porch.

From sunrise to sunset, the Kents had the best seat in town.

A gentle breeze swept over the water and brushed his skin. As subtle as a sunset hundreds of miles from shore, the town sighed with the moment’s perfection.

The sublime peace on the water filled him with an uncomplicated and unexpected simplicity he’d never felt in Whispering Cove. Until now.

Now,  at the moment, nothing mattered. The desire simmering in his gut for the doctor who’d efficiently sewn up the gash spanning from his eyebrow to his hairline didn’t matter. Her wintergreen scent or the way it washed him back to having her naked beneath him didn’t matter. The arousal quickening his blood and swelling his dick didn’t matter.

Didn’t matter. Couldn’t matter. Wouldn’t matter.

“What are you doing here?” Danica’s prickly voice at his shoulder jarred Braydon.

He turned and met her curious stare through the screened-in family room window. Her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail with tangled strands falling free to frame her round face. Her lips pressed into a thin line as she waited. The gauzy curtain floated around her head like a fluttering veil.

He couldn’t inhale. Each attempt became a silent fight against the grip closing his throat.

“Braydon?” She leaned forward on the windowsill and narrowed her eyes. “Are you okay?”

He couldn’t speak, and she clearly expected an answer.

“Shit. Don’t move.” She disappeared inside.

She shouldn’t worry about him moving. He wasn’t sure his legs would work any better than the rest of him, but why had she suddenly sounded so panicky?

He touched his head gingerly. The bruised bulge surrounding his stitches hurt, but it didn’t feel like he’d popped a stitch. He wasn’t bleeding.

What had rattled the delicious doctor?

Before he’d puzzled it out, she rounded the corner of the house and knelt before him, dropping a medical bag at his feet.

“Are you okay?” She took his wrist, resting her fingers over his pulse. “Any headaches, vomiting, rapid breathing? Your pulse is fast.”

Bumping his legs apart, she moved between his knees and took his chin in her hand. She examined his eyes, the bruise, the sutures.

His dick swelled, begging for more of her ministrations. For more direct and personal attention.

“Did you sleep last night?”

He gripped the wrist of her hand holding his face and stared into her gaze. His lungs constricted, complicating his breathing. “Danica.”

“I told Byron not to let you go back to the boat.”

He’d seen her in competent ER doctor mode. This was different. She was scared for him. Why? Was it guilt for being the one to wound him? Or something more…personal?

“I stayed at Granddad’s, but no, I didn’t sleep well.” Every time he’d closed his eyes, images of Danica had slipped to the forefront.

Her hair spread out on his pillow while she writhed in orgasm. Her perky breasts subtly swaying with the gentle rocking of the boat. Her pussy open, wet and ready for him. Her wicked abandon.

“You should have found me earlier. That blow to your head was serious.”

Braydon swallowed and shoved back the urge to rip her clothes off and plunge into her. He demanded as much control of himself as he expected of the rigging on his boat. Now was no different, so rather than pillage and plunder, he held her hand on his chin captive and cupped her neck with his free one.

Pulling her close, so close her mouth almost brushed his, he drew in her scent. His eyes pulsed in a mini throb thing they did when he concentrated too hard on something. He held his resolve, keeping their gazes locked.

“I’m here now, Doctor. Will you examine me?”

Her tongue swept across her lips and bumped his. His cock pressed more adamantly against his zipper. He’d have to stick with drawstring swim trunks the rest of his visit. He seemed to need the extra room around her.

“Braydon.” Her pupils dilated with excitement, but her tone reeked of refusal. Her free hand rested on his leg for support.

He pulled her the remaining distance and put his lips to hers. He kept the caress soft and steady. Her balancing hand slipped forward, her fingers eased beneath the denim edge. His balls tightened. His spine tingled.

Every time she touched him, his body responded predictably. “Say yes, Doc.”

He kissed a trail from her mouth, along her cheek, to below her earlobe and along the front of her neck. At the hollow of her throat, he lingered. A lick, a nibble, a kiss. She gasped and dropped her head back.

He followed the sway of her body. Moving in slow motion, he eased out of the deep chair and lowered them toward the weathered wood porch.

“This isn’t smart.” Danica arched against him even as she debated the wisdom.

“But it’s right for the moment.” He plucked the tail of her purple tank top from the waist of her denim shorts, slipped it up and off.

He was going to give her a sunset to remember.

 

“You’re right.”

Pinned to the hard wood beneath Braydon wasn’t where she’d planned to spend the evening, but damn if he didn’t make it impossible to resist. And though resistance would save her pain when he sailed away, she couldn’t turn from the man who was bringing her fantasies eagerly into the realm of reality.

She’d missed his touches after leaving him last night. Self-preservation mattered, but so did enjoying life. Braydon was extremely enjoyable.

If the moment was all she could have, she’d live in it and cherish the memories. Decided, she locked her hands behind Braydon’s neck and pulled him to her.

He thrust his tongue into her mouth. Their teeth scraped and he slowed, moving more leisurely into the exploration, swiping his tongue between her gums and teeth before continuing to entice her through the erotic waltz.

Her pulse thumped. She’d craved him. He stripped her naked, left her heart unprotected, yet she was giving him everything she had to offer. If he looked beyond the sex, he would see through the transparency of her emotions. She loved him, always had, and no amount of rationale would temper her emotions or desires.

Braydon flipped the bra hook between her breasts and thumbed her nipples. They hardened. The soft breeze fluttering over her skin was an additional caress. Her pussy quivered.

He repeated the path he’d taken earlier, kissing his way to the hollow of her throat where he lingered for only a moment, just long enough to make her squirm before proceeding. Rather than going straight for her breasts, or sucking her nipples into his wicked mouth like she wanted, he granted his attention to the less tender, but still sensitive skin along the outer swells.

Hungry, eager for him to be naked and in her, she grabbed his shirt and yanked it over his head, breaking his touches only long enough to rid him of the barrier. It wasn’t enough.

She reached between them and loosened the fasteners of his shorts. Raising her right hip, she rolled against him and nudged him to his back so she could more easily strip him.

With his mouth teasing her breast, his hands worked her shorts loose and off until they were skin to skin.

“We’re gonna have splinters in our asses.”

“I know a doctor.” He nibbled a path toward a nipple. “She probably has some tweezers.”

Laughing, Danica angled her head and kissed his ear. It was a weak spot she’d discovered the night before. A spot which drove him to one of two actions. He would push her away and focus somewhere else, or he would relinquish control and devour her.

She was hoping for the devouring.

Braydon swung up and pulled her against him, positioning her pussy against his cock. Her inner muscles trembled. Devouring.

She rolled her hips, brushing her clit against the ridges of his erection.

He spread his hands wide, and taking a breast in each one, squeezed with a rhythmic pulsing that echoed the beat in her head. She kissed his neck, worked her way down to his collarbone and across his shoulder. He tasted lightly of sea salt and adventure. A delectable adventure. Flattening her palms on his chest, she pushed until he lay beneath her on the deck, and then slid her hands toward his rippling sailor abs and lower still toward the crown of his cock.

Brushing a thumb over the tip, she captured a bead of precome and lifted her hand with his arousal glistening on her finger. Her eyes sought his. His sought hers. They entangled with pulsing pupils and sparking passion.

She loved watching his eyes and the way the shifted, showing his emotions.

She placed her thumb against her bottom lip and slowly brushed her tongue along the pad, tasting him.

“Fuck, woman.”

She didn’t respond other than to suck her finger into her mouth. To move the digit in and out, sucking and moaning lightly as she rocked her hips and continued rubbing her clit against his cock.

She was lubricating them both. His entry would be a smooth glide, filling her in width and depth. The head of his dick would bump her G-spot.

The muscles between her shoulder blades tingled. Tightened. Tension tripped along her spine and spread like electric impulses through her skull and down her back.

His fingers dug into her breasts with bruising force. She arched deeper into his touch, eager to drive him farther away from his control. She pulled her finger from her mouth with a wet popping sound and slid the moisture down the middle of his chest.

When she reached his cock, he released a breast and grabbed her wrist. “Touch me again and this will be over.”

“No.” She reached behind her back and between his legs and massaged his balls. They swelled and tightened. “We’re just beginning.”

He dropped his head back, driving his hips up and against her. A groan rumbled from his chest. Excited anticipation had her pussy twitching. His control was about to shatter.

“I’m going to break your restraint, Braydon.” He grabbed her hips and lifted her so she could no longer tease herself with his length. Or so she could no longer tease him. Undeterred by him crushing her body against his, Danica cupped his balls in her fingers and rolled them back and forth, tugging gently at the flesh beneath, dragging her nails lightly over the taut skin a little lower.

A gurgle visibly shook his throat, inciting an echoing groan from her. Using his grip on her hips, he pushed her back and drove into her.

She grasped his thighs, arching her chest toward the porch roof, and dug her nails in as she screamed with the instant orgasm.

Braydon held firm, holding her immobile when she’d much prefer riding him to a frantic and sweaty end. His jaw muscles flinched beneath the power of his clenched teeth. He didn’t move, or allow her to move, until her pulsing inner walls stopped twitching against him.

Then he dropped his grip, took her face in his hands and kissed her. He’d maintained control, and it had only heightened the desire shining in his eyes. The connection of his touch stole through her soul and left her floundering. She’d convinced herself she could survive a fling. She’d been wrong.

His gaze didn’t say fling.

His gaze held passion and affection and admiration.

His gaze granted dreams.

“You’re amazing, Danica.”

Her heart bounced around in her chest, battering and bruising her ribs. All through school she’d wanted his attention. She’d dreamed about it through adulthood. Struggling to draw air into her lungs, she breathed in small open-mouthed gasps and became more deeply entranced.

“I’m going to love you all night.” Erotic assurances whispered beneath the husky arousal thickening his voice. “When I finish, your legs are going to be floppier than a jelly fish.”

“Gee. That’s sexy.” Her pussy spasmed around him.

“Maybe the image isn’t, but your responses are.” Grinning, he crossed his legs beneath her ass and stood. “The journey certainly will be.”

Walking as if he owned her and her house, he carried her inside and headed upstairs. Each step drove his cock against her G-spot, rubbed her clit. Each step incited the barely cooled desire raging in her body.

“Where are you taking me?”

“To make sure you think of me when you pace your widow’s walk from now on.”

“Oh.” Holy damn. He knew she’d watched him. Those times he’d turned her way and she’d imagined him looking at her—he had.

If she’d hoped to walk away unscathed it was too late. He was her heart’s master.

CHAPTER FOUR

The woman was temptation.

Scrubbing the stubble on his chin, Braydon turned away from the late night/early morning view of the bay. The moon’s illumination landed on her lavender sheet as the light cover rose and fell, shimmering with glints of silver satin, as Danica’s chest rose and fell.

The curve of her breast peeking above the sheet tempted him.

The expanse of her leg sticking out the side and showing off her powerful thighs tempted him.

Even her petite snore tempted him.

In the moonlight, with the glasses lying abandoned on the bedside table instead of perched on her delicate nose, she was neither awkward girl nor confident doctor. Stripped of her glasses and clothes, she turned into a seductress.

Compelled, Braydon moved to the bed’s side and brushed a sweep of hair away from her eye. She shifted her head against the pillow and sighed as a soft smile stole across her lips that were still swollen from exploring his body. The wicked lips she’d wrapped around him.

His cock hardened at the thought, and at the idea of crawling beneath the sheet to wake beside her. Sleeping with women wasn’t something he did, yet with Danica the idea held too much appeal.

The clock read one a.m. He’d promised to have breakfast with Granddad in the morning, so he should get to bed. Sleep wouldn’t come. Only dreams of Danica Kent would come, just as they had the night before. Tonight would likely be worse, because tonight he’d gotten a stronger taste of her lures.

He shook his head and went after his clothes. He couldn’t go home, but he couldn’t stay with her. He sure as hell wouldn’t go to Granddad’s and risk an inquisition. That left the Seaside Pub where someone would be up for a beer or game of pool. Anything to keep him from thinking of the delectable doc.

On the way to reclaim his clothes, Braydon paused by a hallway table with a stack of the magazines he wrote for. They each looked as if they’d been read and re-read several times, and damn if pride and pleasure didn’t swell inside. Smiling, he detoured to look at the family photos with Danica. Maybe it was a result of knowing the present day Danica, but in every picture of an awkward girl, he saw her beauty. Her spirit.

He wished he’d gotten to know her long ago.

He was halfway back up the stairs before he stopped himself. Snuggling up to Danica wasn’t safe. She wasn’t his style, or rather her permanence wasn’t, so he shook off the sentimentality and turned back downstairs.

Fifteen minutes later, he walked into the Seaside Pub. With its back wall of shutter doors open and offering an unobstructed view of the bay, the dark wood floors and teak bar with the brass foot rail before the backless wooden stools, the place was masculine.

Softer touches were added in the buttercream-colored paint—which reminded Braydon of the icing Grandma Ruth used to put on his birthday cakes—covering the top half of the paneled walls and muted lighting to set a romantic mood. If romance could be found in a beer-scented place with scarred tables and red-and-green dome lights dangling over the pool tables.

Apparently it could after the noise died down. A few couples snuggled in cozy corners wrapped in the solitude of companionship. He’d been cozy in Danica’s bed. Could still be.

“Well hell!” Hauk Michaelsen tossed a rag in the bar sink and grinned. “If it isn’t Sail-away Mitchell. Wondered if you’d show your face here.”

Hauk’d never been to Norway for more than brief visits to his grandparents, aunts and uncles, but the dialect of the cities lived rich in his voice.

“Well, if it isn’t Landlocked Michaelsen.” Grateful for a new train of thought, Braydon crossed to the bar and clasped Hauk’s hand. “How’ve you been?”

“Same old routine.” His grin hadn’t changed since high school. Broad and warm, showing off the chipped tooth he’d gotten from an out-of-bounds ball and a wayward elbow during a junior varsity game. They’d both gotten better at football.

“Don’t you get tired of the same thing day in and day out?” Braydon slipped onto the nearest stool.

Hauk poured him a beer and leaned on the counter. “Don’t you get tired of being alone on that boat of yours?”

“Who said I was alone?”

“The entire town. Well, at least those not talking about you and the lovely Dr. Dani.”

What could people be saying? They’d only been in public for the lunch with Granddad. Everything else had been private. Well, mostly everything. He had been ready to strip her above deck on the boat.

“There’s nothing between us.” Braydon worked the angered lie from his tone. “She’s Granddad’s doctor.”

Hauk leaned closer and gave an exaggerated bloodhound sniff around Braydon. “Try that bullshit when you don’t smell like her.”

The appreciation and familiarity slurring Hauk’s voice drilled through Braydon and had his fists clenching. “You don’t know shit. She’s Granddad’s doctor.”

He repeated the last bit slowly, hoping it would penetrate the layer of beer foam clouding Hauk’s brain. Still, questions nagged.

How did Hauk know Danica’s scent so well? How familiar were they? And damn it, why should he care?

“She may be your granddad’s doc, but that doesn’t make men blind to her any more than you can claim women don’t pursue you because of your no-roots life.”

Braydon shrugged. “I like my life. Have no interest in being stuck in a go-nowhere town with no ambition and kids to support.”

Hauk’s eyes narrowed to sharp pricks. Defensiveness hardened his jaw and would no doubt snap in his tone. Braydon knew he’d misstepped.

He’d just described the life Hauk had always wanted to avoid. The life people said he’d been unable to escape.

“There are worse things than raising a kid in this town. And ambition is different for everyone.”

Yep. Hauk’s tone was clipped and void of the camaraderie they’d been sharing.

“Shit. Hauk. I didn’t mean… Sorry.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Everyone remotely connected to Whispering Cove had heard about Hauk’s wife washing ashore with a note in her pocket detailing her life’s regrets. She’d never gotten the escape she wanted, but she’d compounded her impact by voicing her regrets at having married Hauk right out of school and having their daughter.

“She was wrong, Hauk.”

“And so are you. A good life balanced with family and ambitions are attainable here.” Hauk walked away and left Braydon with the thought that Hauk had accepted good. Then again, Braydon reluctantly admitted to himself, his perception of a Whispering Cove life, of Hauk, could be skewed.

Several of their classmates seemed perfectly happy with the lives they’d created in Whispering Cove. Many were as successful in different careers as Braydon was in his. So what was his hang-up?

Simple. It was fear. Fear of regretting life choices like his parents had.

Braydon’s spine itched with the uncomfortable truth. He washed it away with a long draw of his beer. He wasn’t thinking about what he was afraid of—Danica, a taunting voice in his head whispered.

No. He couldn’t possibly be afraid of Danica Kent or the impossible idea of them having a real relationship.

 

“Does Dad know you’re taking me on a house call?”

“Are you kidding?” Danica wrapped her arm around Sophie Michaelsen’s shoulders and pulled her close. “This is part of our plan. His to see you succeed. Mine to have you working with me one day.”

Sophie’s reddish brown, curly ponytail dipped and swayed as she angled her head from side-to-side. “Would you really want me to work with you?”

Vulnerability hazed the young girl’s voice as her eyes swam with doubt. Only Hauk’s love had been a certainty in Sophie’s life, because as much as she struggled to appear unaffected by her mother’s suicide, it had blown a hole of insecurity into the girl’s heart. A hole Danica wanted to see healed.

Danica stopped on the lower step leading to the porch and turned Sophie to face her straight on. “I would love to work with you one day. You have a gentle touch. You care about people and want to help in any way you can.”

“You think I’d be a good nurse?”

“Yes. Or a doctor.”

“No. Medical school is too expensive.” Sophie dropped her chin. “Dad couldn’t afford it.”

Danica lifted Sophie’s chin. “There are scholarships, grants and financial aid. If medical school is what you decide you want, your dad will find a way to make it happen.” Even if I pay part of the way.

She couldn’t watch another dream wither. “Now, let’s go check on Byron.”

Like everyone did when visiting Byron, Danica rapped once on the screen door frame before going inside. “Byron,” she called, “I brought my new physician’s assistant.”

A rapid shuffling, clinking bottles and a muffled curse came from the kitchen at the back of the house. “Back here, chickadee.”

Suspicion narrowed Danica’s eyes at the weakness compromising Byron’s words. She and Sophie walked through the cheerful home filled with family photos and ivory doilies to match the window sheers. She’d felt at home her first visit, and the feeling grew with each successive one. Her grandparents were gone, but getting to know Byron and Ruth had filled the missing gap.

“Do me a favor.” Danica leaned close to Sophie and whispered, “When we get in there, be a nosy kid. I want to know what he’s up to back there.”

Sophie smiled a mischievous smile that said she knew just what to look for—she did live over a bar after all—and followed.

Panting and bracing his forearms on the table, Byron lifted a gnarled hand in a wave. His arm shook to his shoulder before he dropped the limb back on the table. “That’s a might lovely PA you’ve gone and hired, Dr. Dani.”

“Yes.” Danica winked at Sophie.

While Danica set to taking Byron’s vitals, Sophie opened a few cabinets before pulling out an open bottle of rum and a half full drink glass.

“Nosy kids.” Byron feigned shock. “No respect for boundaries no more.”

Fondness for Sophie lightened his tone so no one took his complaining seriously. The grizzled man loved the young girl like she was his own, even if he didn’t say it. Danica had gotten the impression he felt the same way for most everyone in his town.

“She’s a tremendous help and you shouldn’t be drinking until we find out what’s going on. How are you feeling?”

“Bullshit.” His cheeks reddened and he looked sheepishly at Sophie. “Sorry, chickadee. I feel old,” he shot at Danica.

“I’ve heard it before,” Sophie said.

“You aren’t as young as your grandson. Stop trying to act as if you are.” Danica smiled. “Where’s Ruth?”

“Quilting group.”

“She’s a busy woman.”

“Keeps her from naggin’ at me.”

“Well.” Danica pointed at the rum. “Maybe if she nagged you more you’d stop overdoing it. And stop sneaking around with the alcohol.”

“You’re wasting your breath.” Braydon’s voice—warm and sexy—swept across her like his caresses from the night before.

Sophie’s mouth gaped as her ten-year-old heart no doubt slammed against her ribs with an excited crush. It was a feeling Danica remembered well, because her heart still leapt with excitement when Braydon Mitchell walked in the room. Just as it had all those years ago when she’d first noticed him.

“Granddad’s never been one to follow expectations.”

“Unlike his grandson, whose picture could replace Webster’s definition of predictable.” Danica’s jaw clenched. She shook off the past and entered notes into Byron’s chart in her iPad.

“Look in the mirror for predictability, Doc.” Braydon leaned against the counter beside Sophie. His long and lean fingers slid back and forth at the fold of his elbow. Stroking. Gliding.

Danica’s skin heated. “You know nothing about me.”

“Really?” His grin lifted his eyebrows, scrunching up the cut on his forehead. “Is that an argument you think you’ll win?”

Braydon winked at Sophie, and the girl’s face turned to mush. He didn’t even realize what he was doing, which only made it worse.

“Sophie.” Danica addressed the girl and gathered her stuff. “Let’s go.” She patted Byron on the shoulder. “You need to slow down and listen to Ruth’s nagging. I’m tired of seeing my favorite patients in the hospital.”

“So that’s your answer.” Braydon trailed her down the hall toward the living room.

“Sophie, would you wait on the porch for me please?”

“Sure.” The curl of her lips promised she’d be listening from outside.

With the impressionable ears outside, Danica moved closer to Braydon and lowered her voice. “If you don’t want to be called out for leaving a woman’s bed while she sleeps, then perhaps you should come up with a less clichéd habit.”

“Excuse me?”

“You started whatever was going on between us. I ended it. Then you came to me and took it further. I’m ending it again.” She spun on her heel and headed for the door.

Braydon grabbed her elbow and pulled her back around.

Her skin sizzled beneath his hand. Damn if the angry heat didn’t morph into a warm desire and spread through her.

“I…” His gaze lanced into hers, reading her as clearly as an x-ray. Dreams granted through touches and kisses tangoed across his green eyes. A blink broke his hypnotic stare. “Is Granddad going to be okay?”

“He’s too stubborn to not be.” She didn’t want to say Byron was faking, but beyond arthritis, she could find nothing to support his symptoms.

She stepped back again and headed to the door. He stopped her again. “Could we…?”

She freed her elbow from his grasp and shook her head. “I have to go. Hauk is expecting us.”

Danica left before he could stop her again. Before he could pull her in with his gaze again. Before she could give in to the desire to taste him again.

The boy she’d loved had been compelling. As a man he was nearly irresistible. Dangerous.

 

Hauk is expecting us.

Braydon ground his teeth and paced the length of wraparound porch he’d relaxed on the day before. Relaxation wasn’t happening this evening. She had called him out for walking but refused to see she’d done the same. Only she stepped too far.

Danica rounded the same corner she’d taken last night to approach him, only her steps weren’t rushed by fear of concussed complications. This evening her feet dragged as if she lacked the strength to lift them fully.

“Danica? You okay?”

Her head jerked up. Shadows darkened her eyes. From exhaustion or the light, he wasn’t sure which.

“Why are you here, Braydon?”

“You…”

“Is Byron okay?”

“Yes.”

“Is there a medical emergency?”

“No.”

“Good. Go away.” Some of her spunk returned, but it was only evident in her command. Her feet still dragged as she turned toward the door.

He started to indulge her, even spun on his heel to go the way he’d come. The give-it-to-me glaring green flyer he’d dropped on a chair caught his eye. He grabbed it and crossed the distance to her.

“I’m not leaving.”

She stepped around him and reached for the door. He slapped his palm against the frame.

“Braydon, I’m not in the mood for you.”

“Too bad.” He shoved the flyer at her. “I want an answer.”

She glanced at the paper and then back at him. “Sure. Clearly that’s provided you with some entertainment, but don’t expect me to answer it.”

“What?”

She pushed the paper back at him. The bold headline drew his gaze and had him grinding his teeth again. She seemed to drive him to the habit often.

Single? Seeking life mate?

His pulse points pumped. “You give me shit for not staying all night. What makes you so damn righteous?”

Danica’s mouth and eyes gaped for only a moment before she shook her head. “I’ve had a shitty afternoon. I don’t know what you’re carrying on about.”

“I’m talking about this ludicrous ad.”

“And I’m not in the mood to attempt to care.” She went on as if he hadn’t spoken. “Now back off and leave me alone.”

She shoved against his chest and opened the door.

“No.” Thrumming blood crashed through his skull like white-capped waves beating at a boat’s hull. Reason was obliterated. Braydon followed her into the kitchen he hadn’t taken much notice of the night before and, grabbing Danica’s belt at the small of her back, halted her retreat.

She wriggled free and spun on him. He edged her toward the butcher block island.

“I’m not interested in a life mate, Dr. Kent. But I’ll take the advertised physical.” His cock lengthened as images of her hands exploring his body leapt into his mind.

Pinning her with his hands gripping the counter at her hips, he leaned in until his chest almost brushed hers. Until his dick almost rested against her stomach. Until his lips almost claimed hers. “I should walk away, stay away, but damn if you don’t reel me back in.”

“I can recommend a therapist.”

“Screw a therapist.” He closed the distance and took her mouth with his.

Danica didn’t resist as he’d expected. No. She pushed to her tiptoes. Teasing. Taunting. She rubbed against him, raising a leg between his.

Her tongue tangled with his while she continued lifting her leg, gliding her smooth skin up his thighs. The legs of his shorts bunched up. She moved her hips, pushing herself against him before retreating. The slow move massaged his balls and the sensitive skin beyond.

He pulled her shirt over her head and then pulled on his own, resisting the urge to bend his knees and sink more heavily onto her massaging leg.

“Damn, you feel good.” Lust turned his voice guttural, telling him he was already nearing the plank’s ledge. The drop would be steep, but he was going to enjoy the walk.

He popped the clasp on her bra and captured her breasts in his palms. Perfect handfuls with her nipples shouting Ahoy there matey, come aboard, his inner pirate awakened. He could plunder or seduce. Or a little of both.

Braydon stepped back, tossed Danica over his shoulder, and carted her upstairs to her widow’s peak.

Again expecting arguments, he was surprised when she instead spent the trip exploring his back and dipping her fingers inside the drawstring waist of his shorts. Just inside her bedroom, she pulled the string and sent his trunks tumbling to the floor.

Stepping free before they tripped him, Braydon continued toward the doors leading outside.

“I’m going to make you scream from your perch above town, Danica.” He sat her on her feet and knelt before her. “When you step out here, you will think of me.”

He eased her shorts and lace thong down her lean legs. “You’ll remember the feel of my mouth pleasuring you as you grip the rail for balance.”

Power pulsed along his spine and set his scalp to tingling. Gripping her pelvis gently, he walked forward on his knees and nudged her to the rail. “Grip it.”

She did.

He kissed her stomach just beside her belly button where he knew her to be ticklish. “Brace yourself.”

Trailing the tip of his tongue over her dancing skin, he eased lower.

With the boat-dotted bay at her back and the evening bustle of town reaching around from the front of the house, Danica raised her face to the sky and followed his commands.

“Spread your legs for me.” His thumbs stroked back and forth at the edges of her neatly trimmed mound. He wetted his lips in anticipation.

She rolled her hips as she spread her legs and bent her knees.

His cock twitched with the excitement of her silent surrender. She was everything he’d expected. And nothing. Predictable and surprising. Reserved and wanton. She enticed him when the qualities in other women sent him running.

Positioned perfectly for her pleasure, for his own, she glanced down. Desire dilated her gaze. Her musky arousal floated on the air in a gentle glissade. A rumble rose from his gut, vibrating in his chest, and his balls tightened.

His hips rocked forward, eager to thrust, to fill her, to absorb the thrill of her hot, wet pussy wrapping around him. Squeezing. Milking.

Not certain how long he would survive the assault of her arousal on his senses, he swiped his tongue along her swollen lips and captured her weeping moisture. He thumbed her clit in time with his probing tongue. Her knuckles whitened on the rail. Her legs shook.

Vibrating with her mounting orgasm, she groaned.

His body bellowed for completion, but he was going to watch her go over. He was going to awaken her while the town wrapped up the day.

He licked and kissed.

She gasped and squirmed.

He probed.

She writhed.

A boat horn called home and a seagull squawked near the lapping shore.

Braydon flicked Danica’s clit.

Her control shattered. Her head dropped back and her scream joined the sunset’s concert.

Then, before he’d swallowed the last of her orgasm, she dropped to her knees and pushed him to his back. “My turn.”

He’d thought himself in control. He’d miscalculated.