LIKE A TRIGGER, the broken glass at his feet started an echoing scream in his head. Terror, fear, and pain for every person he’d loved as a boy ricocheted off the four walls in this room, slamming into him with a force of regret that nearly sent him to his knees.
He needed to escape this house, get off the property, and as far away from the memories flooding him right now as he could. The rotting smell of death burned his nostrils.
The deep, red blood splatters on the wall had been partially washed away leaving old, dark stains not nearly as big as the stains left on the wood floor planks. The thick layer of dust couldn’t hide where his mother had bled on the floor at Sage’s feet, almost dying that night like his brother and sister had.
Death. This house was a stale pit of death. He should’ve never stepped foot here again.
His hands slammed open the screen door with such force one hinge came off behind him. The dried-up, broken wooden steps creaked and cracked beneath his shoes and dirt crunched under each step.
Somewhere in the background of his mind he heard Sage call his name but couldn’t find the strength to stop walking until he felt safe, secure, and protected from the very place he’d escaped the day Duke’s father had murdered his siblings and severely injured his mother.
His feet stopped moving. His numb body stilled. He gave his brain a moment to remember his steps from that night. Slowly, he pieced the moment back together and started toward the barn. His feet carried him on the same path as that night, into the old barn and up the ladder to the second floor
Standing in the loft now, he drank in the picturesque view of the escarpment at the edge of the property and the small pond located behind the house boxed-in with pine trees. He’d once spent time swimming and splashing in the pond with his siblings on hot summer days. Those had been the best hours of the day when their father had either been working or passed out drunk in the living room. The occasions had given them an opportunity to escape—if even only for a short time—the malevolence that lived inside the walls of the house.
His brother used to enjoy cannonballs off the dock. Duke remembered him doing cannonball after cannonball one whole afternoon. His sister had practiced floating on her back. Duke had simply savored the moments of peace instead of the commonly carried fear and anxiety about how the day would play out.
After all these years he’d forgotten the good days or chosen not to remember them.
The warmth of Sage’s hand on his shoulder drew him back to the present.
“I’m sorry.” Her low whisper breezed around him and drifted out the window. “Duke, I had no idea—”
He turned and captured her mouth with his before she finished the sentence. He couldn’t talk about it. Not here, not now. He kissed away her surprised gasp, her second of reluctance, until she kissed him back, equally hard and needy. He could feel desire was only one part of her intense touch and it matched his own. The need to forget everything in their lives expect this very moment fueled both their desires.
Her warm, sweet mouth provided a delicious escape that cut through all the other emotions flowing inside him. He swallowed her soft, tantalizing moans, craving more. His hand skimmed down her body, learning all her new womanly curves and appreciating each one of them as he worked his hand to the hem of her blouse where he slipped his hand underneath. His fingertips sizzled as they slid up her silky skin and cupped her full breasts. Her moan electrified in his mouth. He wrapped the other arm around her ass, and lifted her so she could wrap her legs around his waist. Her arm left a trail of heat when she wrapped it around his neck. Her free hand fisted the material on the front of his shirt.
He didn’t dare take his lips off her, afraid this moment might end without nearly kissing and touching her enough. As he walked, totally lost in the woman he had never stopped craving, his pristine memory worked in the background and helped him step over the missing floorboards and avoid the boards that had barely held him as a kid.
When his shoe touched the edge of a bale of hay, he set her to her feet. Her fingers began to unbutton his shirt, her lips nibbling on his. Each second that past unearthed the desire he’d hidden for so long. He slid the edge of her shirt off her shoulder and his mouth moved down her neck, sprinkling kisses, and nibbling along the way. Her body arched against him at his touch. They’d always meshed well together. If he could live right here, in this moment, forever, he would.
He tore her shirt over her head. Her hair fell back around her bare shoulders and he tilted his head back to watch her unbuckle her shorts and slip them down over her curvy hips.
A sharp intake of breath escaped between his teeth as her hands skimmed over his bare middle and up his torso to his shoulders, in a seductive dance to rid him of his shirt. She slid his shirt down his arms. He caught it with one hand before it hit the floor, and then laid it on the hay bale behind her.
He didn’t dare talk and break the spell between them, but his fingers caught her chin and pulled her face close to his. He searched her eyes the way he’d searched a thousand times before, only he was looking for a different answer. Not guilt, or involvement. She had to be absolutely sure this was what she wanted. Her full, round eyes answered him—the removal of her bra assisted too.
He picked her up and brought her breasts to his mouth, kissing the bare tops before laying her on her back.
She gasped and then giggled, which he once again captured with his mouth. His fingertips dug into her hair and he pulled her mouth firmly against his.
His sensibility had vanished. If he’d been thinking straight, he’d realize the rift sex with Sage would cause between them.
But damn, he’d missed her.
Damn, she felt good.
So instead of stopping her when she unzipped his pants, kicking them and his briefs over his hips with her foot, he let her pull him on top of her sunk and inside her warmth.
SAGE HAD A one tiny millisecond in the furthest part of her lucid mind that told her to step away from Duke and stop whatever they had started. A tiny millisecond she completely ignored when their lips turned into frantic hot kisses, relieving her of any reluctance. If he’d wanted to talk, he wouldn’t have kissed her. If he didn’t want to kiss her, he would’ve walked away—he didn’t do anything without pristine calculation. And if she’d been smarter, she would never have followed him into the barn. However, there was no going back now, even if her senses tried to word in. Duke moved in and out of her, quick and hard, just like their first rendezvous on the couch and she became lost in the past as much as the now.
His teeth nipped her chin, drawing her back to him. Desire consumed the panic in his eyes she’d witnessed earlier, giving him a gentler, kinder side he didn’t often show. She recognized the man watching her now, even if he didn’t want to reveal this part of him, it was by far her favorite.
Sweat glistened across his forehead and she ran her fingers over his softer face. There were no stress lines and no firm concentration now. He didn’t flinch or move away from her touch. It was just the two of them. His head dipped down and kissed her again. She dug her fingertips into his scalp and pulled his mouth harder against hers as her body started to spiral with him.
Bad Boy Romance
Bad Boys of Willow Valley #3
Duke Falkner is a no-nonsense bodyguard—a job he takes very seriously. So seriously, in fact, he’s never taken a vacation or enjoyed a moment in his own life. He uses his strict lifestyle as repentance for a childhood moment that stole away every member of his family. Although a moment he was not responsible for, a moment he has been unable to shake.
Sage Ellis has just had her life torn apart in similar fashion. Her estranged rock-n-roll father has just been killed and her mother has been shot right in her front of her. Before she knows it, she’s being swept away to a remote location to be protected by a bodyguard she’d hoped never to see again.
As Duke and Sage are brought together again, they replay their tortured past and a relationship that ended before it began. But as they work to figure out who is after Sage and her family, their feelings slowly start to once again reveal themselves and Duke begins to let go of his past. Will he hang on to his bad boy ways, or release his tight fist on his past for a relaxed future with Sage?