“Maybe that’s true,” I concede. “That doesn’t stop me from wanting to protect you. To shield you from the ugliness of the world. Not because you can’t handle it. Because you shouldn’t have to.”
She laughs so low and husky my cock takes notice. “This is your idea of ending things between us?”
I let out a growl. “You’re the one knocking on my door at midnight. You’re the one not wearing a bra. You’re the one looking so damned tempting I can barely stand it.”
“The bras he got me don’t fit,” she says, her cheeks darkening.
“Hell,” I breathe, fighting desire. There’s no willpower left. I cross the room in two long strides. Her eyes widen. That’s the only chance she has to say no. She doesn’t take it. My palms grasp her face, and then I’m kissing her. Consuming her. I’m muttering against her lips. “What am I supposed to tell you? That someone set a fire while I was fucking you? That I failed to protect you, failed to protect Paige, when you both needed me most?”
She pulls back, most likely to tell me that it’s not my fault. That’s the kind of thing Jane Mendoza would say. She’s so quick to forgive a bastard like me. That’s the only reason I’m allowed to touch her, to shove my hands underneath the soft T-shirt to her bare waist, to slide my hands up. My thumbs brush the underside of her breasts, and she moans.
“Damn right they didn’t fit,” I say, cupping her in my hand. “He doesn’t know how they feel, the softness of them, the weight of them. He’s never done this.”
I bend my head and kiss her nipple. It hardens against my lips. The temptation is unholy. I lap at her, and she shivers in my arms. Moonlight casts a pale glow on her skin. I trace the letters on the plush slope of her breast. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
Her eyes are mournful. “Beau.”
I suckle her again, until her eyes fall shut. I swirl her hard nub with my tongue. God, she tastes delicious. Woman and warmth. Salt and sea. I want to swallow her whole.
The formality stops me in my tracks. It’s like she dumped a bucket of cold water over me. I straighten and pull back. “Did I hurt you?”
“Yes,” she whispers.
“Christ.” I run my hands over her breasts, down her flat stomach. I’m looking for something. A cut, a bruise. Something left over from the fire that I touched. “Where?”
She takes my hand between both of hers. It makes me look fairly giant, my heavy fist encased in her small, delicate fingers. My palm lands on her chest. Her heart thumps beneath her sternum. “Here,” she whispers. “You hurt me here.”
It’s not that you aren’t beautiful. You are.
I told her I loved her in the fire. Then I tried to let her down easy in the hospital. There’s no rhyme to it. No reason. The world can’t reorder itself to make this relationship work. The boss and the nanny? No. It’s wrong, but my body doesn’t care. My heart sure as hell doesn’t care either. I want her any way I can have her—secret, forbidden, taboo.
What I want doesn’t matter.
Not if Paige might be in danger. Jane might be in danger, too. “I’m sorry,” I say, but it’s not a true apology. I’m not taking back my refusal. I’m affirming it. I can’t be with her, not while there’s still someone out there trying to hurt us. It’s small and it’s broken, this family—but it’s mine.
It’s already bright outside when I wake up. There’s a heavy feeling of exhaustion leftover from the fire like Dr. Gupta said there would be. But I have a job to do. A child to take care of. So I shower gingerly and head downstairs.
Beau’s already gone from the Lighthouse Inn.
Visiting the house, Marjorie tells me.
Mateo’s also gone, doing business, whatever that means.
It’s only me and Paige and a breakfast spread on the sideboard that could feed an army.
There are large sticky cinnamon buns and eggs Benedict. Thick slices of bacon. Home fries. My stomach growls as I pile a plate high, reminding me that we haven’t actually eaten much since the fire.
Paige crumbles a blueberry streusel muffin into pieces. I can tell from the pile that she hasn’t eaten much, but I don’t want to pressure her.
“Do you want something else to eat? The fruit salad looks good.”
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