“Thanks,” she told him.
He shook out the match and tossed it into the fireplace. “You want a fire?”
“It’s not that cold.” She hung the damp windbreaker on a wall hook. Then she wiped her face, pulled the clip from her hair and finger-combed out the rainwater.
It was late enough that she planned to snuggle into bed with her laptop and record notes from the evening. Stephanie had predicted the power would be back on by morning. If not, the staff would gather at the cookhouse for breakfast, and they’d set priorities for animal care.
Jared crumpled up a newspaper, threw it into the fireplace and added a handful of kindling. “It’s not that warm, either.” He crouched down and struck another match, lighting a corner of the newspaper.
The orange flame quickly grew, reflecting off the planes and angles of his face. There was something about the actions that warmed Melissa’s heart. He hadn’t exactly saved her life, but he’d shown a tender, caring side that surprised her.
She automatically moved closer to the fire. “I wish I could offer you coffee or something.”
He rose to his feet in the flickering light. His short hair was damp, and his cotton shirt was plastered to his chest. Power and masculinity seemed to ooze from every pore.
He eased closer, and she was instantly awash in desire.
“Coffee’s not what I want.”
She was dying to ask, but she didn’t dare. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, warning herself that the slightest encouragement was going to bring his lips crashing down on hers, and they’d be trapped all over again in the tangle of desire.
His lips came down on hers, anyway.
And she might have stretched up slightly to meet him.
Okay, she’d definitely stretched up. And she’d tilted her head to accommodate him. And now she was opening her mouth, meeting his tongue, snaking her arms around his neck and pressing her body tightly against his own.
His clothes were damp, but she didn’t care. His hands were roaming, and she loved it. His mouth was sure and strong, but still tender, and oh, so hot.
Passion quickly obliterated reason. She clung tightly as his nimble hands pulled down the zipper of her dress. He eased it over her head and discarded it on a chair. He worked at the buttons of his shirt, alternating between kissing her and staring deeply into her eyes. His were nearly black with passion, while desire pulsed through every fiber of her body.
Her hands went to his jeans, popping the button, sliding the zipper.
He groaned, tossed his shirt and pulled her back into his arms. His kisses roamed her cheeks, her neck and down to where he pushed her bra out of the way. His hot mouth surrounded a nipple, and she threw her head back, her hands grasping his shoulders for support.
He wrapped a strong arm firmly around the small of her back, holding her steady, his mouth sending sparks of desire from her breasts to the base of her belly. He released her bra, dropping it to the floor. Then he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the small bedroom.
The sheets were cool against her bare back. She could barely make out his outline as he discarded the remainder of his clothes. Then his warm, hard, musk-scented body was sliding next to her, and she was enveloped in kisses and caresses that seared heat over every inch of her skin.
She kissed his chest, tasting his salty skin, her hands roaming down his back, over his buttocks, along his strong thighs.
He groaned his approval, kissing her deeply. “You are gorgeous,” he breathed. He kissed her again. His fingers found their way into her flimsy panties.
She gasped at his touch, flexing her hips, transmitting an unmistakable invitation.
He peeled off her panties, produced a condom from somewhere, and covered her body with his own. Their bodies were flush together, tight at the apex, and her legs were wrapped around his waist.
He kissed her deeply, sliding his hands to her bottom, adjusting the angle of their bodies as he eased inside. Driving rain splattered against the bedroom window. Lightning chased across the sky while thunder vibrated the cottage walls.
Then the world around Melissa disappeared. Nothing existed beyond Jared, and every sensation was magnified a thousand times, his touch, his scent, the taste of his skin, the sound of his voice as he recited her name, calling her beautiful, urging her on.
Their tempo increased. The hot and cold and electric sensations heightening to unbearable. As thunder crashed around them, her body stiffened. Her toes curled. Her hoarse voice cried out Jared’s name as she tumbled from the pinnacle down into the exquisite arms of release.
As she floated to earth, Jared tucked a quilt around them. He turned slightly to the side, keeping them locked together, but taking his weight from her body.