Jared’s tall figure appeared from inside the house. Dressed in worn jeans and a checked shirt, his feet bare, his hair rumpled and with a coffee mug in one hand, he should have looked relaxed. But as she made her way toward him through the field of wild grass, the noise of the departing helicopter drowning out the thundering beat of her heart, she could see from his rigid stance he was anything but.
She took her time, absorbing the beauty of their surroundings and trying to get straight in her head all the things she needed to say to him. She could see she might have underestimated the task ahead of her when she arrived at the porch.
His usually clean-shaven jaw was shadowed with a week’s growth of beard, the angular lines of his face even leaner than she remembered, and his brows were drawn down in a heavy frown over the piercing gaze that had remained locked on her every step of the way. Arousal stirred as his gaze roamed down and then returned to her face, the bold appraisal setting alight every millimeter of skin en route. His jaw tensed, and heat and desire flickered in the deep aquamarine of his eyes.
She resisted the answering tug of desire in her abdomen, knowing if he could he would use it to distract her from the conversation she had come here to have.
The noise and wind caused by the helicopter slowly faded into silence until all she could hear was the plaintive cry of a cormorant, the peaceful lap of the water against the dock at the back of the house and the frantic beat of her own heart.
Unlike the lake, Jared looked about as peaceful as a ferocious grizzly bear who had been woken from its midwinter hibernation.
Katie swallowed past the obstruction in her throat.
If he had come to Vermont to recover the control he’d lost that night in Capri, it didn’t appear to have worked. Her heart jolted in her chest, compassion tangling with anxiety and nerves in the pit of the stomach.
What was she doing here? Had she made a terrible mistake? What if Megan was wrong about her ability to heal this taciturn and tormented man’s heart?
Had he been suffering with those terrible nightmares all this time?
She tucked her fingers into the back pockets of her jeans to disguise the trembling. “Hello, Jared, how are you?” She fought to keep her voice firm and even and betray none of the emotion that was ripping apart her insides.
Maybe he didn’t want her help, her sympathy or concern—and would rather die than admit he needed it—but she intended to give it to him anyway.
He studied her, taking a long gulp from the coffee cup. She watched the column of his throat bob as he swallowed, the motion sending another shaft of heat through her system.
At last he placed the cup on the porch rail and folded his arms across his chest.
“What are you doing here?” he said at last, his voice so rusty she could tell he hadn’t spoken to anyone in days.
“Checking up on you. Dario’s worried about you—we all are.”
His brows flattened and the muscle in his jaw jumped. Grasping her arms, he dragged her toward him, pulling her up on tiptoes. “If Dario’s sent you here to give me some of your unique sexual healing,” he sneered, his eyes bright with arousal and fury, “then I’ll take it.” He held her close, his breath whispering over her lips, the promise and provocation of that sensual mouth so close to hers the heat spiraled down to her core. “Otherwise, get lost.”
He released her abruptly and she stumbled back. But as he turned to stalk back inside the cabin she bolted forward and grabbed his arm.
Catching him unaware, she was able to haul him round to face her. The crude invitation had been meant to repulse her. She understood that. And suddenly a fury of her own burned deep in her chest.
“You think I’m scared of you and how much I want you? I’m not.” Or, not anymore. The arousal surged. “I’m willing to own it. Are you?”
She saw his control snap and he grasped her arm to haul her into the cabin.
“Great, let’s own it together,” he said as he dragged her through the living area and up a flight of slatted stairs to a bedroom on a mezzanine platform under the cabin’s slanted roof beams.
Cedar-wood eaves framed a large bed while the glass back wall afforded a stunning view out onto the lake. But Katie barely registered any of that, all her attention concentrated on the man in front of her as he grabbed the back of his shirt and dragged it over his head. Excitement charged over her skin as he wrestled her out of her clothes. Buttons popped and fabric tore in his urgency—but, instead of scaring her, his desperation empowered and excited her. Within seconds they were both naked. She felt giddy with need as they collapsed onto the bed together.
The last of his anger unraveled into a storm of longing as he jerked her thighs apart and buried his face between her legs. She bucked off the bed, broken sobs torn from her throat. Locating the swollen nub with his mouth, he swirled his tongue over the heart of her, and then sucked, dragging the orgasm forth with ruthless efficiency.
She was dazed, still coasting on the brutal wave as he rose above her and angled her pelvis, cradling her bottom in firm hands.
The huge head of his erection pressed at the swollen folds of her sex. Hunger and torment, like that of a starving man, etched his face as his eyes met hers. But he held back even though the need to take her vibrated through his body.
“You really want this?” he asked, his voice full of a desperate despair.
She cradled his cheeks and kissed him hard on the lips before whispering in his ear, “Yes. Yes, I do.”
He buried the huge erection to the hilt in one powerful lunge then moved in hard, heavy thrusts. His seed exploded inside her moments later, his shout of release so full of agony her heart felt as if it might burst out of her chest.
She lay with him in her arms, caressing the thick waves of his hair, his heart thundering against hers as he collapsed on top of her.