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Wild for you, p.14
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       Wild For You, p.14

           J. C. Reed
 
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  Only, with Erin it feels different. Natural. Not like a fling, but like something that could take root, meaning I’ll have to start treating it like I want it to grow.

  * * *

  ***

  * * *

  It’s late evening when Erin returns. Dad accompanies her to the door, but doesn’t come in. I don’t head out to greet him, either.

  He’s still angry with me.

  Big deal. I’m angry with him, too.

  Knowing my father, I know this one will blow over eventually, but he’ll probably watch me like a hawk now. Once a friend cheated him of fifty bucks, and Dad ended up holding a grudge for twenty years and counting.

  I bet he only took Erin shopping because he wanted to talk to her. I can only hope he hasn’t given her an ear full of his opinions in the process.

  But just to make sure he hasn’t put her off me for good, I’ve cooked us dinner.

  A table for two is set in the dining room, and I’ve also lit candles on every surface, which gives the place a romantic touch. I’ve even persuaded Margaret to bake us an apple pie.

  The house smells of barbecue, salad, and sweet crumbles.

  “What’s this?” Erin asks with a frown.

  My gaze takes her in, appreciating what it sees. “Take a guess? Want to take a shower before dinner?”

  She nods warily as she peers from me to the candles.

  “Just make it quick,” I instruct and leave for the kitchen.

  She returns barely ten minutes later, her skin still damp, her sleeveless top molding to her body.

  For a moment, we’re both quiet, eyeing each other, unsure what to expect.

  “Take a seat.” I point needlessly at the table. She does as I bid and raises her hand to touch the flower bouquet.

  “This looks nice. Are you expecting guests?”

  “Just you.”

  Her lips twitch, but there’s a glint of pleasure in her eyes. “Shouldn’t you have asked me first?”

  “I thought it better to skip that part. I couldn’t risk you rejecting me.” I wink. “Why? Do you have another annoying patient you have to run off to?”

  Her smile widens, her beauty striking.

  I point to the lavender bouquet. “They are for you. I wish I could have handpicked them myself, but as you can see—” I point at my crutches and smirk.

  “Those are my favorite flowers.”

  “I know. Margaret told me,” I say softly. “I wish I could have picked them for you. On the bright side, though, I cooked.”

  She peers at me, surprised. “You cooked?”

  “Just for you.” I smile. “You bake. I cook. We’re both not half bad. I guess that’s a great combination.”

  Erin falls silent for a moment as she leans forward to smell the lavender, her thoughts far away.

  As if a fragment of her past has captured her.

  I wish I knew what she was thinking.

  “Erin?” I prompt.

  She peers up at me, her eyes glazed over. That’s when I notice the small bruise hidden beneath her hairline.

  “You went to the hospital.” She nods in response to my statement. “Did you need stitches?”

  “Luckily, no.” At my questioning glance, she continues. “And there’s no swelling.”

  “I wish I could have driven you,” I say grimly. “I wish I could do a lot of things.”

  I don’t mean to sound like I’m pitying myself because I’m not. But strangely, I want to be able to do normal things for her.

  “You will some day.”

  Our eyes connect over the table and something heavy passes between us. “You still believe in me?” I ask.

  “Of course,” Erin says softly. “I know it sounds impossible right now, but you will walk, eventually.” Her fingers clasp around my hand, squeezing it. “Did you mean what you said earlier? About starting therapy?” Her voice is still soft, but there is an edge to it.

  As though she’s doubting me.

  “It depends. Will you forgive me and have dinner with me tonight?”

  She smiles. The flickering candles catch in her blue eyes, making them shimmer like sapphires. “There’s nothing to forgive you for, Cash. Words are often spoken in haste. You don’t mean them when you’re hurting. They may sting like hell, but then you forget about them. Thankfully, actions speak louder. This—” she points at the table “—is nice. I choose to believe you when you say you want my help. Coming from the guy who would have kicked me out of his house if he could, I guess this is a nice gesture.”

  “I didn’t cook because I felt bad,” I say, watching her reaction as I decide to be upfront with her. “I want to make a fresh start with you. You didn’t deserve the hard time I gave you.” I raise my glass. “Here’s to you. Thank you for sticking around when you could have given up on me.”

  * * *

  ***

  * * *

  My dinner with Erin couldn’t have gone any better. We talked about Josh, the weather, Chicago. I asked her what her favorite color was (Alizarin crimson—I had to Google it to find out it’s a version of pink), her favorite food (fried chicken), and all the places she’s traveled. Her job’s taken her to a few places, but as it turned out she’s never been abroad. We talked about her plans, her dreams.

  We stayed away from topics involving the past and relationships, mostly because she seemed keen on evading them. I would have wanted her to open up to me, but she remained cagey.

  The thing is, when I looked into her background, I also stumbled across the police report.

  I know why she can be as hard as a nail. Asking her about it isn’t an option, though. Not until she trusts me enough to tell me about it.

  Until then, I’ll keep her little secret like it was my own.

  Chapter Eighteen

  Erin

  I have no idea why Cash has this impact on me. One moment, it feels as though I’ve reached my limit and I’m ready to leave, the next I find myself compelled to stay close to him.

  The man is an enigma I can’t figure out. He’s practically a stranger, but for some reason, I’ve never felt closer to anyone in my life, as though we’ve known each other for a long time. There’s something about him that pulls me to him. I can keep my cool around a hot guy, even when said hot guy looks like a sex god. But I find it impossible to keep my cool around him, and not even his crutches can distract from his perfection.

  It’s not just his looks that do strange things to me.

  It’s his smile.

  It’s the way he looks at me, as though the world ceases to exist, and there’s only us left.

  Even the frown on his face, and the way he clenches and unclenches his jaw whenever he’s angry, is enough to send a ripple of sexual energy through me. Which is kind of ridiculous, not least because that’s usually the stuff of rom coms and teenage dreams.

  I want him to like me. I want our therapist-patient relationship to work out. Yet, in spite of all my attempts to be kind, mellow, understanding, there are moments when I fail to show any of those attributes. Those are the moments when my emotions get the better of me. Emotions that don’t even make sense most of the time.

  Cash and I are sitting on the veranda, sipping wine, while a soft breeze blows, cooling my warm skin. It’s hard to imagine two people sitting in silence, listening to the wind and the sounds of the night, without it getting awkward. But even the silence feels natural with Cash.

  He speaks first, his gaze focused on the stars glowing like little diamonds on the distant horizon. “Want a refill?”

  Without waiting for my answer, he gets up, leaning on his crutches.

  “Sure. Let me help you.” I jump to my feet to accompany him because I know he wouldn’t want me to do it for him. That’s the one thing I’ve learned about Cash Boyd—never make him think his injury might incapacitate him in any way.

  The clock on the wall in the kitchen says one a.m.

  We’ve just spent the last five hours together without realizi
ng it.

  I near the rack with wine bottles and frown, unsure which bottle to choose. The thing reaches up to the ceiling and is well stocked.

  “What are you doing?” Cash asks when I climb onto a stool. A startled gasp escapes my lips as it starts to wobble.

  Cash’s grip on my hips keeps me in place before I take a tumble.

  My breath hitches in my throat, and not from the strong grip that’s holding me in place.

  His eyes shimmer green, boring into me.

  He’s beautiful.

  Breathtaking.

  Unforgettable.

  And so deliciously close.

  “Cash…” I start, but the words don’t quite find their way past my lips. How can I explain what his touch does to me when I don’t understand it myself?

  My gaze sweeps around me. Everything’s spinning a little bit, but not enough to make me nauseous.

  That’s when I realize that I’m tipsy.

  “Are you okay?” Cash asks.

  I open my mouth to assure him that I am when I end up leaning forward and pressing my mouth against his. His lips part in response, matching my need. All nerves in my body begin to fire at the same time, rendering me breathless, tingling with sensation. Cash’s hands wrap around my waist and he helps me up onto the counter.

  I part my thighs to accommodate him as I deepen our kiss.

  His mouth devours mine, mirroring my own hunger for him. His tongue slow dances with mine, tangling and untangling.

  I’m breathing so hard, my lungs are threatening to explode from the sheer effort to draw oxygen.

  But he’s the only oxygen I need now.

  His touch is all that my body craves.

  My core catches fire, and a deep moan escapes my lips. I’m sure if he were to touch me down there, he’d find me soaking wet, and so very ready for him.

  It has been too long, that’s why I want him so much.

  Oh, who am I kidding?

  Even if I had been with another man the previous day, I know I’d still want him.

  Cash tenses a moment before he withdraws from me, looking as dishevelled as I feel. Realizing that this is slowly turning into something much bigger than a little crush, I supress a giggle.

  “Erin,” Cash whispers. “There’s another reason why I’ve been hiding from you. I’ve never felt so attracted to anyone in my life.”

  I wet my lips and nod, unsure where the hell he’s going with this. But it sure feels like a direction I want him to take…just not now.

  I want to kiss him. Feel him. I want him inside me.

  “It’s hard to explain,” Cash continues, oblivious to the urgency gathering deep inside me. “But when you were lying on the ground, unconscious, I thought I’d lose you.” His hands cup my face, his eyes two bright dots that betray their depths even in the darkness surrounding us. “You’ve come to mean something to me. I don’t know why. I don’t even know how. I just know that you’re the first woman who’s made me feel more…and we haven’t even had sex yet.” He shakes his head slowly and smiles. “I didn’t think it would ever happen. First, I blamed it on not having fucked anyone for so long. But it’s something else. Something that scares the shit out of me.”

  I freeze, suddenly sober as all alcohol seems to evaporate from my veins.

  Is this a dream because there’s no way he’s saying what I think I’m hearing.

  “You have feelings?” I whisper.

  “Not just feelings. I have this strange desire burning for you. I find myself wanting to know everything about you while feeling the need to push you away so we don’t get too involved. I care for you.”

  Oh.

  I blink once, twice. Stupid me for building a castle out of sand only to watch the tide roll in to see it all crumble to dust.

  “That’s normal.” It takes all my willpower to keep my voice controlled, but disappointment still manages to crawl in.

  “It is?” He frowns.

  I turn to the window, pretending to watch the soft light of the lantern shining on the veranda. Tears prick my eyes, which is such a strange reaction for me. I clear my throat to get rid of the strangled sensation in my throat.

  “Many patients develop feelings for the therapist.” Usually, it doesn’t happen the other way around. But I guess there’s an exception to every rule. I shake off the thought. “So far, three patients have proclaimed their undying love for me. Many mistake gratitude for love. It happens.”

  “Did you get involved with any of them, like with me?”

  I turn to regard him, surprised by the seriousness in his voice. “No.”

  His eyes are hard, demanding the truth I’m more than willing to give him. “Did you get attached to them?”

  I shake my head. “No.”

  My heart pounds against my ribcage, suddenly afraid of his next possible question. He can’t ask me whether I feel anything for him, not least because I don’t think I could lie.

  A soft breeze wafts past, carrying the scent of the nearby woods.

  It takes him a long time before he poses the question. “Did you get attached to me?”

  This is it—that one moment I prayed wouldn’t come. I can’t hide from him. I don’t want to, but at the same time, I can’t proclaim what I’m not even ready to admit to myself.

  My chin is trembling, my hands opening and closing into fists.

  “I did. I am,” I murmur so low I hope he hasn’t heard me. “That’s why I asked my best friend to step in for me.”

  His thumb strokes my chin gently. “Why did you decide to stay?”

  “She didn’t find the idea of moving to Montana particularly appealing.”

  Cash shakes his head slowly. “Now you’re lying, and we both know it. You could have easily found a suitable replacement if you really wanted to. You could also have up and left without so much as a glance back simply because no one could have forced you to stay. Why, Erin?”

  I draw a sharp breath to push oxygen into my lungs. “You know why, Cash.” My eyes meet his, my gaze imploring him to stop forcing me to tell him the truth. “The same reason I let you kiss me and vice versa. The same reason why I agreed to sleep with you if I saw progress. I feel attracted to you. I’m—”

  Falling for you.

  I shake my head again and continue, “I want to sleep with you.”

  Now.

  That’s all I can think about.

  “Why now?” Cash asks.

  I hesitate, unsure how to put it. “I’ve been wanting it all along, but I couldn’t give in. You would have stopped therapy once you got what you wanted.”

  “Maybe.” He falls silent, but we both know it’s the truth.

  “Your assumption was probably correct,” he says at last, giving me a wry smile. “But that was yesterday. Today’s different. I’ve changed.”

  “Changed how?”

  “I was bitter and angry at the world, and took it out on everyone around me.” His words are spoken softly, but his turmoil is palpable. The idea of him hurting fills me with sadness. My fingers reach out to touch his hand.

  He looks up, his eyes burning. There’s no smile on his face, but I can see his expression changing.

  His gaze shifts to my fingers. I try to pull back, but his hand seizes mine, holding it in place.

  “Being with you feels right,” Cash says. “You’re the only person who doesn’t make me feel like I’m only half of what I used to be. The accident opened my eyes and made me see.”

  “See what?” I ask breathily.

  “That I want more in life. A relationship. For things to evolve between us. That I want to get better, and that I can’t do that without you.” My heart starts to pump as his fingers begin to stroke my skin. His eyes are as wild as a raging fire as he speaks again. “I have a proposition for you.”

  My chest rises and falls hard, the touch of his hand making me feel light-headed. “Which is?”

  “I want to date you, while we’re working together.” My heart drops to t
he floor, then starts to gallop like a horse finding its way to freedom.

  “We can’t date,” I say weakly.

  Or can we? Do I even want to say no?

  “You don’t want me, Erin. That’s what you’ve been saying, but wanting and needing are two different things. I know what you secretly desire…and that’s me.”

  I take a sharp breath, unsure how to deny the fact that he’s spot on. “Aren’t you moving a little too fast?”

  “Only with you.” He leans forward, his voice dropping to a whisper. “Fast should be my last name. I see something between us. And it’s not just me. I know you can feel it, too. We’re both adults here, so why not skip the pretend part, and just date?”

  “I don’t know,” I say honestly. “I’m not sure what’s best for you.”

  “You are,” he says. “You are what’s best for me, Erin. How about you let me prove to you that I’m being serious, and… just trust me.” His fingers trace up my arm, tangling with the strap of my top.

  My body heats up in response.

  I know what he wants. I know what I want.

  My eyes move to his lips and linger there, wondering how much longer I can keep this insane attraction under control.

  His offer is tempting, but as a professional, I have to weigh up the pros and cons.

  As if sensing my thoughts, Cash adds, “I promise I’ll be the most cooperative patient you ever had. Our personal relationship will have no impact on your job. During therapy I’ll be completely agreeable.”

  A snort escapes my lips. “Agreeable isn’t a word I’d ever use to describe you.” I hold his gaze. “Trust sounds great, but you know what’s better? Proof. You better be serious about this. If you miss just one session, Cash, I promise I’ll be gone.”

  He nods slowly. “You drive a hard bargain.” His fingers squeeze beneath the strap of my top. “Proof sounds great,” he repeats my exact words. “But you know what’s even better? Facts. And results. You’ll get all of those and more.” Releasing the strap, his fingers find the nape of my back, entangling in my hair. He holds my head in place, hard enough for me to feel the pull, but not hard enough to hurt me.

 
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