Holiday wishes, p.5
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       Holiday Wishes, p.5
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         Part #4.5 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  With the storm still battering the poor house, Lotti stood in the living room and took in the big picture windows and wide open wooden staircase, knowing that it’d make a beautiful spot for a wedding. One that would actually happen . . .

  She drew in a deep breath and wondered what had come over her to agree to such madness. She had no idea.

  Except she did. In spite of herself and the things she’d been through, she still believed in love.

  And . . . she wasn’t quite ready to have Sean walk away. Not yet. The thought gave her a hot flash. Needing some fresh air, she walked through the kitchen and stepped out the back door, stopping under the roof overhang, listening to the rain fall as she took in the view of the valley. Dressed in a light sweater, skirt, and tights, she wasn’t exactly prepared for the weather but she didn’t care.

  A few minutes later, someone joined her on the patio.

  Sean.

  He met her gaze, studied her face as if he was making sure she was okay, and when he realized she was, he gave her a small smile. They stood there together, neither speaking, standing side by side as the rain fell. When their fingers brushed against each other, Sean turned his hand, touching his palm to hers, entwining their fingers.

  “You were amazing today,” he said. “I can’t believe how you put an entire wedding together in one day.”

  She shrugged, hoping to keep her secrets to herself. She felt the weight of Sean’s gaze on her face and she closed her eyes so he couldn’t catch her thoughts like only he seemed to be able to do, but she was too late.

  “Lotti,” he said softly. Just that. Just her name, with a whole lot of feeling in it.

  Shit. He knew. She swallowed hard and stared out into the night—until he turned her to face him.

  “Lotti,” he said again, that same level of emotion in his voice.

  “Don’t,” she whispered.

  “I’m sorry,” he said huskily. “I should’ve seen it earlier. All this . . . it was for your wedding.”

  “Well not the pizzas.”

  He didn’t smile. “I hate that I put you in this position. It’s not too late, Lotti. You don’t have to do this.”

  “It’s okay. Really.” She closed her eyes. “But I’d like to be alone now.”

  “I get that, and I’d really like to give you what you want,” he said. “But I can’t. Not this time.”

  Chapter Five

  At the empathetic tone in Sean’s voice, Lotti’s heart and stomach and head all clenched in unison. “What do you mean you can’t give me what I want?” she asked. “All you have to do is walk away.”

  “Tried that already,” he said. “And it was the biggest mistake of my life.” He brought her hand up to his mouth and met her gaze over their entwined hands.

  He was looking at her like . . . well, she wasn’t sure what was going on in his head, but her thoughts were racing along with her pulse.

  “You’re incredible, Lotti. I hope you know that.” Very slowly, clearly giving her time to object, he pulled her into him.

  Her breath caught at the connection and his eyes heated in response as he slid a hand up her spine and then back down again, pressing her in tight to him from chest to thighs and everywhere in between. His nose was cold at the crook of her neck, but his breath was warm against her skin. She felt his lips press against the sensitive spot just behind her ear and she shivered. “You’re trembling,” he said, his voice low. “Are you cold?”

  “No,” she whispered. Try the opposite of cold . . .

  “Nervous?”

  “No.” Not even close. The way his mouth moved across her skin was making her warm all over. Not that she could articulate that with his body pressed to hers and his fingers dancing over her skin. She was literally quivering as the memories of what it felt like to be touched by him washed over her, as if no time at all had gone by.

  Yes, she’d let him think that their time together had sucked for her. But it hadn’t. Not even close. That long-ago night he’d evoked feelings and a hunger in her that she’d never forgotten. “I’ve just had a long day,” she said.

  “I know. I’m going to make it better.” He pressed a kiss at the juncture of her jaw and ear before he made his way to her lips for a slow, hot kiss, his mouth both familiar and yet somehow brand-new. She was so far gone that when he pulled back she protested with a moan, but he held her tight, staring down at her with heated eyes. “Just checking,” he murmured.

  “Checking what?”

  “That you want this as badly as I do.”

  She sure as hell hadn’t meant to want him at all, but she fisted her hands in his shirt and yanked him back in. When he let out a soft laugh, she kissed him to shut him up. She shut herself up too as she lost herself in his kiss, in his touch as their hands grappled to get on each other, touching, caressing, possessing.

  She’d have denied this until her dying day, but God she’d missed this, missed the feel of his mouth on hers, missed his hands on her body, missed him.

  But she was no longer a clueless teenager, and neither was Sean. They were grownups with entirely different lives from each other. “I can’t,” she whispered and slowly opened her eyes to face his.

  “Can’t?” he asked. “Or not interested?”

  She hesitated, but then gave a slow shake of her head. “Not interested.”

  Sean gave her fingers—the ones she’d dug into his biceps—a wry look.

  She quickly dropped her hands. Okay, fine. She was interested. So very interested. And also dying of curiosity. Would this time feel different?

  “I’ve changed,” he promised her. “Give me a chance, Lotti. Give us a chance.”

  Unable to help herself, she touched his jaw, letting her fingers slide into his silky hair and for a beat, pressed close to him again. It’d be so easy to fall for him. Too easy. And knowing it, she stepped back. “I’ve changed too,” she said. “No more relationships for me. They don’t work out.”

  “How many?”

  She blinked. “How many what?”

  “How many relationships haven’t worked out?” he asked.

  “Two, an ex-boyfriend and ex-fiancé.”

  “You’re not counting me?”

  “Hard to count someone you only got naked with one time.”

  He paused and then laughed softly. Mad, she turned away to go back inside but he caught her and pulled her around. He’d stopped laughing, which meant she didn’t have to kill him outright, but he was still smiling.

  “I don’t appreciate you laughing at me,” she said stiffly.

  “I’m not laughing at you,” he said. “You’re amazing. I’m laughing at myself. We’ve both been relationship shy. You, because I hurt you. Me, because I’m the idiot who hurt you. Please give me another chance, Lotti.”

  She shook her head. “No. I’m over that. I’m going to Cabo to drink fancy cocktails and smell like coconut sunscreen and to have a one-night stand with no strings.”

  He stared down into her eyes, no longer laughing. Or smiling. “I know I have no right to ask, but do you trust me, even a little?”

  “I don’t know.” She stared at him right back. “Maybe a very little tiny spark.”

  “I’ll take that.” He gave her a quick kiss that was no less heart-stopping than his previous one. “Give me fifteen minutes. I’ll meet you at your apartment.”

  “For what?”

  But he was already gone.

  You’re not going to do it, she told herself. No way. She hadn’t been expecting him. At all. In fact, many times over the years she’d told herself to forget him.

  But she hadn’t. Not even a little bit.

  Chapter Six

  Fifteen minutes later Lotti climbed the stairs to her apartment.

  “You’re late!” Peaches yelled as she entered.

  She ignored the parrot for a moment, Sean’s earlier words floating in her brain.

  Do you trust me, even just a little?

  She still wasn’t sure but her
apartment was lit with candles flickering on every surface. He’d somehow come up with two large cutouts of palm trees, which were on either side of her bed. There were blue and green scarves on top of her lampshades, giving the entire place the feel of . . . water.

  Sean stood in the center of the room wearing board shorts and a T-shirt that advertised some surf shop in Mexico. No shoes and a pair of sunglasses shoved up on his head. He was holding a pitcher of what looked like strawberry margaritas and a bottle of coconut suntan oil.

  “What’s all this?” she asked.

  “Take out the trash!” Peaches yelled.

  Sean slid a look at the parrot. “We discussed this,” he told the bird. “You were going to let me do the talking.”

  “All you want is sex!” Peaches squeaked. “I need it to mean something!”

  Lotti strode across the room, took a blue silk scarf off one of the lamps, and covered Peaches’s cage. “Say goodnight, Peaches.”

  “Goodnight, Peaches,” Peaches muttered and huffed out a sigh.

  Lotti turned to Sean, who was laughing. “I didn’t train him,” she said. “My dad did. He wanted to drive my mom crazy.” She took in the room and realized he’d incorporated everything she’d had on her clipboard. Sand, surf . . . surfer. And he was most definitely the hottest surfer she’d ever seen. “What is all this, Sean?”

  “Since you can’t get to Mexico, I brought Mexico to you.”

  “How did you accomplish all this in fifteen minutes?”

  “Maybe you’re not the only one with the taking care of everyone else skill.” He lifted a shoulder with a little self-deprecating grimace. “Mine, of course, is a newer skill, so I’m not sure how I’m doing.”

  Her heart squeezed. “You’re doing amazing.” And because the answering look he gave her had more than her heart reacting, she went for a distraction. “Tell me that’s strawberry margaritas.”

  “It is. And I didn’t do this alone. I had help. Elle, Pru, Willa, and Colbie are real good in a pinch. Especially Elle. She’s a miracle maker. We’re not even sure she’s human.” He poured them each a glass—hers had a little umbrella in it. He gently clicked his drink to hers. “To Mexico.”

  She drank to that and then rolled her sore neck.

  He gently took her glass and set it on her nightstand. “Take off your sweater and lie down,” he said. “On your front.”

  She went brows up. “I don’t think I’ve had enough tequila yet.”

  “I’m going to use the suntan oil for all your kinks.”

  Her breath stuttered in her throat as all sorts of dirty, wicked images floated in her head.

  “. . . In your neck,” he said with a smile that said he knew exactly where her mind had gone.

  She’d reached for her drink and taken a big sip when he’d said “kinks,” and she nearly snorted tequila out her nose. “I’m not losing my top before you do,” she wheezed.

  Without a word, he pulled his T-shirt off and let it hit the floor. He stood there looking comfortable as hell in nothing but those board shorts riding low on his hips, revealing proof that the lean, lanky boy was now all man. Still lean but oh so many muscles, each delineated in a way that was making her mouth water. She took another gulp of her liquid courage. “You really think I’m just going to strip?”

  “That would be my greatest fantasy, but all I asked for was your sweater.”

  She took another long sip of her margarita. “Okay,” she said, staring at his chest, the one she wanted to lick like a lollipop from his chin to waistband of those shorts and beyond. “Just my sweater.” But she didn’t move.

  He smiled. “It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before.”

  “Hey, that was a long time ago!”

  He cocked his head, looking her over. “Has anything changed?”

  “No.” Well, maybe a little. She wasn’t as skinny as she’d been, for one thing. “Maybe,” she admitted.

  “I’ll close my eyes.”

  She snorted again and pulled off her top. Beneath she was wearing a plain black sports bra. Not exactly sexy since it had more coverage than a bathing suit top would’ve provided. Feeling safe, she climbed up on her bed and lay facedown. “Do your worst.”

  The scent of coconut hit her just before his warm hands did. Coated in oil, they glided firmly up her back and she let out a shuddery moan of pleasure before she could stop herself.

  It’d been so long since someone had touched her . . . too long. She wanted him to keep going, wanted him to touch every inch of her and remind her what she’d been missing.

  She felt the depression of the mattress when Sean got onto the bed and straddled her for a better reach. Then his amazing hands went to work kneading the knots in her shoulders and neck, and she moaned again.

  “You’re a mess, baby,” he murmured, his fingers tangling with her sports bra.

  She was a mess and in far more ways than one. Reaching back, she unhooked the bra’s three hooks and Sean stilled.

  Buoyed by that, Lotti went through the acrobatic motions of carefully pulling her arms out of the loops without revealing too much or showing him her face, which she knew would’ve been the biggest reveal of all. She was sure her need and hunger was all over it.

  “Lotti.” Sean’s voice sounded strained, husky, and she felt herself go damp in response.

  “Wouldn’t want to get funny tan lines,” she said.

  He let out a low half laugh, half groan, and then his weight shifted. “Tan lines are a bitch,” he agreed. He was at her side again, this time so his hands could glide beneath her skirt. He got ahold of her tights and slid them down her legs, dropping them to the floor.

  Now she was the one to freeze. Not because she wanted him to stop but because she was afraid he would stop. She felt his coconut oiled hands on her legs now, massaging his way up from the balls of her feet to the backs of her thighs, just under the edge of her skirt.

  “Lotti?” he asked, voice gruff.

  She had to clear her throat to speak. “Yeah?”

  “How do you feel about tan lines on your ass?”

  “Hate them,” she said.

  Her skirt was gone before she could blink. By some miracle, she was wearing her favorite pair of purple bikini bottoms.

  “Pretty,” he murmured. “But they’ve got to go too.” And then he hooked his thumbs on either side and slowly pulled them down. They hit the floor by her skirt and she held her breath.

  As if she wasn’t laid out before him like some sort of feast, he started at the bottom of her feet again, slowly working his strong fingers over the tense muscles. Her calves. The backs of her thighs. Her lower back. Her upper back, shoulders, and neck. Her arms, all the way down to her fingers. And then finally, he made his way down her spine to her ass.

  Until now, he’d been silent, giving her the best massage of her entire life. If she hadn’t been so unbearably aroused, she might have fallen asleep. But as he went along, he mixed in a series of knowing touches that had her on the very edge. He stroked the tips of his fingers along her ribs and the sides of her breasts, the tops of the back of her thighs, making sure to graze her butt here and there too.

  When he cupped a cheek in each of his big palms and squeezed, kneading, spreading her open, he let out a rough groan at the view he gave himself.

  “Spread your legs, baby,” he said softly, and then did it himself. With a hand on each of her ankles, he nudged her legs apart. Then he was between them, going back to massaging her again while she writhed helplessly beneath him, so unbearably aroused she
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