Savour the moment, p.20
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       Savour the Moment, p.20

         Part #3 of Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts
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  He looked at her, and she saw in his eyes what was quivering inside her. That drumming, primal need. Her pulse pounded along with the music, her skin hummed along with the machines. Beat slapped into quick beat.

  She smiled slowly, spoke breathlessly. “I’m coming up on you.”

  “You don’t have enough left to take me.”

  “I’ve got plenty left.”

  “You’re winded.”

  “You, too. I can finish strong. Can you?”

  “Watch me.”

  Across the room, Mac rolled her eyes, and deciding there were some things even the closest of friends shouldn’t be part of, slipped out of the room.

  Neither Laurel nor Del noticed, or gave her a single thought.

  He slowed, just a little, and she understood the competition was over, and the sexual dance—hot and primitive—had begun.

  They’d finish together.

  “Let’s see your kick,” he demanded.

  “You want it?”

  “Yeah, I want it.”

  “Then come get it.” She bore down, hard, driving herself until she was both thrilled and astonished to feel that dark pleasure build inside her. When he once more matched his pace to hers, she heard herself moan.

  Closing her eyes she let it come, let it ride through her, all the hot and grinding need, all the aching anticipation.

  They hit the finish together.

  Breath fast and ragged, she opened her eyes to look at him. Her throat burned with a thirst water wouldn’t quench. She stepped off on unsteady legs.

  “I’m going to skip the yoga,” she said.

  “You’re damn right.” He hooked his fingers in her sports bra, yanked her against him.

  His mouth was a fever on hers, burning reason, spiking delirium. Need and hunger—his ran as deep and desperate as hers, and that alone was a thrill. Heat, another wild surge of it, crashed through her so she wondered how either of them could stand against it.

  “We have to hurry. We have to hurry.” She broke away from him, fighting for air. For one humming moment, they just stared at each other. “Catch me!” She sprinted to the door, heard her next gasping breath come out in a half-crazed laugh as she raced toward her room.

  He caught her, swung her through the door.

  Still laughing, she pivoted, slammed him back against the door to shut it, then devoured his mouth with hers.

  “God. Oh God,” she managed, and yanked his shirt up, tossed it aside. Then ran her hands over his chest. “You’re all sweaty and slippery, and ...” She ran her tongue over him. “Salty. It makes me crazy. Quick,” she demanded and started to drag down his shorts.

  “Not that quick.” He reversed, pushed her back against the door. He pulled off her sports bra, tossed it over his shoulder, then filled his hands with her breasts.

  Her head fell back as his thumbs stroked her nipples. “I can’t.”

  “Yes, you can. The race isn’t over. You don’t know what you do to me. I don’t know what you do to me. But I want more. I want you. I want more of you.”

  She took his face in her hands to bring his mouth back to hers. “You can have all you want. All you want. Just don’t stop touching me. Don’t stop.”

  He couldn’t. How could he keep his hands, his mouth, off that tight, taut body, that soft, hot skin? She pressed against him, murmuring against his lips, urging him to do what he wanted, take what he needed.

  He’d never had another woman excite him like this, not like this until he could all but feel the blood pulsing, pounding, under his skin. Desire was too simple, too quiet a name for what she stirred in him. Passion too easy.

  He dragged her arms over her head, pinned them against the door while he ravaged her mouth, her neck. Then he moved down her body, feasting. But the hunger only grew.

  The bike pants fit her like a second skin, molding her hips, her thighs. He peeled them from her as he journeyed down. Until it was his hands molding her. Until there was no barrier between that wet heat and his lips, his tongue.

  The orgasm tore through her, shocking her senses, blurring her vision. Her legs buckled, but he tightened his grip.

  He did what he wanted. Took what he needed.

  She couldn’t find air through the torrent of pleasure, couldn’t find balance in the thick, sultry dark. She could only feel the mad barrage of sensations that left her body quaking for the next assault.

  Once again, he pulled her hands over her head, cuffed them. And with his eyes on hers, drove into her.

  She came again, one long, shocking tear of control. When she shuddered, he thrust. When she shuddered, he plunged until it began to build again, impossibly.

  Her wrists slipped from his hands so she gripped his shoulders, held fast as she felt his control begin to fray. She watched him watch her as they started the sprint, found the speed, matched their pace.

  And hit the finish together.

  They sprawled on the floor, both too weak, too sated to move. When the power of speech returned, Laurel sighed. “We’re going to be rich.”

  “Huh?”

  “Forgot.You’re already rich.

  I’m going to be rich, and you’ll be richer.”

  “Okay.”

  “I’m serious. We’ve just discovered a no-fail motivation for exercise. Hot jungle sex. We’ll be Bill Gates rich. We’ll write a book. There’ll be DVDs and infomercials. America, then the world, will become buff and sexually satisfied. And they’ll have us to thank.”

  “Will the DVDs and infomercial have demonstrations of the hot jungle sex?”

  “On the Adult Only versions—and we can use a lot of mist and clever lighting and camera angles to keep it classy.”

  “Honey, one of the perks of hot jungle sex is it’s not classy.”

  “For production purposes it will be. We’re not making porn here. Think of the millions, Delaney.” She rolled onto her stomach so she could see his face. “The millions of unfit bodies who will read our book, see our DVD or infomercial, and think: holy shit, I can get me some of that if I work out? We’ll need to build the McBane-Brown Motivational Health Club so we can offer a safe, clean place for membership. We’ll franchise. They will pay, Del. Oh yes, they will pay big for this.”

  “How come your name goes first on the Motivational Health Club?”

  “My idea.”

  “That’s true, but you wouldn’t have had the idea if I hadn’t just rocked your world.”

  “Rocked yours right back.”

  “Damn right, you did. Come here.” He pulled her over until she splayed across his chest. “Your name can go first.”

  “Good. That’s settled. Of course we’ll have to have various DVDs for levels. Like Yoga for Beginners, and that sort of thing. Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

  “I’ll start the paperwork.”

  “Do that. God, five miles and hot jungle sex. I should be exhausted, but I feel like I could do it all again and then ... Oh shit.”

  “What?”

  “The time! Five miles and HJS take longer than three miles and yoga. I’ve got to get in the shower.”

  “Me, too.”

  She gave his shoulder a light pinch. “It has to be just a shower. I’m off schedule.”

  “Laurel, every man has his limits. I think I’ve reached mine for this morning.”

  She got up, pushed back her hair. “Wimp,” she said, then dashed for the shower.

  BY THE TIME SHE’D FINISHED HER MORNING BAKING, LAUREL WAS back on schedule. She’d opted for a DVD of

  The Thin Man, and arranged pastries for the ten o’clock on a pretty dish while Nick and Nora’s dialogue zinged from the kitchen set.

  The air smelled indulgently of sugar and rich coffee, and held the cheer of some of Emma’s Shasta daisies.

  She reached back to untie her apron as Parker walked in.

  “Oh, you’re finished. I was coming in to help you with the setup.”

  “With five m
inutes to spare? That’s not Parker time.”

  “The clients called to reschedule for ten thirty.”

  Laurel shut her eyes. “I killed myself to stay on schedule. You could’ve told me.”

  “They just called ... okay, twenty minutes ago. But this way, nobody’s late.”

  “You didn’t tell anyone.”

  “I love that top,” Parker said brightly. “It’s almost a shame to cover most of it with a suit jacket.”

  “That kind of thing only works on distracted clients.” But with a shrug, Laurel reached for the jacket she’d hung up before baking. “But it is a great top.”

  “We’re not late!” Mac and Emma rushed in together.

  “No, but the client’s going to be,” Laurel told them. “Sneaky Brown kept that to herself.”

  “Only for twenty minutes.”

  “Jeez. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or relieved. I need a hit.” Mac opened the refrigerator for a Diet Pepsi. “So ...” Mac uncapped the top, took a long sip as she studied Laurel. “I bet you’re feeling all loose and relaxed.”

  “I’m fine. Why?”

  “Oh, I bet a whole buncha lots better than fine. I bet hanging off a lamppost belting out a show tune in the rain kind of fine after that workout. Wait, let me put air quotes around ‘workout.’” She set down her drink and did just that.

  “What, did you set up a hidden camera in my room?”

  “I would never be so crude—unless I’d thought of it first. Besides, who needs a hidden camera? The two of you were sending off such wild sex vibes in there I had to leave before they caught me and I jumped both of you and had a threesome.”

  “Really?” Parker asked, drawing out both syllables.

  “Well, not about the threesome probably. Laurel’s not my type. I’d go for you, hot stuff.” She gave Parker a lewd wink.

  “I thought I was your type,” Emma said.

  “I’m such a slut.Anyway, the two of them are on those elliptical bastards, and the steam’s rising. Then they’re using workout code for sex talk.”

  “We were not.”

  “Oh, I broke your code.” Mac pointed a finger. “‘I’m coming up on you. I can finish strong.’ I’m getting hot just thinking about it.”

  “You are a slut,” Laurel decided.

  “I’m an engaged slut, and don’t you forget it. But I should thank you, as I took my unexpected sexual frustration out on Carter after our swim. And he thanks you, too.”

  “Anytime.”

  “This is all very interesting, and I mean that sincerely. But—” Parker tapped her watch. “We need to set up in the parlor.”

  “Wait.” Emma tossed up a traffic cop hand. “Just one question, because I have to get the flowers out of the van. Do you really have energy for sex after your workout?”

  “Read the book. Watch the infomercial.”

  “What book?” Emma demanded as Laurel carried the pastries out of the kitchen. “What infomercial?”

  “Flowers,” Parker said, then carted off the coffee setup.

  “Damn it. Don’t talk about anything good until I get back. In fact, you have to help me haul in the flowers.”

  “But I want to—”

  Emma just made a cut-off sound, held up a finger at Mac.

  “Okay, okay.”

  In the parlor, Laurel and Parker set up the refreshments. “So, is it later?”

  “Later than what?” Laurel responded.

  “Later than it was earlier when you said later.”

  “Yeah, it’s later.” Laurel fussed with the fan of napkins. “How many clients?”

  “Bride, MOB, FOB, Groom, SMOG. Five.”

  “Right. FOG was a widower. He’s not coming?”

  “Out of town. You don’t have to tell me. It’s okay. Of course, it’s not okay. I’m saying that because you’re my friend, and I don’t want you to feel bad.”

  “You’re such a bitch.” Laurel had to laugh. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. It’s just that I feel stupid about it. Especially now, after the hot jungle sex.”

  “It was hot jungle sex?” Emma demanded as she came in with a box exploded with star lilies. “What kind of workout was it? How long? Be specific. Parker, take notes.”

  “Five miles on the elliptical.”

  “Well, God.” Heaving a sigh, Emma began taking out the vases, placing them. “Forget it. I’d be dead after five miles of anything, then Jack would have hot jungle sex with someone else. It’d just piss me off. There are easier ways to HJS.”

  “I wonder,” Parker began, “is it possible, is it perhaps conceivable, we’re all a little obsessed with sex at the moment?”

  “It’s her fault.” Mac helped Emma with the flowers. “You’d understand if you’d been in the gym with all those sex vibes dancing around.”

  “We’re not talking about sex,” Laurel said.

  “When did we stop?” Emma wondered.

  “Before you came in. We’re talking about something else.”

  “Just as well since I’m not doing five miles on some machine. What something else?”

  “It’s about dinner last night. Or before dinner. I was late. It’s your fault.” She pointed at Mac.

  “What? I couldn’t help it. The studio shoot ran over, and I couldn’t find my shoes. The ones I needed. Besides, you were hardly late. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes.”

  “Long enough for Deborah Manning to sit down with Del at our table and have a glass of our wine.”

  “I thought Deborah Manning was in Spain.”

  “So you don’t know everything.” Laurel smiled thinly at Parker. “She’s obviously not in Spain as she was drinking wine with Del.”

  “He’s not interested in Deborah.”

  “He used to be.”

  “That was years ago, and they only dated a couple of times.”

  “I know.” Laurel held up her hands before Parker continued. “I know, which is one of the reasons I feel stupid. I wasn’t jealous—I’m not jealous—of her, that way. If I was, I’d feel even more stupid because he was so obviously not interested in her that way. I don’t think she was either. In him.”

  “Then what’s the problem?” Emma asked her.

  “It was just ... when I came in and saw them, sharing wine, laughing. They looked so right together.”

  “No, they don’t.” Parker shook her head.

  “You didn’t see them. They looked beautiful and smooth and perfect.”

  “No. Beautiful and smooth, okay. Perfect and right, no. They’d look attractive together because they’re both attractive. That’s not the same thing as right.”

  “That’s profound. That’s actually profound,” Mac decided. “And I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I’ll do photographs of couples and I’ll think this is a pretty shot, they look great together. But I know they don’t look right. I can’t change that, fix it, arrange it. Because they’re not, and that’s all.”

  “Exactly.”

  “Okay, they looked beautiful. We’ll stick with that. And for just a minute, I felt stuck, separate. It’s stupid.” Laurel pushed at her hair. “It was like looking through a glass wall, and that I was on my side, they were on theirs.”

  “That’s insulting, to all three of you.” Emma stopped placing flowers to poke Laurel in the shoulder. “And none of you deserve it. Deborah’s a nice woman.”

  “Who is Deborah?”

  “You don’t really know her,” Emma told Mac. “But she’s a perfectly nice woman.”

  “I didn’t say she wasn’t. I don’t really know her either. I’m just saying I don’t think she’s ever waited tables or sweated it out in a restaurant kitchen.”

  “That’s reverse snobbery.”

  Laurel shrugged at Parker. “Sure it is. I told you I felt stupid about it. And I got over it. I did. I know it’s my problem, and I don’t like it. But it’s what I felt for that moment. And I felt it when she realized he was having dinner with me, that we were together, an
d I could see that flicker of what-the-fuck? on her face before she got rid of it. She was perfectly nice,” she said to Emma. “It wasn’t her fault I felt that way, which makes it worse. It snuck up on me. It does sometimes. Then we had a lovely dinner. Really lovely. So there was this part of me under the part having that really lovely dinner that felt even more stupid for the reaction. I hate feeling stupid.”

  “Good.” Parker nodded. “Because when you hate something, you stop doing it.”

  “Working on it.”

  “Then—That must be the clients,” Parker said as the bell rang. “Crap, I lost track. Emma, get rid of those boxes. Laurel, you’re wearing your kitchen shoes.”

  “Damn it. Be right back.” She sprinted out of the parlor, with Emma behind her with the empty boxes.

  Parker tugged down her suit jacket. “You didn’t say much.” “Because I’ve been behind that glass wall,” Mac told her. “I know how she felt. It takes some time and effort to smash it down, but she will.”

  “I don’t want there to be any sort of wall between us.”

  “Never between us, Parks. Not the four of us. It’s different for her with Del, but she’ll crack it.”

  “All right. You’ll tell me if you think she’s feeling that way.”

  “Promise.”

  “All right,” she said again. “Show time.” She hurried out to answer the door.

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  LATER IN THE WEEK, AND WITH CONSIDERABLE PLEASURE, LAUREL sat down with Carter’s sister and her fiance. Sherry Maguire bubbled like the champagne Laurel kept chilled, and was just as delightful.

  From their first event meeting—the day Carter had filled in for Nick, and reconnected with Mac—the key word for the fall wedding had been

  fun.

  Laurel planned to make sure the fun extended to the cake.

  “I’m so excited.” Sherry danced in her seat. “Everything’s just coming together so well. I don’t know what I’d do without Parker. Well, without all of you. Probably drive Nick crazy”

  “Er,” he said and grinned at her. “Crazi

 
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