Savour the moment, p.24
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       Savour the Moment, p.24
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         Part #3 of Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts
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  newness between them wasn’t just about dating or sex. Or it shouldn’t be.

  He didn’t know, couldn’t know, where they were going, but he could start paying more attention to how they got there.

  “Do you want me to set the table?” he asked her.

  “It’s done.” The fact that she was a little flustered, and it showed, delighted him. “In the dining room. I thought, since—”

  “That’s nice. Parker?”

  “Is doing what any good friend does and making herself scarce tonight.”

  “Very nice.”

  She walked over, checked her skillet, then added more butter, some scallops before briskly zesting a lemon into the mix.

  “That smells amazing.”

  “Not bad.” She added some fresh herbs, salt, pepper, stirred. “Couple minutes to cook through, then we’ll let it sit for a few more. Fairly easy-peasy.”

  “Not from where I’m standing.”

  “I probably couldn’t write a brief—especially since I’m not sure exactly what one is. I guess we both picked careers with job security.” Her eyes met his as she tossed the salad. “People are always going to need to eat, and they’re always going to need lawyers.”

  “Whether they want to or not on the lawyer front.”

  She laughed. “I didn’t say that.” She took a lighter out of a drawer. “For the candles,” she told him. “You can take the salad in, and take care of that.”

  She’d fussed, he noted, when he carried the bowl into the dining room. She probably didn’t think of it that way, he mused as he studied the pretty plates, the candles in slim holders, the bright-faced sunflowers in a blue glass vase. The women in his life had a talent and a vocation, he supposed, for making things pretty and comfortable, for seeing to tiny details that always melded together into a perfect picture.

  That made him a lucky man.

  Very lucky, he thought moments later when they sat with the salad, the warmed bread, the wine.

  “When we get to the beach—” He broke off when she groaned. “What?”

  “Sorry, I always have a little orgasm when I think of vacation.”

  “Really?” Amused he watched her eyes sparkle as she took a bite of salad. “I’ll mention it more often. Anyway, when we’re there, I’m going to grill you such a steak. In fact, my pact now is for the men to put on a serious meal—just the guys. All you have to do is eat.”

  “I’m in. I actually have a calendar going in my office where I mark off the days until. Like I did when I was a kid for the end of the school year. I feel like that. Like a kid coming up on summer.”

  “Most kids don’t get orgasms when they think of summer vacation. Not in my experience anyway.”

  “You liked school more than I did.” When he laughed, she sipped her wine. “I like my work a lot more than I did school, and still, I’m really ready to step away from it for a couple weeks. I want to sleep until the sun’s actually up, and stretch out and read a book without thinking I really should be doing something else. No suit, no heels, no meetings. How about you?”

  “The last part’s a match—except for the heels. Not having to make a decision about more than whether to have a beer or a nap. That’ll be good.”

  “Naps.” She sighed and closed her eyes.

  “Another orgasm?”

  “No, just a quiet little tingle. I can’t wait. The rest of us were so surprised—and happy—when Parker told us the two of you bought the place. Is it wonderful?”

  “I like it. She’s taken it on faith, as she’s never seen it except in pictures. It’s a good investment, especially considering the economy right now. We got a good deal.”

  “That’s the lawyer speaking. Is it wonderful?”

  “You can hear the ocean from the bedrooms, see it from every window that faces oceanside. There’s a pond and a wonderful sense of seclusion.”

  “Okay, no more. I can’t take it.” She shivered, then rose to remove the salad plates. “Be right back.”

  “I can—”

  “No, I’ll take care of it. In charge, remember?”

  He topped off her wine, and had sat back with his own when she came in with the main. She’d garnished the pasta with sprigs of rosemary and basil.

  “Laurel, that looks seriously amazing.”

  “Never underestimate the power of presentation.” She served him, then herself.

  “Wow,” he said after the first bite. “It’s great. And impossible to feel guilty now. Maybe a little since Parker’s missing out.”

  “I left her a serving in the kitchen. She’s sneaking down for it.”

  “Guilt assuaged.” He took another bite. “Of course, now you’ve done it, and I’m going to want to do this more often.”

  “We might be able to work a deal, if you fire up the grill now and then.”

  “Works for me.”

  “You know, I nearly called you last night. I was in the mood for a cookout, then I had the run-in with Linda and—”

  “What run-in?”

  “Oh, Parker had just left for a meeting, and I was done for the day and walking down to Emma’s to see if she wanted a swim. And there’s Linda at Mac’s door. Going in, too, even though they weren’t home. Pissed me off.”

  His eyes narrowed, heated. “Parker told her not to come here again.”

  “Yeah, and Linda listens so well. Anyway, after an ugly scene I ran her off.”

  “What kind of a scene?” He saw her start to speak, then catch herself and shrug.

  “A Linda sort of scene. I won, which is the important thing.”

  “What did she say to you?”

  “That I didn’t have the authority to run her off, that sort of thing. I’m always amazed someone like her could’ve had any part in creating someone like Mac. I don’t know if she’ll ever understand that Mac’s not going to drop everything and do her bidding anymore.”

  She wasn’t changing the subject so much as shifting it, Del thought. He laid a hand over hers as if to hold her in place. “She upset you.”

  “Sure, she’s Linda. She upsets just by existing. Hey, can we get a restraining order? On the basis that she’s a major pain in the ass?”

  “Why didn’t you call me?”

  “For what? I got her gone.”

  “Not before she upset you.”

  “Del, if I called you every time somebody upset me, we’d never be off the phone. She went, and Emma and I took a swim. She did spoil my mood for a cookout though. Let’s not let her spoil the linguine.”

  “She couldn’t. But if she comes back, I want to know about it.”

  “Fine.”

  “No, promise me. I’ll deal with her if she comes back here, but I have to know about it to deal with her.”

  “No problem. I promise.You really can’t get a restraining order just because she’s a pain in the ass?”

  “There are other ways to deal with Linda. Mac didn’t want me to before. Things are different now.”

  “Legal question? If, since she was technically trespassing, I’d knocked her on her ass, could she have me charged with assault?”

  He grinned because she so obviously wanted him to. “Gray area. Plus, I’d get you off.”

  “Good to know, because next time I might not be so polite. Now for something much more cheerful. I met with Sherry Maguire and her guy for a tasting and design approval. It was such fun.”

  They passed the rest of the meal talking about casual things, mutual friends. And in the back of his mind he continued to wonder just what Linda had said or done to upset Laurel.

  THEY OPTED FOR A WALK AFTER DINNER—AND AFTER A LAUGH over the note Parker left in the kitchen.

  My compliments to the chef.

  As payment for the meal, I’ll do the dishes.

  So don’t.

  P.

  Summer stretched the days so they walked the gardens in the soft, settling light. The close, sticky heat of the day lifted, just enough, and still warmed the flowers
so their scents seemed stronger, more vital.

  Stars winked on as she took him down to the pond to show him the frog. When he crouched for a closer look, she shook her head.

  “You’re just as thrilled and fascinated as Kent—the boy from the wedding party.”

  “A man never outgrows a good frog. It’s a whopper. I could probably catch it, and chase you. Like I used to.”

  “You could try, but I’m faster these days. Besides, you usually caught Emma.”

  “She was more girl than the rest of you, and squealed more. Those were the days.” He sat back on his heels, scanned the grounds, the green, the cool shadows. “I liked coming down to the pond before dark in the summer, just sitting here.” He did so now. “Thinking long thoughts with my dog, watching the lights go on in the house. See, there’s Parker’s room. Now, anyway. It used to be there.”

  He pointed.

  “I remember. I spent a lot of happy hours in that room.” She sat beside him. “The Bride’s Suite now. So, I guess, it’s still a happy room, full of female. Yours is the same. I remember when you moved up to the third floor. To get some privacy.”

  “I was stunned when they said okay. They trusted me. Then, of course, I

  had to move up there, even though it was a little scary. I had to bribe the dog to sleep up there with me. I miss my dog.”

  “Aww.” She tipped her head to his shoulder. “He was a great dog.”

  “Yeah, he was. I think about getting a dog, but then I remember I’m really not home enough, and it doesn’t seem fair.”

  “Two dogs.”

  He ducked his head to look at her. “Two?”

  “They’d keep each other company when you weren’t there. They’d be pals, hang out, talk about you when you were gone.”

  The idea tickled him. “That’s a thought.”

  He turned, slipped an arm around her, rubbed his lips over hers. “When I got a little older, sometimes I’d bring girls down here to neck.”

  “I know. We used to spy on you.”

  “You did not.”

  “Of course we did.” She snorted out a laugh because he looked both stunned and deeply disconcerted. “It was entertaining and educational. It helped give us a heads-up on what to expect when it was our turn.”

  “Jesus.”

  “You got to second base here with Serena Willcott.”

  “Okay, that’s it. Memory Lane’s closed.”

  “You had smooth moves, even then. I bet you could get to second base with me here, too.” She took his hand, slid it up her body, pressed it lightly to her breast. “See? You’ve still got it.”

  “I’ve worked some new ones in since Serena Willcott.”

  “Is that so? Why don’t you try them out on me?”

  He leaned in again, a brush of lips, a rub, a gentle nip while he used just his fingertips.

  “Okay, yeah, that’s a good one.”

  “If that worked, I might try this.” He slid his finger down her throat to the top button of her shirt, flicked it open. “Not too fast,” he murmured against her mouth, “not too slow.” He opened the second button, then the third, pausing between to glide his fingertips over newly exposed skin.

  “Yeah, you’ve probably improved.” Her heart was already skipping. She made a sound of approval as his lips trailed along her throat, then one of surprise when his hand circled around to unhook her bra.

  “Well done,” she managed. “We should take this inside.”

  “No.” Still kissing her, still touching her, he laid her back. “Right here.”

  “But—”

  “I don’t think four little girls are spying on us tonight. And I want you. I want you here, by the water, under the starlight, on the grass, in the air.”

  His tongue swept under the loosened cup of her bra, over her nipple, and sent a shiver of need along her skin.

  He made her weak; made her want to be. He made her want to give herself over to him and what he stirred in her. The warm grass, the warm air, the easy play of his hands, his lips, left her wanting nothing more than what was here and now. So she entrusted herself to the moment and to him, while to her dazzled eyes the stars seemed to burst to life in the sky.

  The scent of her, seductive as the summer night, allured. The taste of her, so irresistible, stirred. He let his hands wander, to tease and to pleasure while the night deepened around them, cloaked them. Over the hum of the summer evening, an owl began its two-note call.

  Moonlight danced on the surface of the pond, and on her body as he undressed her.

  She started to sit up to unbutton his shirt, but he pressed her back.

  “Not yet, not yet.” His gaze swept over her, the hunger in it bringing another shiver over her skin. “You can’t know how you look. You can’t know.”

  He needed, craved, the touch, the taste, now. All of her, all his. He took, let the greed come so her cries and moans only sharpened his arousal. Her nails dug, her body bucked, and still he drove her on.

  Now those stars exploded, blinding her. She couldn’t find her breath as sensations pummeled her. It felt wicked, wonderful, to lie there, near to helpless, naked, crazed, while he did what he chose. His shirt brushed her breast, and she moaned again.

  She wanted his flesh against hers, desperately, and yet knowing he was dressed and she exposed heightened the excitement toward a delirious panic. And even that burst.

  “Now. Inside me. Oh God! Del.”

  She tugged at his shirt, his belt until together they managed to strip him.

  She rolled. Straddled him. Took him.

  Pleasure swamped her, and spurred her. Her head fell back as she steeped herself in it. He laid his hands on her breasts, then glided them down her body. Then gripped hers.

  The storm rose, wildly, and they rode it out together.

  SHE’D MEANT TO TEASE HIM A LITTLE, TEMPT HIM A LITTLE—some groundwork for what she’d expected to follow in her bedroom. Now, she thought, she lay naked, stunned, and exhausted by the pond where the fat frog croaked in what might have been approval.

  She’d just had wild outdoor sex with Del by the pond where they’d often played as children.

  She wasn’t quite sure if that was weird or wonderful.

  “Second base?” He ran a hand down her back, over her ass, and back again. “Baby, that was a grand slam.”

  She had to laugh, it was a little wheezy, but she had to. “Good God, Del, we’re naked and sticky. What if Mac and Carter, or Emma and Jack had decided to take a walk down this way?”

  “They didn’t.”

  “But what if—?”

  “They didn‘t,” he repeated, his voice as lazy as the hand that continued to stroke. “Besides, they’d’ve heard you making sex noises before they got close enough to see anything—then they’d’ve politely taken another direction while they sighed in envy.”

  “I didn’t make sex noises.”

  “Oh yeah, lots of them. Grade-A porn sex noises. You could have a fallback career there.”

  “I most certainly do not—”

  He rolled on top of her, slid down and found her breast with his mouth. She couldn’t quite bite back the gasp and groan.

  “Hear that? Wasn’t me.”

  Because he just nuzzled in, she found her breath again. “Okay, well, it’s good to know if Vows goes under I can make a living doing porn moan-overs.”

  “You’d be a star.”

  “Maybe you should gag me.” When he lifted his head and grinned, she felt heat wash over her. “Not really. I don’t think.”

  “We’ll keep it as an option.” He lowered his head again, but eased over to take his weight off her. “If we’d thought to pitch a tent we could just stay here all night.”

  The idea made her snort. “When’s the last time you went camping?”

  “I think I was twelve.”

  “Yeah, not your thing. Or mine. I guess we need to get dressed and get up to the house.”

  “We’re naked and sticky. Bu
t I can fix part of that.” He wrapped around her, rolled, rolled.

  Her brain engaged, too late, but soon enough to understand what he had in mind. “No, Del! You can’t—”

  They hit the cool water of the pond tangled together. She didn’t swallow much, and wiggled and kicked her way to the surface to sputter it out. While she did, he laughed like a lunatic.

  “Shit! Shit!You maniac! There are frogs in here. And fish. Fish!” She squealed it as something fluttered against her leg. She struck out for the bank, but he nabbed her.

  “It feels great.”

  “Fish.” She shoved at him. “Frogs.”

  “You and me. I’m naked in the pond with Laurel McBane.And she’s all slippery. Oops,” he said when his hand slid between her legs, when he cupped her.

  “Del.” Breathless now, clinging. “We’ll drown.”

  “Let’s find out.”

  They didn’t drown, but she barely had the strength to pull herself out and onto the grass where she lay gasping for air.

  “We never,

  never saw anything like that through the binoculars.”

  He reared up in shock. “You had binoculars?”

  “Of course we did. We couldn’t get close enough to see anything without binoculars. But the frog? He didn’t need them, and he’s seen entirely too much.”

  “He’ll keep quiet about it if he wants to keep his legs.”

  She managed to turn her head, meet Del’s eyes. “Now we’re naked and wet.”

  “But happy.”

  She smiled. “I can’t argue with that. But how are we going to get into the house?”

  “I’m a Brown. I have a plan.”

  In the end, she wore his shirt, he wore the pants, and they balled up the rest. Still damp, and trying not to laugh, they snuck in the side door to make the dash to her room.

  “I think we pulled it off,” she said and dumped her load the minute the door
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