Jab, hook. Jab, hook.
He repeated the movement but couldn’t settle into a rhythm.
He punched harder, faster. Sweat trailed down his chest. His breath came in short, heated gasps.
His pulse raced. His skin crawled. He wanted to go to her. He wanted to know everything—every single detail of what her life had been like since their last day at Camp Clem.
He could have stared at Lindsey all night. He could tell by the way her eyes darted back and forth, she was nervous. But she relaxed a bit, sitting there on the porch with Michael and Em. Whispers of that teenage girl he had fallen in love with sixteen years ago were there. The gentle, upturned curve of her lower lip as she smiled. The way she had focused her attention like she was framing a photograph in her head while she listened to Michael describe the Foursquare’s architecture.
She was just as beautiful as the last time he had seen her. Maybe even more so, if that were even possible. She’d been wearing a bulky sweatshirt, but when she’d pushed up the sleeves, revealing her slender wrists, the image of her delicate hands twisted and entwined in rope made him hard like a teenager unable to control his primal urges.
He continued to pummel the punching bag. Tight uppercuts mixed with quick jabs. His vision went hazy, and his father’s face, angry and snarling, manifested in front of him. Nick punched harder. Regret and frustration fueled his assault. His muscles quivered with exertion, and, after what seemed like an eternity, he fell forward, holding onto the bag, cheek pressed to the worn leather.
He stayed like that for a long time, swaying as the chain holding the bag suspended from the ceiling creaked out a weary tune. The bag stilled, and he closed his eyes. His body started to relax when he heard a sound. He’d propped the door to the carriage house open to let in the fresh night air, but all had been quiet on Foxglove Lane until now. The noise was a muffled cry. He knew immediately that it was Lindsey. She was calling out. She needed help.
He ran outside. He was only wearing mesh athletic shorts and running shoes, but the cold March air was the last thing on his mind. He ran to the back of Lindsey’s Foursquare. She was whimpering, begging for her life between sobs. He tried to open the back door. It was locked. Adrenaline coursing through his body, he reared back then thrust his shoulder into the door. The weak lock buckled, and the door swung open. He ran through the kitchen, past the family room, and into the foyer. He scanned for any intruders. There wasn’t anyone on the first floor. The front door was closed and locked. No sign of forced entry. He hit the stairs, taking them three at a time.
“Please, stop. Please!”
Christ, he had to get to her. He checked each bedroom and found her in Em’s old room. She was alone. He didn’t dare turn on a light. If there was an intruder, he wanted to catch the bastard off guard. But after a few seconds, Lindsey called out again, her face contorting in the moonlight. He checked all the rooms one more time. There was no one else in the house.
“Lindsey,” he whispered. He fell to his knees next to her bed. “Lindsey, wake up.”
Wisps of hair clung to her sweat soaked forehead, and he brushed a few strands from her face.
She opened her eyes. “Nick, you’re here. You’re really here. It’s you.”
She blinked slowly, hovering in that space between sleep and wakefulness. Her eyes, glassy with tears, stared up at him in awe. She touched his face as if she wasn’t sure if he were real.
“How did you know I needed you?”
He swallowed hard. No one was in the house. She wasn’t in any danger. “I heard you, Linds. I heard you calling out.”
She cupped his face in her hands and pulled him close. Her breath was warm against his lips. “Nick,” she breathed, letting her fingers trace the shell of his ear.
What the hell was going on?
She had been traumatized by the mere sight of him when she’d arrived at the house. The next time he saw her outside the hardware shop, she had made it quite clear she didn’t want anything to do with him. But now, with her so close and looking at him just like she did when they were teenagers, he couldn’t stop his body from responding to her touch. He had never found that level of connection with anyone besides her. The closest he’d ever come to that feeling of all-encompassing joy were those moments when he was flying, that split-second during takeoff right before the aircraft took flight. But having Lindsey right here, lips millimeters from his, the flying sensation became a far second in comparison to being close to her.
“Linds, what’s wrong? Why were you calling out?”
“Aren’t you going to kiss me?” she asked, her words a dreamy, sing-songy whisper.
He hadn’t kissed anyone in ages. He had tried to have girlfriends after their summer, but nothing clicked. He’d had the real thing, but life had fucked all that up. He had spent the last decade having meaningless sex, and he hadn’t kissed a woman—properly kissed a woman— in over a decade.
His body tensed. A tremor of excitement ran down his spine. Every part of him wanted her. Christ, he wanted to climb into bed with her, crash his lips into hers, and sink his throbbing cock, hard and pulsing with desire, into her sweet center. He wanted to run his hands up the length of her arms and wrap his fingers around her delicate wrists. He wanted her blue-green eyes locked on his. He wanted to disappear into the safety of her world just as he had that summer.
“Nick,” she breathed, the word infused with sunshine and wildflowers. It was an invitation, but to what?
She inched forward, and her lips grazed his. As gentle as a lullaby, but as ominous as a low rumble of thunder, every memory of their time together came flooding back. A torrent of sensations raining down on him like a hail storm. His breath came faster. His body tightened. Despite her crazy mixed signals, despite knowing that something in her past was haunting her, and despite knowing he would hate himself in the morning if she rejected him, he laced his fingers into her hair and leaned in closer.
His lips pressed against hers, and he was home. He rested her head back onto the pillow and hovered above her. She sighed and gave him the opening he needed to claim her mouth. Their tongues remembered the slow, sensual rhythm of their kisses.
“I never wanted it to end,” he whispered, his words hot and breathy between kisses.