“He’s been skulking around here all day. I think he’s harmless.”
When she sighed, her breasts heaved against his arm. He cursed every inappropriate thought that rushed through his mind. No time for sex with an ex. This situation didn’t exactly scream romance.
“You weren’t kidding about being trapped in some B movie, were you?” She twisted against him in an attempt to break free of his hold.
He broke off his words when she bent his wrist backward until he thought it would break. Cursing under his breath, he released her and rubbed the pain in his left hand.
Panama Hat Man walked toward the beach, his stride quickening with their approach.
“Grace, come back here.” He jogged toward the path, panic just a breath away from consuming him. He glanced over his shoulder as he ran, conscious of the unlocked building but concerned about Grace’s safety.
Night slowly overtook twilight. Lights from the sidewalk cafes and bars illuminated the street at their backs. Only a handful of people strolled the beach at the waterline in the distance. He watched her jog over the sand, getting further away from the streetlights.
Panama Hat Man disappeared.
“This is a bad idea, Grace,” he said when he caught up to her.
“This whole thing is a bad idea. I don’t need this drama.” She shouted the words over her shoulder as she paused to yank the slippers from her feet. “I quit. Done. Finito.”
“And you think I do?” He grabbed her elbow. “I don’t want you to quit, just stop following this guy. You could be walking into a trap. Maybe he wants you to follow him, ever think of that?”
Of all the qualities she had to retain as an adult, it had to be recklessness. So much for the sophisticated, calm, I-have-it-all-together façade.
A piercing pop sliced through the air. Sand exploded at their feet. Another shot—definitely gunfire.
He pressed her to the ground as another shot went off. His hands covered her head while his body shielded hers. A brief scan of the horizon showed nothing except sand, strangers running in the opposite direction of the shoreline, and the blackness of the ocean.
“He’s shooting at us?” she asked against his neck, hands fisted in the material of his shirt.
“I quit, I really do quit.” Her nails sank into his shoulder as she clung to him.
Another pop sliced the air. Strangers screamed. Someone yelled for the police.
Searing pain ripped through his left shoulder. Rolling from her, he half crawled, half pulled her further into the darkness and in the opposite direction of the Panama Hat Man.
He kept his head down and tugged her away from the lights.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” he asked, gaze scanning her for any sign of injury.
“Stop touching me.” She slapped his hands away, eyes snapping with fire. “My life was complicated enough, Jon Ryan. I didn’t need you making it worse. Damn you.”
“You had to follow the guy, didn’t you?” Rage at the situation at large zeroed in on her. “For being a so-called genius, that was an idiot move.”
She punched him in the shoulder. “Who is this guy? Why is he shooting at us?
Pain ripped through his left arm and burned down his back. Sharp, burning pain. “If I knew the guy, I’d kick his ass. Stop hitting me.”
She held her fist up to her face and studied the blood that stained her fingers. “You’ve been shot,” she repeated several times before lifting her gaze to his. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me you were shot?”
“I didn’t know.” He rested the back of his head against the stilt in the shadows of the lifeguard stand. He needed clarity. This entire situation had escalated far beyond his scope of comprehension. None of it made sense.
Coldness seeped through his bones. Someone had shot him, but he knew instinctively that Grace had been the target. She had the ability to prove his innocence. Someone wanted her out of the picture.
“You are nothing but trouble.”
“You always liked trouble.” He rested his right palm against the bed, supporting his weight on his healthy arm.
“Listen carefully to me.” She pressed her finger against his lips. “I’m high on adrenaline, we’re alone, no witnesses, no regrets. One kiss won’t hurt anyone.”
“No witnesses, no regrets…” Heat flooded his veins. “Adrenaline…”
“If I don’t do this now, I’ll hate myself in the morning.”
“You mean you’ll regret it when they lock me up in the morning and throw away the key because you didn’t kiss me one last time?”
“Exactly.” She straddled his lap.
“You weren’t supposed to agree.” He smiled despite the circumstances.
“Shut up, sailor boy. Kiss me.”
She kissed him as if savoring the taste. Her hair fell forward, locking them in a caramel-colored veil of intimacy. Eyes open, they stared at each other as their lips moved against each other’s.
His hands slid up her long thighs, over her panties and pressed against the smoothness of her back. Every stroke of her lips against his awakened pure need in his veins. He no longer cared about what was right or wrong. All he wanted was her mouth on his, his hands on her body and her skin against his.
With a quick yank, she pulled her dress over her head. Breasts bared, she pressed him down on the bed and laughed against his mouth. “This is crossing all kinds of boundaries and breaking every rule I can think of.”
Her bare foot slid over his leg, hands curled into his hair, and body flattened against his. All the anger, the terror and confusion poured from him as he deepened the kiss with an urgency that bordered on desperation. The silky warmth of her mouth erased his pain. Kissing her felt like coming home from an exhausting, lonely journey.
“A kiss…that’s all I wanted,” she muttered against his chin. A shiver quaked through her body when she sighed.
“Impossible. We can’t.”
“We can do whatever the hell we want, Grace.” Despite the burning pain in his left shoulder, he maneuvered so that his body covered hers. He wanted more than a kiss. He wanted more heat.
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