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Fatal Justice (Chapter 5)

At two minutes to midnight, Nick couldn't find Sam and panic was setting in. A heartbeat away from asking the DJ to page her, he spotted her tucked into a corner, checking text messages on her phone.

Pushing his way through the crowd, he took the phone, stuffed it into his back pocket, reached for her hand and tugged her up.

She resisted. "Hey! What're you doing?"

"Come," he said, leading her out of the room to a stairway.

"Where are we going? Isn't it almost midnight?"

"Yep." Nick charged up the stairs, almost dragging her along with him. At the top of the darkened stairwell, he pushed open the door to the roof. Their city stretched out before them. Above, the clear sky twinkled with stars.

"Oh, , Nick," she said breathlessly. "Oh, look at this!" She spun on her heel to get the full view of the Capitol, White House and monuments at the far end of the Mall.

Nick drew her into his arms. "You like?"

"Totally. This is amazing!"

"Are you cold?"

"No," she said, gazing up at the stars.

From the sidewalk below, they heard revelers counting down the final ten seconds of the year.

He brought his hands up to frame her face. "I love you. This year, next year, every year."

She reached for him, and as fireworks burst into the sky above them, she kissed him softly, thoroughly, deeply. "I love you, too. Thank you for the best New Year's ever."

"The first of many." He kissed both her cheeks. "I promise."

"Can we do this every year?" Her eyes brimmed with excitement, the way he liked them best. "Can we come back to this very spot to ring in every New Year?"

"It's a date," he said, his throat tight with emotion. He'd had no idea, no idea at all, that it was possible to love someone this much. "Next time, I'll remember the champagne."

"We don't need it."

Even though it was cold, even though their breath came out in puffy clouds, they stayed on the roof to watch the entire fireworks display. Nick kept his arms tight around her from behind, immersed in the jasmine and vanilla fragrance he would recognize anywhere as hers.

"I love the way the colors in the fireworks reflect on the monuments," she said, her hands covering his at her waist.

"Mmm, me, too."

The fireworks ended with a booming finale of color and sound.

Sam sighed. "That was fabulous." She turned to him. "Thank you so much."

"I have a theory."

Her mouth quirked with amusement. "And what's that?"

Unable to resist, he touched his lips to hers. "That how you spend the first minutes of the New Year is how you'll spend the year itself." Adding a light brush of his tongue over her bottom lip, he leaned into the kiss when her arms curled around his neck. The tangle of teeth and tongues took his breath away. Reaching down, he cupped her ass and lifted her right off her feet. She surprised him when she wrapped her long legs around his waist.

"I take it you like my theory," he said when he had no choice but to come up for air. He wanted her desperately, as if he had gone without for years rather than hours.

"It's a great theory – and a great way to spend a year." Grinning, she pressed against his erection. "But I'd hate for my favorite new senator to be caught in such a  position on his first day in office."

Reluctantly, he let her slide back down. "Let's get the hell out of here."

"We can't leave our own party."

"No one will notice. I guarantee it."

Nick surprised her when he directed the cab to her father's Capitol Hill neighborhood. After the way he'd sprinted her out of the party, she assumed he wanted to be alone with her at his place in Arlington.

"We're going to my dad's?" she asked.

"Nope."

"Then where?"

"You'll see."

She eyed him suspiciously. "What are you up to?"

"Nothing," he said with a smile that said her hunch was dead on.

"Tell me!"

"Patience, Samantha."

"Not my best quality."

", really?"

She tried pouting, cajoling and even a few dirty tricks, but nothing worked. Except for a couple of heated make-out sessions, he kept his mouth shut until they pulled up to the house he had bought on Ninth Street. "What're we doing here?"

He paid the cabbie and reached for her hand. "Come on, I'll show you."

Puzzled, Sam followed him to the house three doors up the street from her dad's. "Do you even own this place yet?" she asked as he used a key in the lock.

"Not yet, but the owners didn't mind me moving in a few things early."

"What things?"

"God, you're such a pain in the ass!"

"Thank you."

He turned, kissed her nose and took her coat. "You're the only woman I know who would take that as a compliment."

"That's why you love me."

Laughing, he led her into the kitchen. "What do you think?"

"," she said, taking in the large, stylish kitchen where everything was brand new. "I knew they were renovating this place, but I never imagined this." She ran a hand over the stone countertop. The cabinets were dark wood, the appliances sleek stainless steel. Above the bar that piggybacked the kitchen and living room, teardrop lights hung from the ceiling. "I love it."

"I hoped you would."

She stepped into the living room and gasped at the size of it. At the far end, a marble mantel framed a large fireplace. "What the heck?"

"I take it you didn't know he bought the place next door and knocked out the walls."

"I had no idea! This place is huge! What're you going to do with all this space?"

He shrugged. "Maybe raise a bunch of kids with you?"

Her heart stopped at the mention of kids. He knew she couldn't have them but had made it clear he didn't care and that they'd adopt if and when the time came.

"Sam? Are you all right?"

"Sure," she said, shaking it off. "Show me the rest."

Besides the kitchen and living room, the first floor of the double-sized townhouse boasted an enormous dining room as well as a full bathroom. The floors were a light wood and recently refinished. The second floor had four bedrooms and two more bathrooms.

"I thought for now we could use that one for a guest room, that one for an office and maybe a gym in there," he said of the extra bedrooms.

"You've got it all figured out."

"When I first looked at it, I could see us here together. That's why I bought it."

"It's a really nice place," she conceded. "I've certainly never lived anywhere nicer."

"Neither have I. Come check this out." He led her to the master bedroom where a new king-size bed with an elaborate wrought iron head- and footboard was the only furniture in the room.

Startled, Sam said, "You bought a bed already?"

"Yep." He sat on the bed and kicked off his shoes. "I wanted to stay here tonight."

"And they just let you truck a bed in here?"

"They, um, they think it's cool that they're selling to a senator."

Seeing him flustered made Sam laugh. "Already taking full advantage, are you?"

"I wouldn't say that – exactly. Take a look at the closet. I figured you'd like that."

"Nice way to change the subject." Sam stepped into the walk-in closet and took a good look at the decent-sized space, deciding that about half her clothes would fit in there.

"Isn't it great?" he asked with a smile.

"Where would you keep your stuff?"

His smile faded. "I figured we'd share it."

"Um, sure. Okay."

"You don't have  many shoes."

"What I have at my dad's is about one-tenth of the total. The rest are in storage."

His mouth dropped open in shock. "Are you serious?"

"I never joke about shoes."

Scratching at the stubble on his chin, he studied her. "Well, I guess we can put the gym on the third floor and build you a big old closet in one of the extra bedrooms."

She sat down next to him on the bed. "You'd do that for me?"

"Sure, I would. Besides, it's probably better if we don't share a closet. You're not quite as, um, neat as I am."

"Anal you mean."

"I prefer neat."

Laughing, she said, "I'm sure you do." She kissed him and rested her head on his shoulder. "It's a great place."

"I'm glad – and relieved – that you think so. As I was buying it without telling you, I told myself I was probably making a huge mistake."

"It wasn't a mistake. A place like this wouldn't have lasted long on the market."

"That's what the Realtor said, too." He rubbed her back and nuzzled her neck. "I want you here with me, Sam." With his other hand, he produced a key.

Touched, she took it from him and slid it into her back pocket. "I promise I'll be here so much you'll feel like I live here."

"That's not the same."

"Can it be enough for now?"

"I guess I'll have to settle for what I can get," he said with a dramatic sigh that was offset by the twinkle in his eye.

"I hate to disappoint you."

He brought her hand to his lips. "You're not." Standing up, he tugged her along with him. "There're two more things I want to show you." In the master bathroom, he pointed out the huge Jacuzzi tub.

"Oh, man, "

"Have you got something against Jacuzzis?"

"I  them. I've always wanted one in my house." Stomping her foot, she added, "This is so not fair!"

"All this could be yours."

She scowled. "What's the other thing?"

He pointed back the way they'd come. In the bedroom, he went to the fireplace and flipped a switch under the mantel to start the gas fire.

Sam sighed. "So not fair."

"Let me guess – you've always wanted a fireplace in your bedroom, too?"

She nodded, reached for the pillows and throw blanket on the bed and brought them over to the carpet in front of the fire.

"What're we doing?" he asked as he let her draw him down next to her.

"Camping."

"So I could've skipped the bed?"

Tugging the sweater up and over his head, she tossed it aside. "Uh-huh." She urged him onto his back and dropped kisses on his chest in a trail to his belly.

Nick sucked in a sharp deep breath and combed his fingers through her hair. "Am I getting this special treatment because I have a Jacuzzi?"

"No," she said, adding her tongue to the mix.

"Then why?" He gasped when she unzipped his jeans and dragged a finger over his straining erection.

She looked up at him with a mischievous expression on her face. "I've always wanted to screw a senator." Taking him into her mouth, she kept her movements slow and precise.

His laughter faded into a groan. "Sam."

"What?" She swirled her tongue, lapping at him like a hungry cat.

Sighing, he sank back into the pillow. "God, you're good at that."

She cracked up. "Can I put it on my resume?"

Shaking his head, he said, "That's only for me." He reached for her and brought her up to rest on top of him. "Kiss me."

Her lips fused to his, she broke the connection only to let him remove her sweater. Helping him get rid of the rest of their clothes, she moved quickly, craving the feel of his skin against hers, the soft brush of his chest hair, the firm muscles, his scent. Everything about him appealed to her – and scared her. To love like this was to risk so much, things she'd sworn to never risk again after her disastrous marriage.

"What?" he asked, his lips coasting over hers.

"I was just thinking that if this is how we're going to spend it, I'm going to like this year."

"That's not what you were thinking," he said, reversing their positions so he was on top. He kissed her softly, his eyes intent on hers, letting her know she could hide nothing from him.

"I was thinking how much I love you and how sad I'd be if – "

"Don't say it." He slid into her. "Don't think it. It's not going to happen."

Sam arched her back to take him in. "Nick."

"What, babe?" he asked, his lips soft against her jaw.

"Faster."

"Not tonight."

"I read in the paper today," he said close to her ear, his hips moving with aching slowness, "that sex therapists say intercourse should last between three and thirteen minutes."

How can he talk right now? she wondered. I'm having trouble breathing!

"Since we usually work the lower end of the spectrum," he continued, "I thought we'd see what the other side is like."

Burning up from the inside out, she gripped a fistful of his silky brown hair and wrapped her legs around him. Thirteen minutes? She'd be dead in five. But nothing she did, nothing she tried, got him to move any faster.

His mouth descended on hers, his tongue sweeping into her mouth as he cupped her breast. Suddenly, he withdrew from her and kissed a path to her nipple.

Sam could have wept from the loss and the sweet torture of his kisses even as she felt the now-familiar signs of impending climax. It happened so easily with him that she'd almost forgotten how unattainable it had been in past relationships.

His lips were on her belly, his tongue laying a trail to her burning center.

The rosy glow of the fire burnished his skin. Just looking at him took her breath away, but watching him watch her as he made slow love to her was about the sexiest thing she'd ever seen. She reached for him.

He shook his head. "Not yet." His broad shoulders forced her legs further apart as he settled between them. Touching his tongue to her, he stayed with the slow theme, teasing her until her legs quivered and her heart raced. Leaving her clinging to the precipice, he kissed his way back up to her lips, pushed into her and sent her over the edge with a sharp cry of release that took him with her.

With his lips pressed to her neck, he whispered, "Happy New Year."

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