“I know. I’m sorry.” He pressed a soft kiss to her lips. “Forgive me?”
She took her time before answering, and Cole feared the other secret he’d been keeping from her was floating through her mind. “Forgiven,” she murmured, leaning in for another kiss. She had grown more confident in initiating their physical contact, which Cole very much appreciated. His heart rate kicked up, realizing they were all alone for the night with nothing to do but enjoy their pretend romantic getaway. He deepened the kiss, nibbling her bottom lip. His hands found Savannah’s ass and squeezed, hauling her in closer to his groin. A groan of frustration bubbled deep in her throat and she clutched at his biceps. It was as if they both needed to be closer. Now.
He stood, lifting her as he headed inside. She wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck, still not breaking their kiss. Not bothering to turn on the bedroom light, Cole laid Savannah on the bed, leaning over to plant a tender kiss on her mouth before he stood to admire her, sprawled out against the bed. Her dark hair was a halo of loose curls on the pillow, and her arms reluctantly dropped from his neck, as if unwilling to release him.
“God you’re perfect,” he breathed. Her eyes remained locked on his, refusing to look away, refusing to break their unspoken connection. “Do you know how hard it was to resist you?”
“You hardly noticed me. Do you know how many times I wandered around your room in just my panties trying to tempt you?”
“What?” she chuckled.
“Kidding. I didn’t keep count. But you’re wrong about me not noticing. I noticed every damn time.” And so did his dick. He’d had a perpetual case of blue balls practically since the day she moved in. “You’re amazing, Savannah. Beautiful, smart, loving. How could I not notice you?” And fall for you?
A satisfied little smile tugged at her mouth and he knew he needed her, needed to show her that she was his. His hands found his belt and quickly unlatched the buckle before moving to the button and zipper. Savannah followed his movements, eyes wide and curious. He yanked his T-shirt over his head and let it fall to the floor. Savannah squirmed on the bed, still watching him. When he pushed his jeans and boxers down his hips, she licked her lips. And when his hand caught and lazily stroked his length, she exhaled slowly.
“Cole…” Her voice was a broken plea in the otherwise silent room.
“Yeah babe?” He continued his slow movements along his engorged shaft, his hand gripping the base and sliding up over the sensitive tip.
Her gaze darted down to his groin and she bit her lip again. “Did you…um, do that…when you thought about me?”
Her question surprised him. He hadn’t expected her to have the balls to ask something like that. “Yeah. I did.” Often. Too often.
She sucked in a breath and reached for his cock, gripping her hand tightly around his. Cole’s movements stilled momentarily, appreciating the feel of her warmth. But the desire reflected in her eyes forced his hand to slide up and over his head once again. He pulled in a shuddering breath. Introducing her soft hand to the mix upped the pleasure quota significantly. He let her grip him, and he guided her— nice and slow. “Savannah,” he whispered.
Her eyes flashed to his. “How often did you…do this before we slept together?”
Fuck. Was she really asking him how often he masturbated? He couldn’t answer that question. “Enough.” Daily.
She smiled, seemingly satisfied with his non-answer. Savannah’s free hand fumbled with the button on her jeans and Cole abandoned his show to help. Once her jeans and panties were off, he took a moment to just admire her. She was so lovely—soft where a woman should be soft, curvy and delicate at the same time. God, even her feet were f**king pretty. He wanted to bow and worship her body like she deserved, but she pulled off her shirt and scrambled across the bed to him. She perched on her knees on the edge of the bed, wrapping her arms around his neck and lifting her chin to kiss him. Her chest pressed against his, warm and molding to his form. Her warm tongue slid against his and he was lost to all rational thought. He needed to taste her, to be inside her, to own her…
“Cole?” Savannah broke away from the kiss, her hands planted on his chest, roaming over his tensed abs.
“Yeah?” He stroked a single fingertip along her cheek. “What is it?”
“I don’t want this to end. Me and you.”
His shoulders relaxed. He loved her bravery, her honesty. And he’d been slightly worried she was going to tell him this wasn’t a good idea. “Me neither.” It was the absolute truth. He wasn’t willing to lose Savannah. Whatever it took. He couldn’t explain how or why, but she belonged with him. He ignored the tightening in his chest, refusing to acknowledge how he could possibly have a future with Savannah with his past still firmly gripping him.
He pushed her shoulders back, and she fell against the bed, giggling. But her laughter died when he pulled her thighs apart and positioned himself at her entrance. Fuck using a condom. He needed her too bad. They’d have to risk it, something he’d never done before. But realizing the decision wasn’t just his, he stopped just short of entering her. He placed a palm flat on her stomach. “I want to feel you without a condom …are you okay with that?”
Savannah’s expression pinched for just a moment, as if she was counting the days. “It’s fine,” she murmured. She gripped his h*ps and tugged him forward. Cole obliged, taking the base of his shaft and guiding himself into her impossibly tight channel.
There was nothing between them. New sensations flooded Cole’s system. “Fuck, Savannah,” he growled as she squeezed around him. Normally he found reaching his release difficult, sometimes taking close to an hour — but not with Savannah. Being inside her was an entirely new experience. He was like a teenager trying not to come too soon. Savannah’s parted lips and flushed chest only spurred him on, and when she released a series of tiny high-pitched moans, he nearly came undone. His fingers gripped the flesh of her h*ps as he drove in faster, seeking his release.
Savannah’s hands clutched at his hands, his stomach, anywhere she could reach as her moans built. “Cole!” She groaned a final time in an incoherent tumble of sounds and tossed her head back against the pillow, her back arching as she came.
His own orgasm hit him like a punch to the gut, crashing against him, causing his legs to nearly give out as his body tensed and jerked. He fell on top of Savannah, finding her mouth for several damp kisses as he emptied himself into her in a series hot bursts.
The situation with Dillon had been handled better than he could have hoped. The new job he’d left the compound to pursue was dealing drugs. Moron. When Norm sent the guys out to pick him up for questioning, they found him with enough marijuana in his car to lock him up for a while. That didn’t mean his obsession with Savannah had ended, but at least he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near her for a while. And when the time came, Cole would be there to keep her safe. Her hand squeezed his and Cole smiled at the gorgeous girl next to him.
“Almost home,” he said. Home. It had felt more like a home since Savannah had moved in.
“I can’t wait to see Cuddles.”
Cole pulled into the parking lot of his condo complex and his eyes couldn’t quite process the scene before him. Abbie was standing on the sidewalk, her arms folded over her chest watching his SUV approach. His eyes flashed to the clock on his dash. Fuck. A curse tore from his chest at the sight of her. He had missed their Sunday appointment and now she was here. Here. At his home. Savannah’s home.
He considered gunning the engine and tearing out of the parking lot, but he didn’t have the strength to lie to Savannah anymore. His past was here—staring down his future, shattering his heart into a million tiny pieces.
Watching the fragile dark-haired girl run to Cole and throw herself into his arms knocked the wind from Savannah’s chest. She placed a hand against the hood of the Tahoe to prop herself up. Cole placed his hands on the girl’s shoulders, gently moving her away from his body. His eyes flashed to Savannah’s, panic written all over his face.
“This is Abbie,” he said, but didn’t offer anything more.
Savannah hated the familiarity between them — the way Abbie’s body tilted towards his and the way his fingers had knowingly soothed down her arms as he moved her away. Abbie turned to look Savannah over, her bright blue eyes burning with curiosity. Abbie was thin and pretty with delicate features. She was dressed casually in a pair of worn jeans and flowing pink top that was too large on her tiny frame.
“Is this her?” Abbie asked him.
Cole nodded. “This is Savannah.”
Abbie’s gaze found Cole’s, seeking permission, before she thrust a hand out to Savannah. There were scars marring her inner wrist and when Savannah’s gaze lingered on the puckered white flesh, Abbie pulled her hand back and stuffed it into her pocket. “Hi,” Abbie offered, smiling carefully. “Cole’s told me a lot about you.”
Savannah remained speechless. She felt sick. Humiliated.
Abbie turned back to Cole, her expression softening. “You didn’t show up today, I got worried. Are you mad I came here?” She lifted a hand to his cheek, but Cole caught her wrist.
His eyes flashed back to Savannah. He flinched, opened his mouth, then closed it again. There was nothing he could say. Savannah’s skin tingled as awareness flooded her. This was who he spent every Sunday with?
The scars on Abbie’s wrists, the needy way she looked at Cole like a child separated from its mother, it struck her like a thump to the head — all the times he’d looked at her like she was unstable, fear in his eyes that she’d break down and lose it. Did he have some strange calling to save needy girls? She wasn’t like this girl, and she resented his careful watch even more now, because it meant memories of Abbie were still right there at the surface.
He turned to Savannah, handing her the keys. “Can you ah, give us a minute?”
Savannah wished she had some place to go — anywhere but inside his house. She wanted to flee somewhere far away from here, but she accepted the keys and ventured up the stairs, too stunned to cry, too shocked to process what she’d just learned.***
Cole had gotten rid of Abbie and ventured inside to talk to Savannah. He needed to come clean about everything—all of it—not spare any of the details.
He found Savannah hiding underneath the comforter in the guest room, whispering to a squirming mass under there with her. He’d let her down, and she’d turned to the dog for comfort. It was a sobering thought.
He sat quietly on the edge of the bed. Her whispering stopped as soon as the mattress dipped with his weight.
“You don’t have to talk to me. Just listen, okay?” He released a heavy sigh, knowing this conversation was long overdue. “I first met Abbie just after college. She was broken—a project for me—someone I could focus my energy on since I’d been so powerless to prevent my parents’ deaths.” Cole scrubbed his hands over his face. It was harder than he thought it’d be admitting all this out loud. “Abbie was a cutter, which I’d found out later. She was abused as a child. She was a wreck when we first started dating. Our relationship was full of self-doubt, jealousy, and at times intense passion.” Cole wished he could see Savannah’s expression, get a sense of how she was taking it. But the damned comforter covered her from head to toe. “We dated for two years, and eventually she got better. Later I came to realize that I wasn’t in love with her — I’d only been in love with the idea of saving someone. Once Abbie was well, the intensity behind our relationship all but disappeared.”
Savannah pushed the covers down, her face coming into view. He expected her to be crying, but her eyes were dry, curiously gazing at him; her face relaxed.
“I tried numerous times to break things off with her, but Abbie would freak out. So I’d stay. We hung on that way for another six months until I couldn’t endure the cycle anymore. I ended it for good.”
Cuddles squirmed her way out from the blankets and licked Savannah’s nose. She folded the puppy along her side and mumbled, “Keep talking.”
“I broke up with her and thought I was done. Of course, I hadn’t expected Abbie to try and end her life. But that same day, she’d slashed her wrists. Her roommate found her and rushed her to the hospital, and called me on the way. When I saw how truly broken she was—pale and weak in that hospital bed, tubes running everywhere—I knew it was my fault. I’d vowed to save her, and now she was worse off than she’d ever been. Because of me. It ate away at me, and I knew I couldn’t run again. Not when she was so incredibly fragile.
“Abbie stayed at the hospital for a few days, she’d lost a lot of blood, and when she recovered physically from the suicide attempt, she was taken to a psychiatric facility. She stayed there for over a year before she moved back into her own apartment, just down the road from here. We never rekindled our romantic relationship, but all this time—close to five years now—I’ve faithfully visited her every week, as a friend, and as her security blanket, I guess.”
Tears began to fill Savannah’s eyes as she sat stoically.
“Savannah? Please say something,” he begged.
Savannah grabbed her car keys and left.
“What the f**k did you do?” Marissa’s voice shrilled from the phone as he sat at the bar.
“What are you talking about?” In Cole’s drunken state, it took him a second to comprehend the anger in her voice. Oh. Fuck.
Her voice dropped to a whisper, “Why is Savannah camped out in my bathroom?”