She wondered briefly who this wanton woman was. It couldn’t be her—safe, quiet Hannah who’d supported herself since she was barely eighteen. She’d never done something so reckless, so out of character. But she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to.
As she twined her arms around Jake’s neck, he lifted her suddenly and placed her on the counter. Never breaking off the kiss that was searing her straight down to her soul, he pulled her tight against him and she reflexively wrapped her legs around his waist, her gown riding up over her thighs.
“Hannah,” he groaned as he trailed kisses down her neck. “Hannah, you drive me wild.”
Hannah blinked, but surrendered to his ongoing sensual attacks. This was news to her. She would have bet he’d never noticed her in his life.
Sure, they’d been thrown together last week at one of Ethan and Autumn’s poker nights. She’d asked him some questions about an article she’d read—something about sustainable ranching. Apparently she’d hit on one of his favorite topics and they’d discussed it at length—as acquaintances at a get-together. Then the poker game had started and that had been that. She hadn’t given it another thought. Having a crush on Jake would be like lusting after your older brother’s best friend—completely safe because its outcome was completely predictable.
Except now Jake was kissing her. As if he couldn’t get enough. And she was kissing him back just as passionately because she’d never liked kissing a man this much. Was it the champagne? Or the unexpectedness of it? Whatever the reason, the more they made out, the more she wanted him.
Jake kept one hand at her waist to hold her firmly against him. He slid the other one higher until he almost cupped her breast, but hesitated. Hannah knew he was asking for permission. She didn’t think about the consequences. She leaned forward until her breast pressed into his hand. She caught her breath as he ran his thumb over her sensitive nipple. Heat throbbed between her legs. Jake groaned and pulled her even closer. She could feel his hardness through their clothes.
How far would they take this? Would she stop him? Could she?
A sudden tumult in the distance had them both stiffening. There was a clamor of voices. “The bride and groom are leaving,” someone called to someone else.
Hannah looked at Jake. Saw regret in his eyes. Knew he’d see the same in hers. “I have to go—I’m the maid of honor!”
Jake backed away. She hopped off the counter and straightened her dress.
“Do I look okay?” she asked as they approached the door.
“You look… amazing.” Jake bent down and kissed her again. “Hannah…”
“We’d better hurry.”
Jake went first. She waited a minute, then followed, joining the crowd that had erupted from the main reception hall to escort the bride and groom to the waiting limousine. She joined her voice to the ones wishing Bella and Evan well. Got a quick hug from both bride and groom. Waved until the limo was out of sight. Then she turned to search the crowd.
And saw Jake bending down to talk to Tracey Richards, a waitress at Linda’s Diner who helped Autumn with her guest ranch business from time to time, too. As she watched, Jake tugged a lock of Tracey’s hair. Tracey blushed and laughed.
Hannah flushed hot, then cold as realization overtook her. No miracle had taken place here tonight. The hottest, sexiest cowboy around hadn’t fallen head over heels for her. He hadn’t acted on a long-standing desire. She had no future with him, either. They’d probably never even kiss again. Jake was drunk, horny and out for a good time. That was all. The fact that she’d nearly lost her head with him told her she had drunk too much herself. She wasn’t even single. Which Jake knew all too well.
He obviously wanted a one night stand tonight. He’d picked her because he’d counted on her running back to Cody as soon as their tryst was over. One hand pressed to her mouth, Hannah hurried to the ladies’ room where she locked herself into a stall and blinked back tears. The night was ruined. She’d never be able to look Jake in the eye again.
Thank God they’d been interrupted before things had gone too far. Thank God she was about to make huge changes in her life, anyway. She wouldn’t have time to have a serious boyfriend.
But damn it, why did he have to play with her like that? He’d been so far off her radar she’d never wasted time mooning over Jake before. Now she knew his mouth on hers would haunt her for months. No one had ever kissed her like that. No man had ever made her want to tear off her clothes and present her body to him on a platter.
If Jake walked in this bathroom right now she’d do the same damn thing again. He was like crack cocaine, like heroin, like…
Hannah gave herself a mental shake. She was at a wedding—her best friend’s wedding. She was lonely and overwrought. She’d go home, go to bed and forget Jake. Tomorrow she would get on with her life and those big changes she planned to make.
But Hannah knew she was lying to herself. This night would stick in her memory for a long, long time.
Late November, six weeks later
It was never easy to get out of bed several hours before sunup on a cold November morning, but Jake Matheson didn’t mind that. Born and raised on the Double-Bar-K ranch in Chance Creek, Montana, he’d known since he could walk that one day this spread would be his and he loved every inch of it. He especially loved these early morning moments when he was alone with his thoughts—before he caught up with his father and brothers and got to the real work of the day. For now he could pretend he was his own man; that the place was all his. Soon enough the others would intrude.
As usual, his thoughts were on Hannah Ashton. Their interlude at Bella and Evan Mortimer’s wedding was never far from his mind these days. He’d taken a chance that night, dancing with her when Cody was a no-show, and an even bigger chance pulling her into the break room at the reception hall and kissing her as if he had a right to. But he’d wanted Hannah for months and Cody was an ass who didn’t deserve her. He was afraid if he didn’t do something she’d marry the idiot and he’d lose his chance forever.
As things turned out, he nearly had lost his chance. When they’d split up to leave the break room and see Bella and Evan off, Tracey Richards had accosted him. They’d known each other a long time, since he often ate at Linda’s Diner, where Tracey had worked for years. Their friendship, such as it was, was overly flirtatious. It didn’t mean anything, which Tracey knew. But Hannah didn’t.