Dance upon the air, p.12

Dance Upon the Air, page 12

 part  #1 of  Three Sisters Island Series


Dance Upon the Air
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Chapter Eleven

  Closed in Mia's office, Nell sweated over facts, figures, reality, and possibilities.

  She liked the possibilities best, as they included a secondhand computer with all the capabilities she required, an attractive sales kit, professional business cards, a cozy yet functional home office, and a commercial-grade food processor.

  The fact was, she needed all of these things, and several more, in order to create a viable, reasonably profitable business.

  Her figures proved she could make this her reality if she settled for a reality without any frills-which included food, drink, and clothing-for approximately twelve months.

  As she saw it, her choices were to live like a mole for about a year, or to do without the professional tools that would help her build her business.

  Living like a mole wasn't so bad, she mused. She'd done essentially that for months before she'd come to the island. If she hadn't weakened and frittered away money on wind chimes and sandals and earrings, she wouldn't have remembered how much fun it was to fritter away money in the first place.

  Now it had to stop.

  By her calculations she could, provided Marge at Island Realty was patient enough, scrape up the money for the computer within three weeks. She would need several hundred more, of course, for the printer, the phone line, the business license, the office supplies. Once she was set up, she could design and generate the sales kits and menus right on the desktop.

  With a sigh, she sat back, combed her hands through her hair. She'd left out the uniform. She could hardly cater the Macey affair in jeans and a T-shirt, or a sexy little halter. She needed good black slacks, a crisp white shirt, sensible but classy black shoes.

  She looked up when Mia walked in.

  "Hi. I'll get out of your way. "

  "No need. " Mia waved her back. "I just need to check something in the September catalog. " She plucked it off a shelf, flipped through while watching Nell over the pages. "Financial worries?"

  "Why do you ask?"

  "Vibes. "

  "They're not worries so much as obstacles of varying heights. I hate admitting I'm taking on too much too fast. "

  "And why is that? Not hating it, but why do you say you're taking on too much?" Mia asked as she sat, stretched out like a cat on a hearth rug.

  "A few side jobs, some boxed lunches, one major party, and here I am designing logos and business cards, trying to squeeze out money for a computer when I can easily keep things organized in a spiral notebook. I need to rein myself in. "

  "There's little that's more boring than reining in," Mia stated. "When I started this place, most people didn't think I could make it fly. A small community, a seasonal tourist trade. Bookstores and fancy coffee were for cities and snazzy suburbs. They were wrong. I knew what I wanted, and what I was capable of achieving. So do you. "

  "In another six months or a year," Nell agreed. "But I'm getting ahead of myself. "

  "Why wait? You need capital, but you can't risk going to the bank for a business loan. So many pesky questions about credit history, employment history, and so on. "

  Mia inclined her head when Nell sighed. She enjoyed hitting the center of the target with the first arrow. "As careful as you've been, you may have left a hole," Mia continued, "and you're too smart to take chances there. "

  "I thought about it," Nell admitted. "If I opened myself up that way, I'd never relax. Nell Channing doesn't have a credit history, and it'll take me time to establish one. "

  "Which is one of the obstacles to that capital. There are spells, of course. But I dislike doing spells for financial gain. It seems so. . . crass. "

  "It doesn't seem so crass when I'm trying to stretch my budget to buy basic office equipment. "

  Pursing her lips, Mia tapped the tips of her fingers together. "I had an acquaintance who was in a bit of a financial squeeze. She worked a spell asking that her current money worries be cleared. And won fifty thousand in the lottery the next week. "


  "Really. She was able to pay her debts and treat herself to a week at the Doral Spa in Miami. Fabulous place, by the way. When she returned, her car broke down, her roof sprang a leak, her basement flooded, and she received an audit notice from the IRS. In the end, she'd done nothing more than trade one set of worries for another, though she did get that week at the spa, which can't be discounted. "

  Nell acknowledged the humor in Mia's words with a small grin. "I hear you. Magic isn't a crutch to be used for convenience. "

  "You're a quick study, little sister. So, let's talk business. " Mia toed off her pretty heels, curled up her legs. "I'm in the market for an investment. "

  "Mia, I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, but-"

  "You want to do it yourself, and blah, blah, blah. " With a flick of the wrist, Mia swatted Nell's protest aside. "Please, let's behave like grown-ups. "

  "Are you trying to irritate or intimidate me into accepting a loan?"

  "I don't generally try to irritate or intimidate, though I've been told I'm good at both. And I didn't say anything about a loan. We're discussing an investment. "

  She uncurled lazily and got a bottle of water for each of them out of her mini-fridge. "I would consider a loan, I suppose, for your start-up costs. Say, ten thousand, payable over a period of sixty months at twelve percent interest. "

  "I don't need ten thousand," Nell said, giving the bottle cap an annoyed twist. "And twelve percent is ridiculous. "

  "A bank would charge less, but I'm not a bank and I wouldn't ask those pesky questions. "

  Mia's lips curved, red and shapely over the mouth of the bottle. "But I prefer an investment. I'm a businesswoman who likes profit. You have a skill, a marketable one, which has already proven itself of interest on the island. With working capital, you can establish a viable business, which, I feel, will enhance rather than compete with my own. I've some ideas on that, actually, but we can get into that later. I make a ten K investment, become your silent partner, for a reasonable compensation of, say, eight percent of gross profits. "

  "I don't need ten. " It had been a very long time, Nell thought as she tapped her fingers on the desk, since she'd negotiated fees, contracts. Amazing how quickly it came back.

  Ten thousand would be welcome and would eliminate the sweat and worry. But if you avoided the sweat and worry, she thought, you eliminated the glow of satisfaction that came when you succeeded.

  "Five will do," she decided. "For six percent, of net. "

  "Five, then, for seven, net. "

  "Done. "

  "Excellent. I'll have my lawyer draw up a contract. "

  "I'll open an account for the business at the bank. "

  "Would it be less sticky if I took care of that, and the license application?"

  "I'll do it. I have to take a stand sometime. "

  "Little sister, you took one months ago. But I leave it to you. Nell," she said as she opened the door, "we're going to kick ass. "


  She worked like a demon, preparing, planning, implementing. Her kitchen was a hotbed of experimentation, rejections, and successes. Her little office was the scene of hours of late-evening sessions where, on her secondhand computer and printer, she became her own desktop publisher, producing menus, flyers, business cards, invoices, and stationery, all with the inscription "Sisters Catering" and the logo she'd designed of three women standing in a circle, hands clasped.

  And every one listed Nell Channing as proprietor and carried her new phone number.

  When she finished putting her first sales kit together, she took it, along with the best bottle of champagne she could afford, and drove to Mia's to leave them on her doorstep.

  They were in business.


  On the day of the Macey party, Nell stood in Gladys's kitchen and surveyed the scene. She'd been working on-site since four, and had thirty minutes before the guests were due to a

  For the first time since Nell had begun the setup for the party, she finally had a moment's peace and quiet. If Gladys made it through the evening without fainting from excitement and anxiety, it would be a miracle.

  Every inch of the kitchen was organized to Nell's specifications. In precisely ten minutes, she would begin setting out the appetizers. As the guest list had expanded to more than a hundred, she had used all her powers of persuasion to convince Gladys to forgo the formal, sit-down meal in favor of fun, interesting food stations set up at strategic points throughout the house and on the patio.

  She'd seen to the floral arrangements herself, and had personally helped Carl deal with the fairy lights and luminaries. There were candles in rented silver holders, and paper napkins that, at Nell's suggestion, carried a heart with the happy couple's initials inside.

  It still touched her the way Gladys's eyes had filled when she'd seen them.

  Satisfied the kitchen was ready for the battle to come, she went out to check on the rest of the field, and her troops.

  She'd hired Peg to help serve, and Betsy from the Magick Inn to tend the bar. She herself would fill in in both areas whenever she could leave the kitchen unattended.

  "It looks great," she announced and moved to the patio doors. The evening promised to be clear. Both she and Gladys had suffered untold agonies over the possibility of rain.

  Nell tugged down the black vest she'd added to her uniform selection. "One more time. Peg, you circulate, trying to make a complete circuit every fifteen minutes. When your tray's empty, or nearly so, you head back to the kitchen. If I'm not there to refill, you'll arrange the next selection the way I showed you. "

  "I practiced it a zillion times. "

  "I know. " Nell gave her an encouraging pat on the arm. "Betsy, I'll try to keep up with the empties and discards. If I run behind, or you're running low on anything, just give me a sign. "

  "Check. And everything looks great. "

  "So far, so good. " And she was determined it would only get better. "Carl Junior's in charge of the music, so I'm not going to worry about it. Let's get this show on the road. Peg, vegetable crudites, station one. "

  It was more than just a party to Nell-it was a new beginning. As she lit the last of the candles, she thought of her mother, and the first official catering job they'd worked together.

  "I've made a circle, Mom," she murmured. "And I'm going to make it shine. " Touching the flame to wick, with her mother in her mind, Nell made that vow.

  She glanced over and beamed as Gladys Macey came out of the master bedroom. "You look beautiful. "

  "Nervous as a bride. " She fluffed at her hair. "I went into Boston for this getup. Not too fussy, is it?"

  The cocktail suit was a pale mint green with a sparkle of beads glittering on the lapels and cuffs.

  "It's gorgeous, and so are you. And there's nothing for you to be nervous about. All you have to do is enjoy yourself. "

  "Are you sure there's going to be enough cocktail shrimp?"

  "I'm sure. "

  "I just don't know what people are going to think of that chicken in peanut sauce. "

  "They'll love it. "

  "What about-"

  "Gladys, stop haranguing the girl. " Scowling, dragging at the knot of his tie, Carl stepped out. "Let her do her job. "

  "Mr. Macey, you make a picture. " Unable to resist, Nell reached over and straightened his tie herself.

  "Made me buy a new suit. "

  "And you look very handsome in it," Nell assured him.

  "Done nothing but complain about it since he got home from work. "

  Well used to their squabbling by now, Nell smiled. "Personally, I like a man who's not too comfortable in suits and ties. It's very sexy. "

  At Nell's statement Carl's face went bright pink. "Don't know why we couldn't have had a barbecue and a couple of kegs. "

  Before Gladys could snap back at him, Nell lifted a tray of appetizers. "I think you're going to have a wonderful time, starting right now. "

  Manners forced Carl to take one of the fancy salmon bites. The minute it hit his tongue, he pursed his lips. "Got a nice flavor to it," he admitted. "Guess it'd go down nice with a beer. "

  "You step right into the living room and Betsy will fix you up. I think I hear the first guests arriving. "

  "Oh, my! Oh, my goodness. " Patting her hair again, Gladys shot quick looks everywhere. "I meant to see if everything was as it should be before-"

  "Everything's exactly as it should be. You greet your guests, leave the rest to me. "

  It took less than fifteen minutes for the initial party stiffness to unbend. Music began to pump, conversation began to roll, and as Nell made her circuit with the chicken kabobs, she saw that she'd been right. People loved them.

  It was fun to see the familiar island residents in their festive best, knotted into conversational groups or wandering out to the patio. She kept her ears open for comments about the food and the atmosphere, and felt a quick tingle with each positive remark. But best of all was seeing her client glow like a candle.

  Within an hour the house was jammed, and she was working at top speed.

  "They're going through these trays like starving hordes," Peg told her as she scrambled into the kitchen. "You'd think every one of them fasted a week before tonight. "

  "It'll slow down after the dancing starts. " Moving quickly, Nell refilled the tray.

  "Station. . . hell, I can never remember the numbers. The meatballs are about half gone. You said I should tell you. "

  "I'll take care of it. Is anything not going over?"

  "Not that I've seen. " Peg hefted the tray. "The way it's moving, I'd say this crowd would eat the paper napkins if you put sauce on them. "

  Amused, Nell took out the miniature egg rolls she had warming in the oven. As she arranged them on a tray, Ripley strolled in.

  "Some party. "

  "It's great, isn't it?"

  "Yeah, swank. "

  "You look pretty swank yourself," Nell commented.

  Ripley looked down at her basic black dress. It was short, satisfactorily clingy, and had the advantage of being able to go to a party or, with a blazer, double as meeting attire.

  "I got this number in black and in white. Figure that covers the bases as far as dresses go. " She glanced around, saw absolute order, heard the hum of the dishwasher, smelled the scent of spice. "How do you keep everything organized in here?"

  "I'm brilliant. "

  "Seems like. " Ripley plucked up one of the egg rolls, popped it into her mouth. "Food's fabulous," she said with her mouth full. "I never told you, but that picnic deal you fixed for me was really great. "

  "Oh, yeah? How did that work out?"

  "Just dandy, thanks," Ripley replied.

  Her smug smile transformed into a scowl when Mia stepped in.

  "I wanted to extend my compliments. " She spotted the egg rolls. "Ah, a new offering. " She took one, bit in. "Lovely. Hello, Ripley. I barely recognized you in your girl attire. How did you decide whether to wear the black or the white this evening?"

  "Up yours. "

  "Don't start. I haven't time to referee. "

  "Don't worry. " Ripley snagged one more egg roll. "I can't waste the energy on Hecate here. Gladys's nephew from Cambridge just arrived and is looking just fine. I'm going to go hit on him. "

  "It's so comforting to know some things never change. "

  "Don't touch anything," Nell ordered, then hurried out with the tray.

  "So. . . " Because she preferred being away from the crowd of people, but still wanted to eat, Ripley eased up the lid on a covered tray. "Nell seems okay. "

  "Why wouldn't she?"

  "Don't play dumb, Mia. It doesn't suit that cat face of yours. " Ripley helped herself to a couple of frosted, heart-shaped cookies. "I don't need a scrying mirror to see she's had a rough time. A woman like h
er doesn't pop up on the island with nothing to her name but a backpack and a secondhand Buick unless she's on the run. Zack figures some guy knocked her around. "

  When Mia said nothing, Ripley leaned back on the counter, nibbled. "Look, I like her, and my brother's gone over her. I'm not looking to hassle her, but maybe to help if she needs it. "

  "With or without your badge?"

  "Either or both. It seems to me she's putting down stakes here, not just working for you, but starting this catering deal. She's starting a life on Three Sisters. That makes her one of mine. "

  "Give me one of those. " Mia held out her hand, waited until Ripley gave her a cookie. "What are you asking me, Ripley?"

  "If Zack's right, and if he is, if someone's going to come after her. "

  "Whatever Nell's told me in confidence has to be respected. "

  Loyalty, Ripley was forced to admit, was never a question with Mia. It was more a religion. "I'm not asking you to break a confidence. "

  Mia nipped into the cookie. "You just can't say it, can you?"

  "Oh, kiss ass. " Ripley slapped the lid back on the tray, started to storm out. But there was something about the way Nell had been, flushed and happy, as she worked in the miraculously ordered kitchen, that pulled at her.

  She spun back. "Tell me what you've seen. I want to help her. "

  "Yes, I know. " Mia finished the cookie, dusted the crumbs from her fingers. "There's a man. He hunts and he haunts her. He's the physical reality of her every fear, doubt, worry. If he comes here, if he finds her, she'll need both of us. And she'll need the courage to take her own power and use it. "

  "What's his name?"

  "I can't tell you that. It wasn't shown to me. "

  "But you know it. "

  "What she gave to me I can't pass on to you. I can't break her trust. " The worry in Mia's eyes crawled into Ripley's belly. "If I could, and did, his name would make no difference. This is her path, Ripley. We can guide and support, instruct and assist. But in the end, it'll be her choice. You know the legend as well as I. "

  "I'm not getting into that. " Ripley pushed the subject away with a sharp gesture. "I'm talking about someone's safety. A friend's safety. "

  "So am I. But I'm also talking about a friend's destiny. If you really want to help her, you could start by taking responsibility for your own. " With that, Mia walked out.

  "Responsibility, my butt. " Ripley was annoyed enough to pry up the lid for one more cookie.

  She knew what her responsibilities were. She was obliged to see to the safety of the residents and visitors of Three Sisters Island. To keep order and uphold the law.

  Beyond that, her responsibilities were nobody's business but hers. And it wasn't responsible to go around practicing mumbo jumbo and clinging to some stupid legend that was as much nonsense now as it had been three centuries before.

  She was the island deputy, not part of some mystic trio of saviors. And she wasn't destined to mete out some nebulous psychic justice.

  Now she'd lost her appetite, and her desire to hit on Gladys Macey's nephew. Served her right for wasting time with Mia Devlin.

  Disgusted, she stalked out of the kitchen. The first thing she saw as she moved back toward the party was Zack. He was in the middle of things, where he always seemed to be when it came to people. They were drawn to him. But even as he stood in the middle of a group who chattered at him, she could see that his gaze and his mind were aimed elsewhere.

  It was all for Nell.

  Now, Ripley watched her brother as he watched Nell circulate with her fancy little egg rolls. There was no doubt about it.

  The man was completely over the moon.

  While she could resist and ignore Mia's talk of destinies and responsibilities when it came to herself, when it came to a newly formed and still evolving friendship, it was an entirely different matter. Especially if it involved her brother.

  There was nothing she wouldn't have done for Zack, even if it meant linking hands with Mia.

  She was going to have to pay close attention to the situation, reevaluate periodically. Do some hard, uncomfortable thinking.

  "He's on the edge," Mia whispered in her ear. "The shimmering edge just before the breathless tumble. "

  "I've got eyes, don't I?"

  "Do you know what happens when he falls?"

  Ripley took the wineglass out of Mia's hand, drank half of it. "Why don't you tell me?"

  "He'll lay down his life for her, without an instant's hesitation. He's the most admirable man I know. " She took the glass back, sipped. "That, at least, is a point of absolute agreement between us. "

  Because she knew it, Ripley weakened. "I want a protective spell. I want you to take care of that. "

  "I've already done what I can. In the end, it has to be a circle of three. "

  "I can't think about this now. I'm not going to talk about it now. "

  "All right. Why don't we just stand here and watch a strong and admirable man fall in love? Moments this pure shouldn't be wasted. " Mia laid a hand on Ripley's shoulder, a casual link. "She doesn't see it. Even as it passes over her like a breath of warm air, she isn't whole enough to know it. "

  With a sigh that may have held the barest whiff of envy, Mia looked down into her wine. "Come on. I'll buy you a drink. "


  Zack bided his time. He talked with the other guests, danced with the ladies, shared a celebratory beer with Carl. He listened with apparent interest to village complaints and scrutinized the alcohol intake of anyone who held car keys.

  He watched Nell serve food, chat with the guests, replenish pots staying warm over little cans of sterno. What he observed, he thought, was a blooming.

  He started to ask if he could lend her a hand, then realized it was laughable. Not only did he have no clue what needed to be done, but she so obviously needed no one's help.

  As the crowd thinned out, he drove a few celebrants home himself, to be on the safe side. It was nearly midnight before he felt his own duties were dispatched and he could hunt Nell up in the kitchen.

  Empty trays were stacked neatly on Gladys's marbled white counter. Serving bowls were nested. The sink was filled with soapy water that sent up little fingers of steam, and Nell was systematically loading the dishwasher.

  "When's the last time you were off your feet?"

  "I lost track. " She slid plates into slots. "But the fact that they're killing me makes me incredibly happy. "

  "Here. " He held out a glass of champagne. "I thought you deserved this. "

  "I certainly do. " She took a quick sip before she set it aside. "All these weeks of planning, and it's done. And I have five, count them, five appointments for jobs next week. Did you know Mary Harrison's daughter is getting married next spring?"

  "I heard that. To John Bigelow. Cousin of mine. "

  "I have a shot at catering it. "

  "I vote you put those meatballs of yours on the menu. They were really tasty. "

  "I'll make a note of it. " It felt so good to be able to plan ahead. Not just a day or a week, but months ahead. "Did you see the way Gladys and Carl danced together?"

  She straightened, pressing hard on the aching small of her back. "Thirty years, and they were dancing on the patio, looking at each other like it was the first time. It was the best moment of the night for me. Do you know why?"


  She turned to him. "Because them dancing together, them looking at each other the way they were, was what this was all about. Not decorations or pretty lights or cocktail shrimp. It was about people making a connection, and believing in it. In each other. What would have happened if either one of them, all those years ago, had stepped back or turned away? They'd have missed dancing on the patio, and everything in between. "

  "I never got to dance with you. " He reached out, skimmed his fingers over her cheek. "Nell-"

  "There you are!" Eyes damp and brill
iant, Gladys rushed in. "I was afraid you'd slipped out. "

  "No, indeed. I need to finish up here, then do a run-through of the house to make sure I have everything back in order. "

  "You certainly do not. You've done enough, more than I expected. I never had such a party, not in my whole life. Why, people will be talking about it for years. "

  She took Nell's shoulders, kissed both her cheeks. "I was a pest, and I know it. " Then she hugged Nell breathless. "Oh, this was such a treat, and I'm not waiting three decades to do it again. Now, I want you to go home and get off your feet. "

  She pressed a crisp hundred-dollar bill into Nell's hand. "This is for you. "

  "Mrs. Macey, you're not supposed to tip me. Peg and-"

  "I've taken care of them. You're going to hurt my feelings if you don't take this and go buy yourself something pretty. Now I want you to scat. Anything else needs to be done, it'll wait until tomorrow. Sheriff, you help our Nell out to her car with her trays. "

  "I'll do that. "

  "This was better than my wedding," Gladys said as she started to the door. She turned back briefly, winked. "Now let's see if we can improve on my wedding night. "

  "Looks like Carl's in for a surprise. " Zack hefted a stack of trays. "We'd better move along, give the young couple some privacy. "

  "I'm right behind you. "

  It took three trips between them, with Carl pushing a bottle of champagne into Nell's hands as he nudged them along.

  "Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" Zack chuckled as he loaded Nell's trunk.

  "Where's your car?"

  "Hmm? Oh, Ripley used it to take the last couple of semi-impaired guests home. Most people walked, which helped out. "

  Nell let herself look at him. He was wearing a suit, but had already rid himself of the tie. She could see the faint bulge where he'd stuffed it in his pocket.

  He'd opened his collar, so she could see the clean, tanned line of his throat.

  There was a faint smile on his lips as he watched the lights in the Macey house wink out, one at a time. His profile wasn't perfect. His hair hadn't been styled. And the way he stood, his thumbs tucked in the front pockets of his suit pants, was relaxed rather than posed.

  When the shimmer of desire came, she didn't try to close it off. Instead she took a step forward.

  "I've only had half a glass of champagne. I'm unimpaired, thinking clearly, and my reflexes are perfect. "

  He turned his head toward her. "As sheriff, I'm glad to know it. "

  Still watching him, she drew her keys out of her pocket, held them dangling. "Come home with me. You drive. "

  The twinkle in his eyes turned to razor-sharp intensity. "I'm not going to ask if you're sure. " He took the keys. "I'm just going to tell you to get in the car. "

  Her knees felt a bit wobbly, but she walked to the door, slid in while he got behind the wheel.

  When he yanked her across the seat, ravished her mouth, she forgot all about wobbly knees and did her best to crawl into his lap.

  "Hold on, just hold on. Christ Jesus. " He stabbed the keys into the ignition. The engine whimpered to life, and he swung the protesting car into a tight U-turn. It shimmied in protest, making Nell giggle nervously.

  "If this heap falls apart before we get there, we'll have to run for it. Zack-" She flipped off the seat belt she'd automatically snapped on, and slithered over to bite his ear. "I feel like I'm going to explode. "

  "Did I ever mention I'm particularly partial to women wearing little black vests?"

  "No. Really?"

  "I just found out tonight. " Reaching out, he snagged the vest by the center vee, tugged her back against him. Understandably distracted, he took the turn too sharp and bumped the wheels over the curb.

  "One more minute," he panted. "Just one more minute. "

  With a squeal of brakes and a violent jerk, he stopped in front of Nell's cottage. He managed, barely, to turn off the ignition before he reached for her. Dragging her across his lap, he found her mouth with his again. And let his hands do as they pleased.

  Need spurted through her, hot and welcome. Riding on it, she tugged at his jacket, arched against his hands. And thrilled at the first scrape of callus over her flesh.

  "Inside. " He felt as randy and impatient as a teenager, and as fumbling as he fought to open the car door. "We have to get inside. "

  He whipped her out, his breathing already ragged as they continued to fight with each other's clothes. They stumbled, and buttons popped off his shirt. As he half carried her toward the cottage, her delighted laughter rang in his head.

  "Oh! I love your hands! I want them all over me. "

  "I'll take care of that. Goddamn it, what's wrong with this door?" Even as he vented his frustration by rapping his hip hard against it, it flew open.

  They ended up in a heap on the floor, half in, half out.

  "Right here. Right here. " She chanted it while her fingers worked busily at his belt.

  "Wait. Just a-let me close the-" He managed to roll, scoot, and kick the door shut.

  The room was all moonlight and shadows. The floor was as hard as brick. Neither of them noticed as they tore at clothes, rolled and tugged. He caught glimpses, beautiful, erotic images of pale skin, soft curves, delicate lines.

  He wanted to look. He wanted to wallow.

  He had to take.

  When her shirt caught at her wrists by the cuffs, he gave up, gave in and lowered his mouth to her breast.

  She vibrated beneath him, a volcano on the brink of erupting. Flashes of white-hot heat, curls of keen-edged longing raced through her system until she was raw and ready.

  She arched under him, more demand than offer, her nails biting restlessly into his back. The world was spinning, faster and faster, as if she'd leaped upon some mad carousel and all that kept her earthbound was the glorious weight of his body on hers.

  "Right now. " She gripped his hips, opened for him. "Right now!"

  He plunged, letting his body take over, letting his mind go. There was nothing but the relentless fury to mate. She closed around him, a hot, wet fist, and he felt her tighten, stretching like a bow beneath him before she let out a cry that rang with triumph.

  Her climax ripped through him like madness.

  Pleasure geysered through her, flooding senses, swamping reason. Flying free, she wrapped herself around him, clinging tight to take him with her.

  And with her sheer joy, drove him over the edge.

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