Where the hell did she go?
Dr. Jacob Ash peered into the evening twilight, the music from the party drifting up from the Rose Garden Terrace on a light summer breeze. There were only so many places to go on this path leading through the National Botanical Gardens and he was quickly approaching the end marked by the amphitheater and the water feature.
Piper Hill couldn’t have just vanished. She was just a girl. Although, there were times when he believed she was part fey creature and had bewitched his soul and — let’s face it — some other parts of his body located a bit farther south.
He’d watched her the entire evening, along with every other red-blooded male at the hospital’s annual fundraising gala. In the crowd of stuffed shirts and their trophy wives all dressed in various shades of black, she’d stood out in her dress of deep emerald green which emphasized the generous curves of her body and matched her sparkling eyes. Her auburn hair with its bold platinum streaks was piled in a messy style that exposed the creamy curve of her neck. She looked like an old-fashioned pin-up girl or movie star — the kind men painted on their airplanes as they flew into battle.
Pure, unadulterated sex.
And, that was his problem.
Coming to the end of the trail, he peered into the evening, thankful for the full moon illuminating the area. He’d almost reached the end of the garden and debated retracing his steps. But, he really didn’t want to go back to the party. Never good with the small-talk, these functions were tests of his endurance and patience. But, they brought money to the hospital and he could endure the occasional bouts of mandatory fun for the place he loved.
“Piper!” he called out into the darkness.
The answering silence was punctuated only by the cicadas and the flow of water from the ornamental pond.
This was crazy. But when had he ever acted sane when it came to Piper? From the moment she’d strolled into his patient’s room six months ago with her art therapy supplies and black painted fingernails, he’d been an absolute idiot around her. No longer the confident, experienced trauma surgeon but a tongue-tied, distracted, walking hard-on.
And, he’d determined at that moment to stay the hell away from her.
But, he’d broken. Lost his mind, really, and a month earlier found himself asking her out to dinner. The one meal had led to two amazing dates, the last one ending with them in a half-naked, sweaty, so-close-to-the-best-orgasm-of-their-lives tangle on her living room floor.
He couldn’t definitively say it was the best orgasm of his life because they’d never gotten to finish what they’d started.
Sighing, he shook his head and turned towards the origin of the light jazz offered by the band hired for the occasion.
The voice drifting on the breeze from somewhere over his shoulder caused him to whirl around. His eyes scanned the area, straining to see in the gloom of the foliage.
“Down here,” she said.
Looking down he blinked and took two steps forward until he stood on the edge where the paving stones met a grassy area partially obscured by some kind of bush. Piper was stretched out on the lawn, arms extended over her head, long sexy legs exposed by the tangle of her dress and ending in her tiny, bare feet. Her skin glowed in the moonlight, the highlights in her hair sparks of silver as it spilled out around her in a silky pillow.
His mouth went dry, mind went blank — the only thing working was his cock, which hardened as if on command.
“Well, you found me. What do you want?”
That was an easy one.
“You.” He cleared his throat to make sure she heard him. “I want you.”
Oh man, she was in trouble.
Jake was the one thing she couldn’t resist. She’d given up smoking — a terrible college habit picked up when she dated a musician. And she’d given up musicians when they proved to be hazardous to her sanity and her hearing. When necessary, she abstained from chocolate, expensive coffee drinks and weekly mani/pedis, but Jake was in an entirely different category.
She’d been so good this past week after he’d run out of her apartment like his ass was on fire and then avoided her. It had hurt. She wasn’t even going to try and deny it. She had it bad for Dr. Ash.
Stupid, stupid girl.
He shuffled on his feet, reminding her that he was still standing on the path, waiting for her say something.
“You can lie down if you want.” Piper gestured towards the empty lawn space to her left.
She eyed him hungrily as the fists balled up at his sides loosened and he lowered himself to the ground. His black tux draped perfectly over his long, lean muscled frame. He moved with a wolfish grace which was mirrored in the grin that seldom flashed across his face at work but she’d seen it many times when they were together. If the truth were told, it was the grin that first drew her attention to the serious surgeon who wasn’t remotely her type.
Desperate to keep from flinging herself across his sexy body, she returned her gaze to the full moon in the summer night sky. She’d escaped from the party, the DC snobs and the uncomfortable and arousing awareness of Jake across the terrace, and found a quiet spot in the garden to collect her thoughts and calm her emotions. She’d almost convinced herself that she could return to the crowd and watch all those women flirt with Jake when his unmistakable voice had penetrated her solitude.
“So, Jake. It’s your dime,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“You left all the beautiful people to find me.” She shifted to watch his profile in the moonlight. “Why?”
He turned his head to meet her eyes. “I told you. I want you.”
“It’s a little too late for a booty call. You missed your chance.”
“A booty—? This isn’t about sex.”
She huffed out a laugh as she broke their visual connection. It was doing a number on her ability to maintain her anger.
“Fair enough. I want you but it isn’t why I followed you.” His voice sounded gruff, so unlike his usual polished baritone with the hint of a southern drawl. His voice usually made her weak in the knees so she was glad she was lying down.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“For ditching me half-dressed on my living room floor or for ignoring me?” she asked.
Oh no. It wouldn’t take much of an apology for her to wind up kissing him or taking off her clothes — again. His honesty cooled her anger a little, but the hurt still remained. She held onto it like a flotation device in the roiling sea of her emotions.
“Well, thanks for the apology. You can go back to the party with a clean conscience.”
“Piper, baby. Talk to me.”
Oh, man. Not again. The first time he’d called her baby, groaning it against her skin as they grappled in his car after their first date, she’d melted into pure, liquid goo. The sexy endearment was also the reason they’d ended up in the back seat, writhing against each other like horny teenagers. It was bliss.
Until the cops showed up and knocked on the window.
“Jake. You said it yourself. We are the couple voted ‘most unlikely’. We need to let it go.”
“I don’t want to let it go.”
“And, I don’t want to borrow trouble.” She turned to look at his face, remembering how his long lashes swept along her skin as he kissed and tasted her. “You’re trouble for me, Jake.”
“I don’t think so,” he disagreed, scooting closer.
Their knees touched and she could smell his cologne mixed with the clean scent of sweat on his summer-warmed skin. She took a deep breath, trying to ignore the way his fingers were brushing against the sensitive skin on the inside of her wrist.
“What are you then?”
“I’m an asshole.”
He’d surprised her. Again. The unexpected kept her addicted to this man.
“Okay.” She rolled to her side facing him as she propped herself up on an elbow. “You’ve got five minutes.”
He performed emergency surgeries on people who clung to life by a mere thread.
This was harder.
“I shouldn’t have left you the way I did.”
“Wrong.” Her voice was sharp, a tone he’d never heard from her before. The laughter in Piper’s voice and eyes was the first thing that caught his attention. He was drawn to the joy in her every move and gesture. “You had to go to the hospital. The guy on duty was puking up his bad sushi. Work wasn’t the problem.”
“Okay. It was the other part I screwed up. The after part.”
Jacob shifted up on his side, mirroring her position while maintaining his contact with the silky soft skin of her arm. The touch kept her listening. She liked it. He could tell by the way she didn’t pull away and her soft shiver when he grazed over the spot where “strength” was tattooed in a flowery script.
When the call came in the night of their date, he was lying on her floor with his shirt gone and pants undone. She was wrapped around him, naked except for the little skirt he’d fixated on getting under all night long. He’d been drunk on the taste of Piper, the feel of her soft, creamy skin under his hungry hands, and the blatant need in her eyes. He’d almost told the hospital to call someone else.
“I considered refusing the call to come in. Almost thought about making up an excuse — saying I’d been drinking . . . something. A lie.”
Her voice was just shy of a whisper. So low he couldn’t decide if he detected censure or not. Jacob searched her green eyes to see what she was thinking. People said the eyes were the window to the soul and with Piper it was true. He’d learned quickly to make eye contact if he wanted to see the real girl behind the two-tone hair and tattoos.
“Jake.” She rewarded him with the light caress of her hand on his cheek. And it was a prize. Damn, it felt like winning the lottery. “So, why the cold shoulder?”
Oh, that was easy too.
The way she made him feel scared him shitless.
It was more than lust. Somewhere between their first date and that night he’d fallen for her. He wasn’t ready to call it love, but he didn’t rule it out either.
“I’ve never put anyone before the job. It threw me for a loop and I ran.” It wasn’t so hard to say it out loud when a slight smile softened her expression and lit up her eyes. He decided to go for broke, reaching out to drag her close until their bodies were locked together from breast to thigh. “But, I’m not running anymore.”
He leaned in and brushed his lips against hers, taking advantage of her gasp to dip in with his tongue and taste her sweetness. He kept it light, teasing, coaxing her response as he traced a path along her jaw to the sweet spot just above her fluttering pulse.
“What if I’m the one running now?” Piper asked on a moan.
“Well, then . . . I guess I’ll have to chase you.”
Oh no. Not the nibbly thing.
Piper arched her neck into the caress of his lips. Jake wasn’t playing fair. He knew she turned to mush when he did that little nippy thing with his teeth on her skin. He was just trying to keep her off-balance in order to stop her from pointing out how this thing between them was a bad idea. He was doing a great job because she’d somehow ended up on her back with his hard length pressing her into the soft turf.
“I love it when you call me that.”
“You . . .” she bit back a groan as his fingers nudged back the flimsy strap of her dress to allow his clever mouth better access to more of her tingly skin, “. . . you hate nicknames.”
“Not from you.”
“Stop doing that.”
“You don’t want me to stop.” His low laugh vibrated against her breast as his hand pushed her dress higher up her leg.
She. Didn’t. Want. Him. To. Stop.
But, she really, really needed to put on her big girl panties and end this insanity. Oh, damn. She closed her eyes, counting the fireworks going off in her head as his calloused finger pushed aside those previously mentioned panties and touched her in the place directly connected to the “off” switch in her brain.
“I’m not the girl for you,” she panted.
Jake exhaled a heavy sigh, his breath warm and moist against her skin as he paused in his sensual exploration. He rested his forehead against hers, moments passing in silence while she struggled against the urge to shift her palms from the width of his shoulders and into the crisp, satin of his hair. He made the most delicious sounds when she did that.
“Baby.” He groaned as he lifted himself onto his forearms, still anchoring her to the turf while he nailed her with his intense dark eyes. The side of his mouth lifted in a grin. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m not the one for you.”
She needed to get through to him. They’d discussed what an odd couple they were many times, never coming to a conclusion both baffled by their inability to leave each other alone.
“You’re too old for me,” she offered.
“You’re an old soul. Twelve years is nothing in a lifetime.”
Damn, he was using her own words against her now.
“I have crazy hair, tattoos and pierced nipples.”
“You also have a brazilian wax job and I love them all. They’re unspeakably sexy.” His hand played idly with the strap on her dress. “Besides, you told me I needed to loosen up.”
“I said you needed to mix-it-up in the wardrobe department.”
“Well, I listened.” He leaned in close enough to whisper in her ear. “I’m not wearing any underwear.”
She snorted. “Not exactly what I was talking about.” Piper’s traitorous hand cupped his jaw, the stubble of his beard briefly scraping against her palm before being replaced with the softness of the hair curling at his nape. Jake’s smile, open and carefree, lit up his features, accentuating the severe cut of his cheekbones. Her heart stuttered in her chest. She was either falling for the guy or she needed medical attention.
Good thing he was a doctor.
“You hate my friends.”
“I don’t,” he protested.
“You think they’re weird.”
“They are weird.” He pressed a kiss to the inside of her wrist and set off another set of sparks in her belly. “But, they take care of you, so I like them.”
“I don’t like your friends.”
“Neither do I. They’re arrogant assholes and they were rude to you.”
“Good. You deserve better.”
“I deserve you.” His voice was firm but his eyes were soft with something she wanted very badly.
This wasn’t going the way she needed it to go. They’d been over this, talked about it, never getting past the fact that their worlds existed on totally different planets. But, something between them clicked, literally hummed with rightness whenever they were together, and she wanted it like a kid at Christmas. But, she’d been disappointed before by people she wanted much less. This man was a heartbreak waiting to happen.
“Jake.” She covered her face with her hands, her surrender so close she could feel its hot breath on her back.
“Piper, look at me.” He pried her hands away, placing them on the ground next to her head in a position of submission.
Panic flared momentarily, but, in another surprising move he slid his hands into hers, intertwining their fingers in a clasp of lovers instead of conquered and conqueror. She wanted to look away, fear rising in her throat at the intimacy, but his gaze held hers in a test of heart over head.
“You forget that I endured over a decade of grueling education and training to get to where I am today. I knew what I wanted and nothing stood in my way.” Jake’s body shifted over hers, his knee pressing between them until she could feel the hard length of his erection against her thigh. He rolled his hips for emphasis — as if she could miss his point. “I want you. We’re great for each other. Unless you can tell me a very good reason why I should let you go a second time, I’m not going anywhere.”
She looked scared to death. Her pulse was fluttering like a hummingbird against his skin as he held her hands. Had he gone a bridge too far in issuing what amounted to an ultimatum? He didn’t have the finesse or the necessary soft touch when it came to women. Too much time spent on his career and too little time spent pursuing anyone beyond a casual dinner and screw.
She swallowed hard, her voice trembling when she finally broke the silence. “When you get tired of me, let me down easy. Okay?”
Jackpot. Her entire body softened as his grew hard as stone. Who knew that giving in to utter insanity would be such a turn on?
“Don’t worry. I won’t ask you to move in with me until our sixth date,” he answered, only half joking.
His mouth covered hers in a kiss calculated to mark her with his possession, his desire. Jake poured all of the passion he’d hoarded in his heart for so many years, afraid to give in to something he could potentially want more than his vocation.
Piper’s hands curled into his grasp, her nails digging in, marking him return. He loosened his hold, hoping she would wind her hands in his hair as she often did when he kissed her. It was pure bliss, her tiny hands pressing him closer, keeping him within her orbit — as if he could break Piper’s law of gravity.
Her mouth opened under the pressure of his kiss, allowing him to sink into her sweet taste and scorching heat. She kissed like it was the only thing in the world, not just the pregame show but whole damn Super Bowl.
His hands found their way underneath her skirt, hungry to feel the silky heat of her skin, the curve along the back of her knee, the satin texture of her thigh. She was wearing these tiny, barely-there panties made of lace and her arousal warmed his seeking fingers.
Piper’s own hands were busy. Nimble fingers undid his tie, unfastening his studs to expose his throat to her mouth. Her tongue licked, her teeth nipping as his skin burned with a thousand points of fire — each nerve-ending transferring the pleasure up and down his body. She sucked against the hollow of his throat and his cock jumped, hardening to the point of pain.
With a groan and a hunger for just a taste, Jake lowered his head, nudging aside the silky straps of her dress until he could see the rosy tip of her nipple underneath a layer of emerald green lace. Undeterred by the barrier, he suckled her through the fabric bringing it to a hard peak as her hands found their way to his hair and pressed him closer.
“Fuck, Piper.” He ground himself against her thigh as she bucked against him in answer. If they kept this up he’d come in his pants like a teenager. “Let’s go. My place is closer.”
She gave a short shake of her head before her hands left his hair to travel down to his waist. It wasn’t until he felt his button slip through the hole that he understood what she was doing. His hands reached automatically to stop her but they were pushed away just as quickly.
“Here?” His voice was a harsh croak against the background of party music and rippling water.
“Yes, here.” Piper’s nimble little hands lowered his zipper and suddenly his aching cock was cradled in the sweet tunnel formed by her fingers.
Mindless with lust, he thrust into her hand, his body contradicting his words. “Anyone could walk up at any minute.”
“Well, then you’d better hurry.”
She had no idea what had possessed her but it felt way too freakin’ good to stop. The thought of Jake, inside her, over her, with the moonlight shining down on them made her crazy. She had to have this moment. Nothing else would do for their first time.
She almost wept when his body relaxed and he shifted to ease down the length of her body. She shivered as he leaned back on his knees, lifting her skirt and exposing her to the cooler air of the evening and the heat of his gaze. He was an image of pure sex — hair disheveled, shirt open and tie askew with his erection jutting from his open pants. Her mind was on sensory overload, the thrill combining with anticipation and creating a cocktail that went straight to her head.
Her gasp joined his groan as his hand petted her lace-covered mound, his long, surgeon’s fingers tracing every dip and fold. His eyes flickered up to meet hers for one brief moment before he leaned over, pushed aside the lace and suckled her clit.
Her eyes slammed shut, hands clenched in the summer-soft grass as she panted her desire out into the air. Jake groaned against her flesh as he delivered an endless press of kisses. Reduced to a pile of boneless mush, all she could do was open her legs wider and pray he didn’t get a call from the damn hospital. If he did, she’d have to shoot somebody.
He stopped his caress and her eyes flew open and found his in the moonlight. Jake was propped on one hand, pupils blown with lust as he pumped his cock in time with the harsh breaths escaping from lips glistening with her juices. It was the most erotic thing she’d ever seen.
Piper reached up, her hand cupping his face as her thumb stroked his lower lip. They were on the brink of something game-changing for both of them. Neither of them knew if it would last. It was a gamble. She wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“Jake, I need you.”
Her words spurred them both into action. Panties were gone. Condom retrieved from her purse and smoothed on his cock. And then months of wanting, weeks of doubt and indecision all came down to one moment of held breath and a gentle push.
“Holy shit.” Jake groaned through gritted teeth as entered her body, filling her with his desire.
Piper arched up into his invasion, her body screaming for the pressure, the ache, the fire. A breath, a sigh, escaped her body as he fully seated inside her and they began a slow glide of passion. Jake pulled almost all the way out before easing in again — an easy rhythm calculated to make it last.
Sounds of the party now seemed a million miles away. The trickle of water in the nearby fountain, the chirp of the cicadas blending perfectly with their moans and cries as their bodies demanded more.
Jake trailed open-mouth kisses along her neck, cheeks, and lips. The muscles of his shoulders rippled under her hands, his hair tickled against her palms. The moon was bright over his shoulder as she leaned back and let him take her on a ride of pleasure. It was magic. Tendrils of fire coiled in her belly and sparks skittered along her skin, the combination causing her to shiver.
“This is so good. So good.” Jake breathed against her ear before he traced her jaw and claimed her mouth in a carnal kiss.
“Yes. Oh, hell, yes.”
His total invasion — cock and tongue mirroring the others movements — triggered the beginning of her orgasm. Jake’s hands cradled her face as he broke the kiss and looked down at her, his features taut, betraying how close to the edge he was with his own pleasure.
And then, it was upon her. A frisson of lightening that started in the base of her spine and then traveled along every nerve-ending. She closed her eyes and the image of the bright, full moon was imprinted there with multi-color sparklers. She held onto Jake, her only anchor to this place, as he thrust into her and claimed her ecstasy as his own.
This was the good stuff. His weight upon her. Muscles relaxed and limbs boneless as they remained one body, joined intimately. The time to be savored before the awkwardness of “oh, shit what have I done?” settled in the air. But, somehow she knew this time would be different.
And it was.
Jake shifted his weight off her, pulling her with him so they remained entangled as they faced each other. He leaned over to give her a lingering kiss, a little tongue and a lot of heart.
“You okay?” His eyes traveled over her face, tenderness in every glance.
“Oh yeah.” Piper laughed. The giggle spilling over her lips and joining others as his face broke into a grin. “Paging Dr. Ash. Woman in need of mouth-to-mouth. Stat.”
“Are we going to play doctor?” His previously relaxed expression perked up at the suggestion.
“Uh huh. I even have a nurses’ costume.”
“And I have a stethoscope.”
Piper leaned in to kiss him, his infectious smile keeping it light and easy but no less potent. “Sounds like we have a plan for date number five.”