Excerpt for Always My Valentine (A Donovan Friends Novella) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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A.C. Arthur


“So instead of being a Scrooge this year, you’ve decided to become a matchmaker?” Lynn Richardson asked Bree, who looked lovely in the knee-length black and white dress.

Frowning into the full-length mirror, pressing the dress flat beneath the large bulge of her five-month pregnant belly, Sabrina Desdune looked at her older sister and shrugged. “Yeah. Why not? Cole deserves happiness just as much as the rest of us.”

Lynn resisted the urge to sigh and instantly agree with her sister. She did, however, step behind Bree and unclasped her arms so the charmeuse material fell gracefully over her sister’s body. “You look lovely,” Lynn said, resting her chin on Bree’s shoulder and sneaking a touch of the glorious baby bump—or she should probably say baby bumps, as Bree was carrying triplets.

“I look like I’m about to tip over,” Bree countered with a slight frown that quickly turned to a smile. “But the dress is cute. And I cannot wait to be your matron of honor in a couple of days.”

“Yeah, a couple of days,” Lynn said, pulling back and shaking her head. “I’ll be marrying Brice Wellington on New Year’s Eve. I can hardly believe it.”

Bree turned then, lacing her arm through Lynn’s. “Believe it, big sister. You’re the one who didn’t want to wait to get married.”

“I know,” Lynn recalled. “Brice and I just met and we just fell in love and his mother just came around from her culture shock about our relationship. For so long I thought I would never get married again. Ever.” She sighed. “But Jeremy loves Brice and Brice loves Jeremy. And he loves me. And I just couldn’t see any real reason to wait. It feels right and I just want to hurry up and do it, to grab ahold of this happiness. You know what I mean?”

Bree nodded. “I do. Because I felt that same way when Renny and I fell in love. And that’s why I’m telling you it’s time for Cole to have the same. Sam and Karena have been happily married for a couple of years now and they have Elijah. And in a couple of months, these little guys will be here. I want all of that for Cole. Don’t you?”

Lynn looked down at Bree’s stomach once more and thought about her nephew Elijah and her son and she knew that Bree was absolutely right. It was time for Cole to find his happiness.

“Okay, but if this blows up in our face, I’m telling him that it was all your idea,” Lynn conceded finally.

Bree laughed. “It’s going to work. I promise you it’s going to work and Cole’s going to be happy. Mark my words.”

Chapter 1

Classic elegance. That’s what Bree had called the theme for Lynn’s New Year’s Eve wedding. His sisters and mother had been planning frantically since the morning after Christmas when a very excited Lynn and a confidently smiling Brice had announced their engagement on an impromptu Skype call with the rest of the family. Cole had simply given his congratulations and relieved himself of all the squealing and color suggestions as quickly as he possibly could. He’d also shaken his head at what poor Brice had gotten himself into. Cole had another call not a half hour after the first one alerting him to a new murder in the city, so all he’d had time to do over the past few days was get to the tuxedo shop on the date and time designated in the text message he’d received from Lynn and make it to the George O’Falcon Historic Estate in Old Greenwich before the wedding began.

Now, at 11:45 in the evening, he was standing at the altar beneath yards and yards of black and white material draped in a seductive pattern over the ceiling and cascading down walls. Huge arrangements of white roses greeted him in whichever direction he turned. And walking down the aisle, with their father Lucien looking as debonair as any twenty-year-old in his classic Christian Dior black tuxedo, was his sister Lynn, smiling brilliantly.

She wore a lovely white gown that made her look as stylish and sharp as Cole knew her to be. With each step Lynn took, Cole couldn’t help but think of how far she had come in her adult life. She’d married too soon, had a son and a career and then, heartbreakingly, a divorce. Cole still owed Roger Richardson a good ass kicking for the cowardly way he’d walked out of Lynn’s life. But not tonight. No, tonight was reserved only for the beauty of his sister’s smile. And she was smiling, her gaze locked on the groom who stood in the aisle just a few feet from Cole at the moment. Torbert Wellington, founder and, for as long as Cole could remember, the leading attorney at the firm of Wellington Ridley, stood next to Brice as his son’s best man. Cole had been added as Lynn announced she would have not only a matron of honor but also a bridesmaid who was their sister-in-law, Karena. Renny and Sam were both relieved that he’d been the one Lynn asked. Cole, on the other hand knew exactly why he’d been Lynn’s selection. Renny was only married into the family and Sam was Bree’s twin. Growing up, the Desdune siblings had teamed themselves off, with Sam and Bree unquestionably sticking together, leaving Cole and Lynn as a duo since they were only a year apart in age.

But he hadn’t minded. At least not throughout the remainder of the short ceremony and the seconds after midnight when Lynn and Brice shared their first kiss as husband and wife. Renny had been the first to ignore protocol, rising from his seat and heading straight to where his very pregnant wife stood at the altar, kissing her sweetly and wishing her a happy new year. Sam followed, carrying a sleeping Elijah up to where Karena stood. She smiled leaning in to kiss her son’s forehead first, and then her husband’s lips. Lucien had already turned to his wife Marie, kissing her once and then again—for good luck, Cole remembered his father always joking. Even Mr. Wellington had stepped away from the aisle to meet his wife in the first row of seats, extending his hands and waiting for her to stand before kissing her deep red-painted lips. Cole stood tall, hands clasped in front of him, waiting for the kissing moment to reside, and that’s when he saw her.

She looked at him, her piercing light brown gaze catching his quickly. And then she looked away.

Cole frowned initially, but smiled the moment music began to play. It was some sappy love song that Lynn no doubt requested be played while she and her new husband walked back up the aisle. The couples that had commenced sharing New Year’s kisses now walked hand-in-hand behind the bride and groom, leaving Cole—that’s right—alone. That part didn’t worry him so much because each step brought him closer to the row of seats where he knew he’d seen Loren Knox, even though she’d acted as if she hadn’t seen him.

Okay, to be fair he couldn’t really say that. Maybe she hadn’t been looking at him after all. Lynn and Brice had optimistically invited 135 people to this hastily planned black-tie, black and white affair. To Cole’s surprise, at least eighty percent of them showed up all decked out in color coordinated outfits. So it was conceivable that Loren hadn’t seen him at all. No, he thought again, she’d seen him, he knew it.

And if he really considered things, which he did as he walked at the end of the line, Loren Knox should not have been here, in Old Greenwich, at all. She should have been in Washington, D.C., where she had a stylish penthouse apartment and worked as an FBI agent in the cyber-crimes department. She drove a candy apple red Audi and did most of her shopping online because she was so used to spending the bulk of her time on the computer anyway. She’d left Connecticut four years ago, one chilly, rainy night in February, and said she was never coming back.

Yet here she was, now standing right beside him as the line grew closer to the row where he’d seen her.

“Hello Cole,” she said in that sexy husky tone he’d never managed to hear in another female’s voice. Cole was yanked from his reverie and once again stared into those light brown eyes.

She smiled, a picture-perfect smile that caused her already high cheekbones to rise. Her hair, dark as night and soft as cotton, was pulled back tightly and folded into a large bun at the top of her head. Her butter toned skin was flawless, the makeup she’d applied only enhancing the already pretty face.

“Loren.” Her name was a breath. Cole would wonder later if it was one of relief or distress.

She nodded as if telling him he’d gotten the right answer. “Lynn emailed me an invitation and Bree followed up with a call to make sure I was coming.”

“What?” Cole asked, now confused by the sweet floral scent of her perfume and the smooth mounds of cleavage displayed by the short black dress she wore. Tight, he thought absently. The dress was short, black and tight.

“Why am I here? That’s what you were thinking right?” Loren continued, only now her voice had gone from light and cordial to a “you’re a dunce” tone.

“Um, yeah. I mean, yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking,” Cole stated, clearing his throat afterwards and silently demanding his body stop reacting to seeing her in that short…tight dress. “You said Lynn sent you an invitation?”

“Yes, she did. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Cole was about to ask her what this new tone her voice had taken meant. She was looking at him strangely, as if she were waiting for him to say something, anything, that would tick her off. He didn’t get the chance because one of the guests pushed against him as he tried to get past. After a muttered “excuse me,” Cole realized that he’d stopped in the center of the aisle the moment he’d seen Loren. She’d stopped also. They were both blocking the pathway.

“Come on,” he said, grasping her wrist and guiding them through the traffic.

The ceremony had been held in the O’Falcon mansion’s grand library. It was a large room with wall-to-wall windows at one end—the end where the altar had been—and eight-foot-tall double oak doors that were now opened for guests to pass through as they moved to the ballroom where the reception would be held.

Without thought, his grasp had softened and adjusted slightly so that he was now holding her hand. Her palm was warm against his, and even though he was moving and nodding hellos to others, his body was steadily reacting to the closeness of hers. He felt it in every step he took, the heat steadily sifting through him like slow running water until finally it filled him. Immediately he turned into a small nook in the hallway. He dropped Loren’s hand and leaned forward to see if the stained glass window would actually open. He needed some air.

“If you want me to leave,” Loren said from behind him, “I will.”

Cole’s hands went still on the window that wasn’t opening, and he looked over his shoulder at her.

“Why would I want you to leave?” he asked. Then, as if he were losing every ounce of his mind with her proximity, he remembered. Loren had walked out on him four years ago, minutes after he’d asked her to marry him.

“I just mean, if this is uncomfortable for you…” she paused, holding her lips tightly together as if to force herself not to say more.

Her lips were plump and soft, he remembered instantly. They’d always been so soft, her mouth warm and inviting each time he’d kissed her.

“I’m not uncomfortable,” he said, turning to face her. “Are you?”

She shook her head, long glittering earrings dancing with the movement. “No. I’m not.”

“Well then,” Cole continued, straightening and inhaling deeply. “We should get to the reception.”

This time he didn’t touch her. He simply nodded for her to go ahead of him. He was still dizzy from the full-body shiver smelling her perfume had caused. His stomach clenched and his dick hardened almost to the point of making him gasp. When she moved out of the small space and walked in front of him, his gaze—traitorous goddamned eyes—slid down the length of her back, from the nape of her neck, where wisps of hair lay gracefully, to the line of her spine, which was displayed through the peek-a-boo opening in the back of her dress. It went down to her…Cole had to clear his throat again. Her hips swayed gently, long toned legs holding perfectly steady on heels that looked too high for any normal human to walk on.

“There you are. I’ve been looking for you, but now I see why you were detained.”

Cole’s salacious thoughts about his ex-fiancée were interrupted by his brother’s hand clapping on his right shoulder, Sam’s remark echoing in his ear.

“I wasn’t detained,” Cole said tightly to Sam, who was wearing a white dinner jacket with his tuxedo shirt and bowtie.

Sam, who also looked as mischievous as his twin at this moment, only smiled at Cole.

“Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that. Who is she?”

Loren turned around, most likely to see if Cole were still following behind her like a dog in heat—which he probably would have been if not for his little brother’s appearance.

“Oh damn,” Sam stuttered. “Loren, how have you been?” His brother moved in closer to give her a hug.

A tight hug that looked like it lingered too long. Cole grit his teeth and attempted to take a step towards them, but someone blocked his path.

Another “excuse me” and he was finally standing right beside Loren, glaring at Sam.

“Lynn and Bree invited her,” Cole said abruptly.

“Yes. They did,” Loren added.

Sam laughed. “I’ll just bet they did.”


“I’m so glad you could make it,” Bree said to Loren almost forty-five minutes after they’d entered the grand ballroom.

“I was already back in town visiting my aunt and uncle for the holidays,” Loren replied. She was looking around the room that gave new meaning to the word grand, with its lovely chandeliers and coffered ceilings. The floors were gleaming polished wood only a shade or two lighter than the dark chocolate painted walls.

The second she saw him standing near one of the floor-to-ceiling beveled glass windows, she’d hurriedly looked away. When Cole had been within arm’s reach of her, she hadn’t found anything worthwhile to say. So searching him out for the last half hour had to be pointless. Just like coming to this wedding probably was.

“He can’t keep his eyes off you,” was Bree’s next comment.

Loren had just lifted her glass of ginger ale to her mouth for a sip and had to catch herself to keep from choking. “What? Who? What are you talking about?”

Sabrina Desdune could be a funny woman. She was fiercely loyal and protective of her family, and right at this very moment she was so pregnant she looked as if she were about to pop. Loren had met Bree, along with the rest of the Desdune family, after she and Cole had been dating for about two months. She’d heard of the family and had dined at Lucien’s, their Creole infused restaurant, but Cole had taken his time about bringing her to formally meet them. Once she had, Loren knew she was in love.

And not just with Cole.

His family was everything that Loren had imagined a real family should be. Lucien and Marie Desdune were proud and loving parents. Sam and Bree were the lively twins that brought laughter to the Monday evening dinners. And Lynn, she was the steady older sister with the cutest little boy Loren had ever seen. She’d glimpsed Jeremy during the ceremony, standing proudly beside his mother as she’d exchanged her vows with Brice Wellington, one of the most popular lawyers in Connecticut. It had only taken that one dinner and Loren knew this was exactly where she wanted to be, with the family she’d always wanted but never had.

It would take a while for her to realize that once again, for her, having a big, loving family was not meant to be.

“Cole. He’s been watching you all night,” Bree said, her brown eyes widening as she spoke excitedly.

Loren shook her head, hoping Bree wasn’t doing what she thought she was doing.

“He’s wondering why I’m here,” she replied dryly. “I told him I was invited, but he didn’t look like he believed that.”

“Oh come on, you two didn’t break up because you lied to him. There’s no reason for Cole not to trust your word. Besides, when Sam came over chuckling about how Cole couldn’t stop ogling you and congratulating me for a job well done, I knew you’d told him that you were invited.”

“Job well done?” Loren eyed Bree suspiciously and wondered if the woman would attempt to avoid the insinuation. She should have known better.

“It was all my idea,” Bree said happily. “I told Lynn it was high time Cole found some happiness. And the last time I remember him being happy was when he was with you.”

Loren let out a deep breath. She could relate to what Bree was saying because the only time she’d been truly happy was when she’d been with Cole as well. And yet, she’d managed to screw that up royally. Seeing him again, being close to him in that alcove in the hallway, feeling his hand in hers, had brought every painful memory rushing to the surface of the passion they’d shared, of how deeply they’d loved and how ultimately Loren had decided to walk away.

“I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, Bree. I came because I was in town and I thought it was really nice of Lynn to invite me.” She left out the part about missing the Desdunes and their easygoing lifestyle. And she definitely would not mention the shambles her life in D.C. had turned out to be. She’d save all that to be dumped on her best friend, Donna, since she was staying with her and her husband Marcus, while she was in Greenwich.

“So you didn’t come to get a look at Cole? You didn’t want to see how well your ex had aged, or possibly how miserably he was doing without you?”

“No,” Loren said, and then shaking her head because her throat had gone dry with the blatant lie. She took a gulp of ginger ale, staring at the ice cubes as they repositioned themselves, when she placed the glass back onto the table.

“You can’t even look at me when you tell that lie,” Bree stated seriously. “Look, I love my brother, Loren. And I know him just about as well as he knows himself. And I know that he’s never gotten over you.”

Loren couldn’t help herself. “How do you know that?” she asked immediately. Then, just as quickly she was shaking her head. “Nevermind, I don’t want to know what you think you know. It doesn’t matter. It was four years ago and we’ve both grown into different people.”

“Different people that still can’t stay away from each other,” Bree added, sitting back in the chair and folding her arms over her protruding growth. “If you don’t believe me, just look up in about ten seconds and you’ll see for yourself what I mean.”

Loren didn’t wait. She looked up instantly and there he was, about three steps from the table where they’d been sitting.

Cole Desdune had always been the most confident and undeniably sexy man that Loren had ever met. He was tall and broad shouldered, his voice deep and head shaved so close he could almost be considered bald. His complexion was just a touch lighter than hers, his jaw strong, lips stern, eyes serious. Either serious or heated, those were the two choices, Loren remembered. She had to swallow hard as she stared up at him because she would definitely classify the gaze he was now giving her as heated. After all this time the look should have had no effect on her at all, but beneath the table Loren clapped her thighs together tightly as her center began to throb with need. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and prepared herself for their next confrontation.

“I came over to see if you wanted to dance,” he said directly to her, ignoring his sister who was practically beaming with pride.

“I know he’s not asking me,” Bree quipped with a chuckle after a few seconds of silence. “By the time I get out of this chair, the reception will definitely be over.”

“You don’t move,” Cole told her, his gaze still stuck on Loren. “Renny’s on his way over to get you and take you to your room. Mom said it’s well past time for you to lay down and put your feet up.”

Bree was about to protest but just as Cole had predicted, Bree’s husband, Lorenzo Bennett, stepped up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. Loren watched as the handsome sculptor leaned over to kiss his wife on the cheek.

“Need some help?” he asked her.

“Oh bless you,” Bree sighed as Renny stepped around to the front of her, extending his arms to reach just beneath hers.

“Oh babe, this is Loren. She and Cole used to date,” Bree said, causing an already uncomfortable situation to shift quickly into the awkward stage.

Renny looked over his shoulder with a smoky glare that explained exactly why Bree Desdune, the ex-Marine, had decided to settle down and start a family.

“Hi,” Renny spoke.

Loren stood. “Hello. It’s a pleasure to meet you. It is getting late so I think I’ll take a cue from you and go to my room.”

Upon confirming that she would attend the wedding, Loren had been sent a reservation link. When she’d checked in, the overzealous clerk had happily informed her that the entire estate had been rented out for this wedding which was convenient considering they were about an hour’s drive away from the city.

“After our dance,” she heard Cole reply. Then she jumped because he’d moved around the table and was now standing right beside her, a hand touching her elbow.

Say no. Say no. Dammit say no!

“Sure,” Loren replied.

It didn’t matter that she’d loved this family and Cole Desdune with every fiber of her being. The fact that she’d felt overwhelmed and afraid when it actually looked as if she were going to get what she’d always said she wanted was of no concern either. Four years ago she’d walked out on Cole. She’d gone to D.C. and started the career she’d thought she wanted more than this gorgeous man standing in front of her. And she’d regretted every second of it. But that was all in the past.

This was here and now and Cole wanted to dance with her.

It was a test, she was sure. He no doubt expected her to back down, to try for an escape again. Her first instinct had been just that. But not this time, she thought with a deep inhale. She wasn’t going to give him the pleasure of being right.

“Sure,” she replied to him once again. And then to Renny and Bree, she added “Goodnight.”

Before she could even consider changing her mind, Cole was directing her to the dancefloor. He definitely looked like he had a purpose, like maybe there was something he wanted to say. Get the hell away from his family, was the first thought to come to mind. Cole was very protective of those he loved, especially his family. If he thought for one moment they were being used or manipulated in any way he’d put a definite stop to any threat. But he had nothing to fear from Loren. She wasn’t here to use them. In fact, she hadn’t even gone over to speak to his parents or Lynn for that matter. Bree had come to her while she’d sat at a table furthest from the family and their smiles and loving hugs. She had purposely kept her distance, watching, craving and feeling like a colossal idiot for throwing it all away.

“What brought you back to Greenwich?” Cole asked the moment they were on the dancefloor, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist.

The action had pulled her close to him, so close that her nipples hardened instantly upon rubbing against his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling the strength from his shoulders even with that casual touch.

“I wanted to spend the holidays with Donna. She just had a baby girl. And I wanted to see my aunt,” Loren responded, her voice steady even though there was a war of heat and desire clashing with common sense inside her.

“And then you received the invitation to this wedding? It was a last minute event. How could they know you were in town and would come?”

He was in his cop mode, she surmised. Asking her questions and expecting quick, complete answers. It would have been easy enough to remind him that she wasn’t a suspect in some crime and didn’t owe him as much of an explanation regarding her comings and goings as he seemed to think. But all Loren really wanted to do was get through this dance, and then she would leave. She’d head to her room and sleep for a few hours, and then she would get the hell away from the Desdune family and stay away, just as she had for the last four years. Because her mind was steadily warning her that coming back was a mistake.

She shrugged. “Coincidence.”

Cole pulled her closer, the sultry strings of the love song seemingly growing louder throughout the ballroom. Loren felt like they were the only two in the room with a spotlight shining down on them through the darkness. They were too close, this song was too sweet, the memories too clear.


He whispered her name and she shivered, her head involuntarily lifting until their gazes met. Damn, he was still so freakin’ handsome. His jaw set, those dark bedroom eyes so seductive.

She shook her head, trying to fight the swirl of emotions and sensations bombarding her. “I didn’t come back to see you, Cole.”

It was true. She hadn’t. But she’d thought about him, hadn’t stopped since she’d left town.

“And yet here you are,” was his reply. It was said in a slow, deep drawl that caressed every nerve in her body into acquiescence. “You’re at my sister’s wedding, in that dress designed to make a man go cross-eyed, smelling sexy and looking finer than I ever remembered.”

Her mouth had gone dry and she quickly swallowed. “I didn’t mean—” She began only to be silenced when he lowered his head, his lips brushing softly, slowly over hers.

“Don’t talk,” he told her. “We’ll finish this dance and then we’ll go to my room. But no talking, Loren. No more…goddamned…talking.”

Loren didn’t talk. She couldn’t, even if she’d wanted to spite his high-handed comment, because a lump had formed in her throat. Heat pooled in her center and her fingers tightened on the collar of his jacket. If she could speak, she had no idea what she would say. It felt just as it had all those years ago, just as it always was between them. There was fire and sparks and passion that burned high and bright, so bright Loren had been blinded for the year and a half that she and Cole had dated. She’d been lulled seductively into a false sense of security. Cole Desdune had everything Loren wanted and he’d gone down on one knee, presenting her with a diamond that sparkled like the sun, offering her the world. And she’d declined.

Tonight, four years later, she promised herself, she would accept. He wanted her to go to his room. He didn’t want her to talk. She would do as he wished. She would take what she could because nothing, not even the career she’d so desperately needed to escape to, could replace the void in her life that had been left by Cole Desdune.

She wanted him now, just as she had years ago, because Loren Knox had an undeniable knack for wanting the things she just couldn’t keep.

Chapter 2

True to his declaration, Cole did not talk. Once he’d closed and locked the door to his room, the delicious rapture began. He’d stopped her after she’d entered the dark room by grabbing her around the waist, pulling her backside against his front. She’d gasped at the quick action coupled with the instant spikes of heat shooting straight to her crotch as one of his hands palmed her breast and the other pressed between her legs.

Loren let her head fall back as his tongue traced a heated a path down her throat. She sighed, bolts of heat spearing rapidly throughout her body. This was familiar, the fast spread of desire that always transpired between them. It was deliciously decadent as they stood in the dark, breathing heavy, bodies aching with need. Loren gripped the wrist of his hand cupping her breast, holding it tight and fast to the tender mound. With her other hand she reached behind her, groping between their bodies until she could feel his erection, thick and long and hot to the touch even through the material of his tuxedo pants. She sighed with pleasure and gripped him harder.

He moaned, deep and long, and Loren smiled. It was nice to know they had the same effect on each other and that she’d not been the only one missing his touch. When his hand moved from between her legs to pull her dress up so he could push aside the wispy material of her panties and touch the dewy folds of her pussy, Loren whispered his name. She fumbled with his zipper, her wrist twisting in what was probably unnatural proportions until she had his hot length freed and in her palm. Cole’s teeth nipped along her neck, up to her ear where he bit lightly and licked tantalizingly. The hand that was on her breast moved upward, a finger slipping inside her mouth. Loren sucked the digit hungrily while her thumb rubbed along the bulbous head of his dick, his fingers dipping deeply into her dripping center. Her knees buckled and he chuckled lightly.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” he told her just as his thumb rubbed persistently over her clit. “Just keep sucking.”

She did, even though her breath was coming in quicker pants and her thighs shook uncontrollably. When Loren thought she would scream with pleasure, Cole changed the plan. Pulling his blessed fingers from her center and her mouth, he broke all contact with her. And when she wavered in the dark, he scooped her up and carried her deeper into the room.

There were two large windows on one wall, the sheer curtains only barely masking the indigo sky with its faint twinkle of stars.

“Take off your clothes,” Cole instructed her.

Loren turned around to see him standing at the edge of the bed. He’d already stripped off his jacket and was now bending to untie his shoes.

“Cole, maybe…” she started, but stopped when his head shot up, their gazes meeting.

“Don’t talk, remember?”

Loren licked her lips, her body humming with need that her mind thwarted with considerations, memories and regrets.

She reached behind her back, finding the clasp of her zipper, pulling it down until the cocktail dress slipped from her shoulders to fall in a pool at her feet.

“Right,” she whispered. “Don’t talk.”


The two words sounded harsh even to Cole’s ears. But they were a necessity. Just as sinking inside of Loren Knox one more time was.

Moonlight cast a hazy glow into the room and he watched in awe as she stood across from him, naked and waiting. This was exactly how she’d looked in his dream, the one that came faithfully once a week since the day she’d left. At first it had come more frequently. The moment he’d close his eyes, he’d see her. With every breath he took, he’d smell her. And then he’d been shot in the shoulder while conducting a search of a witness’s house. The pain had been a dull nuisance compared to how much he’d been missing Loren. Once on medical leave from the department, he’d decided he had to see her, that at the very least they could talk about what happened and when things had started to go wrong for her. He’d known where she lived and where she worked, what type of car she was driving and exactly how much money she’d had in her bank account from the morning after she’d left him. All of this information Cole had wisely kept to himself since what he was doing could technically be considered stalking. But the fact had been that he’d loved Loren Knox with his heart and soul. That, coupled with his protective instincts weren’t simply going to dissipate because she refused his marriage proposal and moved out of town.

On that day he’d watched Loren come out of her apartment building. When he’d gotten out of his car to go and greet her, he’d been stopped short. Another man also stepped out of a black town car, holding out his arms. Loren walked into his embrace and Cole had stood there, struggling to find his breath. Two days later, determined to get himself together, Cole had extended his leave of absence from the job and moved to New York to work in his family’s newest restaurant. As Lucien Desdune’s first born son, Cole had felt obligated to try and follow in his father’s footsteps. So immediately after high school he’d taken two years of culinary training, going all the way to receive certification before finally realizing that law enforcement was his true calling.

While he was in New York, the dreams had slowed but not ceased. After a year away he’d come back to Greenwich and his job and done everything in his power to forget her. Only none of it had worked as evidenced by his immediate reaction to her being back in town, and better yet, once again naked and waiting for him.

Cole reached for her then, without a word or even another thought of the when or why. The minute his fingers touched the bare flesh of her back as he pulled her closer, all thoughts of their past fled from his mind. All he could focus on when his lips touched hers, his tongue pressing persistently into her mouth, was tasting her, feeling her, being with her once again.

Don’t talk. Don’t think. Just act.

He cupped her bottom in his palms, pressing her closer, loving the feel of her warm skin rubbing along his heated shaft. Her arms laced around his neck where she held fast to the back of his head, tilting her head as they took their kiss deeper. She shivered when he slipped a finger through the crease of her ass, moving downward until he could once again feel the wetness between her legs. In an offer of assistance that Cole wanted to thank the heavens for, she lifted one leg, showing the plump, unfettered folds that his dick ached to be inside of.

Cole moaned, his dick sliding between her legs, rubbing along her damp lips, searching hungrily for entrance. She moved forward, her back arching, and he kissed down the line of her neck, loving the feel of her turgid nipples against his bare chest. He’d never forgotten this—the warm welcome of her body, the enticing scent of her arousal, her instant response to him. Or him to her. It had been this passion that had drawn them from the start but had not been able to sustain them in the end.

Don’t talk. Don’t think. Just act.

“Lie down for me,” he whispered with one last lick over the swell of her breasts.

“Yes,” she replied, but did not move.

Neither did he. A second later he cursed quietly, finally releasing her so she could do as he’d asked. He watched her sit on the bed and then scoot up to the top, planting her feet on the mattress, and dropping her knees in a position that screamed, “Take me!”

Closing his eyes and clenching his fists, Cole turned his back to her. He could hear her breathing, could still feel her lips on his, and he actually trembled. With hurried movements he reached down to pick up his pants, finding his wallet and retrieved a condom. When he turned to her again, package already ripped, latex positioned over the head of his throbbing cock, he sucked in a breath.

One of Loren’s hands cupped her breast, squeezing until the tight nipple poked through her fingers. The other hand had slipped between her legs, fingers moving slowly up and down her slit, the undeniable sound of her arousal echoing throughout the room. Cole swallowed, hard. He moved the latex over his rigid erection, stroking with the same rhythm as her fingers up and down her center. When she dipped two fingers inside, arching her back and moaning with pleasure, Cole stepped toward the bed. Placing a knee on the mattress he moved closer to her, positioning himself directly between her legs.

“Don’t stop,” he murmured, his strong hands massaging her thighs. “Keep going.”

His words were coming through clenched teeth as he tried with all his strength to hold on, just for a little longer. The sight of her fingers going in and out, the sheen of her arousal on each digit, had his heart racing, his dick thrusting forward with anticipation.

When she was panting, her head thrashing against the pillows, Cole knew it was time, for both of them.

“Take me in,” he told her. “Take me inside your sweet haven.”

She didn’t say a word, didn’t waste a moment, but reached both her hands out to wrap around his length. She tilted her hips and Cole spread his legs wider. The first touch of his tip to her heat had him swearing and gripping the soft skin of her thighs tightly. He wanted to remain still, to savor that moment of pleasure but he couldn’t. She was sucking him in…he was pressing forward… Whoever the culprit was, they were joining once more, her walls clamping around him in a perfect fit.

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(Pages 1-19 show above.)