“Want to,” she mumbles and frowns, her eyes still closed.
“Come on, Delila, wake up.”
She sniffs the air. “Do I smell coffee?”
“Yes.” I grin and climb off the bed, then saunter naked toward the bathroom. “It’ll be in the bathroom with me.”
“I don’t want it that bad!” she calls out.
Okay, so she’s not a morning person. She can’t be perfect.
“I’m naked,” I reply. “You have twenty seconds to get your sweet ass in the shower with me before I come haul you in myself.”
“Whatever, caveman,” I hear her mumble, and my heart stumbles with the immediate love I feel for her.
I haven’t felt this in…four years.
I recognize it. I’m in love with her. How it managed to happen so fast, I don’t know. And while I do recognize it, it feels different this time. Not better or worse, just different.
Because she’s not Missy. She’s Lila. I’m not replacing what I had, I’m adding to what I have now, and that feels pretty fucking good.
I start the water, set a condom inside the shower because I want to take her there this morning, sip the coffee, and grin when I feel her move up behind me, press her spectacular naked body against my back and a kiss to my shoulder.
“Good morning,” she whispers sweetly.
“May I please have some coffee now?”
I snort. “You don’t have to put on the sweet act, darlin’. I’ll share my coffee.”
“Thank God,” she says and takes the mug out of my hand, then downs it in three big gulps.
“Uh, that was hot.”
“Thank God,” she repeats with a grin and steps into the shower. “So is this!” Her voice is a high-pitched shriek.
“Do not turn it down,” I order her and step in with her.
“Are you trying to burn me?”
“You’ll drink boiling hot coffee but you won’t shower in hot water?”
“This isn’t hot. This is…” She flails her hands about. “This is really hot.”
“Brain not working yet?” I kiss her forehead and laugh when she pinches my ass. She’s smiling, her eyes shining and happy, still a little sleepy, and her skin is still warm from bed and soft, and I can’t stand it.
I need her.
I lift her and brace her against the wall of the shower, making her cry out at the cold against her back.
“What the hell?”
“Need you,” I murmur against her sweet mouth. I hold the condom up to her lips, and she grips the wrapper in her teeth, helping me rip it open. I roll it on, then boost her up and slide inside her, and nothing has ever felt so fucking good in all my life. “Do you know how damn good you feel?”
“If it’s anything like how you feel, it’s pretty damn good,” she replies and bites my lip. “Didn’t we do this just a few hours ago?”
“We made love a few hours ago,” I reply and hold on to her ass in the palm of my hands, just this side of too rough. She gasps and bites her lip. “That was life-affirming sex.”
“What’s this?” she asks and gasps again as I begin to move hard and fast, chasing both of our orgasms.
“This is good, old-fashioned fucking,” I growl against her neck. “I want you hard and fast, right here in the shower.”
“You’re getting it,” she replies and leans in to bite my shoulder as she comes hard, her legs gripping on to my hips like vices, grinding her pelvis against my own. “Christ, Asher.”
“That’s right,” I murmur and feel myself go blind as my balls lift and tighten with my own release. “Just me.”
* * * *
“I’m going to need you to pack a bag,” I inform Lila as I tug my shirt over my head and finger-comb my hair. She’s already dressed, looking sexy as fuck in a red sundress that I want to peel off her.
God, I’m out of control.
“Why?” she asks with a frown.
“Because you’re going to come stay with me until we catch this fucker.”
She slides her feet into black flip-flops, then props her hands on her lean hips, and I know I’m in for an argument.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes. You are.”
She narrows her eyes at me. God, she’s magnificent when she’s pissed.
“You know, I’m happy to take precautions, and you can boss me around all you want in the bedroom—”
“Like that, do you?”
“But you will not tell me where I’m going to live.”
“No, you look.” She’s pacing now, really worked up, and it’s a sight to behold. “I’ve worked long and hard for my independence. I’m not a stupid woman.”
“Didn’t say you are.”
“And I know how to look out for myself! I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I didn’t have a mom, Asher. My dad was drunk most of the time. I’ve held jobs and taken care of myself since before I could do algebra.”
“I still can’t do algebra,” I reply, trying to keep it light, but my hands are in fists now at the thought of a young Lila taking care of herself. Her father should have his face beat in.
“I’m not going to be your pawn, that just does as you say. I’m not one of your officers.”
“No, you’re not.” I pull her to me now, drawing her into my arms, and hug her tight. She melts into these hugs like she doesn’t get them often, and that just softens me toward her even more. “You’re not my pawn, Lila. You’re everything.”
“Excuse me?” she whispers, not looking up.
“I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, baby, but this isn’t a quick fuck for me. You’re not just a job for me.”
“What am I?”
I swallow hard and kiss her head. “You mean more to me than any woman has in a very long time. Let me protect you. I can’t just pack up my daughter and move in with you. If it was just me, I would. I need you to come to me.”
“That’s the other thing.” She pushes out of my arms and stomps away. “Casey.”
I still and my heart stops. “Are you saying you have a problem with my daughter?”
“No!” She whirls around, eyes wide, and I immediately calm. “I adore her. Asher, I can’t bring whatever this could be to your house. I would die before I put Casey in danger!”
“You’re in danger here, Delila. No one is in danger at my house. The killer has no reason to know that you’ll be with me. I don’t like knowing that you’re miles away from me. I can’t get here in time if something were to happen.”
I pace away and push my hands through my hair, suddenly frustrated.
“Damn it, Lila, I need you with me.”
“Will be fine.” I turn back to her. “Do you honestly think that I’d willingly put my daughter in danger? She’s safe, just like you will be if you come with me.”
She chews on her lip, giving it some thought, and if I wasn’t already completely in love with her, her concern for Casey would have pushed me right over.
“Okay,” she says cautiously. “But when you’re not home, Casey should stay with Mike and Fran.”
I frown, but she continues before I can say anything.
“Not because I don’t love spending time with her, but because no one would follow her to Mike’s house. If you’re not home to protect her, she shouldn’t be alone with me. Just in case.”
I cup her face in my hands and everything in me is screaming to tell her I love her.
“Thank you,” I say instead.
“You won’t be thanking me when I use up all the hot water and burn toast.”
I grin. “I already burn the toast.”
It’s been two weeks since Cheyenne was killed. Two weeks without so much as a leaf blowing the wrong way in the trees. Spring has bloomed in New Orleans, making the city seem fresh and bright.
I’ve attended four funerals in the last month, and the sadness of the loss of the girls hangs heavily around me, despite the brightness of early summer. The killer has been quiet—too quiet—and I can’t help but worry that something could happen at any moment.
Classes are out for the weekend, and Asher’s friends, Matt and Nic, from Seattle are coming to visit for a few days. In fact, their plane should have landed not long ago. They’re going to meet us at home.
I mean, Asher’s townhouse.
Except, it’s come to feel like home over the past two weeks. Most of my clothes have managed to migrate there, much to Casey’s delight. She thinks it’s awesome that every night is a sleepover, and she’s loved getting to know Kate and Eli, who have been invited over for dinner several times.
I’ve refused the four hundred and twenty-three offers to sleep in his bed from Asher. I don’t feel comfortable sleeping with him with Casey there. I don’t want to confuse her.
Hell, I’m confused enough for both of us.
That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t sneak into the spare bedroom with me after she goes to sleep. There have been a few times that he’s carried me into his bed to make love to me because he wants to have me there.