I survived by being invisible. A wallflower. Losing myself in the crowd and devoting myself to my family and to molding young lives.
Until I decided to take a chance, let my hair down, and cut loose in Sin City—live a little for just one night. After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?
What happens in Vegas follows you home in the form of Redemption’s brand-new Chief of Police, Mateo Beckett. My apparent partner in crime in a drunken all-nighter that I can’t remember, that may or may not have led to irrevocable consequences. The life-altering, forever kind.
And the only thing scarier than facing those consequences alone? Facing them with a stranger, just as Redemption’s darkest secrets are coming into the light . . .
Grace slid her hand up over mine, her gaze knowing, as if she’d sensed where my wayward thoughts were going. “You okay?”
A half laugh huffed past my lips. “I’m good. Just . . . tired,” I finished lamely.
“Me, too.” She smiled wryly as she drew away, and I felt the moment passing. The dart of her eyes to take in her surroundings told me she was getting ready to bolt again.
“Badly,” she said with a tiny shrug. “In the chair from hell in my dad’s hospital room, waking up every hour, having weird dreams about you, then I go and fall asleep in my car during lunch, which I never do, mind you . . .” Her dark eyes flashed to mine as she rambled on. “Then Felicity comes to get me and casually mentions that her pregnant sister does that all the time, and I’m just like . . .” She stopped and narrowed her eyes. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
“You’re having dreams about me?”
Her jaw dropped and her eyes fluttered closed. “I said that out loud.”
I tilted my head in amusement. “You did.”
She shook her head. “Stop enjoying this.”
I stepped closer. “It’s really . . . unavoidable.”
She chuckled, opening her eyes and immediately averting them toward the park. “Men.” I lifted a brow. “Oh, Jesus.” She folded her arms across her chest. “Yes, alright? I’ve had . . . a couple of dreams. Does that soothe your male ego?”
I bit back a grin. “Possibly. What were they about?”
She rolled her eyes, but there was no missing the blush that crept up her ivory cheeks.
I chuckled. “Really?”
“I also dream about chipmunks and tornadoes on a regular basis, so don’t get too cocky,” she said, but her head took on a flirty tilt. A flash of that same pose in Vegas filled my brain and heated my blood. “We can’t help what we dream.”
“True,” I said, running my fingertips along the skin of her folded arms and watching her breath catch. Fuck, if that wasn’t hot as hell. “But I’m betting the stormy chipmunks don’t undress you.”
She gave an adorable little scrunch of her nose. “That would be a whole new level of weird.”
“Running naked on a bridge?”
She shook her head. “Not that I can recall.”
“So . . .” I moved in so close that I could kiss her if I wanted to, and damn I wanted to. Her playful expression sobered. “Were there clothes in today’s dream? Did I take them off you?”
Her gaze dropped to my lips, then slow-strolled back up to my eyes. “Maybe,” she finally whispered, her voice low and husky.
“You can’t remember?”
She swallowed. “Maybe I don’t want to tell you. Maybe I want to keep it to myself.”
I needed to walk away, go home, go actually have that damn coffee, but this woman was killing me. I brushed a fingertip down her jaw to her throat, watching the beat of her pulse beneath her pale skin. “Share with the class, Miss M.”
She smirked. “Maybe it’s personal.”
“Personal,” I echoed as I traced that finger along her full lower lip, and nearly groaned as she darted that sweet tongue out to taste it. Shit. Things could go off the rails really damn fast, and we were in a parking lot. I slid her glasses up on top of her head, and leaned to touch her lips with mine.
Her eyes clashed with mine again.
My lips trailed over her cheek, her eyelid, her forehead, as she slowly lowered her head to rest in the hollow of my throat. “We both know Vegas was a drunk mistake.” She sighed slowly. “It means nothing.”
My heart rebelled at the very thought, even as my selfish brain shouted and fist-pumped in agreement. I knew, in the deepest parts of me, that not one thing about us was a waste. We may have collided together under the craziest of circumstances, and I may be way out of my element with her, but I’d never been one to deny the truth.
That truth was that Grace McMasters was no mistake, and the polar opposite of nothing. She was everything. Everything good, kind, sweet, sexy, funny, and infuriating all at the same time.
Nothing, my ass.
On a growl, I forked a hand through her hair and tugged her head back, making her gasp in surprise. I dropped my hungry gaze to her mouth. “Don’t ever call yourself a mistake, Grace,” I bit out just before I crashed my lips into hers, taking everything I’d been fantasizing about since the moment I saw her again in Redemption.
She melted into me instantly, giving as good as she got. Her hands slid up my chest and neck, to rake my hair and draw me closer, changing the angle of the kiss as her tongue danced with mine. Her kiss was uninhibited, wanton, as were her sexy little mewls of pleasure, and I loved every fucking second of it.
I pressed her back against her car, my hard body caging her in as I rocked my erection against her.
She moaned and pressed back, and I wanted nothing more than to take her right where she stood. Especially when her hands clawed desperately at my shirt, her hot little fingers sliding under the hem to my lower back, up my flanks, around to my abs.
Her touch triggered another memory of our first night together . . . her hands undressing me, her fingers as she went for my belt buckle . . .
I drew in a breath and pulled back as the memory washed over me, and her movements stilled.
“What?” she breathed, looking up at me for clues. “What’s wrong?” Her hands dropped. “Oh, God, what are we doing? What am I thinking?” she whispered as if to herself.
“Hey.” I grabbed her hands and kissed her knuckles, both of us still breathing heavily. “It’s okay, nothing’s wrong. I just . . .” I sighed and squeezed her fingers, careful to keep eye contact, lest my skittish little butterfly take flight. “I just had a déjà vu moment.”
“This same scenario,” I said, smirking. “Your hands on me. Bad wallpaper behind your head.”
She laughed softly. “I keep getting those, too.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Ha.” Giving a tiny shrug, Grace tilted her head in that way of hers again, and I felt unfamiliar things tug. “I remembered something odd this morning. Did you—give me a piggyback ride down the strip? Or am I making that up?”
I pulled back to study her face as her words churned up that recollection. “Your feet.”
She laughed. “What?”
“Your feet,” I repeated. “They were sore from your shoes.”
She nodded. “Well, okay then.”
The pause between us was suddenly awkward, and I glanced around. “Probably should get out of this parking lot and go see about—”
I grinned at her smile and resisted the sudden overwhelming urge to take her lips again. “Yeah.” I couldn’t seem to pull away from her, or look away from that perfect mouth, all swollen from my kiss. “So, before we go . . . one more question, Grace. Who was your first kiss?”
Her dark eyes got wide and amused. “Oh, Lord. Wait—we’ve already had this conversation.”
Her gaze went far away like she was looking for something, before lighting up. “Yes! Oh, my God, yours was—Claudia?”
What the fuck?
“You used to have a speech impediment!” she gushed like the memories were pouring in faster than she could spew them. “And a pet turtle named Harriett—”
“Henrietta,” I interrupted, my jaw tight.
“Right. Henrietta. And you wrecked your first car by driving too fast to impress a girl . . . not Claudia—”
“Okay, that’s enough,” I said with a grumpy growl. “It sounds like you need to ante up.”
It was unnerving to hear I’d been that chatty. I didn’t do that. I hadn’t discussed personal shit with anyone in years. As a law enforcement officer, I didn’t want my business on the street, but also, I was a private person.
What the hell had Grace McMasters done to me, one night away from my normal life, that had me giving her everything?
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