Authors: Karen Templeton
“And that is the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me. No, really.” She turned away. “And it’s a helluva lot more than my ex bothered to do. But I also think we should go see the horses later.”
Confusion crumpled his brow. “Why?”
“Because now you’ve put this idea in my head, there’s not exactly a whole lotta room for anything else.”
His sigh practically enveloped her. “Me, neither,” he said, and she felt tingles in places she hadn’t felt such things in a very, very long time.
* * *
“Not a problem, sir. Since the room wasn’t occupied last night, you absolutely can check in now if you’d like.”
If the smiling woman drowning in Navajo silver-and-turquoise jewelry at the front desk wondered what was going on, Zach thought as he handed over his credit card, she was at least discreet enough not to let it show. Which is more than Zach could probably say for himself. Even though they probably weren’t the first couple to use her fine establishment for a romantic assignation. For her, this was probably nothing to even bat an eye about.
For him, however...
“This place is gorgeous,” Mallory whispered as they drove around through a forest of almost bare cottonwoods to their room, with its own entrance and a small, very private brick patio swathed in crinkly wisteria vines. God knew there were plenty of less fancy—and far cheaper—motels a half hour farther south in Albuquerque, but Zach would put out his right eye before staying in one of those places himself, let alone bring Mallory to it. He parked the truck, then went around to retrieve Mallory’s wheelchair before lifting her into it, her scent alone enough to send his libido into overdrive. As if he needed any external provocation.
She wheeled onto the patio ahead of him, a little “Oh!” of delight falling from her lips as she took in the quaint, wrought-iron table and chairs surrounded by a dozen pots and halved whisky barrels overflowing with mums and pansies and other hardy, late-season plants. The air smelled of fireplace smoke and her perfume, with a slight overtone of whatever the barrels had once housed.
“Zach...” The word was a breath. Mallory lifted her face to his, her eyes shining. “This is so much more than I was expecting.”
She leaned forward to touch a huge purple pansy, quivering in the sunlight. “I might have a change of clothes in my purse.”
He blinked. “And if we’d only looked at horses?”
Leaning back in the chair again, she seemed to think about this for a moment. “Not gonna lie, I would’ve been disappointed. For a little while, anyway. But you know, what you said before?” Her eyes met his. “About how there was no pressure? The same goes for you, too. At any point you feel you want to back out, I’m good with that. And if today’s a onetime thing?” A breeze blew her hair across her cheek. She pushed it behind her ear. “I’m good with that, too.”
Slowly, Zach closed the distance between them to squat in front of her, taking her hand in his. He pressed her knuckles to his mouth, his chest constricting at her soft smile. He knew she was sincere, that he could still back out and she really would be okay with it. Eventually, anyway. The problem was...he wouldn’t be.
No matter which option he chose.
“Zach?” Amusement danced in her eyes.
She leaned forward close enough for her hair to brush his cheek. “Wheelchair sex can be fun and all,” she whispered, “but you probably don’t want your first time to be within hearing distance of the other guests.”
And that, boys and girls, was all it took.
* * *
There was a lot to be said for patience heightening anticipation, Mallory thought sometime—okay, a lot—later. Because a chick in a wheelchair simply doesn’t rip off her clothes and get down to it. For one thing, there were practical matters to tend to involving the bathroom and such, matters that would not be rushed, her frenzied hormones be damned. Then there was the internal debate about whether she should undress in the bathroom and wheel back naked, or let Zach do the honors, or what? Since they hadn’t exactly discussed any of this. Criminy, it’d been nearly twenty years since her last first time. Back when her legs still worked—
“Mallory? Honey? You okay in there?”
She wondered which of them was more nervous, decided it didn’t matter. She’d also reconciled herself to the distinct possibility that this would be a complete bust, for many reasons. But at least they could say they’d tried, right?
Still dressed, she opened the bathroom door, gulping at the sight of a shirtless, barefooted Zach. Ripped, no. Solid? Oh, hell, yeah. Scared? She was guessing yes. Then, his gaze locked in hers, he said, “What do you need me to do?” and she could practically feel the fear melt.
And so did she.
She wheeled over to the bed—since truth be told she had no more experience with wheelchair sex than Zach did—then transferred from her chair onto the mattress, her limp legs dangling off the edge. Heat surged in her cheeks; Zach knelt in front of her, palming her jaw. “What?”
“My legs aren’t exactly pretty, Zach.”
“It’s okay, my brothers tell me mine aren’t either.”
“With that chest? How could they not be?”
With that, he stood and shucked off the jeans, revealing plaid boxers barely concealing a very hopeful bulge...and, yes, a pair of the palest legs she’d ever seen on a man. Too late, she clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle her laugh. Frowning slightly, Zach glanced down at his legs.
“There’s a reason I never wear shorts.”
“Except if you did,” she said, giggling, “you might get some color on them. But at least yours
, for heaven’s sake.”
“There is that,” he said, shrugging, and something powerfully sweet flooded her, that he could kid with her, be himself with her...that she could be
self with him.
Then he gestured toward her legs. “Okay, I showed you mine. Your turn.”
“And if we want to do this before we’re ninety you should probably help me.”
“I can do that,” he said, then crouched in front of her, unzipping first one boot, then the other, so slowly she thought she’d scream...and tossing first one, then the other over his shoulder where they thunked onto the patterned carpet covering a good chunk of the brick floor. Then he pushed himself up to cup her face and kiss her, and it was a celebration of tongues and spit and softness and heat the likes of which she’d never known. And would never forget. Especially when she caught the look in his eyes, the pupils dilated though they were, that told her he was still mightily conflicted about it all. Determined, but conflicted.
So before he changed his mind, she leaned back to unbutton her jeans—
“No, let me,” he whispered, her stomach muscles flinching when his rough fingers slid across her skin. Then his mouth made contact with her belly button, which she shouldn’t have felt but somehow did, someplace far beyond physical sensation...his kisses continuing south as he tugged off her jeans, then her panties, shifting her around so she was stretched out on the bed. She hiked herself up on her elbows, watching, tears cresting in her eyes as he stroked her thighs, her caves, worshipping their pitiful shrunkenness with his mouth, his hands. It should’ve been funny, this goofy guy wearing nothing but his boxers and glasses, making love to a pair of lifeless legs, but it wasn’t. It was...
Amazing and beautiful and incredibly hot, and if she became any more aroused she’d combust.
“Hold on,” she said, pushing herself into a sitting position, where she ditched her sweater and bra, the movement making things perk right up. Grinning, Zach sat back on his knees, adjusting his glasses, and by now her nipples were whimpering. “Well, that was certainly worth the wait.” She threw a pillow at him. Which he caught and threw back. “So...in the Transmutant movies...?”
“No embellishment required, nope. Also...uh...” She glanced down, then back at him.
He took the hint. Laying her back against the pillows, he paid homage to her breasts in a way she’d only dreamed of for years, only more slowly, more thoroughly, more carefully than she
have dreamed...and every working nerve ending stirred from its long slumber, and...
Apparently so. Well, okay then.
Threading her fingers through Zach’s hair, Mallory all but yanked him back to the breast he’d just left, pushing out, “Keep going...yes, oh,
! Oh my heavenly
Of which she saw quite a few, yes, she did. And there was panting and gasping and a high-pitched screech that had her fervently hoping the walls were soundproof.
Afterwards, Zach cradled her in her arms. “Was that...?”
“So you can.”
She twisted her neck to look at him. His glasses were crooked. And smeared. “It’s different for everybody. Some women can, some can’t, some describe it as still a release, but different. All I know,” she said, smiling, “is that I’m one very happy camper right now.” Then she frowned. “Exactly how blind are you, anyway? Without your glasses?”
“You don’t think it’s kind of kinky?”
“I think I don’t want to worry about them flying off or something. So you need to lose them. Also—” She reached over to snap the waistband of his boxers. “These.”
“Done,” he said, leaning over her to set the glasses on the nightstand, then shucking the drawers in a move much more smooth than she might’ve expected before wrapping her in his arms. And kissing her some more while she touched, teased, explored. Made him do some gasping of his own before he positioned himself over her.
“So what comes next?” he asked.
“You, hopefully. But you’ll have to... Yeah, okay, I see you’ve got this,” she said when he spread her legs. Which probably would’ve been like jelly, anyway, even if she hadn’t been paralyzed. Then he was inside, and her eyes flew to his. “Holy hell. I can feel that.”
He smiled. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. I don’t know why, but I can.”
His grin grew downright evil.
In the most perfect way possible.
As Mallory wrapped her arms around Zach and held him close, she shut her eyes, praying he’d find the same release in them she’d found in his.
In every meaning of the word.
y the time they’d gone out to the farm to see the horses—and for Mallory to buy the calmest chestnut mare in the world—they were both starving. So much so that for the first five minutes after their food came, they were too busy stuffing their faces to talk.
Which they were probably going to have to do eventually. If only to figure out what happened next. Or even if there was a
. For now, though, Zach was actually content to watch her devour her green chile chicken enchiladas as if she hadn’t eaten in a year, chasing it with a chunk of sopapilla, drizzling honey inside the sweet, puffy pastry before popping it into her mouth.
. That mouth...
There’d been a few—okay, more than a few—awkward moments, but also many that...weren’t. Mind-blowing, was the term that came to mind. And a lot of laughter, as they tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Why he’d thought she might be self-conscious, he had no idea. Instead she had no trouble urging him to try this or that or the other, even as she also, and repeatedly, asked what
could do, what
“What?” she mumbled as she chewed, her eyes bright. Even after an hour, she still glowed, a thought that made him ready to rumble all over again. Or still. He’d fully expected to feel guilty. Or at least something close to it. That he didn’t...
He shook his head. “Nothing.”
Mallory leaned closer, a drop of honey glistening at the corner of her mouth. “Like hell. I know what you’re thinking.”
“Oh, yeah?” Zach asked, taking a bite of his huevos rancheros.
A chuckle rumbled from her oh-so-magnificent chest before she said, “See, right here is where I’d play footsie with you under the table. If I could, you know, lift my foot. So imagine it. ’Cause I sure am.”
The good news was, there were few other patrons this late in the day. The bad news was, there was little chatter to muffle their voices in the not-exactly-huge room. “You do realize,” he whispered, “I now can’t think of anything else?”
“That was the idea, bub,” she said, and he smiled. Then, her attention drifting to a blue-black grackle searching for crumbs in the inn’s courtyard, she sighed. “I didn’t know...” Her cheeks pinking, she met his gaze again. “I never knew it could be like that,” she said, her voice hushed. “Not in real life, anyway. And I don’t only mean...now. I mean ever.”
A frown bit into his forehead. “I didn’t think I was doing anything special.”
Mallory’s gaze gentled. “You were paying attention to me. You...you gave a damn whether I was enjoying myself or not. The rest of it...that can be figured out. But not if only one person in the bed...” Her eyes watered. “
Zach reached for her hand, hating how loud his heart was pounding, hating the feeling that had nearly overwhelmed him back in the room, that he was losing control. Or, more likely, that he’d never had it. Mallory frowned at their linked hands, then withdrew hers again. “I’m sorry. This is so not how I pictured this conversation going—”
“But it did. So deal. And keep talking.”
“Mallory, for God’s sake—”
“Okay, okay...got it.” Then a soft, humorless laugh pushed from her mouth. “With Russell and me, I just kept thinking...shouldn’t there be more?” Shaking her head, she poked at her enchiladas, then set the fork down to cross her arms, her brow furrowed when she looked across the table at him. “Then I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me.”
Zach’s fist clenched. “Your ex said that?”
“Oh, no. Never. He seemed perfectly okay with things.”
“Did you tell him you weren’t?”
“At first? No. Because I was young and inexperienced, so I figured it’d get better. Then as time went on and it didn’t...” Her mouth twisted. “Whenever I brought up the subject, instead of trying to work it out, he’d withdraw.” She smirked. “As it were. Until eventually, after Landon came... I think he felt once he’d given me a kid, he was done. To be truthful the accident didn’t really change things on that score. Although it did give him an excuse.”