“You painted your toenails pink.”
Dominic Fairmore stared at Lily’s bumble-gum colored nails. He didn’t trust himself to look up. Downstairs, his dad’s dogs made the familiar trip to the water bowl and back, probably stopping to sniff the bag of Chinese take-out he’d abandoned on the kitchen table. The animals’ nails tapped against the hardwood floors, but otherwise silence filled the farmhouse. His little sister was at the beach and his dad was pulling a double at Forever, Oregon’s woefully understaffed police station. And yeah, he kept track of their locations because at twenty-two he still lived at home.
Lily raised one perfect eyebrow. “I have two hours before my mom expects me home and you’re looking at my toenails?”
Her ironic tone pushed him damn close to his breaking point. He’d take her. Here. Now. Against the wall, pictures falling to the floor. Because he knew she reserved her humor for him. The rest of Forever saw a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman who charmed a room full of five-year olds day after day. A girl who’d been born here, grown up here, and put herself through the local university while still living at home to care for her wheelchair-bound mother and alcoholic father.
But Dominic saw the only girl he’d ever loved. If he closed his eyes, he could still picture her, walking down the halls of their high school. She’d been one year ahead of him. She’d graced the dreary high school halls with her sunshine smile and confidence. And yeah, her short skirts.
He’d memorized the way her cheerleaders outfit teased her thighs while she led the squad her senior year. He’d been a junior, but already shepherding the football team to one victory after another. And sometimes it felt like he busted his ass on the field and won the game just to see her smile . . .
But he couldn’t close his eyes and block out the way Lily looked right now. His gaze drifted up her calves. Every inch of bare skin wrapped around his heart like a noose. He took in the curve of her thighs and tried to go slow. His jaw tightened and his eyes disobeyed.
His gaze locked on the slip of fabric disappearing between her legs.
“Your panties match your toenails,” he growled. There wasn’t a hint of humor in his voice. He couldn’t picture laughing now. In two days, he’d wreck her heart. He would shatter their love and leave her with nothing but memories and the promise that he’d come back.
I swear I’ll come back for her.
But so much could change while he was on the other side of the country training to be all he could be. And later, once he deployed, on the other side of the world.
Two more days. Two more nights. How many times could he make love to this woman before they ran out of time?
“Are you sure they match?” she teased. Her fingers brushed the waistband of her panties and then her thumbs slipped beneath the pink fabric.
His hands formed tight fists at his sides, watching as she drew her underwear down to her toes. Her upper body stole away his view of the blond curls, instead offering the sight of her full, bare breasts hovering in front of her legs. Long locks of blonde hair drifted down as she compared the color of her underwear to her nail polish.
“Lily,” he growled and stepped closer.
She glanced up at him and slowly, as if she knew every movement of her body turned him on and pushed him closer to that place where he lost control. But hell, after six years together, Lily Greene damn well knew how to drive him crazy with lust and longing.
“My nails are a light pink. I think the bottle said ‘Ballet Slipper.’ But my underwear is closer to fuchsia.” She tossed her panties at him. “See?”
Years of training on the football field kicked in and he caught the slip of fabric in his right hand. “You’re right,” he said and he took a step forward. He threw her underwear down to the carpet without bothering to study them.
“You need to be home in two hours?” he asked.
Her teasing smile faded at the reminder of the reality beyond the bedroom walls. “You know I do.”
“We might not have time for the Chinese food.” He momentarily blocked his view as he drew his ‘Go Army!’ T-shirt over his head. He discarded the reminder of where he was heading in two days’ time. He wanted to leave this town and the dead-end future it promised, but not Lily.
“I hate Chinese,” she said.
She reached forward and grabbed onto the belt buckle his father had given him after he won the state championship with his high school football team. He pressed his palms flat against the wall, one on either side of her head. He couldn’t touch her. Not yet.
“I know.” He allowed her to pull him close, her fingers working to free his belt and undo his jeans. “I didn’t want to run the risk that you would want to eat first.”
She smiled as her hands won the battle with his belt. Drawing his zipper down, she leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “Smart man.” Her hands pushed his pants over his hips and then went in search of their target.
“Lily,” he gasped as her fingers wrapped around the part of his body that thought ‘slow’ spelled disaster. Hell, it just might. He wanted her so damn much he might come in her hand. “Careful,” he added. “Or I’ll be about as useful as I was the first time. In the front seat of my truck.”
“Have as much self-control now as you did at seventeen?” she challenged, her hand moving up and down now.
“You know it.” He took his right hand off the wall and cupped her jaw. Angling her lips up to meet his, he kissed her. He knew her mouth. He’d memorized the way she liked his tongue to tease hers.
His hand moved down her neck and over her shoulder. His fingers froze, hovering on her collarbone. He knew the feel of her soft skin as well as he knew his own. But dammit, he couldn’t take the weight of her breast in his hand, her nipple brushing against his palm, and still maintain control.
She broke the kiss. “Don’t hold back, Dominic,” she whispered. “You never have before. Don’t start now. You know how to touch me. You’re the only one—”
His growl cut off her hushed words. He was the only one who knew the color of her panties. The only man in her bed. The only one who heard her sly humor. And yeah, the only man in Forever, Oregon who loved her.
For now . . .
I loved the first 50% or so of this book–second chance romance! Hero is an Army Ranger! Heroine teaches kindergarten!–and the ending was fantastic. Every time the hero and heroine broke something while having…(ahem) an intimate moment 😉 made me giggle. (Though I’m really glad I wasn’t there in person to hear it, because awkward.) I liked both Dominic and Lily, though at times I wanted to smack them upside the head (more on that to come). I loved seeing Noah and Josie again, and am dying for Caroline and Josh’s book. ( Mixing Temptation is next! Woot!)
I guess what I struggled most with is the characters’ motivations, which became more of an issue (for me, at least) past the 50% mark. I can understand why Dominic didn’t come back to Forever after his injury, the whole not-being-a-whole-man and can’t-do-the-job-he-was-meant-to-do mentality (it’s baloney, but I get where he’s coming from) but I really don’t understand how he could be back in Forever, back with Lily (sort of, kind of–depending on where we are in the story) and still be planning on leaving. WTH?
And Lily–toward the end when she threw him out at their “black moment”? I still don’t quite get what was going on in her mind there. Minutes before everything was fine, then it wasn’t. Seemed like total overreaction to me. I’m also still not sure how I feel about the suspense/stalker plot. It didn’t feel as if it was a well-developed as it could have been.
Things finally came together the way they’re supposed to in the end, and Caroline and Josh’s story is just poised on the brink and raring to go, so…all’s well that ends well, I think 🙂
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.