© Copyright KIMBERLY DEAN, 2014
Roxie’s heart jumped when Billy took a step towards her, and the thrill inside her gave a sharp tug. Their gazes locked, and she fought not to dissolve. His green eyes seemed so deep tonight. They were sharper and darker than she’d ever seen them before.
The noisy bar drifted away until it was just the two of them.
Before she knew it, he was standing right in front of her. Her hair fell back as she looked up into his face. She could smell the musky scent of his cologne, even through the heavy smoke in the bar, and it sparked memories inside her. Memories of intimacy. Physical and emotional.
She remembered being with him. She remembered it being the two of them against the world.
And she remembered it all falling apart.
The ache in her chest moved up to her throat.
“You found your family?” he asked quietly.
She nodded once and the sting was suddenly in her eyes. Four little words. Four little words and it messed her right up. He knew how much that meant to her. He knew what it was like to do without a family, to be looking for the other parts of yourself.
She’d thought that he’d been the other half of her once.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Part of it.”
She nodded towards the other two women who were still arguing with their men. “They’re my sisters. We’re identical triplets,” she said inanely.
Like that wasn’t obvious to anyone with eyes.
He brushed a curl away from her face and tucked it behind her ear. “God help me. Three of you?”
His touch was too much. It sent a shiver across her skin but that wasn’t enough to make her pull away. “What are you doing here, Billy?”
The words came out more harshly than she intended.
She didn’t want him here. Her heart was racing, her nerves were singing, and she felt hot all over. This was purely adrenaline. It was a sign of danger. It was her body’s natural way of warning her that the situation was not good. It wasn’t a thrill or excitement or longing.
His green eyes narrowed. “Charlie invited me. I wasn’t going to let him down.”
Charlie. Of course he had, the traitor. She threw a look across the room at her old boss. He was watching them closely.
“Oh, come on, Roxie,” Skeeter said. “It’s Charlie’s retirement, and he wanted Billy here. All the important people in both your lives should be here.”
It wasn’t meant to be a dig, but that was the way she took it. She caught the sharp jab directly in her gut, but Billy felt it, too. The fingertips against her cheek went stiff.
The “important people” in their lives hadn’t always been around. In her case, most of them headed directly towards the door.
Although, technically in Billy’s case, she was the one who’d left.
A pissed-off look settled onto his face. It was subtle, but she knew all the signs. His eyebrows flattened out and a muscle near the corner of his mouth twitched. “Don’t worry,” he said roughly. “I’ll stay out of your hair. I’ll keep to Charlie’s side of the bar for the rest of the night.”
But then he stepped up to her.
His leather jacket brushed against the back of her knuckles, and their knees bumped.
He dipped his head and the tips of their noses touched. Some of the irritation left his face. “But know that I’m happy for you, too.”
His voice dropped to an intimate whisper. “For the bar, and for finding your sisters. God, Roxie. What that must have meant for you . . .”
His mouth settled across hers then. Firm, hot, and sexy.
The jolt went through her as it always did, but it hit her harder tonight. She hadn’t expected him to come. She hadn’t had enough time to prepare for him. For this. There were only so many barriers a girl could put up.
And he knew how much all of this meant to her—the acceptance, the inclusion, and the security.
He’d meant all that to her once. He’d meant even more than that.
He’d been her everything.
A whimper left the back of her throat.
The tip of his tongue slid over the seam of her lips, and she shuddered. Opening her mouth, she kissed him back. Their mouths sealed and that wick that joined the two of them began burning. Sizzling and sparking.
Sliding her hands underneath his jacket, she clutched at the muscles of his back. It wasn’t enough. Lifting her leg, she rubbed her knee against the outside of his thigh. He flinched a little at that move, but came roaring back at her. His hands settled on her hips and his fingers bit into her ass. He pulled her into him, and their bodies sealed tight.
Hoots went up, but they didn’t register.
Roxie’s head fell back as white-hot energy coursed through her. Colors swirled behind her eyelids, and tingles ran across her skin. Her hands had found their way under his T-shirt, and she raked her fingers across his taut muscles.
Oh, God. Nothing had changed.
Yet everything was different.