Protecting What's His Page 28

“Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t regret it. I’ll never regret it. I just wish you would have told me.” He brushed the hair off her shoulder, his fingers lingering against her skin. “I could have hurt you, baby.”

The Derek who hadn’t called her for two days then started a bar brawl vanished, replaced by the gentle, caring Derek who scared her so much more. Recognizing the shift in his demeanor, she pushed his hand away in panic and tried to slide off the table.

He gripped her legs until she stopped struggling, then knelt down in front of her with the first-aid kit.

She stared at the top of his head, dumbfounded. “What is this? What are you doing?”

Derek began cleaning the wound on her leg with peroxide and cotton. “I’m taking care of your cut before it gets infected.”

“No. That’s not what I meant. I don’t need this from you, Derek. Do you have some misplaced sense of guilt because you bagged a virgin? Because you shouldn’t.” She banged her fist on the table to get his attention. He ignored her, produced a bandage, and applied it on top of her injury. “Stop this bullshit! I don’t need you to pretend you want me for more than sex.”

Derek shot to his feet, looming furiously above her. “You have no idea what I want.”

Except, she did. And, oh God, he really meant it. He wanted her. And not just for her body. She could see it in his face, hear it in his words. How had she gotten here?

Push him away.

“What if I don’t want more with you? Did you even consider that?”

“If you didn’t want more with me, Ginger, you wouldn’t have made me your first.”

Her laughter came out sounding hysterical. “God, you’re so f**king arrogant. You think I want to be your girlfriend or something?”

Jaw clenched, Derek rose from the floor to toss the bandage wrapper in the trash can. “I don’t care what you call yourself. Titles are irrelevant to what I want with you.”

Ginger stared at his retreating back, trying to stop his words from sinking in, from taking hold. What I want with you. Everything she thought she’d known an hour ago had been tossed out the window. He wanted more from her than a one-night stand, but what did more entail? A month? A year? Once it ended and he moved on, Ginger imagined it would be like taking the way his noncommunication had made her feel over one weekend and multiplying it by a hundred.

No, thank you.

One little problem remained, however.

She still wanted him.

Ginger watched Derek move around the kitchen, unstrapping his shoulder holster and removing his gun. Her heart kicked up the pace as he untucked his shirt, giving her a glimpse of his tight stomach. Oh God, she needed him inside her. Once hadn’t been nearly enough to extinguish the fires he’d stoked.

Could she have it both ways? Sex without commitment? Men were supposed to be the ones who wanted that, right? Perhaps as long as their relationship remained physical, Ginger could resist developing any kind of feelings for him. Eventually, she would work Derek out of her system for good. He’d probably need very little convincing to see things her way. She still wasn’t entirely convinced his guilt over taking her virginity didn’t drive the argument.

He just needs a little convincing that this relationship business isn’t necessary.

She tugged down the neckline of her top, then slipped off the table to sway toward Derek. His head whipped around, as if sensing the shift in her attitude, and watched her approach through wary eyes.

She paused in front of him, hoping the look she gave him was contrite. “I’m sorry, Derek. I don’t want to fight.” She ran a finger down the row of buttons on his shirt, playing with the final one against his lower stomach. “Not when we could be doing something else.”

When he could no longer resist looking down at her cle**age, Ginger felt a jolt of satisfaction at the way his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “I know what you’re doing. It’s not going to work.”

“What am I doing? Seducing you?” She reached down with one hand and undid the button on her black shorts, letting them slip down her legs to reveal her lacy pink underwear. “Is it working now?”

She watched him fight a losing battle to keep his eyes locked on hers. His hooded gaze traveled down her stomach, over her hips and legs, lingering on the triangle of lace between her thighs. His tortured groan shot heat straight to her core. “Fuck, baby.”

When he still didn’t reach for her, Ginger’s nimble fingers began working the buckle of his belt. She might be inexperienced, but she’d worked in a bar ever since she’d turned sixteen and lied about her age to get the job. You learned a thing or two about men when you spent your days and nights liquoring them up. Word on the street had always been that a man’s decisions were made with this head, not the one on top of his shoulders.

She listened to Derek’s breath accelerate as she unhooked the leather and slid it through the loops. It dropped to the floor with a clack.

Ginger looked up at him through her eyelashes, daring him to tell her not to continue. Apart from the roughening breath puffing against her forehead, Derek remained silent, his green eyes trained on her hands. She slid down the zipper of his pants. In the quiet kitchen, the zipping noise was amplified. It sounded terribly erotic to her ears.

“I’m trying really hard here,” he panted. “I won’t be able to stop soon.”

“Why would you stop? I don’t want you to.”

“You know why. We’re more than sex, Ginger. Accept it.”

Her heart squeezed, but she kept an innocent expression on her face. She slipped her hand inside his pants and boxer briefs to close her fingers around his straining erection, molding him in her hand.

“Please, I want you so bad.”

His breath hissed out through his teeth. “Oh, God. I want you, too. So f**king bad, sweetheart.”

Then why was he being so damn stubborn? Surely he wouldn’t reject her advances over some doomed attempt at a relationship. Couldn’t he see it would never last? Nothing ever lasted when you put faith in anyone besides yourself. She tried to keep the desperation off her face. If he fought against this much longer, she didn’t want to ponder where that left her.

Ginger stood on tiptoes and placed openmouthed kisses along his neck, all the while stroking him against her palm. “Do you want to put it in my mouth, Derek?” she whispered against his ear.

“Jesus Christ.”

“You’ll be my first. Don’t you want to be my first again?”

“Enough! That’s f**king enough.” Clenching his teeth, he took her wrist and removed the hand fondling his erection, groaning as he freed himself.

Then he pinned her body against the refrigerator and brought his mouth down on hers, hard. Her eager mouth opened under his, letting his tongue sweep inside and take ownership. He wrapped her long hair around his fist, pulling with just the right amount of force and angling her head to accept his onslaught. Ginger’s hands were pinned above her head in Derek’s stronger grip, held there as his mouth doled out punishment. She accepted it greedily and without hesitation.

Arousal mixed with relief. He hadn’t rejected her. Ginger’s head swam with a multitude of unnamed emotions, overwhelming her senses. She could feel his raging need pressing against her stomach and squirmed against it, telling him without words how ready she was for him.

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