Excerpt By the time the house came into view, Natalie was ready to pass out. She felt battered and thoroughly abused. Could it have been only yesterday that this had all begun? Had she really slept in her own bed just two days ago? It seemed like forever.
Ian staggered next to her. She caught him with her free arm, worry for him blooming tight in her chest. He could have a concussion. If she felt half-dead, she could only imagine how worn out and destroyed he was. They needed to rest.
“Can you make it?” she said, glancing up at the broken-down house. Only a few more feet...
“Yeah,” Ian replied, his voice too weak for her to bear. If he had a concussion, he could pass out and never wake up. The thought made Natalie feel faint herself. She couldn’t lose him. Not now. And not just because he was her tether. He was more than that. Much more.
When had that happened?
Shelving that thought to examine later, she put Ian’s arm over her shoulder and supported him as they slowly climbed the front stairs. They were old and weathered, cracked and covered in peeling gray paint that may have once been white. Natalie just prayed they would hold them. The last thing they needed was to put a leg through the wood and break a bone.
The door stood open a foot or so. Natalie shoved it with her elbow and it swung open with a loud screech, rust flaking off its hinges and drifting down to the scarred hardwood floor. Something fluttered on the second story, a bird calling out loudly at being disturbed. It must have found an exit because the flapping of wings was only audible for a moment before fading off into the distance. What other creatures were hiding in here, Natalie wondered, then realized she didn’t care. She had to rest. If that meant lying down with scorpions, she’d do it.
She helped Ian into the living room, stepping over the crumbling newspapers and empty beer bottles. The place reeked of mildew and stale alcohol, along with the sharp smell of long-dead fires. Ian sat down heavily in a ripped-up arm chair, leaning back and closing his eyes, his hand going limp in hers. Fear spiked through Natalie. She crouched down in front of him, kneeling between his legs.
“Open your eyes,” she commanded. Ian did and she peered into them. His gaze was extremely tired, but his pupils seemed equal size to each other.
“What?” His breath puffed warm on her cheek. She sat back on her heels.
“I don’t think you have a concussion, but I’m only a TV medical drama addict, not a real doctor.” She reached up and pressed her fingertips to the gash on his head. He winced. The bleeding had slowed and the rain had washed away most of the gore. She probed gently. Ian pulled back, catching her wrist.
“Damn it, that hurts! Stop,” he growled, pulling her towards him. Natalie lost her balance and fell against his chest. The heat of Ian’s body pressed against her bare flesh through his wet shirt, which clung to the sculpted ridges of his chest in bass relief. As soon as her breasts pressed against him, her nipples tightening through the wet fabric of her bra, something shifted, tension sparking in the air. Ian growled again, deeper this time, and his legs closed, his hard thighs gripping her hips firmly.
Natalie gasped, her body rushing with warmth. Suddenly, all thoughts of sleep were gone. Now, all she wanted was to not sleep, to be fully awake and even more naked than she already was, pressed up against this man entirely, skin to bare skin. Ian’s face was inches from hers, his lips teasingly close. She saw the lust light up his eyes, overcoming his exhaustion, as the flames caught and flared between them. She took a shaking breath.
Ian leaned towards her slowly. Pleasure spread through her, pooling between her legs in a wet ache. God, she wanted him to kiss her. Nothing else mattered. Killers, spirits, car accidents…the whole world could be falling apart for all she cared. As long as Ian kissed her, nothing else was important.
His lips brushed hers ever so lightly. He let go of her wrist and slid his arm around her waist, his fingers leaving trails of pleasure on her skin. Hot thrills rushed down Natalie’s spine, her body relaxing into Ian’s embrace as he kissed her again, deeper this time, his tongue sliding into her mouth, soft and yet demanding. He moaned, pulling her closer, caressing the small of her back with his thumb.
Natalie shivered as liquid heat spread through her, building with every touch. Ian’s cock swelled against her stomach through his pants, a rock-hard bulge that made her draw in her breath. She lowered her now free hand and ran her palm down his chest, feeling his heart beating under his ribs. She reached the top of his slacks and fumbled with the button, feeling it release almost immediately. She wanted to feel his cock in her hand, pulsing, growing, wanted to see his face as she stroked him. Ian moaned again. His lips were crushing hers now, his hand pressed to her back, holding her to him as if he couldn’t help himself. Natalie grasped the zipper and tugged.
A loud crash echoed through the house, followed by an ear-splitting shriek. Natalie yelped, and Ian jerked his head up. Something scrambled behind her. Natalie twisted around to see a huge raccoon lumber down the stairs from the second floor, its black tail whipping along behind it as it fled. Bits of ceramic bounced down the risers after it, pieces of an old vase or bowl. It scampered out the front door. Natalie heard its claws scraping on the wet wood and then branches snapping as it went back into the forest. Ian dropped his head with a sigh, his forehead resting against Natalie’s.
“Maybe we should make sure we’re actually alone here, and then close that door,” he murmured. Natalie smiled, her heart pounding, not sure if it was from Ian or the raccoon. Probably Ian. Most probably. No, definitely.
“What a good idea,” she said. He paused for a moment, then let her go except for her fingers still twined with his. The cold air rushed between them and Natalie couldn’t suppress her disappointment. She didn’t want to move away, didn’t want to stop. But she did, pulling back and standing up before helping him rise from the chair. Her whole body still tingled, a pleasant warmth that combated the cold and gave her the strength to smile at him instead of shoving him back into the seat and straddling him, as she really wanted to do. Get a grip, she told herself.
“Let’s go hunt critters,” she said, and he laughed, the booming sound filling the abandoned house.