Up in Smoke
Series: A Crossing the Line Novel
Published on June 23, 2015 Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Never start a fire you can't control...
Connor Bannon is supposed to be dead. Dishonorably discharged from the Navy SEALs, he's spent the last two years working as a street enforcer in Brooklyn for his cousin's crime ring. Through a twist of fate, he's now in Chicago, working undercover to bust criminals. But when a cute little arsonist joins the team-all combat boots, tiny jean shorts, and hot-pink hair-Connor's notorious iron control slips.
Erin "she's getting away" O'Dea knows two things. She hates authority. And... Nope, that's it. When she's forced to operate on the "right" side of the law, her fear of being confined and controlled blazes to the surface. The last thing she expects is a control freak like Connor to soothe her when she needs it most. Worse, something behind the sexy ex-soldier's eyes ignites a dangerous inferno of desire. One that invites Erin to play with fire. And one that could get them both killed...
Connor broke away, allowing them both to suck in oxygen. “Stay. I’m sorry. Stay.” He bent his knees to bring them eye to eye. His spoke of torture, but he was trying to hide it. “Look at me. I can handle this. I want you here. Don’t leave.”
“I don’t know if I can handle it,” she whispered.
His heavy breaths ceased. “What do you mean?”
She drew out a lighter from her back pocket and ignited the flame. It cleared her head a little, allowing her to search for the right words. Words that wouldn’t sound crazy. “I like touching you. It makes me feel really…good. And there isn’t a whole lot that makes me feel good, you know?” Her throat closed up. “I wish you could touch me, too. I don’t think I can stay here knowing I’m hurting you by making myself feel good…and I don’t think I can stop touching you. It feels like a must.”
A flare of panic flashed across his face. “I shouldn’t have said what I did earlier. You just caught me off guard.” He massaged his forehead with four fingers. “Did I scare you? Is that why you’re really leaving?”
“No.” She shook her head. “No.”
“Okay. Jesus. Okay.” He was silent a moment, but gears were turning behind his eyes. “You need to touch me and I need you to stay. Let’s give each other what we need. All right?”
Why was this so damn confusing? She’d only met this man yesterday and they were already tangled up [Edc1] in her web of fucked-up [Edc2] issues. He should want to be clear of her, shouldn’t he? No one else had ever bothered with her this long before. “Why? Why do you need me to stay? I—”
“I won’t rest,” he growled. “I’ll think about you somewhere, scared like you were last night, and I’ll go fucking crazy.”
Her heart lurched, dislodging her pride. “I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time. If the only reason you want me here is to play nursemaid to the crazy girl, that’s not going to work for me.”
“You know there’s more to it. You know.” He visibly centered himself with a deep breath, appearing to debate with himself. “I’ve got my own skeletons, Erin. They don’t rattle so much when you’re around. Your touching me…it makes me hot. But it soothes elsewhere.”
She knew her expression was pathetically hopeful, but couldn’t find a single shit to give. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” he repeated. “I’m not going to lie, Erin. Yes, I want to sleep with you like hell. But only if it’s healthy. Would you trust me enough to go slow? A little at a time?”
Her pulse hammered out of control. “You touching me?”
Connor watched her closely. “When you’re ready. Not before. Never before.”
This is where she should climb down the fire escape and vamoose toward the street. A weight pressed down on her rib cage, making it difficult to draw a breath. It felt like the point of no return. But Connor’s eyes grounded her.
Safe. He’s safe.
“Okay, baby. Slow.”
His body drained of tension. “Thank you.” He leaned in and brushed their lips together, gently, reverently. “First, we talk.”