Makenna James gasped awake, rushing up from sleep as if being tugged from deep under water. What had woken her—
Caden moaned next to her, thrashing against the pillow, a cold sweat on his forehead. Her heart already raced from being startled, but now it squeezed for a whole other reason.
She pulled herself closer and stroked her hand over the deep scar that jagged from his temple to the back of his head. A beam of early morning sunlight filtered through the window next to her bed, revealing his furrowed brow and clenched jaw. God, she hated the way his subconscious tormented him. “Caden? Hey, it’s okay. Wake up.”
Startled brown eyes flashed to her, not quite tracking for a long moment. “Red?” A scowl settled onto his gorgeous face when awareness returned to him. “Dammit. Sorry,” he said, voice like gravel.
She smiled and shook her head, still stroking the close-shaved brown hair surrounding his scar the way he liked. “Nothing to be sorry for.”
His arms came around her and he shifted her on top of his broad bare chest, her legs settling over his naked hips. “Damn nightmare.”Caden blew out a breath. “I hate this. For you.”
“I’ve got you.” Makenna kissed him, reveling as she always did in the nip of his metal spider bite piercings against her lips. And I love you. Though she kept that thought to herself.
She’d realized weeks ago that she’d fallen for him, irrevocably and all the way, but she’d never given voice to the words. Something inside her warned against letting him know—yet—just how serious her feelings had become. Not because she believed Caden didn’t care for her, too. A part of her worried that making a man so marked by loss confront how close they’d become might freak him out. Fourteen years had passed since he’d lost his mother and younger brother Sean in a car accident that had trapped and injured Caden and left him claustrophobic, scarred, and alone, and the memory of it still tortured him. As the nightmare proved. “Don’t you worry about it.”
“You’re too damn good for me,” Caden rasped, deepening the kiss, his big hands digging into her sleep-mussed red hair, his body coming alive beneath hers.
It wasn’t the first time he’d said something along those lines, and the sentiment always made the center of her chest ache. How could he not see what she saw—a strong, amazing man who’d dedicated his life to helping others? “Never,” she whispered around the edge of the kiss. “You’re everything to me.”
Her words unleashed a groan from deep in his throat. Caden lifted his head and pursued her lips, nipping and tugging and sucking until Makenna was hot and needy.
The nightmares didn’t come every night. They mostly surfaced when Caden was stressed out over something. It didn’t take much to guess what today’s stressor might be—their trip to Philadelphia to see her father and brothers for Thanksgiving. The holiday was as close to sacred as things got in her family, her father insisting all four of his kids make their way home to give thanks for all they had in their lives, family most especially.
No way she could go without Caden, though. Not when his family was gone. And not when her heart demanded that Caden was family, too.
When she’d first brought up the trip, he’d actually thought she intended to go without him, and even said he’d just volunteer to work so the guys at the firehouse who had families could have off. Makenna made it clear that she wanted him to come with her, and she’d probably never seen him more resemble a deer in the headlights. Which she totally got it. Meeting someone’s family for the first time was never easy. But once he’d seen how much spending the day together meant to her, he’d agreed like the sweet, sweet man he was. And so they were road-tripping it for a weekend of turkey, stuffing, and football with the testosterone-dominated James clan.
Caden’s grip tightened in her hair as his hips surged beneath her. “I have to get in you. Do we have time? Please tell me there’s time.”
She smiled against his lips, the thick desire in his voice rushing heat through her veins. Grinding her core against his hard length, she said, “As long as we’re quick.” Though, truth be told, it wouldn’t take much to convince her to linger in this man’s arms. She was that far gone and he was that freaking hot.
A sound like a growl rumbled from Caden’s throat. “Thanksgiving feasts are meant to be savored,” he said, flipping them over and pinning her to the mattress. He helped her remove her panties and his Station 7 shirt with his last name ‘GRAYSON’ on the back. She’d long ago stolen it from him to sleep in—much to his satisfaction. And then he held himself above her and rocked his erection against the very place where she needed him most.
Makenna nodded. “I agree, but I’d rather not have to explain to my brothers why we were late.” Which would be a total nightmare. They’d be like a pack of lions fighting over a meaty carcass, not giving up until they’d made her spill. Then, like the pains in the asses they could be, they’d spend the day making up all the juicy bits she wouldn’t tell them to embarrass her—and Caden. No way was she letting that happen. Caden was nervous enough.
His expression darkened and his eyes shuttered, just a bit. Enough to reveal just how anxious he was about the trip.
“I want you, Caden,” she said, hoping to pull him back from wherever he’d gone. She stroked her fingers down his strong back. “And I need you. However I can have you.”
The shadows disappeared from his face and he finally nodded and quirked a half smile. “Hard and fast it is, then.”