Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James

  Right then, all the warm, happy feelings he’d had since she’d shown up on his doorstep tonight shifted into lust. Especially seeing the material of her skirt clinging to every curve, her long hair playing peekaboo with the smooth skin of her bare shoulder. He moved in behind her and curled his hands around her hips, pressing his lips to the ball of her shoulder. “Fuck, woman. I’m tryin’ really hard to take this slow.”

  She turned her head, rubbing her cheek against his. “But?”

  The warm, earthy scent of her landed another shot of lust straight to his dick. “But I wanna hoist you up on that bench, push your skirt up and eat my dessert.”

  Her lips grazed his ear. “So do it. Show me what you’ve been fantasizing about doing to me for the last three years. And you’d better make it good.”

  A challenge? He could work with that. He nudged her head to the side, demanding access to her neck. The heat of her skin warmed his lips. The taste of her, the scent of her, intoxicated him. He slid his right hand down and cupped her pussy through the clingy fabric of her skirt, gliding his middle finger over her slit. “I want you wet when I taste you.” He nipped her earlobe. “So wet that your juices coat my face and your sweet honey runs down my throat.” He nuzzled the slope of her shoulder, letting his soft facial hair follow in the wake of his mouth. “So wet, when I wake up, I still have the scent of your pussy on my beard.”

  “When you talk like that . . .” She shivered when he blew in her ear.

  “Turn around and gimme that mouth.”

  Harlow wheeled around so fast his teeth nearly smacked into her forehead. But then her arms were wreathed around his neck as she pulled his head down for a ravenous kiss.

  He detected a hint of wine as their tongues swirled and stroked. She pressed her pelvis into his, rubbing against his cock. If he hadn’t already been as hard as a two-by-four, that sexy little test to gauge his reaction to her would’ve given him wood. Iron wood.

  Hugh propelled her backward until her butt met the workbench. He ripped his mouth from hers, clamped his hands on her hips and lifted her onto the metal surface.

  “Oh. That’s cold.”

  “This hot ass of yours will warm it right up.” He dropped to his knees. Fisting the hem of her skirt in his hands, he pushed the material up her legs until it was ruched at her hips. Her panties were a thin strip of white fabric that he wanted to tear off with his teeth, but he tugged them aside. “Arms behind you and spread your legs.”

  She widened her knees, but she kept one hand on his head.

  Hugh looked at her. “Think you’ll need to direct me, darlin’?”

  “No. But I want to touch you.”

  “Fine, but keep that hand outta my way or I’ll break out the ropes.” He angled his head toward the wall. “Plenty to choose from.”

  Interest flared in her eyes.

  His hands were so large and her hips so narrow that he could open the glistening pink flesh of her sex with his thumbs and still palm the curve of her ass.

  He placed a kiss on the soft blond hair running in a small strip down her mound, taking a moment to just breathe in the musk and sweet scent of her. Then his tongue darted out to tickle her clit before following the split of her sex to the warm, wet opening to her body.

  She released a soft sigh.

  Jesus. Her cunt had a citrusy tang. He wanted to fucking bathe in her juices and found himself growling against the heated core of her. Licking. Lapping. Sucking. Gliding his tongue through her folds. Suckling her pussy lips. Then starting over again from the top.

  Harlow’s breathing changed to short, fast pants, but besides that, she didn’t make any noise.

  But he knew by the way her hand clenched in his hair and how her thighs quivered that he was getting to her.

  God knew she—this—was getting to him. His skin was damp. His cock dug into his zipper. He flexed his fingers against the lush flesh of her ass, his heart beating double time as he drove her toward that apex of pleasure.

  She yanked his hair hard as she started to come.

  Her soft, breathy “yes, yes, yes” spurred him to keep going after the last pulse faded. “One more, doll. I wanna feel you come on my tongue.”

  A groan echoed above him, followed by a resounding sigh.

  He chuckled against her moist flesh. That put-upon sigh didn’t ring true and she knew it. Was she trying to save face for being so responsive to him?

  Too. Fucking. Bad. He’d enjoy every moment of making this woman come apart. He didn’t tease or drag it out. As soon as she could take direct contact on her clit, he focused on that swollen pearl, priming it, plumping it. Flicking his tongue over it until she detonated.

  When she absentmindedly patted his head, he dragged openmouthed kisses away from her wet sex.

  He nuzzled the insides of her thighs as she floated down from her second orgasm.

  When Harlow didn’t speak, he looked up at her, her head angled back and a secretive smile on her lips.

  “You okay?”

  “Better than okay.”

  Hugh rolled to his feet and placed a possessive kiss on the side of her neck. He set his teeth on the cord that met the strong edge of her jaw.

  A buzzing sensation vibrated beside his wrist.

  “Hang on,” she said in a throaty rasp. She dug through the fabric of her skirt until she came up with her phone. “Hey, what’s up?”

  He backed off when her body tensed.

  “Of course I’m ready. I’ll grab my bag and be right there.” She set the phone down and touched his face. “Tierney’s water broke, so I have to go.”

  His eyes searched hers. “You don’t seem happy about that.”

  “I am. It’s just . . .” She blew out a long breath. “I know Tierney’s been through childbirth before, but so had our mother. Her complications didn’t manifest until two months later. By then it was too late. I know medicine has come a long way in three decades, but I worry about her just as much now as I did last time. I stuck around for two months after Isabelle was born just to make sure she didn’t . . .”

  Then it clicked with him. He’d overheard part of her conversation with Tobin when he said she seemed a little obsessed with Tierney’s previous pregnancy. “That’s what never made sense to me before. Why you were here. Your dad didn’t cut you off. You just told Tierney that so she’d offer you a job. That way you could keep an eye on her.”

  “Yes. This time Dad said he’d stay here. Evidently my mom had an early labor with me and he thought Tierney might follow the same pattern when they put her on bed rest. Thank goodness she didn’t and I hope . . .”

  I hope you stick around an extra two months this time too.

  Selfish? Yep.

  “Your worries are understandable.” Hugh straightened her skirt and kissed her forehead. “You want me to take you to their house?”

  “Thanks, but I’ll drive. It’s not like Dad will need the car.”

  Just as Hugh moved to help her down, she leaned in and kissed him in a friendly peck. “Thank you for a great night, Hugh.”

  Feeling dismissed, he managed, “Anytime.”

  Chapter Nine


  The next afternoon, Harlow was seriously dragging ass.

  Isabelle had been sound asleep when she’d arrived at the Jackson house. But Harlow hadn’t slept at all until Renner called with the news of Rhett Jackson’s arrival into the world and that mama and baby boy were doing well.

  The phone call had woken Isabelle and she’d insisted that Aunt Harlow sleep in her bed. It’d taken multiple stories to get the little girl to fall asleep.

  Then Isabelle had woken up out of sorts because neither Mommy nor Daddy was around. It’d been a rough morning with tantrums and constant repetition of the word no.

  For a change of scenery, Harlow drove to the Split Rock to check on her dad.

  While Isabelle and Grandpa played Go Fish, Harlow snuggled into the plush chair. The TV droning in the background served as the
perfect white noise and Harlow fell asleep.

  A little finger poking her arm jolted her back to awareness. “What?”

  “You snore like a bear, Aunt Harlow.”

  She smoothed Isabelle’s curls. The sweet angel’s eyelids were drooping. “Whatcha need, bug?”


  Right. Isabelle needed a nap. But maybe Harlow could sneak a cup of coffee while she searched for cookies. She pushed herself out of the chair and when her cell phone buzzed, she opened the picture message from Renner. Her heart melted and her eyes misted at seeing her sister’s big grin as she cuddled her red-faced baby.

  “What is it?” her dad asked sharply.

  “A picture of your daughter and your grandson.” Harlow walked over to the bed and handed him the phone.

  Her dad’s eyes were a bit watery. “She looks good,” he said softly. “Happy. Healthy.” He looked up at Harlow. “She called me this morning to assure me everything had gone fine.”

  Harlow squeezed her dad’s forearm. “I’m glad. I don’t suppose you slept any better last night than I did.”

  He shook his head.

  “I wanna see!” Isabelle said.

  “It’s a picture of your mommy and your baby brother, Rhett.”

  Isabelle squinted at the image. But she didn’t say anything. She just stared and then yawned so widely her face disappeared.

  “You look tired, Isabelle.”

  “No! I wanna watch cartoons.”

  “Crawl up here and we’ll watch Dora,” her dad said, without missing a beat. Which shocked Harlow, quite frankly, his being attuned to his granddaughter when he’d never been that way with either of his daughters.

  Take it for what it is: a sign people can change.

  After settling Isabelle with her blanket and adding a protective layer between a squirmy three-year-old and her father’s incision, Harlow returned to the chair. What were the chances she’d fall back asleep? Slim. So once Isabelle and her dad were both sawing logs, she quietly left the room.

  She popped into housekeeping to tell Lela and Yvette to wait until later to tidy up her dad’s room. Of course they wanted the details on Tierney’s baby, so she ended up staying longer than she’d intended. On her way to the kitchen, she ran into Hugh.

  Those brown eyes of his lit up at seeing her. He quickly dragged her around the corner, backed her against the wall and kissed the holy hell out of her.

  The man kissed her with such a sense of . . . need. Every time he put his mouth on hers, he kissed her as if he might not get another chance, so he’d make every kiss count.

  He pulled back and smiled. “Hey.”

  “That was a pretty nice hey.”

  “Been thinkin’ about you.” He adjusted his stance and lowered his head, running his lips down her neck from her ear to her collarbone. “Wanting you. Fuck, woman, I want you.”

  The gruffness of his words was in direct contrast to the soft puffs of breath against her skin. She flattened her palms on his chest and pushed him back. “Hugh. Stop mauling me in public.”

  “You’d prefer I do it in private?”

  “No. I prefer you don’t do it at all, especially not right now.”

  He stiffened but gave her some space.

  Harlow started to walk away, but he snagged her hand, pulling her back. “What is goin’ on with you?”

  “What is going on with you?” she retorted. “We had one date and you think that entitles you to act like we’re together?”

  His nostrils flared as he gifted her with a head-to-toe inspection. “I told you I wasn’t gonna hide that we’re involved this time.”

  “Oh, so I don’t get a say?”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “You fucked me and dumped me last time. So if we do get involved, maybe I don’t want anyone to know this is just us hooking up.”

  Hugh loomed over her. “No.”

  “Excuse me?”

  “I said no, Harlow. It’ll be more than a fucking hookup between us.”

  She stood on tiptoe and got right in his face. “No, it won’t be. In fact, it won’t be a problem, since there won’t be hooking up of any kind between us.”

  Before he could put that magic mouth on her and try to convince her otherwise, she backed up, sidestepped him and hustled away. She had no idea where she was going except away from him.

  Then she heard, “Harlow. Over here.”

  She stopped and saw Janie Lawson, Harper Turner and Lainie Lawson standing together in the middle of the great room. She wandered over.

  “We were just talking about you,” Janie said.

  “What did I do now?” She had a moment of panic. Had they seen Hugh drag her around the corner?

  “Oh, pooh, don’t be paranoid,” Harper said. “We know that you took care of Isabelle last night, but we thought it might be better if the three of us take turns watching her.”

  “Isabelle loves playing with the boys,” Janie said. “I’m done for the day, so I could take her with me, and Renner could pick her up later tonight on his way home from the hospital.”


  “And since Harley is opening tomorrow, I’ll be home with my boys, so Renner could drop her off at our place in the morning when he’s on his way back to the hospital,” Harper said.

  Harlow looked between the three of them. Did they think she was incapable of taking care of her own niece for a couple of days? God. Clearly they had a high opinion of her.

  Lainie set her hand on Harlow’s shoulder. “We all know how trying it can be to take care of a three-year-old—the terrible twos have nothing on willful three-year-olds.”

  “Amen to that,” Janie said.

  “Brianna loves having another girl to play with, so tomorrow afternoon when Harper goes in to work, she can leave Isabelle with me. That way you can do whatever you’ve been doing in the afternoons and we’ll take care of Isabelle.”

  Whatever I’ve been doing in the afternoons?

  Did these women really have no idea she’d been happily spending as much time as possible with her only niece? Did everyone think she was some flighty girl that flitted from flower to flower and shirked adult responsibilities?

  “Enough,” Renner called out, startling all of them. He moseyed over and pointed at Janie, Harper and Lainie. “I’m gone one goddamned day and the three of you decide to take over my daughter’s childcare schedule?”

  Harlow froze.

  “Well, we thought Tierney would prefer—”

  “Tierney made her preferences clear to me and to Harlow. Harlow is taking care of Isabelle. Period. And if you thought different arrangements needed to be made, then you take it up with me, since I’m Isabelle’s father. You don’t just decide you know what’s best for my kid. And you all know how pissed off you’d be if someone did that to you.”

  All three women had the grace to look abashed.

  “I trust Harlow with Isabelle. Tierney trusts Harlow with Isabelle. Just because Harlow don’t have kids of her own don’t mean she don’t know kids.” He snorted. “Any of you aware that Harlow worked in an orphanage in Croatia for six months? She was in charge of eighteen kids, not just for a few hours a day, but twenty-four hours a day.”

  It shocked her that Renner sounded proud of her.

  “We made a decision to keep the interruptions in Isabelle’s life at a minimum, which means she stays at home in familiar surroundings, ’cause god knows her little world will be turned upside down when we bring Rhett home.”

  “I’m sorry,” Harper said softly. “I was just trying to help.”

  “We all were,” Janie added.

  “Without bein’ a dick, if we want additional help, we’ll ask for it.”

  “Understood.” Lainie offered a small smile. “Sorry, Harlow. I didn’t mean to question your abilities.”

  Renner flung his arm over Harlow’s shoulder. “Come on and take me to my girlie. Her mama and I are missing her something fierce.”

>   She steered him down the hallway toward her father’s room. “Thank you. I know it might’ve looked as if they were railroading me, but I promise I’d never allow any changes to Isabelle’s schedule without talking to you and Tierney first. I was just trying to come up with a more polite way to tell them to back off without telling them to fuck off.”

  Renner chuckled. “I know that. But it pissed me off to see them bein’
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