Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James

  her for more.

  While he felt relief that her detachment wasn’t aimed solely at him, her guardedness concerned him, because that wasn’t Harlow’s nature at all.

  “My father’s assistant, Karen, is coming tomorrow.”

  He rolled with the subject change. “How well do you know her?”

  “Nothing about her besides that she answers Dad’s private office line when I call him. Or she forwards the call through when he calls me. Tierney knows her. Or she used to know her when she worked for PFG. Anyway, Tierney says Karen is the epitome of efficiency.”

  “High praise coming from Tierney.”

  “Right? And what bugs me? It seems like my dad was more excited about Karen coming than Tierney’s baby being born. I don’t get that at all.”

  “Can I play the dumb-man card?”


  “Men don’t get excited about babies unless it’s ours. And even then . . . when a baby is just a screamin’, cryin’, shittin’ blob? Not a huge fan.”

  She laughed softly.

  “Gene does fine with Isabelle, though?”

  “Way better than he ever did with me or Tierney, according to my big sister.”

  “There’s your answer. He’s more comfortable around older kids.”

  “I suppose that could be true.” She smirked at him. “I suppose that’s not a dumb man answer.” She picked up her glass and scooted into the corner of the couch. “Do you fall into that ‘babies are gross’ mind-set?”

  “Yep. Do you think babies are all that?”


  “All babies?” he said skeptically. “Or just friends’ and your family’s babies?”

  “All babies. I did a stint in an orphanage in Croatia. Heartbreaking, but I got to feed and comfort them. The instant I put one of the older abandoned babies back in a crib, that’s when they turned fussy, so it proved there’s a biological need for constant close contact between parent and child. Being held close was the ultimate comfort for them. They couldn’t get enough of it.” She studied the amber liquid in her glass. “And at the opposite end of the spectrum were the kids who’d never had any close contact. Even their food was delivered without human interaction. The bottles were rigged above their beds like animals at feeding time. So skin-to-skin contact was literally painful for them.”

  Hugh curled his hand over her knee. “I don’t know how you come to terms with some of the things you’ve seen, hippie-girl. I imagine in your shoes I’d feel more than a little lost too.”

  He watched in horror, his stomach churning, as Harlow’s tears fell and dotted her jeans.

  Fuck this. “Drink up,” he said gruffly.

  She raised her tearstained face. “What?”

  “Finish your damn whiskey and come here. Your tears are gutting me.”

  When Harlow continued to stare at him, he plucked the glass from her hand and put it on the coffee table. Then he hauled her against his chest and stretched them out on the couch.

  “Hugh, I’m not ready—”

  “I’m not doin’ nothin’ but giving you some of the physical comfort you need, sweetheart.”

  She debated about fifteen more seconds before she snuggled into him, using his bicep as a pillow.

  He closed his eyes, at a complete loss to process how right this felt. He’d never held her like this, the front side of her body tucked against him, where they touched in a long line: chests, bellies, hips and legs.

  “Thank you,” she said softly.

  Hugh said nothing. He just kissed the top of her head.

  It wasn’t long before Harlow was out. Her steady breaths drifted over the collar of his shirt. It humbled him that after the disaster that’d separated them for three years, here she was. Trusting him enough to fall asleep in his arms.

  Let this be the start of something. Give me a chance to prove I can be the man you need.

  As Harlow slept on, Hugh’s thoughts raced forward and back as he didn’t want to mess with what he had going on in the present.

  But as hard as he’d tried to block it out, his mind returned to the one night they’d ended up in bed. He didn’t want to remember what an ass he’d been in the aftermath of sex that’d rocked his world. So his memory scrolled back to how they’d become comfortable with each other again after Harlow had kissed him and run out of her own house . . .

  Hugh understood that Harlow had done the right thing in leaving him hanging. Although that worried him they’d never get back to even a basic friendship. He tried to tell himself that her cold shoulder was the sign to stay away from her. But he couldn’t. He’d never met a woman like her. He’d never genuinely liked a woman as much as he liked her. And he could admit his earlier comparisons between Harlow and his ex-wife were rooted in fear. In reality, Harlow and Cleo weren’t even the same species.

  So a week after she’d given him a taste of his own medicine, he’d wandered into the Split Rock bar after closing time and yelled, “Truce.”

  At first Harlow eyed him like a three-dollar bill and then a smile bloomed on her face. “Truce it is, cowboy. You want a beer?”

  And that had been that.

  They’d done a lot of talking after that. Some flirting. No kissing. He’d loved hearing her yammer on about her niece with such pride, awe and love. She’d complained a little about her job and the slowdown of the summer season. He’d relayed a few of the raunchier stories of life on the road. He’d followed that up with minor complaints about his workday. Normal things. He’d gotten into the habit of hanging around while she closed down the bar. Then he walked with her outside to where the path split and they went their separate ways. Sometimes she’d just appear in the barn if he was working late.

  But that night, he’d shown up at her cabin later than normal and found her beating the crap out of a pillow she’d rigged up as a makeshift punching bag.

  She’d been wearing spandex shorts that hugged her ass and a sports bra that allowed him to see her flat belly and the sexy curves and muscles in her back.

  Her outfit made him hard.

  Her sweat-coated skin made him hard.

  Her aggressive behavior made him hard.

  There was no way in hell he could’ve stayed away from her that night. Being the smooth fucking operator that he was, he told her if she needed an additional outlet for her anger, she could use him.

  And she had.

  The trip to the bedroom and the clothes removal were a blur. They’d been so frantic for each other there was little foreplay besides hungry kisses and eager hands as he put on a condom.

  Then they were naked in her bed and he was inside her. It was fucking fireworks. It was a choir of angels. It was heat and need. It was everything he’d heard sex could be but hadn’t believed.

  She’d come twice, clawing at his back, panting in his ear, and he’d managed to hold off until her second orgasm ended.

  Afterward, he’d been breathing too hard to do much but flop on his back and try to find a sense of balance. Because that? That had changed things.

  Harlow, being sweet, wonderful, open Harlow, had snuggled into him. She’d whispered, “I think I’ve been half in love with you since you told me about your ex-wife. But after this? Now I know I’m crazy in love with you.”

  He’d never experienced such a crippling sense of panic. Love? What did he know about love? What the hell did she know about love? And why would such a free spirit boldly confess her love after they’d fucked each other stupid? It was just sex. What more did she want from him?

  Then he’d thrown himself out of bed and started yanking on his clothes. He hadn’t even removed the condom. When Harlow spoke again, he’d said the first things that’d come to his mind. Awful words, none of it true, but he’d needed distance and time to sort things out.

  Harlow had given it to him. She left the next day.

  He just hadn’t expected it’d be three long years before he’d see her again.

  But he was older and wiser and
he’d be damned if he’d make the same mistake twice . . .

  Something soft tickled his nose and he turned his head away. His chin smacked into a solid object.


  He glanced down to see Harlow looking up at him. “Hey. Sorry.”

  “I guess we both fell asleep.”

  “You have any idea what time it is?”

  She shook her head. “I don’t really care. Do you?”

  “Not when I’ve got you here with me like this.”

  Harlow pushed up and fused her mouth to his in a sweetly seductive, but somewhat unsure, kiss.

  She didn’t move her hands or her body and neither did he. They just allowed the heat to build and expand. After a bit, she kissed a path to his ear. “I want you. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to climb on and ride you until we’re too tired to do anything but sleep.”

  He wasn’t fool enough to question it. “I’ve gotta move to get a condom. Shit. I don’t think I have any.”

  “I’m covered, so don’t worry about it. And I haven’t been with anyone . . . in a long time.”

  Floored, he said, “You trust me?”



  “Because if you’d turned into a manwhore in the last three years? You’d have a stash of condoms and you wouldn’t be chasing after me so hard to try and make things right.”

  He grabbed her chin to garner her full attention. “You’re sure this is what you want?”

  “Yes, I’m sure.” She paused. “Are you?”

  “Like you even have to ask me that, darlin’. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.” Whoa, there. Slow down. “I haven’t been with anyone in a long time either.”

  “Then we both need this, don’t we?” she said softly.

  “I’m willing to wait.”

  “I don’t want to wait. I don’t need a big sweeping romantic gesture. After last time . . . We don’t need the pressure. Let’s ease into it. Make out like teenagers on this big couch. See where it leads.”

  Hugh understood there was more to why she needed to be in control. It went deeper than what’d gone wrong between them in the aftermath last time. She was wound so tight he feared one wrong move, one wrong word, would send her scurrying away. He’d never done any sort of role-playing, but he was willing to try for her because she needed to get out of her own head. “Okay. But we have to be quiet because my parents are in the next room.”

  Her eyes widened, and then she smiled slyly. She slid out from under his arm and pushed him onto his back. Couch cushions flew onto the floor and she straddled him, groin to groin. Then she started popping the buttons on his shirt.

  He ran his palms up the tops of her thighs. “I’m gonna want those nipples in my mouth.”

  “Gimme a second.” Her hands were all over the hair on his chest. “I remember this. And this happy trail.” She traced the line of hair bisecting his belly that disappeared under the waistband of his jeans.

  His fingers busied themselves on the buttons on her sleeveless blouse. Beneath that, she wore a tube top. When he tried to slip the shirt off her shoulders, she caught his hands.

  “Let me.” She tugged the tube top down to her waist, baring her breasts.

  “You have the sweetest tits,” he said on a groan as he urged her forward, taking a nipple into his hungry mouth.

  Harlow braced her hands against the arm of the couch and stretched over him so her tits were right in his face.

  He laved and sucked and teased, watching goose bumps ripple across her supple skin, hearing her soft moans as he did something she liked. Given her obsession with his beard, he spent a lot of time just rubbing it on her, like a cat.

  Harlow didn’t sit still as he focused on her chest. She rocked forward and back, grinding her crotch over his cock. Forward with a hip thrust at the end. Backward with a side-to-side slide.

  The more she toyed with his cock, the harder it got. He started to have that crazed need for full skin-on-skin contact. He wanted the barriers between them gone. He tugged on her skirt. “Off.”

  She pushed upright, pulling her nipple from his mouth. Then she yanked the stretchy material down her legs and whipped it behind her.

  Jesus. She wasn’t wearing underwear.

  “My turn.” Then she planted kisses from his forehead down between his eyebrows, on the tip of his nose, on his mouth, his chin, his Adam’s apple, the hollow of his throat.

  Hugh stroked her hair as she nuzzled his chest. His heart raced—something she was fully aware of when she wrapped her lips over his left nipple and sucked.

  She moved back up to nibble on his neck, but kept her hand in place, alternately ruffling her fingers through his furred chest and sweeping her thumb across his nipple. “You smell so good. Like sunshine.”

  Thankfully he’d showered or she’d be singing a different tune.

  “I know you feel good inside me. Even though it was only that one time, I still think about it.” She paused. “Do you?”

  “All the fucking time.” He angled his head to nuzzle her shoulder.

  Harlow looked at him, desire shining in her eyes. “I want to feel like that again.”

  “Lift up.” He raised an eyebrow. “Unless you think you can get my clothes down without help?”

  “I’d probably knee you in the family jewels and that’d put an abrupt end to tonight.”

  “You’d better let me do it.”

  She pushed up while he shoved his jeans and boxers down to his knees.

  “You wet enough to take me?”

  Harlow got nose to nose with him. “Touch me. Find out for yourself.”

  Snaking his hand between them, he followed the curve of her mound down to where she was soaked. He pushed two fingers into her dripping cunt and swallowed her cry in a kiss.

  Fuck yeah. She was ready. He plunged in and out a few times to be sure, dragging his fingers against the inside wall in a long tease that had her gasping before he slid them out completely.

  Your move, sweetheart.

  Warm fingers circled his shaft and she canted her hips. Then holding his cock straight up, she lowered herself until he filled her fully.

  A soft hiss escaped her mouth and she looked at Hugh.

  He cupped his hand around her face. Tracing the shape of her mouth with his fingertips—the same fingers that had been inside her.

  She lightly sucked on the tips, watching his reaction.

  “Sexy as fuck, darlin’.”

  Harlow began to move on him. Torturously slow, but he knew it wouldn’t last because he could feel her heart racing. He could see the need for more in her eyes.

  Would she ask for it?


  “Yeah, doll. Tell me what you need.”

  She grabbed his hand and put it on her ass. “Help me move.”

  “You surely don’t need my help, ’cause you move like a fuckin’ dream, but I can do this.” With both hands on her ass, he lifted her supple body after she’d lowered. Christ. She was so fuckin’ tight and wet and hot he didn’t think he would last.

  “Oh. That’s good.” Her confidence grew with every plunge and retreat.

  He managed to keep the rhythm, even when she made the unconsciously sexy move of letting her head fall back as she rocked her pelvis forward. The beautifully curved line of her torso and the gentle bounce of her tits would drive any man to distraction. He’d been dreaming of this for far too long to not savor every second.

  “More, please. Touch me.”

  Hugh slipped his right hand between her hip bones, his thumb moving up and down on her clit, giving her the friction she needed.

  Harlow became so frantic in her movements Hugh wondered if she even remembered he was there.

  But it was heady stuff, being in the front row when she climaxed. Feeling her pussy pulsating around his cock, seeing her soft gasps turn into a smile of satisfaction when the clouds of pleasure cleared.

  She finally opened he
r eyes and looked down at him. “Sorry I zoned out. But, damn. You make my body hum.” She leaned down so they were face-to-face again. “Now it’s your turn. Fuck me, Hugh. Fuck me in the way that’ll get you off. I want to see you.”

  He surged up into her. “Kiss me. Ride me hard. I’m almost there.”

  Her mouth collided with his, her body pushing and grinding, working him harder than she’d worked herself.

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