Once Upon A Time…Has Never Been This Hot.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me!"
Special Agent Ethan Rutherford slammed his fist on the cold metal doors, cursing as the lights blinked again before winking out, replaced by the washed-out glow of a single emergency bulb. This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t be trapped in here—not with her. Of all the cruel twists of fate…
He cursed again, resting his forehead on the smooth surface as he tried to think of something—anything that would get him free. His inner voice laughed, coldly reminding him he’d never be free, not as long as his heart still ached for the one thing he couldn’t have.
A soft sigh sounded behind him, sending a cold shiver down his spine. He couldn’t ignore her forever. Hell, they were the only two people in the damn elevator. Sooner or later, he’d have to at least acknowledge her presence, though he’d done a fine job of staring at the flashing numbers until the fucking contraption had ground to a halt between floors. Now, there was nothing to stare at, but her.
He pounded his fist on the door one last time before a raspy chuckle drew his attention. He turned and his gaze clashed with hers, all sultry blue eyes and ruby-red lips. Even with the ghostly light casting her in shadows, her eyes lit up the space, making them look like a beacon in the darkness.
Ethan leaned against the door, bracing some of his weight as his legs threatened to give out. Six weeks she’d been gone and she still took his breath away with nothing more than the hint of a smile and those brilliant blue eyes.
Jessica nodded at the closed doors. “Unless you plan on turning into the Hulk, you’ll only hurt your hands, and your ego, by pounding on that thing.”
Something in the tone of her voice clenched his heart, as if talking to him hurt. He shook the thought away. She was the one who’d left, who’d packed up and walked away. All he’d done was give her the space she so obviously wanted.
He motioned to her. “Don’t suppose you have a better idea?”
He snorted and crossed his arms on his chest. “Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a raging blizzard outside. With the snow falling like it was and winds gusting in the high eighties, it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re stuck in here for hours.”
The fine lines around her mouth tightened as she glanced at the lifeless control panel. A hint of fear flashed in her eyes, but she looked away before he could read anything else. Her boots tapped on the floor as she shifted her weight, her gaze finding his again.
“Even if that’s true, beating on the doors isn’t going to change anything. And I’d rather not have you bleeding all over the elevator, if it’s just the same to you.”
“Wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing you, sweetheart.”
She released a heavy breath. “We’re in a government building, Ethan. I’m fairly certain someone will notice that the elevators aren’t working and send an engineer our way.” Her mouth lifted gently at one side. “That, or you could try the emergency phone.”
He looked over at the panel, stopping at the recessed door. Fuck, why hadn’t he thought of that? He growled under his breath as he opened the small space and grabbed the phone. A ringing sound echoed through the confined space as he lifted the unit to his ear. “Hello?”
“Ethan, that you?”
He sighed. He hadn’t realized how uptight he was until he heard the familiar voice on the other end. “Chuck. Thank god. Look, Jess and I are stuck in the east wing elevator. Don’t suppose you can find someone to fix it?”
Chuck laughed, the rich sound grating on his nerves. “You and Jess? What’s wrong, tiger? Getting a bit stuffy in there?”
“Don’t be a jackass. Just get an engineer to fix the bloody elevator.”
“Afraid that won’t do you any good, buddy. There’s a citywide blackout. Storm’s knocked out more than a few transformers. Power’s likely to be out for a few hours.”
Ethan cursed and slammed his hand against the panel, wincing at the sharp pain that radiated up his arm. “Did you miss the part where I told you we’re stuck?”
“Sorry, Ethan, but until the power’s back on, there isn’t much I can do.” He sighed into the phone. “I’ll page one of the techs…so they know to check up on you two. But it looks like you’re going to be there for a while.”
Ethan clenched his jaw as he slammed the receiver down. They were stuck…for hours. Alone.
Jess cleared her throat. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that wasn’t good news.”
He glanced at her across his shoulder. “Power’s out due to the storm. Chuck suggests we get comfortable.”
“Get comfortable, huh.” She glanced down at the floor, then her shoulders stiffened and she looked back at him. “Well, since I sincerely doubt things could get any more uncomfortable between us, I suppose we can make the best of it.” She straightened her coat across her thighs and sank to the floor, leaning against the wall as she placed her purse beside her. Her hand disappeared inside, followed by rustling sounds.
Ethan sat down across from her and stared at his hands fisted on his legs, unsure of his next move, when a granola bar landed in his lap. He raised his head.
She shrugged. “What? I know you rarely eat at work so…”
He groaned inwardly. And she thought it couldn’t get any more uncomfortable in here. The fact she knew him better than he did himself only added to the tension suffocating them.
“Ethan. Relax. It’s just a granola bar. It doesn’t mean you have to talk to me or anything. I just didn’t want to spend the next few hours listening to your stomach growl.” She gave him a knowing smile. “Especially when the regular ones will be enough.”
“I never growled at you.”
“No, you did it under your breath.”
Ethan chuckled in spite of the situation and shook his head, running a weary hand through his hair as he took a bite of the bar. The crunchy texture soothed some of his frustrations and he eased his head against the wall, hoping the simple action would relieve the tension bunching his muscles.
He looked over at Jess. Some of her hair had fallen free from her clip, the long strands framing her face. The rich brown color held a red undertone in the muted glow, highlighting the paleness of her skin and the deep pink of his lips.
His cock jerked against his zipper, the remembered feel of that mouth on his spiking the need he’d been fighting for weeks. She licked at a stray piece of chocolate on her bottom lip and he damn near creamed his shorts. He sighed. He could deny it all he wanted, but Jessica Sinclair still held his heart, and he was a fool if he thought for one second he’d gotten over her.
Jessica turned and caught his stare, her brow creasing into a delightful vee. “What?”
“You look tired. Just wondering why you didn’t leave early like everyone else?”
Her mouth quirked at the sides. “Maybe if your office stopped giving me cases I could get home on time.”
“You have assistant district attorneys working for you for a reason. You don’t have to do everything yourself, even if you are the DA.”
“Then stop sending me bad guys to put in jail.”
“Stubborn as always, I see.” He scrubbed a hand over his face, praying the guilt just starting to tumble through his gut would vanish. He knew damn well why she’d stayed late at work…it was the same reason he had.
“So what about you?”
He schooled his features. “Just tying up some loose ends.”
“The Miller case.”
It wasn’t a question and he didn’t do more than nod. Her jaw tensed, pulsing the vein in her temple as she sighed and looked away. A rumbled curse gathered in his chest, but he choked it back. Why did it always seem to come back to that case? Something about his work on it had driven a wedge between them and while he wasn’t certain, he had a nagging feeling it had been the catalyst to their separation.
Silence stretched between them as they both sat there, staring at anything but each other, before Jess huffed and pushed to her feet. She stalked across the cubical and slammed her hand on the buttons, pressing them in turn as if just the pressure of her fingers could make them suddenly spring back to life.
Ethan gained his feet and moved over to her. “That won’t change anything.”
She glared at him, hitting the door open button again. “Well, sitting here suffocating isn’t working, either.”
He laid a hand on her shoulder, cursing at the tremors that shivered through her body and into his. “We’re not going to run out of air, sweetheart. That’s just a myth.”
She shrugged off his hand. “I didn’t mean it literally, and you know it.”
“Weren’t you the one who said we should make the best of it?”
“That’s before I realized sharing the same space with you would be…”
She snared his gaze. “Painful.”
He didn’t try to stop her as she moved away, seemingly putting as much distance between them as she could in the small space. Confusion furrowed his brow as he leaned his side against the wall, staring at her.
“What the hell, Jess? You were the one who left—who said some bullshit about not being in the same frame of mind. I don’t even know what the fuck that means, but I sure as hell know it wasn’t me who ended it.”
Jess spun on him, anger coloring her features. “Do you honestly think I left because I wanted to? Damn it, Ethan, it killed me to leave. But I didn’t have a choice.”
He growled, loud enough for her to hear it this time, then covered the short distance and trapped her between his arms as he flattened his hands on either side of her shoulders. “There’s always a choice. Like telling me what this is all about.”
She didn’t flinch, didn’t try to shove him away. Instead, she tilted her head back against the wall as her eyes clouded with tears. “You’d already made your choice. We were going down two different paths and I couldn’t bear to keep pretending you’d eventually want to join me on mine.”
Ethan stared at the woman braced between his arms and secretly wondered if she’d started speaking another language. Hell, he hadn’t followed a word she’d said. He leaned down, instantly engulfed by the sweet scent of her perfume and the subtler hint of her desire.
The combination unhinged his control and he bent forward, brushing his lips across hers. A burst of cherry filled his senses and he pressed harder to get another taste. Jess hesitated at first, as if she hadn’t expected him to kiss her then surrendered, opening her lips as she tangled her tongue with his. Small fingers grasped his jacket as she pulled him closer, flattening his body against hers.
Ethan moaned and took control, plundering her mouth until the need to breathe parted them. Hot pants filled the elevator, her breath mixing with his as he rested his forehead on hers. A familiar heat spread through his body, hardening his cock to the point of pain against her stomach. Her fingers tightened around his jacket before shifting to palm his chest. She pushed against him just enough to have him inch back slightly.
She swallowed noisily, her eyelids finally fluttering open again. “This is a bad idea.”
He couldn’t stop the edge of his mouth from tugging up into a smile. “I know.” He leaned forward and took her mouth in his again.
Jessica groaned, circling her arms around Ethan’s neck as he moved one hand off the wall and snaked it around her waist, drawing her flush against him. Her head screamed at her that this was a mistake, but she ignored it. How many times had she wished for just one more taste of his mouth, one more feel of his skin beneath her fingers? She opened for his tongue, tasting the hint of chocolate from the bar along with the heady flavor that was pure Ethan.
He didn’t stop this time, just moved his lips down the column of her neck, nipping at her shoulder through her clothes. Fingers tugged at the zipper of her jacket, the metal hiss the only sound that rose above the pounding of blood in her head. His arm left her waist just long enough to shove the wool off her shoulders before returning, his hand working its way beneath her shirt.
She fought for breath, making her shaking hands follow suit as she yanked down his zipper and pushed the fabric off his body. It hit the floor with a dull thud, the solid noise shaking some of the lust-filled haze from her mind. She looked up at him as he eased back, wondering if she should stop this before it truly began.
He shook his head, giving her body a long, slow sweep. “It’s already too late, sweetheart.” He paused, a hint of indecision in his eyes. “Unless you want me to stop.” He lunged forward, pinning her to the wall. “Tell me to stop, and I will, otherwise…” His fingers thumbed the front of her pants. “These need to go.”
She held his gaze, knowing he meant what he’d said, but unable to do more than shake her head as she sucked in a needed breath. He’d set her on fire and she knew nothing short of him pounding into her would quench her need.
He smiled, licking the fine line of her lower lip as he unfastened her pants. His smile widened as the garment hit the floor, creating a pool of blue around her feet. His gaze dropped to her hips, a raspy groan rumbling through the air.
“Damn, Jess. I had no idea you were naked underneath.” He trailed a finger along her exposed skin, beading it with tiny bumps. “Fuck, can you imagine if the entire courtroom knew your little secret?” He chuckled. “That’s grounds for dismissal, sweetheart.”
“I don’t usually—”
He placed his finger over her lips. “Don’t spoil the fantasy. I can already picture taking you on top of that long, polished desk near the railing. Damn, now that’s a good day in court.”
His mouth replaced his finger, his tongue seeking hers again. She ripped at the hem of his shirt, desperate to feel his taut skin against hers. He released her mouth, his warm chuckle ghosting over her neck as he licked a path down her throat. She tried to focus on lifting his shirt over his head, but all she could do was moan as his lips found the soft hollow of her shoulder, his chin pushing the edge of her shirt aside.
He answered her by tugging her shirt over her head and tossing it aside. She shivered, the cool air chilling her skin.
His warm breath made her shiver more, the tempting heat of his body drawing her closer.
“I wouldn’t be if I could get your damn shirt off.”
His sinful smile fluttered her stomach and she could only watch as he tore the cotton off his body, revealing bands of chiseled muscles and an endless expanse of smooth skin. She reached for his chest, caressing her hands up his ribs and across his pecs. His low moan followed the path of her fingers as she flicked his flat nipples, revealing in his harsh grunt.
“Sweetheart. If you keep teasing me, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.”
“I haven’t begun to tease you.”
His muscles twitched and she knew he was going to take control. Instead, she pressed her mouth against his skin, nipping his flesh as she kissed a line across his chest. He inhaled sharply when she took his nipple into her mouth, laving the tight bud before lightly biting it.
She moved to the other side, using one hand to find the button on his jeans. He stilled as she fingered it open and slid down the zipper, the back of her hand grazing the length of his cock. The hard, hot length pulsed against her touch, making her cleft wet with arousal. God, it seemed as if a lifetime had passed since she’d felt him move within her. Felt his body claim hers in a way she’d only ever dreamt.
The corners of her mouth pulled up as she slipped her hand inside his briefs, palming the head of his shaft. Warm, slippery fluid coasted over her skin, making her burn. Damn, she wanted him.
Jess broke contact and shoved his jeans and briefs down to his knees, drawing a sharp breath as his cock bobbed forward. She licked her lips, ready to go to her knees when Ethan snagged her waist and heaved her up.
His eyes bored into hers as he pressed her against the wall, his shaft lodging hard against her hip. “Next time.”
His strangled reply told her he was closer to the edge than she’d suspected. She nodded, bracing her hands on his shoulders as he lifted one leg and wrapped it around his back, her boot locking against his tailbone. The shift in position allowed his shaft to wedge against her slit, her juices easing the first inch inside her.
“Damn, you’re hot.” He thrust forward slightly, burying more of his shaft inside her passage. “God. I’ve missed you.”
Tears clogged her throat at the honestly in his voice. She hid her face in the crook of his shoulder, hoping he wouldn’t feel any stray drops that leaked from her lashes as she angled her hips to take him deeper.
Ethan groaned and pistoned his hips, taking the rest of her channel in a smooth, strong stroke. She cried out his name, begging him to take her but praying he wouldn’t consume more of her heart than he already had. Ethan obliged, rearing back before slamming home again, the wet sound of his thrust echoing off the metal walls.
Jess lifted her other leg so she could lever her groin, aligning her sex with his driving cock. Ethan growled and nipped her shoulder muscle, the small bite of pain only increasing her need. She rocked with him, grunting as each stroke took her higher, coiling the fluttering inside her stomach until it threatened to snap.
“Oh, sweetheart. I can feel you pulsing around me.” He shifted his weight, locking her in place with his hips as he released one hand, the pad of his index finger feathering over her clit. “Come for me, Jess.”
He increased the pressure, swirling their combined juices around her clit as he gave her short, steady thrusts with his shaft. The combination pushed her to the edge, and she hovered there, suspended, until the sensations exploded and she broke, her body convulsing in pure pleasure.
Ethan hissed in her ear, moving his hand beneath her thigh again as he pounded into her, slamming her ass against the wall with every punishing stroke. Her orgasm gathered strength, heating her tissues until she swore her skin was branded by his touch. The air grew thick as he pushed into her with increasing intensity, his cock flaring against her womb.
Jess held her breath, the last vestiges of her control shattering as he stiffened in her arms, his voice a harsh resonance beside her ear. Her name mixed with his as she climaxed again, vaguely aware of his shaft pulsing inside her, his cock emptying in a series of contractions. Her breath heaved in her chest as she leaned her head on his shoulder, her heart threatening to beat through her ribs.
Ethan cradled her hips, his body shaking as he breathed through the last of his release. His lips brushed over her hair, his whispered words of love drawing her back from the brink. God help her, what had she done? In less time than it’d taken her to pack her bags, she’d given him back her heart, only this time, she wasn’t certain she’d survive leaving it behind.
She couldn’t meet his gaze as he pulled back, gently lowering her feet to the floor. The world felt tilted, as if it’d been knocked off its axis and she was left to regain her equilibrium. He muttered something under his breath before his finger cupped her chin, lifting her face until she had no other choice but to look into his eyes.
Dark with lust, they stared back at her, confusion clouding the brown depths. “Please don’t tell my you regret that?”
She shook her head, cursing as a wash of tears tracked down her cheek. “I don’t regret it, Ethan, it’s just…”
He clenched his jaw, not stopping her when she pushed past him, gathering her clothes off the floor. “Just what?”
She pulled on her shirt and shrugged. “Nothing’s changed.”
His footsteps rang out a second before his hand closed on her shoulder, spinning her around. “Nothing’s changed? The earth just fucking shifted yet you think nothing’s changed?”
She closed her eyes, unable to look at the hurt in his eyes.
His breath curled over her shoulder. “Don’t do this. Don’t shut me out without telling me what’s wrong. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.”
She opened her eyes, a touch of anger crawling back to the surface. “This isn’t about me shutting you out. This is about us not wanting the same things…about crossing lines that can’t be uncrossed.”
Ethan took what looked like a fortifying breath as he raked a shaky hand through his hair. “Sweetheart, I still don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. All I know is that this all started when I got involved with the Miller case.”
His words hit home and she turned away. She heard him take a few steps away, and by the time she’d pulled her pants over her hips and turned, he’d fixed his clothes and stood watching her, his arms crossed, his back stiff.
She cursed her fucking luck. Though she knew she couldn’t hide the truth from him forever, she’d hoped to have it all settled in her head before having to face him. She exhaled a weary breath. “It wasn’t the case per se…more what it made you realize.”
His brow furrowed. “And just what did it make me realize?”
“That you didn’t want a family. That you couldn’t risk losing what you didn’t even have yet.”
He scoffed, releasing his arms only to shove his hands in his pockets. “I didn’t mean you. God, Jess. I’d just watched the coroner piece together an eight-year-old kid. I was angry, upset. Jesus, if I’d known it would drive you away…”
She stepped forward when his voice trailed off. “It wasn’t just the case. You were scarred, beaten, and I knew when you came home that night, things were different.” She met his stare. “You were different.”
“So you decided to leave? What on earth for? It’s not like we’d discussed having kids or—”
His voice stopped, the sudden silence telling her all she needed to know. His eyes drifted down her body and she knew her secret was only a breath away from being revealed. Her heart thundered in her chest as he tilted his head, his eyes narrowing as his gaze finally recaptured hers.
She held back the sob that tightened her chest. “I was going to surprise you…tell you in some dramatic fashion. Then you came home, angry and disillusioned, and I got scared. When you went on and on about how it wasn’t right to bring children into a world as cruel as this, I didn’t know what to do.” She took a shuddering breath. “I suppose I hoped you’d change your mind, but you only got angrier as the case got more involved until I couldn’t live there, hiding the truth from you.”
His breathing quickened and he took a step back, bracing his weight against the wall. “So, you’re pregnant?”
She snagged her lower lip and nodded. “About three months.”
His focus shifted, as if he was looking everywhere else, but at her. An emotion she didn’t recognize crossed his features then he moved, covering the three steps between them in quick succession. His hands wrapped around her waist as he pulled her close, his lips descending hard on hers. One hand shot up and wove through her hair, binding them together as he conquered her mouth, demanding she acquiesce.
For the second time, Jess surrendered, opening herself to him. A warm feeling blossomed in her chest, spiraling outward as Ethan broke the kiss and slowly inched back. Their gazes locked and held before a genuine smile curled his lips. The smile widened and he laughed, picking her up and spinning her around. She gasped, holding tight to his shoulders until he finally stopped and set her down.
His eyes gleamed with a familiar sparkle as he clasped her hands and took a step away, his gaze travelling her body again. “Are you sure?”
“Seven sticks and a blood test don’t lie. So yeah, I’m sure.”
He released one hand and palmed it over his face. “Wow. I’m going to be a dad.” He glanced at her. “You do want this, right?”
Confusion arched one brow. “Of course I want this, it’s you I’m not sure about.” She pulled her hands free and crossed them on her chest. “As much as I love you, Ethan, I can’t trap you in a relationship you don’t want. It wouldn’t be fair, and we both know it’d only end badly later if you stayed for the wrong reasons.” She looked down at the floor. “I’m not strong enough to lose you again.”
His hand smoothed across her chin, lifting it until she was staring into his deep brown eyes. Love reflected back at her and hope leapt in her chest.
He smiled, his other hand resting on her stomach. “I’ll admit. I’m surprised, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy. God, sweetheart.” He moved closer, draping her in his arms. “I love you and crazy or not, this is the best gift you’ve ever given me. I’m sorry I said I didn’t want a family. I didn’t mean it, I was just…that case…all those bodies…”
She silenced him with a kiss, loving the low, throaty moan that rumbled free from his chest. She nuzzled against his shoulder as he held her tight, his hands softly stroking her back.
His muscles tensed and he drew away slightly, his gaze finding hers. “Do you know what we’re having?”
She flashed him a devilish smile. “Maybe.”
“Jessica. That’s not funny.”
“It’s pretty funny from where I’m standing.”
He pointed a finger at her, shaking his head. “I’ll remember this, sweetheart. And your punishment later will reflect your sense of humour.” He tugged her towards him. “Fine, be secretive. But I’ll find out. I am a federal agent.”
“Give it your best shot, G-man.” She curled into his arms again. “How about I make you a deal.”
He snorted. “You lawyers and your deals. Fine. What’s the deal?”
“You stop for ice cream on the way home and I’ll confess.”
“Ice cream? There’s a freaking blizzard outside. Why would you want ice cream when we’re already freezing our asses off? Hell, you never even really liked it.”
“What can I say…I have a craving.”
He sighed then laughed. “You’ve got yourself a deal, counselor.” He rested his head on top of hers. “And you did imply you were coming home, right? To our home?”
She smiled against his shirt. “You can’t be a family if you don’t’ live together, Ethan.”
She giggled as he bent forward and lifted her up, carrying her back to their corner of the elevator.
He settled them both on the floor, trailing his finger down her side. “It could be a while, though. Before the power’s back on.”
“Sounds like we’ve got more time to play.”
“Now that’s a plea bargain I can get in to.” He dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. “I love you, sweetheart.”
“Ditto. Now shut up and kiss me.”