The airport hotel was a little dingy, the room furnishings a little worn, but the only thing Joe cared about was that it had a shower and a bed. After he’d washed the last thirty-six hours from his body, he pulled on some lounge pants and ordered a burger, fries, and a beer, and settled in to catch up on sports.
But his gaze kept shifting to the window, from which he would see the occasional planes the scabs managed to send out over the red mountains of Phoenix.
Joe was not particularly proud of it, but a few years ago, he had been a real dog when it came to women. That was how he’d met Brenda the Travel Agent. She was nice, but turned out to be a little vanilla for his tastes.
Fortunately, their short dating history had ended well, and the girl could work some travel magic. He knew because part of his job had been to travel, and Brenda had always managed to get him home without much trouble. Uprisings, tsunamis, volcano ash, and terrorist threats were no match for her.
Joe was glad she’d gotten Kate into the last seat on the last flight out to Seattle. Glad in a non-doglike, adult way of doing something nice for someone for a change. So why was he hoping Kate hadn’t made that plane? And what sort of dumbass was he for not asking to see her in Seattle? He’d thought about it—of course he had—but that thought had been followed by a bunch of other thoughts crowding in and stifling it, like Why, and What’s the point, and Get a grip, it’s just a girl.
Yeah. A girl. A really cool, really good-looking girl. A girl who had somehow managed to make him sit up and take notice like he hadn’t done in a very long time.
The sun was beginning to set, and Joe couldn’t see the planes anymore. Kate had obviously made it—her flight would have departed a half hour ago, and she hadn’t called. He closed his eyes and listened to the ESPN guy talk about the Phoenix Suns’ chances this season.
A knock on the door brought him off the bed. “Thank God,” he said. His stomach was growling. He walked to the door and opened it, then stumbled back a step with surprise.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Kate said apologetically from just behind the pink raft.
“No,” Joe said quickly. “You missed your flight?”
“Ah… rescheduled. First thing tomorrow.” Kate winced and put a hand to her belly. “I wasn’t feeling too well. Tuna fish, I think.”
His grin was slow but broad. “That was some rank tuna fish,” he agreed. “You’d better come in.”
She smiled and pushed the pink raft at him. “Thanks!”
He wrestled the garment bag into the rack behind him, and when he turned back, Kate held up a six-pack of beer. “I thought beer would help my tummy,” she said. “And you seem like a beer guy.”
“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” he said, grabbing her bags and pulling them in. “Where did you get that, anyway?”
“From the same guy who told me what room you’re in,” she said. “I have my ways.”
“Don’t tell me. I might be jealous.” He grinned at her and stepped back to allow her entry. “By the way, just what does a beer guy look like?” he asked as she slipped past him.
Kate paused. Her gaze dropped to his bare chest, to his lounge pants, and slowly rose again. “Like that,” she said. Her voice had changed. “Just like that,” she added quietly.
Joe could feel the draw between them, the unmistakable chemistry kicking up and swirling about them into a lethal mix of desire and admiration. It felt as if everything Joe had ever wanted in a woman was standing right in front of him—with too many clothes on, but still—and he was vaguely amazed he’d ever let her walk into that airport without him. He wanted to say all those things, but he felt strangely tongue-tied. He could only reach for her, and at the same moment, she leaped at him.
Joe crushed her to him, his mouth on her lips, as soft and lush as he’d imagined them to be. Kate grabbed his head between her hands and teased him with her tongue, plunging him into a familiar fog of arousal and desire. But this was different than the usual. This felt deeper and somehow more important.
He whirled her around and pushed her up against the door. Her warm, wet mouth was as tormenting to him as it was pleasurable. Her body curved into his, rattling him in every bone, in every nerve. He thrust his hands into her hair, moved his mouth to her neck.
He’d never felt anything as strongly as he was feeling the need to be with Kate—beside her, around her, in her. He caressed her sides, her torso, her breasts, and Kate made a little groaning sigh into his mouth that sent him careening down a slope of yearning.
He whirled her around again, crashing into the rack that passed as a closet.
“Not the dress!” she whispered frantically against his cheek, and Joe whirled again, bumping into the mirror tacked to the wall. The thing came off and crashed behind Kate.
Joe suddenly threw his arms around her waist and lifted her up off her feet, falling onto the bed with her. He dipped down to the hollow of her throat, to the vee in her shirt, tasting her skin, feeling the faint beat of her heart, racing in time with his.
A pounding at the door made them both freeze. Kate stared wide-eyed at him.
“Burger,” he muttered to her deliciously creamy breasts.
Kate gasped. “Burger,” she repeated lustfully, and abruptly pushed him off her. She jumped up, buttoning her blouse as she hurried to the door. Joe groaned and fell face forward onto the bed. He heard her thanking whoever had brought it, assuring that person she had the tray under control. The door shut, and a moment later, Kate reappeared with the room service tray, her hair charmingly messed, her blouse only crookedly rebuttoned, and a french fry sticking out of the side of her mouth. She slid the tray onto the desk.
Joe grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back down onto the bed. “But I’m starving,” Kate laughingly implored him.
“So am I,” he growled, and began to kiss her neck as he unbuttoned her blouse again.
She sighed softly. Her hands were moving on him again, sweeping over his arms and hips. She dropped her head back with a gasp of pleasure as Joe sought more of her bare skin with his mouth. He felt like he had a rattlesnake under his skin, his body one mess of quivering, jangled nerves.
Kate pressed against the hard ridge of his erection and inhaled a ragged, ravenous breath. White-hot shivers of anticipation ran up Joe’s spine. He rolled over, pulling her to straddle his lap. Kate cupped his face. Her gaze moved over his eyes, his nose, and his mouth. “Joe Firretti,” she said softly, “where the hell did you come from?”
“I was wondering the same thing about you,” he said, and pushed a golden lock back from her face. He kissed her softly, slid his hands to her shoulders, then her rib cage, and down, to her hips. He dipped a hand beneath the hem of her skirt and slid it up her thigh.
Kate’s sigh was long and sweet. It reminded Joe of contentment, the sort of sound one might make when returning home, to the place they were meant to be. Her arms encircled his neck, and she kissed him back, slowly now, savoring it.
Joe found the zipper in her skirt and pulled it down, and somehow, between the two of them, she shimmied out of it. Her blouse had come completely undone, and underneath it she wore a lacy red bra that made his blood boil. He rolled again, putting Kate on her back, and moved his hand higher, touching the soft flesh of her inner thigh.
When his fingers brushed the apex of her legs, Kate reached for his lounge pants, her fingers finding the tie and undoing it, then pushing them down his hips, wrapping her fingers around him. Joe stroked her and Kate moved against his hand. She made a small cry of pleasure and Joe couldn’t tolerate it another moment. He slid into her.
He began to move inside her, teetering on the edge of his own powerful climax, moving faster as Kate moved with him, her breath coming quicker and harder. Her fingers curled into his arms, and she suddenly lifted up, gasping with the sensation of her climax.
Joe couldn’t contain himself; he flew apart and rained down in tiny bits of himself onto that bed.
Moments passed—blissful, satiated moments—before Kate cupped his face and smiled.
He smiled, too, could feel the satisfaction of that smile reaching deep into him. He gathered her in his arms and kissed her cheek, her hair, and her mouth once more before settling down with her tucked into his side. He could feel her lips curve into a smile against his chest, her fingers tracing a long and lazy line down his side.
“I am so glad you missed your flight,” he said, still a little breathless.