“Goddammit, Jessie, look at me.”
Miracle of miracles, she rolled over, angrily pushed her tangled hair from her face and squinted at him.
Brandt didn’t let his gaze fall below her chin.
Jessie had that glassy-eyed look from too much alcohol, and her reaction time was slower, but she didn’t react like he’d expected. No embarrassment. No trying to cover her naked body. Hell, she didn’t even shriek with surprise. She just stared at him.
He stared back.
“I forgot how much you and Luke sound alike.”
“I wasn’t tryin’ to pretend to be him,” Brandt said softly.
That comment brought her sad smile. “I know. There’s no comparison.”
There was that kicked-in-the-heart sensation again.
“Why did you stick around? I wasn’t very nice to you.”
His thoughts skipped back to Jessie’s bored appraisal of him and her insulting parting shot. “I intended to take off. B-but…” Goddammit. Why was he such a stammering freakin’ idiot around her?
“But you didn’t because you were worried about me.” She held his gaze. “Why? Luke would have left me.”
“I’m not Luke.” Like he needed to remind her of that fact, after she’d already done such a bang up job of reminding him.
“I know that too, Brandt.”
Do you? Do you really?
She frowned, almost as if she’d heard his internal thoughts.
“Come on. Get dressed and I’ll take you home.”
Jessie shook her head. “I’m staying here with Mike.”
“Why in the hell would you do that?” he demanded.
“Because he treats me like I’m sexy.”
“Christ, Jessie. He almost treated you to a gang bang.”
“Maybe that’s what I want.”
“Huh-uh. I know you and that’s not you talkin’.” Brandt pointed to the bottle of Southern Comfort.
“That’s the booze talkin’.”
The camper door slammed.
She tossed her head. “Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do, McKay.”
The emphasis on McKay, as if it were some sort of disease, had Brandt seeing red.
The instant Mike swayed into the doorway, Jessie scooted to the end of the bed, cooing, “What took you so long?”
“Why? Didja miss me?”
“Yep. Let’s get this party started.”
Enough. Brandt pushed to his feet. “I’m outta here.”
Mike shot Brandt a stoned look. “I thought you were gonna watch us fuck? You know. Like live porn.”
When phrased that way? Jesus. It made him sound like a loser who couldn’t score his own woman. He looked at Jessie—just as she started to slide off the bed.
Brandt dove for her, snaking his arm around her waist, bringing her naked back against his chest as he anchored himself.
“Dude.” Mike blinked at him. “Talk about Superman reflexes.”
“That’s Brandt. A superhero in the flesh. A boy scout. A real trooper. The ultimate gentleman cowboy, always willing to lend a hand.”
They’d known each other for four years and that’s how Jessie saw him? A damn do-gooder? While some guys might like those comparisons, he didn’t. Not at all. Especially not from Jessie. Especially not tonight when he was skating so close to the edge of disproving that gentleman cowboy remark to her in explicit detail.
But she wasn’t done taunting him. “He’s the guy who always does the right thing. Which is why he’ll skip out, even if he wants to stay.”
And with that smartass comment…Jessie had pushed him too far.
“You know, on second thought, I do believe I will stick around and lend a hand.”
Jessie gasped when Brandt brought them down on the edge of the mattress. He hooked her legs over the tops of his thighs, then moved her body forward so her ass hung off the bed. After circling her wrists with his fingers, he rested on his elbows and placed her palms flat on the mattress and nestled his groin against her back.
“You hold her and I’ll go first. Then it’ll be your turn,” Mike promised.
She squirmed, sliding her smooth shoulders against Brandt’s bare chest. The friction of his swimming trunks rubbing against his cock as her body writhed on his instantly turned his cock into granite.
Brandt allowed his gaze to drop to the Mike’s groin after he ditched his cutoffs.
What the hell? Mike’s dick hung between his scrawny thighs like a limp worm. Seeing Jessie’s naked body spread out for him like a feast didn’t affect him at all? Jesus. How would that make Jessie feel?
Maybe she’s so drunk she won’t notice.
For the first time, Brandt hoped that was true.
Will you step in and show her how she affects you if this douche fucker can’t get it up?
No. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t distract her. Brandt angled his head and spoke quietly. “Jessie, is this really what you want?”
“I-I d-don’t… Yes,” she reiterated firmly, “it’s what I want.”
“Then close your eyes.”
“Do it,” he said harshly. Then he softened toward her, in mind and body, nuzzling the tender, fragrant skin behind her ear. “Just close your eyes. I’ve got you.”
A heartbeat or two later, Jessie relaxed into him, turning her head so her rapid breaths drifted across his chest.
In that moment he wanted her with an ache that defied reason. It went beyond sex. It went beyond anything he’d ever felt before.
Brandt tore his attention away from Jessie and looked up at Mike—who frowned at the state of his non-responsive dick. Mike knocked back a slug of Southern Comfort and set the bottle aside. His fingers traced the inside of Jessie’s thighs as he leaned over to suck her right nipple into his mouth.
Jessie arched and she tried to move her hands to touch Mike, but Brandt held her firmly. She wiggled, moaning as Mike kissed down her belly and staggered to his knees. Brandt knew the instant Mike’s mouth connected with Jessie’s sex. Her back bowed as if she’d been touched by a defibrillator.
Goddammit. This was so fucking bizarre, but also almost…erotic, holding her, feeling her body’s response as another man pleasured her.
She whimpered, “Yes. Please. More.”
Mike kept a slurred dialogue, extolling the virtues of Jessie’s pussy in outdated porn terms, which he probably believed turned her on. But the idiot didn’t notice Jessie reacted most strongly when he quit flapping his gums and put his mouth on her.
Finally, Mike got to it, spiking Brandt’s jealousy to epic proportions to hear Mike’s slurping, sucking noises from between Jessie’s quivering thighs. He wanted to be the one eking out her feminine sighs and moans. He wanted to be the one tasting her. He wanted to be the one driving her to the brink of ecstasy.
Sweat broke out on his brow. On the back of his neck. Moisture coated his balls. And it didn’t help that Jessie’s sexy, slippery body was sliding all over his. Specifically against his impatient cock.
A loud thud sounded and Jessie’s thrashing stopped abruptly. Brandt released her wrists to see what the hell the noise was.
Jessie maneuvered her body away from Brandt’s. They peered over the edge of the bed.
Holy shit. Mike had passed out cold on the floor.
In the middle of going down on Jessie.
She whispered, “You think he had a heart attack or something?”
But she wasn’t frantically checking him over, which meant she wasn’t so out of it she couldn’t see the truth. She nudged his leg. “Mike?”
Mike let out a soft snore.
Once again Brandt’s heart broke when Jessie made a soft sob. She scampered away from him quickly, like a crab sinking back into the sand. “Jessie—”
“Just go away.”
“No. I’m takin’ you home. Where are your clothes?”
Focusing on his anger on her behalf kept him from pitying her. “Fine.” Brandt tossed the comforter over her, rolled her like a sausage, and lifted her into his arms.
She gasped, “What’re you doing?”
“Takin’ you home.”
“But I’m naked!”
“Wasn’t like that swimsuit covered up much anyway.” And yeah, when Brandt stepped over Mike’s sprawled form, he might’ve kicked the guy’s ribs. The idiot wouldn’t have noticed if he’d been kicked in his numb nuts.
“Put me down, Brandt. I mean it.”
“No way in hell.”
The walk from the camper to his truck was mighty long and mighty quiet. He deposited her in the passenger side of his pickup before he climbed in. After he started backing out, she said, “Wait.”
“What? You feel like you’re gonna barf?”
“No. I forgot my purse.”
She bit her lip. “I’m pretty sure it’s still in the cab of Mike’s pickup.”
Brandt whipped a U-turn and followed the bumpy trail from the public parking area back to the campsites. He pulled up behind Mike’s camper and shut off his truck, pocketing the keys. He issued a stern,
“Don’t go nowhere, Jessie, I mean it,” and bailed out.
The pungent scent of pot smoke wafted out of Mike’s truck as Brandt opened the door. A roach clip dangled from the rearview mirror, weighted with feathers and skinny strips of leather. He pushed aside food wrappers and empty beer cans until he found a small bright orange fanny pack. Since he’d forgotten to ask specifics about size and color, he unzipped the main compartment. His hand froze.
It wasn’t the unopened package of condoms that snared his interest, but the hand-tooled leather wallet.
The wallet he’d made Jessie for Christmas—in what turned out to be the only Christmas they’d spent together.
The ragged edge of Brandt’s thumb traced the row of flowers he’d so painstakingly pounded out in the supple leather above the metal clasp. After he’d tanned the row a rich brown and finished the rough edges with a leather whipstitch, he’d painted each tiny flower a different color.