hand was in his hair, as if checking the sanctity of his skull, and it took all his willpower and self-control not to grab the owner of the hands and pull her down into his lap.
Because the female voice belonged to Lily, who had magically appeared out of nowhere when he fell out of the tree. She was touching him all over as if she were some kind of healer who could tell from feel if he’d broken something.
Or maybe she was just as eager for an excuse to touch him as he was (perversely, misguidedly) ecstatic she’d found one?
“I’m okay,” he finally found the wherewithal to say, not so much because of how bruised and scratched he was, but because she’d stolen all the breath from his lungs. He took one of her hands in each of his and removed them from his body. “Except you have to stop that,” he told her.
hurt you?” she asked, obviously horrified.
And then they both looked down at his lap where a tent had formed in the loose, light fabric of his cut-off Carhartts.
“Oh,” she said, and blushed. That was ironic, considering that she’d seen it all, and far more, the other night.
“I guess I’m lucky,” he said. “Don’t seem to have broken anything.”
He realized after the words were out of his mouth that they could have been a double entendre, but she let it go, continuing her—now visual—inspection of what he’d done to himself in his fall from the tree.
The worst of his wounds was a long, ragged gash down one calf, and she touched the edge of it and said, “This has to be cleaned. That’s my house. My sister’s house. Can you limp over there and I’ll run in for some first aid supplies?”
He was fine, except for being banged up and cut, which he didn’t give a shit about. But she was looking at him with so much concern, those big eyes alight for him, that he couldn’t make himself turn down her offer. “Sure,” he said. He got to his feet and followed her to her front yard.
“Sit there,” she said, gesturing at the front steps. She disappeared into the house.
When she returned, she had a plastic box of supplies. She set it down beside him and trotted around the side of the house for the garden hose, which she used to rinse the worst of his cuts and scrapes.
It felt good, letting her care for him. He realized that was part of what he’d coveted, watching her in the diner. The way she nurtured people. No one had taken care of him in so long. Possibly no one ever would again. It wasn’t outrageous, was it, to let himself bask in the feel of her hands, smoothing antibiotic ointment on his cut, or the look of concern in her eyes?
Except he wasn’t a little boy feeling safe because his mom had pasted a Band-Aid on his leg. He was a grown man who’d spent almost the last decade getting battered and cut and not having anyone give a shit, and it was absurdly self-indulgent to feel so grateful about a tube of medicine. And he was deluding himself, too, about the innocence of his appreciation. He liked that she was sitting on the steps between his legs, her face at navel level, her slim, sweet hands sending something close to a quiver straight up his inner leg, until it lodged like raw need in his balls. Gave him a hard-on that made the one a few minutes ago look like a pup tent.
Maybe the movement in his crotch caught her attention—it sure as hell caught his—because she looked up at him, then, her eyes straight into his, pupils huge.
And he looked right back.
There they were, the eye contact like flame, and he couldn’t look away even though it hurt to keep looking into those green eyes. There was something in that gaze—so naked and needy—that made him feel like he was the one who was exposed. She’d done that to him the other night, too, bared her secrets and left him feeling like the one who’d been flayed.
He touched her lower lip. He’d had it against his own lips, held it hostage between his teeth, but somehow the feel of it against his