She nibbled on her thumb and walked down the hall. Alex stood in the doorway, watching him sleep. He was so serene and peaceful. Alex tiptoed over to the bed and sat down. The back of her hand brushed the hair out of his face, testing for any rise in temperature. He was warm to the touch, but there was no trace of a fever. A good sign, at least. They didn’t need to complicate matters even more. She let her hand slip down and rest on his cheek. Jared nuzzled it in his sleep. The roughness from his dusting of beard growth scratched her palm.
He eased open one eye and watched her groggily. “Hi.” His voice came out like a purr. He kissed the heel of her hand.
Alex pulled away quickly and scooted to the edge of the bed with a gasp. “You’re awake?”
“Mmhmm.” His arm circled her waist and pulled her down beside him. Jared buried his face in her hair and inhaled deeply. “You smell so nice. I love the way you smell.”
He rubbed his face against her neck. Goose bumps erupted all over her body. Having him this close to her was a ticking time bomb. Alex wrapped her hand around his arm and tried to pry him loose, but even drugged, he was strong enough to hold tight. She let out a frustrated breath. This wasn’t going to work. She was just going to have to hope he passed out again before things got out of control.
“Uh, thank you, I guess. Jared, you need to get some sleep. Can you let me go?” It was pointless to try and reason with him. He was under the influence, after all. She was going to kill Lance for bailing on her. You’ll be safe, he said. Jared would never do anything, he said. What a load of bull!
“No, no more sleep.” He mumbled against her neck. “I want to hold you. You’re so nice to me.” He snuggled in closer. “Did I tell you, I love the way you smell?”
She was nice to him? Oh God, he was higher than a kite. “Yes, Jared, you said it already. I need to go check on something, let me up, please?”
“Oh, I did? Well, I do.” Jared lifted his head. His eyes cast an eerie glow over her. He drunkenly stroked her cheek with his fingertips. “Your skin is like silk. How do you get your skin so soft? Mine is all…well not soft like yours. I like your skin. It’s nice.” He frowned at his hand. “I’m not like you at all. I’m not like anyone. Why don’t I fit in?”
“Jared, please let me up. I don’t want to hurt you.” She had to get out of there. With every touch of his hand, she felt her resolve start to crumble.
Jared snorted and shook his head. “You could never hurt me, Alex. You’re too good to hurt anyone. Me, on the other hand…hell, I don’t know who I am. Who am I, Alex? Do you know?” He sounded sincere.
Alex’s heart ached for him.
“What are you talking about? What do you mean you don’t know who you are? Jared you’re confused, it’s the sedative. Now, let me up. We can talk more about it in the morning.” She pushed at him, but he wouldn’t budge.
“No, not confused, just really lost.” He caressed her cheek with his, closing his eyes. “Could you love me, Alex? No one else seems to. There must be something wrong with me.”
Alex swallowed hard around the lump in her throat. What had happened for him to feel this way? She knew the drug was most likely making him emotional, but these feelings still had to stem from something. She brushed the hair out of his eyes. “I don’t see anything wrong with you. You just need to sleep this off, Jared. Please.”
“No.” He shook his head at her like a defiant child.
Rolling over on top of her, Jared laced his hands with hers. His body was a solid mass of muscle above her. He was hard against the apex of her thighs; it made her ache deep inside, wanting him. She opened her mouth to protest and his lips covered hers, devouring any words she intended to say. She closed her eyes and hesitantly kissed back, her head spinning. One of his hands released from hers and cupped her cheek. Alex sighed against his lips and savored the taste of him. Their tongues danced slowly together, even though her mind screamed for her to get out of there.
Her free hand slipped between them, and she gave him a weak push. Jared broke the kiss and pulled back a fraction of an inch, gazing down at her. The glow in his eyes dimmed.
“Jared, we shouldn’t be doing this. It’s the drug. We have to stop.” She pleaded against his lips.
He rubbed his nose against hers, mouth lightly brushing her lips. “It’s not the drug. I need you, Alex.” His hand came to rest over her heart. “I can feel what’s in here; your heart wants me to stay right where I am. Are you willing to deny it?”
She stared into the blue depths of his eyes and knew no matter how many times she tried to deny it; this was exactly what she wanted. Since Gene had given her the assignment, Jared had been slowly wedging his way into her life and heart. Every waking moment had been consumed by him. Damn Gene and his story. She should push Jared away. She should keep their relationship on the professional level. When the time came, and the article was published, he would hate her. She couldn’t bear to see the loathing in his eyes.
“Jared…” Her voice held a weak warning.
“Tell me, Alex. Tell me to leave.” He nipped at her bottom lip.
Damn it, she couldn’t. She framed his face with her hands and kissed him hard. God forgive her, but they both deserved a fraction of happiness in their lives, even if only for tonight. “Don’t go, Jared. I want you to stay with me.”
A heartbeat passed between them. Jared kissed her again. He was starving, and she was the only thing to satisfy his hunger. He settled his body between her legs and trailed kisses and nips down the column of her neck. Jared paused, his mouth above her pulsating jugular. He felt something stir in his gut and a dull throbbing in his gums but pushed both away.
His fingers went to work on the small buttons of her silk blouse. When the last one slid free, he smoothed the blouse away, murmuring, “You’re so beautiful and all mine.”
Alex grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head, tossing it across the room. He continued his trail of kisses down the center of her chest, cupping her breast and sliding his thumb over the sensitive pearl hidden behind the lace of her bra. Her nails dug into his shoulders and she arched into his touch. He pushed the lace aside and replaced his thumb with his mouth. Alex sucked in a sharp breath. Jared closed his teeth around the taut peak and rolled it between them, flicking his tongue over the tip. A small cry of pleasure escaped her lips.
Alex laced the fingers of one hand through his golden locks, and the other dug into the pillow under her head. She gasped as his hands roamed over her flushed skin. He had every one of her nerves standing on end, crying out for release. No one had made her feel this way. His mouth left her breast with one last lave, and she opened her eyes to find Jared gazing at her drunkenly.
Her hand slipped from his hair to cup his cheek. “What? What’s wrong?”
Jared kissed her palm. “Would you believe for the first time, nothing? Everything is right.” His breath was warm against her abdomen. It sent a shiver through her. He kissed her navel. “Where did you come from, Alex? You just can’t be real?” He yawned, rested his cheek against her belly. “No, you can’t be real. I have to be dreaming.”
Alex ran her fingers through his hair, sighing. “No, Jared, I’m not a dream.” She continued to run her fingers through his hair. Jared relaxed and grew quiet.
She shook him. “Jared?” When the only response he gave her was a soft snore, her head fell back on the pillow. She stared at the ceiling and blinked. A small bubble of laughter worked its way free of her chest and out her mouth. She couldn’t believe he passed out. This was just too much.
Alex made no attempt to move him. She pulled the cover over both of them as best she could. There was no telling how much longer he would be out, so she might as well catch a few Z’s, herself. It wasn’t like she was strong enough to move the relaxed bulk of him off her right now. She continued to toy with the hair at the nape of his neck. Her body and mind begin to surrender to sleep and she yawned.
“I could love you, Jared. I’m just too scared to let that happen.”
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