She knew. That’s why Mom hadn’t opened the door. She knew he was dead.
Twenty years as an army brat and Ember Howard knew, too. The soldiers at the door meant her dad was never coming home. What she didn’t know was how she would find the strength to singlehandedly care for her crumbling family when her mom falls apart.
Then Josh Walker enters her life. Hockey star, her new next-door neighbor, and not to mention the most delicious hands that insist on saving her over and over again. He has a way of erasing the pain with a single look, a single touch. As much as she wants to turn off her feelings and endure the heartache on her own, she can’t deny their intense attraction.
Until Josh’s secret shatters their world. And Ember must decide if he’s worth the risk that comes with loving a man who could strip her bare.
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Full Measures Hallway Scene – Josh POV
The tile floor was cold under my bare feet as I leaned back against the kitchen counter, eating even colder ice cream. Muffled voices came from the entry hall, which probably meant Jagger had another girl over. Not that I cared, but it was a harsh reminder that the only girl I wanted was literally a wall away and wanted nothing to do with me.
Then again, after watching her set that shirt on fire yesterday, I was beginning to think it was less me she was angry at and more the entire world. I got it, really. She’d lost her dad, her mom wasn’t functioning, and she couldn’t get a moment peaceful enough to get her feet under her. She was frustrating as hell, and I couldn’t even blame her for it. Stronger women would have crumbled under what she’d been handed. So I flipped Jagger off when he’d asked me if we needed to call Oprah about my “manpain,” ate ice cream like a heartbroken girl, and tried not to fantasize about licking it off Ember. Looks like I failed that one, too.
“Barbies?” Ember’s voice came through clear as a bell, and I nearly dropped my spoon. Chills ran down my arms, and it wasn’t because of the ice cream currently melting on my tongue. Nope, just my skin reacting to her nearness. I licked off the back of the spoon, abandoned the bowl on the counter, and moved to straighten my shirt, but I wasn’t wearing one. I didn’t give it a second thought before I quietly rounded the corner, leaning back against the wall to get a better look at her.
“Walker! You got company!” Jagger called out, not realizing I was right behind him. Then again, neither did Ember, which gave me a coveted minute to soak her in, adorable bare feet and all. “Just in case he isn’t what you’re looking for… My name’s Jagger.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Jagger.”
“Oh, it’s my pleasure.”
Oh, hell no. I knew that voice on Jagger, the one that sought any good-looking woman in a five-mile radius, and couldn’t stay quiet. “Jagger, back the fuck up off Ember.”
His head dropped a fraction of an inch, just enough to let me know he’d heard me stake the claim. I’d pulled some kindergarten shit and basically licked her like a snack I didn’t want to share — I didn’t give a fuck if it was immature.
“And another one bites the dust,” Jagger said as he passed by me. He shot up his eyebrows in question, and I answered with an almost indistinguishable nod. Yes, this is the girl I’ve been talking about.
He laughed so quietly I almost missed it. Almost. Laugh it up. One day it will be you.
I locked my gaze on Ember and waited to see what she would do. She was like a wounded animal, and every time I reached my hand out, she’d bite, so this time I’d let her move first. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to move toward her.
She walked inside the entry hall, stopping close enough for me to kiss. Damn, she was beautiful. I would have killed for even a hint of what was going on behind those blue eyes. She blinked, but stayed silent.
I reached out before I could stop myself and palmed her cheek. “December?” Damn if she didn’t lean into my touch. It was there, the crackle of energy, the invisible tie that kept me tethered to her no matter how hard or far she pushed me away.
Her breath hitched as she turned into my hand, her lips parting as she skimmed over my skin, inhaling. Want slammed through me, and I forced it back on the bench. I wasn’t sure why she was here, or what she needed, but it wasn’t me pouncing on her.
Or maybe it is. I barely finished the thought before her mouth was on mine, hard and insistent. I was all too willing.
This wasn’t a gentle kiss, or even an apologetic one. It was open, carnal, and I sank into her, desperate to give her what we both craved. A growl ripped from my throat when she sucked my tongue into her mouth. God, she was warm.
I took control, stroking down her curves until her perfect ass filled my hands. With a squeeze, I brought her with me as I flipped to press her against the wall. Then I kissed her like I needed to, stroking her mouth with my tongue the way I’d used my fingers on her body back in Breckenridge—relentlessly and to every advantage.
Her fingers sank into my hair, and she moaned into my mouth, pushing me one step closer to losing what little control I had left. But when she rocked her hips against me, all thoughts of restraint fled. I licked down her neck, savoring her pulse against my tongue and the way she gasped when I gently kissed the patch of skin at the base.
Zip! Holy shit. She unzipped her hoodie, exposing miles of soft skin above her tank top. I picked her up, using the wall as leverage as I set my mouth to the delicate lines of her collarbone. Her taste, her scent, all of her surrounded me, blurring the outside world until there was only Ember.
I met her gaze, her eyes soft and hazed with the same lust streaking through my veins. “Josh,” she whispered, holding my face like I was something precious. I’d been a lot of things to a lot of different girls, but precious wasn’t really one of them, and she was infinitely more precious to me for it.
I set her down but didn’t back away, feeling every curve and hollow against my bare skin, and barely biting back a groan. I wish I’d had a shirt on. Oh, who the fuck was I kidding? Ten shirts couldn’t have protected me from Ember.
I kissed her again, using every ounce of skill I had to make her lose herself in the same way I had. I kept her guessing, never allowing her to settle into the kiss, changing the tempo, the pressure, anything to keep her as off-balance as she had me. She skimmed her fingers down my chest, along the lines of my stomach, and tensed. She dipped her fingers under the band of my flannel pants, and I was ready to rip every piece of clothing off her body so I could get to her skin. Another inch and she’d feel exactly how badly I wanted her.
Damn it. This was way too much, and not anything of what she actually needed. I’d be her whatever, but I had to draw the line when she was doing more harm than good. “December,” I whispered against her mouth, her lips swollen from mine, and pulled back just far enough to rest my forehead against hers. I closed my eyes until I had my body back under control. “I’m fucking desperate to carry you to my bedroom, but I don’t think this is what you want.”
Her eyes flew wide, and her skin stained pink before she hid behind her hands. “What am I doing?”
I got my shit under control, taking two deep breaths before I pulled her hands away. “What are you doing?”
“I came to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you. Sorry for the mixed signals.” She laughed. “But apparently I jumped you instead, and now I’m sorry for that, too.”
“Sorry for jumping me?” Hell no. I smiled. She could be sorry for pushing me away, for going from hot to cold faster than the kitchen faucet she used to put that fire out yesterday. But I wouldn’t let her apologize for giving me a few minutes to glimpse heaven.
“No. I’m not sorry for jumping you. I’m sorry about my god-awful timing.”
My smile slipped as I ran my thumb across the lips I was becoming obsessed with. “I told you I’m here for whatever you need, Ember. Jumping, apologies, whatever.”
“I’d better get back to studying.”
Boom. She may as well have slammed the door on me, and I retreated a step. “I’d better get in the shower.”
“Didn’t you just…?”
I let my mind wander to the shower, to what I could do to her body, pressed up against mine, water making her slick under my hands – how easy it would be to slide inside her. Stop. “Yeah, but I think I need another one at a different temperature.”
She flushed brighter pink. “Oh. I’m sorry about that, too.”
I couldn’t stop a grin from overtaking me. “I’m not.” I stepped forward until her back hit the wall, then bent down, a breath away from her lips, from what I knew we both wanted but wouldn’t push for. “If you apologize like that, feel free to treat me like shit any time you want. I will be your personal doormat.”
New Military Romance from Rebecca Yarros in
Hallowed Ground (Book Four) of the
Flight & Glory Series releases January 25th!
** View Hallowed Ground Trailer HERE **
Rebecca Yarros is a hopeless romantic and lover of all things chocolate, coffee, and Paleo. In addition to being a mom, military wife, and blogger, she can never choose between Young Adult and New Adult fiction, so she writes both. She’s a graduate of Troy University, where she studied European history and English, but still holds out hope for an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Her blog, The Only Girl Among Boys, has been voted the Top Military Mom Blog the last two years, and celebrates the complex issues surrounding the military life she adores.
When she’s not writing, she’s tying on hockey skates for her kids, or sneaking in some guitar time. She is madly in love with her army-aviator husband of eleven years. They finally can call Colorado home along with their gaggle of rambunctious kiddos and snoring English Bulldog.