Against All Odds, Novella
He shouldn’t be here. He was just asking for trouble. And yet…
Ryan Harrison pulled to the curb and killed the ignition on his Audi as he eyed the quiet two-story house through the trees. The windows were dark, the porch light was off, and if it wasn’t for the full moon, he wouldn’t even be able to see the damn structure. From the outside, it looked as if everyone inside was sound asleep—as they should be at two o’clock in the freakin’ morning.
He glanced at the other big houses on the narrow Mercer Island street in the Seattle suburbs, thankful they were all dark and quiet too. The last thing he needed was for some nosey neighbor to call the cops. That’d go over really well and would just be the topper on his already long-ass day.
“Dumb,” he muttered to himself, shifting in his seat so he could tug his phone from the pocket of his slacks. “You should just go home, idiot.”
And yet… Here he was, sitting in the dark like a peeping Tom, pathetically waiting. Hoping, that somehow, he’d come up with a way to convince her to run away with him.
“Really dumb,” he muttered again. Especially when they’d both agreed to keep this thing between them casual.
Nerves bounced around in his stomach as he opened his messaging app, typed You still up? hit Send, then glanced toward the dark house again, waiting to see if he got any kind of response.
Ten seconds went by, then his phone buzzed. His pulse shot up as he looked down and read the message.
That depends. Are you sitting outside my house in the dark like a stalker?
He smiled and started typing. Do you really think I’m that desperate?
Three little dots moved across his screen, then it buzzed again. Yes, I do. Get up here already.
His blood warmed at just the thought. But while he might be pathetic enough to drive out here in the middle of the night, he wasn’t so stupid as to get close to the house.
His fingers flew across the screen. And risk your dad’s wrath? I think not. I’ve seen his shotgun, and I like breathing too much.
A smiling emoji popped up on his screen. Followed by one word: Chicken.
Before he could respond, the words he’d hoped to read when he’d decided on this little detour appeared on his screen.
I’m on my way out.
His stomach tightened, and excitement shot up his chest. Tossing his phone on the console, he popped the door, stepped out of the car, and closed it quietly at his back.
The early-June night was cool, but he didn’t need a jacket. He was already sweating thinking about Annie tiptoeing out of her parents’ house in the middle of the night to meet up with him. Her dad was a light sleeper, and the last thing Ryan wanted was to get on the guy’s bad side. So far, her parents liked him, and he needed to keep it that way. Especially with what he hoped to convince her to do.
Which meant—sadly for him—he also needed to keep this little rendezvous short and sweet.
That thought came to a spinning stop when Annie burst through the evergreen trees on the edge of the street, barefoot and wearing nothing but a thin black tank and fuzzy pink pajama bottoms, her curly chestnut hair waving behind her and a wide smile across her gorgeous face.
She squealed, and he managed one step away from the car before she threw herself in his arms. Then all he felt was heat everywhere they touched, from his thighs and hips where she pressed her sexy, slim body against his, all the way to his lips, which she was already kissing.
Ah, hell. Yep. This was why he’d come here instead of heading to his apartment back in the city. Because this—she—was all he’d been able to think about for the last freakin’ week.
He opened to her kiss, slipped his tongue into her mouth, and kissed her just as deeply as she was kissing him. Like a man starved, he realized, which he suddenly knew he was.
Groaning at the taste of her again, at the familiar scent of lilacs that surrounded him, he lifted one hand to her face, slid the other to her lower back, and pulled her against him as he changed the angle of the kiss and eased back to lean against the car door. “Mm, Annie. You have no idea how much I missed you.”
She held on to him and stroked her tongue against his slowly, deeply, so completely his gray matter blurred. And just when he was ready to throw her on the hood of his car and make her scream, she sighed, then slowly lowered to her heels and pulled away from his kiss.
Way too soon.
His lips immediately missed her sweet, wet heat. But he did realize she needed to breathe at some point. And smothering her wouldn’t bring him any closer to his goal.
“I missed you, too.” She smiled up at him in the moonlight, flashing that adorable dimple in her cheek, then pushed to her toes to kiss him softly again. Dropping back to her heels, she slipped her arms around his waist and cuddled into his chest. “I thought you were going to be here earlier.”
He would much rather have gone on kissing her, but this wasn’t bad either. And since he was determined to make sure her dad still liked him, it was better to cool things down. At least for now.
“I would have been, but my flight got delayed.” He slid one hand up into her silky hair, holding her against him with the other as he played with the soft locks. “Really bad fog in San Francisco. The airport was a mess.”
She snuggled in closer, and his heart warmed at the contented sigh she made. If his lips had to be cold, at least the rest of him was hot. And, God, she felt good. Soft and curvy and perfect everywhere she touched him.
“I’m glad you’re here now,” she said. “How was your business trip to California, aside from the fog?”
“Long. I was in meetings a lot of the time. Boring without you, especially in the evenings. And freakin’ cold. Did you know it’s colder in San Francisco than it is here?”
She laughed, drew back, and looked up at him, her green eyes sparkling in the low light. “Not if you get out of the city, silly. If you’d have gotten away from the bay, I’m sure it was like ninety degrees.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’ve been there.”
“You have?” That was news to him.
She leaned against him again, pressing her cheek to his heart once more. Warming him from the outside in. “Mitch’s high school baseball team played in a spring break tournament in the Bay Area one year. My parents dragged me along when I was in middle school. Boring-ass trip, but I loved San Francisco. It’s a really cool city.”
Just hearing her say she liked San Francisco filled him with hope. He played with her hair, thinking… Maybe this wasn’t going to be as tough as he’d originally thought.
“Course,” she went on, snuggling in closer, “There are no volcanoes in the Bay Area. Which is a major drawback.”
His heart stuttered.
Aaaand… There went all his hope.
Shit. That was exactly what he’d hoped she wouldn’t say. Of course, it was exactly what he’d known she would.