Copyright © 2012 Mackenzie McKade
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
There was freedom in the wind. Speed was the only thing that fed her soul these days. But the Dunes were no place for stupid moves.
The quiet beauty of the ocean of sand lulled people into a false security. One minute the ground would be beneath her. The next she could be flying off a slip-face, a miniature cliff, soaring fifteen feet or higher in the air. The crashes weren’t a pretty sight.
Zoë knew never to ride alone or to venture farther than she could see. Well, one out of two wasn’t bad. Chalk her up as only half-stupid.
Adrenaline was like acid pumping through her veins as she approached an enormous dune cut by wind and weather. The tallest dunes were two hundred feet high and scared the shit out of newcomers.
But not Zoë, especially today.
That little hormone that stimulated her heart and increased her blood sugar, muscular strength and endurance was quickly pushing Drew to the back of her mind. All she saw was the challenge—the top of the mountain. The surface was smooth, no tire tracks announcing that anyone dared to approach it. That made it Zoë’s mountain. It dared her to conquer it. This was what she longed for—the challenge, the isolated bubble that surrounded her when she went into the zone. It was her mountain.
That was until an idiot crossed in front of her, making her swerve to avoid hitting him.
Concentration blown, she circled around, preparing herself for another approach when the same lame-dick passed in front of her again. Fit to be tied, she came to an abrupt stop. Pushing her goggles down upon the rim of her helmet, she tore her headgear off and placed it on the handlebars.
“I’ll kill the sonofabitch,” she mumbled beneath her breath as she stomped toward the rider idling his quad.
When she got within several feet of the rider, he pulled his helmet off.
A gush of frustration pushed from her lungs. The damn man had changed clothes. Instead of the blue and white Fox ensemble, he now wore a matching yellow and black getup. Josh and Drew were the same size, muscular and six-two. She’d forgotten that Josh owned more ensembles than she did. It would be no hardship in sharing his clothes and boots with Drew.
Damn, he was sexy sitting on that bike.
The vibrant color was striking against his dark skin. She shook her head, pushing the thought away. She should have recognized Josh’s spare quad. Just then an identical quad passed by, and then another.
Okay. So maybe she wouldn’t have.
“What the hell are you doing?” she barked.
“Stopping you from killing yourself.” He cut the engine, threw his leg over the quad and stood up. Zoë didn’t miss the concern glowing in his eyes as he closed the distance between them.
“Killing myself? Don’t you realize that your idiotic attempts could have killed us both?”
“What was I supposed to do—ride up beside you and ask you nicely to pull over?” When she didn’t answer quickly enough, he said, “You would have tried to outrun me. Right?”
“But nothing. That hill is too much for you. Can’t you see no one is challenging it?”
All she could do was laugh at his attempt to protect her. “Now? After all this time you think you have a right to interfere in my life? To protect me?” She shook her head and started to turn away when he reached out, connecting with her arm, to jerk her body against his.
She didn’t have her shirt on, only the exercise bra. His rough jersey teased her skin, rasping her tender nipples against the cotton of her bra. His warm breath swept across her face. The smell of freshly applied deodorant and cologne, warm and spicy, assailed her.
When she opened her mouth to speak he stole her breath away with a kiss. Not just any kiss, but one with pressure and heat as he stroked his tongue across her now-sealed lips. She couldn’t open up to him. She couldn’t afford a taste of what she’d missed for three years.
His tongue was as persistent as she was obstinate. He nipped her bottom lip. She whimpered, the small cry parting her lips. He took full advantage of her moment of weakness and swept in to deepen the caress.
Hot and moist, his tongue stroked every inch of her mouth, breaking down her resistance one layer at a time. Arms loosely by her sides, she melted against his chest. For a moment she feared she might fall if he hadn’t tightened his embrace. It took all she had not to return his affection, to stay impassive.
“Kiss me,” he whispered against her mouth. His lips were featherlight as he slid them back and forth, a wicked enticement.
“No,” she said emphatically.
“Kiss me, baby.” No fair using the endearment he had used so many years ago. It made her tremble, causing her breaths to be ragged and audible as he shamelessly continued. “Kiss me like you used to. Hungry, as if you could eat me up.” There was a plea to his voice she had never heard before.
“No.” She wouldn’t give in to him. Even when he traced the bottom of her lip with his sinful tongue, she refused him.
He had never been forceful with her, so when he cupped her head, her immediate response was to pull back, to resist. More pressure was applied as his eyes grew darker with desire and their noses touched. They were both breathing heavily. No words between them, only the sexual tension that cried out for release.
But she would fight it. She had no other choice—she couldn’t let him past the barrier she had erected. Besides, she didn’t want him. She had a new life to live.
A sandpapery growl rumbled deep within his chest. His nostrils flared.
Zoë had never heard or seen anything so primitive, so arousing. In a moment of desire, she forgot where they were. For just a second she thought of giving in, of taking what she wanted. That was until two girls in a sand rail slowed down and said, “Get a room.” A stream of laughter followed as they revved the engine and pushed forward.
Zoë trembled as she tried to reel her emotions in.
“We could, you know.” His voice was deep and coarse, his eyes flames of fire burning her up with his heat.
She couldn’t think. “Could what?” She had to keep her distance and hold on to the last bit of strength she had. There was no way she could taste him and then walk away, because that’s what would become of this moment of weakness.
“Get a room, baby.” His fingers wove through her hair. “I’ve dreamed of holding you again.” His lips brushed hers so lightly she thought that maybe she imagined it. “Kissing you.” His nose caressed hers, his eyelids heavy with desire. “Zoë.” Her name was just a whisper. “Let me make love to you.”