Chapter 19

As g-forces pressed Griffin back into his seat, he smiled at the rush of excitement thinking about seeing Sera again brought. He'd spent too much time these last few years refusing to enjoy anything, fearing it was somehow betraying Rosalina's memory. The ache of loss had become so much a part of him, he never took the time to notice it wasn't there anymore. He'd clung to it so strongly, he'd almost thrown away the chance to have Sera in his life.

Now, he didn't want it any other way.

Excitement turned to apprehension as Griffin claimed his bag and made his way toward the parking lot. His relationship with Sera was still in an uncertain place, regardless of what had happened between them before he left, and his biggest fear was returning to find everything had unraveled. He kept hoping it was different with him—that she was different with him—and not only because she'd stayed, but because of all of the things implied in the action.

Nervousness once again transformed into heady anticipation with the recollection of how he'd spent his last night with Sera. They'd denied each other until the very end; even the day he'd asked to take her to the art show, they'd ignored what was really happening. All that hot friction and tension had only built until it made the air throb. And when it had finally been allowed release…

Griffin's hands tightened around the steering wheel of his SUV. He couldn't wait to bury his hands in her thick red curls again, bury his face in the sweet curve of her neck while drowning in her heat.

Letting off the gas, Griffin forced himself to at least try to obey the speed limit. There was very little else he wanted to do than simply spend time with her, but at this moment he'd much rather do it in his bed. He took a deep breath, though, and thought he should go home first to wash away the weariness from traveling all day.

Except he ended up outside the converted warehouse where Sera lived, and as he walked into the building, his fatigue evaporated as he thought about smoothing all her delicious curves against himself while breathing her in. He took the stairs two at a time, and his strides lengthened when he reached the third floor. Standing at her door, Griffin attempted to calm the jittery feeling rushing through him, which only grew when he heard movement inside after he knocked. Two weeks had been too long.

Having only so recently banished his heartache, Griffin thought maybe he shouldn't have been so surprised at how weighty it was. But how did one brace for having the air punched out of their lungs, or the icy fist of dread clenching unexpectedly around their heart to drag it kicking and screaming into their stomach?

Puzzlement creased the brow of the man standing on the other side of the door. Tall and lean, with sandy blond hair stylishly cut, he wore dark slacks, a pin-striped shirt, and a silk tie loosened at the collar. He leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms over his chest, looking completely at ease, as though he always answered this door at this apartment.

Griffin's smile faltered. He rocked back on his heels while his stomach rejected his heart and tried to spew it up again.

"Can I help you?"

All of Griffin's doubts and fears sucked the air from the hall, making breathing difficult and speaking impossible.

"You aren't selling something, are you? They should really put up no soliciting signs around here."

"I'm…sorry." Griffin wasn't sure how his voice rasped through the misery squeezing his throat. Foolishly, he glanced at the number on the door, as if he could possibly forget where she lived. "I'm sorry, I think I've made a mistake."

He should wait, give her the chance to explain. She would tell him the blond was…a cousin…come to visit, and they'd chuckle over his jealousy while he held her close.

His heart, though, full of wild notions about self-preservation, shoved him back before the splintering in his chest drove him to his knees. The other man was shrugging dismissively anyway and pushing the door shut. Griffin turned on his heel, knowing as he left it wasn't right or fair…

The explosive sound of shattering glass swung Griffin back around. A distinctively feminine shout of anger had him barreling through the door, rushing into the living room where he hesitated only a moment to survey the situation. A large framed picture lay on the floor, its glass scattered around the couch and coffee table, the former overturned in the middle of the room.

Surrounded by broken glass, Sera shoved the blond away from her. "You don't have any right!" Rage flushed her cheeks and fear edged her words. "Get out!"

The blond grabbed her by the wrists and jerked her against himself. "Actually, I have every—"

The sentence ended in a grunt of surprise as Griffin crossed the room and seized the other man by the back of the shirt. Fury rushed through Griffin's veins and pounded so loudly through his ears he barely heard Sera's gasp as he dragged the man toward the door.


"What the—Who the hell are you!"

"She told you to leave." The effort it took not to roar wavered through Griffin's voice, and he shook the blond roughly when he struggled. "I'm not going to be so polite."

Incisive delight barked from the man's throat. "Who's your boyfriend, Sera?"

"He's not—"

"Griffin Alder." He gave his name like it was a warning, and was fiercely pleased to see it recognized when astonishment replaced the man's biting amusement. Griffin threw him into the hall and slammed the door shut.

In the echoing silence, Griffin took a deep breath, then exhaled his remaining ire as he turned to Sera. Fear still shadowed her face, but now of a different sort.

"That wasn't what it—" She cut off the explanation with a harsh laugh and stared at the floor. The sparkle of glass shards around her feet mimicked the glitter wavering under her lashes. "That's what people always say, isn't it?" She sank onto the couch, mutely watching as Griffin righted the coffee table and sat down in front of her. "Hello," she said with a watery smile.

Leaning forward, Griffin gently framed her face with his hands. Her fingers curled around his, and her relieved sob vibrated against his mouth when he kissed her. His eyes remained closed as he pulled away, and he licked his lips, tasting her there. God, he'd never get enough of her.

"I'm so sor—"

Griffin smothered the apology with another kiss. He didn't want to hear the sorrow in her voice anymore; hoped to erase it from her gaze before she looked at him again. When he sat back, he smiled gently at her. "Hello," he whispered.

There was a slight hitch in Sera's laugh, but at least the uncertainty was gone from her eyes. She traced a line down Griffin's arm with her fingertips. "Thank you for getting rid of him."

"The infamous Acen Rivers, I take it?"

Surprise halted Sera's lightly exploring fingers. "How did you know?"

Because there was only one person who ever put that particular note of bitterness in her voice. Instead of answering, though, Griffin shrugged and sat next to Sera on the couch. "Did he hurt you?" She shook her head. "Do you want to talk about it?"

With another shake of her head, Sera straddled Griffin and pressed him back. "I'd like to forget it," she said, leaning down to kiss him again.

"I could help with that."

Sera smiled against his mouth as his hands slid up her legs and under the hem of her skirt. This time, her breath hitched for an entirely different reason, and all the urgency Griffin had felt when thinking about her earlier suddenly rushed hotly through him. The only part bared for him to taste was the long line of her throat, which was hardly enough to satiate him. Griffin quickly unbuttoned her shirt and jerked the material down her arms, exposing dark blue lace cupping creamy skin. Every inch of him throbbed with need, but he sat back slightly, letting his gaze travel from her breasts up to her dark, heavy eyes. She was so fucking beautiful.

Sera's eyes crinkled with her laughter, and Griffin smiled when he realized he'd unintentionally spoken out loud. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he stood up and carried her toward the loft, kicking his shoes off so he wouldn't track glass upstairs.

As it was their first—and second, and third, Griffin thought with a grin—time, he wanted to take it slow. He unzipped Sera's skirt and slipped it down her legs, then traced the dark lace curving around her hip with his tongue. He loved lace against a woman's skin. An impatient sound came from Sera, and he glanced up.

"Foreplay is wasted on me," she said, huskily.

Griffin slid a hand between her thighs and leaned over, lowering his head next to hers. "That's because you've never done it right," he breathed, then slid his tongue around the curve of her ear as he slid a finger inside of her. She gasped and grabbed his arm as she arched. He set an almost lazy pace, brought her to the edge before pulling her back, watching as she eagerly pressed against his touch.

So when he found himself on his back, staring up at Sera, he blinked a few times to reorient himself. The grin she wore promised heat and passion, screams of pleasure and burning satisfaction. But most of all, it promised…


Griffin licked his lips and smiled with anticipation.


Sera felt a little silly thinking waking up curled into Griffin's warm side was one of the best things ever, but only a mild trill of panic vibrated around her heart, which she quickly squashed. Stretching lazily, she glanced at the clock next to her bed and yawned.

"Still tired?"

Propping herself up on an elbow, Sera shook her head in reply to Griffin's question, then lightly traced the curve of his mouth with her fingertips. "I imagined today differently." When Griffin raised an inquiring eyebrow, she added, "I thought we'd…talk."

"We're talking," he said, which elicited a wry chuckle from her.

"That's not what I mean. I don't want you to think…" She hesitated when she met his gaze, and worry started to crease Griffin's brow. "This isn't the only thing between us," she finally said.

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself?"

It whispered from Griffin before he could stop it, and he winced internally. He never pushed for anything because he was afraid she might bolt, and he certainly didn't want her leaving. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Sera shifted, drawing away slightly. Griffin didn't want any distance between them, but he resisted the urge to curl her against his chest again as a contemplative look crossed her face.

"I haven't been completely honest with you."

After everything he'd struggled against—his initial instinct to stay away from her, and her propensity to leave before anything got serious—knowing Sera had secrets wouldn't be the thing to push him away. He waited patiently for her to continue.

"My life…it just got really complicated."

"Because of Acen?" When she nodded, Griffin slid his fingers through hers. This conversation would be as serious as the last one, but he couldn't keep from touching her.

"You may not want to stick around."

"Are you telling me to leave?"

One corner of Sera's mouth jumped into a faint smile at his teasing tone. "No," she whispered. "Not unless you want to. But…"

He'd become so caught up in re-learning the length of her thigh, the curve of her hip and waist, it took him a few moments to realize she'd stopped talking. "But?"

"Acen is bad news," she said. Griffin's flippant reply stalled on his lips when he glanced up and saw her sober expression. "And he's come to collect."

The anger tensing Sera's body thrummed under Griffin's fingertips. He entwined his fingers with hers again, and she clutched his hand. "Collect what?" he asked, softly.


A/N: It's not really polished, and much shorter than I'd like, but I'm that jerk author who hasn't updated in forever, so...

For You—you know who you are ;)