Chapter One

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Present Day, Summer

Always a fan of celebrating his independence, Beckett Roberts was a happy man. The Fourth of July meant cozy heat in Connecticut, loud, boisterous fireworks in the sky, and a party all around. What could be better?

A woman in his bed, he concluded, answering his own question as he rolled over to face Danielle who slept soundly beside him.

A naked and sexy woman, he corrected, not bothering to hide the smug glow that sparked to life in his eyes.

Because her mouth was there, her beautiful, pliant lips moving slightly with her steady breath, he scooted forward, teased them open with a kiss. Skimming along the perky pink skin, he felt her body awaken. Which was exactly what he'd wanted.

She sleepily hummed out another breath as he eased her over onto her back.

He'd awoken early—well, relatively early after a long and busy night at the pub—so he'd gotten up and pushed open the window to let the scents and sounds of his favorite season—summer—wander through. The fresh fragrance of mowed lawn meandered in, as did the sputtering whir sound of the mower that moved over the town green in mostly steady stripes. And the heat that hovered over the eastern seaboard carried hints of holiday excitement and rebellious pride that Beckett was attuned to.

His love of summer and the celebration of freedom, however, were merely a close second and third to his adoration of the woman before him. Woman then season then holiday—he knew his priorities.

In swift commencement to the day, he pushed off the thin blanket, revealing Danielle's gloriously naked body. Then, in late morning ceremony, he trailed kisses down to her toes and back again, waking every inch of her.

"You," she muttered. "Now."

He glanced up at her, taking in the slim slit of blue that gazed at him from beneath her lowered lashes. "My two favorite words," he said, then watched those lips that he craved curve slightly upward.

Then, as he slid between her legs, entering the warm heat that enticed him, he watched her lips part as her breath caught.

It never failed to delight him to see pleasure fill Danielle's face. She was practical, organized, a person who dotted I's and crossed T's. Never had he imagined she would let go so readily, open so freely.

It intrigued him. She intrigued him. And in all his twenty four years, he'd never been intrigued by one person for so long, in one span of time.

Her body arched then bowed, maneuvering to feel, then her legs wrapped around him, holding him closer, pulling him in.

He gave in to her demand, leaned into her hold, then in a quick move, scooted their paired bodies down away from the headboard. They needed more room to play and explore.

Beckett lifted her legs straight up in the air as he kneeled on the bed. Without losing connection, he thanked the yoga Gods for her pliancy and thrust into her, angling into the smooth, silky heat.

His body throbbed hard, anticipating, with every move.

He'd never been with someone so regularly that he knew their sounds, the feel of their body, the softness, the curves, so readily. Never had he thought such a simple knowing would satisfy him. But it did, he thought through the hot red haze. It satisfied in spades.

He loved knowing that he could explore Danielle, that she could explore him, and that every angle, every position would be fun simply because it was with her.

With one hand, he held her feet that were near his face, and with the other hand he gripped her hips, easily moving her body against his, dipping into her. A coordinated clash and connection of flesh and heat, hard and soft. Watching as her body parted for him with each plunge into her, his mind blurred over and he adjusted the angle again, feeling tight desperation take over.

"Oh God," she breathed out.

Moving harder, faster, he watched her face tense, felt her body tighten, her breath hitch and hold. Then, in a hot, golden release, she pulsed around him as he slid in once more, then again, then surrendered right along with her.

Her legs parted so that he would fall forward, his chest resting on hers, their bodies connected and pulsing wildly.

They had no strings between them, made no promises—except the one he'd made to her months ago about being honest with her—and he'd surprised himself by enjoying the routine of life with her.

Not that he'd made use of that lack of strings. Oddly, no one interesting enough had crossed his path since springtime. Instead he'd spent his evenings working with Danielle at his family-owned pub, then later spent the night chatting, laughing, and having loads of sex with her—fun sex, adventurous sex, dramatic sex, sweet sex, sweaty sex. They played in all ways and he loved each and every way with her.

The surprise hadn't been his enjoyment of the routine, the surprise had been in desiring its varied yet familiar flavors each and every day. Looking forward to it. Anticipating it. They'd each fallen into the rhythms of the other without fuss—it had all happened easily.

And he liked easy. Tricky, sticky, and tangled never made a shred of sense to him.

He'd even splurged and given her a pair of sapphire earrings—manmade and fairly miniscule, but earrings nonetheless—as a graduation gift from Yale School of Management. He'd never given jewelry to a woman in his life—unless one were to count the gum wrapper necklace he'd made for his sister. And just as he'd been a happy little camper seeing Abigail wear that gum wrapper necklace, something in him strengthened whenever Danielle wore those tiny twin gemstones at her ears. Some rod of light shined brighter within him, making him walk taller, stand more proudly.

Even still, there'd been no need for promises, no need to set expectations. According to Beckett, it was summer, which meant a season of unencumbered fun. He just happened to have an intensely sexy woman to have unencumbered fun with.

"Excited to spend the night in a castle tonight?" he asked propping up on his elbows, resting his chin on her chest, hearing the strong beat of her heart soften back into its normal rhythm.

"Should be fun. I can't believe Kara's brother lives in a castle. A real castle."

"Ben said when they got up there last night, it was all he could do to not jump up and down with excitement when he got a tour of the dungeon."

"Funny, Ben doesn't strike me as someone who would jump up and down with excitement."

"It's possible I'm projecting my own impetuosity."

She let out a throaty laugh. "You've been using the word-of-the-day calendar I got you for the kitchen."

"You're making me smart. SMRT." He grinned a wide, wicked smile.

Danielle's phone buzzed in her bag, vibrating through the leather against the wood floor.

"You should get that," he told her, rolling off to the side. "It's the second time it's done that."

She started to get up but he dove back down and tackled her, laying sloppy kisses on her face, making her laugh again.

"You get the phone," he said, finally letting her up, "and I'll get coffee."

She reached for her clothes, slipped into whatever was near. "Tell Gennie hi."

Life, he thought as he tugged on a pair of jeans and a rumpled gray T-shirt, was pretty damn close to perfect.   

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