CHAPTER 26

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My phone's shrill alarm blared in my ear, yanking me from a deep sleep. Two hours must have passed. I reached over Tom and silenced the annoying noise. I propped my head up with my hand and dug my elbow into the mattress beside him, and rested my other hand on his chest.

His skin was smooth, and the valley between his toned pecs deep. I'd taken his shirt off since it was coated with soot and ash. I craned my neck and looked to Briana's bed. A candle flickered from her nightstand, casting a dancing shadow over her frail features. She looked to be in a deep sleep as her breathing was steady.

Back to Tom, I raised my hand to his face and leaned my mouth close to his ear. "Tom?"

His breathing hitched.

"Wake up."

He sucked in a sharp breath, and the muscle along his jaw tightened. I brushed my lips against his stubble-dusted cheek. He turned toward me.

"Wake up, Melace," I said.

A rumble vibrated his throat.

"I'm supposed to wake you every two hours." I grazed my hand over his chest then hugged myself closer to his body, bathing in his warmth. "You awake?"

"Yep." His lips grazed on my neck.

"How's your headache? Feel sick?"

"Better. Nope." His hot breath fanned my neck.

"Who's the president?"

Another rumble.

"What's five times four?"

Teeth scraped against my earlobe, sending a shiver down my spine. I didn't want to hurt him, but his kisses felt really good.

I'm feeling much better.

I leaned into him, and he brought his hand to my face. Pulling me closer, he covered my mouth with his. My heart slammed against my chest as my body warmed from the inside out. I really had to work to hold in a moan, but I didn't want to wake Briana.

Tom worked my shirt up enough to grip my waist. His hands sizzled like fire against my flesh. I worked my hand into his hair, and he slid my body on top of his. A little gasp escaped from my mouth, and I froze hoping Briana hadn't woken up.

She's still sleeping.

I planted my elbows into the mattress, one on each side of his head. I rested my fingers on his forehead and stared into his eyes. The dim light from Briana's candle didn't allow me to see much of his face. My breath came in quick gasps, matching his.

"Are you sure you're okay? You took a good knock to the head, you know?"

His strong hands glided down my spine and rested on my rear. That elicited a delicious shiver through my insides. I combed my fingers through his silky hair, then took his mouth with mine.

I'd only known him two months, but my soul felt as if it had never not known him. Like he was a childhood friend turned high school sweetheart, then college lover. I'd been with TLC longer than anyone, survived all the attacks, and led the team through tough times. At this moment, it felt as if it was all in preparation for Tom. For Melace.

I drew in a deep breath through my nose while still attached to his lips. His scent fused with mine. His hands gripped my waist and gooseflesh covered my bare arms. I had to pull away and take a breath. My heart hammered my chest like I stood on a cliff and looked over the edge-but only blackness was below.

And I liked that feeling.

"Red." Tom's lips brushed against my neck, just behind the ear. The intensity of his emotions rolling over me fueled my desire for him. "Briana's waking up."

I knew that meant I should stop, but I wasn't sure I could. Despite all the junk happening around us with the team being attacked, I shouldn't be thinking about sex. And especially when my roommate was just across the room, sleeping.

But the fact was-I didn't want to stop.

"Someday we won't have to," Tom said.

"Really?" I said with a gasp. I relaxed my body against his, my heart thudding like a drum. His chest heaved with each breath he took.

He nodded and pulled my face to his for one last sweet, gentle kiss. I nestled beside him and focused on calming my throbbing heart. The promise of being with him sparked another tingle throughout my body. But it held me at bay, knowing bigger and better things were to come with him.

Tom and I would be together soon. For some reason, it just felt right.

And more than it feeling right, I wanted him. He was a kind, honorable man who'd treated me with nothing but respect. And I craved that. Craved him.

I reached over him for my phone and glanced at the face. Nearly four a.m. and no call from Smith or any of the other TLC agents.

"You're worried about the rest of the team," Tom whispered.

I nodded. "No check in yet."

"Three attacks at the same time. And they came here, to your dorm."

"And you got hurt." I kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry."

"But you protected me, Patronus."

"I'll always keep you safe. With my life."

"Want to put that to the test?"

I raised an eyebrow at him.

"Let's go out there and see what's happening."

"Smith said to stay in until we hear from him."

"I'm not meant to hide. Neither are you." He ran his hands through my hair and pulled my face to his. His warm mouth covered mine. "No check-in, three simultaneous attacks. I think we need to check it out."

"Briana?"

"We could probably use all the help we can get." He turned his head and arched his eyebrow. "She's almost completely awake."

He pulled me close for one last kiss, then I rolled off him. "You sure you feel well enough to be up and around."

"Yep." He sat up. "Let's go show these things what a Melace and his Patronus can do."

***AUTHOR NOTE***

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***AUTHOR NOTE***

Thanks for reading this installment. Things are heating up for Tom and Dakota!

Well, I'm off to Boston tomorrow. The Boston Marathon is Monday April 16th, 2018. I can't believe it's here. I'll be able to get the next chapter up while I'm there, so no worries, but be thinking of me around 11am Eastern Time ... I'll be pounding the pavement (possibly in SNOW!)

Thanks again for all your support! You guys are rockstars! ~Lynn

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