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Trick figured the front seat of her car was as good a place as any to fuck. God knew they'd done their fair share of backseat humping when he'd spent that better-left-forgotten summer at West End so long ago. He wondered if he didn't bother to take Layla into the house now because he was too old, too drunk or too uninspired.
When he heard her loud, porn-star moaning he guessed it was the latter. That and the fact that the mere thought of waking up with her in his bed started a bitch of a headache to flare behind his eyes.
"You always did know how to flip me to the go position with just a wink and a smile," Layla purred as she raised her head from his lap.
"You've been perpetually in the go position since you turned thirteen."
"Just as cocky as I remember." She fisted his saliva-slick penis suggestively.
He was glad she didn't make a fuss when he encouraged her to turn in his lap. He didn't particularly want to look her in the face in the next few minutes. Knowing what a jerk that made him hardly helped in sustaining his arousal.
She leaned on the steering wheel, craning her chin over her shoulder when she heard the sound of paper ripping. "You never needed one of those before!"
"What do you think I am, stupid? Do you want to do this or not?" he asked flatly.
She licked away her snarl with a slide of her quick tongue. Layla had learned quite a few new maneuvers with that mouth in the past thirteen years, he acknowledged. If he didn't know for a fact that she practiced them on every dick in Trenton County that passed muster, he'd think her husband was one lucky son-of-a-bitch.
She conceded defeat with a pout and watched himroll the condom over his turgid cock. "Maybe you're right. You're the one who was traveling for so many years with that oil company in all those dirty, uncivilized countries in the Middle East and Asia. I guess a girl never can be too safe."
Trick's lips tilted with humor as he lifted her skirt to her waist. Earlier that evening Layla had strutted into the raunchiest tavern in the county with one clear intent in her eyes. He wasn't surprised when she chose to snuggle up to him, but had broken out in unbridled laughter when she reported that she'd just come from a meeting of the Everly School Board. He'd only laughed harder when she took him to her car in the Trading Post parking lot and found she wasn't wearing anything but a garter and stockings beneath her tight lavender suit.
Vice president of the school board, indeed.
"Maybe nobody's told you yet, honey, but you can get the same diseases from picking up one-night stands at the Trading Post as you can in those supposedly dirty, uncivilized countries."
"Trick, you know exactly what I meant," she whined. "And is that what you think? That I was at the Trading Post tonight just to pick up a man for the night?"
That was exactly what he thought but he wasn't stupid enough to say so when the bourbon ran thin in his blood and he was starting to recall all too vividly why he'd carefully avoided Layla Edwards.
"What I think is that all your hard work is going to go waste if you don't get your ass down on this."
"Well, we can't have that, can we?" she asked huskily.
He grasped her naked hip and slid her down onto his waiting cock.
Although he was sufficiently aroused, a lassitude overcame him as she begun to buck over his length with almost mechanical strength and precision. He watched her with a detached fascination.
"That's right, Layla. Hold on to that steering wheel and take me for a nice ride," he muttered thickly.
He doubted she even heard him through all her shrieks and almost nonstop dirty talk. He did his best to shut out her dramatics so that he could finish what he already regretted starting in the first place.
Grace Jamison's hands were damp as she slid on a pair of sandals and silently opened the screen door of Widow's Cottage. Evan had never really been clear if it was his grandmother, great-grandmother, or both who had been the original widow for which the small house on West End property had been named.
One thing was certain--the name had become apt again nearly four hours ago, when Grace and her son Randy had arrived.
She'd been prickly with anticipation the entire time, both eager for and dreading the upcoming confrontation with the owner of West End. Grace had every right to be there. The Widow's Cottage was indisputably hers. That didn't stop her from slinking around the house like a fugitive when they'd first arrived, not even turning on a light until Randy complained that he couldn't see the outlet to plug in his computer in his new room.
"Why are you so jumpy, Mom?" Randy had asked with exasperation after he flipped on the light in his bedroom and she practically leapt out of her own skin.
"Just nerves, I guess," Grace replied with a strained smile. "The move today, starting a new job, new house--"
Randy grimaced as he ran his hand over the old, sturdy wooden desk where he'd set his computer. "Not exactly a new house," he interrupted, his lip curling up on one side as he examined his dust-coated fingers. "I'm surprised this place even has electricity."
Grace studied her son's profile. For the past several months, it was as though she was watching him vacillate between childhood and puberty. Right at the moment he could have posed for a photo illustration of the sullen teenager years.
The past year had been hard on him. Her brother Kenny had died only three months ago. Gran had preceded him by only a year. Randy hardly spoke of either event, although the deaths of two out of three of the most important people in his life had changed him indelibly.
And now she'd brought him to Everly.
He'd left behind friends, his summer baseball team, his little league football team, and a familiar school where he was well-liked and excelled in his classes.
God, please let her have made the correct decision. Her conscience told her it was the right thing to do, that she really had no other choice. But she would forever regret if Everly was as much of a nightmare for Randy as it had once been for her.
Randy had been asleep now for a little over an hour, enough time for Grace to confirm her suspicions that West End, the stables, and the backyard and terrace appeared to be empty. They hadn't pulled into the long drive that led to the sprawling, handsome farmhouse until after eight that evening. From what she recalled about living at West End, things were bustling before sunrise, but slowed to a desiccated slug's pace by the time the relentless summer sun and the humidity finally became unbearable by five o'clock in the afternoon. Not a farmhand had been in sight as they unpacked the near-to-bursting van.
Certainly the unmistakable owner of the enormous farm had been nowhere in evidence.
Until now, anyway.
Grace noticed the car's headlights when she went to the kitchen for a drink of water. The motion-sensitive outdoor lights switched on. She ran back into the living room and flipped off the television, the only source of light coming from inside the house at the moment. It was a stupid thing to do and she knew it. But that didn't make her turn on the light in the kitchen as she peered through the window at the arriving car.
No reason for lights, anyway. Trick had made it clear that he couldn't stand the sight of her. She smiled grimly when she heard Gran's voice echoing in her head.
Got a swarm of jitterbugs in yer belly, haven't ya, Gracie?
The car remained stationary in a central courtyard, a circular turnabout that connected West End to a tree-lined lane that led first to the stables then to a network of warehouses, barns and silos to the east. The headlights shut off.
Seconds passed, a minute, then several, but the tall, unmistakable form of the man she expected to see never alighted from the car. She waited in breathless tension for what seemed like an excruciatingly long period of time--but in reality was likely only ten minutes--before she slipped on her sandals and walked out the screen door.
After Layla had thrashed out her second orgasm with the help of his finger on her clit, Trick finally took matters into his own hands. Literally. He gripped her ass and hips and flexed his arms demandingly, pounding into her with the strength of an inverted pile driver.
She gave a surprised, helpless yelp each time their flesh smacked together, all dramatics long forgotten. When he convulsed inside her the sensation tipped her over another orgasmic cliff. Her mouth hung open slackly as she whimpered in sexual release yet again.
The only sound Trick made as he came was a low grunt when all the sexual tension finally left his muscles.
"God, that was good, baby, but it's so hot in here," Layla muttered between jagged pants as she leaned her upper body weight over the steering wheel a few moments later.
Without a word, Trick reached around her, flipped the ignition and lowered the automatic window of her car to let in a breeze. The dashboard and headlights blazed on.
Trick had the surreal experience of suddenly staring into a pale, dazed face and a pair of huge eyes he remembered all too well, although he would've paid a premium not to.
For a stunned eternal second, their gazes held, blue piercing into dove gray.
He gave a harsh bark of disbelieving laughter. "Welcome to the fuck-fest, Mom. Guess there's no need to tell you the rules, is there?"
Grace fought off the paralysis of shock and managed to get a message to her leaden feet to move. She was inside the Widow's Cottage locking the front door behind her before she recognized the face of the stunned brunette who was currently skewered to Trick Burnett's lap.
Her heart thundered in her chest so erratically that it alarmed her. She made her way to the threadbare couch in the living room and collapsed. She heard the car peel out of the drive, then the sound of Trick's forceful tread scattering gravel as it neared. The screen door swung open. He knocked three times, the succinct raps somehow ominous in their implication of his barely restrained fury.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Trick demanded when she opened the door.
Grace despised herself for being so nervous she couldn't find her voice. He was an immense shadow against the dimly moonlit night sky. His size and the sheer vibrancy of his body reminded Grace of why he was called 'Trick.' Her former husband Evan used to sarcastically give his opinion on the origins of the nickname on a regular basis, but Grace knew the real reason behind the name.
Evan Burnett's son had been a six foot four and a half inch, two hundred and fifteen pound force to be reckoned with during his high school and college football career. It was his incredible quickness that had made him such an outstanding defensive tackle on the gridiron. His lightness in comparison to other players in that position, his speed, and his agile moves had taken many a quarterback by unpleasant surprise.
Of course there were those who said that the only son of Evan and Myra Burnett had earned his nickname long before that as a regular instigator of pranks. The perpetual gleam of mischief in his blue eyes made him the obvious choice for the guilty party even on those rare occasions when he was actually innocent.
"Would you mind keeping your voice down? Randy is sleeping." She was surprised how calm she sounded. It felt as if her heart would burst out of her ribcage at any moment. She'd semi-prepared herself for this meeting but what she'd just seen out in that car had effectively crushed any trace of equanimity she'd possessed.
"He's here, too?" Trick barked.
"Yes. And as I said, he's sleeping. If you could--"
Before she could finish she felt his grip on her elbow and she was hauled out onto the small front porch. Trick reached behind her and shut the front door. Grace had to force herself not to back away in panic when he leaned over her.
"You've got exactly ten seconds to tell me what the hell you're doing on my property before I call the police," he said in low, threatening tone.
"Did you forget that Evan left the Widow's Cottage to me?"
"I didn't forget. I've lost track of how many times I've offered to buy it from you. Is that what this is all about? Are you here to blackmail me into offering you ten times the amount for the cottage? Wasn't the quote for four times more than its worth enough for you?" he spat viciously.
Grace inhaled slowly in an attempt to calm herself, but it was impossible to not be affected by Trick. His fury seemed to roll off his big body in palpable waves of heat.
"You never offered it," she said.
Trick blinked, clearly put off by her response. He strained his eyes in the shadows to make her out more clearly. She stood completely still, refusing to cringe although she was tempted. At one time the difference in their size and strength had thrilled her, making her hyperaware of her femininity compared to his raw masculine power. The top of her head only struck him just above his nipple line but she held her ground. Her neck craned back to meet his stare. Although they were in near pitch blackness, their faces were only inches apart.
"What do you mean I never offered it?" Trick scoffed.
"I mean that you never did personally."
"I had Grayson send letters, same difference. What's your point? Did you want to see me in person?" He leaned down further. "Always regret there was one dick left in Everly you couldn't sucker into my father's bed?"
The anger that rose in her in the tense seconds that followed was so potent she clearly pictured raking that smug face with her fingernails and drawing blood. Hurt warred with fury to be judged so unfairly ... to be judged so unfairly by him.
But inevitably another picture of him rose in her memory: droplets of water clinging to his cheeks and dark eyelashes, the economical, rapid movements of his hands, the look of sharp concern in his blue eyes.
The image quenched the flame of her fury until there was nothing left but the telltale signs of adrenaline surging through her blood like lingering smoke. She took a deep, uneven breath.
"I don't want to fight with you, Trick, and I'm not here to force you into a larger offer on the Widow's Cottage. I don't plan on selling it. Randy and I are going to live in it."
"Like hell you will."
"Like hell we will," she countered in a tone that was just as quietly confident as his had been sarcastic.
He gave a bark of disbelieving laughter. "You plan on bringing up an innocent kid in a town where you're known as a murderess and a whore?"
"I never killed anyone and you know it, Trick."
"Same as," he muttered darkly.
She jumped in alarm when she felt his hand on the side of her neck.
"What are you up to?" he grated out through clenched teeth. "Just get it out in the open. What do you want from me?"
"I'm not ready to tell you yet."
For the second time that night her answer seemed to catch him off-guard. His nostrils flared and fury gleamed in his eyes.
"Not up to talking right now, is that it?" he asked in a misleadingly calm, low voice. "Knowing your ways, you're probably a lot more ready for this."
Her gasp of shock was stifled when his mouth covered hers. She instinctively twisted her jaw to escape him but her chin encountered his large, strong hands in both directions. He crushed her lips painfully against her teeth. When she tried to cry out in protest he slid his tongue into her mouth. Tears squeezed past her clenched eyelids as he began to thrust and sweep his tongue everywhere--against her teeth, far into her depths, along her lips--in a manner meant to humiliate as much as to thoroughly dominate.
Grace pushed against his shoulders and chest wildly but she might as well have been fighting a mountain. In a moment of blind desperation she formed a fist and pounded it against his ribs and hard stomach. He responded by snaking one hand up along her scalp and pinning her in place for his pillaging tongue, gripping her hair between his fingers, and encircling her wrist with his freed hand.
Trick barely registered her surprised grunt when he backed her against the wall of the cottage and forced her captive hand up to rest next to her ear. With her head more upright and their disparate heights it became a difficult angle for him to maintain the pressure of his marauding kiss. He suddenly wanted ... no, needed to drown himself in her taste.
With a sound of impatience he grabbed her beneath her armpits and lifted her slight weight onto his bent knee and thigh. A low growl of savage satisfaction vibrated his throat as he plunged his tongue again unrestrainedly into her honeyed depths. He promptly forgot his original intent to humiliate her as animal lust pounded through his veins.
Grace wasn't sure at what point she stopped fighting him. She just knew by the time he flexed the hands beneath her arms into the sides of her breasts she was already growing torpid as heat swept from beneath his mouth and fingers down her belly and pooled like a liquid ache at her sex. He pressed his hips into her at a slightly upward angle. She resisted the pressure, grinding her pelvis into his.
He felt hot, hard, elementally male ... like an irresistible force of nature.
Trick's lips began to mold and sip when formerly they had crushed and bruised. His tongue sought and caressed when before it had dominated and plundered. His palms shaped themselves languorously around firm, thrusting, succulent breasts.
He paused when he registered her soft cry. Instead of hosing down his violent lust with the equivalent of ice water like such a plaintive cry logically should have, it conversely inflamed him further. The realization acted like an alarm jolting into his awareness.
A groan roughened by anger and lust vibrated deep in his chest as he tore his mouth from hers.
For a few suspended seconds their escalated breaths mingled.
"It doesn't take much to turn you into a bitch in heat, does it?"
She inhaled unevenly, instinctively pushing down the sharp pain that pierced her with his words. What could she say? He wasn't half wrong. How could she have allowed herself to respond so wholeheartedly to him when his only intent had been to punish and subjugate her to his will?
Trick pushed himself away from her as if he'd just woken from a jaunt of sleepwalking and found himself French-kissing a cobra.
"I'm calling Grayson first thing in the morning. Don't bother unpacking your bags. You're going to be out of here by noon tomorrow. There isn't a court in the country that would force me to live on the same property with my father's murderer."
Grace struggled to regain her former composure despite the anxiety his threat caused. "That would be a great speech if it was true. But it's not. Your father's murderer is locked up in Bloomington Correctional Facility."
"Still pining for him? Does old Len get conjugal visits up there in the pen? From the way you were sucking on my tongue just now, I'd guess they're nowhere near sufficient for cooling your blood. But then again, everyone in Trenton County knows just one man never could keep you satisfied."
Grace hunched over, instinctively guarding her spiritual wounds as she stepped away from the wall. Weariness assailed her. "Not that I think you were asking for any other reason than to insult me, but I have seen Leonard several times over the years. He deeply regrets what he did to your father, not that it can ever be excused."
Trick's lip curled in renewed fury. "Yeah? Amazing, isn't it? How much regret can be inspired in a little weasel like Len Mallet when he's surrounded day in and day out by four concrete walls and nothing but three hundred pound sociopaths who probably think he's as pretty and as fun to play with as you do?"
A tense silence followed his blistering comment.
Eventually Grace spoke. "I've talked with my lawyer, Trick. I have every right to be here. I own the Widow's Cottage."
"You don't own the rest of the property though," he said coldly. "How are you going to get to the cottage? Where are you going to park? Where are you going to put your garbage? Where's the kid going to play?"
"How can you be so cruel? Randy's your own brother. He's a child. He doesn't deserve even a hint of your contempt!"
"Maybe you should've thought of that before you dragged him into this self-serving scheme of yours. You're fucking with the wrong man. So why don't you just hightail it back to whatever trailer park you and your kin call home these days," Trick said with icy finality before he turned and left her standing alone on the Widow's Cottage front porch.