Don't Look Down Read online

  It didn't help. By the time Susanna started the next song, singing, "There were chills up my spine," Lucy was lost. I want that, she thought. I want to look at somebody and feel that. I want to touch somebody and feel that. Susanna sang on, smoothing out the refrain again, and Lucy thought, Not somebody. Him. She'd been focusing on Daisy, on Pepper, on the movie, but underneath all of it, he'd hummed in her blood, making her breathe faster when he was close, making her look for him when he wasn't.

  Lust, she told herself. Perfectly understandable. Perfectly healthy.

  And really a good deal for J.T., too, and not just for the sex. He was so reserved, it was probably hard for him to connect with people- real connection, not Althea connection. I could give him real warmth. I could rescue him… She let herself fantasize his mouth hard on hers, hot on her body, and everything faded away as the heat spread until Susanna finished her last slow verse. Then Lucy thought, Enough waiting. Nothing wrong with going after a good healthy boink with a good healthy guy after a very tough day. Get rid of some tension, share some warmth.

  Make love with J.T. until her brain melted.

  Okay, I want him, she thought, relieved to acknowledge it.

  And I want him now.

  Then she put down her scotch, turned off the iPod, found her flashlight, and went out into the woods to get him.

  Chapter 14

  The thing about the woods at night, Lucy thought as she walked along the side of the road, was that it was dark. Really dark with the trees branching over the road, shutting out the moon, dark enough that the miniflashlight from her purse was fairly ridiculous. Gator dark, one might say. Sufferin' Sappho, it's dark. She thought about going back and then thought, No, and kept going, shining her flash on the ground ahead. She was not going to spend another night trying not to think about what she wanted when she could have him.

  She was pretty sure she could have him.

  She tripped over something in the grass and played the flash over it, remembering how J.T. had tracked down Pepper, fire ruts, the dirt freshly cut. Had to be J.T. and his big-wheeled Jeep. She followed the ruts with her flash but they disappeared into the trees along what could barely be called a road, more an afterthought at the end of one. The woods got really dark, darkest where the ruts went, and she thought, It didn't used to be this hard to get a guy to sleep with me, and followed them in.

  As soon as the real road disappeared behind her, she lost her sense of direction and stuck with the ruts as her only hope, not only of finding J.T. but of ever getting out again. And when she found the Jeep and he wasn't in it, she had a moment of panic. Going on would be suicidally stupid, staying here would be unbearably frustrating, going back would be worse than the other two combined.

  "J.T.?" she called into the darkness and waited a moment. Nothing. Oh, come on, she thought. How far into the woods could he have gone? "J.T.?" she called again, louder this time, and then jumped when he said from behind her, "You know, it was nice and quiet here until you showed up."

  She turned around and played the flashlight in his face for a second before he took it out of her hand and shut it off. She stepped closer. "You know, you're damn hard to find."

  "That was the point. It's easier to be alone if you're damn hard to find."

  Lucy stepped still closer and he didn't back up. "Yeah, but you didn't want to be alone," she said, praying that was true, and then she leaned in and kissed him, almost missing his mouth in the dark until he corrected for her and kissed her back, his mouth hard on hers, his hand cupping the back of her head. He tasted right, hot and sweet, and she gave in to the kiss, letting it flood her. And when he pulled back, she was dizzy from him, clutching him as she sucked in air, trying to get her breath back.

  "Okay," he said, sounding as breathless as she was. "The way back to the road-"

  "You have got to be kidding me," Lucy said, and he said, "Right," and kissed her again and made her blood pound, and then he pulled her away from the Jeep, a little deeper into the woods, as her heart raced.

  The light was better in the small clearing they came to but she still stumbled over the foot-high ring that surrounded the clearing.

  "What's that?"

  "Shell ring."


  "A spiritual place. Very old and sacred."

  Sacred, she thought, and wondered if she'd go to hell for thinking what she was thinking in a sacred place. But those old earth goddesses had thought that way, too. She'd seen the carvings. "Works for me," she said, and then she saw that the only thing in the circle was a thin mattress with some kind of camouflage cloth tossed over it. "This is it? Where's your tent, your sleeping bag, your Coleman lantern? Where's the S'mores, for Christ's sake?"


  Lucy shook her head. Obviously he'd never been a Girl Scout. She'd just have to settle for him being a Green Beret.

  On the other hand, she was about to get someone to hold in the forest at night. Us Amazonians, she thought, and started to laugh.

  "The way back is over…" he began, and she pulled her shirt off over her head and tossed it to him, flashing her WonderWear at him.

  He caught it and shut up.

  She hopped on one leg to pull off her boot, thinking, This can't be seductive, and then dropped it and pulled off the other, while he stood there watching her with that unfathomable look on his face. Then she unzipped her jeans and shoved them off. "This would be working on you better if there were more light," she said and tossed them to him.

  He caught them with his free hand. "It's working." But he reached into a pocket and pulled out a small, green glowing stick, which he hung on a palmetto frond. "Did you bring the rope?"

  "Just me," she said and stripped off the red Wonder Woman camisole and tossed it to him, too. "I'm not seeing much enthusiasm," she said as she shoved off the blue-starred bottoms, and he caught those, too, and then she stopped, not ready to take off her underwear and be naked for him, not yet.

  He dropped the bundle of her clothes he'd been holding and stepped over it to get to her, catching her arms when she tried to put them around him.

  "There," he said, and gently pushed her toward the ground cloth.

  "Romantic," she said, and knelt down on it, trying to figure out what the hell it was in the dim light. It was definitely camouflage, but that was pretty much J.'T.'s signature color. He probably had the matching china. When she looked up, he was gone, and she felt a moment of panic again. "J.T.?"

  "In a minute," he said from the shadows outside the dim glow of the stick, and from his outline it looked like he was stripping off his shirt. Modest, she thought. Well, okay. At least they were getting someplace.

  She went back to exploring the bed situation. Just some kind of pad with the camouflage cloth over it and that was it. You couldn't fall for a millionaire with a Swedish mattress, she told herself as she crawled under the thin cover. You had to want Nature Boy. She heard something rip in the shadows that sounded like Velcro-Velcro?-and then a zipper, and then something snap like spandex, and she thought, I really don't want to know, and tried to settle in on the quarter inch of whatever it was underneath her. "You know-" she said, and then he was beside her, under the cover, and she shut up.

  His body was long and hard against her as he pulled her close, his muscles tight from use, and she shivered a little because it was him, for real, not a fantasy, playing her fingers over his chest, smiling in the dark when he sucked in his breath. "You know," she began again, and he kissed her and she forgot what she was about to say as she lost herself in the weight and the heat of him. The simmer in her blood flared as she wrapped herself around him and felt hard muscle press into soft flesh. This is good, she thought, feeling a little dizzy, while he unfastened her bra and slid the straps off her shoulders, as efficient with that as he was with everything else. Good, clean, American outdoor sex. Yep. She pulled away to help him, feeling her breasts fall free, already tight and swollen for him so that when he touched her, she leaned into his hand