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Bridal Boot Camp: Chapter 4

“What are you doing all the way out here?” he asked.

“Uh.” Long experience had taught me that when in doubt, it was best to go on the defensive. “What are you doing all the way out here? Don’t you have a class to teach?”

“The guys said they saw you leave.” He didn’t stop walking until there was only a foot or so of space between us. Chrissie trotted all the way to the end of the pier and stood looking out to sea, sniffing the salty air, her brown-eyed gaze on the tarpons, her fur blowing gently in the breeze, her pink tongue lolling. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just got—I got a little—”

And then, to my utter mortification, and before I could stop them, the tears came, accompanied by big, ridiculous baby sobs. I was standing at the end of the pier, crying, like an idiot. Or a rom-com character.

I’d never been more mortified in my life.

Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Martinez put both hands on my shoulders and pulled me toward him.

“Hey,” he said, shushing me. “Hey, hey, hey. It’s okay. It’s all good. What’s wrong? What’s the matter? Did someone hurt you?”

“No,” I cried, halfway between a laugh and a sob. “No one hurt me. It’s just . . . it’s just that I hate that stupid song!”

“What song?”

“That stupid rainbow song.”

“Oh, jeez.” He pulled me away from him so he could look down into my weepy face. “I’m sorry. Were we that bad?”

“No,” I said, laughing again, and reaching up to brush away my tears, along with the strands of hair that were now sticking to my face, thanks to the wind and my snot. “I loved your version of it. It’s just that that song—you know it’s not true, right? There’s nowhere over the rainbow. It’s not scientifically possible.”

He hugged me to him, chuckling gently. “Oh, Roberta. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that that’s not what that song is really about? It’s not about a place. It’s about hope . . . having hope that things will get better. That’s what rainbows symbolize. Hope.”

“Oh, please,” I said, fiercely, and pushed him away—fortunately not over the side of the dock, though we both knew I was strong enough to have done so. “Do you even know why I became a trainer, Ryan? Because both my parents—both of them—died of alcoholism before I was twenty. Alcoholism complicated by cancer and diabetes. Neither of them would take care of themselves, no matter what my brothers and I or the doctors said. It was like they didn’t care enough about their own kids to stop their self-destructive behavior before it killed them.”

“That’s really terrible,” Ryan said, his dark eyebrows lowered with distress. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“I had hope,” I insisted. “I had plenty of hope, and it still wasn’t enough.”

“But look at you now,” he said, spreading his hands wide. “You’re taking all that pain you felt and helping so many other people to lead better lives because of it. People like me.”

I eyed him like he was a crazy person. “What? What are you even talking about?”

“Seriously. All those brides—they don’t come to that class because you’re helping them to look good in their wedding dresses, or whatever. They come because you make them feel good. You tell them it’s okay to eat beans. You give them hope.”

I stared at him. “Now you’ve lost it, buddy.”

“It’s true. I get it. That’s why I do the ukulele thing—to try to give kids something positive in their lives, like music, so they can escape from whatever is going on at home for a little while. Some of those kids probably have parents like you had when you were little. It’s important to give them hope that there are other kinds of adults out there—adults who care.”

I shoved at my hair again, since the wind was whipping it into my eyes. At least that’s the excuse I gave myself for why they were watering once more.

“Well,” I said. “That’s cool. I really like that you do that.”

“Thanks. I had kind of crappy parents, too,” he said, grinning a little. “But I was lucky enough to have an uncle who taught me to play. So I thought I’d pass it on the way he passed it on to me.”

“I like that,” I said. And since that felt inadequate, I added, feeling suddenly shy, “And I like you.”

His grin broadened. “I like you, too. So why are you so pissed at me?”

“I’m not pissed at you,” I said. “I’m pissed at myself.”

“What for?”

“For not doing this sooner.”

I reached out and grabbed him by the collar of his guayabera, then pulled him roughly toward me, pressing my mouth against his.

He didn’t resist, though he seemed surprised, cartwheeling his hands through the air for a second or two before finding his balance and planting his fingers on my hips.

Then he pulled me closer, seemingly as eager as I was to get this thing started—whatever it was that was going on between us.

It hadn’t been my imagination. He’d felt it, too.

“Mmmm,” he moaned against my lips, like he’d tasted something he liked—something sweet, or maybe something a little spicy. “Mmmm.”

Then he was parting my lips with his tongue, gently exploring the inside of my mouth, while his hands moved from my hips to the small of my back and upward, pressing me even more firmly against his rock-hard body. He was holding me close enough that I could feel that all of him was rock hard. His erection pressed urgently through the faded cotton of his chinos. It had been a long time since I’d felt anything as good . . .

. . . or so I thought, until one of his hands slid up my rib cage, then beneath the side of my dress to cup one of my breasts through the lace of my bra.

Now it was my turn to moan.

“Are you trying to drive me crazy?” I tore my lips away from his to ask.

The hand stayed where it was, though now he dipped his thumb beneath the lace of my bra to lightly stroke my already highly alert nipple. The action sent shivers of desire slamming through me.

“I was going to ask you the same question,” he said, grinning.

“Woo-hoo!” shouted some smart-aleck kid from a Jet Ski that was passing by. “Get a room, you two!”

I was quick to extend the kid the middle-finger salute in response, but Ryan shoved my arm down.

“Hey, hey,” he said, laughing. “I’m on probation, remember? Let’s not get me into a new altercation with the public. And that kid’s not wrong. I wouldn’t mind getting a room. What do you think?”

I stared up at his handsome face, still feeling the proof of his statement pressed up against me, hard as ever.

I grabbed his hand. “I live on Washington and Roosevelt.” All the streets on Little Bridge Island had the distinction of being named after US presidents. “That’s only two blocks away.”

“Yeah?” he said, grinning down at me delightedly. “Well, I live on Lincoln and Truman. That’s—”

“Much closer,” I interrupted. “Let’s go.”

I won’t lie. It was hard to walk the short distance to his place with the crotch of my panties basically already soaked from how hot I was for him. It had been so long since I’d been this attracted to anyone, I’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

Good. Good was how it felt.

I all but dragged him to his place, Chrissie trotting along ahead of us, sniffing everything in sight.

And not once along the way did I stop to ask myself if I was making the right decision—because not once did it feel like what I was doing might turn out wrong. This was a first for me—well, the first in a long time.

Ryan didn’t seem to mind being dragged, though he frequently pulled me over to press me up against signposts and parked cars to kiss me—long, hot kisses into which he threw his whole body, leaning so heavily against me that I could feel every inch of him, from his pecs to his obliques . . . and of course that rock-hard organ below his waist in which I was most interested, and over which I laid my hand several times, just to make sure it was still there, because I still didn’t believe in happy endings.

This caused him to suck in his breath and whisper, “Cut that out! Are you nuts? Not yet. Do you want to end this before it begins?”

“Are you even wearing underwear?” I asked him at one point when he had me up against someone’s VW Bug.

“You’re gonna find out in a minute,” he said, and nodded at a massive white Victorian house a few feet away. “That’s my place.”

“Wow,” I said, impressed. “Rich and well-endowed?” I pushed him from me. “Let’s go.”

He laughed. “Not there. Here.”

His place was actually around the side of the massive Victorian, and up a flight of outdoor steps, a studio apartment on the second floor overlooking a pool that was gleaming like a blue gemstone in the twilight. His efforts to unlock the door were complicated both by my kissing him and Chrissie’s eager barking. When he finally did get the door open and a light switched on, I saw what Chrissie was so excited about: her food bowl was just inside.

“Hold on,” he said, as Chrissie darted around in circles like a wild thing. “I’ll get your dinner in a second.”

I had the time to see that he was both a minimalist and a good housekeeper—the apartment was spare in its furnishings and tidily kept, with nothing more inside it than a black leather couch, an enormous flat-screen TV with a game console, a kitchen table and chairs, a kayak on the wall (of course), and a massive, neatly made king-size bed between two matching nightstands.

I made a beeline for the bed.

“You don’t mind if I make myself comfortable, do you?” I asked, untying the knot that held together the halter neckline of my sundress.

Ryan looked up from the can of dog food he was opening just as the dress fell to a puddle on his hardwood floor.

“Uh, no,” he said, in a slightly higher-pitched voice than usual. “Totally cool by me. Can I get you a drink?”

“No, thanks,” I said, and kicked off my sandals, then stretched out on his bed in my bra and panties, my hands beneath my head as I admired his exposed ceiling trusses. “I like your landlord’s taste.”

“Thanks.” He’d finished feeding Chrissie—I could hear her dog tags clanging against the side of her food bowl as she greedily chowed down on whatever he’d given her—and now he hurried toward the bed, peeling off his guayabera and tossing it over his head. “I got a real deal on it. Only six hundred a month, but I have to keep an eye on the downstairs when the owners are out of town.”

“Just six hundred? You have to be kidding me.” Real estate prices on the island were exorbitant and mostly all anyone talked about. “I hate you.”

I giggled as he leaped on top of me, then broke the weight of his body by doing a push-up over me. “Show-off. It pays to be in law enforcement, I guess.”

“It does,” he said, then lowered himself gently down until his full weight lay over me—and his lips were against mine. “In more ways than one.”

It had been months since I’d felt a man’s weight on me, but it seemed as if it had been years. And I wanted more. I reached between us to undo the waistband of his chinos.

Just as I’d suspected.

“No underwear,” I said, pretending to be offended as his lips moved from my mouth to my throat. “Heathen.”

“Don’t judge me.” His lips traveled farther down, toward the lacy trim of my bra. “I haven’t had time to do laundry.”

“Men,” I muttered in mock disgust just as he lowered his hot mouth over one of my nipples. “You’re all the—”

I don’t know what I was going to say next, because all sanity left me as his other hand dipped between my legs.

“How’s this?” he asked, as his fingers slipped beneath the silk of my panties and found my hot liquid center with an expertise that left me breathless.

“That’s . . . really . . . good,” I panted, my heart feeling as if it were going to explode out of my chest. “You’ve . . . had some practice.”

“Yeah.” He bent his dark head over my other nipple, teasing it to ready alertness as he deftly peeled off my underwear. “I moved down here with a girlfriend, but we broke up a couple of months ago.”

“What a coincidence,” I said from between gritted teeth. “The same thing happened to me and my boyfriend. Maybe you and I could, I don’t know, find a way to console one another.”

He grinned and reached into the drawer of the closest nightstand, pulling out a condom. “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.”

I plucked the condom from his hand. “Allow me,” I said, and, before he realized what was happening, I’d slid out from beneath him and was straddling him.

He lay beneath me looking adorably confused. “How did you—?”

“Core,” I said, running a finger along his darkly furred six-pack. “You’ve got the definition—” He inhaled sharply as I settled the condom over the tip of his penis. “But like I said, you could use work on your core.”

Then, with exquisite slowness, I began rolling the condom down. His hazel eyes glowed green in the light from the single lamp he’d turned on.

“Is this some kind of test,” he asked in a choked voice, “to see how long I can keep my cool?”

I grinned. “No. But I like that idea. It’s kind of kinky.”

“Oh, great.” He rolled his head back against the pillow with a groan. “You’re into kink. I should have known.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked, catching my breath as I slowly lowered myself onto him. He was bigger than I’d anticipated, and it had been a while. “You don’t like kink?”

“I’m here to serve and protect.” He gasped as I sank lower and lower onto him, sliding him inch by magnificent inch into me. “Do you know how many couples I’ve had to rescue from their own handcuffs because they lost the keys since those Fifty Shades movies came out?”

“Do you ever shut up?” I asked, a little breathlessly.

“Oh, I can shut up,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with my core.”

And he proved it by flipping me over and pinning me to the bed with the masculine weight of his body, then thrusting deeply into me.I sucked in my breath, my body arched against his in ecstasy as I dug my nails into the hot, muscular flesh of his back, worried I was going to come too soon, it had been so long since I’d had sex with anyone but myself.

But not in my wildest fantasies could I have imagined the sweet guy from my bridal boot camp class pummeling me in this way. I felt as if I were the sea, and he was a deep-sea diver. I didn’t even know what was happening, just that I loved it and wanted more, lifting my hips to meet each thrust, praying it wouldn’t be over too soon . . .

And then suddenly it was, because I was the one exploding, my whole body spasming as a seismic orgasm rolled over me. The deep-sea diver had found my sweet spot, and swept my entire body into wave after wave of glittering, shuddering satisfaction that I felt from the top of my scalp to the soles of my feet. I clung to him, trying to stay afloat in a sea of pleasure, even as I felt him come to a shuddering climax of his own.

But it was no good. I was done, and a few moments later lay beneath him as limp and as spent as a piece of seaweed washed up onto the shore, glistening with sweat and trying to catch my breath.

It took me a while to figure out he was in the same condition on top of me.

“Well,” I said, patting him on the back. “That was nice.”

“Yeah?” he asked. His dark hair was in damp tangles around his face. “You liked that?”

“I’ve had worse,” I joked with a shrug. I’m pretty sure he could tell by my ear-to-ear grin that I was being sarcastic.

“Yeah,” he said, trying to hide his own grin as he rolled from me, exhibiting an abdominal core that was, under my tutelage, only getting stronger. “You want some water or something? I’m parched.”

“Water would be great.”

He rose from the bed and strode, bare-assed, to the kitchen area. I stayed where I was, admiring the view. His tan lines were something to see. He obviously used that kayak, and used it without a shirt. It was only as he was pouring us two glasses of water from a filtered pitcher he’d pulled from the fridge that I turned my head, having felt something warm coming from my right side, and saw that Chrissie was sitting next to the bed, panting and staring at me expectantly, a stuffed toy in her mouth.

“Uh, Ryan,” I said, eyeing the dog.


“Your dog wants something from me.”

He turned to look, then grinned. “Oh, yeah. She wants you to throw that toy to her.”

I gingerly outstretched my hand, and Chrissie dropped the toy—a saliva-covered stuffed dragon—on the bed.

“Like this?” I asked, and tossed the toy toward the leather couch.

There was a mad scamper, the sound of claws scrabbling on hardwood, and a second later, Chrissie had reappeared at the side of the bed, the stuffed dragon in her mouth. She laid it gently beside me, then sat again, staring at me, panting excitedly. Ryan returned to the bed as well.

“Now you’ve done it,” he said, getting back into bed beside me. “She likes you.”

“Oh, no.” I tossed the toy once more, and the dog tore after it again, claws skittering, tail wagging frantically. “How does her owner feel about me?”

“He likes you, too. In fact—” Ryan handed me one of the waters “—I was meaning to ask you something.”

“I think it’s a little too soon to go steady, Ryan,” I said with mock gravity. “We’ve only just met.”

He grinned. “Not that. Not yet. Believe it or not, I’ve actually got a wedding to go to next weekend in Orlando. And I was sort of wondering if you wanted to be my plus-one.”

I nearly choked on the water I’d been swallowing. “Excuse me?” I managed to wheeze.

“I know,” he said with a groan. “I know how it sounds. But it’s my cousin’s wedding, and she invited me months ago, back when I was still with my ex, and I’ve been dreading going solo—especially since it’s one of those Cinderella’s castle things. My cousin’s a real princess type.”

“What makes you think I’d want to go?” I demanded, horrified that he might think I’d like that kind of thing . . . which of course I would.

“You wouldn’t,” he said with a smile that was decidedly wicked. “That’s why I think we’d have a blast together. I mean, the whole thing will probably get canceled anyway because of this hurricane that’s supposedly on its way, but if it doesn’t . . . well, I can’t think of anyone I’d have a better time with at any wedding than you, Roberta. Do you think you’d want to go with me?”

I glanced at his beautiful, well-trained dog, who’d hurried back over to the side of the bed to drop her slobbery toy at my side, and was eyeing me eagerly.

Then I looked at him, and saw the same eager glint in his own beautiful hazel eyes, and remembered what he’d told me about brides and hope.

I raised my water glass and clinked the side of his with it.

“You know what?” I smiled. “I do.”


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