Hot as Sin Page 43

“Why are you here?” she asked through chattering teeth, holding herself stiff in his arms.

“Because you need me,” he said simply. “I know you’re upset about April. I’m worried too, but we won’t give up until we find her.”

Her voice was muffled against his chest as she said, “All I’ve ever wanted was a happy family.”

She began crying again, and he pulled her tighter, rhythmically stroking her back with his hands.

“I know you do, sweetheart,” he said, the endearment feeling perfectly natural. Totally right.

If he were being totally honest with himself, wasn’t a family all he’d ever wanted? Wasn’t family what he’d tried to create with his crew? With his brother? Wasn’t that why losing the baby and then Dianna had been such a crushing blow? Just when a real family had finally been within reach, he’d lost it all.

Silently, they held on to each other and it felt so good to be close to Dianna again that Sam almost forgot who was comforting whom.

A short while later, she lifted her cheek off his chest.

“Talking to April’s friends makes me feel like I’ve really blown it with her all these years. Maybe I have been too controlling, too overprotective. Maybe I haven’t listened to her enough.”

He wiped away the wetness on her cheeks. “I doubt that’s true. Sounds like you did everything you could for her.”

“No, I really screwed up with her. She had another reason to leave, but I was too embarrassed to tell you about it in the hospital.” She took a deep breath. “Right around Christmas, I had the really stupid idea of trying to get my mother and sister back together.”

He raised an eyebrow. “It didn’t go well, I take it?”

“You don’t know how much of an understatement that is,” she said on a hollow laugh. “It went terrible. Beyond terrible. April didn’t want anything to do with Donna. Donna didn’t want anything to do with April. And both of them were pissed at me for shoving them together.”

She took a shaky breath. “I don’t think my sister said ten words to me between that meeting and leaving for Colorado. And she was right to be angry. I had some stupid reconciliation fantasy in my mind that had absolutely nothing to do with reality.”

She was trying to put a brave face on it, but Sam could see how deeply hurt she was by what had happened.

“Have you talked with your mother since then?”

“No way. Honestly, I haven’t seen her much over the years anyway. Seeing how horrible she was to April pretty much closed that door for me forever.”

Wanting to let her know that she wasn’t alone, he confessed, “I haven’t heard from my father since last year.”

She met his eyes for the first time since he’d joined her on the rock.

“Why? What happened?”

He fought the urge to make light of the situation, to stuff it back down and pretend it didn’t matter.

“My parents came to see Connor in the hospital last summer, right after he was burned. He was the only thing that mattered. The only thing they should have been focused on.”

“Oh no, Sam, they didn’t start fighting, did they?”

“Like goddamned cats and dogs, right there in his room. They’ve been ripping each other to shreds for thirty years and they couldn’t put the brakes on it for fifteen minutes? All I could think was that even though he was heavily doped up on morphine, what if he could hear them? What if their petty grievances were seeping into his subconscious and holding him back from healing because he didn’t want to deal with their bullshit anymore?”

Now she was the sympathetic one, saying, “What did you do?”

He scowled. “I dragged their asses out of the hospital. And told them not to set another foot inside his room if they couldn’t be civil.”

“You did a good thing,” she said softly. “Protecting Connor.”

“My mother came by to see me a couple weeks later. She’d decided to file for divorce.”

“Oh, Sam. After thirty years, they couldn’t figure things out?”

“If you ask me, filing for divorce was the good choice.” His mouth quirked up on one side and he could see that she was surprised by his half smile. “She should have divorced his ass years ago. But she thought it would be better for Connor and me if she stuck it out.”

“So she was only trying to do what was best?”

“Yeah, she was. I don’t know what the hell my father was thinking all those years, though. He mostly wasn’t around and didn’t say much when he was.”

Suddenly, Sam looked up, and as his eyes connected with hers, he realized he’d just delved deeper into his mixed emotions about his parents’ marriage than he ever had before—even in his own head.

Dianna’s hand came up to his cheek, her fingers lightly brushing against the stubble on his chin.

“You’re a good man, Sam. A good brother. And a good son.”

He covered her hand with his and leaned close enough to taste her lips, which were warm and salty from her tears. She leaned into him and he licked them with slow strokes of his tongue, growing instantly hard when she moaned with pleasure.

Her tongue found his and their kiss deepened as one hand threaded through her hair, the other pulling her all the way onto his lap. Through her shirt and bra he could feel her ni**les beading against the inside of his biceps, and his erection was cradled in her soft curves.

And then, suddenly, she was pushing out of his arms, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath.

“I’m sorry, Sam, it’s not that I don’t want to be with you.” Her words rammed into each other like out-of-control train cars. “Obviously I do. More than anything. But—”

She put her hand over her mouth to stop the flow of words, and it took every ounce of control he possessed to play the nice guy and do the right thing.

“It’s okay, Dianna,” he managed to say despite the intense throbbing in his groin.

Her eyes pleaded with him to understand. “I heard what you said by the river, about not wanting to get involved with me again. And I respect that, Sam. I really do. So even though I want to be with you, right now I’m afraid I’m not in any frame of mind for sex without strings.” Giving him a crooked smile, she added, “And I wouldn’t want to go all psycho on you later.”

Prev Next