Rule's Property (The House of Rule Book 2)(4)

By: Lynda Chance

At the words, Courtney felt a wash of comfort and nostalgia, as well as a hot rush of tenderness for what he'd done and she smiled. Lifting up, she whispered, "Thank you."

He inclined his head and lifted a tiny box, holding it in the air between them and waited for her to comply with his request. She continued to smile as she shut her eyes. Very carefully, she held up her hands again. Within seconds, the box was placed in her palms and she opened her eyes and stared down at it. "What is it?"

"Open it," he said gently.

Anticipation rushed through her and she recognized that it was the first time she'd experienced the feeling in over a year. She pushed the lid up and the box snapped open. Inside, she found a small silver heart decorated with three different colored gemstones suspended by a delicate chain. She studied it and then looked up at him in question.

He was watching her intently and she frowned in confusion and looked back down at the charm.

Not waiting any longer, he took the box from her trembling fingers and removed the charm and chain, dropping the box to a side table. He held the piece of jewelry out so she could see it better.

"It's pretty," she whispered.

"Do you like it?" he asked.

She nodded her head and reached out a finger to touch the gift as if expecting that both it and the moment might disappear into thin air.

"Do you know what it is?" Nick asked in his deep voice.

Something was tickling her brain, but he was standing so close that she couldn't get her faculties to function correctly. She shook her head.

"They're birthstones."

Her eyes flew up to his, a flutter going off in her heart.

"Yours, your mom's, and your dad's," he elaborated. "I had it made."

Pleasure and pain rushed together and landed in her stomach. Their birthstones! Something she could always wear that would keep her family unit intact, at least within her heart. A tiny feeling of belonging again settled in her midsection. The charm was so perfect that she couldn't wait to wear it. But she also couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that Nick would do something so special for her. She needed to thank him. She cleared her throat and slowly, licked her lips. "Nick--" she began, but stopped abruptly when he took a sudden, harsh intake of air.

She glanced up and found his gaze frozen on her lips. His jaw clenched and his neck corded with something akin to tension. Slowly, almost as if they were forced to, his eyes left her mouth and lifted to hers. A strange feeling filled the air during the loud silence that pulsed between them.

Finally, Courtney couldn't stand the friction any longer and she again looked at the tiny piece of jewelry that he continued to hold tightly between his fingers. "May I have it, please?"

He cleared his throat, seemed to shake himself, and put the heart in her upturned palm. Through the strange emotions roiling in her belly, she forced a smile and tried to latch the chain behind her neck. She struggled with it awkwardly, and when she sighed with frustration, he pushed her hands away and twirled her around.

He lifted her hair from her neck, laying it over one shoulder. Clipping the necklace into place, he quickly spun her back around again, his hands going to her shoulders. She glanced down and picked up the charm where it lay nestled on her chest. "I love it," she said through a smile and lifted her eyes to his with pleasure.

With no warning of the storm to come, Nick's head dropped. His lips landed on hers and the first thing Courtney noticed was a roaring in her ears. She'd been kissed only once before, at sixteen, and it had been quick and messy.

This was different.

Nick took full control. His lips were hot and firm, sliding over hers slowly, back and forth, in a caress that held her spellbound. Unconsciously, she dropped the charm and lifted her hands to his shoulders to find traction in a world suddenly careening out of control.

At her action, one arm came around her waist and he pulled her in closer, while he settled his hand at the back of her head, moving her forward and holding her in place. When her torso hit his, she gasped, her lips parting. He took unhesitating advantage, his tongue sliding inside and entwining with hers.

Instantaneous bottle rockets went off in her head.

His taste and scent instantly swamped her and her world immediately narrowed to this room and his embrace. As he continued to kiss her, a warm, sweet ache began to build in her bloodstream. When his tongue swirled around hers, as if asking for more, she hesitatingly gave him what he seemed to want. She pushed her tongue toward his and tentatively, joined the kiss.

His arm clenched more tightly, his frame became like steel, his kiss turned fierce. A groan erupted from his chest and he lifted his mouth from hers just long enough to nip at her bottom lip before going back for more. At his action, Courtney sucked in a breath and trembling, she pulled back, sliding her hands from his shoulders to his chest, attempting to hold him at arm's length, so she could study him.