James Reynolds Erikson, 'Reyn', left his small-town home twenty years ago after the death of his mother and a childhood spent creating a reputation he only regrets. When he's contacted about his grandmother, the only family he has left, being in the hospital, he finally returns to the place that never did feel like home to him.
But even being the hero firefighter that others see him as, Reyn wants nothing to do with the picture his grandmother has painted of him in the eyes of Olivia, the orphaned daughter of the former town sheriff. And the sexy calendar photo he agreed to pose for doesn't help him. Reyn doesn't consider himself as a hero or a fantasy. To himself, he's a coward. One who couldn't save his own mother.
On the note-so-flipped-side of things is Olivia. She, too, has got herself an unwanted reputation though hers may not be so deserved. More like the lashings of a scorned lover she trusted a little too much. When Olivia finds her father's files on the investigation of Reyn's mother's death, she also finds his notes. Suddenly it appears there's more to the story of what transpired all those years ago.
“I can still turn you over my knee for lying, young man.” She lightly touched the covers near her injured hip. “Well, maybe I can’t at the moment, but I’ll have Olivia tan your backside for me.”
Reyn’s gaze darted to Olivia’s, and his slate-gray eyes grew warm. “Promise?”
and, don't you love to hate brutal honesty?
He raised his head and peered into her eyes, seeking confirmation, permission—and receiving both. Holding her gaze, he positioned himself and slowly guided the tip of his erection into her. She stretched to accommodate him, her body tight as he tried to slide deeper. And met resistance.
His body screamed for release, and it took all his strength not to drive himself deep and hard. Gently he tried again, and Olivia winced.
Dear God, he was hurting her. As if she were a—
He froze, icy horror splashing him when the truth penetrated his haze of lust. With tense, jerky movements, he pulled away from her and clambered to his feet. Plowing his hands through his hair, he sucked in a steadying breath.
“You’re a virgin.” His voice was filled with anger and accusation, and she flinched.
He sucked in a deep breath, trying to control the tension wringing his body. Damn it, he still wanted her, even knowing what it would cost him. And cost her.
“Why didn’t you say something?” he growled.
“I… Why does it matter? What difference does it make to you?” She crossed her arms over her breasts, hugging herself, and drew her legs up close to her body. He saw her shiver, despite the scalding sun, and pain squeezed his chest.
“It matters. It just does.” He snatched up his wet underwear, gritting his teeth. His body still throbbed with unfulfilled need, and knowing he could do nothing about it made him madder.
“I don’t understand. If I’m willing to—”
“But I’m not willing.” He continued dressing while Olivia stared at him with wounded eyes. Sucking in a deep breath, he turned to her, trying to organize his thoughts despite the riot of emotions and yearning still battling inside him. “I don’t want to be your first. I don’t want you to have any emotional connection to me.” He sighed and met her querying look with a hard gaze. “A woman’s first time is…special. Something she never forgets. I don’t want to be special to you. It has to be only sex.”
She stared at him silently, her eyes glittering with tears.
He shoved his feet in his shoes and turned toward the woods. The rustle of clothes told him she was finally dressing. He screwed up the nerve to face her again. “Olivia, I’m sorry. This is just how it has to be.”
He waited for her to glance up before continuing. He wanted to make sure she understood what he had to say next. “Don’t fall in love with me. I’m not what you want or need in your life, and I don’t want to hurt you.”
She shook her head. A deep V creased her brow over sad eyes. “Why won’t you let me in? What are you afraid of?”
His heart slammed against his ribs, and he tensed. “I’m not afraid. But you should be.”