Eve fed her, Cammie eating as fast as she could get the fork to Cammie’s mouth. She ate more than Eve had herself, and Eve smiled as Cammie smacked her lips appreciatively when the last was gone.
“That was good, Mr. Donovan.”
Donovan ruffled her hair affectionately. “How about you call me Van? That’s what my family and friends call me, and I’d very much like you to consider me family.”
Cammie looked delighted, and then she sobered and lowered her gaze.
“Hey, little bit. What’s that look for?” Donovan asked.
“I wish you were my daddy,” she said wistfully.
Eve’s heart lurched, and a knot formed in her throat. Tears clogged her eyes and she looked away so no one would see.
Donovan leaned in and brushed a tender kiss over Cammie’s brow. “I’d like that very much. Who knows? Maybe one day it’ll happen.”
Eve’s jaw dropped, and she turned a disapproving frown on Donovan, not even trying to hide her displeasure over his statement. The last thing she wanted was to give Cammie false hope. But Donovan returned Eve’s gaze evenly. Almost challengingly. As if to say he meant it and that it was up to Eve whether it came to pass.
Crazy. She was absolutely losing her mind. People didn’t forge connections this quickly and certainly not under the circumstances that had shoved Donovan and Eve together. She needed to remain objective and not set herself—or Cammie and Travis—up for inevitable heartbreak. They’d been through enough without adding more sorrow.
“I’m full, Van,” Cammie said, her mouth stretched into a huge yawn.
Donovan smiled and then glanced up at her IV bags. “I need to switch out your piggyback. It’s almost empty. And then I’m going to give your sister an injection for pain. Why don’t you snuggle up to her and hold her in case the shot hurts? You can make her feel better. Then I’ll leave you both to sleep. I’ll make you a good breakfast in the morning and if you’re a really good girl, I’ll serve it up in bed.”
Cammie grinned her delight. “Can I have pancakes? I love pancakes,” she said wistfully. “With lots of butter and syrup.”
“Is there any other way to eat them?” Donovan asked in mock horror. He kissed her brow again and ruffled her hair and then left the room only to return a moment later with another bag of IV fluid.
After setting it up and reconnecting the line to the bag, he pulled out a syringe and uncapped it.
“Climb in and get comfortable with Cammie,” Donovan directed. “I’ll give it on your right hip this time.”
Eve climbed underneath the covers and Cammie promptly snuggled into her arms, warm and so precious against Eve’s chest. She squeezed a little harder than necessary, but it felt so good to have Cammie next to her. In a safe place with no fear of discovery.
She let Donovan pull up her shirt. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t already seen her legs or her ass. But he was careful only to pull down the band of her panties enough to bare the injection site. She closed her eyes and Cammie reached up to pat Eve on the face.
“It’ll be okay, Evie,” Cammie said in a solemn voice. “Van will make it all better.”
At that Eve opened her eyes and smiled. “I know he will, darling.”
The needle slid into her flesh and Eve only grimaced a little as the medicine was injected. By the time Donovan adjusted her clothing and tucked the covers around her and Cammie, she was already feeling the effects of the drug. Her eyes fluttered drowsily and the pleasant hum of the medication replaced the vicious ache in her head.
Donovan leaned down, and to her surprise he kissed her softly on the lips. Nothing prolonged. But it was intimate all the same. A quick brush. He didn’t leave his lips on hers for long, but she felt them there long after he’d withdrawn with a husky “Good night.”
“Sleep well, my girls,” he said, a note of possession in his voice. And how good it sounded when he said “my girls.” It made Eve wistful. Made her think what it would be like if they were his girls. Belonging to him.
“I’ll have breakfast for you in the morning, and Maren will be out to check on all of you before lunch.”
“G’night, Van,” Cammie said sleepily. “Love you.”
Eve’s eyes widened in shock, and she glanced hurriedly at Donovan to gauge his reaction. Would he be put off by the declaration? It had come out of the blue. Never would Eve have imagined those words coming from Cammie’s lips. Oh, she was an affectionate, adorable little girl, but she’d been taught reserve at far too young an age. While she was openly loving with Eve and Travis, she never warmed to strangers the way she had with Donovan. And she hoped it didn’t break Cammie’s heart when it was time for them to move on.
But Donovan didn’t seem to mind in the least. His entire face softened and a gentle smile curved his mouth upward. He ran his hand through Cammie’s hair and then pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Love you too, sweetheart. Now get some rest, okay? You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“Promise?” Cammie asked around another jaw-cracking yawn.
Donovan smiled. “Promise.”
EVE’S dreams were tormented with a myriad of flashes from the past. And the present. They swirled together in one unending stream of horror.
The tornado had her in its grip again, but instead of Donovan lifting the mattress that had saved her life and protected her from further harm, Walt had been standing there, his gaze triumphant.
I have you at last, Eve. And this time you won’t escape me.
She awoke with a start, sweat beading her forehead. She sat up straight in bed, her skin clammy and cold. A chill had settled deep into her body until her bones ached with it.
She glanced over at Cammie, who was still sleeping soundly. Eve didn’t have a prayer of going back to sleep now. She glanced toward the window to see the faintest shade of dawn softening the sky.
With a sigh, she eased out of bed and went to the bathroom to splash water on her face. She ran the water until steam rose, wanting some way to warm herself. She wet the washcloth several times, wiping her face and neck before retreating back into the bedroom.
After a moment’s hesitation she went to the closet where Donovan had put the clothes his sisters-in-law had sent over. Selecting a pair of jeans and a simple T-shirt, she dressed and slipped into the hallway, making sure she was quiet on her way to the living room.
She didn’t know where she was going or why, but she didn’t want to go back to bed and risk reimmersing herself in her nightmares. It was bad enough to have talked about Walt and to have relived the horror of her mother’s death and Walt’s subsequent behavior, but now he was invading her sleep as well.
She went to the large picture window that overlooked the lake in the distance. Dawn was beautiful over the water, painting it a soft lavender to match the sky overhead. There was not even a ripple in the water, no wind to disturb the pristine sheet of glass that spread out to the distant horizon.
This was a . . . peaceful place. It seemed incongruous to consider a veritable fortress built for the sole purpose of security—a reality of Donovan’s and his family’s lives—peaceful, and yet everything about the view brought her a sense of calm. Something she desperately needed right now.
Warm hands slid up her arms to her shoulders, startling her. She whirled around to see Donovan standing there in a cutoff pair of shorts and a threadbare T-shirt. He was barefooted and for some reason that image captivated her.
“Sorry if I startled you,” Donovan said. “What are you doing up? Can’t sleep? Everything okay?”
She sighed. “I slept. Bad dreams. Talking about it brought it all back. I dreamed of the storm, but you weren’t the one who found me. Walt did. I didn’t want to go back to sleep because I didn’t want to have another nightmare.”
He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly to him. His body felt so good against hers. Solid. So very steady and strong. She sighed and did nothing to resist his hold. He felt . . . right.
“I’m sorry you had bad dreams. You can come to me, you know. I don’t want you to be afraid of anything, honey.”
He pulled her away so he could stare down into her eyes. His gaze bore intently into hers and his head lowered. She got the strangest suspicion that he was going to kiss her. And suddenly it was what she wanted more than anything.
She wasn’t wrong.
Slowly, with infinite tenderness, he pressed his mouth to hers in a warm, sweet glide that sent shivers quaking down her spine.
It was a shock to her entire system. Heat spread rapidly through her body. Every nerve ending tingled and came to life. Her breasts grew heavy and aching. Her nipples tightened and she leaned instinctively into him, wanting, needing more.
He licked over her lips, coaxing her to open them. With a gasp, she parted her lips, allowing him entrance. At once his tongue invaded, delving deep and hot over hers. He deepened the kiss, stealing her breath, holding it, savoring it before returning it so that she inhaled and swallowed up his very essence. It was a kiss unlike any she’d ever experienced.
It was pure magic.
She slid her hands up his broad chest so that her palms came to rest just below his shoulders. He tensed almost as if he were expecting her to push him away. But she leaned into him with a sigh, letting her fingertips dig into his flesh through the thin layer of his T-shirt.
He became more forceful, as if he’d waited to see if she protested. As if she could. She’d never experienced such an awakening. Couldn’t imagine how she could be feeling this way when her entire life had been upended. But for the space of a few stolen moments, all her worries slid away under the reassuring stroke of his tongue.
His hands slid up her back and then down, molding the contours of her behind. Then he lifted one hand, pressed it to the small of her back before raising the other to tangle in her hair. His fingers twisted, wrapping the strands around his knuckles as he deepened the kiss, swallowing her whole.
She had no idea of the passage of time. They could have stood there kissing for an hour or one minute. It was as if time had stopped and the only thing that existed were the two of them, in this room, their lips fused in a hot rush.
She gasped into his mouth, starved for air, but more starved for his touch. She wanted more. Needed more. She needed . . . him.
He loosened his hold on her hair, letting his hand fall away. He tugged her away, but only the barest of inches so he could look down into her eyes. Their bodies were still pressed tightly together and she could feel the evidence of his arousal, rigid and straining against her belly.
She shivered again, chill bumps racing across her skin, every tiny hair standing on its end in the wake of the intense sensations he evoked.
He stroked a hand lovingly over her cheek, pushing back her tousled hair. “What is it, honey?”
“What are we doing here?” she whispered. “What’s happening?”
He smiled tenderly at her, his eyes warm and flush with . . . arousal. “What I’m doing is kissing you and what’s happening is that I’m enjoying it a hell of a lot and I hope you are too.”
She flushed, her cheeks growing warm at the blunt statement. “This is insane,” she protested. “We can’t be doing . . . this. The very last thing I should even be contemplating is a . . . relationship.”
She nearly choked as she said the word because it was presumptuous of her to assume he wanted anything more than sex. But he didn’t act like someone who wanted a quick lay. As she’d already noted, he acted like he cared. And if he was so anxious for sex, wouldn’t he have put the moves on her already? Before the tornado, because of course it would have made him an ass to come on to her when she had a head injury and was scared out of her mind.
Her head was spinning, much like she had suffered a serious head injury. There wasn’t even anything overtly sexual or . . . desperate . . . to his kiss. It had been . . . romantic. Tender. Exquisite even. Could a kiss be considered exquisite? Obviously so, because his definitely qualified.
“I mean, I’m a job to you, right? Shouldn’t you remain objective? Surely you don’t go around kissing all your female clients.”
And worse was the jealousy that gripped her over the thought of him kissing another woman in distress. Did he have a white knight complex? Was his Kryptonite a woman in need?
He chuckled at that, his eyes growing even warmer as he gazed down at her. “Honey, if it weren’t for mixing business with pleasure, none of my brothers would be married.”
She cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean by that?”
“It means that every one of my brothers met their wives while on a mission. Bullets flying, explosions, car chases, wrecks, bad guys. You name it, they experienced it. I’d say our situation is tame in comparison.”
There was laughter in his voice, and she found herself smiling despite the utter seriousness of the situation he spoke lightly of.