Joy’s eyes opened the next morning in a room that had been transformed into a golden, light-filled globe. She remained still, her head resting on Everett’s chest, spying a beam of sunlight escaping around the curtains to flicker across his biceps and reach its luminescent tendrils toward a nipple. His chest moved steadily up and down, teasing the little light fairy; the curtains shifted ever so slightly, and the beam danced along his shoulder.
Joy reached and gently mingled her fingers with the sunlight on his collarbone, making her touch nearly as ephemeral so as not to wake him. The light fairy had warmed his smooth skin. She snatched back her hand when Everett’s facial muscles tightened and his even breathing halted, but he fell almost immediately back into a deep sleep. She carefully extricated herself from his hold and the bedclothes, smiling.
The light truly did love him.
She quietly removed some clothing from her bag and entered the bathroom. When she came out ten minutes later, dressed for a jog, the sunlight-speckled, mussed bed was empty. She found Everett in the cozy little kitchen of the guesthouse, wearing pajama bottoms and scooping coffee into a filter.
“Morning,” she said when he glanced around and caught her eye.
“Hey.” She liked the rough, early morning quality of his voice. He flipped the coffeemaker closed, set down the bag he was holding and switched on the power. He turned toward her, his arms outstretched and his gaze moving over her with appreciative warmth. She went to him, smiling as she put her arms around his neck. “You look like you’re ready for some exercise,” he murmured, his gaze on her mouth.
Her lips twitched. The way he was looking at her, she had a pretty good idea what kind of exercise he was thinking about.
“You have a one-track mind, Everett Hughes.”
He grinned. “So I like to keep things simple. Is that a bad thing?” She laughed and he swept down to kiss her. He transferred his mouth to her neck after a moment, his whiskers and warm lips the ideal combination for making her shiver. She pressed her nose to a pectoral muscle and inhaled. He smelled delicious—lingering soap, a hint of sweet sweat and sex. His kisses on her neck were becoming lustier by the minute. She gave in to temptation and gently bit at dense muscle.
He lifted his head, looking vaguely irritated that she’d interrupted his breakfast on her neck.
“The kind of exercise I was thinking about was jogging,” she said.
She smiled. “Do you want to come or not?”
“I want to come, all right,” he muttered. She snorted with laughter, not at all concerned about his beleaguered expression. He gave her a glance that assured her he knew he was being highly ill-used as he released her. “Just give me a second to get dressed,” he said, leaving the kitchen.
Joy drank one of the high-protein shakes she’d brought along and made the bed while he was in the bathroom. While she was fluffing the pillows, she noticed the drawer that Everett had removed the cuffs and restraints from last night was slightly ajar. What other naughty things did he keep in that drawer?
She tossed down the pillow and edged toward the bureau. When she heard the shower door open, she fled the bedroom guiltily. By the time he came out to the kitchen again a few minutes later, she was pouring coffee into two cups.
“I don’t know what you put in your coffee,” Joy said.
“I take it black, thanks,” he said, examining the label of her shake. Judging from his expression, Everett didn’t put much stock in health food. Joy glanced down over him, her gaze sticking on his shoes.
“Everett . . . you’re not wearing those jogging, are you?”
He looked down at himself dubiously. He was wearing an ancient-looking polo shirt that had once probably been black but had faded over many washes to a dingy gray, an Army-green pair of baggy cargo shorts that fell below his knees, white socks and a pair of black Converse high-tops with white laces. “What? It’s comfortable,” he said defensively. “The raccoons and squirrels aren’t going to care how I’m dressed.”
“I wasn’t talking about your outfit, if that’s what one actually calls an ensemble like that,” she said wryly. “I’m referring to your shoes. You shouldn’t be jogging in shoes like that.”
“I always do,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee unconcernedly.
“But, Everett—there’s no support in those shoes whatsoever. Your arches are going to collapse.”
He shrugged. “They haven’t so far.”
“That’s not a good reason for you to keep doing it. My running shoes are the most expensive thing in my wardrobe. And here you have all that money, but you’re wearing those pitiful shoes,” she scolded as she walked over to the refrigerator. She opened the door and peered inside the nearly
empty receptacle. “I can’t believe no one in your family has guilted you into buying shoes that are good for your feet.”
“I don’t let people guilt me into anything. Are you looking for cream?”
“I can drink it black,” she said, closing the door.
“We’ll take our cups up to Katie and Rill’s and sneak some.”