...Trex waited while Jake gulped down the remainder of his juice and set the glass in the sink. She didn’t ask how the parents had known to hire him. He didn’t advertise what he did. He couldn’t, because his methods were dubious and often broke a lot of laws, as was undoubtedly the case tonight. But in the horrific world of child abduction and other, even more heinous crimes, people knew. And they passed on the word. Sometimes, he worked miracles.
“The FBI got involved right before we went in. This one dude, Heimel, warned us off. Said there was no place for vigilantism, and if we got involved he’d have our asses for obstruction.”
“But you went in anyway.” She was careful to keep any hint of accusation out of her voice. Of course he’d gone in. Self-preservation hadn’t been part of Jake Langdon’s makeup in a very long time.
“Yeah. We found the site, scoped it out, and went in that night. I swear, Trex, they were alive that afternoon. They were.” He broke, one hand coming up to press against his eyes, and she couldn’t stand it. She surged forward, her arms going around him, and she pressed his face down into her neck.
“I’m sorry, Jake, so sorry.” She murmured words of comfort that never would while he wrapped his arms around her like vises and shuddered with dry sobs.
Images flashed through her head. Flashlight beams striking little legs, streaking over crumpled bodies before coming back to the left and methodically pausing, counting. Horror, guilt, shock, rage burned through her. All she could do was hold on to Jake and hope that somehow the connection would help purge him, give him room to heal.
As if anyone ever could heal, after seeing that. After feeling responsible for it.
When his shudders eased and his arms relaxed slightly, Trex pulled back and stroked the palms of her hands back from the sides of his face to cradle his head between them. Words died on her lips. There was nothing she could say. Jake’s head dipped until his forehead rested on hers, as if it had grown too heavy to hold up.
She didn’t hesitate. Tilting up her chin, she met his mouth with hers, trying to soothe with tenderness. He froze, then accepted the kiss, his mouth softening as he shifted his focus from internal to external. She felt the point of no return, though the kiss remained gentle. Relief surged through her and she curved her body into his. His arms loosened, his hands sliding up her back to deepen the curve. One pressed against her bare skin, the other drove up beneath her hair to cup her skull. Jake groaned and angled his head, deepening the kiss. His tongue swept into her mouth when she opened to him. Need burned through her, but it was nothing compared to the desperation driving him. She could feel it in the rock-hard muscles of his arms and back, the tension in his neck. She stroked, trying to make him give in, to just take what he needed and stop thinking.
He spun them, reversing their positions. The old gas range creaked, and they froze. Jake pulled away until his hands on her hips were the only place they touched, breathing fast but silently. He opened his mouth to speak. Trex threw her hand up against his mouth. She knew Dan was in the next room, but the floor plan of her condo was of closed, defined spaces, and he couldn’t see into the kitchen. If she let Jake talk, if they tried to go to the bedroom, he’d start thinking again and he’d never do this. He needed it. And she needed to give it to him.
She laid her left arm along his and slid sideways until they rested against the counter instead of the stove. Jake’s mouth moved against her palm, but she shook her head before pulling her hand away. In one easy move she sat on the counter, one bare leg slipping through the long slit on the side of her nightgown. Jake hesitated, so she snagged the collar of his shirt and pulled him forward. Their mouths collided without error, even in the dark, even with the swift move. Trex wrapped her arms around his shoulders again and kissed him for all she was worth. Finally, he gave in.
And when he did, fire consumed them. Trex couldn’t hear anything over the roar in her ears, couldn’t see in the dark, couldn’t feel the hard counter under her or the silk of her nightgown against her legs when Jake slid it up. But she felt his hands, burning on her thighs, and his mouth on her neck and his body under her fingers. She tasted him and smelled him and forgot that the reason for this was escape.
Forgot that there was no place for joy...