The quarry lake was bathwater warm. Maizie slipped deeper, enjoying the silky feel of the water hugging around her thighs, wetting the tight red curls between her legs.
No. Wait. That wasn’t right. The quarry lake was never warm and her thighs looked absolutely fabulous. Ah. Dreaming. Satisfied, Maizie’s subconscious took control.
Careful not to slip on the stones beneath the blue-green water, Maizie strolled deeper and deeper until she was only dry from her breasts up. The fine hairs at the back of her neck prickled. She stopped, scanned the high quarry wall on one side, the shoreline and forest beyond on the other.
A cool wind swept across the lake, carrying the scents of the forest, and something else. There was a sweetness to the scent, but not of nature. It was definitely masculine, like men’s cologne only more earthy, more rich, but nothing she’d ever smelled from a bottle.
Goose bumps blanketed her skin, and Maizie folded her arms over her naked breasts against the chill. Her puckered nipples tingled at the brush of her own skin, but she pushed the sensation from her thoughts. Someone was out there, hiding among the fallen trees and shadows. She could feel it in her bones.
Maizie squinted, looking for the odd form or out-of-place color. It was nothing. There was no one in sight. She was just being paranoid. She turned back to enjoy her swim, ignoring her worry.
She opened her arms so when she bent her knees, tiny waves lapped at her pebbled nipples. The air left her breasts wonderfully chilled. The dirty little thrill of skinny-dipping had her entire body humming with forbidden excitement.
Invisible fingers thrummed down her back again. Dammit, someone was watching. She could feel their focused attention like hands groping her body. Maizie turned her chin to her shoulder, staring back into the forest. Nothing had changed, no sign of anyone, but he was there. She was sure of it this time.
He’d watched her undress and wade into the water. He was watching her now, confident, cocky, knowing he wasn’t seen. “Probably have your dick in your hand right now, jackin’ off.”
She gave her back to the kinky voyeur and dove into the water. Currents massaged her naked body as she swam, fluttering over her breasts, warming between her thighs. She came to the surface and swam to the other side where the shoreline was three feet of jagged rocks and then a five-story limestone wall.
Maizie looked back to the other side where the forest edged the shore and her sundress and panties lay draped over a crooked log. He was still there-somewhere. Even at this distance she could feel him watching. A smile tugged the corner of her mouth.
Why was she smiling? He could be anyone, a rapist, a psychopath, a tax collector. She should be scared, alarmed, or wondering about receipts. She wasn’t. In her dream Maizie was fearless, and horny. She was so turned on she could feel the hot juices creaming her pussy even under the water. She liked being watched…by him. Who knew?
Him? Did she know who it was? Yes. She realized she did, but her subconscious wasn’t tellin’.
Maizie dove back under the water, swimming as far as her lungs would allow. When she came up again she was close enough to touch bottom and walk up the gradual slope to the edge. The water grew shallower with each step and Maizie rocked her hips for a sexier slow reveal. With both hands she smoothed the water from her face, over her forehead and through her hair. If her secret admirer wanted a show? She’d give him one.
She headed for the crooked log, but got a better idea when she noticed the huge slab of rock ten feet beyond, tilted on a gentle angle. It was wide and flat, a perfect stage.
Water tickled down her back from her hair, over her ass, streaming between her legs. Maizie bit her lip on a smile, her muscles tight, breasts heavy, cool air breezing over her skin.
There was no sexy way to climb onto the rock, but she managed with only a minimum amount of humiliating angles. She stretched out, lifting her long wet hair so it fanned out above her head as she lay down.
A rustle of leaves, the snap of twigs, her voyeur was moving around for a better angle. Good. This time she did smile. Maizie closed her eyes, opened herself to the feel of his gaze, touching herself where his hands couldn’t reach.
The rock was warm against her back, the sun fighting the chill of a breeze over beads of water on her chest and belly. She rubbed her hands over herself, spreading the water, helping the sun dry her body. Her skin tingled under her touch, her breasts aching for stimulation, nipples hard and erect.
Her belly tightened with the feel of his gaze on her, her sex muscles pulsed, body going wet and ready. She rubbed her hand over her ribs, brushing up to cup a breast in her palm. Her back arched. She imagined it was his hand, his fingers pinching her tender nipple, twisting, teasing.
Maizie smoothed her free hand down her belly, pretending they were his fingers slipping through the coarse red curls of her mons, caressing down to part the outer labia, teasing her swollen clit.
She moaned at the touch, the thought, her sex opening, aching to be filled. Her two fingers slid between her inner lips, pushing into her sex so her palm pressed against her sensitive clit.
Sensation hummed through her body, her sex muscles clenching, slicking, smoothing the rhythmic strokes. She held her breath, a soft build of pressure welling up from her center.
She imagined him there, next to her, above her, his fingers moving in and out of her sex, his focused stare watching her respond to his touch. He’d grow hard at the sight of her pleasure, wanting her, but wanting to watch too. Ripples of liquid heat tingled over her skin as though she could feel his breath hovering above her, almost kissing her, but not. She bent her knees, spread her legs, wanting him there inside her.
Maizie writhed against the hard rock, forgetting her audience, losing herself in the fast swirl of sensation building inside her. She bit her lip, concentrating on the delicious pressure, the release just a few seconds away. She lifted her hips, his fingers, her fingers, pumping her sex, driving her orgasm closer, faster. Almost there.
Something moved beside the rock. Maizie wanted to look, but didn’t. She couldn’t lose this feeling, this coming bliss. She clenched her teeth. Just another second then she’d look. Her hand kept the rhythm, her sex so wet, her thighs felt the chill of a breeze.
A swish of movement, the click, click, click of claws along the flat rock, her voyeur had come to her. Gray. He was there, next to her. She opened her eyes, just a slit, caught a flash of silver fur and then it was gone.
Maizie tipped her head back, so close to release she held her breath. A hand squeezed above her knee. Not a paw, a hand, Gray’s hand-distracting her just enough to knock her orgasm back a level, rebuilding it, making it more intense, more undeniable.
A second hand pressed against her other leg, both squeezing, massaging, up her thighs. She didn’t stop masturbating. He was watching, just like she’d imagined. Her chest squeezed, need humming beneath her skin.
Warm lips pressed a kiss to her inner thigh, her hand brushing against the beard stubble on his cheek. A heated tingle rushed through her body from the spot, leaving a heated imprint of his lips in her mind. Gray’s firm tongue traced the flesh where her leg met her sex, her thighs trembled with the feel of it, then he bit her there. Just a nibble but it made her jump and sent a sharp jolt of pleasure ricocheting through her body.
She gasped, head back, eyes closed. “Yes.”
She raised her hips from the rock and felt Gray’s silky hair brush her thigh as he leaned down and flicked his tongue over her anus.
Maizie sucked a breath, the sensation tripling the intensity in her pussy. Then he did it again, this time pushing at the opening.
His tongue pressed again, firm enough to spread the tight muscles but soft and moist enough that it didn’t hurt. Her breath caught in her chest, muscles snapping tight, coiling, sensation building…building, and then just like that her release swelled over her restraint and every nerve ending in her body trembled in its wake.
Gray stayed there toying with the virginal opening while her fingers pumped her sex, her palm stroking her clit. Her body clenched around her, milking her for more.
She was drenched, creamed from thigh to thigh, and she was coming. Really coming. She held her breath. Yes. Gray. Yes.
“What’s that knocking?” Gray said in that the sexy radio voice from between her thighs.
“Anyone home? Hello?” The voice wasn’t as sexy anymore and sounded farther away.
Maizie opened her eyes. Scanned the room. Her room. In Granny’s cottage. She looked down, her spaghetti-strap nightgown was pushed below her breasts, both her hands were in her panties, knees wide, sheets a tangled mess around her feet.
“Shoot.” She dropped her head back into her pillow. The world’s most mind-blowing orgasm was gone. “Today already sucks and I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.”
“Hello? Last chance. Anyone home?”
Maizie jackknifed in bed. That was a man’s voice. Coming from inside the house. She kicked her feet free of the sheets and scrambled toward her bedroom door, straightening her nightgown, grabbing her robe.
Pounding down the stairs, she shoved her arms through the sleeves. Who was it? Some squatter who’d found Granny’s cleverly hidden key, a vacuum salesman, a born-again something-or-other? Whatever.
Whoa, Nelly, did they pick the wrong house to break-and-enter. Well, enter. Hell hath no fury like a sexually frustrated woman. The first time she’d spent the night at the cottage in months and she caught someone taking advantage of Granny’s down-home trust. They had it coming.
The front door was open. Maizie raced down the last few steps and grabbed the corner wall to help swing herself into the kitchen. She reached across the counter and snagged one of the big cleaver-style knives from the woodblock holder and headed back toward the living room.
“Hey. What the hell do you think you’re doing?” She rested the cleaver against her shoulder, her weight on one hip.
Yeah, she wouldn’t kill him. Didn’t have it in her. But he didn’t know that.
The man-tall, probably six-one, six-two-spun to face her from just past the threshold to the all-season room. He was older, around forty-five with thick black hair graying at the temples. He was kind of stocky, but very debonair with his coal-black suit, powder-blue shirt and matching tie.
“Oh. Sorry. Didn’t think anyone was home.” His brown eyes raked down her body, pausing a little too long at her breasts. A lopsided grin blossomed over his clean-shaven face. “You must be Maizie.”
There was a leer in his voice, if a voice could leer, that made a cold chill settle at the base of her spine. Maizie straightened, suddenly feeling vulnerable despite the six-inch cleaver in her hand. She pulled the edges of her robe together, holding them shut rather than setting the knife down to tie the belt.
“You’re trespassing,” she said. “I already called the cops.” Great idea, too bad she hadn’t thought of it before she raced down half-dressed to shoo away the criminal. Ugh. Her brain was oversexed, frustrated mush.
“Really? How awkward. You see, I’m here at your grandmother’s behest.” He stepped into the living room.
“Stay back.” Maizie brandished the cleaver in both hands.
The man stopped instantly, his cocky smile melting away along with all the color in his skin. He held up his hands in surrender. “Hold on, Maizie. Relax. I told you. I’m a friend of Ester’s. Call her. Check it out.”
“Yeah, right. How do I know you’re not some serial killer here to chop me into little pieces as soon as I turn my back to use the phone?”
His smile returned, minus the cockiness. “Well, you’re the one waving the meat cleaver around. And this isn’t my people-chopping suit.”
Okay, good point. Most serial killers probably didn’t wear Versace on the job. She recognized the style. “Who are you? Gran didn’t mention anyone was coming. I just saw her yesterday.”
He dropped his gaze, looked away for a moment then back, his eyes suddenly sad. “Ester doesn’t always remember things clearly. I’m sure she would’ve told you, but, you know.”
Shit. She knew exactly what he meant.
His smile warmed. It was a nice smile that lit his eyes and sharpened the roundness of his jaw. He was kind of handsome, in a stiff, businessman sort of way, with a thin nose, thick brows and short wavy hair, cut just above the collar.
“The name’s Anthony. Anthony Cadwick.” He stretched one hand toward her, very slowly. “I don’t bite and I only chop people into little pieces figuratively.”
Okay, so now she felt kind of stupid holding the cleaver like a hatchet ready to chop off a limb. She lowered it to her side, then set it on the end table next to the front door.
“Hi, Tony. I’m Maizie, the crazy granddaughter.”
“It’s, um, Anthony, actually. Nice to finally meet you. Your grandmother speaks of you often.” He stepped forward.
They shook hands. His skin was warm and soft, his handshake firm not wimpy like he worried he’d hurt her. She liked that.
“Anthony. Sorry. Nice outfit.”
“Same to you.” His gaze dropped to her open robe and then to her bare legs from above her knees. “I woke you?”
Maizie tied her robe, made a knot. She shoved her bed-hair back from her face, the other hand holding her collar together. “Actually you interrupted a really great dream.”
“Mm, sorry about that. Ester said you lived in the city. Didn’t think anyone was here.” He checked his watch. “Afternoon, someone’s got a great work schedule.”
“I stopped by last night to check on things. Took a walk in the woods. It got pretty late, so I just stayed. The place is more comforting than I remember. Particularly the wildlife.”
“Wait. What time did you say?”
He checked his watch again. “Twelve twenty-five, now.”
“Oh, crap. I don’t even have time to shower.” She spun around and headed for the stairs. “Uh, listen, I have to be at work, like now, so if you can see yourself out… Lock the door behind you. Thanks.”
She’d already turned the landing when she heard him start up the stairs. “Actually, it’s quite a propitious circumstance. Your being late for work notwithstanding, of course.”
She stopped and leaned over the banister. “Okay, maybe I was too vague before. I have to change clothes and haul ass. You need to leave.”
“But I’ve been wanting to speak with you. It’s about your grandmother. I’m really quite concerned.”
“Yeah? Maybe it’s something in the water.” She didn’t have time for this. Maizie took the last two steps at once and raced to her room. She slammed the door and twisted the cheapy knob lock. Better than nothing. Maybe he’d see the closed door and get the idea.
Maizie jerked out of her robe and ripped her little nightgown over her head. Her gaze fell on her sundress from yesterday. Not only had she worn it to work the day before, but her escape from the pissed-off wolf had left a nice long tear in the hem. There had to be something better.
She went to the closet. Maybe some scrap of her old clothes had hidden out in there. She started digging and realized her old room closet had apparently become the place where out-of-date coats went to die.
Sheezz, the guy couldn’t take a hint. Or a simple direct order. She rolled her eyes and kept searching through the plastic-covered garments. “Yeah?”
“Oh. Uh, your grandmother cares for you a great deal. Talks about you all the time.”
“That right?” Bingo. Right between a maroon tweed jacket and the overstuffed winter coat, she found an old wraparound denim skirt. “Gawd, were these things ever in style?”
“What’s that?” Anthony’s voice sounded louder, like he leaned against the door. Was he listening to her change clothes? Creepy.
“Nothing. So, you were saying Gran talks to you about me?” If he was yackin’ away out there, she knew he wasn’t listening to her being naked in here.
“Yes. Yes, she does. All the time.”
Maizie rolled her eyes again. She needed a top. She’d reached the end of the closet and found nothing in there that would do. She turned and raced across the room to her old dresser.
Top drawer…junk, playing cards, pens, rubber bands. She shoved it closed. Next drawer…books.
“I don’t think there’s anything on the planet she cares about more than you,” Anthony said.
Maizie slammed the book drawer closed then moved to the next…more books, same as the last. She yanked open the bottom drawer.
“Clothes, thank gawd.” Double-D boulder-holder bras, enormous granny-panties, and…eureka! A nice little stack of old T-shirts.
“The only thing she might care about half as much is her big silver wolf.” Anthony laughed, but Maizie’s blood ran cold. She froze.
Until last night the silver wolf had been a figment of an old woman’s imagination, a character in a fairy tale. But he was real now.
He was real and beautiful and… She didn’t want to think about the rest of it. About his strange cameo in her dream. What was that? There’d been a moment, after she’d caught the animal in Granny’s house, that she’d been afraid. Not afraid of being killed, but afraid she couldn’t stop him if his embarrassingly bold licks intensified, morphing into something more, something worse. Maybe that fear, that weird possibility had tainted her dreams.
She shook her head, snapping out of the odd train of thought and grabbed the top T-shirt. Taking it to the bed, she dressed.
“What did Gran say about the wolf, exactly?” she asked.
“I’m sure you’ve heard it before. She said she has to protect it and she promised never to sell the land so he always has a place to run. Same as always.”
The T-shirt was tight, but it’d do. She’d throw an apron on when she got to the shop. Maizie dug her brush out of her purse and grabbed her hair ring from the nightstand.
“If you ask me,” Anthony said, “I think the wolf is you. Metaphorically speaking.”
“What? Uh, no.” Okay, given last night and her dream, that was just too twisted.
“Think about it. She made a promise to protect it, to keep the land so it’d always have a place to live. There’s nothing she loves more. Sound familiar? Like the promises she made to care for you?”
“Yeah, but…” He was missing a few vital bits of information, like there really was a big silver wolf running around the forest. Maizie had no intention of setting Anthony Cadwick straight. She found her sandals and plopped down on the bed to strap them on.
“I think it’s a real burden on her, mentally and physically. No matter how you look at it, she’s holding on to this place because of you, and I think it’s costing her.”
“Costing her? Ha.” Maizie snapped her big mouth shut. Her finances were none of this guy’s business.
“Yeah, I know it’s costing you, too. So does Ester.”
Okay, maybe her finances were his business, and apparently anyone else’s who’d had a chat with Gran. “I’m good. The land’s good. The nursing home fees are good. The shop’s good. We’re all good.”
“You sound convincing, but I’m not buying it. And neither is your grandmother. She’s not a stupid woman, Maizie. How do you think she feels knowing you’re struggling and not knowing why? Not knowing how to help?”
She knew exactly how Granny felt. She wanted to protect Maizie, to help her with anything and everything she could. It made her nuts seeing the worry on Maizie’s face, worry Maizie couldn’t hide from Gran, worry Maizie wouldn’t talk about.
Granny had always hoped Maizie would move back to the cottage one day, but if she knew how hard things were money-wise she’d sell in a heartbeat to give her the cash. Of course Granny didn’t know, so she wouldn’t sell. Maybe Anthony was right. Granny was holding on to the land because of her and it was hurting them both.
Maizie grabbed her purse and opened the door. Anthony stumbled into the room. Ha! She’d been right. She knew he’d been leaning against the door. “Sorry.”
He straightened. “My fault.”
“I really have to run, but I’ll think about what you said.”
Anthony gave her his card. “I understand if you want to tough it out and hold on to the place. I mean, Ester loves it here even if she’ll probably never see it again. But if you decide you want to clue her in. Let her know how she can help. Give me a call. I know some people who’d be interested.”
His gaze dropped to her breasts, brown eyes sparking. That cocky, I’m-picturing-you-naked grin pinched one cheek again and he chuckled, low and suggestive.
She shifted her weight to one hip, propped her hand on her side. “Maybe you’d like to take a picture.”
He laughed. “If only. You going to wear that to work?”
Maizie looked down at her shirt. “Oh, perfect.”
She’d grabbed a T-shirt from her youthful rebellious days, her salute to the environment. A cartoon of a fuzzy, flat-tailed beaver and beside it, Save a tree, eat a beaver.
“I knew this day was just gonna get worse.”