The Boss Vol. 5By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott
He slipped under the water. His hand was firm on my thigh. I could barely feel what he was doing, but the tightness around my ankle and calf suddenly let up.
Then there was nothing but white hot pain. I thrashed, but he held me still under the water, and there was no forgiveness in his grip.
“Gracie. Honey, stop.”
I couldn’t stop. Just let me free. Please, let me free. The water was up to my chin. I didn’t remember calling his name, but Jack’s wide-eyed gaze dragged me back into myself. Blake’s name still echoed in the cove.
He’d been down there too long.
Suddenly my foot was free. I shot out of the water like a cork. Jack dragged me out of the water. He stripped out of his tux jacket, then pulled it around me. “All right. There’s a girl.”
“Blake,” I screamed. I struggled away from Jack, and got to the edge of the ledge before he hauled me back. His arms were huge and strong, but not the ones I wanted.
An arc of water sprayed my face as my boot suddenly went flying over my head. Blake gripped the ledge.
I tried to help him up, but Jack eased me aside to stand and haul him up.
I curled into a ball under Jack’s suit coat. Wool. Gloriously fine wool, but it wasn’t warm. Nothing seemed like it would ever be warm enough again.
Blake crawled to me. He cupped my face. “Sweet Jesus.” He pressed his forehead to mine. “You have some explaining to do, Ms. Copeland.”
“Later,” Jack said. He reached to lift me off the floor of slick rocks, but Blake body-blocked him. “All right, all right. You get the hero card today.”
“Fuck that. Just don’t touch her.” Blake lifted me against his chest.
“Enough.” I drove my hand into Blake’s shoulder. Okay, so it was more like a glancing blow and I’m pretty sure it hurt me more than him. Could a hand shatter from being cold?
“I don’t know what the hell’s gotten into you, but I’m here for one reason—to help Grace. You know why? She’s my friend. So, pull out whatever boulder-sized bug is in your ass, and let’s get her to the fucking hospital.”
He seethed, but Blake finally nodded.
“Shut up, Grace,” they both said in unison.
“Let me take her, Blake. You’re soaked, and just making her colder.”
He gathered me higher until I had no choice but to curl an arm around his neck. I wasn’t sure which of us was shaking more. “Just hold the goddamn flashlight down at our feet so I can get us out of this fucking cave without breaking our necks.”
Jack shook his head and arrowed the light down.
I didn’t want to be rescued. I sure as shit didn’t want Blake to see me like this, but I was glad he’d found me. For once, I couldn’t complain about his high-handed ways. I pressed my face into his neck. The heat from his skin almost made me pull back. Compared to mine, his was feverish.
Behind us, Jack was picking his way out of the rocky cove. His voice was terse as he spoke into his cell. The moon was a few days from full, so I could see a bit better than usual, but his face was still in shadow. His shoulders were stiff. The white of his dress shirt glowed, showing off a lot more body language than usual.
Jack was the affable one. Blake was intense. They were a good balance usually—but something was off tonight. I was too tired to figure it out, but there was definitely something there.
Blake stumbled. Pain zipped through me like a lightning strike. He caught himself, and palmed the back of my head to hold me closer. “I’m sorry, baby.”
I wanted to sob out my pain and embarrassment, but I decided on stoic silence instead. I couldn’t handle this side of Blake. Not right now when I was fairly sure hypothermia was making me hallucinate.
Because this man didn’t do tenderness. There were pockets of affection in the night, but we were more a clash of wills finally succumbing to passion. The only time he allowed me to breach his walls, it was when we were skin to skin.
“The ambulance is fifteen minutes out,” Jack called out.
Blake tightened his hold. “We can get her there faster.”
“Yeah. Especially if I drive.”
“In that glorified tin can you call a car? I think not,” Blake muttered.
“Can we measure dicks later?” I said against Blake’s neck.
“Oh, I don’t need to whip out a ruler, sweetheart.” Jack’s white teeth slashed in the moonlight. “You picked the wrong team there.”
“I’m certain I exceed any and all measurements required to prove you wrong.”
I pressed my forehead into his shoulder. “Can I go back into the cave now?”