After the Storm
Book six in the Texas Firefighters series
The only way Nadia can think to make amends is to help Penn get back on his feet. Even if he doesn't want anything to do with her, she won't give up. Her determination has an unexpected impact. Because soon he can't seem to get enough of her.
"In her heartwarming and delightful tale of love, Knupp does an excellent job of showing her characters' emotional growth"
--Romantic Times Book Review, 4 stars
"This story felt very full. We get the budding relationship between Nadia and Penn, which turns out to be quite sexy. We get Nadia's journey through her life as she is faced with an exhausting job and maybe an unsteady future with her mother. Penn's mother and sister come to help with the recovery and they work out issues between them. We also get some comic relief from Cooper, Penn's roommate and fellow firefighter. I really like him. I felt all of these different storylines really worked well together and brought forth a very engaging story."
--Smexy Books Romance Reviews
"Amy Knupp's marvelous writing skills in AFTER THE STORM have her readers captivated as they are shown firsthand the challenges for a strong virile person as he struggles to allow others to see his weakness, accept help and hopefully find love along the way."
--Donna Zapf, Cataromance, 5 stars
Penn tried to lower his arm from above his head and ran into...something. Someone. What the...?
With his other hand, he rubbed his blurry eyes and confirmed that Nadia was indeed draped across him.
He'd finally broken down at close to three in the morning and taken one of the sleeping pills his doctor had given him. He wasn't sure he'd so much as stirred after that. It was the hardest he'd slept since his back had given out. Now he was having the damnedest time waking up. An even harder time figuring out the day and time.
Judging by the light coming through his door, it was daytime. He raised his arm again, the one on Nadia's side, and squinted at his watch. 10:22 a.m. Wednesday.
Where was Coop and what the hell was Nadia doing here?
Not that he was complaining.
She'd been on his mind ever since she'd dropped him off the other night. On his mind, in his dreams. In spite of the unsettled, unhappy note they'd parted on.
He breathed in deeply, relishing the hint of vanilla and shampoo from her hair, just inches from his nose. Shifting enough to lower his arm, he wrapped it around her, resting his hand at her waist. Her blouse had come untucked from her skirt, and he couldn't get enough of the silky feel of her skin. He couldn't have stopped his body from responding if he'd wanted to.
"Nadia, what are you doing here?" he whispered.
She mumbled something and moved slightly, curling more closely against him.
That was a good enough answer for him. He gave in to the grogginess again and drifted back to sleep.
The next thing Penn was aware of, God only knew how much later, was Nadia's leg sliding over his. And then immediately after, his blood pounding southward. Her chin nuzzled against his chest and he touched her golden hair. She made a sleepy, sexy sound, her eyes still shut. He'd have to be dead not to want to kiss her.
Penn cleared his throat. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?" he asked, his voice rough.
She lifted her head and blinked her eyes slowly open. Mesmerizing sky blue eyes with long sleepy lashes. He swallowed hard and fought the need to lift her more fully on top of him. Even though he had no pain as he lay here flat on his back, his body would protest anything of the sort.
"I wanted to see you, make sure you recovered from Monday night," she said.
"See me? Or sleep on top of me?"
"Both, apparently." The shy grin she gave him didn't help his fight to ignore the heat that was building. "Sorry. I didn't sleep much last night."
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her she could sleep on him anytime.
"Your back is better than the other night?"
"It's fine. I pushed too hard then."
Nadia shifted, moved her body, bringing her lips an inch from him and damn, she had a way of setting him on fire. Her lashes lowered as she glanced down at his lips. Every muscle in his body tensed as he anticipated contact.
"I'm not going to kiss you," she whispered. "This time you have to kiss me."
Penn didn't need any encouragement to ditch the arguments in his head and take what Nadia offered.
He drew her mouth to his, his hand at her nape. When their lips touched, everything else faded away. He became lost in the taste of her, the softness of her mouth, the heat of her tongue as it twisted with his. He touched her greedily. Her silken hair, her slender torso just beneath her ribs, her delicate jawline.
Her knee slid to the other side of him, centering her body on his. She pulled back just enough to look him in the eyes as if having second thoughts.
He pulled her back to his mouth, hungrily, aching for more of her. All of her.
He ran his hands down her sides, inward at the waist, flaring out over her hips. If anyone had told him three weeks ago, when he'd been in the worst pain of his life, that he'd have this sexy hour-glass shaped woman climbing on top of him, he wouldn't have believed it for a second. Now it seemed natural to have Nadia in his bed, all over him. Natural and as necessary as air.
He palmed her ass and drew her lower body into his, which elicited an arousing moan from her. His hands continued their journey downward, until they found the bare flesh of her thighs where her short skirt had ridden up. Her legs were firm, muscular, not twiggy like a bird's. The hem of her skirt teased his knuckles and he trailed his hands up under it. Farther, still, beneath her satiny panties.
Nadia's breath caught. She fit their bodies together, making him crazy with need. He wanted her naked, every last inch.
Trying to slow down and regain an ounce of control over himself, he moved his hands back to her waist. She was so small, so feminine in his hands, and that unleashed an odd, primal possessiveness he didn't know he had in him.
She raised her upper body, strands of her hair draping over him, and pressed her hips into him. An appreciative growl came from deep in his throat. His hands roved upward and he explored the lace-covered curves of her breasts, Inching his way beneath the material. With one hand, he reached behind her and released the snap. He couldn't get enough of her.
Nadia leaned down and they kissed again, a light, erotic teasing that left him breathless. She lifted her head and peered down at him, her lids heavy with lust. Penn ran his fingers over her jaw, pushed her hair back. Her lips curved into a lazy, sensual smile. "You're okay, right?" she asked.
He leaned up to reassure her with a kiss and swore under his breath as pain jabbed at him. That motion was apparently a no-go. The pull in his lower back wasn't as bad as two nights ago but it was enough to make him stop in his tracks, so to speak.
"You're not okay." Nadia seemed to snap out of lust mode and sat up quickly. "Why didn't you say something?"
He collapsed on the pillow and threw his head back. Closed his eyes. Wanted to hit something.
"Because I was okay." Damn traitorous body. "I'm fine now."
He nudged her gently, wanting, needing to kiss her again, feel her body on his, needing more, but Nadia's veil of desire seemed to dissipate into thin air. She leaned in to kiss him chastely on the lips.
In that moment, Penn knew frustration like he'd never known it before, and he figured he'd become something of an expert on it in the past few weeks. He wished for nothing more than to show this woman how much he desired her, to lure her back to the place they'd been just moments ago, but he couldn't even lean up enough even to kiss her. He was at her mercy.
"Come back," he whispered to her, gently using his hand on the back of her neck to urge her closer. She pressed her lips to his for a few gratifying seconds and he attempted to convey his need for her with that kiss.
At first, Nadia responded. As soon as he deepened the kiss, though, she pulled away, opened her eyes, shook her head. "No. You're not up for this yet."
"On the contrary, I'm very up for it, Nadia."
She laughed huskily at his deliberate double entendre, a sexy sound that didn't do a thing to cool his jets.
Her look of sympathy, however, did.Sympathy.
Just what every guy wanted to see from the gorgeous woman sprawled across him like a golden-haired goddess.
"Let me up." He couldn't keep the frustration out of his voice and frankly he didn't give a rat's left nut.
Nadia moved to the side of him and sat up, looking startled. He rolled the other way and sprang out of the bed on the opposite side. "Dammit!" He'd moved too fast, neglecting to use the care necessary to avoid more pain.
"Penn." The tone she used for just that single word was soothing and he could tell she was about to go into calm reasoning mode. None of which improved his temper.
His back to her, he breathed in, eyes closed, waiting for her to say whatever it was he was sure he didn't want to hear.
"It's okay. We don't need to rush anything," she said.
"It's not okay, Nadia." His volume climbed. "Nothing is okay."
He went over to his closet and took a random tee down from the shelf. Pulled it over his head, ignoring the relatively minor twinge in his lower back when he stretched.
He felt her approach him from behind. Ignored her closeness.
She touched his shoulder lightly. "Don't beat yourself up. I can be as patient as I need to be."
He jerked away from her touch and increased the space between them, searching for his sport sandals.
Patient. Shit. When it came to sex, what guy wanted to force patience on a woman? Wouldn't that just make for a winning personal ad: Unemployed, physically challenged man seeking a woman who is beautiful, funny, intelligent and patient.
"Patience isn't going to do jack," he said, managing to keep his voice in control, "when this worthless body of mine won't do what I want it to. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of nothing to do today." He stormed out into the hallway.