A Betrayal of Friendship – Excerpt

"Are you hiding from me?" Mace asked.

Charlie sighed. "No."

"Really?"

"We have nothing to say to each other, Mace."

He stood solid in front of her, like an immovable stone wall. He wasn't laughing now.

She sighed again. "Just leave."

"When I have my say." Mace stepped toward her. Menacing, controlling. "When I get my answers."

Charlie slapped her hand at his upper arm before she turned and moved toward a bare-limbed tree. Too easily, he'd let her go too easily, she realized the moment he twisted her back to face him. One of his large arms wrapped around her waist and the other jerked behind her right leg to lift it high on his hip.

He groaned loud in the eerie silence before he wedged her hard against the rough bark of the tree, pressing his aroused body into her.

Swinging her arms around her upper body in a vain escape attempt, Charlie made contact with his left shoulder before his mouth dropped to her lips in a fiery kiss. She fought and lost as her lips yielded to his with a hint of sweetness, a bite of regret for all the unfulfilled years gone by.

His mouth softened on hers, and his arms loosened around her waist. She became lost as heat rushed back into her body, wetting her with earnest need.

Charlie melted. So this was what it was like to be kissed by Mason Hamilton.

She wanted more from the man. She wanted it all.

Yet none of those desires happened.

As if disgusted with her fiery response to him, Mace slid her weak leg to the ground and moved away from her unfulfilled body. She lifted her hand to draw him back. He pushed her fingers away.

"We need to talk."

She froze.

"He was with you this morning," he whispered. "Wasn't he?"

"Nothing happened between us." A surging force pushed past her unmoving stance and she jerked away from him. "And what if something did?"

"He's no good for you."

"Oh, really." Charlie stepped from the safety of the trees and moved toward a small clearing further in the woods. "You saw me in the doctor's room and your mind filled in the blanks."

"Exactly."

"I don't believe you." A bear's far-off growl filled her mind at the same time Mace's large hand pulled her into the thick grouping of trees. The warmth of his front against her back confused her. "Get your damn hands off of me, Hamilton."

"Stubborn woman."

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes. Charlie forced them back. No way would she allow this man to see her crying, no way would she give him any power over her. He already had enough.

His fingers played along the clammy skin of her arm in an unconscious gesture of comfort as they listened to the faraway sounds of the enormous animal moving away from the village. The sounds faded into silence, except for the renewed chirping of small birds and the scampering of tiny mammals as they made their way to the safety of their nests and burrows.

She wanted to find her way to safety too, yet the man's hand still held her fast to his arousal.

"Charlene?"

As if sensing the direction of her thoughts, he leaned into the rough tree and pulled her tighter against his front. Sharp teeth bit into her earlobe as his hands slid over the side of her body, and up to capture the mounds of her breasts. She sighed as building tension rose in her, sending a pool of heat down her spread legs.

"Doctor didn't satisfy you?"

"No." No more arguments as his right hand moved to the top of her pants, slowly unbuttoning them. She exhaled and placed her hands on his arms. When his hand slid inside her pants to caress the skimpy cotton material of her panties, she lost all control and spread her legs even wider. "Oh, yes, touch me there."

Charlie shivered in anticipation as his fingers lifted the edge of her panties and slowly but firmly moved into her. Juice flowed out of her, onto his penetrating fingers.

"Wet for me?"

"Yes."

"God, Charlene." He pulled his hand away and placed it on her heaving stomach. "We can't go on like this. We need to settle things."

"We're alone here."

He pushed at her back with a gentle touch. "Not like this, Charlene. I don't want you like this."

"Like what?" Frustration deepened her voice. "You don't want me in the woods, or what?"

He stared hard at her.

"Or is it because you believe I'm involved with someone else?"

Anger darkened his eyes like a storm roaring across the sky.

"Well?"

"I won't share you with another man this time."

She froze. "You…"

"Not again."