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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #chapter ten



    Here's Chapter Ten of Inside, the serial novel I'm working on. If you need to catch up, you can use the links to the earlier chapters below.
    Just a reminder I'm writing this book chapter by chapter along the way, so a few of the plot threads might not have as much groundwork as there would have been had I had a chance to revise the earlier chapters. I'm also only reading over the chapters once before I post them, so please try to overlook any proofreading errors or mistakes. There will be fifteen chapters and an epilogue.
    If you want to let me know what you think of the chapter, you should be able to just reply to this email.  If you have any trouble, you can always just email me directly at noelle.s.adams@gmail.com. You can also join my reader group on Facebook and leave a comment there. I do appreciate hearing from you on the chapters as I send them out!

    Need to catch up?

    You can catch up on the earlier chapters through the links below.

    Chapter Ten

    Several hours later, I was still sitting at the kitchen island.
    On the countertop in front of me was the opened book of my dad's doodles surrounded by several pieces of lined paper torn out of a notebook, every page covered with scrawled sentences and lists.
    I was close.
    I was so close to solving the riddle my father had left for me. I shuffled papers until I found the one on which I’d written the words my father used to sing to me. It must, must, must be the key.
    Sparrow, sparrow, deep and smart.
    Build a nest to hide her heart.
    In the rain and in the wind,
    she’s safe inside the oak tree’s bend.
    Sparrow, sparrow, deep and smart.
    In the nest we’ll never part.
    I knew there was a message in the words from my father. I knew it all the way down to my bones.
    I just didn’t know what the message was, and I’d been trying to work it out for hours now with no progress.
    I found another sheet of notes and checked the words I’d listed, comparing them once again to the song as if I might have forgotten to write down a word that would unlock the whole enigma.
    Oak Tree
    Never part.
    I stared at the words until my vision blurred, but they provided no clearer answers than they had four hours ago when I’d first written them down.
    It was torture. Being so close. Just on the cusp of finding the answer. And yet still not being able to put the pieces together to reveal a specific location.
    A tree, a nest, a bird, a bend. A location that all those words pointed toward. It could be anywhere.
    My father never would have been foolish enough to hide diamonds in an actually oak tree. He’d have made sure they were safe and would remain safe for years.
    But safe where?
    And what the hell was all this bird imagery supposed to mean?
    “Staring at the page until your eyes cross isn’t going to lead to a brainstorm.” Will’s voice came over my shoulder, making me jump.
    I turned my head to glance at him, curling my lip slightly because he’d been saying the same thing for the last two hours.
    “I know we’re close,” I said. “Look. More than half the pictures in this book are of birds or oak trees. He was leaving me a trail of bread crumbs, and I’m almost there.”
    Will sat down on the stool beside me, his eyes uncharacteristically gentle as they lingered on my face. “I know you’re almost there. The song has to be the key. But you can’t force memories. You can’t pull ideas out of your head with the force of your will. That’s not how the mind words. Relax for a while, and let your brain work subconsciously. Maybe something will come to you as you rest. And, if not, then we can work on it again tomorrow.”
    I groaned softly, although I knew he was right. “I don’t want to give up when I’m so close.”
    “You’re not giving up. You’re taking a rest.” He reached over and closed the doodle book, his hand remaining on the cover as he met my eyes. “Okay?”
    I scowled but without much heat. I was exhausted and starving, and my head was pounding with a low-level ache. I was getting nowhere agonizing over the puzzle like this.
    And Will was right.
    “Okay,” I said and saw his face relax.
    I piled up the pieces of paper and stuck them in the doodle book, and then I let Will take the book and walk it over to a side table near the chairs in the corner.
    I closed my eyes and blew out a long breath.
    “You okay?” he murmured.
    I heard his voice and then felt him approaching my stool, but I couldn’t open my eyes immediately. I was still seeing my dad’s drawings and my scrawled notes behind my eyelids.
    Then I suddenly opened my eyes, my gaze moving unerringly to Will’s face above me. My breath hitched at what I saw there.
    For just a moment, his gaze was hot, hungry. And yet tender at the exact same time. I’d never known the two feelings could exist simultaneously in someone’s eyes, but they did. I could have sworn they did.
    His expression transformed almost immediately, however, and he once again watched me with his normal cool reserve.
    I liked the texture of his voice. It made me think of… sexy things. “Yes?”
    “I asked you a question.”
    “You did?”
    “Yes. I did.”
    I was so befuddled by the look I’d caught on his face that I couldn’t think back far enough to figure out what question he had asked me. “What was it?”
    “Are you okay?”
    “Oh. Yes. Just tired. Ready for this whole thing to be over.”
    “I know you are. Hopefully it won’t be for much longer. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
    “Maybe.” I sighed and stood up, stretching my sore back. Because of what I’d seen in his expression earlier, I darted a look over at him and discovered his eyes lingering on my breasts as I stretched. He looked away quickly, but I knew what I’d seen.
    I felt another little thrill.
    Had he been doing this the whole time and I’d been too blind to see? Had he been slipping every now and then, revealing what was going on inside him? Or had his defenses been too battered over the last few days to remain impenetrable?
    Either way, I wasn’t wrong about this.
    I wasn’t.
    He might still be pushing me away, but it wasn’t because he didn’t want me.
    I asked, “What do you want for dinner? I’ll make us something.”
    “I can make it. You’re tired.”
    “And you’ve been risking your life every single day to keep me safe. The least I can do is make dinner.”
    My words were matter-of-fact, since I was trying to sound normal and this felt like an obvious truth to me. I was walking to the refrigerator to find us something to eat when Will suddenly reached out, grabbed my arm, and pivoted me around with his grip on it so I was facing him again.
    “Hey,” he said, his voice low but his expression fierce. “That’s not how this works.”
    I had no idea what he was talking about, but it made my whole body pulse.
    He continued, “What I’m doing is not a service that demands a return.”
    I stared up at him blankly, my mouth falling open slightly.
    “Do you hear me?”
    “Of course I hear you.”
    “I want to do this. I want to help you. And I’m doing it for me as much as I am for you. You owe me nothing. Nothing.”
    I was breathless. Hot. Frozen in place. And my heart was pounding out its excitement with such vigor I was afraid Will might hear it, feel it. “How is it for you?”
    Despite the inarticulateness of the question, he evidently understood. “Because the world is better for me when I know you’re safe, you’re happy. And I’m not willing to live in a world where that isn’t true.”
    He could have poured out sonnets to my beauty and smooth-talked every shallow, romantic cliché in the book, and it wouldn’t have moved me as much as his rough declaration.
    I swayed on my feet, lifting my hands to hold onto his shirt. I wanted him so much I could have swallowed him whole.
    “Don’t do this to me,” he muttered, tension twisting briefly on his face.
    “Do what?”
    “Don’t look at me like that.”
    “How am I looking at you?”
    “Like you see me as… like you think I’m…” He couldn’t seem to get a whole sentence out, and his body was so tense now he was almost shaking with it.
    I found the shuddering tension in him almost as thrilling as his words had been—evidence he was having to struggle to keep holding back.
    Words weren’t coming to me, so I just kept gazing up at him.
    “Jesus, Greer,” he breathed. “Don’t do this to me. I’m trying to be good.”
    I didn’t want him to be good. Good meant he wouldn’t surrender, he wouldn’t touch me, he wouldn’t kiss me. He wouldn’t claim my body again.
    Good wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted him to give in.
    I’d thought I’d wanted him when I was eighteen, but I wanted him infinitely more right now.
    I’d never believed I was the kind of woman who would tempt a man as strong as Will to go against his iron resolve.
    But he didn’t feel like iron now. He didn’t feel like stone.
    He felt like a man who was being stretched to his breaking point.
    He made a choked sound in his throat and turned away from me in one jerky move.
    I stared at his stiff back for a moment before I intentionally relaxed my shoulders with a long sigh. I walked to the refrigerator.
    He’d always been strong. He wasn’t going to give in yet.
    “I’m going to make dinner,” I said. “Not because I think I owe you but because it gives me something to do.” I stared into the refrigerator for a minute and saw a pack of chicken Will had bought yesterday. “What about roasted chicken and vegetables?”
    Will was still standing in in the same place. He hadn’t moved even a muscle.
    “Will?” I prompted.
    “Yeah. That sounds fine.”
    I shook my head silently as he finally moved out of the kitchen.
    Until Will had come back into my life, nearly all my emotional ups and downs had taken place in my own mind. I’d be happy, sad, excited, impassioned, embarrassed, aroused by stimulation from my thoughts, from my imagination. Often these were inspired by things that had happened to me in real life—although not always—but either way my feelings were always stronger when I reflected on what had happened afterwards.
    With Will this week it had been different.
    It was like he was inside my mind with me, tuning my emotions, teasing out my sensations, triggering responses I’d never known I was capable of before.
    Demanding so much more from me than I’d ever given anyone.
    He wasn’t just with me.
    He was inside.
    And the most inexplicable thing of all was that I wanted him there.
    But as long as he maintained this merciless grip on himself, his presence there would always feel incomplete.
    Dinner turned out to be tasty, and as we ate Will asked me about my graduate program. I was pretty sure he was asking to keep me from brooding about my dad’s clues, but he was obviously listening to my answers and interested in them. So I ended up telling him a lot more than I’d intended about what I was studying and what I wanted to do with the degree when it was completed.
    He was still asking questions as we finished our meals and started to clean up the dishes, and it suddenly occurred to me that we’d spent most of our time together this week talking about me.
    The idea bothered me.
    It bothered me so much that I heard myself saying, “We can talk about you now.”
    Will blinked. “What?”
    “We can talk about you now.”
    “Because we’re always talking about me. We’ve been talking about me every day for a week now.”
    “For good reason. We need to talk about you to figure out what clues your dad might have left you.”
    “I know that. But we’re not talking about clues now. You’re asking me questions about other stuff. At this point you know more about me than anyone alive, except for Chance. I’m tired of talking about me. I want to talk about you.”
    The muscles in his jaw relaxed slightly, reflecting resignation. “What do you want to know?”
    “Why did you go straight?” I was rinsing out the roasting pan, so my back was to him. I glanced over to check his expression.
    His mouth had tightened. “I told you.”
    “You told me it was time. That’s not an answer.”
    “I don’t have an answer I can give you. It just felt like the right time for me.”
    “How did you get into the life to begin with?” It was strange to realize that I didn’t know this. I felt like I knew Will really well—I did know him—but there was so much about his background that was still a mystery to me.
    The pause that followed was so long I didn’t think he was going to answer. He walked over to where he kept the bottle of whisky and poured out two glasses for us before he said, “Your dad.”
    Leaving the pan in the sink, I accepted the glass he offered me and leaned against the counter. “Really? My dad got you into crime?”
    “Nah. I was in trouble long before I ever met him. My dad was a high school English teacher. Did I ever tell you that?”
    “No!” I was amazed by this piece of information. “I had no idea. Is that why you were so interested in my classes?”
    “Not really. I just wanted to know. But he was. He was a good dad, and I had a good life for the first twelve years of my life. Then my dad died.”
    “Oh no! What happened?” I took a swallow of my whiskey, and the rich flavor was familiar now. It slid down my throat with heat and strength and comfort. Like an old friend.
    Will gave his head a small shake. “Car accident. So it was sudden, totally out of the blue. My mom couldn’t deal. She started to drink, and my life just… went downhill.”
    My heart was aching now, despite his bland tone. I could vividly imagine what had happened to him and how it had pushed him into the choices he’d ended up making.
    How he’d been a decent man who’d become a criminal.
    My dad’s story wasn’t all that different.
    “Kurt was your friend since you were kids, right?”
    “Yeah. My family did okay while my dad was alive, but Kurt’s family never had any money at all. After a while, my mom was so out of it that I was basically on my own. That’s when I started hanging out with Kurt all the time. Both of us were… drifting. He’s always been super-smart, and he would come up with these crazy, convoluted ways of making money. I’d have to put the nuts and bolts together of the plan to make it work, but it was our thing. He’d come up with the idea. I’d plan it out. He’d put together any tools or technology we needed. It was what we did. We got in trouble over and over again. We…” He paused to take a couple of sips. “By the time I was twenty one, I’d been arrested twice. I went to prison for a year when I was twenty three. And I know for sure that, if I hadn’t met your dad when I did, I’d have ended up in prison for years.”
    “So how did you meet him?”
    “Your dad was putting together a crew for a job, and Kurt and I got recommended by another friend of ours just after I got out of prison. Your dad saw something in me. I have no idea what. I was just as asshole back then. Just looking for a quick score. But I guess he thought I did a good job that first time. He kept working with me. Eventually he started to train me. It was like a dream to me back then. The possibility of much more lucrative targets with minimal collateral damage. Your dad changed my life.”
    He meant it. I could hear it in his voice. He’d loved and appreciated my father.
    It meant something to me.
    For so long, I’d believed Will had just turned his back on my dad, but he never had.
    “Wait a minute,” I said slowly. “You didn’t start coming around the house until I was sixteen. That would have made your twenty-six, right? You said you started working with him shortly after you got out of prison?”
    “Yeah. I started doing occasional jobs at first. Then more consistently. It took a couple of years before he trusted me enough to let me into his house. He had teenage daughters. He didn’t let just anyone in.”
    “Oh. Yeah. I guess so.”
    It had felt so normal to me to see guys on my dad’s crew around the house, but there really had only been four or five of them who came by. Obviously, my dad’s professional circle must have been much larger.
    But the others he hadn’t let past the front door.
    He’d trusted Will.
    I was halfway through my whiskey now, and I took another swallow. “Why did my dad draw you as a hawk, Will?”
    He shook his head, and it looked like he thought carefully before he answered. “I think he thought of me as a friend. I hope he did. But I was still a criminal who was always hanging around his house and his daughters.”
    “But he must have known you’d never have done anything, even if you’d wanted to. You were a decent guy. You were his friend.”
    Will put his empty glass down on the counter beside him. “You were his daughters. You were always the most important things to him. And there’s no one in the world who could blame him for that.”
    “I guess. It still seems…” I sighed, letting it go. There were some things I was never going to fully understand.  “Thanks for telling me all this. I know you’re not much of a talker.”
    He gave me a little smile that gave shivers. “You’re not a talker either. But what else do we have to do, cooped up in here like this.”
    As we smiled at each other, I suddenly thought of something else we could be doing.
    I remembered that look I’d caught on his face earlier.
    He wanted to do it too.
    I knew it.
    knew it.
    I licked my lips. My cheeks grew warmer. My blood started to throb.
    “Don’t,” Will said gruffly, his shoulders stiffening visibly.
    “Don’t want?”
    “Don’t look at me like that.”
    I rolled my eyes, my sudden arousal mingled now with annoyance. “You can’t go around demanding someone else changes how she looks. I can’t help how I look.”
    He shifted his weight from hip to hip. “You can stop thinking things that make you look that way.”
    I gasped in indignation. “You definitely can’t go around telling someone else how she’s supposed to think. If I want to think about having sex with you, then I’ll damn well do it.”
    See, this is what happens when I don’t have time and space to think through my words in advance. They come tumbling out in an embarrassing, far-too-revealing rush.
    And I end up saying something like that.
    Will tensed up even more. “You should not be thinking about anything like that.”
    It was too late now to hold back. It felt like Will was already inside me. There was nowhere left for me to hide.
    Besides, he already knew I wanted to have sex with him.
    “Why not?” I demanded. “I’ve told you more than once that my thoughts are my own, and you don’t get to decide what they are. So if I want to fantasize about you throwing me down onto the bed, tearing off my clothes, and fucking me until I scream, then I’m allowed to do so without any say from you on the matter.”
    “Greer.” The one word was low and breathless and raspy. The heat had taken over everything else in his eyes now, and his hands were clenched on the edge of the countertop.
    “It’s just sex, Will. You think I haven’t had it before.”
    “I know you have.”
    “Then why are you acting like it’s the end of the world?” I stepped over closer to him, mostly to add impact to my words. I was feeling unusually articulate, confident, powerful, and I briefly wondered if it was from the whiskey.
    Or maybe it was just knowing for sure that I was a temptation to a man like Will.
    Who wouldn’t be more confident knowing that?
    “What’s gotten into you tonight?” Will demanded. “This isn’t like you.”
    “What isn’t like me? Being open? Direct? Saying what I think? Wanting to have sex? I’d hate to think what you really think of me then. You think I’m some sort of pitiful, insecure weakling who’s too scared to let a man know she wants to sleep with him?” My voice cracked at the end because my burst of words had suddenly gotten too close to the core of insecurity in my heart.
    I turned away, not wanting Will to see.
    I didn’t even know why I was suddenly upset, after being confident the moment before, except it felt like he was rejecting me again—in a different, deeper way than in the past.
    He whirled me back around, his hands on my shoulders, his expression fierce. “No. I don’t think that about you.”
    “Then what? What do you think about me? Why can’t I be like any other women and come on to a man if I want?”
    “Because you’re not like any other women,” he rasped, his hands tightening on my shoulders. “You’re not like anyone else. You’re like a… a glacier. The part you let the world see is only the tiniest tip of the whole. The rest of you is too deep, too hidden, too tantalizing—like a star that’s so bright you think you can touch it but will always be forever out of reach.”
    I was panting now. Literally panting. His gray eyes, his dark beard, his strong features blurred briefly in front of my eyes before becoming clear again. “But… I don’t want to be out of reach. I don't want to be different. Why do I have to be?”
    He didn’t say anything. Just stared—that intense heat and hunger flaring up again on his face and not going away this time.
    I’d never—never—felt so desired, so beautiful, so yearned for as I did from the look in his eyes right then. Men had kissed me, touched me all over, fucked me, and they’d never made me feel the way Will made me feel in that moment.
    Just from the look in his eyes.
    “Will?” I whispered, reaching out to put a hand on his chest. “I’m not a glacier. I’m not a star. I’m right here. You can reach me.”
    He was breathing so raggedly I can hear it, feel his chest moving against my hand. Very slowly, one of his big hands lifted until he was very lightly touching my cheek with his fingertips.
    “See?” I was trembling now—from an overload of excitement and emotion. “You can reach me. I’m standing right here.”
    He took a ragged breath and took my head in both of his hands. “I’m supposed to be good. I was being good.”
    “This is good. This is what I want.” I swayed toward him unconsciously.
    He bit off a groan and leaned forward, claiming my mouth in a hard kiss.
    It wasn’t like it had been last night—groggy, instinctive, two bodies finding each other in the dark.
    This felt realer, harder, deeper. It was all of me kissing him, and it was all of him kissing me back.
    My head nearly exploded from the pleasure, the power of it.
    His tongue was in my mouth, delving deep, dueling with mine, possessing me completely. His hands hand moved back slightly so they were tangled in my loose hair. One of them fisted around a handful of hair, and I gasped against his lips at the shock of sensation the move triggered.
    I was clawing at his shirt, his shoulders, trying to rub myself against him.
    Before I knew what I was happening, he’d reached down to lift me up by the ass, causing my legs to wrap around his waist automatically.
    He carried me over to the bed, still lost in the kiss.
    He laid me down, moved over me, never stopped kissing me.
    I was already so aroused that I throbbed between my legs. The ache was deep, overwhelming, seemed to radiate out through my whole body. I ground myself against him, thrilling when I found the hard bulge of an erection in his pants. I rocked up into it until he broke his mouth away from mine with a low groan.
    “Jesus, sweetheart,” he gasped. “You’re going to kill me. I was going to be good. I have no control when it comes to you.”
    “Good. I don’t want you to have control. I want you to let go.”
    He kissed me again—hard and deep and ravenous—and as he did he worked on my clothes, pulling off my leggings and panties and then pulling up my T-shirt before breaking the kiss to yank it off completely.
    He stared down at me, and it wasn’t dark in the room. His eyes ran all over my heavy breasts, soft belly, full thighs. Nothing about my body was perfect, but the hunger in his eyes belied this knowledge.
    He looked like he loved my body.
    He looked like it was his.
    With a soft groan, he buried his face in my neck for a moment, sucking my throbbing pulse point. “Jesus,” he mumbled. “You’re beautiful. You’re… just for me.” Then he kissed a trail down to my breasts, teasing my nipple until I was whimpering and squirming.
    He pleasured one breast and then the other until I couldn’t keep quiet. I was on fire, ready to explode.
    Not just my body. Also my heart.
    “You’re trembling,” he murmured, sliding his mouth in a line between my breasts and even lower. “You’re so excited. I love how excited you are.”
    “Of course I’m excited.” I arched up eagerly when he cupped my breasts with both hands, mouthing kisses against my belly. “Fuck, Will, please. Please make me come.”
    “I will, sweetheart. Just for you. Open up for me.”
    I parted my thighs to make room for him, and he nuzzled me intimately. I was wet and swollen, and he breathed me in.
    “Now, Will, please.”
    He licked a line along my folds, and I bucked up off the bed.
    Then he held me open with his fingers and flicked at my clit with his tongue. I tossed my head against the pillow and tried not to squeeze his head between my legs.
    He slid two fingers inside me, pumping as he worked with his lips and tongue. Just as I was on the verge of coming, he backed off, and I sobbed as I lost the momentum of the orgasm. “Will, please!”
    “Patience, sweetheart. I want to make it good for you.”
    “It’s already good. It’s already—”
    I fumbled for purchase on the bed as he worked me up to a peak again. When he backed off at last minute, I cried out raggedly, trying to grind myself against his mouth and ride his fingers at the same time.
    “So beautiful,” he was murmuring. “So sweet. So eager. Let me do this for you.”
    I relaxed my body intentionally and had to bite back a scream when he sucked on my clit.
    It went on for a long time, him teasing me too the edge but not letting me fall over. Until I was sobbing and fisting the sheet and rocking shamelessly against his face.
    Then he scraped his teeth very lightly over my clit and I fell apart completely. I cried out loudly and shook hard as the pleasure washed over me in wave after wave.
    When the intensity had dissipated, Will was still stroking me gently. He pressed a kiss against my groin before he straightened up.
    I pulled him down into a kiss, not even embarrassed when I tasted myself on his lips.
    This time, as he kissed me, he worked on his pants, pushing them down and out of the way so he could free his erection. My hands had gone to him irresistibly, and I squeezed and stroked until he was moaning. Then he guided himself into position between my thighs, and I wrapped my legs around him as he entered me.
    He was groaning helplessly against my neck, his hips making deliciously little rocks and pushes. My hands slid down so I could dig my fingers into the firm muscles of his ass.
    When he raised his head and straightened his arms, I couldn’t hold myself back. I tried to ride him from below until he began to thrust for real.
    He took me fast and hard, and I was right there with him, urging him on with hoarse pleas and wordless whimpers. We moved together urgently, our bodies slapping against each other and the bed shaking wildly.
    Will was grunting like an animal, but occasionally he made real words. “Greer. Sweetheart. Greer. Yes.”
    As I reached another orgasm, I clawed lines down his lower back and ass. “You… let go… too.”
    “Yes. Let go, Will. Let go.”
    Then I was coming hard, and he was right behind me, his face contorting with pleasure. I felt him come inside me in a series of short spurts. He jerked his hips through the spasms, moaning out my name.
    Then I pulled him down on top of him, my legs still wrapped tightly around him.
    I heard him whisper again, “Greer.”
    I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt fluids seeping out from where we were joined. And my feet were tingling painfully from lack of circulation.
    But I wouldn’t change a thing.
    This was different than last night.
    This wasn’t fumbling together in the dark.
    This was real.
    This was us.
    All of us.
    Not just the tip of the iceberg.
    All the rest of it too. All of it that hid under the water had finally come together.
    Everything inside.

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