When Blake Toximmo lost her husband and infant son she nearly lost herself as well. But she’s back among the living, fighting to start her life again and find happiness. Her plans for reconstructing her world are drastically changed when she is abducted by Arden Woods, a sexy, sweet climber who she befriending during a mountain climb. In a whole new world, Blake finds herself not only surrounded by new things, but also by people who aren’t quite human.
Arden and Quin are elves living in a world that’s not giving them everything they need.
They are happy as a couple, but they are missing something and long for a family only a human woman can give. Even with the best intentions at heart, Arden and Quin don’t quite know how to make Blake happy. To make them the family all three need, they’ll have to learn what exactly that means to each of them.
"What are we doing?"
"Same thing we did last night, my lively, lovely Blake."
Blake Toximo sighed as she looked up at her new lover. What was she thinking? She barely knew the man, but something about Arden pulled her tighter than a harp string.
He offered his hand as they moved away from the fire. Their climb to the top of Mount McKinley was more than halfway done, and the other four couples had paired off and already gone to their tents for the night. Arden was the only other single person on the climb, and it was Blake's good luck they got along so well.
He wrapped his mittened hand around hers, and, just like the first time they met over tin cups of coffee, she couldn't help but notice how right it felt to be near him. It was why they'd started sharing their tent the first night and had done, well, more than sleep. It was so out of character for her, but as Arden tugged her slightly off balance so she would lean into him, she just didn't care.
"How are the hands feeling after the climb?" he asked once they neared the tent.
For reasons she didn't want pointed out, he'd pitched their pup tent out of the circle with the other tents. She'd seen one of the guides chatting with Arden that morning after an especially fun night, and it was probably better for everyone that they have a little more room.
"They're okay."She flexed her scarred hands within her mittens and only winced a little. "Better than I expected considering how cold it's been."
"Good, good. You can leave the mittens on tonight too. I like the texture when you rub them all over me. It's your own design on them I feel, isn't it?"
"Um, yeah." She was surprised that he noticed, but then he seemed to notice everything. He'd asked about her hands immediately after she'd flexed them their first day out, even though she'd worn gloves all day. And he knew not to press her about removing them. When she was tired, he always seemed to be at her side, cheering her on to the next stop. They'd had four days together, but she felt more taken care of than she ever had in her life.
"I knew that texture had to be something special." Arden unzipped the tent. "Did you get enough to eat earlier, love? I have a few chocolates and snacks I'd be willing to share."
"Am I going to need them to keep my strength up?" She was only partly teasing. The past few nights had been just as exhausting as the days. Different, delicious exhaustion, but still, she needed to sleep.
"Or we could just cuddle up and talk."
"I think you've said that a few times, but we haven't quite made it yet," she replied, feeling the familiar tingle as they settled into their zipped-together sleeping bags.
The second his hands touched her, she was lost. That was the way of it with Arden. His strong fingers roamed freely beneath her sweater. If he noticed any imperfections, he didn't say anything or act as if they deterred him. He just rubbed and stroked until she arched into his hands. Her fingers were stiff from being in the cold all day, but she managed to unbutton and unzip his fly, gaining immediate access to his cock. He didn't wear underclothes or thermals, as she did, and just knowing he was bare during their climbs made her hot.
"Ah, hell Blake, that's good." He moaned as she cupped his silky balls. They weren't shaved, but the hair was so fine and smooth that her attention was always drawn to them.
"I'm so glad you like it," she said, pressing her mouth to his.
His lips were a bit thick for a man and she'd teased him about needing gloss on them, but he'd just smiled. Not a single thing deterred her from Ayden's wonderful body and sweet personality.
"Your pants," Ayden ordered as she continued to play with his balls and stroke his incredibly hard, long length.
He had her pants around her ankles after what she was sure was some unattractive wiggling. She smiled as he settled the best he could between her legs, his hot, hard cock just slipping between her outer lips and driving her crazy. He was so good at teasing, pressing the head of his penis against her clit with just the right amount of pressure and stopping when she wanted him to do more.
"Arden," she growled when again it seemed like he would finally dive in, but instead just broke the surface.
"Aw, patience little Blake."
He usually was one to tease, but this time his tone was strained. She lifted her hips, giving his little play less room to retreat.
"Hell, sweetheart. Let me . . . ."
She gasped as he finally gave her at least half of what she wanted. "If I just 'let' you we'll never . . . oh man."
He sank deep and hard before she could finish her accusation. He might like to tease, but once he started, Blake could only hold on and hope she didn't black out during the ride. So much precision, so much power in his tall, lanky body, and all of it was focused between her legs. She couldn't move much with her pants locking her legs at her knees, but she plastered her front to him, touching everywhere as orgasm after orgasm crested, until his finishing thrusts were nearly painful to her oversexed body.
His chest heaved against her; both struggled to catch their breath in the thinner mountain air.
"I like hearing my name on your lips," he mumbled after a long moment.
She wanted to cry foul when he pulled away and re-zipped himself, but all good things had to end eventually. An immediate sadness overwhelmed her at the thought of no more Arden. They still had a week left and then she didn't know where they'd be, but she wasn't going to borrow trouble or time.
"Lift up, love."
Blake obeyed the order, allowing Arden to put her pants back on. He even zipped and buttoned them for her. She found it so sweet that he took as much care in dressing her as he did undressing her. He lay down beside her and tucked her close with a happy sigh that matched her own.
"Now, that was a good talk," she teased.
"Och, little one." Sometimes he sounded so foreign, but he said he was from the East Coast and she always chocked up his silliness to that. "I try to talk, I really do, but your sweet body beside mine . . . ." He shuddered in pleasure as he pulled her even closer. "It distracts me every damn time, and even our lack of bathing isn't deterring me."
She giggled in unexpected pleasure. She knew they weren't done for the night and could already feel his erection growing again near her back, but maybe they could talk some. "Talk, Arden."
"Fine," he said with an exaggerated sigh. "Oh, I know. I want to hear Blake Toximo's deepest, darkest secret."
"Secrets, huh?" She thought for a moment and smiled into the darkness. "I used to hide Hershey bars in my cash register at work. It added extra incentive for me to try to sell my pieces."
"I love chocolate," Arden said happily. "Not the bitter nonsense, but the very sweet and smooth kind. Oh and chilled in milk. Mmm."
"Oh yeah, frozen chocolate bars or ice cold chocolate milk. But hot chocolate right now would be really good, especially with tons of marshmallows. Oh, and animal crackers. I love hot chocolate with animal crackers."
"Hot, I don't believe I've had it that way. Like chocolate coffee?" Arden sounded genuinely curious, but how could that be? Who didn't know about hot chocolate?
"I'll make you some when we're done here," she promised, snuggling her butt closer to his front. Arden always seemed to be just the right temperature, and when she touched him, she was too. "Okay, your turn to spill a secret or two."
"I find you absolutely fascinating," he said without hesitation, his baritone timbre a sweet comfort that made her want to listen to him for days and days.
"Well yeah, I mean, of course you do. I am fairly awesome."
"And cannot accept an honest observation. You should be accepting of yourself, the good parts right along with the bad."
Blake squirmed at his words. He chuckled lightly and ran his fingers through her hair, as if he knew her discomfort. "Okay, we'll leave it for now, sweet Blake. Tell me another secret?"
"Hmm." She coughed a little through the suddenly awkward moment. She didn't understand this side of Arden. The sexy and playful sides, yes, but even though his words had been light, she knew the question was real. "Well, I had a weird dream last night."
"Really? Let's hear it," he encouraged, back to gently petting through her hair, tugging a dark curl from behind her ear. "So pretty, Blake."
"Thanks. The dream. My favorite imaginary person is back. I call her my Noni Sophie. Well, she's not really my Noni, but she's really grandmotherly. She's been visiting my dreams for years, since I was . . . well since my mom died, actually, so almost ten years now," she explained, loving the memory of Noni. Over the last decade of tragedy, even in the darkest moments Blake hadn't felt alone because Noni was always with her.
"And?" The playing and teasing she'd expected from Arden was replaced with nearly a solemn tone.
"And she said, well, it was a version of what she's told me from the very start, you know, just my imagination giving me a pep talk. She said I'll be fine and life's changes are good. That I'm strong enough for whatever is next. She always stops by before or after something . . . unpleasant, so I don't always love that, but the dreams have made me wonder if I've got a little psychic in me. It's silly but . . . when my Noni Sophie comes, I know change is coming and maybe heartbreak, but that things will eventually be okay."
"Noni Sophie is never wrong, you know," Arden told her, sending a chill up her spine. "According to legend, she's an old watcher from some of the tales, especially around Alaska."
"Oh, that's why I must have put that name on her." Unnerved by the turn in the conversation, Blake waited for Arden to speak. By now she'd expected to be riding Arden or maybe doing some heavy licking, not discussing folklore.
"Perhaps," he agreed. "Goodnight, Blake."
"Just goodnight?" she asked, but really, any desire to be intimate had been replaced by uncertainty. What was supposed to be a chance to get to know him better had only led to her knowing about his love of chocolate. Again, she had more questions than answers about Arden Lakes.
"For now, yes." He leaned closer and brushed his mouth across her forehead. "I will wake you later, though, and you'll smile for me again."
Smile for me. Sudden fatigue drained her of any other protest, but left her thinking about that phrase. She loved how he said it and that he meant it was even sweeter.
* * * * *
What an odd dream. Blake hadn't really thought of her mother in years let alone the time they'd spent on rocking boats in her childhood. All the fresh air and exercise must have jarred a few memories loose. She smiled at the thought and wiggled her nose when she felt a tickle. She tried to reach her hand up to scratch but found her arm stuck. She attempted to move and began to struggle in earnest when she realized a blanket had been wrapped so tightly around her that she couldn't budge.
"Arden?" Blake called, trying not to panic.
A mittened hand covered her mouth and her heartbeat exploded in her chest.
"Relax, my Blake." Arden's voice sounded normal enough, and she realized they were moving.
She shook her head to dislodge his hand. "Where are we?"
"On our way to my home," Arden explained, walking firmly on through the snow, she assumed, but it was dark and she couldn't see beyond the blankets he'd wrapped her in. "You'll come home with me and Quin, and we'll be your family. We'll make each other happy. Noni Sophie said."
"My Noni Sophie? She's just a dream. We need to go back to the campsite right now, Arden. Take me back."
"Your Noni is more than just a dream." Even with the familiar name, Arden's reply didn't ease Blake's fears. "Don't be scared, sweet. I would never, ever hurt you. Good things are ahead, Blake Toximo, keep that in mind and trust me if you can."
Trust? How could he even ask that?
"I ask because in the last five days we've been at each other's side climbing a bloody mountain, and I've never let you fall or backtrack. Let that mean something, Blake, and I promise I'll make up for my behavior, including this unplanned exit."
"How . . . ?"
"Sweeting, if someone stole me away I'd think they were crazy to ask for my trust," he told her, his usual light humor returning. "We'll be there soon."
She opened her mouth to scream again but his hand gently covered it, muting any more rants or fears. She started to fight against both her wrapping and Arden. Wherever they were going, she hadn't said she wanted to go. Even if part of her trusted him with her life, the rest of her screamed kidnapping.
His hand moved and she thought she'd get her say, but instead the world fell out from beneath them. The sensation of weightlessness filled her and then she did scream. The only thing keeping her from a complete freefall was Arden. His arms were strong, and though she couldn't hold onto him, she burrowed in as close as she could.
They were going to die, she knew it, and maybe that wasn't the worst thing in the world. She'd started her life again after all her heartbreak, but that life hadn't been anything special. She hadn't added to the world in three years, not even peripherally. It was probably for the best that she be done. Noni Sophie had given her the assurance that whatever was next would be good. Since she believed in heaven and believed in something more after life, Blake found peace in the long fall.
Once she hit bottom—well everything would be okay.