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He found her in the woods, staring into nothing, sitting with her back to the world. Knees bent tight to her body, her head resting on them as her arms encircled her legs; she was her own little island and heaven help anyone who interfered. He knew the posture, had assumed it more than once himself. Charlie was pissed off and angry, but she was also hurting like hell.

She sensed him before he could speak. "Go away."

"No." Plopping down beside her, he pulled out a bottle of whiskey and took a swig.

"What part of go away didn't you understand?"

"Oh, I understood," Bass said. "I just don't want to leave. Texas is still a free country. That's why we fought the Patriots. So that I can sit my ass anywhere I want to and have a drink."

"And there's a thousand other places in this forest that you can be that aren't near me."

Bass glanced down at the ground around him before taking another gulp of whiskey. "I like this spot."

"Bass-"

"Hey, you want to be alone so much, you leave," he said, studying her out of the corner of his eye.

But she didn't leave, remaining exactly where she was. Which Bass knew was going to happen. They'd been partners more often than not in the Patriot War and since that had ended, they'd become pretty decent friends. He knew when she truly wanted to be alone and when she needed company. And often times, considering her family, the company she needed was his.

"So...you want to keep feeling sorry for yourself or you want to talk about it?"

"Fuck you, Bass."

He shrugged. "Maybe later."

Exasperated, she turned to him. "You are so..."

"Irresistible. Handsome-"

"Annoying."

Propped against a fallen log, he leaned back on his elbow, smirking. "Touché. But...I'm a pain in the ass who's a friend. So you want to tell me why you're so upset, other than the fight with your mother."

"How about the whole situation? How about that, Bass?"

"OK, I can see that. But tell me something, Charlie. Why did you lie about it in the first place? Why not just..."

"Tell the truth?" she asked, their eyes locking. "I don't know, Bass. What reason could I possibly have to hide the truth that Brian didn't break up with me? That I broke up with him. Could it be my mother? Who keeps trying to fix me up with every guy in town. At least when she thought Brian dumped me, I could play broken-hearted and she backed off."

"And you didn't think someone might find out?" he asked.

"No, because he was leaving town, Bass. How was I supposed to know he'd come back?" She sighed. "He asked me to go, you know."

"And you didn't want to?"

"Not with him, no." Shaking her head, she pinched the bridge of her nose. "I didn't love him. I was ready to break up with him, anyhow. That just set it in motion faster. But I knew...I knew she'd find some other farm boy for me, so I..."

"So you made up the story that he dumped you," Bass said.

She nodded. "Yeah, it was simple, easy. And it kept her off my back."

"Alright, that I could see. But, Charlie, who cares what she wants. You're an adult."

"Try telling her that." She turned away, covering her face with her hands in frustration. "You know how she is. How she's always right. How she's just 'worried that you'll be all alone, Charlie.' But she's the one who won't leave me alone."

"Well, listen, if you hate being around your mom so much, why don't you just leave?" He said, taking another sip and passing the bottle to her.

"I tried that." Swallowing back a gulp of whiskey, she let the alcohol burn down her throat before meeting his eyes. "I came back with you, remember?"

A slew of memories of their time on the road assailed them both. Shaking it off, he raised an eyebrow. "So what's stopping you from going again?"

"I can't leave. Miles is here, my grandfather, Aaron, Priscilla..." She didn't say his name, but it hung in the air between them anyway; its absence was more telling than if she'd listed him among family and friends. "I can't leave."

"Well, you're whining about a whole bunch of things you can fix. If you're such an adult, prove it. Grow a pair and tell Rachel to go to hell."

Jumping up, she whirled on him. "Fuck you, Bass. I didn't ask you to follow me out here, and if I want to sit here and wallow in my misery, I'll do it."

A slow grin spread across his face. "There she is. You're a firebrand, Charlie. Why is it that you can't stand up to your own mother?"

The question seemed to knock the wind out of her sails, and she plopped on the log, sliding down to the ground beside him. "I don't know."

"Is it guilt?" Her eyes met his, confusion in her baby blues. "She missed a lot of your life, Charlie. I know a lot of that's on me. But maybe you let her get away with things because you feel you owe her."

"Owe her what?"

"Some of that lost time back."

She wanted to tell him he was wrong; she wanted to say the entire idea was preposterous. But she couldn't. Because part of her believed Bass was right. "Maybe. You know, she sets me up with all these local boys who didn't see a lick of action in the Patriot War. They didn't join in the fight. They don't live like we do. I have nothing in common with them. They're not..."

"They're not what?"

"They're not what I want." She looked up at him. Sometimes when she stared at Bass it felt like she was falling; when he stared back though, the feeling stopped. When their eyes locked, when she found herself lost in those pools of blue, she knew she wasn't falling...she was flying.

Bass felt it too. Unable to look away, he held her gaze. "And what do you want?"

His voice was thick and seductive. To Charlie, it sounded rough, like hot and heavy sex. "I want..."

Once more, she didn't say his name. But they both knew what she meant, who she meant. The tension between them had been growing for far too long for either of them to deny it. Taking a lesson out of his own lecture about growing a pair, Bass leaned forward, capturing her mouth in a blazing kiss. Charlie loved that about him; he was the sort of man who took what he wanted, when he wanted. No hesitation, no tentative nature in his kiss, his lips brushed over hers, running his tongue along the seam and diving in as soon as she opened.

Crawling up on his knees, he crouched over her, lips still engaged in a fiery battle with hers. Pulling away, he stood up, grabbing her hand and yanking her along with him. As soon as they were on their feet, their mouths rejoined, lips and tongues clashing in a rough dance. Lifting her up, she wrapped her legs around his waist and they slammed into a tree, Charlie's back hitting the trunk with force.

Pulling away, he looked at her, concern in his eyes. "You alright? Charlie?"

"I'm fine," she choked out, lips smashing back against his. This was what she wanted...this...him. She wanted the fire and the passion and the danger she always felt when she was around Bass. No man had ever made her feel like she was walking on the edge and yet so safe all at the same time. Except Bass.

Ripping his lips from hers, he trailed kisses down her throat, nipping and sucking on her flushed skin. Licking back up her neck, he pressed his lips to hers again, before pulling away. "Charlie, not out here."

"Yes, out here. Right here, Bass." Grabbing a handful of his curls, she pulled his mouth to hers again.

Having exhausted the tiny amount of restraint he had when it came to Charlie Matheson, he fell right back into her. Yanking her tank top off, he slipped a bra strap down her shoulder, revealing one perky breast to his hungry gaze. Unable to resist, his mouth latched onto the nipple, sucking and tonguing it to a hard peak.

Charlie's head fell back, knocking against the tree. When Bass tried to pull away, presumably to check on her once again, she held his head against her. She was fine; she'd faced battles and wars and Bass was right there at her side while doing it, but suddenly, after a few kisses, he was treating her like fine china. She didn't know whether to be flattered or pissed off. She settled for aroused because what he was doing with his tongue blew every other thought out of her mind.

Pulling his head back up, she gazed into his eyes for a second before pulling his shirt off and tossing it away. Trailing a nail down his chest, she couldn't help but admire his physique. She'd noticed his body long ago, in New Vegas if she was totally honest, but she'd refused to admit it. Now, she allowed herself to marvel at his beauty.

Reaching between them, she caressed the bulge in his jeans, thrilled at the low moan that escaped him. "Bass..."

Stilling her, he pulled her hand to his mouth and kissed the palm. "Charlie, wait. I'm so hard...I don't want this to be over before it begins."

"What do you want?"

"All of you." Lowering her down, he waiting, wanting to be certain her legs would hold her up. When he was sure she could stand, he fell to his knees in front of her. After removing her boots, he unbuttoned her pants, then slowly dragged the denim down, sliding her panties off at the same time. Placing a hand under her knee, he raised one of her legs, draping it over his shoulder and opening her up to him.

At the first swipe of his tongue, Charlie gasped. "God, Bass..."

Smirking, he flattened his tongue, pressing it against her clit and licking in tiny strokes. Closing his lips around the small nub, he gently sucked, pulling a little harder when her moans grew louder. Swiping his tongue down her slit, he pushed it inside her, lapping at the juices seeping from her core. Alternating between her clit and her entrance, he brought her to the edge several times before allowing her to tip over. Crying out his name, he held onto her until her shivering stopped.

Standing, he looked down at her, waiting for her eyes to open. When they finally did, and focused on his face, she shot him a lazy smile. "Somehow I knew you'd be good at that."

"Did you now?" Closing his arms around her, he captured her lips again.

She allowed it for a moment before pulling away and switching their positions, pressing his back against the tree. "My turn."

Dropping to her knees, she waited while he kicked off his boots before she opened his jeans, leisurely drawing the zipper down as she stared up at him. He was an impatient man, and she knew the lethargic pace she was setting was driving him wild, which was exactly what she wanted. For him to lose all control with her. Pulling his pants off, she crooked an eyebrow at him. "Commando, huh?"

Smirking, he rested a hand against her cheek. "You know it."

Wrapping her hand around his impressive length, she ran it up and down his cock a few times before taking him into her mouth. She heard him breathe out her name, the knowledge she was pleasuring him drawing more wetness from her core. Squeezing her legs together to alleviate the throbbing in her pussy, she concentrated on sucking the dick of the man she'd once hated. But that was so far in the past; she'd come to tolerate him, then to actually enjoy his company. And now, she'd moved well into the liking-the-hell-out-of-him zone.

Encircling his cock with her lips, she slid down the shaft, tongue swirling around as she bobbed up and down. From his groan, she surmised he was enjoying her attentions. He got harder in her mouth, his long length growing even more massive as she suckled him. Keeping her hand at the base, she carefully twisted her fingers around, the friction working with her mouth to aid in his bliss.

Pulling off, she drew on the head, licking down the underside of his cock and eliciting another moan from him. "Jesus, Charlie...fuck..."

His hand threaded into her hair, guiding her as she moved, massaging her scalp as she sucked him off. He was so close, so fucking hard for her, and he almost wanted to just let her finish him off. But more than that, he wanted to be inside of her. He'd held off on all the feelings he'd had for Charlie for too damn long; waiting as all the hicks in Willoughby asked her out, sitting through the ones she'd dated as though it didn't mean a thing to him. But now she was here, on her knees in front of him, and he was damned if he was letting her go now.

Pushing her off his cock, he took her hand and pulled her up to him, kissing her intensely and plundering her mouth with his tongue. And she gave it back, his little warrior, kissing him with the same ferocity that she fought with. "God, you're beautiful, Charlie. I need to be inside you."

Lifting her up again, he used the tree to hold her in place once more. Grabbing his dick, he slipped up into her, both panting as he stretched her walls. Setting a slow pace at first, their mouths melded once more, his tongue fucking her mouth in time with his cock in her pussy.

Hitching her legs up higher, she wrapped one hand around his neck and the other around his bicep, holding on for dear life as he moved within her. Closing her eyes in a haze of pleasure, she reveled in the sensation of him inside her. He was big and filled her so completely, she wasn't sure she'd ever felt so full. "Bass...more...don't stop...go harder..."

At her command, he sped up, driving into her with more force, leaning forward and pulling her tighter to him, sliding in even deeper. The movement must have found her g-spot as she yelped and cried out his name. Begging for him to stay where he was, he focused all his concentration on hitting the mark again and again, relishing the soft keening emanating from Charlie. She felt so damn good; he was fairly certain he could remain inside of her for the rest of his life.

Feeling the tree bark against her back, she knew it was probably going to leave bruises, but Bass felt so amazing that she couldn't even bring herself to care. Bouncing up and down on his dick, she strove for the orgasm just within her grasp. Her nipples were rock hard, her entire body on fire. She could hear herself whimpering, begging him, calling his name, yet again she did not care. Never in her life had she wanted or needed release so badly. "God, Bass, please...please make me come. Please."

Slamming into her now, he angled into just the right position to hit her clit with his pubic bone. Within two strokes, Charlie hit her climax, rubbing as much of her body against Bass's as she could, the pleasure washing over her like a tidal wave. She babbled his name over and over, not even realizing she was crying out for him.

Floating back down from her high, she realized Bass still hadn't come. Determined to make him feel what she had, she clenched her muscles, her pussy clamping down on his dick. Pounding into her, the unexpected move shot a bolt of electricity racing through his body; tensing up, he pulled out of her, his orgasm hitting a moment later, hot seed spurting over the ground. When he fell against her, she leaned back, and they rested their combined weight against the tree trunk.

Working on getting air back into her lungs, she heard Bass panting beside her ear and slowly lifted her arm, weaving her hand into his thick curls. Pulling back just enough to look at her, he studied her closely, until she became self-conscious of his stare. "What?"

Swallowing, his voice raspy from exhaustion, he kept his eyes glued to her. "Should we talk about it?"

Softly stroking his hair, she smiled. "Do we have to?"

"I think so."

As he lowered her back to the ground, a thought occurred to her. Bass was a womanizer, or at least he had been; everyone said that, her mother, Miles, even Tom Neville. So what if this was nothing more than a random fuck for him? She wasn't sure she could handle that, not from her partner, her friend. Frowning, she nodded. "OK. Is this a bad talk or a good one?"

"What do you mean?" he asked. "We need to talk about us."

"Is there an 'us'? Or are you going to give me every excuse in the book why this is a bad idea and nothing can ever come of this?"

Suddenly, her melancholy expression made sense. Charlie wanted more than just this one night of incredible sex with him. He wanted to act cocky about that, but he was so fucking relieved that he just couldn't. "I'm not giving you any excuses. You decide what you want. You are an adult."

"Bass..." Still not sure what he wanted, she colored her voice with a warning tone.

"No excuses, Charlie. I've just had the best sex I may have ever had in my life...and believe me, I've had a lot."

"Oh, that makes me feel so much better."

"Well, it should. It was a compliment." He pressed a palm to her cheek, fingers stroking her jaw. At her shy smile, he chuckled. "I don't know what this is between us. But I want you to date a local farm boy about as much as you want to...which is not at all. I'm all for exploring this, Charlie, if that's what you want. Whatever you want. Say the word and I'm yours."

"After what we just did, do I have to say anything?" A huge smile lit up his face; returning it, she realized how truly handsome he was when free from the pressures and struggles of their world. "You're right. I need to stand up to my mother and fight for what I want out of my life. And who I want in my life."

"Well, I'm certainly the perfect way to rebel." He leaned in and kissed her. "I'm definitely not what your mother wants for you."

"But you're what I want for me." Kissing him again, she filled it with all the hope and promise she had. Maybe, just maybe, she and Bass could make a life together. A life she really, truly desired.

"Whatever you want."

"You know what I really want?" At his raised eyebrow. "To do this again."

Pressing her back against the tree, he brushed his lips over her ear, tugging at the lobe with his teeth. "Thought you'd never ask."

"But," she said, pressing a hand against his chest and glancing around for their clothes. "I want to do it in a bed. Don't think my skin could take another go against this trunk."

"Jesus, baby, your back." He yanked her away from the tree. "I'm sorry."

"Oh, I'm not...it was fun. But I'd much rather curl up in your bed."

Pulling her into his embrace, he held on tightly. "Whatever you want, Charlie...whatever you want."