I concentrate on putting my feet next to his and grab hold of the ladder. Chance lets go of my hand, and, taking hold of the pole next to my head, he moves in behind me.
I swallow hard, and with a racing heart, I press closer to the ladder. I stiffen even more when his breath stirs the hairs at the very top of my head.
Just focus on your own breathing, woman!
From Ethan holding my hand to Aaron hitting me to Chance practically pressing his whole body against mine – there’s just too much touching today.
“You’re small,” he murmurs, his tone deep and rough.
There’s a burst of unknown sensations deep in my abdomen, making my skin clammy and my heart skip a beat.
Dear Almighty. I’m going to be impure before this night is over.
“Just climb ahead of me. Count every second step from the bottom. Skip the others,” Chance orders, ripping me from my panicked thoughts.
“Okay,” I breathe, and glancing up, I climb a step.
The metal is cold beneath my hands, and I have to really stretch my body to skip the loose ones.
I don’t know why Chance let me go first. It’s nerve-wracking, to say the least. With the three men behind me, it’s not helping my already fragile nerves, and now I’m self-conscious, as well.
The next step I’m supposed to reach for is missing. Does that mean I have to reach for the one above it? I hesitate, not sure what to do. That would be the loose one, wouldn’t it?
“Is there a problem?” Chance asks from below, sending a flurry of nervous tension streaking through my body.
I feel the step move beneath my feet as Chance takes hold of it.
I test the step with my right hand, and it feels solid enough. Taking hold with both hands, I lift my right foot to the next metal rung.
“Let go. Now!” Chance suddenly snaps, “Let go!” Then his arm circles my waist, his hand presses over my ribs, and his breath hits my ear.
Startled, my fingers jump free from the metal, and I yank my arms back to my chest.
I feel the warmth of his body as he holds me tightly to him. His chest is all hard muscle, and I can feel the rhythmic beat of his heart against my back, unlike my own, that’s racing a mile a minute.
“I said every second one is loose. Listen!” he snaps. My ear heats up as his breath rushes over it.
“It was gone,” I whimper, and I start to tremble, which is not good.
I need to calm down. He’s going to leave me behind.
“Okay.” I hear him take a deep breath. “There’s nowhere for you to put your feet, so I’m going to lift you to the next one. Grab hold and hang tight,” he says, his voice still rumbling like thunder.
My mind freezes the second his fingers fan out over my ribs. I’ve never been held so tightly by another person, a man – not even my father when he hugged me goodbye this morning.
I snap out of my thoughts.
“Hands by my hand. Dammit, woman, concentrate!”
A blush heats my cheeks as I grab hold of the rung, then our fingers touch. Chance’s chest presses into my back, and we’re so close I’m scared he’ll feel how fast my heart is racing.
“Concentrate. I’m not doing this alone,” he grumbles.
I have to swallow in order to create some form of moistness in my dry throat.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper and quickly wipe my hands on my shirt when he takes hold of me again.
“It’s easy,” he says.
I’m glad he thinks so.
He exhales, and the wisps of my hair tickle my cheek.
“I’ll lift you to the next one again. It looks as if you can climb farther from there on out.”
I nod as his fingers fan over my side again, then he lifts me. I grab and hold, my feet dangling for a split second before I feel his breath on my ear and his arm around my waist.
That’s it. I’m impure. There’s no way all this touching hasn’t corrupted my innocence.
Shame trickles into my heart, then his voice sounds softer as he murmurs, “We’re almost there. You can do this.”
I glance down but don’t see the street below as my eyes lock on his muscled arm wrapped around my waist and how my t-shirt is bunched up and exposing some of my skin.
No thinking about arms around my waist. No muscles. No nothing. Focus!
I find my footing on the step, then Chance finally lets go of me. We climb in silence the rest of the way, and I try to ignore the mixed emotions I’ve never felt before as they make a mushy mess of my insides.
My arms are burning, and my fingers are numb by the time I reach the rooftop, but it doesn’t stop a smile from spreading across my face. I pull myself over the edge and scramble to get out of the way.