Happy Mother's Day! It's still Saturday as I write this and I've already received wine and flowers from my husband, and a flower and a compliment on my parenting from my daughter. It even sounded sincere. (Winning)
Meanwhile, I burned my husband's birthday cake so not exactly Wife Of The Year over here, but we focus on this positives in this house.
I've just realized I have to set up this #SampleSunday and schedule the next one because I'll be at the RT (Romantic Times) Convention next weekend. Look for me at the Harlequin events. So here goes for instalment #4 from An Heir To Bind Them. If you missed the previous posts, they're here:
Prologue and Opening Scene in which Theo has his baby niece and nephew in his helicopter and tries to find Jaya to help him with their care. Then a fall back in time eighteen months to Jaya quitting her job at the Makricosta Hotel chain. She has just entered Theo's suite to tell him goodbye.
Here's what happens next:
~ * ~
The gentle let down in his tone made her cringe. She’d lost him to her habitual rejection of male closeness, but wanting a man to touch her was so new. She couldn’t help that it scared her.
He searched her face with his gaze. “You have to know how pretty you are. Of course I’ve noticed you. I’ve also noticed you don’t party like the rest of your age group. You’re not the one night stand type.”
“I said a kiss, not that I wanted to sleep with you.”
Her swift disdain amused him. He quirked his mouth and tilted back his head. “So you did. You can see what a philanderer I am, it didn’t occur to me you weren’t offering to stay the night.” He made a noise of disparagement that seemed self-directed. His wide shoulders sank another notch.
He appeared so tired and in need of comfort. Conflict held her there another minute. She wanted him to see her as available, yet wanted to self-protect. It was frustrating.
“What age group?” she challenged, pushing herself as much as him. “I’m twenty-five. What are you? Thirty?”
“Are you? You look younger.” His mouth twitched again as he reassessed her in a way that incited more contradictory feelings all through her.
Just go, her timid self said. It’s safer. The more deeply buried self, the girl who had grown up determined to make something of herself, believing in things like equal rights and reaching her own potential, stood there and tried to make him see her as someone who shouldn’t be dismissed. Someone with value and values.
“Having a career is important to me. Makricosta’s has been a second chance to build one and I haven’t wanted to do anything to jeopardize it. You won’t be surprised to hear I send money to my parents. I can’t afford to drop shifts because I’m hung over.”
“I’m not surprised at all. You’ve always struck me as very loyal. And sweet. Virginal even.” It was almost a question.
The backs of her eyes stung and she lowered her gaze to her clenched hands. “I’m not,” she admitted in a small voice, not wanting those memories to intrude when she felt so safe with him.
“And you’ve been judged for that? Men and their double-standards. I hate my sex. Judge me. I sleep with women and never talk to them again. I really do that, Jaya,” he confessed with dark self-disgust.
She heard the warning behind his odd attempt to reassure. She appreciated the effort—even though he had it all wrong. Yes she had been judged, but for a man’s crime against her, not any she’d committed.
“I hate men too,” she admitted. But not you, she silently added.
“Ah, some bastard broke your heart. I excel at being the rebound guy, you know.” Here was the generous tycoon with the hospitable expression who asked a guest if she was enjoying her stay and wound up sharing her table along with further amenities.
“Is that why you pick up those tourists?” she couldn’t help teasing, amused by this side of him in spite of her exasperation. “You’re offering first aid?”
“I’m a regular paramedic. ‘He cheated? He’s a fool.’” He shook his head in self-deprecation. “I should be shot.”
“Are you really that shallow?” She didn’t believe it. The women were always relaxed and euphoric, never morose, when they checked out. She was envious of that. Curious.
“I’m not very deep.” He rubbed his face. “But I don’t lie. They know what they’re getting.”
“One night,” she clarified, wondering why he thought he had nothing to offer a woman beyond that.
“One night,” he agreed with an impactful look. His hands went into his pockets and he rocked back on his heels, saying, “And apparently you restrict to one kiss. But I’ll take it if you’re still offering.”
The craving in his gaze was so naked she blushed hard enough her cheeks stung. Covering them, she laughed at herself and couldn’t meet his eyes. “I’m not a certified attendant.”
“There’s not a woman in the world with enough training to fix me. Don’t try.” Another warning, his tone a little cooler.
She shook her head. This was about fixing herself, not him. “I just keep thinking that if I leave without kissing you, I’ll always wonder what it would have been like.”
That sounded too ingenuous, too needy, but his quietly loaded, “Yeah,” seemed to put them on the same page, which was remarkable.
He stared at her mouth and hot tingles made her lips feel plump. She tried to lick the sensation away.
His breath rushed out in a ragged exhale. He loomed closer, so tall and broad, blocking out her vision, nearly overwhelming her. But when his fingers lightly caressed her jaw and his mouth came down, she was paralyzed with anticipation.
There’d been a few kisses in her life, none very memorable, but when his mouth settled on hers, unhurried and hot, she knew she’d remember this for the rest of her life.
The smooth texture of his lips sealed to hers. He didn’t force her mouth open. She softened and welcomed his confident possession, weakening despite the nervous flutters accosting her. He rocked the fit, deepening the kiss so she opened her mouth wider, bathed in delicious waves of heat. Their lips dampened and slid erotically. His tongue was almost there, then not, then—
He licked into her mouth and she moaned, lashed with exquisite delight. This was the kind of kiss she’d only read about and now she knew there was a reason they called it a soul kiss. Her hand went to his shoulder for balance. She lifted on her toes, wanting more pressure, more of him settling into her inner being.
With a groan he slid his arm around her and pulled her tight against him, softly crushing her mouth while digging his fingers into her bound hair. It was good, so good. She reached her arms around his neck, loving how it felt to be kissed and held so tightly against his hard chest and—
He was hard everywhere.
Like hitting a wall, she pushed back, perturbed by how intensely she had been responding and the dicey situation she’d put herself in.
He didn’t let her go right away, kind of steadied her first while staggering one step himself, then he ran a hand through his hair and swore under his breath. “Hellfire, Jaya. I suspected it’d be good, but I didn’t know it’d be that good. Are you sure you don’t want to spend the night?”
“I—” Say no. Go. But what if he was the one? The man who would get her past the hurdle of burying her sexuality out of fear? “I really wasn’t expecting this.” Liar, an inner vixen accused. “You’re right that I don’t have affairs. I don’t know if that’s what I want right now, but...” She found herself wringing her hands like the virgin he’d accused her of being. “I really liked kissing you.”
“Are you trying to let me down gently? Because it’s not necessary.”
“No! I’m genuinely confused about what I want.” It was almost a wail of agony she was so frustrated with herself.
His mouth pulled up on one side in a half-grin that might have been patronizing if he hadn’t softened it by saying, “You’re not the one night stand type, but your life has been derailed and sex would take your mind off things. Believe me, I sympathize.”
She cocked her head, intrigued by these glimpses into the man behind the aloof mask. “Is that why you’re asking me to stay?”
“That obvious, am I?”
“You’re making me worry for my friends. Is there a problem with Makricosta’s?” she probed.
“No,” he assured promptly, then sighed and scratched at his hair like he could erase whatever was going on inside his skull. “Mine is a personal derailment. A family thing, not an illness like yours. I’ve been angry with someone for a very long time and learned today that I have no reason to be. I’m running out of people to hate and blame. I don’t know what to do about that.”
Kiss me, she thought. She couldn’t believe he was opening up to her like this and way in the back of her mind, she suspected he would regret it, but right now it softened her into wanting to heal him. Madness. She was more broken than he was.
“You told me not to try fixing you,” she reminded gently. “It’s good advice. I honestly don’t know if I can be what you’re looking for tonight.” She wanted to be, but the thought of that kind of intimacy opened such a gaping vulnerability in her, she could hardly breathe. “I keep telling myself to leave.” She gestured toward the door.
“But you’re still here.”
She lifted a shoulder. “It sends the wrong message, I know.”
Their gazes tangled and all she could think about was the heart-racing kiss they’d just shared. He claimed he was the opposite of a gentleman, but she sensed that despite his rock hard physical power and authoritative command, he was capable of gentleness.
“Give up on me at any point. It won’t bother me a bit,” he coaxed with surface nonchalance, but she sensed a tighter intensity beneath. Because he wanted her that badly? Or the mental escape?
“Really?” She folded her arms, highly skeptical.
“It’s a lady’s prerogative to change her mind,” he said with a fatalistic shrug, then grinned with surprising wickedness. “But I’ll do my best to keep it interesting.”
Her equilibrium rolled and dipped again, making her unsteady on her feet.
“I can’t believe I’m having this conversation,” she said, shaking her head at her own waffling forwardness and his sexual arrogance. “With you.”
“I’ve trained myself not to fantasize about women wearing that uniform. It’s pretty surreal for me, too.”
She chuckled, then sobered as she met his avid look. He was holding himself under tight control and she suspected she’d always been aware of his ruthless self-discipline, that it was one of his qualities she was most attracted to.
“I really can’t decide, Theo.”
His expression eased a little. “You don’t have to.” He snagged her hand and led her to the sofa, his manner laconic. “We’ll take it one kiss at a time. See how it goes.”
~ * ~
I'm off to prep the post for next Sunday. Have a great week and I hope to meet you in NOLA!
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