My body seems to be in silent rebellion of the decision I’ve made and is trying to make me change my mind. I don’t, though.
When I emerge from the bar’s air-conditioned comfort the night’s humidity crashes at me like a wave. But it’s nothing compared to the fever in my blood. I lift my hand, calling for a taxi, but it sails past.
I begin to walk further down the sidewalk, my eyes scanning the street in both directions.
Though we’ve only spoken perhaps ten lines of dialogue to one another, his voice is imprinted in my mind. I recognise it instantly, even before I turn around.
‘Oh, hey.’ My heart is determinedly hammering against my chest.
‘You’re leaving already?’
When I frown my eyebrows draw together and I get a little line between them. I feel it form now.
‘Um... I’ve left, technically.’
‘Right. Where are you headed?’
‘Home,’ I say firmly, but my body rolls with the potential there. ‘Alone.’
It’s a defiant stop-sign and he laughs.
‘How about one last drink?’
One last drink. With Ethan all-your-dreams-come-true Ash. And then what? I’m already in serious danger of begging him to come home with me. And I suspect he would be incredible in bed. A good lover is one thing, but chemistry can’t be faked—and right now the chemistry bubbling between us is practically giving me an orgasm on the spot.
And don’t I want that?
Don’t I deserve that?
There’s been no one since Jeremy and I ache for what I think Ethan Ash could do to me. But then what? Am I really ready? How do you know when you are?
I shake my head slowly, not quite meeting his eyes. ‘I think that would be a bad idea.’ The words are thick, as though my mouth is coated in honey.
‘Go on. Live dangerously.’
His wink is the last word in delicious desire.
‘Are you dangerous?’ I ask.
‘I think I could be around you.’
There are cars zipping past and people moving quickly around us, and yet it is just him and me, and the air around us seems to throb with awareness and the heaviness of need.
A shiver runs down my spine, but it’s not a shiver of darkness or danger so much as one of anticipation. Oh, God. I’m done for.
‘Isn’t that a good reason to stay away?’ I say. My brain makes a valiant last-ditch effort to keep my decision in place.
He moves infinitesimally closer and I breathe in deeply, tasting his masculine fragrance and letting it roll through my blood.
And then he does it again. Just the lightest touch on the back of my hand, but for longer this time, so that I have time to register the contact and enjoy the sensation of desire that resonates through my body.
‘On whether you like to live dangerously.’
‘Not generally,’ I respond quickly, my lips flicking with a tight smile.
‘That surprises me.’
‘Why? You don’t know anything about me.’
He drops his hand away. The absence of touch leaves me feeling bereft.
‘How could you? We just met.’
God, just that single throaty sound of acknowledgement sends a riot tumbling through my veins.
‘I know you have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.’
I’ve heard that line before. Why do men feel the need to compliment hair? Mine is striking more than beautiful, but I’ve long ago given up feeling self-conscious about the thick rust-coloured mane that was the bane of my middle school existence, when my white skin, freckled nose and fire-engine-red hair led to almost daily teasing.
Yes, I’ve heard the line before, but it’s never made my stomach flip like this. I’ve never believed the line.
Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Christina Hendricks, right around the time I was hitting college, I made a kind of peace with my peaches and cream complexion, voluptuous figure and rusty hair, but I still never bought the pick-up lines. The guys who told me they loved my curves and dimples.
How easy it is to ignore flattery! But there’s something in his eyes, his face and his voice that renders me incapable of being dismissive now.