All for love 3 series.., p.14
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.14

           Kris Pearson
 

  *

  She woke to birdsong and sunshine on Saturday morning. A day by the ocean had never seemed so inviting. After enjoying the luxury of reading until eight o’clock, she showered, slipped into her white robe, and took a slice of toast and chocolate hazelnut spread out into the garden. Mrs. Ferris already worked at the back border, forking out weeds and tossing them into a wheelbarrow. Sophie wandered barefoot over the slightly damp lawn until she was within comfortable talking range. “Fantastic day.”

  “Isn’t it just.” Mrs. Ferris pulled energetically at a small sycamore sapling which had taken root in the wrong place. “How’s your new business working out?”

  “Slow but steady. I’ve got one really big commission I’m working on. The Severino house on the south coast. The superyacht man,” she couldn’t help adding.

  “The one halfway up the cliff? I read something about that.” The landlady pushed her hair back from her face with a muddy glove. “I’ll be planting begonias around here. They’ll look nice from your window.” Obviously her garden interested her far more than any multi-million-dollar home.

  “They’ll be pretty. Mom says they’re selling well at the garden center in Picton.” She took another bite of her toast and turned back toward her door, pondering the ever-present question of what to wear.

  Blue jeans or black jeans? They were the only possible choices for Rafe’s big bike. Okay, blue jeans and her white silk camisole would be suitable for lunch. She’d wear her flat black boots and take her old flip-flops and shorts for the beach walk. Her bikini? She’d tuck it into her little daypack in case.

  *

  Sophie stood waiting by the gate, crash helmet and jacket in hand. Rafe roared up, performed a flashy turn, and stopped. He pushed his visor up and grinned.

  “Never thought I’d have a pillion in a pink helmet,” he yelled, swinging one long leg over the shuddering machine and setting the bike on its stand.

  To Sophie’s surprise he pulled off his gloves and helmet and put them on the seat before taking her jacket, helping her into it, and making sure the little pack was secure on her back.

  “Sunscreen? Can’t have my blondie burning.”

  “I’m not yours,” she objected, “and I’ve got plenty for both of us. But you’ll burn less than me.”

  “One of the benefits of a built in tan.”

  She nodded. “Did you get some sleep?”

  “Like I was dead.” He cupped her face in his big hands and drew her up for a kiss she hadn’t expected. Now she saw why he’d taken his helmet off! She leaned into the kiss, overwhelmed by his tall body all in black, and his hot eyes and beautiful mouth.

  Why did she have no resistance to him? He was danger in every way. Danger because things might go wrong between them and spoil the work that would ensure Subtle’s success.

  Danger because the closer he got, the harder it would be to keep her single-mother status a secret.

  And most of all, danger because she knew her heart—indeed her whole carefully ordered life—was now under unrelenting siege.

  So unfair! The last thing she needed was a new lover. But she wanted him fiercely, stirred by his scent, his taste, his constant care for her, and his knockout good looks.

  She parted her lips and his tongue slid against hers, sweet and slippery, before she found the presence of mind to pull free.

  “Better,” Rafe said. “We just need to keep up the practice.” He glanced down at the front of his black jeans with a wry expression. “See, I’m keeping up my practice, no trouble at all.”

  *

  Once they were on the expressway he relaxed into the rhythm of the day, gunning the powerful bike so it surged ahead of slower traffic, threading around small hatchbacks with elderly drivers, and overtaking SUVs and wagons full of families headed for the northern beaches. He vowed that one day it would be him at the wheel, his wife by his side, his children waving from the back seat of such a vehicle.

  But for now at least he had Sophie pressed against him as they wove from lane to lane, and around the curves of the road. Her arms encircled his waist. She’d threaded her thumbs through the front belt loops of his jeans, and her fingers were so close... so close to where he craved them.

  Faye wouldn’t have done this. Getting her into a convertible took major negotiation; the complaints about ruined hair and windblown clothes had taken away all the carefree pleasure of blatting along a highway with the top down. As for Faye in a crash helmet? Never.

  He emerged from the tree-arched road above Pukerua Bay and started the long glide down the hill toward the ocean. Sophie leaned against him more firmly as the slope of the road increased and her weight shifted. The soft mounds of her breasts nudged his back. Her hands tightened around his waist. Rafe sighed, loving the feel of her so close.

  “It’s wonderful,” she yelled.

  He half turned his head. “Want to stop?”

  “No,” she called back. “Not yet.”

  On their left, the ocean twinkled and heaved. Long rollers washed in over the rocks, and only the wire-cable safety fence separated them from the tossing water. On their right the hills rose steeply, clothed here and there with swathes of wild orange nasturtiums. A silver and yellow commuter train emerged from a tunnel high up the slope, slid around a bend, and was gone again.

  Rafe dragged the fresh salty air deep into his lungs. For once he felt like a carefree tourist with no timetable to keep to, no problems to solve.

  Soon enough he’d have to head off to Europe for the boat shows, but for now he was content to enjoy the day, and the woman riding behind him.

  He turned off the main highway at Queen Elizabeth Park, chugged slowly toward what looked like a collection of army huts, and pushed his visor up. “Come and meet my grandfather.”

  Sophie pushed her own visor up. “What do you mean?” The bike growled quietly under them.

  He braked. “Hop off for a minute.”

  She dismounted, pulled off her helmet, and wandered across to the photographic displays that recorded and celebrated the time American servicemen had spent in the local area.

  “More than sixty years ago,” she murmured, reading the caption under one of the big pictures.

  Rafe pulled his own helmet off and wrapped his arm around her. They stood looking at the assembled Marines. All so young and hopeful, mostly with their war still ahead of them.

  “He might be there somewhere, my grandfather John Blackhawk.”

  “Yes, he might be,” she agreed. “Can you see anyone who looks like him?”

  “In all that crowd?” He shook his head. “Only photo I have is a copy from Nanny’s, and it was pretty well thumbed by the time I got to see it.”

  He dipped his head and kissed her brow. “But I like to think he’s here somewhere.”

  “Looking forward to the dance where he met your grandmother?”

  “Nicer thought than worrying about going off to fight.”

  Sophie traced a finger across one of the Perspex-cased photos.

  “They don’t look worried. But I suppose some of them were scared. Mostly they look excited, and so young.”

  Rafe sighed and tightened his grip around her, and they idled past the rest of the display before riding on.

  *

  They stopped and loitered over coffees at the big Coastlands Shopping Mall. Community fundraisers had a barbecue fired up outside the main doors. Children clutched delicious smelling sausages and fried onion rings wrapped in buttered bread. Tomato ketchup leaked over T-shirts. Babies howled, mothers soothed, fathers looked on indulgently.

  Sophie saw Rafe watching and misinterpreted his gaze.

  “Want one?”

  He shook his head, eyes on twin boys in a double stroller. He pointed. “Those two could just about be my brother’s sons.”

  “The twin had twins of his own? They’ll keep his poor wife busy.”

  “And she’s just given birth to a daughter. Eve’
s well named. She’s a real earth mother.” He set his cup down abruptly. “Have you finished? Want a look around the shops?”

  What had spooked him? A moment earlier he’d been the epitome of relaxed; now he was jumpy as a flea. She tipped up her cup, swallowed the last of her coffee, and rose to accompany him.

  They walked hand in hand, going nowhere in particular. She watched as Rafe appeared to settle and regain his customary good humor. Time slid by. She found the perfect tiny silver shoes to go with the dress she’d made for Camille’s Barbie doll.

  “For the little girl whose drawings are on my fridge,” she said in answer to Rafe’s enquiring expression.

  They continued north on the big bike until he turned in under trees flanking a casual café attached to a thriving plant nursery. Sophie dismounted and Rafe remained sitting, pulling his gloves and helmet off and thrusting a hand into his hair.

  She reached over and ruffled her fingers through it to re-arrange it. Then she froze, and tried to pull away.

  Stupid, stupid, stupid, Sophie. You’re giving him reasons to think you want him.

  Waves of dismay rolled through her as he caught her wrist and pressed his lips into her palm. His almost black eyes locked onto hers as he ran a string of small soft kisses over her skin and out along her middle finger.

  Everything had tipped sideways again just as she thought things were under control.

  She gasped as he sucked the very tip of her finger and teased it with his tongue. Deep inside, her muscles clenched and relaxed, clenched and relaxed, flickered and flamed.

  Surely her face must have mirrored the sensations because the corners of Rafe’s mouth curled up in a soft smile as he eased off the suction.

  “Hold that thought right through lunch,” he murmured after she’d yanked her finger free.

  And now she was sitting, elbows on the rustic table, head plunged into her hands, silently cursing herself as he went to place their order. Why had she touched him? He could have tidied himself in the rear vision mirror.

  But something had drawn her fingers into his dark hair. And she’d loved its crisp softness... loved being so close to him she could feel his heat and dangerous desire... loved the way he’d kissed her hand so sensuously.

  A taunting little voice whispered in her ear. Insistent. Ever-gaining in volume.

  Give in and enjoy him Sophie. Think how good it’ll be to make love with a man who has you almost coming in a crowded parking lot in broad daylight.

  Chapter 16 — Afternoon Delight

  She expected Rafe would stop near public changing rooms so she could slip out of her jeans and into her shorts for the promised walk along the shore. Instead, right before the beach, he turned the bike in to a private driveway, reached into one of the pockets of his leather jacket, and aimed a remote control at the broad garage door of a spectacular two-level house.

  The door opened. They moved forward. He closed it behind them again.

  To Sophie’s consternation, the ground floor was entirely taken up with a huge swimming pool. Placid, blue, and lit by shafts of sunshine through wide windows and floor-to-ceiling glass doors, it seemed to pulse with invitation. The paved expanse where they’d parked was obviously intended for vehicles, but otherwise the whole area invited family recreation. Inflatable toys and outdoor furniture leaned against one wall. Two small kayaks hung from hooks in the ceiling. A big stainless steel gas barbecue stood beside a matching refrigerator.

  Sophie struggled off the bike, pulled off her helmet, and shook out her long hair. “Where are we?” she demanded.

  Rafe removed his helmet more slowly. His eyes held the same sexy invitation that had mesmerized her at lunchtime.

  Hot. Suggestive.

  And yet his voice was quietly matter of fact with no hint of impropriety. “A friend’s house. Not currently in use because he’s taken his wife to Sydney for the week. It’s ours today.”

  Sophie’s heart started to thud and heat pooled low in her belly. She knew she was in real trouble now. All her fantasies were colliding, and that persuasive internal voice had gained in volume and persistence. “But you said the beach.”

  “The beach is only a few feet away. It’s there any time you want it. We can get changed here in private, grab a drink, lock our stuff up safely.”

  She glared at him. Damn. She’d been depending on the public beach as her defense. It was her only weapon left against the dark insistent wanting that pulsed through her in unrelenting waves.

  Public beach equaled safety.

  Private house equaled every possibility of giving in to his leisurely charm drenched pursuit.

  She watched his long leg swing over the seat as he dismounted. The tough denim pulled taut over his butt and down his thigh, reminding her exactly what great shape he was in. Her longing grew stronger.

  Rafe set the bike on its stand. The slight sounds of cooling metal intruded over the muffled roar of the nearby ocean. He unzipped his jacket, shrugged it off, and hung it over the handlebars. Underneath he wore a fine white linen shirt, through which Sophie could just discern his dark nipples and maybe a drift of chest hair.

  Her heart began to thump even harder. Why couldn’t he have a thick and boring T-shirt on? With advertising for fried chicken or car tires or something else crass and unattractive?

  “Want to see the rest of the house?” He indicated an open-tread staircase to one side of the pool.

  She set down her crash helmet and climbed. Rafe followed only a few steps behind.

  The light almost blinded her on the top floor. Even the gauzy curtains were no real defense against the sun. He drew one aside to show her the view of the long golden beach—as he’d promised, very close indeed. Only a band of low, scrubby vegetation separated them from the sand.

  “Nice sitting here with a cold beer on a hot day,” he said, unlocking one of the big sliding doors and rolling it aside to let fresh air flood in. When he walked out onto the timber deck Sophie followed, wriggling to rid herself of the day-pack and jacket. Instantly Rafe moved behind her, strong hands stripping them away, then gathering her hair to one side so he could drop a kiss at the junction of her neck and shoulder.

  Someone moaned. Probably her.

  Someone chuckled. Definitely him.

  ‘Give in,’ the little voice said.

  Sophie sighed very deeply and tried for another ounce or two of resolve while Rafe carried her jacket and pack into the main living area and laid them on a long leather sofa.

  “This house of Matt and Annie’s got me thinking about mine,” he said as he returned to the big deck. “I like the casual comfortable feel of it. Faye wanted something much sharper.”

  They leaned on the deck railing companionably for a few minutes, watching the long rollers powering onto the shore. Then he held out a hand.

  After a slight hesitation Sophie took it and they walked together through the main living area and into a light filled atrium.

  Bedrooms... Oh I shouldn’t.

  “We can’t just prowl through someone else’s house,” she objected, trying to tug her hand out of his as the reality of the situation hit her.

  “They’ve prowled through mine.”

  “But yours isn’t finished. It’s not... um.”

  “Not private? Not full of beds?” One corner of his gorgeous mouth twitched in challenge.

  She stood there battered by indecision. “I really want to see the house if it’s made such an impression on you,” she assured him. “It might give me ideas about what I can specify for yours.”

  “So come and see it.”

  “But... I don’t want you to think...”

  His scent drifted across the small gap between them, and she remembered him saying two evenings ago, ‘You like the way I smell. I like the way you smell. Win/win.’

  Yes, he was a big strong sensual man who smelled like everything missing from her life. She’d vowed to keep things businesslike between them, but he tempted her with pri
vacy, and beds, and his warm eyes. Her decorating studio and her treasured daughter had been the total focus of her life for the past few years but now Rafe had forced his way in beside them.

  Hesitantly she stepped closer, pressed her face against him, and breathed him in, soaking up the intoxicating scents of clean fabric and hot sexy man.

  Two top buttons undone...

  If I just tweaked another one, stroked his chest, tasted his skin...

  Her restless fingers found it, slipped it through the hole, and pushed the two sides of his shirt apart. Lost at last, she nestled in so her nose and mouth brushed against his flesh. With an incoherent murmur she squeezed her eyes closed and inhaled again, savoring his scent for several deep slow breaths, feeling his arms wrapping around her and pulling her hips against his to confirm he was as turned on as she was.

  The hairs on his chest tickled her face so she licked them flat. He tasted slightly salty and totally tempting.

  “This is your way of discouraging me, is it?” she heard him demand in a hoarse whisper. “You eat me alive?”

  She tried to pull back, feeling the flush spreading up her neck and over her face, but he held her close, rocking their bodies slowly together. “Why would I let you go now?”

  “We can’t...” she tried one last time.

  “We can.”

  “Your friends...”

  “Won’t be home until next weekend. No-one will know, Sophie.”

  “I just don’t do things like this,” she insisted, fumbling far too enthusiastically with the rest of his shirt buttons as her final shred of restraint disappeared. She pushed the fabric back, and all her breath rushed out. At last she could touch him.

  Mesmerized, she trailed her fingers over his sculpted chest and shoulders and on down his arms as she peeled the shirt away. Her hands roved, smoothing and kneading spice-brown flesh.

  Rafe held still for her, although she knew how aroused he was and sensed the tight leash he had on his desire. She eased away and stroked down over the warm corrugated muscles of his torso. And then slid her arms around his waist, drew him close again and raised her face in a silent demand to be kissed.

 
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