All for love 3 series.., p.30
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.30

           Kris Pearson
 
She watched him in profile. Thick dark lashes, long nose with its imperfectly mended break, beetling black brows over ever-alert eyes, the uncompromising jut of his jaw, the hard ridge of his cheekbone. Nothing soft anywhere. Totally male. A tough face apart from those surprisingly lush eyelashes.

  “Yes, of course she will,” Kate heard. “We’ll see you there at a quarter to.”

  She watched as he set a plateful of last night’s leftover curry and rice to heat in the microwave oven.

  “Can you make some more of that salad?” he asked, opening the fridge and retrieving a part bottle of wine.

  “For Lottie?”

  “Gets her out of the way. We’ve lost a bit of time with that movie.”

  Kate complied, and took the tray upstairs. By the time she returned, Matthew had fried rice under way in a wok and pungent chilli sizzling in a pan. A pile of huge tiger prawns awaited transformation, and he’d poured two glasses of wine.

  “How’s she feeling now?” he threw over his shoulder.

  “Well enough to tackle food, anyway. Asking for you.”

  He grimaced at that. “Better do it right now. Can you keep an eye on this?” He banged his stirring spoon against the side of the wok and laid it on a chopping board. “And deal to these?” he suggested, indicating the bags of bok choy, bean-sprouts and celery on the counter.

  So he was quite domesticated? Kate wondered about that as she stirred and chopped. Would it be his first wife’s influence, or Lottie’s? Probably the wife who’d bought him the beautiful gold chain. The wife he’d described as ‘wrong’. Lottie seemed not to have an ounce of kitchen pride to judge by the filthy dishes upstairs. Although the curry had been delicious... Her speculations swirled around until Matthew bounded back in. “Nothing but drama,” he muttered, tipping the prawns into the pan where they hissed and sizzled.

  “Who taught you to cook?” she asked.

  “Me.”

  It was such a cold and uncompromising answer that she turned away and took cutlery to the table. The same table where, a little earlier, her butt had made a spectacular statement in his artwork. Moments later, he set her hot and fragrant requested dinner down in front of her.

  “Thank you—this looks... delicious,” she said, trying not to sound too grateful.

  He turned away, and returned with the two glasses of wine.

  By then she’d torn the tail off a succulent prawn and popped it into her mouth.

  His quicksilver gaze sought and held hers. “You’ll come to the movie with me?”

  Not a request, she noted. A statement. Again.

  She swallowed. “The premiere tonight? Maybe.”

  One corner of his mouth kicked up, and he reached for one of his own prawns. “I don’t see Lottie managing the cinema stairs in her present condition.”

  Kate smirked to herself. She’d be safe enough with him in a big crowd like that. She tore the tail off another prawn, licking her fingers as the juice spurted out. Matthew’s eyes followed her every move.

  “You can’t eat these with a knife and fork,” she protested.

  He shook his head, agreeing.

  “Or chopsticks,” she added.

  “I’m pleased to see you enjoying them.” He reached toward her chin as though to touch it.

  She reared back out of his reach. “Don’t do things like that,” she snapped.

  “Boyfriend a bit too recent?” he asked.

  Wife a bit too close, she thought. “Something along those lines,” she murmured.

  Matthew leaned back in his chair with a broad grin, looking as though he could wait if he had to. Looking as though he had unlimited patience when it came to solving problems, which he probably had for the work he did.

  Kate reminded herself to remember that and keep her distance.

  ~♥~

  She walked automatically to the passenger door of the SUV, but Matthew called her back. “Around the other way. We’ll take the car tonight.”

  She’d glimpsed a racy red vehicle on the other side of the big garage and taken no particular notice of it, assuming it to be Lottie’s.

  “You rather suit each other,” he added as he handed her in to the passenger seat of his very new, very powerful Alpha Romeo.

  Kate tugged her skirt down and inhaled. The expensive upholstery smelled divine.

  Matthew reached for the seatbelt and squatted beside the low-slung car to fasten it for her. He leaned inside, invading her space outrageously, and his own scent wafted through the air, even more enticing than the luxurious leather.

  “I can do that, thanks,” she said, trying to fend him off.

  “I’m sure you can,” he murmured, taking no notice and gliding the belt down over her breasts and clicking it into place. “But I wouldn’t want you coming to any harm while you’re in my care, Katie.”

  His face stayed only inches away. His dangerous wonderful mouth was so easily within reach again. His eyes laughed at her discomfort. It was all Kate could do not to lean forward that tiny distance and bite him with furious longing.

  Matthew trailed his big hand from her hip, along her thigh to her knee. He gave it a hint of a squeeze as he stood again to push the door shut. The moment he’d gone, Kate wanted him back, no matter that it could lead nowhere. She dared not have him. She was desperate to touch him. She had to resist...

  Her defences were crumbling to dust.

  The sleek scarlet car purred and roared and spat as he wound it up to high speed on the long straight before the main road. Every corner of Kate’s body throbbed, although was it from the sexy car or the sexy man?

  He wore a hand-tailored dark suit, a snowy shirt, and a misty grey tie. Conservative. Expensive. Devastating.

  He’d recently shaved, and his short hair still looked shower-damp. She longed to reach out and ruffle it up, comb her fingers through it, and scrape her nails lightly down his neck.

  In the pulsing darkness of the car, she drank him in while he concentrated on the road.

  She’d worn her cream suit and the black shirt he’d ‘persuaded’ her to buy. When she’d appeared, he’d subjected her to a thorough and appreciative inspection, and said, “Better than the chocolate.” Kate knew he was right. The black set off her skin and hair the way the chocolate never would have.

  His photographer’s sense was acute. The details of the house were totally his. The unexpected flashes of colour in clever juxtaposition to each other, the skilful arrangements of the wonderful pieces of art, the fittings and finishes in every room... all Matthew, all superb, all the result of his sharp and clever eyes.

  She hoped she met his standards, whatever they were. She’d pulled her hair up in an elegant twist, out of the way of his long exploring fingers, and applied her makeup lightly but with care. Yes, it was only a movie, and they’d be sitting in the dark, but she had her standards, too. “Are you sure Lottie will be all right without us?” she asked as he eased off the accelerator before the main road.

  “She’s safe enough in bed. It’s only for a couple of hours, Katie. Relax and enjoy some time off.”

  Relax? With him?

  But being dressed up, transported in such a slinky car, and looked after by a man whose every glance suggested extreme pleasure could be hers if she’d only say yes, was certainly no hardship.

  “So what’s this movie?”

  “The latest 007. Guns, girls, gadgets. One of the service clubs is raising money for things. Child cancer research from memory.”

  He fell suddenly and unnervingly silent.

  Awareness flooded through her. Was that what had happened to the boy in the photo? The little dark-haired boy who was possibly his son? There was no way she could ask—Matthew had never mentioned him. She’d only discovered him by spying.

  “You can enjoy the girls and I’ll enjoy James then,” she said as lightly as she could.

  “Your sort of man, is he? Vicious? Dangerous? Single-minded?”

  “In your dreams.”

&n
bsp; She saw the snowy flash of his teeth as Matthew smiled. They were into the town now, and the streetlights slid long shadows and bright moving pools of gold over the car’s interior.

  “You should have worn that chain with your shirt,” he said.

  “It’s in my room. I meant to give it back to you, but the day took some interesting twists.”

  “Agreed.”

  She shot him a suspicious glance. What did he mean? “So?”

  His face remained innocence itself. “You’re on a fairly difficult mission, Katie.”

  “Well, I’m only on it for a few more days.”

  “More’s the pity. Never mind, we’ll make the most of them.” He slowed to a crawl and pressed the button on a remote control unit before turning into an alleyway. “Not the sort of car you leave out on the street at night, if you can avoid it,” he added as a warehouse door rumbled open and lights flickered on.

  Kate caught her breath. Waves of apprehension skittered up her spine. She hadn’t expected this. “Where are we?”

  “A little place I own. Nice and central for parking. We lived upstairs while the house was being built.”

  “Not so little,” she said, relaxing slightly and gazing around.

  “Space for Lottie to paint. And to store the furniture and fittings we collected for the house. I don’t use it for much, now. Hamish has a remote, too.”

  Right on cue, another vehicle rolled inside.

  The door crept slowly down again as he and Kate climbed out of the Alpha. “You going to be warm enough?” he asked.

  She shrugged. “Is it far?”

  “How’s Sis?” Hamish asked her before Matthew could answer. “Driving you mad yet?”

  Kate prickled hot and cold, suddenly alight with suspicion. Could he mean Lottie?

  She swallowed.

  Sis?

  If Matthew and Lottie were not man and wife, that put a totally different spin on things. Made an affair between him and herself possible—and even more impossible.

  “She... um... insisted on starting a painting as soon as we arrived home.”

  Sis? The name scorched and sizzled in her brain.

  “And then she sensibly... went to bed for a rest...”

  Hamish laughed. “Minor miracle,” he agreed, apparently noticing nothing strange in Kate’s hesitant speech.

  “Nice to see you again,” Diana said, as if Kate’s world hadn’t just been tossed upside down.

  “Yes. And you,” she murmured, fighting tremors of dread and delight.

  Matthew led the way through the building. He opened the door to the street. It was only a short walk in the chilly air before they were inside the cinema, but Kate shook for the whole distance as shivers danced up and down her spine.

  She feverishly reviewed the family’s composition. Hamish and Matthew were brothers. Diana was Hamish’s wife. Surely Lottie was Matthew’s wife? No-one had said she wasn’t. But when she thought about it carefully, no-one had actually said she was, either. Her mind whirled with possibilities, probabilities, complications.

  Matthew had mentioned a stepmother. His father had married twice. Could Lottie be the child of the second marriage? A half-sister to the two boys?

  Or maybe a stepsister? No blood relation at all? In which case Matthew could perfectly well have married her. Kate had a friend who’d done just that, so she was no further ahead with her speculating.

  They handed in their tickets. Diana greeted friends and introduced Kate. Beside them, Matthew and Hamish discussing pruning the vines. Everything was normal. And everything had just been blown apart. How could she find out for sure?

  Matthew took her arm as the queue moved slowly forward, and Hamish positioned himself beside Diana. Kate was dismayed to find they’d not all be sitting together; Hamish and Diana had seats three rows in front of Matthew. His were at the far end of the back row, in the darkest, most private corner.

  Chapter Eleven — Double-Oh-Sexy

  She stared at him in disbelief. Her face must have spoken volumes because he laughed softly and bent to whisper close to her ear. “Top-secret seat next to the wall, Katie. Heaps of leg-room. I’m too tall to be really comfortable anywhere else.”

  And she had to admit there was indeed room for his long legs because of the way the seats were arranged.

  They sat. Kate was now wedged right beside him for the rest of the evening. She held her arms close against her sides so they wouldn’t rub against his, but the scent of his cologne floated in her direction. The heat of his big lean body came with it, wrapping around her. She became ever more conscious of his impressive physicality, his broad shoulders, his unyielding strength. No-one had yet arrived to claim the next seat, so she leaned a little in that direction while she could.

  It was exquisite torture to be so close, and to still have no answer to her ‘Sis’ dilemma. How could she ask him without giving herself away? The last thing she wanted was for him to think she was curious about his marital status and open to starting anything that could have no satisfactory end.

  After two or three excruciating minutes, the lights dimmed. The service club president appeared with a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see so many of you here this evening. I thank you for your generosity in supporting these two most worthy causes.” A scattering of applause broke out and she waited for silence. “Yes, our community will be making a substantial donation towards child cancer research. New Zealand has leading scientists in this field, and your money will be put to excellent use.” Again, the audience applauded. “And,” the president continued, “of huge importance in this area of the country is the work of the mountain rescue teams. The police and experienced volunteers pluck locals and tourists alike from life-threatening situations in our mountains and rivers. They need specialised equipment to carry out this dangerous work, and that’s where the other half of this evening’s contributions are headed.”

  This time louder applause erupted from the audience.

  And as the lights slowly dimmed further, Matthew slid an arm around Kate’s shoulders.

  She drew a sharp breath as the warm weight settled about her.

  “This is pleasant, isn’t it?” he said.

  She shot him a venomous glare. His lips twitched, laughing at her, teasing her.

  “As long as it stays pleasant,” she said in a tight voice.

  “I’m sure I can promise you that,” he murmured as the lights faded to full darkness.

  “Take your arm away please.”

  The opening music was strident... the volume high. He either hadn’t heard or pretended he hadn’t.

  She leaned closer and put her lips against his ear. “Take your arm away please.”

  It lifted from her shoulders, but instantly his big hand cradled the back of her head, holding her captive unnervingly near to his face. He nudged the tip of her nose with his own, and slowly, softly, began to explore her mouth. Gentle kisses. Hardly making contact. But Kate sensed every nerve ending leaping to panic level as he moved his lips over hers with delicate butterfly brushes. His tongue traced the outline of her mouth, and he leisurely kissed the bow of her top lip, each corner, and then nipped softly as he slid lower.

  She’d instantly tried to pull away, but his grip was sure. His mouth swallowed her exclamation of annoyance, and then her resistance fled on swift feet. She’d wanted this. Wanted him. Wanted to know the taste of him. Wanted to touch and take. Her fingers slid though his short thick hair, caressed his neck, cupped his jaw.

  His scent swirled around her—earthy, musky, male.

  He tasted sweet. Dark. Dangerous.

  Kate parted her lips, and he responded by deepening his kiss, plunging his tongue inside her mouth to duel with hers. She heard herself moan. Thank God for the noisy movie soundtrack!

  She’d not been expecting to have to fend him off so soon.

  Fend him off? What a joke. She was pulling him closer with each passing second.

 
She dismissed a twinge of guilt about Lottie. Lottie would never know. Must never know. It was just a kiss. Only a kiss. No way would it lead to anything more.

  And she mightn’t be his wife, anyway.

  Delicious warmth ricocheted everywhere as his assured tongue explored. Deep in her belly, she quivered, hot and liquid. Tiny muscles clenched and relaxed in a foretaste of ecstasy.

  You should pull away from him right now, her brain commanded.

  But not for a few more seconds, her body argued.

  And to her utter devastation, it was Matthew who broke the contact, leaving her confused and abandoned, awakened and shaking, and on fire.

  He settled back into his seat with a sigh, linked his fingers through hers, and laid her hand high on his thigh, confining it there with the pressure of his own. The back of her wrist registered his cock was rock-hard. She sat there, stunned.

  Her mind had embroidered that kiss into something truly sinful. It had obviously affected Matthew, too, but it seemed he’d remembered he was married. Or decided she wasn’t really worth the bother. Or, worse still, proved he could get her to respond to him and felt no need to take the game further.

  She’d wanted him so much. Today was Thursday. She had three days to enjoy being close to him without actually falling into his bed. Now he seemed engrossed in the movie! She felt his long thigh muscles responding to the action...tensing with the car-chase excitement... shaking with laughter during the lighter moments... jerking with the gunshots. He made no other move in her direction, but he was sure as hell still violently aroused.

  She seethed—furious with him, even more furious with herself. He thought she was so easy, did he? And she’d damned well proved him right.

  She had no idea what was happening on the screen—Matthew had taken over her brain. Sweet surrenders and sharp rejoinders whirled around in a vivid and sickening mess. She felt cheap and foolish. And alive and desirous. And angry beyond belief.

  As the movie ended, he turned to her. “Fair enough way to spend an hour or two,” he said, seeming to think she’d feel the same.

  Kate tried very hard to keep her cool. No way would she let him know she’d been demolished with lust for him, and shaking with disappointment at his desertion.

  She summoned up a small nod, not trusting herself to speak. Not trusting herself to even look him in the eye after what he’d done. And after the way she’d reacted.

  He finally released her hand. What would Hamish and Diana have thought if he hadn’t? God, it didn’t bear thinking about!

 
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