All for love 3 series.., p.9
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.9

           Kris Pearson
 

  “Better find your earring,” he finally said, not wanting to leave the restless waves and the soft summer air, but knowing she must be tired after the stress and excitement of her first full day at the studio. Maybe that was all? Perhaps he was worrying about nothing?

  He rose, grabbed the sample books with one hand, and held out his other toward her, pleased when she took it, although she appeared almost trance-like.

  “You’re still a long way away.” He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles in a gentle caress and she gave the smallest of laughs and came back to him.

  Casting a doubtful look at the darkening sky, she asked, “How much is the house lit yet?”

  “Wiring’s all finished, and there are some pretty nasty lightbulbs here and there. Very little you’d approve of.”

  “But we’ll be able to see downstairs?”

  “Well enough.” He led her inside.

  “It’s so different at night.” She stared around the huge area of the darkened top floor. “This gives me other things to think about.”

  The big house sat silent apart from the sea noises. No radio, no nail-gun, no screaming saw. No timber offcuts or plumbing boxes strewn over the floor, either.

  “They’ve already started tidying up?”

  He heard the note of concern in her voice. “Only on this floor. Your earring wasn’t here, I’m sure.”

  Because I’m damn sure it’s on my bed where I put it when I came in to change.

  *

  God, I wish he had a shirt on!

  Sophie walked beside him feeling short and overwhelmed. The little black boots she’d worn yesterday morning had heels no higher than tonight’s shoes so that wasn’t the answer. He’d been tall enough in his dark suit. Why did he seem much taller in his old shorts and all this smooth touchable skin?

  Skin her fingers itched to stroke.

  In the harsh glare of a suspended lightbulb she saw all the long lithe pieces that made up his body; legs and arms packed with smooth muscles, that endless toned torso which started with a hard flat belly above the low-slung shorts and led up and up to his beautiful chest. She didn’t dare look at his face in case he caught the hunger in her eyes.

  Quads and abs and pecs, she recited to herself as a distraction, remembering the chart in her doctor’s waiting room, drawn like something out of an old-fashioned medical textbook. The muscles on the chart were striped black and white and fussily labeled—nothing like these warm sweeps of taut flesh.

  Deltoids. And glutes. The ones on his butt.

  She sneaked a look behind him. Damn, just as good.

  They started down the stairs. Each tread had been covered with a protective slab of fiber board, taped down to hold it firm.

  “What’s the timber underneath?” she asked, fighting to re-establish her professional manner.

  “Jarrah—very dark.”

  “Good choice. It’ll wear well.” She scuffed at an end of tape threatening to come loose, suddenly far too conscious of his warm hand now they were amongst bedrooms. “You’ll want these rooms carpeted?”

  “You don’t have to work at this hour,” he growled, setting down the sample books. “Yes, I want the bedrooms carpeted. Something soft and thick and warm so I can spread you out and ravish you on it.” He pulled her close before she could escape.

  Sophie gave an enraged squeal—not so much at his suggestion as his sudden unexpected embrace.

  “Not the floor then?” he teased, sliding his hands under her butt and hoisting her up level with his waist. She instinctively clamped her legs around him so she didn’t slide down into more dangerous territory.

  “Pity you haven’t got that skirt on tonight. I was looking forward to enjoying your skin against mine.” He leaned up and kissed the corner of her mouth.

  The hot wash of lust flowed like liquid honey along every nerve. Right down to her tingling toes. Right out to her traitorous fingers which took no notice of the ‘keep away’ messages her sensible brain sent with ever-increasing panic.

  No, her fingers slid over his gorgeous shoulders and curled around his neck like sweet-pea tentacles. Held him tight. Gripped like fury.

  She gave a long breathy moan as she tilted her face away. In answer his mouth burned hot on her neck, traveling slowly up until his sharp white teeth nipped her earlobe. His lips brushed over the sensitive skin right beside her eye and progressed with excruciating slowness to the edge of her jaw until they were millimeters away from her mouth again.

  “No,” she whispered. “I don’t want to do this.”

  “Do what?”

  “Kiss you.”

  “Like this?” His lips rubbed softly over hers.

  “Yes.”

  “Yes?”

  “Yes, I don’t want to kiss you.”

  “So that’s a ‘no’?”

  “Yes... Oh God, Rafe... definitely a ‘no’. Stop it.”

  “Stop doing this?” His lips brushed against hers again, and paused.

  “Yes. Stop doing it right now,” she murmured against his mouth, confusion and longing running hot along her nerves to join the lust already simmering there.

  As she said that infuriated ‘now’, her mouth opened and somehow settled either side of his bottom lip. She sucked gently. He tasted like wine and pizza and moonlight, and she drew in a deep frustrated breath. He smelled like paradise.

  “Stop right now, hmmm?” Sophie found it hard to understand that. Their lips seemed to be more entangled than she’d planned. And one of her hands had smoothed down from his neck to his shoulder, and then back up to his neck and into his hair. This was nothing like the caresses she’d given when he’d seemed in need of soothing. This was a demanding ‘gimme more’ message.

  Rafe seemed good at translating. He gave her more without stinting. More light and luscious kisses. More little nips and nibbles. And then, with a deep sigh, he changed his grip so he held her whole weight against him with one arm. His other hand rose to cup her face and angled it so he could kiss her more deeply.

  He swept his tongue across hers and Sophie groaned, but it wasn’t with outrage this time; it was absolute appreciation. Nothing had ever felt so good. She finally relaxed and responded to him with no thought for the possible consequences, on fire everywhere their bodies met.

  He tasted and smelled divine. Her fingers ran over skin as smooth and soft as suede. And there was so much of it to enjoy. In return his hands stroked dreamily through her hair, sifting, tangling and tugging to pull her close.

  Long minutes later she dragged her lips away from his and tried to gather her wits. Tried to breathe. Tried to focus on his too-close face with its high cheekbones and hungry eyes. Tried to summon up the least skerrick of resistance against his potent kisses.

  She ached and burned all over. Had he relaxed his grip on her or she loosened her grasp on him? An impressive masculine bulge now pressed exactly against the centre seam of her Levis, right where the throb and the damp heat were almost unbearable.

  He took one step sideways and the sensation kicked up a notch higher.

  His arm released her so her boneless legs slid down beside his. Her feet touched the bottom step of the staircase, one higher than where he stood on the floor. She swayed against him to brace herself and he tightened his grip again. God, his scent…

  “My legs have gone all funny,” she gasped.

  “Not as funny as some of me,” he countered, nudging his hips against hers to demonstrate. They pressed together forehead to forehead, laughing softly.

  She saw him glance at his watch.

  “Time I was getting you home. You must be dead on your feet after today.”

  ‘What??!!’ her aroused body screamed. He planned to leave her like this at fever pitch? He was suddenly the gentleman again? She stared at him, astonished. Relief warred with thwarted lust.

  Chapter 10 — Goodnight Kiss

  “Fine,” she heard herself say, and she didn’t sound gracious. “Are we going to look for
my earring before we go?”

  “Let’s start on the lowest level and work our way up.” He took her hand again as if they hadn’t just spent the last few minutes plastered together trying to climb inside each other. “Coffee?”

  She shook her head. It would be hard enough relaxing with those kisses surging through her memory; a late night caffeine hit would guarantee no sleep at all.

  “Master bedroom suite’s through there, by the way.” He indicated the door Chris had appeared through yesterday morning. “I’ll show you another time.”

  Sophie thought another time would be excellent. She didn’t want to see where he planned to sleep with anyone else after he’d decided she wasn’t good enough.

  They descended the final flight of stairs to his living quarters. Sensors turned on small recessed lights low on the walls as they walked down.

  “Carpet all through this level as well,” he added, setting the fabric samples on the table. “Tile in the spa-room and bathroom, and this kitchen area of course.”

  “Of course,” she agreed stiffly, still trembling from the sensation of his big body against hers. How could he move from French kissing to floor coverings without missing a beat?

  She was missing lots of beats herself—big thumping heartbeats. Something behind her ribs galloped along in a most erratic manner. Damn the man. How could he do that to her? Just switch off, leaving her way switched on.

  With a trembling finger she eased the top of her jeans down a little, hoping the centre seam would drop a fraction and give her sensitive body some respite.

  She drew a deep breath and glanced around the kitchen and living area for any sign of her missing earring.

  Rafe crossed to his office. “Won’t be in here,” he said, giving the room a cursory inspection. “You didn’t come further than the doorway.”

  “Hopefully your bedroom, then.” But she saw no immediate sign of it.

  “Blue, was it?”

  “Blue lapis, set in silver.”

  He checked the shelving and the floor.

  “Ah. Not easy to see.” He picked up the silver and blue earring from a dip in one of the bed-cover’s navy stripes.

  Sophie tried to take it, but he smiled and pushed her hand aside, and instead cradled her face so he could thread the hook through the piercing himself.

  She had no idea why she let him. She hadn’t wanted to be so close to him again while her breathing was still erratic and her pulse rapid. Didn’t want to let him know the effect he had on her.

  But his hands were magic—big and warm and careful. Against her will she felt somehow treasured.

  “Tricky little beast.” He jiggled the hook with patience until it slid, unfelt, through the tiny hole in her earlobe, then brushed a kiss over the side of her face.

  Sophie gave a soft, breathy grunt. Just surprise, she told herself. Or agreement with his comment about the earring being tricky. It absolutely hadn’t been desire.

  *

  Rafe pulled away with reluctance. God, he was getting into deep water here...finding it hard to keep his hands off her. Sure, he’d taken the earring so he could entice her back to the house. Deliberately placed it on the bed so he’d have a reason to get her into his room again. She’d left just enough doubt yesterday about whether his attentions would be welcome.

  But she’d been so sweet up on the deck, helping him build the chairs and trying to console him when she knew he’d been hurting. How could he turn into a grasping Neanderthal?

  He’d meant it to be no more than a playful hug a few minutes earlier, and instead he’d wrapped her around himself in a band of glorious temptation.

  He’d intended only to tease her by nipping her ear, but his lips had wandered down to hers, and for those heady minutes while she’d responded he’d been on fire.

  Drawing her attention to the late hour had given him just enough breathing space to think rationally.

  And now he had his hands on her again... his mouth heading for hers... his body still hard as hell.

  He pulled back, muttering a soft curse, and pushed her toward the stairs.

  *

  A short time later, as they drove back across the city in his big quiet car, he said, “So you don’t think I’m a Jaguar kind of guy?”

  Sophie saw the flash of his eyes against his dark skin as he turned to her with the question.

  She shrugged. “It’s a beautiful car, but I just thought a man like you would have something a bit... racier.”

  “You won’t like me when I tell you why I have the Jag, but I’ve told you the rest, so what the hell.”

  “What do you mean by ‘the rest’?”

  “My family situation. The non-relationship with my mother and father.”

  She bit her lip before saying, “at least you have a father to have a non-relationship with.”

  He left a small wondering silence before asking “You have a stepfather?”

  “No,” she said, making it clear by her tone she wouldn’t be telling him more. “So why the Jag?”

  The car purred on. She’d almost given up hope of a reply when Rafe muttered, “because my father only considers Italian stuff good enough. I wanted to annoy him so I didn’t buy the Ferrari.”

  Her interest spiked high at that. He’d forgone his dream car as some sort of payback? It was a huge concession for a man with the money to afford exactly what he wanted.

  “Cutting off your nose to spite your face?”

  “Maybe. Probably.”

  “But your motorbike?”

  “I haven’t let on about the Ducati. My guilty little secret. Luca would preen if he knew.”

  Sophie let out a small puff of amusement. “How much do you see of your parents these days?”

  She heard his regretful sigh. “Weddings and funerals. As little as I can get away with.”

  His fingers scraped over the bristles of his late-night stubble as he rubbed his chin.

  Sophie knew her skin probably bore the marks from it. “You were a hurt little boy having a tantrum.”

  “I was a full grown man throwing my money around to offend someone.”

  “As long as you can see that now?”

  “I see it, and I don’t much like it.”

  “I suppose,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “that everyone has different sides to their personalities, and things they’d prefer to keep hidden.” She knew she wanted to appear a cool and confident designer, au fait with the latest decorating trends. She absolutely didn’t want him seeing her as a guilty and worried absentee mother.

  They drove on, mostly in silence, until Rafe pulled up on her bus stop.

  “Thank you,” she said, “for all sorts of things. For the pizza, and the champagne, and for being a great barman yesterday.”

  “At my best in an apron, am I?”

  At your best in those shorts, she thought to herself, glancing sideways at his long thighs. At least she’d been spared the sight of his chest on the drive home—he’d pulled on the old white T-shirt as they’d crossed the deck to the cable-car.

  “I’m very grateful for the chance to decorate your house,” she said politely. “It’s a dream start for my new studio.” She opened her door. Relief flooded through her; he’d made no move to kiss her goodnight.

  Then Rafe pushed his door wide.

  “No!”

  “Yes,” he replied with equal firmness as he stepped out and closed his door. “I don’t let women go wandering off into the dark alone. My grandmother taught me better than that.”

  “I’m perfectly fine. I walk along this path most nights on my own.”

  “But not tonight.” His big presence loomed over her, blocking out the nearest street-light. “And who do you walk with when you’re not on your own?”

  “None of your business.”

  “Maybe I’d like it to be,” he shot back.

  “We’ve been through this. It’s asking for trouble to try and mix a personal relatio
nship with a business one.” She elbowed him aside and strode up the path, managing much better speed in her flat rubber soled shoes than she had in yesterday’s high sandals. She hesitated at the dark corner of the house. “Damn. Where are those steps?”

  “Slow down or you’ll break your neck.” He grabbed one flailing arm and yanked her against him.

  Sophie let out a long angry breath. “I wouldn’t have to hurry if you weren’t rushing me.”

  “I’m only rushing because you are. Go slower. Have some sense.”

  “I just want to get away from you. I said I didn’t need you to see me safely along the path.” She felt her way down, trying to shake his hold on her arm, and annoyed he seemed determined to keep her in his grasp.

  They rounded the house together and entered the deep darkness of her rose scented basement porch.

  “You need a security light on that path. Anyone could jump you.”

  “There’s one on the top corner of the house. The bulb blew a couple of days ago. Mrs. Ferris is getting her son to replace it. And no-one’s ever jumped me yet.”

  “They’d only have to do this,” he said, spinning her around with strong hands and pushing her shoulders gently back against the door. His hips sank against hers, anchoring her there.

  “Let me go, Rafe,” she gasped, struggling against his daunting strength.

  “Wouldn’t want anyone else doing this to you.” His long fingers cupped her face and angled her mouth up to his. His kiss was hot and dangerous. In seconds her body responded with surges of deep wet wanting, and the only sounds she could make were soft gasps of appreciation and need.

  Her fingers threaded into his hair, pulling him down. Her hips tilted up. The heat went everywhere. Singeing, smoking, sparking. Her tongue slid over his as she lost herself in his taste and smell and power again.

  She had no idea how long they stood there, mindless with sensation, drowning in each other.

  Finally Rafe wound his hands into her long hair and trapped her head against the door while he drew back, breathless. “Remember that while I’m gone,” he growled. “Open the door, Sophie. Go inside so I know you’re safe.”

  His grip on her hair relaxed.

  “Gone? Where are you going?”

  “The San Diego boatyard, too damned early tomorrow morning. Get inside before I do something really stupid.”

  “When are you back?”

  “Next Wednesday. I’ll be in touch.”

 
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