He drove her back to the Pacific Pier Building in a heavy wind, a few drops of rain hitting the windshield. He parked on the street and got out to walk her to the pub but she stopped in the courtyard.
“It’s not all your fault,” she said.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Communicating is a two-way street and—”
“We’re not talking about this.”
The storm broke over them with a boom of thunder, and rain began to fall in earnest as she stared at him. For once she didn’t think of her poor shoes. All she thought about was the pain in her chest. “So much for letting me be there for you,” she said. “And all that other stuff last night about no debt, no price between us.”
He just looked at her, impervious to the rain. To her.
“So to be clear, it’s only okay if I need you,” she said. “But when the shoe’s on the other foot, you’re not willing to let yourself need help from me, is that it?” She shook her head, all the bottled-up emotions popping free. “God forbid you be vulnerable in any way or show a weakness, right? You probably faked not being able to use those chopsticks with your left hand yesterday, just to throw me off.”
“Elle,” he said, sounding to-the-bone weary. “Get out of the storm and go get warm—”
When he sighed, actually sighed, she narrowed her eyes. “You know what, Archer? You go get warm, okay? Go straight to hell for all I care.”
“I’m already there.”
“And that’s my fault?” she asked incredulously, having to squint through the rain now.
“Yes. Shit. No.” He shoved his hands into his hair, making it stand up on end. “I don’t know. You’ve got me all twisted in knots and all sorts of fucked up.” And then on that rare, shockingly revealing statement, he hauled her up against him, spun them into the alley, and kissed the ever loving daylights out of her.
And him too, if his heavy breathing counted for anything.
When they finally came up for air, they were both drenched to the core and she’d completely forgotten the fact that she’d decided to keep her mouth off him. The only thing that helped was that he’d forgotten himself too. He had his hands on her ass, holding her tight to him, nudging her hips up close and personal to what felt like a very impressive erection.
And she wasn’t much better. She was climbing him like a tree and making needy little whimpers that she couldn’t stop to save her life. They weren’t even having sex, their clothes weren’t off, they were standing in a damn alley for God’s sake, but she’d swear they’d both just nearly come from only a kiss.
“You’re killing me,” he said, his voice as rough as gravel.
She felt like she was literally going to die if she didn’t get him inside her, but she managed to give him a cool look. “So walk away then, Archer. You’re good at that.”
But he didn’t move. Instead, he looked down at himself. “I couldn’t walk to save my own life. Hell, in this condition, I couldn’t even get you upstairs to one of our offices.”
“This isn’t a booty call, remember?”
He tilted his head, clearly taking in her flushed face, her crazy breathing, and then there was the fact that her nipples were poking against the material of her wet clothes like two heat-seeking missiles, which he could clearly see because his jacket was slipping off her shoulders. She tightened it around herself.
He didn’t make a smartass comment. Instead he shocked her when he said, “At the moment, Elle, I’d get down on my knees and beg.”
This revealing statement knocked her for such a loop that she was still staring at him when Eddie poked his head into the alley. “Hey, dude. Dudette. Listen, far be it for me to interrupt a melding of the minds and all but I’d like to come through here and—” He caught Archer’s expression and backtracked. “Actually, you know what? You two take your time.”
When he was gone, Elle touched a hand to her mouth and stared at Archer. “That was not on my agenda,” she said. “You’re not on my agenda.”
His eyes were dark and unfathomable. “Ditto. Tonight was just an overreaction to an emotional evening.”
She stared at him some more and then stepped back, her heart thundering in disappointment now. She shrugged out of his jacket, thrust it at him, and then turned and left the alley, only to hear Eddie murmur “Don’t take it personally, son. Women are born crazy.”
Hard to be insulted by the truth, she thought as she strode across the courtyard through the driving rain, not even feeling the chill as her blouse and skirt stuck to her like a second skin. She took the elevator, heading to her office simply because she needed a moment alone. An immediate moment alone. She’d gotten her key in the lock when she felt the air pressure change as someone came up behind her.
Didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who. “Overreaction to an emotional evening?” she repeated in angry astonishment, not turning to face him. “Seriously?”
“I was wrong.”
“Maybe I should get that in writing, you admitting you’re wrong. It’s like seeing a unicorn and I need to capture the moment.”
A tanned, sinewy arm encircled her, taking over unlocking the door. Then he nudged her inside, flicked on the lights, kicked the door closed, and pushed her up against it. He was big, hard, and drenched.
“You know what?” she asked, proud of her steady voice in spite of her trembling legs. “I’m going to have to pass on the caveman act—”
His mouth came down on hers, fusing their lips in a hot, searing kiss that she felt from the tips of her frozen toes to the ends of her wet hair and every single inch in between. Huh. Turned out she’d been wrong too, very wrong to think she could resist this with him.
Lightning flashed, followed immediately by a boom of thunder. Her office lights flickered once, twice. An electric surge, she thought dizzily, the scent of rain and sexy Archer making her press into him.
“I want you, Elle,” he said, voice low and rough. “It’s a goddamn ache, I want you so much. Just like this, dripping wet in every way, blind with need.”
“Yes.” Mindless at this point, she shoved up his wet shirt. He tore it off over his head and then unbuttoned her blouse and spread it open, a low, muttered oath on his lips as the lights flashed out again.