“Okay, you’re not cute. You’re . . . sexy as hell.”

They both looked at her attire and he laughed when she winced. “You are,” he maintained.

“You’re a very nice man to lie like that.” She grabbed the laptop from him, shutting the screen. “And now you’ll forget about the fact that I’m so pathetic that I watch DVDs on Friday and Saturday nights instead of going out.”

He looked at her for a long moment and she groaned and covered her face. “Don’t tell me that’s why you’re here, that you thought I was feeling . . . vulnerable.” She dropped her hands and glared at him. “Because if you say that, I’m going to kick your ass, Dell, I mean it.”

Reaching for her wine, he helped himself.

“Say something,” she demanded.

“Are you kidding? I don’t want to get my ass kicked. And you could do it now, too.” He flashed a grin but she just stared at him, deadpan.

He sighed. “I’m not here because I thought you were vulnerable. I’m here because you ran off rather than face the fact that we—”

“Hey. I didn’t run off.”

“Jade, you left smoke in your wake.”

Okay, so she’d run off. Bad habit. “It was just a kiss.”

He slid her a look.

“Okay, it was an unexpectedly great kiss.”

He nodded. “Yeah.” His voice was low and a little rough, and she felt her ni**les harden at the sound of it. “Each time gets even greater.”

Oh so true. “But we’d be stupid to keep doing it.”

“Right.” He looked at her. “Why’s that?”

“Because . . .” God, his eyes. And that gorgeous mocha skin, sun-burnished and so smooth, except for a five o’clock shadow across his jaw after a long day. She already knew how it felt beneath her fingers, which were itching for another touch. “Because we work together. Because you date like other men change socks. Because I’m leaving soon. Pick one.”

“Right,” he said, nodding agreeably. “I almost forgot about all that.”

She nodded.

He reached out and ran a finger along her temple, making her . . . yearn. She leaned into him and closed her eyes.

“And we’re more than co-workers,” he said quietly.

“We’re friends.”

He didn’t say anything and she opened her eyes.

“Yeah,” he said. “We’re friends.”

“Friends don’t kiss like we did without becoming . . . na**d friends.”


“And you have a no-relationship decree in place. You’ve told me so yourself. And even if you hadn’t, your actions speak louder than words.”

“What does a relationship have to do with becoming na**d friends?”

Okay, he had her there. There was a silence, and she waited for him to push the issue, but he just started eating her popcorn. Then he took another drink of her wine. “I thought maybe you were upset about something else,” he finally said.

“Like what?”

“I thought maybe me touching you brought up some bad memories.” His eyes never wavered from hers so when she grimaced, she knew he saw it.

“I . . . No. Not like you’re thinking.” She looked down at her hands, which twisted together until her knuckles turned white. She hadn’t talked about this. She didn’t want to talk about this. But she could admit he deserved a few answers. “I wasn’t raped.”

He covered her hands with one of his as he let out a low breath that had a lot of relief in the sound. “I’m glad. But something happened to you.”

“Yes.” His skin was warm on her suddenly chilly fingers and she found herself turning her hand palm up so she could hold on. “A long time ago.”

“Eighteen months.”

She stared down at their entwined fingers. “Eighteen months.” She shook her head. “But I’m fine now and getting more fine all the time. I don’t need a babysitter, Dell. Or a shoulder to cry on.”

“Well, that’s a relief. I never know what to do with tears.”

Not true. Just this morning she’d seen him holding forty-eight-year-old Missy Robinson, who’d fallen apart in the exam room when he’d had to tell her that her Alaskan husky had cancer. He’d held her for as long as she’d needed, looking devastated for her but perfectly at ease in the role of comforter. “With all those women you date, I’d think you’d have a lot of practice at tears.”

She had no idea why she said that. His dating, or not dating, wasn’t her concern.

Dell grabbed the bowl of popcorn and the remote and leaned back. “Maybe I’m not quite the hotshot you think I am.”

She stared at him. He was good at letting people come to their own conclusions, and he’d certainly never tried to be anything he wasn’t. His eyes met hers, clear and warm and open. “What are we doing, Dell?”

“Well, I’m hoping to watch a movie and eat the rest of your popcorn.”

“Because . . . ?”

“Because I like this movie and I love popcorn. And because Adam’s at my house barbecuing chicken and vegetables. Vegetables.” He shuddered again.

After Oceans 11, they switched to SNL. “I bet this isn’t how most of your dates end,” she said.

He was quiet a moment. “Was this a date?”

She met his gaze. “If it was, it’d be my first since—” She paused. “A really long time.”

“How long?”

“Eighteen months.”

“How does it feel?”

She thought about it. “Good,” she said honestly. “But what about you—”

He put his finger on her mouth. “I’m good, too, Jade. More than good. Don’t worry about me.” He ran his hand up and down her back until she relaxed again. At some point she realized her eyes were closed and she lifted her head in shock.

She was curled up against Dell’s side. He was asleep on his back, one arm around her, his torso rising and falling with his slow, steady breaths, even with Beans sitting on his chest.

“Hey,” she said, sitting up and poking Dell in the side.

He mumbled something beneath his breath and didn’t budge.

Jade scooped the kitten off of him, set her on the floor and poked Dell again. “Wake up.”

Both arms came around her, snuggling her in close as he pressed his face into her hair. “Mmm. You smell good.”

“Dell, wake up!”

His mouth was on her neck now. “I’m awake,” he said, and licked the spot he’d just kissed. “You taste as good as you smell, did you know that?”

Then he cupped the back of her head in one big hand and kissed her again, her mouth this time, and she gave herself up to it, to the heat of him, his taste. Their bodies were plastered together and he was rock solid against her, his arms flexed tight around her. “Are you really awake?”

In answer, he tugged her even closer and deepened their kiss, taking his time about it, too, moving slow and almost unbearably erotic against her, his hands sliding under her shirt, his fingertips resting just beneath her breasts. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and when he discovered that he lifted his head and looked at her, his gaze sleepy and heavylidded, pulling her in, making her want to fall into him and drown.

“Dell.” She sucked in an uneven breath, shockingly turned on. “Are you up?”

“Yeah,” he said, and pulled her over the top of him so that she could feel exactly how “up” he was. His chest was hard, his abs were hard, his thighs were hard.

Everything was hard.

Her eyes must have gone wide because a low chuckle accompanied the slow rock of his h*ps to hers. A tug of her hair brought her line of vision up to meet his once more. She quivered and he urged her down to him, and then somehow she was kissing him again. God, she could kiss him forever.

Beneath her shirt, his fingers stroked her skin and she thought, Up an inch!, and then in the next beat he’d done exactly that and the desire exploded.

When they she came up for air, Dell had one hand palming her breast, his thumb gliding back and forth over her nipple, making her squirm with pleasure. Or maybe that was his other hand, inside the back of her pajama bottoms, gripping a butt cheek, his fingers gliding over the silk of her bikini panties.

She was no better. She had both hands under his shirt, low on his abs, her fingers playing with the loose waistband of his jeans. She lifted her head and looked at him. “There’s this thing about sleeping with someone. It creates a false sense of intimacy and leads to . . . things.”


“Sleepy sex. It leads to sleepy sex. You know, the kind of sex you wouldn’t have if you were all the way awake.”

He laughed softly, his eyes black with desire. His hands gripped her h*ps with a familiar possessiveness that maybe should have turned her off but instead turned her on. From his intense expression she knew that even though he hadn’t come here for this, it was certainly what he was going to do. “I don’t know about you,” he said. “But I don’t do a lot of sleepovers period. So this . . . sleepy sex is new for me.” His eyes lit. “Be gentle.”

His hands went to her h*ps as he slowly arched into her, making her realize he was still incredibly aroused. “Dell—”

He put a finger over her lips. “We’re done denying, Jade.” A statement not a question. He let his words hang between them for a long beat, then gently nudged her off of him. He rose and headed to the door.

She stared at him. “Wait—” What? That was it? Dammit! He couldn’t leave now, not when she was all hot and bothered! To cover that, she sat up and pulled on her donkey slippers. She needed the armor. “No good-bye?”

Dell was looking hot and bothered, too. And . . . yum. He checked the lock on her door and came back, standing over her. “There’s not going to be a good-bye,” he said. He pulled off his shirt and dropped it to the floor. Then he covered her body with his, pressing a muscled thigh between hers to spread them, making room for himself. “Not until dawn. Hell, maybe not even then because my first appointment tomorrow isn’t until nine.”

Oh. Oh. She was surrounded by him, a bicep on either side of her face. She could turn her head and press her lips to his flesh and at just the thought she experienced a wave of desire that swamped her. “I have to be at work at seven thirty,” she said. “My boss is a real hard-ass.”

He smiled. “I could make you forget him.”

She nearly cl**axed at just the sound of his voice rumbling in her ear. He could make her forget everything, including how he never kept the women he slept with. “Kiss me.”

He gave her one last long look before lust completely consumed him and his mouth came down on hers. He devoured her. There was no other word for it. He stripped her out of her sweatshirt and pulled off her donkey slippers one at a time, and she would have sworn he was laughing as he tossed them over her shoulder. But then she slid her hands down his chest, over hard abs and then lower, cupping him.

He stopped laughing.

She outlined him with her fingers, impressed and also a little worried. It’d been a long time, a really long time, and he seemed . . .


She must have let some of her worry show because he cupped her face and kissed her deep, angling his head to get more of her until she was clutching at him in desperation. Shifting lower, he kissed her jaw, her throat, her shoulder, moving to the swell of her breast.

A slow, warm heat began to fill her, building as he sucked her nipple into his mouth, rolling it between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Gasping, she arched her back, lifting herself to him.

He smiled as if he’d won a prize and then went back to his diabolical torture, leaving trails of fire on her skin everywhere he touched or kissed.

Which was everywhere.

Her breath was catching with each new caress as she lay writhing beneath him. She needed . . . God, she wasn’t even sure, she couldn’t think, she couldn’t form words, she certainly couldn’t stop herself from making sounds she’d never heard herself make before.

But Dell didn’t appear to need words or direction. After all, the man made his living reading the body language of animals, and he was reading hers with shocking ease. His hands were on the move southward, caressing her stomach, her thighs, until her pj bottoms got in his way and he tugged them off. Now she was beneath him in just her panties, which he seemed to like because with a hand on each inner thigh, he took a good long look and growled deep in his throat. His fingers played with her through the silk and came away wet, making him groan. The sexiest sound she’d ever heard. The desire she was feeling was bordering on untenable, stronger than anything she’d ever experienced. “Dell—”

“I know.” His hands slid down her hips, catching the tiger silk along the way and pulling them down her legs. “Christ, Jade. You’re beautiful.” He stroked a finger over her, then inside her, and it was all she could do not to levitate off the couch. At that moment she was so far gone he could have done anything, asked anything of her.

But he didn’t.

He wasn’t taking, he was giving, shifting down her body to do so, pressing his mouth to her hot center, teasing, reducing her to nothing more than a quivering, panting, begging boneless mass. Yes, begging. He had her begging, adrift in the sensations of the rough demands of his tongue, teeth, and hands, which were sending shock waves down her body until she felt her toes curl, until she burst.