He shakes his head thoughtfully. “I didn’t think it would be that involved.”
“It’s harder than it looks; otherwise, you wouldn’t need me.”
“Who said I don’t like you?” he asks abruptly.
“You just said ‘it’s okay if you don’t like me.’ What makes you think I don’t like you?”
I stop on the sidewalk, stare up at him for a long minute, and then chuckle at the bewildered expression on his wickedly handsome face. “It doesn’t matter, Eli.”
I begin to walk again, and he hangs back, walking just a few paces behind me. I can hear the wheels turning in his head from here.
Finally, we reach my door. I glance back at him as he catches up to me. “Thanks for the hat, and for the meal.”
I turn to let myself inside and move to shut the door, but Eli nudges his way inside and pushes the door shut behind him.
“Um, come on in?”
“I do like you.”
I roll my eyes and toss my handbag on the couch, my hat on top of it, and see his jacket and his tie where he left them earlier.
“Oh, you almost forgot—”
Eli’s very firm chest presses to my back as he reaches around me and takes the coat out of my hands and sets it aside, then swivels me around to face him.
“I do like you,” he repeats. When I would look down, he catches my chin with his finger and tilts my head up. “But this is a bad idea.”
“What is?” I whisper, hating the shakiness in my voice.
“This.” He lowers his face to mine and sweeps his nose across my own, gently. His lips haven’t touched mine yet, but they’re tingling, already yearning for him. His hands glide up my bare arms to my neck, his thumbs gently draw circles along my jawline as he places a light, barely-there kiss on the corner of my lips. I hear a soft moan, and would be mortified to know that it came from me, if I could find my brain cells.
This man is dangerous. Everything about him screams RUN! but instead, I grip onto his lean hips and tug him closer. He needs no further invitation. He slips those amazing lips of his over mine, licks my bottom lip, and when I gasp at the fission of pure lust that moves through me, he moves in for the kill.
His tastes like the after-meal peppermint we both ate, and the light one or two day scruff on his chin rasps against my skin in the most tantalizing way. I can’t help but wonder how it would feel on other parts of my body…behind my knees, between my breasts, between my legs.
Holy shit, I bet he would feel amazing between my legs.
I grip onto his biceps and realize that the one arm he’s slung around the small of my back is the only thing keeping me upright. My knees no longer exist. We’re both breathing hard as he drags his fingers down my cheek and pulls back, nibbling the edge of my lips once more, and then he’s gone, staring down at me with shining whiskey eyes.
“That. That’s a bad idea.”
“So how was your date?” Beau asks, just before he attacks me from behind, his arm wrapped around my neck. I slip out of his grip, flip him onto his back, and glare down at him, sweaty and panting.
“Heard you left out of here for the day with Van’s friend Kate,” Ben Preston, a life-long friend of ours, and the Krav Maga expert that comes to train us four times a week, says with a smug grin. He’s already shirtless and sweaty, but barely panting. Ben’s not as tall as Beau and me, but he’s much stronger, and he’s fucking badass. “After Van told you to keep your hands off. She’s pissed, by the way.”
“It wasn’t a fucking date,” I mutter, and wipe the sweat off my forehead with a towel before switching my attention to Ben and throwing a punch, which he deflects, and we spar for a few long, hard minutes before I can continue. “Beau and Van were in a meeting. Someone had to meet her and show her the loft.”
“And buy her a hat and take her lunch?” Beau asks with a wide grin. “Van’s gonna cut your balls off.”
“What are you, a bunch of gossiping women?” I whip my soaking wet T-shirt over my head, then prop my hands on my hips.
“Charly called me after you left her shop. She said you looked love sick.”
“Fuck that,” I mutter with disgust. “I don’t do love sick, and you know it. So, Charly called you, and you used the family phone tree to spread the news that I was being nice to Kate?”
Beau and Ben both laugh, then Ben catches me off guard and takes me down to the mat. Motherfucker. “So, you’re not taking her to Dec’s gig tonight?”
“Do you want Mama’s recipe for her pecan pie too?” I snarl.
“Wow, you’re very defensive for someone who’s not interested in the pretty Kate.”
“She’s not pretty,” I mutter. She’s fucking beautiful.
“Yeah, I’m not really into redheads with freckles myself. But the last time I saw her, she had a sexy little body,” Beau continues, speaking to Ben, who nods thoughtfully.
I’m going to kill them both.
With my bare hands.
“When did you see her?”
“During one of my trips to visit Dec and Van at college.” Beau strips out of his own shirt and tosses it away. “That was a while ago, though. Maybe she got fat.”
“She’s not fat,” I reply, walking right into his trap. “Look, I’m just being nice to her.”
“Right,” Ben nods, just before he takes Beau down to the mat, but Beau pulls out, rolls Ben beneath him, and pulls up to throw a punch, which Ben rolls out of, and for the next few minutes they try to best each other.
I am not lovesick over Kate. Sure, she’s sexy with her thick auburn hair and big green eyes, and the freckles on her face and shoulders simply beg to be kissed and traced, but for the love of fuck, she’s an employee. It’s just been longer than I care to admit since I last got laid.
That’s a detail easily taken care of.
But the thought of any of the usual women I call to scratch that particular itch holds no interest.
“Not paying attention gets your ass kicked, man,” Beau warns, just before he pulls my torso down and knees me in the stomach, then throws an elbow up, but I throw him off balance and he misses. Barely.
“Stop daydreaming about hot redheads and pay attention,” Ben snarls.
“I’m done,” I mutter, and suck down a bottle of water.