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Page 25

Remaining quiet, Olivia shook her head again and smiled.

Emily’s forehead crinkled about the same time a tall, slender man sauntered into the living room, sporting nothing more than Olivia’s finest pink cotton towel.

“Oh, shit. I didn’t know anyone was here,” the unnamed guest said, sliding a rugged hand through his damp, chocolate-colored hair.

He went to turn around, but Olivia swiftly made her way over to him. She stood on her tiptoes, placed a luscious, lingering kiss on his lips, and linked her arm in his.

Dragging Mr. Fluffy Pink Towel to the kitchen, Olivia smiled. “Emily, this is Jude. Jude, this is my best friend, Emily.”

After snapping her mouth shut, Emily reached out to shake the hand Jude extended. “Uh… hi. It’s nice to meet you,” Emily said, trying to keep the greeting from sounding like a question.

With a smile highlighting his pearly whites and light green eyes, Jude hooked his thumb in the towel, cinching it tighter to his waist. “Yeah, you too. Sorry. I’d figured the first time we met I’d be wearing clothes.”

“Why?” Olivia asked, curling under his arm. She ran her hand down his hardened abdomen. “I like showing these off.”

Jude grinned, pulling Olivia in for a long, drawn out kiss.

“I have some running around to do,” Emily said, her desperation to get out of there mounting by the second. “It was nice meeting you, Jude. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

“Cool. Without a doubt,” he replied, breaking the kiss. He headed down the hall, leaving Emily and Olivia alone.

“Well,” Olivia drawled, “what do you think? I have my own certified eye-candy now, huh?”

Emily pulled on her jacket and slung her purse over her shoulder, a smile toying on her lips. “Where did you meet him, and what happened to Tina?”

Olivia shrugged. “She was too quiet for me, and her family wasn’t exactly fond of the whole girl-on-girl thing.” Walking Emily to the door, her eyes gleamed with sudden light. “Jude came into the gallery looking for a piece, and somehow I convinced him to let me paint him… naked.”

Emily laughed, quickly covering her mouth. “You painted a portrait of him naked?”

“No, friend.” Olivia tossed her arm over Emily’s shoulder, her smile as wicked as the devil himself. “I painted on his body while he was naked.”

“You crack me up. You know that?” Emily pulled her in for a hug. “You really do, and I adore you for it.”

“Oh, I crack myself, but I love the way Jude cracks me more.” Olivia released Emily and elbowed her ribs. “Catch my drift?”

“Yes, I catch your drift, nutter.”

Olivia gave a satisfied smile. Opening the door, her features sobered. “Call me tonight, and let me know how things went, okay?”

Emily nodded, reality coming fast into view. “I will.” She stared at Olivia a moment before her eyes swept over her first home in New York. “I love you, Liv.”

“Love you, too.”

As she stepped into the hallway, leaving her past behind her, Emily felt a surge of unease about her future. But nonetheless, she knew she had to face it. No longer hiding and slowly beginning to change, nothing would chain her to herself… but herself.

And this… this she wouldn’t allow.

The smell of garlic bread coated the air as Emily opened the door to the penthouse. Nervousness raced up her arms when Gavin came into view, but it faded as he started toward her, his smile slow and deliciously sexy.

His gaze slid lazily over her as he pulled her into his arms. “Are you feeling any better, or do I need to play doctor tonight?” He smoothed his hands down her waist. “Although the latter could be very fulfilling for us both, I’d rather you be healthy.”

Butterflies swarmed Emily’s stomach. “I’m sure it’d be more than fulfilling,” she replied, her eyes trained on the mouth she so desperately wanted to kiss. Giving in to the temptation, she edged up on her tiptoes and did just that. She lingered in the moment his lips melted over hers.

“Mmm, I take it you are feeling better,” he said, backing her out of the foyer and into the living room. Lips still locked, he slipped her purse from her shoulder and dropped it onto a moving box behind the couch. “But don’t think you’re getting off so easily. I have the whole doctor set up in my closet, complete with stethoscope and white thigh highs for those pretty legs.”

Emily reared her head back, curiosity swimming in her eyes. “Are you serious?”

“No, but I can make a quick run to Kiki De Montparnasse on Greene Street to pick out something naughty for you if you insist.”

Emily giggled. “Did you just speak French?”

Gavin smiled, his dimple deepening his cheek. “Yes… As a matter of fact, I speak it fluently. I have a very talented tongue.” He brushed his lips over hers, teasing lightly. “But that’s not something you wouldn’t know already. I love the thought of you in white thigh highs, but I have to admit I prefer you in black.”

“And here I was thinking you preferred me naked.” Another giggle as Gavin groaned. Tilting her head as he worked his lips against her neck, Emily noticed water about to bubble over a pot on the stove. “It’s boiling,” Emily breathed huskily. The sensation of his mouth caressing her collarbone sent pleasure up her spine.

“I’m sure it is. I’ve always had that effect on you.” Gavin’s voice vibrated over Emily’s skin as he started unbuttoning her blouse. “Remember, I do things to your body no one else can.”

Though utterly and completely turned on, Emily couldn’t help but bust out laughing. Gavin looked adorably confused, but in that moment, all of her nervousness hit her at once, and she couldn’t stop.

Brows drawn together, Gavin sent her a questioning stare. His hands fell away from her blouse as she continued her hysterics. “What?” His mouth quirked into a half smile. “I’m not a pro, but I thought they were pretty good lines.”

Emily placed her hand on his chest. “I was talking about the water on the stove. Do you really think I would use the word boiling to describe what you do to my body?”

Gavin blinked. “Is this an attempt to make me feel better? If so, you’re failing miserably.”

Emily playfully pursed her lips, threading her fingers through his hair. “Aw, did I bruise my man’s ego?”

“In more ways than one,” he admitted. Like fire, the raw hunger igniting his features devoured her. He leaned into her ear, his voice a slow whisper. “But don’t worry… my retaliation will be your wonderful undoing.”

His promise slid over Emily like silk. A shiver prickled her flesh as he feathered his mouth across her jaw, her muscles coiling, taut with desire. Wrapping his hand around her nape, Gavin crushed his lips against hers. Leaving her nearly breathless, he tangled his fingers in her hair, his kiss intense, and just as quickly backed away. As she tried to recover from the delicious blow of his overly skilled tactics, Emily heard him stifling a laugh. He wandered into the kitchen. Half in a daze, she slumped onto the leather couch, slipped off her heels, and discarded them on the marble floor.

“Emily,” Gavin called.

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