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“Really now? How interesting! I wouldn’t peg you for a man who worked with his father. With anyone, actually.”

My lips curl in amusement as I signal for the waiter, then raise one eyebrow in question at her. “You mean to say you don’t believe I can play well with others?”

“You just give off the impression of separateness.”

“Do I?”

There she goes again, biting that damn lip. “It’s intriguing.”

“You give the impression of playfulness and comfort. I find that intriguing too.”

She grins, a sheepish grin that can’t quite conceal the way her emerald green eyes flood with feminine delight. Maybe I don’t grin like she does, but trust me, I’m just as delighted with her. Once we order, she looks at me and plays with a yellow cuff bracelet on her arm.

“My work is my passion. I’m absolutely obsessed with colors. I can’t leave the house without wearing at least three different colors. Two is too simple. One is absolutely drab and I don’t want to be drab.”

I find myself laughing again, something which seems to come naturally around her. “No way you’re f**king drab. In fact, right here, sitting with you, I feel gray.”

Her smile flashes the instant mine does, and we laugh until our drinks are set before us, and she sips from her straw.

“I like this,” she says with a long sigh of intense pleasure as she sits back in relaxation. She takes an even longer look at me. “It feels like a date. And it feels like forever since I’ve had one of those.”

In my peripherals, I just noticed that Derek sat at a table nearby, across from C.C.

“It is a date. You invited me to your friend’s wedding. That’s a date in my book.”

“I did not invite you. I said you could come . . .”

“And we both know how much we love me coming.”

She smiles wickedly, and it does nothing to calm my raging libido. I can tell she likes it when I’m bad. She likes bad boys.

Fuck, princess, you don’t know I’m the baddest of the bad, I think and then, another thought, Hell, I’m not a bad boy, I’m a bad man!

It brings me down a little to realize I’m no good for her.

“Come on, admit it,” I press her, reviving myself with the playful glint in her eye. “I came, I conquered—at least getting you out to dinner makes me feel like a conqueror—and I even survived your angry black-haired friend.”

“Pandora.” She laughs. “But she’s right asking about these, these are too much, more than I’m worth.”

She absently strokes the necklace on her throat, and I whisper, a warning, “Melanie.”

“Greyson . . .”

Hell, I can see the seeds of doubt her friend planted almost spinning in her little head. I keep my voice level, low even, but stern.

“Do whatever you want with the necklace. Just don’t return it to me.”

Swear to god, if I could only telepathically send this woman the damn message to do what any smart girl bent on survival would.

She may wait, but when the time dwindles, she’ll do it. I expect her to. Hell, when she’s spent enough time with me, she’ll be sick of me and anything of mine and she’ll dump it faster than she can say Greyson.

The thought makes my gut heat up in anger.

My hand edges higher up her thigh. This urge to touch her eats at me. I’m always gloved, but tonight my gloves are in one of my suit pockets and my hands are bare—and I can’t stop devouring the sensation of having her smooth skin under my fingers and palm.

She twirls her straw as if she wants something to do, but most important of all, she knows exactly where my hand is and makes no move to remove it. “My best friend, whose wedding you just saw . . . When we were young, I used to be Barbie and she was Skipper whenever we played. I always used to get Ken. It just seemed that she wasn’t interested in Ken, so I used to make sure he was all mine. She didn’t even want to fall in love. I wanted to be happy, carefree, and fall in love one day, and she wanted the Olympics. But she was the one who ended up falling in love, hard, you know? The real thing. The real man. I could not be happier, she could not deserve it more. But now you look at me like her husband looks at her . . .” She lifts her eyes to me and absently rubs a pink fingernail up her glass. “But you’re not my husband, you’re not in love with me. What do you want?” She holds my stare with hers. “Pandora’s right, you don’t give something like this to just anyone. Men give diamonds to women they need to buy, or hide.”

“And yet we’re in plain view. I’d never hide something as beautiful as you.”

She touches the rim of her glass with one fingertip, and I let my eyes drag up her lean, toned arm, down her body, my craving to have her growing fiercer and fiercer every second. “You look stunning in this dress, princess.”

Her cheeks flare. “Thank you. I almost thought I couldn’t wear it.”

“You look lovely. The way your hair curls at the tips. I can’t take my eyes off you and I can’t wait to take that dress off you.”

She drops her gaze to the table, biting on her smile.

I lean forward, testing my limits; pushing them. “We’ve been intimate. You’re wearing my necklace. I have my hand on your thigh. Your friends have drilled the crap out of me. Why so shy?” When she just lets go of that delicious smile, I curl my index finger under her chin and tip her head back. “You been thinking about me?”

“You mean dwelling on and pining over the guy who didn’t call?”

I c**k a brow. “The man standing at the church, waiting for you to throw him a bone? That was me.”

“Oh wow, thanks for clearing that up!” The delicate sound of her laugh makes me stone hard.

I slide my hand higher on her thigh, pulling up the silk of her dress so I can touch more bare skin. I am about to kiss her when a familiar face enters the diner. My eyes slide over to him and I ease back when C.C. makes a brief hand gesture to let me know he’s on it.

Fuck me, I have no energy for any criminal bullshit tonight. I haven’t slept in almost forty-eight hours. The knife cut on my biceps aches like a bitch, and I’m running on pure adrenaline here. As I wait for C.C. to make a sign that it’s clear, Melanie picks at her salad, and the old familiar pattern of staying apart from the world settles over me.

“Thanks for coming to the wedding,” she says, softly.

“My pleasure,” I reply, low.

I can suddenly sense the distance between us like a ten-foot abyss, keeping me from making a connection.

“Why did you?”

My eyebrows fly up. “Why did I come?”

She nods, and I don’t know anything else except that I still crave a connection with her. Any sort of connection. I’m stroking my longest finger up the creamy inside of her thigh, all the while watching the newcomer leave in my peripherals. “I came for you, Melanie.”

“I have had a thousand one-night stands in my life, Greyson.”

“I’ve had a thousand and one.”

“Counting me?”

“No, princess. When we do this again . . . you’re on a whole other list.”

We stare, neither of us smiling, my eyes greedily taking in the quiet curiosity on her face, her long golden hair, the pretty small br**sts jutting against the fabric of her silk dress, the tender curve of her shoulder, and Jesus, I want all of that more than she will ever know.

She sets her hand on my thigh. “What list?” She tilts her head and studies me. “What will this even be?”

The unexpected feel of her hand on my thigh sends a primal heat across my veins. One second we’re talking, the next I catch her face and hold it still as I look into those green eyes, suddenly fierce as I study her small nose, her generous mouth. “For me, this is a fantasy. You’re the fantasy. For you, this will be a mistake. A long, pleasurable mistake.” I watch her eyes darken, and I’ve never been a man to mince words. “I’m going to be everything you never wanted,” I warn on a gruff breath, “nothing that you need.” I slide my other hand farther up her thigh. “Sometimes my work will take me away, and I won’t call, and I’ll piss you off.” I graze my longest finger over the silky V covering her sex. “I’ll be selfish. I’ll take everything I want, whenever I want it. I’m not the man of your dreams, Melanie, I’m your worst nightmare.”

Her eyes glaze, and she stops my hand from caressing her and presses her lips into my ear. “I’m not your f**king toy.”

I catch her by the shoulders and pull her back to me. “But you’ll let me play with you.”

“If I wanted just sex, I could get that from anyone.”

“Not the kind of sex you’ll get with me.” I push my thumb into her mouth, making her taste me. My whole body feels that lick. “I’ll make you want it. I’ll text you when I’m flying into town so you’re twitching and soaked by the time you see me at your door.”

She bites my thumb and drives me so wild with lust, I’m about to slam my mouth down on hers.

Fuck me.

Maybe I will never make a worthwhile connection to anyone in my life.

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