She met his eyes and inhaled, and tried to appear like a woman with a sophisticated sense of reality.
The moment was ridiculously awkward. It was as if time stood still as he looked back at her—and yet time was ticking away. Madison thought she could actually hear the hands on the room’s old-fashioned clock-radio.
But, in an odd way, it wasn’t awkward at all.
She swallowed, but she was determined to be honest, and she wasn’t backing down, wasn’t going to pretend she was just joking.
She wasn’t to going to run off in embarrassment, either; if she did, that was how she’d feel forever after in his presence. Her lips curved wistfully. She realized that although she hadn’t been sure of her exact intent until she’d said the words, she certainly hadn’t expected rejection. It wasn’t that she felt any man would instantly agree to have sex with her. It was just that she believed there’d been something between them. Chemistry, if nothing else.
“Uh, you made rather a point about not staying in my room last night,” he reminded her.
“I know,” she said. “But…that was, well…I didn’t want to be here because I had to be here—I mean, in a room with you—because I was afraid. When I’m afraid, I would rather be with you, but I… I’m not saying this at all well.”
She was surprised when he walked over to her at last. She began to feel a trembling inside her when his hands dropped to her arms, and she was intensely aware of his height and physique, his damp bare chest and the towel about his midriff. Whatever it was that she always felt when she was with him seemed amplified, like a drumbeat in her head, or a riveting pulse in her bloodstream.
“Trust me, I have nothing against the idea. I’d be a hell of a liar if I said it hasn’t played in my mind more than once,” he told her. The sound of his voice seemed to sweep around her, creating a deeper sense of longing with every throaty word, every nuance.
“I guess it’s not the time or place,” she murmured.
“Actually, it’s a fine time and place. Tyler’s gone to work with the others, I’ve called Eddie and arranged for a showing of the film. We won’t meet at the cinema for about two and a half hours.”
His green eyes seemed to have a dazzling light as he stared down at her.
“Oh!” she said, about to step back. “I’m sorry—I didn’t even think. Is there someone in your life?”
He seemed to wince. “No. There’s no one in my life. You?”
She shook her head.
“At least I’m dressed—or undressed—for the occasion,” he said dryly.
“I can be, too,” she whispered.
“Madison, I’m not really… I didn’t plan on sleeping with anyone. I’m not prepared. I’m talking about sexual responsibility.”
“I am,” she told him.
His smile deepened and she added, “No, I mean, really, there’s no one in my life. I guess…I’ve been ever hopeful.”
He laughed softly. She lowered her head, astonished that the simple sound of a laugh could be so provocative.
He lifted her chin, then pulled her against him, and once more his eyes fell on hers. “You know we live in different worlds,” he said.
“Different and the same.”
He smiled at that, and there was something amused, something tender and yet still hesitant in the way he looked at her.
“I care about you, Madison.”
“Would it be better if you didn’t?”
“We can’t just take this for what it is—and for whatever time we have?” she asked.
He groaned. “Yes. Yes, we can.”
He gazed into her eyes and seemed to struggle, and she wondered if he was worried for her, for himself, or for them both. But his thumb and forefinger were already on her chin and cheek, and he lowered his head slowly. His lips touched hers as lightly as a breath. As if he was giving her every chance to move away…
He had no idea how much she wanted to be right where she was. She wished she could hold on to time and savor this closeness forever. His skin was taut and bronzed and smooth. The easy strength in his arms seemed unique, the very feel of his lips was beyond anything she might have imagined.
But his lips grew hungrier, more impassioned, and he drew her closer, his mouth like fire on hers as the kiss deepened. She felt drunk with the luxury of his touch, aware of the hardness of his muscled form, and very aware of the rise of his erection against the thin denim of her jeans and the towel that was all he wore. He’d been quite right—he was dressed, or undressed, for the occasion.
His hands moved down her back. She stepped out of her sandals, and together they removed her shirt. His fingers slid beneath her waistband. She imagined that no grace was possible in the act of taking off her jeans, and yet it seemed that they shimmied effortlessly down her body. The towel slipped from him as he picked her up, his eyes on hers once again as they crossed the few feet to the bed. The clothing he’d been planning to wear fell to the floor, landing on top of her hastily discarded T-shirt and jeans.
He leaned over her, stroking her face, but he didn’t speak. She had to wonder what was going through his mind. But she didn’t speak, either; she was afraid of breaking the enchantment that had seized her.
Then she felt his mouth on hers again, and she ceased to think or analyze and gave herself completely to the sensations that overwhelmed her. His mouth left hers, trailing over her breasts. She felt the pressure of his thighs, the ripple of muscle. He moved down the length of her, kissing her, and where his lips touched, it seemed that fire erupted and spread. She touched him with feather-light strokes at first, and then the hunger inside made her bolder, and she caressed his hair and his bronzed flesh in return. His every movement against her seemed erotic; he was a practiced and natural lover, she thought, a man who knew where to touch and when, and how to tease and elicit and give all at once. She prayed that she could do the same. Again, she ceased to think, she was so caught up in the carnal and earthly sensations that swirled through her, the eroticism of his tongue on her flesh and the movement of his hands….
She cried out softly as he brought her to a fever pitch and then rose above her, sliding into her smoothly and easily, his movements a slow and evocative thrust, then escalating…becoming more and more urgent. Her hands and fingers rested on his shoulders. His eyes gazed down into hers and, once again, beyond the physical intimacy they shared in all its heady glory, she felt something deeper. It was as if his eyes could reach where no physical movement could. And yet everything—their breath, the ripple of muscle, the pure eroticism of their intimacy, the pounding of their hearts—seemed so intense that nothing could be deeper.
But it was.
She closed her eyes. They’d taken a step together that neither of them had planned.
Afterward, she lay there for a minute, trying not to breathe, praying they wouldn’t speak, that nothing would come to shatter the moment.
Then thoughts crowded her mind again, and nagging fear took hold. For her it had been as if the entire world had glowed and sparkled, but…
For him, it might have been sex. Just sex.
Maybe he knew she didn’t want words; she wanted to savor the moment. He didn’t speak. He held her close, and the seconds seemed to slip away. Outside, the sun fell and shadows darkened the room.
Then he turned to her, and the whole process began again, until once more, they lay side by side, silent in the wonder of aftermath.
Then his phone rang, and the sound seemed louder than music blasting from a disco club. Madison jumped. Sean eased her back down, rolling over to find the jeans he’d discarded before his shower and pulling his phone from the pocket.
“Cameron,” he answered.
She heard Logan Raintree’s voice, but couldn’t really make out the words.
“Yes, fine, all set,” Sean said. “We’re leaving here, and we’ll grab some fast food on the way…. Sure, see you in about thirty minutes.”
He hit the end button on his phone and looked at Madison. She was afraid he was going to give her some kind of apology, that he’d thank her jokingly, but, hey, they really needed to get going now.
He didn’t say anything like that.
“Race you to the shower!” he said, and leaped out of the bed.
Stunned, she watched him for a moment. Then she bounded to her feet and rushed in. “No touching!” he teased. “We’ll be late if you do.”
He was serious about that. They passed the soap to each other, showered quickly and dressed with equal haste.
They were out the door and in the borrowed Prius before she realized she had yet to say a word.
When she finally did, it was in answer to his question about what she’d like on her burger and did she want onion rings or fries. And that was fine. Since she wasn’t sure what to say…
That was incredible? Far too clichéd. Thank you? Far too sniveling.
Good thing they were going to the movies!
* * *
Sean told himself he should’ve been experiencing a massive sense of guilt—not that he’d done anything for which he should feel guilty. Not really. It was just that they shouldn’t be involved when there was a chance that she was in danger, when they were in the middle of a case, when—
No. There was no reason to feel guilt, regret or remorse. They were consenting adults with the rights of consenting adults.
He just wished…
That they’d met at another time, another place. In a bar, for God’s sake. Somewhere other than here and now. Because he couldn’t jeopardize her, and he couldn’t jeopardize the case.
But did it really make a difference in the practical sense? He’d already determined that she was in danger, and maybe being closer to him was better than not.
Eddie Archer had already begun the film.
Eddie had taken it on himself to have Helena, Mike Greenwood and Andy Simons join them. Maybe that hadn’t been such a bad idea; he knew the rest of the team would be observing those closest to Eddie, watching for any indiscretion. Detective Benny Knox had decided to join them, as well.