And she wanted him. He could read the signs. The glow in her eyes. The rosy color in her cheeks. The way her coffee cup trembled in her hand. He wondered when she’d be ready to admit it to herself and what he could possibly do about it when she did, considering that they were trapped in this damned lounge with the rest of the world.
“…of the world,” Lara said.
“I said, it seems as if we’re trapped in here, and the world has come to a stop.”
“Yes.” Slade nodded. “Yes, it does.”
They both fell silent. He saw the way she looked at him, from under her lashes, and how she looked away, and he knew it was time.
“You’re beautiful,” he said softly.
Color flooded her face but she smiled. “Thank you.”
“What does your hair look like, when it’s loose?”
He saw a pulse flutter in the hollow of her throat. “What?”
“Your hair. Is it long? Does it fall over your shoulders, and your breasts?” He took the cup from her and put it on the table beside him. “This isn’t just another pickup line,” he said. “You know it’s not.”
He looked into her eyes and what he saw made his body harden. She knew what he was thinking, that he was imagining what it would be like to strip her of that oh-so-proper suit, take down that carefully tied-back hair, touch her and kiss her until she cried out with need for him.
And in the middle of all those crazy thoughts, another announcement blared from the public-address system.
All flights were grounded, for at least the next few hours. Passengers who wished to secure overnight arrangements were to come up to the desk.
Lara cleared her throat. “Well,” she said, and gave a forced laugh, “well, that’s that.”
She was right. It was over, and he was glad. Whatever insanity had been going on between them was finished.
“Yes.” He smiled politely. “Are you going to wait it out here or try for a hotel?”
“Here, I think. How about you?”
“I’ll hang in here,” he started to say, but he never finished the sentence. “The hell with this,” he growled. “Come with me.”
Something flashed in her eyes and he thought, for a heartbeat, she was going to say yes.
“No,” she whispered. “I can’t.”
He looked at her left hand, saw no ring. “Are you married?” She shook her head. “Engaged?” She shook her head again. Slade moved closer, until they were a breath apart. “Neither am I. We won’t be hurting anyone.” He reached out and took her hand. She let him do it, though he felt the tremor in her fingers. “Come to bed with me, Lara.”
The color rose in her face. “I can’t.”
“We’ll be incredible together,” he said, his hand tightening on hers.
She shook her head. “I—I don’t even know you.”
“Yes, you do. You’ve known me forever, the same as I’ve known you.” His voice was rough and low. “As for the details…I’m an architect. I live in Boston. I’m straight, I’m not married, not committed to anyone. I’m twenty-eight years old, I just had my annual physical and my doctor says I’m healthy enough to outlive Methuselah. What more do you need to know, except that I’ve never wanted a woman as much as I want you?”
And then—he’d never forgotten this—and then she’d looked at him, and something in that blue gaze changed. He’d felt as if he were being evaluated, not only as a man coming on to a woman but in some way he couldn’t figure out. She looked at him with that strange expression on her face, the way she had an hour or so before.
It made him uneasy, but the uneasiness was swept aside by a hot rush of longing when she touched the tip of her tongue to her lips.
“It’s—it’s crazy. Even talking like this—”
He lay a finger lightly against her mouth. He wanted to kiss her instead but touching her was all he dared to do in this public place without losing what little remained of his control.
“I’ll get a taxi. There’s a hotel not far from here where I’ve stayed before. They know me. They’ll find us a room.”
“A taxi. And a hotel, in weather like this?” She made a little sound that might have been a laugh. “You’re very sure of yourself, Slade.”
“If I were sure of myself,” he said softly, “I wouldn’t be holding my breath while I wait for your answer.”
He could still remember the moment. The noise, all around them. The shuffle of feet and the press of bodies, as weary travelers headed for the desk, or laid claim to chairs and couches. And, in the middle of the confusion, her silence. The tilt of her head, as she looked up at him. That unreadable something, back in her eyes.
“Yes,” she said. Just that one word, but it was enough.
He had no memory of leaving the lounge, or of flagging down a taxi. He could hardly recall the ride to the hotel, he only remembered stepping through the doors, his arm hard around her waist, and telling her that he had to leave her for a moment while he made a quick stop at the drugstore in the lobby.
“No,” she said, looking up at him. “It’s not necessary.”
He remembered, too, the first shot of pleasure he’d felt at those words, knowing there’d be no barrier of latex between them…and then the surprisingly harsh jolt of anger when he realized that she took care of her own birth control needs because she had sexual relationships apart from the one she was about to have with him.
It was more than anger he felt. It was the sharp bite of primitive male possessiveness. But by then they were in the room with the door closed on the rest of the world, and he stopped thinking and reached for her.
She panicked. “No!” Her voice quavered. “I’m sorry, Slade. I can’t do this.”
He framed her face in his hands. “Just kiss me,” he whispered. “Kiss me once, and I swear, if you want to leave, I won’t try to stop you.”
She didn’t move, she just looked up at him through wide, fear-filled eyes. He thought of something he’d stumbled upon years ago, back home at Espada. A stallion had broken loose from his stall and trapped a mare. He remembered the arch of the stallion’s neck, the wild, rolling eyes. And he remembered the mare’s terror, and how that terror had suddenly become something else, once the stallion came over her.
“Lara,” he whispered. Slowly, carefully, watching the wary apprehension in her eyes, he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her. It was difficult, holding himself in check, but he did it, brushing his lips over hers until her mouth warmed and opened beneath his.
“Slade,” she sighed, and the sound of his name on her lips made him groan.
His arms swept around her and he gathered her close. She rose toward him, looped her arms around his neck, buried her hands in his hair.
“Please,” she said, “oh please, please, please…”
And then he was carrying her to the bed, undressing her, letting down that glorious hair and doing everything he’d wanted, everything she’d wanted, and more.
The storm became a blizzard. It raged across the mountains all that day and night. And they spent all those minutes and hours in bed.
It was like a dream. Lara, in his arms. Her scent, on his skin. The warmth of her, curled against him whenever they dropped into exhausted sleep. He told himself how lucky he was, that making love with this beautiful stranger while a winter storm raged outside would be an incredible memory in years to come.
Toward dawn, something—the moan of the wind, perhaps—awakened him. Lara was asleep in the curve of his arm. He watched her and thought about how, when the storm ended, they’d go their separate ways. She lived in Atlanta, and she was an auditor. That was all she’d told him about herself. He thought, too, of the way she’d made it clear he didn’t have to worry about condoms and the angry feeling because she had a life he knew nothing about ripped through him again.
He tried to imagine her leading that life, living in a house he’d never seen, laughing with friends he didn’t know. Dating men he did
n’t want to think about. Lying in arms that weren’t his.