He supposed he should be flattered by the way she said that. “Hard to imagine?”

“Yes, it is.”

His eyes narrowed and he approached, swallowing up the narrow bones of her shoulders in his two hands. “How do you do it?”

She stared up at him, eyes huge and startling blue, her expression one of stark innocence. Bambi in human form. “Do what?”


“Look the way you do, so trustworthy and ingenuous, when everything you say is a total lie. How do you do that?”

“I’m not Leigh.” She spoke calmly enough, but a hint of steel and temper washed across her face. “You’re trying to tuck us into the same little box and I refuse to allow it. I am not Leigh!”

“And I might have believed you if you’d been candid about your connection to Leigh from the start. Just out of curiosity, was any of your story true? Were you really abandoned by your mother and raised by your grandmother?”

Exhaustion lined her face, along with a heart-wrenching despair. “I’ve never lied to you, Rafe. I simply didn’t tell you about Leigh and the bracelet. I even told you I had secrets. Omissions. Remember?” She searched his face, probably looking for some weakness she could use to her advantage. “You said lying by omission was part of dating. Everything else I told you was the truth.”

“And I’m supposed to just believe it.”

“You know what, Rafe? I don’t care what you believe. I know it’s the truth and that’s all that matters.” She lifted her chin an inch. “You should be grateful to me, you know that? I’ve given you the perfect excuse for staying emotionally disconnected. I betrayed you. Now you can go back to being independent. The original lone wolf. You should be celebrating.”

“Somehow I don’t feel like celebrating.” She attempted to pull back and he tightened his hold. “I can still feel it. Why is that?”

She didn’t pretend to misunderstand. A hint of panic crept into her gaze, combining with a wealth of longing. “Maybe it really is The Inferno.”

“You’d love that, wouldn’t you?”

She hesitated. “I’d love it if it were real,” she admitted with brutal frankness. “But I’m not that thrilled about it given the current circumstances.”

He uttered a humorless laugh. “There’s one good thing that’s come from all this.”

Her breath escaped her lungs in a soft rush. “I’m afraid to ask….”

“Once I explain the facts to my family they’ll finally leave me alone. No more Inferno possibilities paraded beneath my nose. Not only that, but they’ll understand completely why I can’t marry my Inferno soul mate. How could I, when she’s Leigh’s sister?”

Bone-deep temper ignited in Larkin’s eyes, turning the color to an incandescent shade of cobalt-blue. “Half sister. And I’m getting really tired of being hanged for her crimes. You want something to be angry about? I’ll give you something.”

She swept her hands up across his chest and into his hair. Grabbing two thick handfuls, she yanked his face down to hers and took his mouth in a ruthless kiss. Desire roared through him at her aggressiveness. Her mouth slanted across his, hot and damp with passion. Gently she parted his lips with hers. Teasing. Offering. Beckoning him inward. He didn’t hesitate.

He tugged her closer, melding them together. Her thighs, strong and slender, slipped between his while her pelvis curved snugly against him. He could feel the shape and softness of her breasts against his chest, feel the pebbled tips that spoke of her need. And her mouth. Her mouth was as sweet and lush and tasty as a ripe peach.

He staggered forward a step, falling with her onto the bed. The instant they hit the mattress, he shoved his hands up under her shirt and cupped the pert apple roundness of her breasts. He traced his thumbs across her rigid nipples, catching her hungry moan in his mouth. The sound was the final straw.

He lost himself. Lost himself in the fire that erupted every time they touched. She wrapped her legs around him, pulling him tighter against her. Her breath came in frantic little gasps and she snatched quick bites of his mouth.

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