He handed her a plate then proceeded to pile it high with a selection of the delicate pastries, tarts and local cheeses on offer while struggling to quell the desire to taste those lips—to lick across the seam and demand entry.

He found them a seat on one of the vacant tables by the fountains, the music from the band complemented by the tinkle of running water.

The night was warm, so he took off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair, then rolled up his sleeves, the white linen shirt suddenly feeling like a straitjacket.

She picked at the food, watching him as he sat down. She licked at a drop of olive oil and he forced himself to concentrate on his own food. But, as he swallowed a mouthful of Dolcelatte, the sharp, creamy taste did nothing to ease the hunger deep inside.

“I’ve never heard you laugh before,” she said, breaking the silence and trapping him in the bold, green depths of her eyes. “You should do it more often.”

Whether or not she meant the forthright statement to be beguiling, it was, especially when her teeth dug into that full bottom lip.

“I don’t usually have a reason to,” he said, which was the truth—he very rarely let down his guard, because he’d been taught at an early age not to.

“Or maybe you just take yourself too seriously?” she teased.

“Being me is a serious business,” he countered, the urge to flirt back a novel one.

He didn’t generally find much to amuse him in his relationships with women. Sex was a serious business. He didn’t take it lightly, for the precise reason that he knew he must always hold a part of himself back.

“Why is that?” she asked.

He frowned, not sure what she was asking him.

But before he could think up an adequate reply—one which would deflect anymore too-personal questions—she leaned forward and touched the scars on his forearm.

“Is it something to do with these?” she asked. “How did you get them?”

The citrus scent of her shampoo filled his lungs, the smooth silk of her skin stretching taut over her lush breasts, and his usual caution when it came to conversations with women deserted him.

“My stepfather couldn’t find an ashtray.”

He heard her gasp of distress, her fingertips trembling on the old burn marks, and he wanted to drag the words back. Why had he told her that?

Why give her ammunition against him? And why bring up something that he had forgotten about a lifetime ago?

“That’s horrifying, Jared, I’m so sorry.” Her eyes became liquid pools of anguish and the emotion he thought he had conquered as a boy recoiled in his gut.

“Don’t be,” he said, the sharp bite of his tone making her blink. “I’m all grown up now.”

Twisting his forearm, he caught her wrist and tugged her closer. He didn’t want her sympathy. And he certainly didn’t need it. What he wanted was much more basic than that.

“And so are you.”

Pheromones fired through his brain, obliterating all thoughts of Dario and the promises he’d made, until all that remained was the driving need to taste her again.

He raised his hand slowly, giving her every chance to resist, and settle

d his palm against the soft skin of her cheek. The jog in her breathing was enough to make the heat slice through the last of his reservations.

His palm slid across the downy skin and his thumb located the well under her ear lobe. He rubbed back and forth, feeling her pulse flutter.

He waited a few beats then threaded his fingers into her hair. A tremble wracked her body and desire surged. He nudged her closer until their mouths were only a fraction of an inch apart.

He waited a beat, then captured her lips. She hummed deep in her throat and his resolve to be gentle got blurred by the surging need to conquer.

He licked, demanding entry, and tasted the tart hint of lemon zabaglione.

She opened for him on a sharp intake of breath and he cradled her face, anchoring her head to delve deep. Her hands dropped to clutch his waist, her fingers fisting in the linen of his shirt.

Tags: Heidi Rice Billionaire Romance
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