But then her gaze lifted to his face. Arousal darkened the bright blue of his eyes.
The hum kicked off in her stomach, setting off a deep, pounding ache. And the fear and panic that had sent her running from him last night was
comprehensively drowned out by the thick beat of desire. Of longing.
As he was wearing only his boxer shorts, she was able to see far too much of his glorious body, up close now and way too personal.
The color that had been drained from his face returned to his cheeks, the flush slashing high across his cheekbones.
Although her mind was yelling at her to run, to escape, she felt trapped by her own longing. The desire to look at him, to study every inch of firm, resilient, satiny skin, was more than she could bear. So she stood riveted to the spot, absorbing every detail as she studied the dark curls of hair surrounding flat brown nipples. The happy trail ran down through the ridged muscles of his six-pack to the band of his boxers, and the hint of springy curls contained by the sinews defining his groin.
Her mouth dried to parchment, as she noticed the ridge of his penis outlined behind black cotton—thickening and lengthening as she stared. The thrill shuddered down to her core and her gaze jerked back to his face.
“You need to go to bed before I finish what we started last night.” His voice, rough with desire, seemed to stroke the swollen folds of her sex.
Despite his warning, the clear intent in his eyes, the panic refused to come, because all she could feel was the visceral blast of heat. Her nipples strained against the silk of her negligee, begging for the feel of those sure, sensual lips.
“I mean it, Katherine. I’m not kidding about.” She could hear the barely leashed control in his voice, could see the feral light in his eyes. The veneer of sophistication had been ripped away, the ferocity of his desire evidenced by the heavy weight of the erection. His big body was restless and alive with tension, his ragged breathing matching her own.
“If you don’t stay the heck out of my way for the next couple of days, I’m going to take what you offered me five years ago.”
The growled ultimatum was a promise, not a threat. But the intent in his eyes, the flood of moisture between her thighs, jerked her out of the sensual trance. Her flight instinct finally kicked in.
Fumbling to put the vase on the edge of the counter, she turned and fled.
She raced to her room and shut the door. Her whole body shook, her clitoris throbbing. Sinking to the floor, her back hit the wall with a thud as she pressed her forehead to her knees and tried to make sense of the emotions, the needs careering through her system.
How could she be so enthralled by this man? She’d kissed other men before and since she’d kissed Jared Caine. But no man had ever had the ability to reach inside her and yank out that part of herself she’d kept hidden for so long. And the realization terrified her.
She couldn’t be that woman, controlled by her desires. She didn’t want to be that woman. A woman like her mother, with no morals, no loyalties. A woman ruled by her appetites and her own selfish pursuit of pleasure. Because then she would become everything she’d been running away from.
But Jared Caine had ignited the hunger she thought she’d tamed, like a volcano which had been lying dormant for five years, ever since their first kiss. And now he had blown all the lies she’d been telling herself to smithereens. During all her thoughtless escapades, all the dumb stunts and hijinks of the last five years, had she simply been attempting to replicate the thrill she’d only ever found in his arms?
She shivered despite the warm breeze from the balcony.
A tear tracked down her cheek and she brushed it away with her fist.
But as she forced herself off the floor and walked to the en suite bathroom on shaky legs, her thighs still trembling from the intensity of their encounter in the kitchen, she recalled the shouts from his room that had woken her up.
And she realized that, more disturbing than the sexual hold he had on her, were these glimpses behind the impenetrable shield of his emotions.
Pull yourself together.
So he’d had a tough childhood. And possibly still had nightmares about it. That didn’t alter the fact he was a hard, uncompromising man, dominant and commanding, not the sort of guy she needed to get involved with.
Tugging off the negligee, she stepped into the shower cubicle and turned on the water. She picked up the lemon-scented soap and began to scrub her skin, trying to wash away the memory of his gaze, the sizzle of anticipation still making her ache.
But as the lukewarm water sluiced over her she could still hear her breathless pants, feel his gaze on her tender flesh as the yearning continued to echo at her core.
She let her hand drift down to the wet curls at her sex and tried to feed the hunger. But her frantic efforts were stifled by a wave of shame—and terrifying longing.
Because beneath the fear of becoming like her mother, of giving in to the hunger that drove her, was the burning ache to feel him inside her. And the seductive knowledge that, however much she wanted to deny it, knowing he wanted her too was the biggest turn-on of all.
THE NEXT DAY Jared was gone again, busy working on the resort’s press launch, according to Inez. After another sleepless night, her body tormenting her with images of him fully erect, the grumble of his warnings curling through her dreams, Katie convinced herself she was grateful. For once she planned to do as she was told and stay the heck out of his way for the duration of her stay.
Armed with her art box and a sheath of paper she’d found in the study, she headed through the gardens, ready to paint herself into exhaustion. They still hadn’t dealt with the subject of what would happen once her passport arrived, but she had no doubt that Jared had simply assumed she would comply with Dario’s wishes and accompany him back to New York.