Pressing her lips together, her hazel eyes go wide as she trembles. I draw her back into my arms, protecting her from the cold. She has to be freezing since she left her coat in the restaurant. “Let’s get out of here and you can come back to the hotel with me downtown. I have the penthouse suite and the view of the city is amazing. It’s too damn cold out here to talk.”
Ivy stiffens in my arms just before she withdraws from me yet again. “Come with you back to your hotel room? I don’t think so. Next thing I know, I’m flat on my back and you’re all over me.”
I smile. Damn, that sounds amazing. “And that’s a bad thing, why?”
“Stop, Archer. I already told you I refuse to let that happen again.” She crosses her arms in front of her, contemplating me with her shrewd gaze. “Besides, if we ever did have sex again, you’d run like you always do.”
When shit gets serious, I definitely run. But not anymore. For once, I don’t want to bail. “I can’t run any longer, Ivy. This is it. I need the new resort to open with a roaring success. I need those suites to look amazing. Together, I know we can do it.”
“Fine.” She sighs. “We need to come up with a budget. A timeline.” She taps her finger against her pursed lips, driving me wild with wanting her. Damn, she’s beautiful. Even shivering in the cold, angry with me and most likely thinking I’ve lost my damn mind, she’s gorgeous. Fucking amazing, really.
I don’t deserve her help. I don’t deserve Ivy Emerson whatsoever.
But I still want her. Desperately.
“We can plot and plan back at the hotel, Ivy,” I tell her. “Come on. I won’t try any funny business.”
A perfectly manicured brow lifts at that remark. “Promise?”
Nodding, I make an X on my chest with my index finger. “Cross my heart.”
“You swear? I can’t think when you push yourself on me, Archer. And if you want my help in figuring out how we’re going to do this, then you need me to be able to think.”
Is it wrong that I’m pleased with her remark? That she can’t think when I’m around? I love that, especially because I feel the same way.
“Come back to the suite with me, Ivy. We’ll figure this out.”
“Fine.” She offers a jerky nod. “Let’s do this.”
Sweeter words were never spoken.
THE PENTHOUSE SUITE is amazing, not that I expect anything less. It encompasses nearly the entire top floor of the hotel, is larger than my apartment, and has three bedrooms, which reassures me. There will be no sleeping in Archer’s bed tonight.
No matter how much I’m tempted.
I’ve stayed in more than a few Bancroft Hotels over the years, considering the Bancroft family comped my family all our rooms when we travelled, and I’ve never been disappointed. But I’ve never had any reason to stay at the Bancroft in downtown San Francisco. It’s my hometown, after all.
“You like it?” Archer shuts the door and strides toward me, his voice full of pride. Despite the burden the family business has put on him his entire life, and specifically today, I know he’s still proud of Bancroft, as he should be.
“The view is amazing.” I approach the windows, staring out at the glittering view of the city before me. The moon breaks over the fog, shining its silvery light on the bay, and I withhold the sigh of longing that’s desperate to escape me.
The beautiful suite, this gorgeous night . . . is made for lovers. I yearn for that to be true, no matter how bad I know Archer is for me.
But Archer knows he needs to keep his distance. It’s the only way I can stay sane.
God, how stupid could I be, pushing him away when I want him more than anything?
“I stay here whenever I come to the city. Better than staying at my parents’, that’s for sure.” The bitterness in his voice is no surprise. He doesn’t get along with his parents; he never has. Not that I blame him. His father treats him terribly. Their fractured relationship has always broken my heart.
He comes up behind me. I catch his reflection in the window and I hold my breath, marveling at how we look together. He towers over me, his dark hair mussed, his expression strained. As if he’s as tense as I feel.
I can imagine his big hand sliding down my back, pushing gently so I have no choice but to bend forward. Hearing his dark, sexy voice commanding me to brace my hands on the shockingly cool glass. His skilled fingers would settle on my hips, slowly gathering the fabric of my dress so he could touch my bare skin beneath. Those assured fingers would slip beneath my thin panties to find me already soaking wet for him . . .
Lust surges through me and I stiffen my shoulders. God, I’m a wreck. He stands too close and I’m imagining how he’ll take me right here, in front of a window for everyone to see.
“There is no ‘us’ in this room tonight, Archer,” I say, my voice firm. No matter how much I want it to be true, I have to hold strong. The man is dangerous to my well-being. I want to smack myself for even contemplating going along with his stupid plan. I am so weak when it comes to him, it’s pitiful.
“Well, that’s unfortunate,” he drawls, and I want to punch him.
God, I’m starving, and that’s what’s making me extra irritable. We left the restaurant before our dinners arrived, though Archer said he’d paid for them when he came out of Spruce. He called in room service from the car moments before we arrived at the hotel, ordering an enormous amount of food I would normally never eat. An assortment of appetizers, fried this and that, and I swear he even mentioned a pizza.
My stomach growls at the thought of pizza.
“Hungry?” He raises an eyebrow and I look away from him, embarrassed. Not that I’d ever admit to him I’m actually starved. Women don’t eat, not in front of perfect men like Archer. We might nibble on a leaf of lettuce and drink copious amounts of water to purge any sort of bloating, but that’s it.
“The food is on its way and it shouldn’t take long,” he reassures when I don’t answer him. “Don’t worry.”
I offer a jerky nod, thankful to change the subject. “Great. I’m starving.” I’m also a liar. I can’t eat around him. My stomach is tied up in knots just having him so close.
“Do you want to back out?” he suddenly asks, shocking me.
What brought that on?
No, I want to scream. What I want is to throw myself into his arms and beg him to kiss me. Feel those warm, soft lips settle on mine, the delicious, velvety hot glide of his tongue as he searches my mouth. I want to hear him whisper wicked words in my ear while his hands are sliding all over my body.
More than anything, I desperately want him to take off my clothes, push me to the bed, and have his way with me all night long.
But my wants are pointless. And ridiculous.
“Of course n—” I’m ready to tell him no, but he cuts me off.
“I know I’m being incredibly selfish, but I can’t have you back out, Ivy. Still, I would never force you to do something you’re not comfortable with.”
His soft, beguiling tone warms me from within. When he looks at me like that, his dark gaze full of heat, his expression so sincere, I can almost believe him.
A knock sounds at the door, startling me. Irritation flashes in Archer’s eyes at the interruption and I watch his long-legged stride eat up the floor as he heads toward the door. He throws it open, growls his greeting, and takes the cart from the hotel employee before the guy can push it inside.
I almost want to giggle, watching Archer pushing the cart laden with plates covered by silver domes into the room, as if he were the lowly employee and it isn’t his family name on the outside of the building. “I hope you at least tipped him,” I say.
His gaze darkens when he looks up at me. “Of course I did. I’m not totally heartless.”
I wish I had the balls to say, Prove it.
But I hold the words back.
“YOU’RE STAYING HERE with me tonight.”
I don’t bother asking after I downed my third slice of pizza prepared by the hotel’s gourmet chef. She’s staying with me whether she likes it or not.
We’re sitting in the dining area of the suite. The table is small, giving me the perfect excuse to sit close to her. Her scent lingers in the air, the warmth of her presence easing my earlier tension despite her obvious reluctance to come here.
And her obvious reluctance to agree to my plan. I know she still feels this way without her having to say a word. I can read her. I’ve always been able to.
Ivy picks at her food. “You’re kidding, right?”
Christ. The woman throws up roadblocks every chance she can get. “Hell no, I’m not kidding. It’s late. I don’t want to make the trek across town this time of night. You can stay in one of the other bedrooms. I swear I won’t make a move.” I scrub a hand across my cheek, my frustration mounting.
Clearly, Ivy has no plans on making this easy.
“Did you plan this too? Bringing me here tonight? Forcing me to stay?” Lifting her head, her gaze meets mine, her expression almost pained.
God, she exasperates me. “Of course I didn’t.”
“Seems like you did.”
“Are we really going to go round and round about this?” I wipe my hands with a napkin, wad it up and throw it on my plate. “You hardly ate.”
She shrugs. “I wasn’t that hungry.”
“So your growling stomach lied? I ordered all of your favorite foods.” She used to gorge herself on junk when she was a teen. We all did. Hell, I still do. I also work out like crazy, so I can afford the occasional indulgence.
A sigh escapes her. “I haven’t eaten this type of food in years.”
“You used to.”
“Back when I was a teenager and didn’t need to watch everything I eat,” she retorts, irritation flaring in her eyes.
I let my gaze slide over her. Damn, she’s hot. With a killer bod and curves in all the right places. Places I wish I could explore again with my hands. Or even better, explore with my mouth. “One night isn’t going to kill you, Ivy.” I’m trying to tempt her, since all she has to do is sit there. I’m beyond tempted to jump her and show her how much I need her.
But not yet. I have to be patient, even if it kills me.
“I’ll have to run extra hard if I bother eating one of those mozzarella sticks.” She eyes the plate I specifically ordered for her, her tongue darting out to lick her upper lip. They’d been a weakness in her past.
“On a treadmill. At the gym.” She shrugs.
“Come on, live a little.” I push the plate toward her.
“Are you going to taunt me like this the entire two weeks we’re together?” She arches a brow and I smile at her in answer.
I don’t want her scared of me. Or worse, angry.
She plucks the mozzarella stick from her plate, dunks it in ranch dressing and takes a huge bite. Watching her eat pleases me for some weird reason. Pleases me even more that she spoke about our being together in a positive light.