She laughs. “Any guy who says ‘I swear’ and ‘trust me’ is one hundred percent trouble.”
I’m starting to get offended. More than anything, I’m f**king tired of dealing with her. Yet here I stand, still dealing with her. Wanting to f**king deal with her. And wanting to prove her wrong too. “You don’t know me.”
“I know your kind. You think you can get what you want and when you don’t, you turn it into a challenge,” she tosses at me.
Well, hell. She’s pretty dead-on with that one.
“And I think for whatever sick and twisted reason, I’ve become a challenge to you,” she continues, her eyes blazing with newfound anger. “I’m not some game to play and eventually win, Gage. I’ve already told you I’m not interested in you or your offer. What else do you want from me?”
I move toward her, grabbing her hand and pulling her to me. She presses her other hand on my chest, her eyes have gone wide as she stares up at me in shock. “I want a chance.”
“If you’re circling back to the dinner date thing, no. I think it’s a bad idea.” She takes a deep breath. “I think the two of us together is a bad idea. You don’t like me. I don’t like you. There’s no point to this. We should walk away from each other right now.”
Now that sounded dramatic. “I never said I didn’t like you.” I might’ve thought it because, hell, the woman loves to throw up roadblocks. I thread my fingers through hers, pulling her into me. Her hand is small, soft, and warm. I like the way it feels in my grip.
“We don’t even know each other.” Her lower lip trembles as she stares up at me. “You make me nervous, I hope you know.”
“Guess what? You do the same thing to me.”
She stares at me incredulously. “Really?”
I nod and don’t say another word. Something about this woman makes me want to be honest with her. Lay it all on the line.
Whether it’s good or bad. Whether I want to know her response or not, I need to hear it. For once in my life, I want to leave myself vulnerable when it comes to a woman. But only for this woman. She has me so twisted up in knots I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to unravel them.
I don’t know if I want to either.
WAIT . . . DID GAGE just say I made him nervous? Really? I find that hard to believe.
I’m so tired, so ready to go home and collapse into bed, yet here he is, holding my hand and overwhelming me with his mere presence. He’s probably lying. Trying to get an in with me so he can get closer to my dad. Well, forget it. He can’t trick me.
Glaring at him, I disengage my fingers from his, taking a step backward, but my butt comes into contact with the closed door, making me realize I’m . . .
Trapped. With Gage directly in front of me, looking all broody and handsome and grouchy and sexy.
I am so screwed.
“Stop trying to act like you’re a normal guy with normal feelings,” I toss out at him, wincing at how I sound like a sullen teenager. “No way do I make you nervous.” I mean really. He’s a smooth-talking charmer. How can little ol’ me make him nervous?
“You totally put me on edge. I don’t get why you’re so hell-bent on pushing me away.” He stalks toward me, pinning me between the cool glass of the front door and his extremely warm, extremely hard body. “I can’t figure you out.”
“Maybe I don’t want you to figure me out.” I want him to leave before I do something really stupid.
Like let him kiss me.
“Ah, I think you do.” Bending his head, he sets his mouth against my cheek, his lips whispering across my skin as he speaks. “Don’t you feel it, Marina? Feel the chemistry between us, brewing and popping? Don’t you want to do something about it?”
“No.” Reaching out, I grab hold of his shirt, tugging him a little bit closer. Wait, what? I should be pushing him away. “This is a huge mistake.”
“What is?” He settles those big hands of his on my waist. His long fingers span outward, gripping me tight, and I feel like I’ve become seized by some uncontrollable force, one I can’t fight off no matter how hard I try.
That force would be Gage.
“I already told you.” God, he’s exasperating. It’s like he doesn’t even listen to a word I say. “Us. Together. There will never be an us or a together, got it?”
“Got it, boss.” He’s not really listening, I can tell. He’s pulled slightly away so he can stare down at me, too enraptured with his hands on my body. A shock of brown hair tinged with gold tumbles down across his forehead and I resist the urge to reach out and push it away from his face.
He slides his hands around me until they settle at the small of my back, his fingertips barely grazing my backside. I’m wearing jeans, yet it’s like I can feel his touch directly on my skin. Heat rushes over me, making my head spin, and I let go of a shaky exhalation.
“We shouldn’t do this,” I whisper, pressing my lips together when I feel his hands slide over my butt. Oh my God, his touch feels so good.
What the hell am I thinking? Letting him touch me like this? It’s wrong. Us together is wrong.
So why does it feel so right?
“Do what?” His question sounds innocent enough, but his touch isn’t. He pulls me into him so I can feel the unmistakable ridge of his erection pressing against my belly and a gasp escapes me. He’s big. Thick. My thighs shake at the thought of him entering me.
I need to put a stop to this, and quick.
“I don’t think we sh—”
Gage presses his index finger to my lips, silencing me. I stare up at him, entranced by the glow in his eyes, the way he stares at my mouth. Like he’s a starving man dying to devour me.
Anticipation thrums through my veins. I should walk away now. Right now, before we take this any further. We’re standing in the doorway of the bakery for God’s sake. Anyone could see us, not that many people are roaming the downtown sidewalks at this time of night. He’s got one hand sprawled across my ass and he’s tracing my lips with his finger like he wants to memorize the shape of them.
And I’m . . . parting my lips so I can suck on his fingertip.
His eyes darken as he slips his finger deeper into my mouth. I close my lips around him, sucking, tasting his salty skin with a flick of my tongue. A rough, masculine sound rumbles from his chest as his hand falls away from my lips. He drifts his fingers down my chin, my neck, and my breath catches in my throat.
“Gage.” I whisper his name, confused. Is it a plea for him to stop or for him to continue? I don’t know. I don’t know what I want from him.
“Scared?” he asks, his lids lifting so he can pin me with his gorgeous green eyes. They’re glittering in the semidarkness, full of so much hunger, and my body responds, pulsating with need.
I try my best to offer a snide response but the truth comes out instead. “Terrified.”
He lowers his head. I can feel his breath feather across my lips, and I part them in response, eager for his kiss. “That makes two of us,” he whispers.
Just before he settles his mouth on mine.
The kiss is just the right blend of soft and hard, demanding and giving. I wind my arm around his neck, slide my hand into his hair and pull him closer. Needing him closer as our tongues dance, our sighs mingling together into one perfect, cohesive sound.
He pushes me against the cool glass, one hand still gripping my butt, his other hand drifting down my front. A barely-there touch over the soft cotton of my T-shirt, my entire body tightens in response; my n**ples harden beneath the lace of my bra.
I feel like I’m drowning. In his taste, his hands, his scent, his overwhelming presence. It’s so confusing, what I’m feeling while in his arms. I don’t like him. I don’t want to want him.
But I do.
The kiss grows hungrier, more insistent. Our hands are everywhere, his slipping beneath my T-shirt to touch my belly. Mine slide down to curve over his very firm backside, squeezing, pulling him closer. Until we’re nothing but a panting, yearning, straining mess.
I break the kiss first, staring up at him in dazed wonder. His swollen lips are parted, his hair a mess from my fingers, and he watches me, his breathing rough.
He looks too beautiful for words.
We start talking at the same time, his apology making me want to shove him away.
Instead I grab hold of his tie and pull him into me, our lips crashing together, our tongues circling, tasting. It’s a frenzied, out-of-control mess, and I fall back against the glass door again, startled when I hear the familiar tinkling of the bell above us.
He ends the kiss this time, his gaze lifting, staring just beyond my head and through the door. “We need to—”
“Move this elsewhere?” I ask, earning a startled glance from him. I bet he didn’t expect that. “I agree.” I push him away, and he steps back, looking just as dazed as I feel. Grabbing hold of his tie again, I take him with me, walking through the café toward the kitchen, the two of us completely silent.
I can hear him breathing, feel his warmth radiating toward me, and I let go of his tie, take hold of his hand instead. He follows behind willingly, his fingers locking around mine, and I hold my breath, afraid he might say something to ruin the moment.
Thank God he keeps his big mouth shut.
Excitement pulses through my veins. I can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s a mistake. I know it, and I’m sure he knows it too, but there’s something about him I can’t resist. The way he looks at me, the things he says, the way I feel when I’m in his arms, his mouth on mine, our tongues tangling . . .
He’s irresistible. And I’m tired of fighting it. Fighting with him.
We enter the kitchen and the minute the door swings shut behind us, I turn toward him, wrapping my arms around his neck as he bends to kiss me. Our mouths cling perfectly, the taste of him becoming quickly addictive. I’m fast becoming addicted to the way he touches me, too. His hands race over me, too light, not lingering long enough, and I move against him with a whimper. His answering low moan vibrates against my lips, sending an echo through my entire body, and I shift closer. Restless. Wanting more.
I can’t even question what’s come over me. I don’t kiss men I don’t really know. I definitely don’t grope them either. I’m no prude, but I’ve never had something like this happen to me. It feels so random, so completely out of character. Scary and exhilarating and exciting and—
“You’re thinking too much.” He grabs hold of my h*ps and guides me backward, until I bump against the wall with a startled gasp. Taking my hands, he raises my arms above my head, pinning my wrists with his firm grip. “You need to learn how to just feel.”
Before I can offer any sort of argument, he leans in to kiss me, softly at first. A teasing, gentle caress of his lips that makes me want more. His kiss slowly becomes harder, then hungrier, until I feel like I’m about to lose my mind—my very soul—to his greedy, wicked mouth.