Under the Tycoon's Protection(8)

By: Anna DePalo



She should be stepping back—reminding him of the promise she’d extracted about no more kissing—but his low voice and the soothing caress of his hands were having an odd effect on her.

“Admit it,” he said softly against her temple. “You liked the kiss.” His hands continued to stroke her, coax her.

It was hard to issue a denial…and hard to remember why it was so important that she do so. His hands moved up to knead her shoulder blades and her eyes nearly closed.

She could feel the magnetism practically radiating from him. He lifted his head and his gaze connected with hers. His eyes shone with a golden-brownish hue in this light. She felt prickles of awareness all over her skin, her nipples tight beneath the concealing fabric of her bra.

“You find me irresistible, don’t you, petunia?” he said in a low, seductive voice. “I’m an arrogant, heavy-handed monster, but you like it.”

Yes. She should say it out loud and put an end to this. She focused on his mouth. If she said yes, he’d probably kiss her again. She bent toward him—

—and he stepped back, his arms dropping to his sides and the twin flames disappearing from his eyes. “Lucky for us then that I can resist you.”

It took her a second, but comprehension finally hit and, with it, a cold fury.

He’d been toying with her! Of all the arrogant, smug…

She was tempted to rear back and punch him. He found her very resistible, did he? He’d enjoyed their kiss just as much as she had, the stinker.

And with that thought, she knew how to wipe the smug smile from his lips. She grasped his lapels and yanked him down to her.

In the instant before her eyes closed, she noted the surprise in his eyes followed by—and she knew she wasn’t wrong—male interest.





Four



Her response caught him off guard.

But he’d be damned if he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity she’d handed him.Sure, he’d been trying to rile her. Sure, her refusal to admit their first kiss had affected her had challenged him to prove her wrong. But, the tension that had been building between them all week could almost be cut with the proverbial knife.

So, when one of her hands moved to grasp his shoulder while the other cupped the back of his head, he let her urge him forward and press herself into him as she slanted her mouth across his to deepen their kiss.

Her lips, he thought, were just as soft as he remembered. Enticing. And warm. Definitely warm as they moved over his, caressing, coaxing, rubbing.

He parted his lips and let her take the kiss deeper. His body tightened in instinctive reaction to her nearness.

No matter how much she denied it, the sexual attraction was almost palpable between them. So much so that there was a fine line between their constant baiting of one another and jumping into bed together.

He wrapped his arms around her, lifted her off her feet, and tilted his head back so her mouth was on top of his and she was pressed against him.

She made a sound and started to push away from him, but he tightened his arms around her and took her mouth again and again in a series of increasingly hot kisses that had his blood pounding through his veins.

Finally, when the urge to undress her and take her right there in the entryway started to overwhelm his common sense, he took two strides and had her up against the wall. He lowered her slowly, letting her slide down against him, from her breasts yielding against his chest to her thigh sliding against his arousal.

When her feet had reached the floor, he let her break their kiss.

She blinked and took deep breaths that seemed to mirror his own.

“Want to go another round, petunia?” His voice sounded husky with arousal to his own ears. “I dare you.”

He watched as her brows snapped together and her eyes flashed. It was worth the price of admission to spark her ire, he thought. She’d light into him now all right, but he’d gotten her to convert her outrage into sexual energy twice now, and both times he’d been putty in her hands.

“I don’t need another round, Rafferty.” Her lashes lowered and her hand came up to stroke his arousal. She looked back up at him, her lips curving seductively. “I have all the proof I need that—how did you put it?—you can resist me.”

He sucked in a breath. In an instant, he had her pressed up against the wall again, hands over her head and wrists cuffed by one of his hands.

She wiggled against him, her seductive smile still in place, and he muttered a curse.

“What’s that, Connor? I didn’t hear you.”

He narrowed his eyes. They were playing a dangerous game: both of them refusing to back away from calling the other’s bluff. Yet, he was far from being the type to back away from a challenge. “Careful, princess. You might want to think twice about issuing a challenge like that when you’ve literally got your back to the wall,” he growled. “Do you want to deny again you enjoyed our lip-locks? Because, if you do, I’ll have to try to prove you wrong again.”

To her credit, her bravado didn’t desert her. She tossed her head, silky strands of dark hair sliding against them both as she tried to clear her face. “I suppose this counts as seduction to a caveman like you.”

He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with his free hand. But then, instead of drawing his hand away, he gave in to temptation and slowly caressed the delicate line of her jaw, letting his thumb rub over the puffy softness of her lower lip.

She held herself still, her gaze locked on his, not yielding, but not lashing him with her sharp tongue either.

He moved his hand downward, stroking the side of her neck and then trailing the tip of his index finger down along the V-shaped neckline of her top and lower, over the roundness of her breast.

With his fingertip, he traced the shape of her breast, moving over its jutting peak.

Allison moaned.

“Watch me,” he breathed. He cupped her breast then—noting she was just large enough to fill the palm of his hand—and began to knead her softness.

Her eyes were fixed on his hand, the quickness of her breath the only sign she wasn’t immune to his caress.

His pulse came hard and heavy. “It wouldn’t take much for us to hit the sack together, petunia.”

She looked up at him, her eyes dilated and dark with arousal.

“’Course,” he added wryly, “your brothers would probably pound me into pulp if we did. And I wouldn’t blame them.”

“It wouldn’t be any of their business,” she said, the breathless quality of her voice belying the toughness of her words.

He found it interesting she didn’t immediately deny any interest in sleeping with him. “Right. Ever the independent one, aren’t you?”

“It would be nice if you could remember that, too,” she said, her words sharp, but, again, her voice carrying that undertone of sexual excitement that was starting to drive him crazy.

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like, petunia,” he murmured, “if we took out our frustration with each other in the sack instead of aiming verbal barbs at each other?”

Her eyes widened a fraction but then her brows snapped together. Wrenching her hands free of his grip, she gave him a push. When he took an involuntary step back, she brushed past him, only to turn back, arms folded, when she was free and clear.

She looked furious. “Have I ever wondered? Is that an invitation to your bed?”

“If it was, would you accept?”

“Not on your life, Rafferty.”

He didn’t know what had caused her abrupt change of mood, but he silently cursed himself for inadvertently setting it off.

She marched off in the direction of the living room. “Find some other entertainment for the evening.”





The next morning, Allison was feeling marginally more relaxed.Any remnants of tension from last night she decided to work off at the gym. Connor came along, of course, and bench-pressed some iron while she hit the treadmill.

So much for her aim of ignoring him. That plan had fallen by the wayside last night. It didn’t help that, despite her best intentions, her eyes kept trailing to him, finding him behind her with the help of the mirror in front of her.

He was in superb physical condition. His biceps and chest muscles flexed as he lifted the weight above his head, held it, and lowered it again, unaware of her scrutiny.

She thought about those arms around her the night before and flushed. Then her mind went back to his words. Had she ever wondered about hopping into bed with him?

The question had been like a dousing with ice-cold water, yanking her from the romantic haze she’d fallen into.

Of course, there’d been a time when she’d wondered what it would be like to spend the night with Connor. But his question not only made clear that he hadn’t reciprocated her feelings, it had also shown how little he’d known her.

And, naturally, she also couldn’t forget that he’d long ago proven himself an insensitive lout.

Another quick look in the mirror revealed Connor was attracting more than his fair share of surreptitious female attention.

Scowling, she ran harder.

Minutes later, she stepped off the treadmill and walked over to where he was now standing by the leg press machine. “I’m going for a swim in the pool.”

He gave her a crooked grin. A thin sheen of sweat coated his arm muscles and neck and his T-shirt was darkened in the center with perspiration. He smelled sweaty and all male. “Need to cool off, princess?”

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