A Tricky Proposition(10)

By: Cat Schield

“It’s been over a year since I’ve seen Wendy. We had a lot to catch up on.”

“What was her take on your decision to have a baby?”

“Total support.” Ming slipped past him and leaned her elbows on the railing. As the sapphire-blue ocean churned against rugged cliffs, sending plumes of water ten feet into the air, she put her face into the breeze and let it cool her hot cheeks. “After the week I had, it was a relief to tell someone who didn’t go all negative on me.”

“I wasn’t negative.”

Ming tore her gaze from the panorama and discovered Jason two feet away. Attacked by delicious tingles, she shook her head. “No, but you created trouble for me, nonetheless.”

“Did you tell her about us?”

Ming shook her head. “We’re supposed to keep this a secret, remember? Besides, she never liked you in high school.”

“Everybody liked me in high school.”

Although he’d been a jock and one of the most popular guys in school, Jason hadn’t been mean to those less blessed the way his football buddies had been.

“Don’t you mean all the girls?” Blaming nerves for her disgruntled tone, Ming pressed her lips together and redirected her attention to the view. The sun was still too bright to stare at, but the color was changing rapidly to orange.

“Them, too.” Jason reached out and wrapped the ends of her scarf around his fists.

He tugged, startling her off balance, and stepped into her space. Her hormones shrieked in delight as the scent of cologne and predatory male surrounded her. She gulped air into her lungs and felt her breasts graze his chest. A glint appeared in his eyes, sending a spike of excitement through her.

“Something smells great in the kitchen. What’s for dinner?” she asked, her voice cracking on the last word. Her appetite had vanished in the first rush of desire, but eating would delay what came later.

“Coq au vin.” Although his lips wore a playful smile, his preoccupation with her mouth gave the horseplay a sexual vibe. He looked prepared to devour her in slow, succulent bites. “Your favorite. Are you hungry?”

He looked half-starved.

“I haven’t eaten since breakfast.” Her stomach had been too knotted to accept food.

“Then I’d better feed you.” He softened his fists and let her scarf slip through his fingers, releasing her. “You’ll need your strength for what I have planned for you tonight.”

Freed, Ming couldn’t move. The hunger prowling through her prevented her from backing to a safe distance. His knowing smirk kept her tongue-tied. She silently cursed as she trailed after him into the kitchen.

“I found a really nice chardonnay in town.” He poured two glasses of wine and handed one to Ming. “I figured we’d save the champagne for later.”

Great. He was planning to get her liquored up. She could blame the alcohol for whatever foolish thing she cried out in the heat of passion. She swallowed half the pale white wine in a single gulp and made approving noises while he pulled a wedge of brie out of the fridge. Grapes. Crackers. Some sort of pâté. All the sort of thing she’d served him at some point. Had he paid attention to what she liked? Asking herself the question had an adverse effect on her knees and led to more dangerous ruminating. What else might he have planned for her?

“Dinner should be ready in half an hour.” He had everything assembled on a plate and used his chin to gesture toward the deck. “It’s a gorgeous night. Let’s not waste the good weather.”

Early September in northern California was a lot cooler than what they’d left behind in Houston, and Ming welcomed the break from the heat. “It really is beautiful.” She carried their glasses outside. “We should take a long walk after dinner.”

Jason set down the plate and shot her a look. “If you have any strength in your legs after I’m done with you, we’ll do that.”

Despite the hot glance that accompanied his suggestive words, she shivered. Is this how the weekend was going to go? One long flirtation? It took them away from their normal interaction. Made her feel as if they’d grown apart these past few years and lost the comfortable intimacy they’d once shared.

“You’re cold. Come sit with me and I’ll warm you up.”

Her scattered wits needed time to recover before she was ready to have his arms around her. “I’ll grab my wrap.”

“Let me get it.”

“It’s on my suitcase by the door.”

How was she supposed to resist falling under his spell if he continued being so solicitous? This was the Jason she’d glimpsed with other women. The one she’d longed to have for her own. Only this Jason never stayed to charm any one woman for more than a few months, while Ming had enjoyed her fun-loving, often self-involved friend in her life for over twenty years. She sighed. Was it possible for him to be the thoughtful, romantic lover and a great friend all in one?

Was she about to find out? Or would making love with him complicate her life? Was he close to discovering she’d harbored a secret, unrequited crush on him for years? At best he’d not take it seriously and tease her about it. At worst, he’d put up walls and disappear the way he always did when a girlfriend grew too serious. Either way, she wasn’t ready for his pity or his alarm.

Jason returned with her dark blue pashmina. “I put your suitcase in the bedroom.”

Foolishly her heart jerked at the last word. Every instinct told her to run. Altering their relationship by becoming sexually intimate was only going to create problems.

Then he was wrapping the shawl around her and grazing her lips with his. All thoughts of fleeing vanished, lost in the heat generated by her frantic heart.

She put a hand on his arm. “Jason—”

He put a finger against her lips and silenced her. “Save it for later.”

The twinkle in his eye calmed some of the frenzy afflicting her hormones. She reminded herself that he was way more experienced in the art of seduction, having had vast numbers of willing women to practice on. He liked the chase. It was routine that turned him off. And right now, he was having a ball pursuing her. Maybe if she stopped resisting, he’d turn down the charisma.

So, she took half a dozen slow, deep breaths and forced herself to relax. Nibbling cheese, she stared at their view and kept her gaze off the handsome man with the dazzling blue eyes. But his deep voice worked its way inside her, its rumble shaking loose her defenses. She let him feed her grapes and crackers covered with pâté. His fingers skimmed her lips, dusted sensation over her cheeks and chin. By the time they were bumping hips in the small kitchen while transferring coq au vin and potatoes to plates, pouring more wine and assembling cutlery, Ming had gotten past her early nerves.

This was the Jason she adored. Funny, completely present, a tad bit naughty. The atmosphere between them was as easy as it had ever been. They’d discussed Terry’s offer to take over the practice. Her sister’s decision to buy a house in Portland. And stayed away from the worrisome topic of what was going to happen after dessert.

“This is delicious,” Ming murmured, closing her eyes in rapture as the first bite of coq au vin exploded on her taste buds. “My favorite.”

“I thought you’d appreciate it. Rosemary told me the restaurant was known for their French cuisine.” Jason had yet to sample the dinner.

She indicated his untouched plate. “Aren’t you hungry?” He sure looked half-starved.

“I’m having too much fun watching you eat.”

And just like that the sizzle was back in the room. Ming’s mouth went dry. She bypassed her wine and sipped water instead. After her first glass of the chardonnay, she’d barely touched her second. Making love to Jason for the first time demanded a clear head. She wanted to be completely in the moment, not lost in an alcoholic fog.

“How can watching me eat be fun?” She tried to make her tone light and amused, but it came out husky and broken.

“It’s the pleasure you take in each bite. The way you savor the flavors. You’re usually so matter-of-fact about things, I like knowing what turns you on.”

He wasn’t talking about food. Ming felt her skin heat. Her blood moved sluggishly through her veins. Even her heart seemed to slow. She could feel a sexy retort forming on her tongue. She bit down until she had it restrained. They were old friends who were about to have sex, not a man and a woman engaged in a romantic ritual that ended in passionate lovemaking. Ming had to be certain her emotions stayed out of the mix. She could count on Jason to do the same.

“The backs of my knees are very ticklish.” She focused on cutting another bite of chicken. “I’ve always loved having my neck kissed. And there’s a spot on my pelvis.” She paused, cocked her head and tried to think about the exact spot. “I guess I’ll have to show you when we get to that point.” She lifted her fork and speared him with a matter-of-fact gaze. “And you?”

His expression told her he was on to her game. “I’m a guy. Pretty much anywhere a beautiful woman touches me, I’m turned on.”

“But there has to be something you really like.”

His eyes narrowed. “My nipples are very sensitive.”

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