An image flashed in her mind—an image that had haunted her all day. She tried and failed to erase it. This morning she’d awoken before Adam and tiptoed to the loft rail to see him sprawled on the sofa just below his bedroom. The plentiful display of sleek golden skin made it clear he slept nude. She’d wasted way too much time staring down at him and hoping the sheet barely covering his groin would fall to the floor.
Voyeur. A guilty flush warmed her skin.
It’s just healthy curiosity. Right?
No. It was more than that. Her early days crush was back, she realized with a sinking sensation in her stomach. And it hadn’t returned because of the grand gestures like the expensive car or rings. It was the little things like how Adam had been such a great sport when she’d beat him at Scrabble, or the way he opened doors and held chairs for her and always treated her with respect even though she’d basically sold herself to him.
It was the way he worried about his sister and mother, and how he hadn’t ridiculed Lauryn’s fear of flying. Instead, during the flight he’d explained how the plane worked, and on the return trip to Miami he’d encouraged her to take the controls for a few minutes. When she’d admitted she liked it he’d offered to arrange flying lessons for her.
She understood his struggle with his father and sympathized with his need to live down a less-than-admirable past. They had that in common.
If she weren’t married to him she’d want to date him.
Maybe Adam wasn’t the womanizer the tabloids claimed. Maybe he wasn’t just another guy out to get laid as often as possible.
He wasn’t a guy who shirked hard work, and if he were the playboy the press claimed, he would have stood back and let the paid crew do all the sweating, but he’d worked right alongside the movers today. The scent fresh of male sweat emanated from him.
And maybe you’re clutching at straws because you want him.
Adam eliminated the space between them with two long strides. He braced a hand on the window frame beside her head and leaned closer. “The bed’s big enough for both of us.”
She shouldn’t be tempted. But she was. “Adam. We’ve already had this conversation.”
“Lauryn,” he replied in the same long-suffering tone she’d used, but laughter and an invitation to sin lurked in his gorgeous blue eyes—an invitation she wanted to accept more with each passing moment.
“You’re not making this easy.”
“No.” He cradled her face. The warmth of his palm felt so good, and the urge to lean into his touch nearly overwhelmed her.
And that was another thing. He was honest—despite their dishonest sham of a marriage. He wanted her and he didn’t try to hide that fact. It made her feel a twinge of guilt over being less than one hundred percent forthcoming with him.
He just made wanting him so damned easy.
Sleeping with him wouldn’t be a desperate bid for approval or a jab to get back at your father.
But it would still be wrong. In the overall scheme of things giving in to lust would not move her toward her long-term goals, and these days she always thought of the future.
She wanted to back away, to break his hold and put a safe distance between them, but this marriage was all about appearances. Adam had asked the cook to prepare a special meal for their first night in the house. If they were going to make their separate sleeping arrangements believable, public displays of affection and even passion would be necessary. Adam must have spotted some of the staff watching through the windows.
Before she could ask if that were the case he lowered his head and covered her mouth with his. He sipped from her lips and teased with his tongue, stroking and then suckling her bottom lip. Every cell in her body snapped to attention. She loved the way he kissed. Adored the way he tasted.
Last night’s kiss in his mother’s driveway had been hot, but not nearly as incinerating as this one. This one was a no-holds-barred assault on her senses. Hunger rose within her like mercury in a thermometer, overriding caution, good judgment and restraint and making her crave more than just kisses.
Adam backed her against the window frame. His thigh slid between hers, pressing her tender flesh. He deepened the kiss. One big hand raked upward from her waist to cover her breast. He found the sensitive tip and brushed over it again and again. Her stomach tensed with need. His erection pressed against her belly and the heat of his torso branded hers. She curled her fingers against the urge to cup and caress his hardened flesh, to test his length and breadth.
A niggling part of her brain cried overkill. No one watching from outside could see his tongue twining with hers or his hand on her breast. But the rest of her body mutinied. She wanted this. Wanted him. Wanted his touch. Wanted to feel the passion she’d denied herself for so long. She moved against his thigh and bubbles of pleasure floated through her system.
He lowered his hand to cover her mound. Her khaki shorts did nothing to lessen the shocking, arousing contact. She broke the kiss to gasp for air and let her head fall back against the window frame. Adam stroked her through her clothing and a moan sneaked past her lips.
You shouldn’t let him do this.
Stop him. You’re too vulnerable right now to think straight.
Adam nibbled and kissed her neck while his fingers worked magic. Lauryn lost herself in the heat of his breath against her skin, the nip of his teeth along the cords of her neck, the swirl of his tongue over her pulse point. She clenched her fingers in the silkiness of his hair.
But she couldn’t. Not yet. Pleasure, heady and out of control, rose swiftly until orgasm boiled through her.
Barely able to support her weight, she clung to Adam’s shoulders and sagged against the hard window frame. She forced her heavy lids open and stared into Adam’s passion-darkened eyes.
“Good?” he rasped between labored breaths.
Shame burned her cheeks. She lowered her arms. “You know it was. But it shouldn’t have happened.”
She’d slipped up. Big-time. Embarrassed, she turned her head to look out at the empty patio below. A quick scan of the downstairs windows revealed no one watching. “We don’t have an audience.”
Adam straightened, steadied her and then released her. A slow smile eased across his lips. “That was for me. I told you. I always go after what I want. And I want you, Lauryn Garrison. Consider yourself warned.”
And then he winked and strolled out of the room.
Lauryn’s knees gave out. She slid to the floor.
What had she done?
She’d opened Pandora’s Box, that’s what.
And she wasn’t convinced she could put the lid back on.
She’d done it again.
Lauryn’s stomach flip-flopped. She’d lost herself in the music and sent signals she hadn’t intended to send to her husband—signals that said she was available and sexually interested in more than just faking a relationship.
No wonder Adam had spun her into a tight embrace on the dance floor. The heat of his chest pressed her back and his arms, one around her waist and the other just below her br**sts, held her close as he swayed to the music of the Grammy Award winner singing on Estate’s main stage.
Adam’s lips teased the sensitive skin beneath her left ear and his arousal nudged her hips. It was the urge to push back without the barrier of clothing between them that filled Lauryn with panic.
Her reasons for resisting a physical relationship grew foggier each day. Worse, Adam knew it. She saw the knowledge in his eyes each time he looked at her, felt it in the confidence and increased frequency of his touch and the seduction of his lips. The lovey-dovey gestures were supposed to be for show, for their audience. But she knew better—especially since he was slipping a few in when there was no one around.
He seemed bent on seducing her with flowers, jewelry and a handful of other small gifts, which she found by her plate, on her pillow, on her desk. But it was the easy flow of conversation over brunch each morning that was slowly eroding her defenses.
The man knew how to woo women.
But she didn’t want to be just another conquest.
She wriggled herself free and faced Adam on the crowded dance floor. She had to lean close to be heard, close enough to smell the unique scent of his body mingling with his tangy cologne. Sexy. Her pulse quickened.
“Would you mind if I headed home early tonight?”
Adam’s brows lowered and his eyes filled with concern. He caught her elbow and led her off the floor. “Something wrong?”
Yes, something was wrong. She’d lost sight of her goal and had yet to spend any time searching closets for loose floorboards. Other than the master suite, she’d only taken a cursory walk through the upstairs. Part of that was Adam’s fault. He insisted on keeping up the inseparable newlywed image and they were always together. Her only time away from him was afternoons when she worked at Estate. Even then he was only ten steps down the hall in his office.
At six each evening he drove her home to change for dinner at a see-and-be-seen restaurant where he touched her at every opportunity. Afterward they returned to the club and stayed until 3:00 a.m. More touching ensued with occasional dances thrown in. Adam’s moves on the dance floor were so sexy she couldn’t help but wonder what he’d be like in bed.
And now she was as hot as a downed power line.
Self-disgust welled within her. Four days of living in her birthmother’s house—four days!—and she had nothing to show for them except a case of overactive hormones and a body clock that no longer knew the difference between night and day.
“I need to catch up on my sleep.” The lie caused a pinch of guilt. She needed an empty house to do what she’d come to Florida to do.
If you were honest with Adam about your birthmother you wouldn’t have to lie. Soon, she promised herself. She’d tell him soon. She liked and respected him too much to continue lying to him about her reasons for seeking him out.
“I’ll walk you out.”
And if he did he’d kiss her good-night. Her resistance was already running low. She needed to avoid that talented, persuasive mouth of his before it led her straight to his bed.
“No, Adam, I’ve already cut into the hours you usually work. Stay until the club closes like you used to.”
Adam had never worried about one of his women before, but he hadn’t been able to get Lauryn out of his head in the past hour.
Why had she left the club so abruptly? Was she ill?
One minute she’d been dancing so seductively he’d been rock hard and ready to drag her to his office to pick up where they’d left off the other day. The next second she’d frozen and bolted.
He’d leave Estate as soon as he’d personally thanked tonight’s performer for coming and turned everything over to his manager.
He let himself into the silent house, reset the alarm and climbed the stairs. Light spilling from a bedroom in the south hallway caught his attention and sent adrenaline pulsing through his veins.
Was there an intruder in the house or was Lauryn still awake and exploring? Had she walked in on a burglary despite the heavy security of the house? Or had one of the housekeeping staff left a light on? The need to see Lauryn, to reassure himself she was okay, suddenly seemed as necessary as breathing. He pulled his cell phone from its clip, ready to dial 911 if necessary, and crept down the hall toward the master suite to check on Lauryn first.