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  “You asked me to do it until you screamed my name.”

  “I’ve never…” She broke off and squirmed a little on the couch. Her skin felt too tight, and her heart was thudding against her ribs. “Some of that would be…new.” Some, as in all.

  He looked at her for a long beat, then moved back to her. Slowly he crouched at her side and tugged playfully on the tie. “Go to bed, Rainey. Alone. Drink the water and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  Right. She nodded and closed her eyes.

  She heard him move away, but the door didn’t open. So she opened her eyes and found him standing in front of it, his hand on the doorknob, head bowed against the wood.

  “What are you doing?” she asked.

  “Trying to make myself leave.” He lifted his head. “Because tomorrow you’re going to remember that you don’t like me, and I’m going to want to kick my own ass for not sticking around while you do.”

  In her tired state, that somehow made sense. Sad, sad sense. “You’re right. Tomorrow I’ll probably go back to being an uptight, bitchy control freak.”

  He smiled. “You’re not bitchy.”

  “Just an uptight control freak?”

  “Well, maybe a little.”

  She laughed. Laughed. And suddenly, she didn’t want him to leave. She really really didn’t. What she did want was him. Again. She wasn’t sure exactly why she was still so attracted to him, but she had a nice buzz going and decided it was okay not to think about it right now. So she stood up.

  “What are you doing?”

  “Instigating again.” She climbed up on the coffee table. She wasn’t sure why she did it exactly, except maybe because he was tall and sure and confident, and she needed to be those things too. Plus it just seemed like a striptease should be done from a tabletop. Reaching behind her, she unzipped her dress.


  His voice was hoarse, and very very serious, and ooh, she liked it.

  She liked it a lot.

  “You need to stop,” he said, sounding very alpha.

  She liked that too. She wondered if he’d boss her around when they got into bed.

  She kind of hoped so.

  She let the little straps slip off her shoulders, holding the material to her breasts. She thought she was being sexy as hell, so his telling her to stop confused her. “Why?”

  “I’m not having drunk sex with you.”

  “I’m not drunk.” She let the dress slowly slip from her breasts, revealing her pretty black lace push-up bra.

  Mark appeared to stop breathing. “Rainey—”

  “Whoops.” She let go of her dress. “Look at that....” She’d planned the dress sliding gracefully down her body to pool at her feet, but that’s not what happened. It caught on her hips. She tried a little shimmy but her heels were much higher than her usual sneakers. Which meant that her ankle gave and she tumbled gracelessly to the floor.


  She heard Mark drop to his knees at her side, felt his hands run over her body. She could also feel that her dress had bunched at both the top and the bottom, ending up around her waist like a wadded belt. Probably she wasn’t looking as sexy as she’d hoped.


  There was both a warning and a sexy growl to his voice, so she lay there, eyes closed, playing possum with those big, warm hands on her.

  You just executed the most pathetic striptease ever, you idiot.


  She scrunched her eyes tighter, wondering what the chances were that he’d believe she’d died and would just go away.

  “Dead women don’t have hard nipples,” he said, sounding amused. “Or wet panties.”

  With a gasp at his crudeness—and her body’s traitorous reaction—she sat straight up and cracked her head on his chin.

  He fell to his ass at her side and laughed, and when he straightened up, she shoved him. Staggering to her feet, she took stock. Now her dress was around her ankles. Perfect. Nice work on bringing the sexy. Turning away from him, she weeble-wobbled across the living room, dragging the dress behind her, limping on her left ankle.

  From behind her, Mark made a sound that told her either he liked the view or he’d swallowed his tongue. She tried not to picture what she looked like as she went to her bedroom and slammed the door on his choked laugh.


  Her ankle was really burning now. She probably needed ice, but since that meant walking back out there, she’d do without. Somehow—she wasn’t sure how exactly—this was all Mark’s fault. In fact, she was positive of it.

  Crawling onto her bed, she proceeded to cover her head with her pillow, where she planned to stay forever and pretend the entire evening had been a bad dream.


  RAINEY CAME AWAKE slowly and lay very still, trying to figure out why she felt like she wasn’t alone. What had she done last night? The ballet. Jacob. The wine. Mark… The entire evening came crashing back to her, and eyes still closed, she groaned miserably. “Oh, no.”

  “Oh, yes,” said an amused male voice. Mark, of course.

  Her eyes flew open. It was morning, which she knew because the sun was slanting in the windows across her face, making her eyeballs hurt. Mark was lying on top of her covers, head propped up on his hand, casual as he pleased. He wore only his slacks, unbuttoned, and was sprawled out for her viewing pleasure, all lean, hard planes and—

  No. Stop looking at him. “What are you doing here?”

  He leaned over her, and utterly without thinking, she ran her hands up his back with a little purr of sheer pleasure.

  Mark went still, staring down at her in rare surprise while his arm kept moving, grabbing a mug of steaming coffee from her nightstand. “I just wanted to make sure you were alive before I left,” he said.

  She forced her hands off him and tried to pretend she hadn’t opened her legs to let him slip between them. She took the proffered coffee and drank away her embarrassment. “Thanks,” she finally murmured, setting the mug down. Then casually lifted the covers to peek beneath.

  She was still in her black lacy bra and panties. And his tie…

  No heels.

  Her left ankle was propped on a pillow with an ice pack. Ah, yes. Her oh-so-sexy striptease.

  Mark had taken care of her. While she processed this, he rolled off the bed. She stared at his bare chest and felt the urge to lick him from his Adam’s Apple to those perfect abs. And beyond too, down that faint silky happy trail to his—

  “I’m pretty sure it’s just a sprain, but you need to wrap it.” He nodded to a still plastic-wrapped Ace bandage next to the coffee on the nightstand. “Figured you’d want to shower first.”

  Mouth dry, she nodded and very carefully sat up. He watched her as he reached for his shirt hanging off the back of her chair and shrugged into it. He tucked his shirt in, adjusting himself in the process before fastening his pants.

  She swallowed hard at the intimate moment. “Thanks,” she said. “For bringing me home.”

  He had a faint smile on his face as he studied her expression. “Anytime.”

  “I’m sorry if I was…a handful.”

  A small smile touched his lips. “Like I said. Anytime.”

  With a deep breath, she got out of the bed. She figured he’d turn away and give her a moment of privacy, but he didn’t. He might not sleep with buzzed women, but he had no problem looking. He looked plenty as the sheet fell away.

  “Pretty,” he said, and came close when she winced at the weight on her ankle. Lifting her up, he carried her into the bathroom.

  “I think I can manage from here,” she said.

  “Are you sure? I’m good in the shower.”

  Since he was good at everything, that wasn’t a stretch. But she was definitely not at her best. “I’m sure.”

  With a slow nod, he left her alone.

  Stripping off her bra and panties, she limped to the shower, turned it on, then proceeded to smack her ankle getting