Taming Natasha Page 12

“Fine.” He couldn’t strangle her for that, however much he’d like to. “But, damn it, I want to know why you aim and fire every time I’m around you.”

“Because men like you deserve to be shot.”

“Men like me,” he repeated, measuring out the words. “What exactly does that mean?”

He was standing close, all but looming over her. As in the shop when he had brushed up against her, she felt those bubble bursts of excitement, attraction, confusion. It was more than enough to push her over the edge.

“Do you think because you have a nice face and a pretty smile you can do whatever you like? Yes,” she answered before he could speak and slapped her notebook against his chest. “You think you have only to snap your fingers.” She demonstrated dramatically. “And a woman will fall into your arms. Not this woman.”

Her accent thickened when she was on a roll, he noted, somewhat baffled by her claim. “I don’t recall snapping my fingers.”

She let loose one short, explicit Ukrainian oath and grabbed the knob. “You want to have a cup of coffee with me? Good. We’ll have your coffee—and we’ll call your wife and ask her to join us.”

“My what?” He closed his hand over hers so that the door was jerked open, then slammed shut again. “I don’t have a wife.”

“Really?” The single word dripped with scorn; her eyes flashed at him. “And I suppose the woman who came with you to the shop is your sister.”

It should have been funny. But he couldn’t quite get the joke. “Nina? As a matter of fact, she is.”

Natasha yanked open the door with a sound of disgust. “That is pathetic.”

Filled with righteous indignation, she stormed down the corridor and out the main door. In a staccato rhythm that matched her mood, her heels beat on the concrete as she started down the steps. When she was abruptly whirled around, she nearly took the last two in a tumble.

“You’ve got a hell of a nerve.”

“I?” she managed. “I have a nerve?”

“You think you’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?” Having the advantage of height, Spence could stare down at her. Natasha saw shadows move over his face as temper colored his voice. He didn’t appear awkward now, but every bit in control. “Or I should say you think you’ve got me figured.”

“It takes very little.” The fingers on her arm were very firm. She hated knowing that mixed with her own anger was basic sexual attraction. Fighting it off, she tossed back her hair. “You’re really very typical.”

“I wonder, can your opinion of me get any lower?” Now fury ground edge to edge with desire.


“In that case, I might as well satisfy myself.”

The notebook flew out of her hand when he dragged her close. She managed a single, startled sound in her throat before his mouth covered hers. Covered, crushed, then conquered.

Natasha would have fought him. Over and over she told herself she would fight him. But it was shock—at least, she prayed it was shock—that had her arms falling limply to her sides.

It was wrong. It was unforgivable. And, oh God, it was wonderful. Instinctively he’d found the key to unlock the passion that had lain dormant in her for so long. Her blood swam hot with it. Her mind hazed. Dimly she heard someone laugh as they strolled down the sidewalk below. A beep of a car horn, a shout of greeting, then silence once more.

She murmured, a pitiful protest that shamed her and was easily ignored as his tongue glided over her own. His taste was a banquet after a long fast. Though she kept her hands balled at her sides, she leaned into the kiss.

Kissing her was like walking through a mine field. Any moment he expected the bomb to go off and blow him to pieces. He should have stopped after the first shock, but danger had a thrill of its own.

And she was dangerous. As his fingers dived into her hair, he could feel the ground quiver and quake. It was her—the promise, the threat of titanic passion. He could taste it on her lips, even as she fought to hold it back. He could feel it in her taut, terrified stance. If she released it, she could make him a slave.

Needs such as he’d never known battered his system with heavy fists. Images, all fire and smoke, danced in his brain. Something struggled to break free, like a bird beating at the bars of a cage. He could feel it straining. Then Natasha was pulling away from him, standing apart and staring at him with wide, eloquent eyes.

She couldn’t breathe. For an instant she was genuinely afraid she would die on the spot with this unwanted, shameful desire on her conscience. In defiance she took a huge gulp of air.

“I could never hate anyone as much as I hate you.”

He shook his head to clear it. She had left him dizzy, dazed and utterly defenseless. For his own sake he waited until he was sure he could speak. “That’s a lofty position you put me in, Natasha.” He stepped down until they were at eye level. There were tears on her lashes, but they were offset by the condemnation in her eyes. “Let’s just be sure you’ve put me there for the right reasons. Is it because I kissed you, or because you liked it?”

She swung her hand out. He could have avoided the blow easily enough, but thought she deserved a hit. As the crack of the slap echoed, he decided they were even.

“Don’t come near me again,” she said, breathing hard. “I warn you, if you do, I won’t care what I say or who hears me. If it wasn’t for your little girl—” She broke off and bent to gather her things. Her pride was shattered, along with her self-esteem. “You don’t deserve such a beautiful child.”

He caught her arm again, but this time the expression on his face made her blood go cold. “You’re right. I never have and probably never will deserve Freddie, but I’m all she has. Her mother—my wife—died three years ago.”

He strode off, was caught in the beam of a street lamp, then disappeared into the dark beyond. Her notebook pressed against her chest, Natasha sank weakly onto the bottom step.

What in hell was she going to do now?

There was no choice. No matter how much she hated it, there was really only one course to take. Natasha rubbed the palms of her hands on the thighs of her khakis, then started up the freshly painted wooden steps.

It was a nice house, she thought, stalling. Of course she’d seen it so often that she rarely noticed it anymore. It was one of those sturdy old brick places tucked back from the street and shielded by trees and box hedges.

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