Taming Natasha Page 23

“Oh, yes.” Despite herself, she began to see the humor of it. “That’s a great deal better. Would you like to drink this brandy or wear it?”

“I’ll drink it, thanks.” He lifted the glass, but instead of bringing it to his lips, took another turn around the room. He was jealous, Spence realized. It was rather pathetic, but he was jealous of an awkward, tongue-tied grad student. And while he was about it, he was making a very big fool of himself. “Listen, maybe I should start over.”

“I don’t know why you would want to start something over you should never have begun.”

But like a dog with a bone, he couldn’t stop gnawing. “It’s just that he’s obviously not your type.”

Fire blazed again. “Oh, and you’d know about my type?”

Spence held up his free hand. “All right, one straight question before my foot is permanently lodged in my mouth. Are you interested in him?”

“Of course I am.” Then she cursed herself; it was impossible to use Terry and his feelings as a barricade against Spence. “He’s a very nice boy.”

Spence almost relaxed, then spotted the scarf again, still spread over the back of her couch. “What are you doing with that?”

“I picked it up for him.” The sight of it, bright and a little foolish on the jewel colors of her couch, made her feel like the most vicious kind of femme fatale. “He left it behind after I broke his heart. He thinks he’s in love with me.” Miserable, she dropped into a chair. “Oh, go away. I don’t know why I’m talking to you.”

The look on her face made him want to smile and stroke her hair. He thought better of it and kept his tone brisk. “Because you’re upset, and I’m the only one here.”

“I guess that’ll do.” She didn’t object when Spence sat down across from her. “He was very sweet and nervous, and I had no idea what he was feeling—or what he thought he was feeling. I should have realized, but I didn’t until he spilled his coffee all over his shirt, and… Don’t laugh at him.”

Spence continued to smile as he shook his head. “I’m not. Believe me, I know exactly how he must have felt. There are some women who make you clumsy.”

Their eyes met and held. “Don’t flirt with me.”

“I’m past flirting with you, Natasha.”

Restless, she rose to pace the room. “You’re changing the subject.”

“Am I?”

She waved an impatient hand as she paced. “I hurt his feelings. If I had known what was happening, I might have stopped it. There is nothing,” she said passionately, “nothing worse than loving someone and being turned away.”

“No.” He understood that. And he could see by the shadows haunting her eyes that she did, too. “But you don’t really believe he’s in love with you.”

“He believes it. I ask him why he thinks it, and do you know what he says?” She whirled back, her hair swirling around her shoulders with the movement. “He says because he thinks I’m beautiful. That’s it.” She threw up her hands and started to pace again. Spence only watched, caught up in her movements and by the musical cadence that agitation brought to her voice. “When he says it, I want to slap him and say—what’s wrong with you? A face is nothing but a face. You don’t know my mind or my heart. But he has big, sad eyes, so I can’t yell at him.”

“You never had a problem yelling at me.”

“You don’t have big, sad eyes, and you’re not a boy who thinks he’s in love.”

“I’m not a boy,” he agreed, catching her by the shoulders from behind. Even as she stiffened, he turned her around. “And I like more than your face, Natasha. Though I like that very much.”

“You don’t know anything about me, either.”

“Yes, I do. I know you lived through experiences I can hardly imagine. I know you love and miss your family, that you understand children and have a natural affection for them. You’re organized, stubborn and passionate.” He ran his hands down her arms, then back to her shoulders. “I know you’ve been in love before.” He tightened his grip before she could pull away. “And you’re not ready to talk about it. You have a sharp, curious mind and caring heart, and you wish you weren’t attracted to me. But you are.”

She lowered her lashes briefly to veil her eyes. “Then it would seem you know more of me than I of you.”

“That’s easy to fix.”

“I don’t know if I want to. Or why I should.”

His lips brushed hers, then retreated before she could respond or reject. “There’s something there,” he murmured. “That’s reason enough.”

“Maybe there is,” she began. “No.” She drew back when he would have kissed her again. “Don’t. I’m not very strong tonight.”

“A good way to make me feel guilty if I press my advantage.”

She felt twin rushes of disappointment and relief when he released her. “I’ll make you dinner,” she said on impulse.


“Tomorrow. Just dinner,” she added, wondering if she should already be regretting the invitation. “If you bring Freddie.”

“She’d like that. So would I.”

“Good. Seven o’clock.” Natasha picked up his coat and held it out. “Now you have to go.”

“You should learn to say what’s on your mind.” With a half laugh, Spence took the coat from her. “One more thing.”

“Only one?”

“Yeah.” He swung her back into his arms for one long, hard, mind-numbing kiss. He had the satisfaction of seeing her sink weakly onto the arm of the sofa when he released her.

“Good night,” he said, then stepping outside, gulped in a deep breath of cold air.

It was the first time Freddie had been asked out to a grown-up dinner, and she waited impatiently while her father shaved. Usually she enjoyed watching him slide the razor through the white foam on his face. There were even times when she secretly wished she were a boy, so that she could look forward to the ritual. But tonight she thought her father was awfully slow.

“Can we go now?”

Standing in his bathrobe, Spence rinsed off the traces of lather. “It might be a better idea if I put some pants on.”

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