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Authors: Diana Palmer

Before Sunrise (3 page)

BOOK: Before Sunrise
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She felt her cheeks burn, but she met his eyes levelly. “In other words, if you stayed around long enough, you'd want to sleep with me.”

His dark eyes ran slowly over her face. “I already want to sleep with you,” he said. “There's nothing I want more. That's why I'm going to get on a plane and go straight back to D.C.”

She wasn't sure how she felt. Her eyes searched his. “You might ask,” she said.

“Ask what?”

“If I'd like to sleep with you,” she said.

“I might not like the answer.”

She studied his hard, lean face. “Would any woman do?”

He touched her cheek. “I'm old-fashioned,” he said
quietly. “I don't play games. I've only had a handful of women in my life. They all meant something to me at the time, and most of them still speak to me pleasantly enough.”

She sighed gently and her eyes were sad as she smiled up at him. “I wish you'd stay,” she said honestly. “But I wouldn't try to make you feel guilty about it. Thank you for coming to my graduation,” she added. “It was kind of you.”

He was watching her hungrily and hoping it didn't show. “It's just as well that you're bristling with principles,” he said. “Our cultures won't mix at close range, Phoebe. They're too different. You've studied anthropology for years. You know the reasons as well as I do.”

“Good Lord, I'm not proposing marriage!” she burst out.

“Good thing,” he mused. “I'm married to my job. But if you're ever in the market for a lover, I'll be around.”

She gave him a pointed look. “Thanks bunches.”

“Just a thought,” he returned thoughtfully. “All the same, you might consider me a friend, if you ever need one. D.C. is a big, exciting place. I'll be close by if you ever get in trouble.”

She studied his hard face, seeing the maturity in it. He was devastating at close range like this, and she'd never wanted anything so much as she wanted a chance to have
him in her life. But they were already at an impasse, just as they'd been last year. There was a conflict of principles as well as cultures between them, and complicating it all was that formidable age difference. But, oh, he was sexy. She smiled faintly as her eyes roamed over his lean face possessively.

He cocked a heavy eyebrow. “Looking at me that way will bring you to grief,” he chided softly.

She shrugged. “Promises, promises.”

He touched the tip of her nose with his forefinger. “If I ever make one to you, I'll keep it. Congratulations. I'm proud of you.”

She sighed. “Thanks again for coming all this way to watch me graduate. It meant a lot to me.” Her eyes searched his and she smiled wistfully. “I hate public places.”

He caught her long, thick braid and tugged her closer, so that her head went back against the seat and her face was under his. “This isn't public,” he whispered against her mouth.

She barely got over the shock of his warm, hard lips on hers before he drew back and released her. He was already cursing himself for that lapse. He hadn't meant to do it. This whole trip had been against his better judgment, but he couldn't help himself.

She was watching him like a blue-eyed cat.

“Something on your mind?” he prompted.

“Yes. Is that
” she asked pertly. “That's the best you can do?”

“Excuse me?” he asked.

She sighed and touched his chin lightly with her fingers. “I can't help but compare that very anemic peck with the unbridled, passionate kiss you gave me last year on a riverbank,” she said outrageously.

He looked down his long, straight nose at her. “That was last year. Things were less complicated.”

Her eyebrows went up. “Yes?” she prompted.

He traced her small ear with his forefinger and seemed to be brooding at the same time. “I have a brother, Isaac,” he replied. “He's fourteen years younger than I am. About your age, in fact. My parents and I managed to get him through high school, but ever since, he's had one brush with the law after another. Now it's woman trouble. My mother has a bad heart and my father and I are afraid that all this is going to kill her.”

She was sorry for his situation, but flattered that he'd be so honest about a personal matter with her. “I'd have liked a brother or sister,” she remarked. “Even one who had problems.”

He smiled gently. “I know your father is dead. What about your mother?”

“She died of cancer when I was eight,” she said simply. “My father remarried and six years later, he died in Lebanon in the Marine barracks attack. My stepmother remarried. I haven't seen her in years. My grandparents and Aunt Derrie are all I have left.”

He scowled. She wasn't asking for sympathy, and he didn't offer it. But he felt sad for her. His family was dear to him. He'd do anything for them.

“Heavens, I didn't mean to run on like that!” she exclaimed, laughing self-consciously. She looked up at him with raised eyebrows. “Wouldn't you like to come inside with me and have wild, unprotected sex on the carpet?”

His eyes twinkled with suppressed humor. She was outrageous.

“Listen, I heard a girl say one time that if you used plastic wrap…!” she persisted.

He held up a big hand. “Stop right there,” he said firmly, still fighting laughter. “I am not using plastic wrap for birth control.”

She sighed theatrically. “What's going to become of me?” she asked the dashboard. “You're condemning me to ridicule when I have to fill in employment forms.”

He leaned forward. “What?”

“There's this place where it says sex, and because I'm
an honest person, I'll have to fill in that I can't have any because the only man I want refuses to cooperate.”

He did laugh, then, shaking his head. “Get out of here!” He leaned over her to catch the door handle.

She was right up against him, with her mouth a scant inch from his, because she didn't move, as he expected her to. At the proximity, she could see dark rims around his black irises, she could feel the minty taste of his breath against her parted lips.

Her fingers touched his warm throat gently. They were like ice. “I dated three boys this past semester alone,” she said in a husky tone. “I had to grit my teeth to even let them kiss me good night.”

“Are you making a point?”

Her eyes were eloquent. “I don't feel anything with other men.”

“Baby, you're very young,” he said in a soft, tender tone, his fingers lightly brushing her full lips. He wasn't even aware of the endearment. His face was solemn. “Somebody will come along.”

“He already did, but he keeps leaving,” she muttered.

“I have a job,” he reminded her. He bent to her mouth and brushed it with his, very lightly. It was like electricity between them. “And a backlog of cases. I wasn't lying.”

“I'll bet you never take vacations,” she whispered
against his lips, tracing them with her own in a desperate ploy to keep him with her.

“They're rare.” He nipped her upper lip with his perfect white teeth, and then ran his tongue along the underside of it. His heartbeat increased abruptly and he felt his body responding to her with an urgency that he wasn't used to. Involuntarily his fingers speared into the bound hair at her nape and tilted her face up to his. “This is not a good idea,” he ground out, but his mouth was already on her parted lips, and he was kissing her in a way that made her whole body leap.

She slid her arms around his neck, blind to the possibility of passersby. They were in a secluded area of the parking lot and it was deserted. It wouldn't have mattered if it hadn't been. She was on fire for him.

He groaned into her open mouth and his tongue darted in past her teeth. His big hands slid up her rib cage to the firm, soft thrust of her breasts and he took their delicate weight into his palms, his thumbs rubbing tenderly at the nipples until they went hard.

She shivered.

He lifted his head and looked straight into her dazed, misty eyes. His own were blazing with hunger. His hands contracted and he saw her pupils dilate even as she shivered again with pleasure.

“If you were older,” he bit off.

“It wouldn't matter, because you're too attracted to me,” she whispered, tightening her arms around his neck. “You'd run like a scalded dog before you'd take me to bed, Jeremiah,” she murmured shakily. “Because you'd be addicted overnight.”

“So would you,” he replied curtly, angered by her perception. The sound of his given name on her lips was strangely intimate, like the way he was holding her.

“I know,” she said huskily. She tugged his head back down and kissed him with all the pent-up longing of a whole year, enjoying the way he kissed her back, roughly and hungrily, with no restraint.

But all too soon, he caught her upper arms and pulled them down. His head lifted and the look in his eyes was suddenly remote.

“I have more personal problems than I can handle right now,” he said, his tone deep and slow. “I can't manage you as well.”

“You want to,” she said daringly.

His eyes flashed. “Yes,” he said after a minute. “I want to.”

The admission changed her. She smiled, dazed.

“But I have to deal with the issues at hand, first,” he replied. He drew in a steadying breath and looked down
at her soft mouth with real longing. He traced it with a long forefinger. “By Christmas, perhaps, things will resolve themselves. Do you spend it with Derrie, in Charleston?”

“Yes,” she replied, beaming, because he wasn't saying goodbye forever.

“Think about the job opportunity I mentioned, will you? I'll get some more details and mail them to you. What's your address?”

Diverted, she fished for her purse and extracted a notepad and pen. She scribbled down Aunt Derrie's address in Washington, D.C., where she lived working for Senator Seymour—except on holidays—and her Charleston address. “I guess I'll stay at Aunt Derrie's place in Charleston for a while, until I know what I'm going to be doing.”

“The job I'm recommending you for pays really well,” he said, smiling. “And I'd see you often, because I spend a lot of time doing pro bono work in the area of their offices.”

Her eyes were bright with hope. “What an incentive.”

He laughed softly. “I was thinking the same thing.” He hesitated, watching her. “I'm not good with people,” he said then. “Relationships are hard for me. Even surface ones. You're demanding.”

“So are you,” she said simply.

He grimaced. “I suppose I am.”

“I'm not pushing you. I'm not even asking for anything,” she said quietly.

He touched her cheek with his fingertips. “I know that.”

She searched his dark eyes. “I knew you, the first time I saw you. I don't understand how.”

“Sometimes, it's better not to try,” he replied. “And I really do have to go.” He bent and kissed her with breathless tenderness, teasing her mouth with his until she lifted up to him. She moaned softly and tugged at his strong neck. He bent, crushing her against his chest with a harsh groan. She felt her whole body throbbing as the kiss went on and on until her mouth was swollen and her heart raced like a wild thing. He lifted his head reluctantly. But then he let her go abruptly and drew back.

He looked as unsettled as she felt. “We've got things in common already. We'll probably find more. At least you aren't totally ignorant of indigenous customs and rituals.”

She smiled gently. “I studied hard.”

He sighed. “Okay. We'll see what happens. I'll write you when I get back to D.C. Don't expect long letters. I don't have the time.”

“I won't,” she promised.

He touched her chin with his thumb. “You were right about one thing,” he said unexpectedly.


“You said that if I missed your graduation I'd regret it for the rest of my life,” he recalled, smiling. “I would have.”

Her fingers slid over his long mouth, tingling at the touch. “Me, too,” she agreed, with her heart in her eyes as they met his.

He bent and kissed her one last time before he reached across her and opened the door. “I'll write.”

She got out, nodding at him. “So will I.” She closed the door and stared down into the car. “I hope things work out for you at home,” she added.

“They will, one way or the other,” he replied. He studied her with turbulent eyes and an uncanny sense of catastrophe ahead. His father and uncles and the medicine men who were his ancestors would have found that perception a blessing. To him, it was a nuisance.

“What's wrong?” she asked, because the look on his face was eloquent.

He shifted. “Nothing,” he lied, trying to ignore the feeling. “I was just thinking. You take care, Phoebe.”

BOOK: Before Sunrise
11.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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