Authors: Kira Archer
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Comedy, #opposites attract, #Kira Archer, #enemies to lovers, #Contemporary Romance, #Road trip, #entangled, #Lovestruck, #wrong side of the tracks, #Contemporary, #Category, #forced proximity
He frowned, studying her. A song filtered out to them from the radio that was still playing. His face immediately cleared and he leaned in to turn up the sound. Blind Melon’s “No Rain” blared from the speakers.
He held his hand out to her. “Dance with me.”
“What? Are you crazy?”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her into his chest. “Maybe. But you don’t want to sit in the car and I don’t feel like just standing in the rain staring at each other. So let’s dance.”
He pushed her out, keeping hold of her hand so he could spin her back into him again.
“Nathaniel!” She laughed. “No.”
He grinned and twirled her again. She looped her arm around his neck so she could hold on.
And they danced.
His arm snaked around her waist and drew her tight against him, rocking with her through one of the slower parts of the song. She let her other hand rest on his chest. She could feel him staring down at her. But staring at him while he held her in his arms would be too intimate. They could
Maybe a quick peek wouldn’t hurt. She looked up. Met his gaze. His lips pulled into a lazy smile that made her heart skip over to high-five her lungs. Her breath hitched in her throat and she dropped her gaze.
So wrong, so wrong, so wrong.
He twirled, dipped, and swayed with her until she was breathless. Water cascaded down their faces and slipped into the neck of her poncho and she didn’t even care. He spun her again and her laughter echoed through the air.
The rain let up a little and the moon was trying hard to break through the clouds. Once the rain completely stopped it was going to be miserably muggy. But for the moment, with the rain keeping the worst of the heat at bay, it was actually kind of pleasant dancing under the dark sky. In his arms.
The song ended, but Nathaniel didn’t let her go. “Feel better?”
She nodded, not meeting his gaze. She wasn’t sure if she was having a sudden attack of shyness, or just didn’t trust herself to raise her mouth within a few inches of his. Because she was definitely feeling things she really shouldn’t be feeling and she’d never been great at resisting temptation.
“Come on. Let’s have a seat for a few minutes.”
Cherice still wasn’t certain she wanted to get in the car.
Nathaniel anticipated her argument. “Only the front wheel is stuck in the mud. The back wheels are on solid ground. We won’t slide anywhere. I promise. We can sit in the back so we aren’t putting any more weight on the front. Here, I’ll even get in first.”
He climbed in, shutting off the music and then leaning his back against the door frame and leaving one leg stretched out along the backseat. Then he looked back at her, his piercing gaze burning right into hers.
“Come here,” he said, cocking a finger at her.
Cherice wasn’t so sure what she feared more. Causing another mudslide or snuggling against the mouthwatering man who reclined in the backseat of the car, his legs spread, waiting for her.
“Cher, come here.”
She took a deep breath and climbed into the backseat with him, pulling the door closed behind her. She leaned back against his chest, her body rigid. Not with cold. But with something much more confusing. And so, so wrong.
He’s married, he’s married, he’s married
, she chanted in her head.
“There,” he said, draping one arm across the back of the seat. “Now you can see the exit at all times. Does that help?”
She took a tremulous breath. It actually did help. As long as she kept her attention on the bit of sky outside and not on the very large, very warm man behind her, she should be fine.
“Yes. Thank you.”
“My pleasure,” he said, his voice shifting from its normal tone into something much huskier and infinitely more sensual.
“No,” she whispered.
“Don’t worry,” he said, reaching under her poncho to rub a hand up and down her arm. “The tow truck will be here any minute. Let’s talk. It’ll keep your mind off all this.”
“Okay. Sure. What do you want to talk about?”
“You,” he murmured, somehow making that one word more erotic than every romance novel she’d ever read.
“Me? Why me?”
“Because, all I know about you is that you have a terrifying family and you want to be a life coach and they’d never approve. So, what do you plan to do about that?”
Okay, the inexplicable desire she’d been feeling started to fade. The man really knew how to kill a mood. That was good, she supposed. No moods allowed.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what are your plans for your life? You said your parents had wanted you to go to med school and they aren’t too happy about your current job. So, if they aren’t happy with what you are doing anyway, then why not just do what you want?”
She groaned. “You still don’t get it. It’s really not that easy.”
“Sure it is. Just dip into that pile of money you’ve got stashed somewhere and go to school, or open your store or do whatever you have to do. It’s not like they’ll be
mad at you, right?”
“I don’t know why you think I have some huge pile of money just sitting there waiting for me to play with. Yes, my parents are well off and help me out every now and then, I’ll admit that. But for the most part, I’ve been on my own since I graduated from college. Even if I did have a stash of cash somewhere, I still wouldn’t be able to just pick up and do whatever I wanted. I have a little more consideration for my family than that.”
“So, you have no plans for your life except to wait and do whatever Mommy and Daddy tell you?”
Cherice pushed away from him. He drew his knee up so she was no longer resting against his leg, but he didn’t move it off the seat. She turned to face him. “The problem isn’t that I don’t have plans for my life, it’s that you don’t approve of what they are.”
His eyebrow raised. “I can’t disapprove of something that doesn’t exist. Sitting there waiting for someone else to dictate what you will do with your life isn’t a plan, Cher. It’s a cop-out. It’s easier to let them tell you what to do then take a chance and maybe fail, again.”
“Don’t think you know so much about my life.”
“I’m not wrong, am I?”
She sucked in a breath, fury burning through her. But some of that anger was aimed at herself. Because he was right. She’d never wanted to be a doctor, but not getting into med school had been a huge disappointment. It had completely derailed her whole life. Making a stand against her parents about the shop was going to be nearly impossible as it was, piggy backing on the
failure. But if she failed again and had to come crawling back? No way in hell would she put herself through that.
But the alternative was just as terrifying. There were really only two ways she could be of use to her family. The first—become a hugely successful doctor/lawyer/professional of some sort and help build the family name and fortune. The second—make an advantageous marriage and increase her family’s connections and prospects through her husband. She’d not made any progress on the first. The second made her physically ill. But she was pretty sure that was what her mother had in mind for her. And what better place to get that ball rolling than at her sister’s wedding?
Her mother had made some vague comments about meeting some new people this week, and had name-dropped a certain doctor her father was thinking of setting up a practice with, on several occasions. Cherice had no doubt that her scheming mother had the perfect someone picked out already.
Someone who probably wasn’t anything like the tall, blue-eyed walking orgasm who was reclining in the incapacitated car like he was the king and it was his castle. The married man whose eyes kept drifting to her free floating chest where her nipples strained toward him with every brush of his gaze. The man whose full lips were pulling into a sexy half grin that said he knew very well what she was thinking at the moment. And liked it.
“You never answered my question, Cher.”
“Your question didn’t deserve an answer. And my name is Cherice, Nathaniel.”
“I prefer Oz, Cher. And my question does deserve an answer. You’re just too chicken to answer it.”
“You. Are. Chicken. You are afraid to admit what you really want out of life. Afraid to go for it. Afraid to fail. So afraid that you’ll just be miserable your whole damn life rather than take a chance.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yeah. It is. Then again, maybe you don’t even know what you really want. You’re so used to being told what to do every step of the way that a genuine decision makes you completely freeze up.”
“It does not.”
“Oh really? You couldn’t even drive to New York by yourself. You’re more than old enough—”
“I’m only twenty-four.”
“Fine. You were still too afraid to get yourself from Point A to Point B alone. It wasn’t part of the plan. You’ve probably never stepped out of line your whole life, have you?”
Cherice glared at him but he kept right on going. Every word stoked her anger, made her burn hotter, made her want to scream at him, hit him, show him that he was wrong about her. Show him that she could take charge. That she could seize the moment, live her own life.
Her breath came faster, her head spinning with the mix of anger and adrenaline and sheer straight-up lust.
He was still talking. But that smile played around his lips. He knew exactly what he was doing.
“I’ve done plenty of stepping. Maybe I’m just not interested enough in you to show you the real me.”
Oz snorted. “Nice try, but you know I’m right. In your whole life you’ve never stepped out of the perfect little box your parents stuffed you into. Never wanted to do anything”—he reached forward and traced her lips with his finger—“that might be remotely forbidden.”
Cherice gasped at his touch and it took every ounce of willpower she had to keep from sucking that finger into her mouth. She couldn’t seem to breathe past the pounding of her heart. Nathaniel’s hand moved to cup her cheek.
“Step outside the box, Cher. You know you want to.”
He moved closer, his lips a breath away. All she had to do was lean in…
Cherice gasped and jerked out of his arms, suddenly remembering the main reason this man was off limits.
Her hand flew before she’d even made the decision to slap him. Her palm cracked against his cheek, the sound echoing through the car.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she screeched, as he grabbed his cheek with a gasp of his own.
“What do you mean, what am I doing? What was that for?”
“How could you? I bet you do this kind of thing all the time, don’t you?”
“Try to make out with a crazy woman in the back of a rental car? Nope, sorry, first attempt for me.”
“No, you jerk! Cheat on your wife! What do you do, look for strange women to offer rides to so you can seduce them?”
Nathaniel frowned, his eyes narrowing. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about so don’t play dumb. I’m talking about you trying to use me to cheat on the poor woman who is stuck married to you.”
He threw his head back and laughed.
Cherice’s jaw dropped and she stared at him in horror. “What are you laughing at? This isn’t funny!”
He just laughed harder. “You’re right, it isn’t funny. It’s downright, fucking hilarious.” He leaned back against the door, catching his breath. “Why do you think I’m married?”
“I saw your family, so don’t even bother lying about it.”
“You saw my family? At the airport?”
“Yes. The beautiful blond woman with curly hair and a little boy who was obviously your son—”
“What?” Cherice froze.
“My nephew. Tyler. And my sister, Lena. They moved in with me a couple years ago because she didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
Well, if that wasn’t the sweetest thing she’d ever heard. But wait. That meant… “So…you aren’t married?” she asked, her voice nearly a whisper.
Because if he was single, that meant…a whole world of possibilities.
“Nope.” That half smile was back. He reached over and brushed a lock of hair off her shoulder, letting his fingers linger, trail up her neck.
“You’re single? Free to do…” She licked her lips and he sucked in a breath.
“Whatever I want.”
She didn’t wait for him to ask again.
She reached forward and grabbed his poncho, yanking him up to meet her. Her lips crushed against his and bless his heart, that aggravating, arrogant, know-it-all man, after a split-second hesitation, jumped right off the cliff with her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and hauled her onto his lap, shoving his fingers through her hair to keep her lips molded to his.
She’d meant only to kiss him quickly, just enough to show him she could be crazy and unpredictable. But the second her lips touched his, something short-wired in her brain. Nothing mattered but getting more of him. Her lips parted beneath his, inviting him in. He groaned and pressed her closer, his tongue dancing with hers until her head swam. His hand trailed up her side, the plastic of her poncho crinkling as his thumb just brushed the side of her breast.
She threw her head back, the touch setting her on fire. He kissed her exposed throat, nipping at the tender flesh beneath her ear. She arched against him, wanting more, wanting everything. And he seemed more than willing to accommodate.
Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God. I’m kissing him. I’m not just kissing him, I am trying to suck his tonsils out and praying to God he’ll do the same to me.
Nathaniel’s hand gripped the back of Cherice’s neck, angling her face better so his tongue could delve deep into her mouth, exploring every inch.
Oh, yeah. Just like that. Oh God.
What the hell am I doing? This is so wrong. Although. I’m single. He’s single. He can do whatever he wants. So can I. But do I want this? I don’t even know him. Oh God, I am making out with a guy I don’t even know. Does that make me a slut? What if he thinks I’m a slut?