Authors: Elisabeth Naughton
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal
“What do I smell?”
The spoon in Casey’s hand clattered to the stovetop, bounced off the surface and hit the tile floor at her feet. Soup splashed onto her sweater and jeans, and she hissed in a breath.
Theron said, moving toward her. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Casey reached for the hand towel hooked over the oven-door handle. She swiped at the mess on her stomach and down her thighs.
Smooth, Case. Real smooth.
“I did not mean to startle you.”
Her hand paused at the sound of that sexy accent, then she gave herself a mental shake and continued wiping her clothes. The man moved like a silent shadow, even injured as he was. She was sure she’d only heard the shower turn off moments ago.
“You didn’t,” she said, trying to sound nonchalant. “I was thinking about something else.”
He bent at her feet to retrieve the spoon. She looked down and followed him with her eyes as he pushed to stand, then wished she hadn’t.
He towered over her. Nearly six and a half feet and at least two hundred and fifty pounds of pure muscle. His hair was damp from his shower, brushed back from his face and just long enough to curl at his collar in a way that begged her to run her fingers through the damp mass. The long-sleeved black T-shirt she’d bought for him
was snug against his muscled chest and arms, the faded Levi’s riding low on his lean hips. Beneath the cuffs of his jeans, his bare feet peeked out, looking ridiculously masculine against her pale pink tile floor.
She swallowed a groan as she flashed on what that body looked like stark naked. The long roped muscles, chiseled angles, hollows and planes that she could now envision way too well. The scars across his chest lived in her mind now, along with that arrow of dark hair that pulled her attention down until just the memory made her blush.
Injured, she’d found him wildly attractive, but now, semihealed and well rested, he was more than that. He was danger on a stick, dangled out in front of her like candy for a child. Every woman’s sex fantasy come true. And for some insane reason he was standing in
with wary eyes.
She still wasn’t entirely sure how that had come to pass, and if he weren’t looking at her right now, she’d probably have chalked it up to a dream. But it wasn’t. He was real, smelling of Ivory soap and a hint of her favorite shampoo. She had to block images of him wet and naked in her shower, using her bath products against his naked skin, because just the thought was too much to handle. And because she knew she must look like a moron right now, practically drooling over him, with soup staining the front of her outfit.
She blinked and turned for the cupboard, forcibly breaking the spell she seemed to fall under whenever he looked at her. “What you smell is soup. You must be starving. Have a seat at the table and I’ll get you some food.”
He shuffled across the floor and dropped onto a chair at the round oak table. Only when he grunted did she remember he was injured. “How’s your leg?”
“Better,” he said as she set a steaming bowl in front of him. His eyes barely flicked over the soup before returning to her. “A little sore.” He leaned over and took a deep
whiff while she opened the drawer and pulled out a clean spoon. “What is this?”
“Cheddar broccoli. My grandmother’s recipe.” She handed him the spoon, set butter and a plate of warm rolls on the table near his arm. When he continued to stare at her, she choked on a laugh. “Don’t worry, it won’t poison you. I do know how to cook.”
Frown lines creased his forehead, but he spooned up a bite, blew on it, then cautiously tasted a small amount. His dark eyebrows lifted in surprise. “It’s good.”
Casey smiled as she pulled the refrigerator open and grabbed a soda. She popped the top and set it in front of him, then spooned up a bowl of soup for herself. “I know modern women aren’t supposed to like to cook, but, well, I do. Makes me feel like I’ve accomplished some small feat during the day.”
She slid into the seat across from him and lifted her spoon to taste it herself. He waited and watched, and she had the strangest sense he was checking to make sure she didn’t keel over from food poisoning. She took a second bite and smiled.
The lines across his forehead relaxed, and he resumed eating. He glanced at the can she’d put in front of him, seemed to study it intently, then lifted it and looked inside the hole on top. “What is this?”
“You don’t like soda?”
“Soda?” he asked, turning the can and reading the side. Again he looked at her, waited while she lifted her can and took a drink. Only when she set hers down and went back to eating did he lift his to his lips and take a long swallow.
Then proceeded to spew Diet Dr Pepper all over the table.
Casey leapt from her chair and grabbed the kitchen towel again. She pressed it into his hand and against his mouth. “Not a fan of diet, huh?”
“Let me get you something else.”
She opted for a Coors from the refrigerator, since she never bothered to buy regular soda, and handed him that. He downed half of it before he pulled the bottle from his mouth with a frown and glanced at the label. “It tastes like water.”
She grabbed another towel to mop up the soda. “Well, it’s not a Guinness, but it’s definitely not water. Where the hell are you from that you don’t drink diet soda or light beer?”
He finished coughing and studied the can of diet soda on the table as if it might just jump up and bite him. After polishing off the rest of the beer, he set the empty bottle on the table before he said, “A small village. We…do not have a lot of foreign trade.”
No kidding. Casey slid back into her seat. “A small village where?” On Mars?
He finally tore his gaze from the can and looked up into her eyes. Familiarity sparked again as she studied his face. What was it about him that made her feel like they’d met before?
“A small village near the Aegean.”
“The Aegean Sea?” He nodded. Well, that sort of made sense, actually. She’d known he wasn’t American. Casey went back to her soup. “So you’re Greek.”
“No, not exactly.” Just when she was sure he wasn’t going to go on, he said, “The…political arena where I’m from is ever changing.”
He had the strangest way of putting words together. Like he was trying too hard to sound normal.
“I see,” she said. Though she really didn’t. She knew the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s had changed the landscape of the Balkan region. Though she could trace her roots to the area and she was good with geography, even she wasn’t sure how countries had been divvied up after the gunfire had ceased. “So what brought you to Oregon? It’s a pretty long trip for you.”
He nodded and reached for a roll. “I was looking for a friend.”
The woman at the club.
Casey swallowed back a spurt of jealousy she didn’t understand and continued eating. But a lump of remorse settled hard in her stomach when she realized what she had to tell him next.
She set down her spoon and wiped her hands on her napkin, laying it next to her bowl on the table. “I don’t know what happened to the woman you were with. When I found you in the parking lot, she was gone.”
He didn’t look up from his food. “She’s fine.”
Just what the heck does that mean?
“How do you know? You were already hurt by the time I reached you. Where did she go?”
Almost as if he realized he’d said too much, he lowered his spoon and met her eyes. She saw knowledge and secrets in his dark gaze. Coupled with the flat-out truth he wasn’t going to explain anything to her.
She leaned back in her chair and narrowed her gaze, trying to look at him objectively and not as the sex symbol she’d been fantasizing about earlier. “You know, I’m starting to think something about you just isn’t right. What did happen to you? Someone attacked you in that parking lot, didn’t they? You weren’t hit by a car. No matter how many times I’ve tried to tell myself that’s all that happened, I know it’s not. I think it’s about time you were honest with me.”
He clasped her arm on the table before she even saw him move, turned her palm up, slid his fingers down the center of her hand and hooked his pinky around her thumb, pinning her hand with ease. Slowly, he circled his index finger over the center of her palm, down to the heel of her hand, lower, until electricity burned along her wrist. Sparks shot straight to her spine and a warm, almost liquid sensation rushed through her entire body.
Her breathing slowed. The pupils of his eyes grew until
she found herself staring into pools of obsidian dark as night. And suddenly she had trouble remembering just what it was she’d gotten so worked up over only a moment before. Though she knew there was something. Some reason. Hanging on the edge of her subconscious. Why couldn’t she reach it?
But the thought was overridden by the way he was touching her. So…sinfully delicious and…oddly peaceful.
“Listen carefully,” he said slowly. “I was walking across the parking lot when you turned the corner in your car. It was dark. You were tired. You didn’t see me until it was too late. Your car hit me. You brought me here because you were worried about me and felt guilty. I’m not familiar with American hospitals and didn’t want to go to one if I didn’t have to. You helped me heal. You did a good thing.”
Yeah, that had to be the way it happened. Casey’s heart rate slowed as she relaxed further into his gentle caress. He had the softest fingers. His hands were warm and tantalizing. She couldn’t help but imagine those strokes running over her shoulders, down to her abdomen and finally up to her breasts.
“You want to continue to help me,” he said in an even softer voice. One that sounded like velvet and sandpaper all at the same time and ignited a rush of hormones deep in her body. “Anything I need.”
Of course she needed to help him. His injuries had been her fault. But…anything? Her cheeks warmed. Visions of his naked body laid out like an offering on her white comforter rushed through her mind again.
And that’s when she saw the wicked smile curling one side of his mouth, almost as if he could read her thoughts. “Yes,
,” he whispered. “Anything I want, you will do for me.”
Heat snaked through her abdomen, dripped lower until she felt the unmistakable wetness of her arousal. And
then he broke the contact with her hand as quickly as he’d grasped it.
She blinked several times. Felt oddly light-headed. Though he went back to his meal, her skin tingled as if he were still caressing her wrist. And something unfurled inside her then, some hidden part of her that had been waiting. Waiting for…this moment her whole life.
“Your soup is getting cold,
Casey tore her gaze from his rugged good looks and glanced down at her bowl. Riiiiight. Dinner. That’s what she was supposed to be focusing on. Not on him and some strange feeling that didn’t make a lick of sense.
Slowly, because her hand was trembling, she lifted her spoon and took a small bite. But didn’t taste a thing. Because what she suddenly wanted on her tongue wouldn’t come close to fitting on a spoon.
Some kind of instrumental music filtered through speakers in the ceiling as Theron sat in the kitchen watching Casey clean up the dishes from dinner. A candle in a large hurricane lamp flickered in the center of the table, casting warm light and the scent of vanilla across the room. But what held his attention wasn’t the candle or music, but rather the woman in his line of sight.
Holy Hades. A human woman. One he couldn’t seem to stop thinking about. He’d changed his mind right there during dinner. When he’d held her hand in his and recognized the desire in her eyes. For some reason, the Fates had given him this respite here with her while he healed. Why should he fight it?
Her back was to him as she washed their dishes. He’d offered to help, but she’d told him to sit and relax and not irritate his injuries. If she knew what he was planning, she wouldn’t be standing there looking so at ease.
Snug jeans molded to her body like a second skin. Her simple white V-neck sweater was somehow hotter than any lingerie the Argolean
he’d been with over
the years had ever worn. Watching her, blood rushed to his groin and tightened his jeans until he had to shift in his seat to release the pressure.
He lifted the lager in his hand and took a small sip to cool the heat building in his veins. He’d had better, but this wasn’t too bad. And it beat that carbonated crap any day. Humans had some strange tastes, though this one he sort of enjoyed. And he could go on watching the woman in front of him move all night long.
Which was ironic, considering he’d given his kinsman Zander such a hard time about his unhealthy obsession with human women. And yet, here he was.
Theron’s watched her lean down and place a pan in a bottom cupboard. The denim stretched across her heart-shaped ass, the waistband dipping low over her back until he saw a glimpse of white lace peeking from beneath. His pulse kicked up and the blood roared in his head.
She opened a cupboard to her right and eased up on her toes to put a bowl away. When it was obvious she was having trouble reaching the highest shelf, he rose slowly and moved to help her. The pain in his leg had dimmed to a dull throb, but there was no reason to tell her that.
Citrus and lavender drifted to his nose when he got close, remnants of the same shampoo he’d used in her shower and something else that could have been lotion or perfume, he wasn’t sure which. He eased in behind her and took the bowl from her hand. “Let me help.”
She stiffened as their fingers brushed. The muscles in her arms and legs went rigid. His chest brushed her back as he set the bowl on the top shelf, and his elbow ran down her forearm in a barely there brush of skin against skin.
“Thank you,” she said softly, easing back down on her feet. The motion brought his hips into contact with that delectable ass he’d been admiring before, and the erection he’d been fighting all night came roaring back.