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Authors: Jaci Burton

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BOOK: Melting the Ice
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A hard shot of whiskey, maybe? Followed by a double shot of regret?

“You’ll need to spread your legs apart a bit so I can get your legs and inseam.”

“Sure.”

She couldn’t look at him. He had to know how uncomfortable she was. No, uncomfortable wasn’t even the correct word.

Lost in the past, and utterly and completely ready to throw herself at him and repeat the same mistake all over again.

She held the tape measure at the top of his hip, then ran it down his leg, quickly standing to make the note on her pad before doing the outside of the other leg.

Almost done. All she had to do now was his inseam. This time, she started at the bottom, sliding the tape measure up toward his thigh.

“I’m going to have to . . .”

She lifted her gaze to his and he smiled down at her. “I’ve been measured before, Carolina. I know what you’re doing.”

He was so nonchalant about it. So why was it suddenly so damn hot in here?

Because she brushed his balls and his cock as she measured. And because he wore tight boxer briefs, and the unmistakable bulge grew noticeably bigger.

She decided to ignore it, jotted the measurement down and moved to his other leg.

She could get through this. One more time, and she’d be done. They’d be done. He could get dressed and leave.

And then she was going to have one hell of a glass of brandy to calm her shattered nerves.

She laid the tape down at his feet, lifting it slowly upward, conscious that the bulge hadn’t dissipated. In fact, it had grown larger. And when she reached his inseam, once again brushing her knuckles against him—against it—she shot him a glare.

He gave her a smirk. “What? You want me to apologize for getting hard? You’re touching my dick.”

“In a purely nonpersonal way.”

“Honey, any time you touch me it’s going to be personal.”

She whipped the tape measure away, finished the last of her notes, and took a step back.

“We’re finished.”

“That took awhile. Were you nervous?”

“Of course not.”

He crossed his arms and grinned at her. “You sure about that? I’m pretty sure your hands were shaking.”

How nice of him to notice. She glared at his penis. “Is that ever going to go down? It’s hard to have a discussion with you when you’re . . . like that.”

He laughed. “Yeah. It’ll go down. Eventually. But seeing you all flustered, your cheeks pink and your nipples beading against your sweater, isn’t helping.”

She crossed her arms. “Damn you. This is all your fault.”

“How could it be my fault? You said undress. I undressed. You said hold still. I held still.”

“I did not tell you to get an erection. So do something about that.”

“Okay, fine.”

He took two steps toward her and pulled her into his arms. She opened her mouth to object, but his lips covered hers, his tongue sliding inside to tangle with hers.

As if they had a mind of their own, her arms twined around his neck, his hand gravitated toward her butt, and every hot fantasy she’d had about him all these years came rushing back to her.

EIGHT

DREW HADN’T EXPECTED THIS TO HAPPEN, BUT AS soon as he felt Carolina’s surrender, as soon as she kissed him back, his dick got harder, his heart pumped faster, and he was fully in the game. He wrapped an arm around her, his fingers sliding down to find that sweet spot just above her butt. He didn’t want to scare her off, but it felt damn good to hold her again after all this time.

She tasted as amazing as he remembered, the softness of her lips brushing over his a reminder of just how long it had been since he’d held her and kissed her. Only it was different now—they were both adults, and he was going to try really hard not to screw it up this time. She might have been reluctant, but the way she kissed him told him she wanted this as much as he did.

And he really did. Having her hands on him as she measured him, the soft glide of her fingertips along his skin, had been torture. He’d tried to be good, to treat it as her doing her job, but his dick had other ideas.

He’d planned to ignore it, but apparently Carolina couldn’t.

And when she’d told him to do something about it, the only natural conclusion he could come up with was to kiss her, to see where this would go.

Now, her heart beat wildly against his chest, and he raised the back of her sweater so he could feel her skin. She was still as soft as he remembered, and he wanted more.

She moaned against his mouth, nipping at his lips. He groaned, tunneled his fingers in her hair and backed her up to the sofa, both of them falling on it. He held tight to her, keeping his balance as she landed on top of him.

She raised up, her eyes glazed pools of deep blue.

He caught the indecision in her eyes.

“Don’t think about all the reasons we shouldn’t. Just think about how good it feels between us, Carolina.”

But he could tell he’d already lost her, because the heat of a moment ago had been replaced by icy coolness in her eyes.

She palmed his chest and lifted up. “Seems to me we had this same conversation eight years ago. It didn’t work out so well for me back then. And I don’t need this distraction.” She pushed off the sofa and stood.

He swung his legs around and sat up, dragging his fingers through his hair.

Things had been going so well. She’d been into it, until she’d let her brain kick in.

He got up and grabbed his clothes, pulling his pants and his boots back on.

“Sorry,” she said, turning away and heading toward the kitchen. “But this isn’t going to work.”

He put on his shirt and went to the kitchen, turning her around to face him.

“You know, there’s no logical reason for the two of us not to be together.”

She arched a brow. “Seriously? I can think of several. One, I have a ridiculous amount of work to do, and having a relationship doesn’t fit into my life right now.”

He put his hands on her arms, could feel how tense she was. “I don’t think we need to have a relationship, but sex is a great tension release.”

She pulled away and grabbed a tea bag. “That’s the oldest excuse in the book for a guy to use to get a girl to have sex with him. You need some new lines.”

“Look, Carolina. We’ve known each other a long time. We’re compatible. I’m a reasonable guy and I know what you’re up against as far as work and deadlines. I’m working, too. But all work and no play makes for one jumbled-up package of nerve endings and no outlet.

“I can get out of your way when necessary, and I’m not going to expect anything from you other than fun and sex. I’m the perfect guy for you right now.”

Carolina stared at him, almost not able to form words. She’d come over here to cool herself off after nearly throwing caution to the wind and repeating the same mistake she’d made in college. Fortunately, Drew’s idiotic words had cooled her down considerably. “You really have no clue, do you?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Yes, and that’s the problem. You never did.” She walked over and grabbed his coat, jabbed it in his chest and pushed him toward the door. “Thanks for a great day, but really, Drew, it’s time for you to go.”

“I said something to upset you.”

“Really? You? I find that hard to believe.” She opened the door. “Good night, Drew.”

He turned to her, looking like he really had no idea. “This isn’t over, Carolina.”

She shut the door in his face, embarrassed that she’d nearly fallen into bed with Drew.

Again.

What was it about that man that made her want to get naked and have sex with him? What was it that made her so easily forget her vow to hate him for what he’d done to her all those years ago? He’d humiliated her once, and yet she was still wildly attracted to him. Today he’d made her forget that she had all these plans for her future, plans that hinged on her having laser focus and tunnel vision.

Only one thing in her life was important right now, and it wasn’t sex and a complicated relationship with a man that, despite all her protestations and determination, still seemed to linger in her heart and all over her body after all these years.

Even now she could smell him on her, and as she took a deep breath, lust filled her and she regretted throwing him out. Right now they could be having hot, passionate sex.

He was right about one thing—she was tense, and she could use a release. Her body pulsed with need and she’d been so close to having him, to feeling his hands and his mouth on her again.

Would that have been so bad?

She dragged her fingers through her hair. God, yes, it would have.

He weakened her resolve. He weakened her—everything. As strong as she knew she was, she became nothing more than a quivering mass of . . .
female
whenever she was around him.

And that just wasn’t acceptable.

She needed to steer clear of Drew Hogan, not only for the next few months, but forever.

NINE

THE QUIET OF THE HOLIDAYS—AFTER CAROLINA HAD gotten Drew out of her house, if not out of her head—had given her the opportunity to make some serious progress on her line. She’d buried herself in work, mainly because she needed to, but also because she wanted to forget the mistake she’d almost made.

Again.

He touched her so easily, slid past her defenses as if that hurt had never happened. Though it was her hurt, not his, so she had to stop blaming him for how he made her feel.

And if it was light and simple to him, again, that was on her. He wanted her, and she supposed she should feel flattered instead of insulted.

As she rolled her head around her neck to get the kinks out, and lifted her shoulders up and down, she realized Drew had been right on one count.

She was tense, could feel it in every muscle as she worked on hour ten of this day, which had started far too early and would likely keep going until she couldn’t see the thread or her eyes grew so tired the lines on the fabric patterns started to run together.

Today she was in her work studio, a space she rented so she and her assistants could sew and bring in the models for fittings. She was fortunate that she’d made a good living working as a designer for David Faber, and that she had family money to start her business. But that’s as far as the family money went. Now she was on her own, and she wanted to succeed—or fail—on her own merits. She didn’t want to rely on Preston money year after year to fund what others would think of as a hobby project. The pressure was on.

This line had to be a success.

At least she was seeing some progress, and that made a little of the tension ease.

“It’s coming together, Carolina.”

She nodded at Edward, one of her assistants, a talented designer in his own right. She’d hired him as soon as she knew she was going to design a line of her own. He’d been an invaluable asset, with a critical eye for what looked good on men, and sewing skills that she treasured.

“Yes, it is. At least there are finished products going up on the racks.”

He put an arm around her and hugged her close. “And beautiful finished products at that. One step at a time, is what you always tell me.”

She turned and smiled at him. “I know. I know. I just want it all to be done right now.”

“But it isn’t, and you need to have patience. Just breathe and take it one day at a time. The reward will be yours at the end, love.”

She laughed. “Quit throwing my own platitudes back at me and get back to work.”

Edward moved off. Carolina went to the rack, checking the finished products against her tablet so she knew what had been completed and what was left to be done.

Too many things left to do and not much time to accomplish them.

She fingered one of her dresses, a simple cotton shift she’d worked hours on designing. She slid her fingers along the scalloped edges. The hint of lace had been a perfect touch. The beige was subdued. She loved its simplicity and hoped the audience would, too.

But maybe it was too simple. Maybe if she amplified the color or changed to a print . . .

“You’re second-guessing yourself again, boss. It’s perfect just the way it is.”

She shifted her gaze to her other assistant, Tierra, a gorgeous, raven-haired beauty and the best seamstress a designer could ever ask for.

“You’re right. That dress is perfect.”

“It is,” Tierra said. “So leave it alone and come talk to me about how you want this shirt stitched. I also have a question about the fabric for this dress. The patterns aren’t matching up like they should.”

The next couple of hours were a flurry of activity. By the time they ended for the day, it was nearly eight p.m. Carolina headed back to her apartment, mentally and physically exhausted.

She changed into yoga pants and pulled a sweater over her long-sleeved shirt, then fixed a frozen Chinese microwaveable meal and sat on the couch cross-legged. She grabbed the remote, needing some mindless television to wind down her brain after today’s intense work session.

She surfed channels, not finding anything that suited her. When she landed on tonight’s hockey game, she stopped, set the remote on the arm of the chair, and watched the game while she ate.

The Travelers were tied one to one with Nashville’s team going into the second period.

After her not-so-stellar showing on the ice skating rink Thanksgiving Day, Carolina watched the ease with which the skaters raced across the ice, sticks in hand. She couldn’t help but focus on Drew as he fought a Nashville player for the puck, always so impressed with his skill on his skates. He’d been so calm and patient with her that day when he could have just as easily blown her off to showboat his superior skating prowess. Instead, he’d put his arm around her and slowly made his way around the ice with her.

Okay, so he wasn’t the jerk he’d been in college. At least he hadn’t been that day at the rink. But he’d still tried his best to get in her pants.

Then again, she hadn’t exactly been throwing off
stay away from me
signals, had she?

Pondering that thought, she focused again on the game. She hadn’t heard from Drew since she’d asked him to leave her apartment that night. When he’d told her it wasn’t over.

BOOK: Melting the Ice
7.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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