Sinful Longing(2)By: Lauren Blakely
“A little poker. A little buffet. Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll take you for some late-night roller rink action, too,” he said with a wink, rattling off some of her other favorite things.
She narrowed her eyes. “Okay, that’s just not fair. That’s like putting steak out for a dog and not letting him have it.”
“Did I say you couldn’t have it? You know I’ll give you everything.”
She pursed her lips, as if she was considering his offer. Maybe all of it, from the evening to the everything. “Fine. I’ll take the steak you’re dangling.”
He rubbed his hands together. “It’s well done. You’ll like it.”
She laughed then tipped her head to the stage. “After the Beethoven. Obviously, I’m not skipping out early on an event for the center I run.”
“You think that might look bad?” he asked, deadpan.
She crinkled her nose. “Just a little.”
He held out his hands, playfully relenting. “Fine, we’ll be good a little while longer.” He brushed a strand of that chestnut hair over her ear, watching her shiver as he touched her. Why did she have to pull him in and then push him away? Let him get close then shove him off? Hot. Cold. On. Off. That was her style.
But he knew why she did it, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about his past. He was the black sheep, and she didn’t date black sheep. She’d made it one hundred percent clear from the get-go that they could never be a real couple, so he’d settled on what she would give—her body.
With a hand on her lower back, he guided her through the crowd to the fourth row and gestured to the first two chairs. “Why don’t you sit in my lap?”
She rolled her eyes, then tapped his shoulder. She was terrible at sticking to her own rules about not touching him. He loved the lack of restraint in her. “I told you, we need to stop flirting.”
“Yeah, you did,” he said with a shrug as they took their seats. “But it’s impossible. I can’t be inside a ten-foot radius and not flirt with you. If you need me to stop, you should kick me out now.”
She gathered up the silky material of her dress, adjusting it as she crossed her legs. Tilting her head toward him, she lowered her voice and confessed. “You know kicking you away isn’t my strong suit, either.”
As the opening notes of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony floated through the ballroom at the Venetian, Colin settled in beside Elle Mariano, the woman he’d wanted for the last year, since the first day he’d met her. The woman he’d been lucky enough to have in his arms a few times. Each encounter stoked the flames for another. Every second with her made him want her more. But she eluded him. For reasons his head understood. For reasons his heart girded to battle.
As the violinists poured forth rich notes, quickly shifting from a slow to a fast tempo, his own advice came to him.
Something he occasionally advised startups to do.
Don’t give up.
He’d respected her relationship no-fly zone, but what if he tried a new approach? What if he aimed to win her heart by wooing her body?
She’d held up the stop sign on dating. But don’t tell a man who wants to climb Everest that he can’t do it. Nothing will motivate him more. Elle was his Everest. Not just having her, but having all of her. He’d keep trying. Keep scaling. Keep climbing.
He’d find a new way up the mountain.
He wasn’t going to give up on her. Hell no. He was going to show her the time of her life in bed, and out of it.
Tonight would start with the bedroom.
She was dying to see the new tattoo on his hip. And lord knew, she wasn’t a hip woman. But she couldn’t stop wondering what it looked like.
His gorgeous inked body was her kryptonite.
All through the evening, as the symphony played, her mind kept returning to what Colin had told her earlier. He’d acquired a new tattoo, and he said it matched her favorite one on him. As she pictured the simple black lotus design on his right pec—the fine lines and details, the interlocking leaves of the lotus flower—a ribbon of heat unfurled in her chest, tracing a dangerous path from her breasts to her belly and down, down, down.
Warming her up.
Turning her on.
She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the music. Surely Beethoven never had these problems. But Elle? No such luck. Elle Mariano had an affliction, one she’d suffered from since she was a teenager. She liked boys too much. Now, she liked men too much. She liked dangerous men. Risky men. Tattooed men.
She liked him way more than she should.
But she had no room in her life for this kind of longing. No room in her head for thoughts of how he looked when he unbuttoned his crisp white shirt, button by tantalizing button, revealing the body that visited her in all her bedtime fantasies. His. She would spread open the shirt, run her hands over his chest, and kiss and lick and nip that lotus tattoo, trace each fine line in it with the tip of her tongue.