She told him, then watched in startled confusion as he called it

"This is Matt Farrell," he told the security guard. "Please go down to the garage and tell the tow truck to leave my wife's car where it is." When the security guard argued that Miss Bancroft's car was an '84 BMW, while the car in her parking space was a blue Jag, Matt said, "I know that. The Jaguar is her birthday present."

"My what?" Meredith gasped.

He hung up the phone and turned to her, a smile lurking at his mouth, but Meredith wasn't smiling—she was dumbstruck by the overwhelming generosity of the gift, panicked at the web he was weaving around her, and thoroughly alarmed by the treacherous leap her heart gave at the sound of his deep voice quietly saying "my wife." She started with the least important issues first, because she wasn't quite ready to address the others yet. "Where is my own car?"

"In the night clerk's space, one level below yours."

"But—but how did you start my car to move it? You said at the farm that even if you could start it without the keys, the alarm would disable it."

"That wasn't a problem for Joe O'Hara."

"I knew when I saw that gun that he was probably a—a felon."

"No, he's not," Matt said dryly. "He's an expert with wiring."

"I can't possibly accept the other car—"

"Yes, darling," he said, "you can."

Meredith felt it happening again, that awesome magnetic pull of his body and voice, the melting inside her when he called her darling. She backed away a step, and her voice shook. "I—I'm going to the office."

"I don't think so," Matt said softly.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean we have something more important to do."

"What is it?" .

"I'll show you," he promised huskily, "in bed."

"Matt, don't do this to me—" she pleaded, holding her hand up as if to fend him off and backing away two steps.

He stalked her, step for step. "We want each other. We have always wanted each other."

"1 really do have to go to the office. I have tons of work."

She backed away again in the same avoidance waltz Matt had teased her about, but her eyes were warm and frightened because she knew.... She knew it was too late to dance out of his reach now.

"Give in gracefully, darling. This dance is over. The next one is ours."

"Please don't call me that," she cried, and Matt realized that for some reason she was truly frightened.

"Why are you afraid?" he asked, stalking her slowly around the back of the sofa, trying to head her toward the bedroom.

Why was she afraid, Meredith thought a little wildly. How could she explain that she didn't want to love a man who didn't love her ... that she never wanted to be as vulnerable to being hurt as she'd been eleven years ago ... that she didn't think he'd be satisfied with her for very long, and she didn't think she could bear it if she lost him again because he wasn't.

"Matt, listen to me. Stand still and listen to me, please!"

Matt stopped short, stunned by the terrified desperation in her voice.

"You said you want children," she blurted out, "and I can't have any. There's something physically wrong with me—it would be too risky."

He didn't miss a beat. "We'll adopt."

"What if I said I don't want any children?" she flung back.

"Then we won't adopt."

"I have no intention of giving up my career—"

"I don't expect you to."

"God, you are making this so hard!" she cried. "Can't you leave me just a little pride? I'm trying to tell you that I couldn't bear being married to you—not living as husband and wife, which is what you say you want."

His face paled as the sincerity in her voice hit him. "Do you mind if I ask you why the hell not?"

"Yes, I do mind."

"Let's hear it anyway," he said tautly.

She folded her arms protectively over her chest, absently rubbing them with her hands as if to ward off the sudden chill of his expression. "It's too late for us," she began. "We've changed. You've changed. I can't pretend I don't—don't feel something for you. You know I do. I always did," she admitted miserably, her gaze searching his shuttered gray eyes, looking for understanding and finding only cold impassivity while he waited to hear the rest of what she had to say. "Maybe if we'd stayed together, it would have worked, but it couldn't now. You like sexy movie stars and—and seductive European princesses, and I can't be those things for you!"

"I'm not asking you to be anything but what you are, Meredith."

"It won't be enough!" she argued miserably. "And I couldn't bear living with you and knowing that I'm not enough—knowing that someday you'll start wanting things I can't give you."

"If you're talking about children, I thought we just settled that."

"I don't think we settled it, I think you made a reckless concession because you're willing to say anything right now to make me agree with what you want. But I'm not talking about you wanting children, I'm talking about you wanting other women! I could never be enough for you. I know I couldn't."

His eyes widened. "I beg your pardon?"

"I tried to explain to you once before about—about how I feel when we make love. Matt," she said almost choking on her words, "people—men, I mean—they think I'm . .. I'm frigid. Even in college they thought that. I don't think I am exactly, but I'm not—I'm not like most women."

"Go on," he insisted gently when she stopped, but there was an odd light in his eyes.

"In college, two years after you left, I tried to sleep with a boy and I hated it. So did he. Other women on campus were sleeping around and enjoying it, but I didn't. I couldn't."

"If they'd all been through what you had," Matt said, so filled with tenderness and relief that he could hardly keep his voice steady, "they wouldn't have been very damned eager to do it again either."

"I thought that, too, but that wasn't it. Parker isn't a clumsy, oversexed college boy, and I know he thinks I'm not—not very responsive. Parker didn't mind so very much, but you—you would."

"You're out of your mind, sweetheart."

"You're not used to me yet! You haven't noticed that I feel awkward and inept. No, I am awkward and inept!"

Matt bit back a grin and gravely said, "Inept too? As bad as that?"

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance