As for that cool little voice of authoritative superiority, that distancing little outstretched hand... Later Ran was to ask himself what on earth he had thought he was doing and if he had gone completely mad, but at the time...
Ignoring her outstretched hand, he covered the distance between them and before Sylvie could even begin to guess what he intended doing his hands were resting either side of her waist, his scent, his heat filling her nostrils, his body and his mouth less than inches away from her own.
Was that really her own voice, that soft, husky, and, yes, somehow invitingly sensual little thread of sound, gasping his name in a slow-drawn-out moan that was more invitation than protest?
But it was too late to correct the erroneous message she knew instinctively she had given; Ran was already acting on what he had obviously interpreted her ‘protest’ to mean, his hands lifting from her waist to her arms, her shoulders, as he drew her closer, his mouth fastening on hers as he kissed her, not as an old acquaintance or a friend of her brother’s, Sylvie recognised, her senses reeling, but in all the ways she had dreamed of him kissing her all those years ago, as a man kissed a woman.
Despairingly she struggled valiantly to resist but it was useless. Her own foolish senses were doing far more to aid Ran than to support her, turning traitor and welcoming his sensual assault of her mouth with the eagerness of parched land greedily soaking up a heavy rainfall.
She tried weakly to summon her flagging defences, but the objection she tried to make was lost beneath Ran’s kiss and all the ineffectual parting of her lips did was to allow Ran’s tongue to slip masterfully into the sweet moistness of her mouth.
Briefly she tried to challenge its entry, but what should have been the rejecting thrust of her own tongue against his swiftly became, under Ran’s sensually skilful manipulation and expertise, more the intimate sparring of lovers rather than the defensive rejection of adversaries.
‘Mmm...’ Instinctively Sylvie moved closer, close enough to lean her body fully against Ran’s and let his strength support her weakness as delicious tremors of sensation skidded dangerously over her.
Beneath her hands Ran’s back felt so broad, so firm, so...
Eagerly she tugged his shirt free of his waistband, glorying in the sensation of sliding her hands beneath it and onto the hard heat of his skin.
She felt him shudder responsively as she traced his spine and her own body jolted fiercely in excited reaction.
Beneath her white T-shirt she could feel her suddenly swollen breasts pressing eagerly against her bra. Her nipples ached and even without being able to see them she knew the crests would be hard and erect, the soft flesh around them flooded with aroused dark colour.
Ran could not see what he was doing to her, though...what effect he was having on her as his tongue slid erotically against her own, no longer coaxing but openly, fiercely demanding from her the response his sexuality wanted.
Only one man had seen her body naked and aroused, to only one man had she willingly and, yes, almost wantonly exposed the full femaleness of herself, glorying in her sexuality, in her response to him, her need for him, not fearing...not imagining that he would reject her.
Immediately Sylvie stiffened, her nails momentarily digging into Ran’s back as she recognised with shocking abruptness just what she was doing and, even worse, whom she was doing it with.
‘Let go of me...’ she demanded furiously, fiercely pushing him away, her face bright with mortification and confusion as Ran immediately stepped back from her and then, without taking his eyes off her face, casually unfastened his belt and started to push his shirt back inside his jeans.
If her face had been pink with self-consciousness before, that was nothing to the heat she could feel burning off it now, Sylvie recognised as she refused to give in to the silent visual challenge Ran was giving her and forced herself to keep her gaze locked on his as he slowly and tauntingly completed his task.
Why, oh, why should it be that when a woman disturbed a man’s clothing in the heat of passion he could make her feel so self-conscious and femininely vulnerable whilst he repaired the dishevelment she had caused, but when it had been a man who had disturbed a woman’s clothing she was still the one to feel shy and self-conscious when she re-dressed herself?
No wonder the Victorians had considered modesty to be a feminine virtue.
His shirt rearranged to his satisfaction, Ran re-fastened his belt and then, without taking his eyes off her face, greeted her ironically.
‘Welcome to Haverton Hall...’
Sylvie would have given the earth to be able to make a suitably withering response but she could think of none. The shaming fact was that, no matter how she tried to convince herself otherwise, she had done exactly what she had promised herself she would not do and allowed him to take the upper hand. And worse than that...far worse...she had... Quickly she swallowed the frighteningly familiar and painful lump of aching emptiness she could feel blocking the back of her throat. No way... She was not going down that road again...not for a king’s ransom. The arrogant, selfish, almost cruel way Ran had just behaved towards her proved everything she had ever learned about him. She was under no illusions about why he had kissed her like that... It was his way of reminding her not just of the past, but also of his superiority...of telling her that, whilst she might be the one who was in charge of the project they were going to be working on together, he still had the power to control her...to control her and to hurt her.