Chris pushes off the window, away from me and surprises me by tugging his shirt over his head. And oh, oh yes, his abs are rippling perfection. I knew he was good looking, I knew he was athletic, but every inch of him is rock-hard and sculpted in what only genetic and regular hours in the gym can do. The intricate tattoo covering his entire right shoulder down his arm, the one I’d hungered to see more clearly, has me spellbound. The dragon is majestic, etched with such detail and skill, he could have drawn it himself.

“Do I pass inspection?” he asks softly.


I reach out to touch the design on his arm, only to have him capture my hand.

“If you touch me while you’re looking at me like that, you won’t get that pizza.”

He steps closer and pulls his shirt over my head. I inhale his sexy scent clinging to it and me and I hug it close, wishing it were him. “I’m not sure I care about the pizza.”

“I’m not letting you pass out on me.” His finger slides under my chin, lifting my gaze to his. “Now we’re both half-dressed.” He lowers his voice, and adds, “On an equal playing field.”

Equal. It is the last thing I expect from a man who’d completely dominated me minutes before. It doesn’t compute. Power is taking, not giving. How can he do both? Who have I ever known who could?

“Equal would mean that I get to push you against the window and forbid you to move, while I’m mercilessly teasing you.”

His eyes darken, shadows swimming with gold flecks in the sea of his green eyes. “If I thought you were ready for where that will lead, I’d let you.”

Let me? He’d let me? “What does that even mean, Chris?”

He reaches up and strokes my bottom lip, and the touch is gentle, but there is a barely contained edge beneath his surface I’m coming to know. “There is so much I could show you, Sara, but I’m not ready for you to run away.” There is a sense of inevitable regret to his words.

I react to a sense of him pulling away from me without him actually moving—it claws at me inexplicably. I grab his arm and step closer. “Who says I’ll run away?”

“You will,” he says.

Does he think I can’t handle more than tonight? Does he not see I need more than tonight? I need the escape. “You’re wrong.”

He shakes his head. “No. I’m not.”

I open my mouth to argue but his cell phone rings from inside his jean pocket, I think. His ring tone is a concert pianist and I’d be willing to bet my car that his father is the musician. I hate my father, I’d told him. What had gotten into me? And clearly, even with his father gone, he holds his in high regard.

Chris slides the phone from his low-hung jeans and I’m fairly certain he chooses to answer the call to end our conversation.

“Right,” he says. “My usual and hold tight just a sec.” He glances at me. “What kind of pizza?”

The pizza place called him? I’m confused. “Cheese.”

“Make my usual an extra large,” he says into the phone. “Right. Thanks.” He ends the call. “Pizza is on the way.”

“That’s what I call service.”

“It’s almost closing time, and Jacob went in to get a pizza for himself and asked if I’d called.”

“Like I said, that’s what I call service.”

“I’ve known the owner a good ten years and since he also owns the Chopper shop I frequent, he likes me. I send him lots of business.” He reaches for my hand and leads me to the couch. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll get us drinks and plates and we can eat right here.” He smiles. “Unless you’re tired of looking out of the window?”

I shake my head and sit down. The brown leather is soft and a bit chilly, and I shiver. “That was a very bad joke.”

He picks up a remote and the gas fireplace to my right in the corner flickers to life. “I’m good at bad jokes.”

“Yes,” I agree, pulling a brown throw over me. ”I know. The man with the one red shoe?”

“You don’t like Tom Hanks?”

“That’s an old movie.”

“I’m a fan of classics.” He sits down next to me and grabs another remote, punching a button. A massive flat screen television lowers from the ceiling above the fireplace. He offers me the controller. “The key to my castle, at your disposal.”

I am charmed and comfortable with this man in a way I don’t remember being with anyone before him. I accept the remote. “And The Man with One Red Shoe is a classic?”

“Right along with Austin Powers.”

“Austin Powers?” I ask. “Tell me you aren’t an Austin Powers fan.”

“Have you watched Austin Powers?”

“Well no,” I concede, “but they look so silly.”

“That’s the point, sweetheart. It’s an escape from reality.” He pushes to his feet. “I’ll grab us drinks and plates.” His lips twitch. “Wine?”

“No,” I say with emphasis. “I do not want wine.”

“Corona?”

“No. Nothing with alcohol.”

“That leaves you with bottled water or Gatorade.”

“Water,” I say. “I never drink calories I can eat. Leaves room for more pizza.”

“I see,” he replies, looking amused. “More pizza is always good. I’ll be right back.”

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