Zephyr shuddered. “So, you are not taking the contract.”

“Doing so would have made it impossible to do this property. I wasn’t willing to give up a chance at decorating a specialty resort in paradise for re-creating my first design in a series of cookie-cutter office buildings.”


One of the things she and Art had disagreed on, besides the whole issue of marital fidelity, was her need to create, not merely re-create. For Art, the bottom line was always money. While Piper craved security, she needed the chance to stretch her artistic muscles just as much.

“I’m glad.”

She smiled. “Good.”

“I’m equally pleased you are here with me now.” For a man like Zephyr, that was quite an admission.

It deserved rewarding, at the very least reciprocating honesty. Emotion she was doing her best to suppress colored her single-word answer. “Ditto.”

He made a sexy sound, very much like a growl, before pulling her to him for a scorching kiss. Finally.

She’d missed him; she’d missed this so much. Being touched. Being held. She’d gotten very spoiled to seeing him so frequently.

She threw herself into the kiss without the least resistance. She adored his lovemaking, but she could do this for hours.

And from the way his lips moved against hers, so could he.

She felt herself being lifted and then she was straddling his thighs, her skirt rucked up around her hips. The mattress was firm enough to support his sitting up easily. What brand was it? She couldn’t help wondering.

And then all work-related thoughts disappeared as her brain focused on the only thing that mattered right now, the sensation of being held and kissed by the most amazing man she’d ever met.

His mouth fit over hers perfectly. And he tasted like her idea of heaven. He deepened the kiss, but with no sense of urgency, telling her silently that they had all the time in the world. He was the only man she’d ever known who treated kissing like an end unto itself.

The kiss broke for a moment, their lips sliding apart in a natural movement. He caressed her cheek and temple with his lips.

She smiled, warmed clear through and pleased by the fact he hadn’t just missed sex with her. He seemed to have missed their connection almost as much as she had.

“I’m surprised you’re not tearing my clothes off after six weeks going without,” she whispered, the hushed quiet around them feeling almost sacred.

Then a chilling thought took her. Maybe he hadn’t gone without. Maybe that’s why he was so relaxed. They’d never made the commitment toward monogamy. He could very well have found someone else back in Seattle.

“I kept myself busy at work. With Neo cutting back his hours to spend more time with Cass, there’s a lot of reorganization of responsibilities going on.” He gave her gentle baby kisses all over face and neck between words. “Even if you had been in Seattle, I would barely have seen you over the past six weeks.”

Which implied he hadn’t been with anyone else, either.

“I didn’t realize it was that bad.” He’d mentioned something to that effect, but she’d thought he was just trying to make her feel better.

She should have known better. For all his apparent affability, Zephyr Nikos was an almost brutally honest man. He’d warned her early in their association that he didn’t do “sensitive” and he hoped she could handle candor, even when it meant criticism. He’d been referring to their work association, but she’d gotten the impression he was that way on a personal level as well.

Then, after they’d become friends, she’d gotten proof of her impression. So, why did she keep looking for evidence to the contrary now that they were involved more intimately? On a physical level anyway.

He pulled his head back and met her eyes with a sardonic expression. “Neo is a force of nature. We’ve had to restructure our head office entirely, promoting several people into positions of greater authority while hiring others and training them to take over the new vacancies.”

“With you picking up the slack.”

The signs of exhaustion were there and she couldn’t believe it had taken her this long to notice. Her delight in being in his company again was her only excuse. Dark shadows under Zephyr’s eyes, his vitality muted—she wasn’t the only one who needed a couple of days without work.

“It is worth it to see him so happy.” There was something in Zephyr’s tone. Not quite envy, not exactly sadness, but definite sincerity.

It confused her.

“I can’t imagine Neo in love,” was all she said, though.

“You’ve only met him a few times.”

“And he’s always the same. Intense. Focused. Almost dour.” There was no almost about it, but she didn’t want to offend Zephyr by calling his best friend and business partner an emotionless robot.

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