Page 23 of Wife by Agreement

'You don't have to seduce me, Ethan. I'm not about to run off with Drew or anyone else, even if he is charming and very good-looking.'

'My mother certainly thinks so.'

'I don't think your mother is the sort of person who takes kindly to being told how to run her life, especially by her son,' Hannah ventured warily. 'At least, that was the impression I got,' she observed with a shrug. Like her son, Faith didn't seem the type to take advice kindly.

'Forget about my mother,' he said. The thickness in his voice filled her with alarm and excitement. 'Why must I have some ulterior motive in wanting to seduce my wife? Your words not mine,' he added wryly. 'Why can't I just be responding to a basic biological need— the most basic biological need there is?'

'If your biological needs had been a priority in your choice of wife you wouldn't have married me, Ethan.' The honest truth hurt, but she didn't want him to believe she was under any illusions, though sometimes she wished she were! She had to prove to herself as well as to him that she couldn't be beguiled by the smouldering expression in his eyes. 'You're not sexually attracted to me,' she said firmly.

'Is that a fact?'

'I know I'm not beautiful.'

'If men only slept with beautiful women we'd have a serious under-population problem.'

'You mean you're prepared to close your eyes and think of Cindy Crawford! I'm seriously disappointed in you, Ethan. I thought you were much slicker than that!' Her small bosom rose swiftly in outrage.

'Oh, hell, that came out all wrong!' She wasn't even sure he was aware that his hand was massaging the length of her thigh over the down-filled quilt. She wished she weren't so profoundly aware; even through the layers, the contact sent electrical thrills shooting through her body. 'I meant that beauty is a subjective thing. I can admire a beautiful woman without wanting to make love to her.'

Hannah didn't bother to hide her scepticism. This claim didn't tally with the popular conception of the male animal, and, lacking any personal experience to speak about, that was all she had to go on.

'If you think you're unattractive people will treat you that way,' he said in a persuasively positive tone. 'It's all a matter of the aura you project. Tonight you felt sexy and people found you sexy.'

'I-..'

'Don't deny it. It was obvious and justified—you did look sexy.'

'A dress and the right accessories are all superficial. Next you'll be telling me I'm beautiful inside.' She tried to sound flippant but it was difficult. Her voice emerged painfully husky. As he developed his theme she found herself wanting more and more to believe all the flattering things he was saying.

'Maybe you are. Kids and animals love you, and they're supposed to know about these things, although personally I've always found them undiscriminating little beasts.' Hannah wasn't sure if he was talking about children or animals. 'As far as I'm concerned,' he continued, fixing her with a very direct stare, 'you've turned into a right royal pain in the proverbial.'

She gasped indignantly at this cool observation. 'Well, thank you! I've turned myself inside out trying to make life comfortable for you, and the first time something goes a bit wrong you act like a sulky prima donna! I think you're the most unreasonable, selfish man I've ever met! All take and no give.'

I’m not big on self-analysis, but just lately I've come to the conclusion I've got a deep-seated masochistic streak,' he confided. 'Apart from the odd steamy dream about that adjoining door. There's something about a Closed door,' he mused moodily, 'that invites speculation.'

Hannah choked at this throw-away remark, unable to believe her ears. She felt a tell-tale heat burn her cheeks. Was it possible that he'd been having fantasies that side of the door whilst she...? Had their fantasies had much in common? she wondered.

'I took your contribution to this house pretty much for granted,' Ethan continued, noting her expression with a look of satisfaction. 'The moment you start developing attitude, all I can think about is ripping off your clothes,' he said frankly.

'Attitude?' she said faintly.

'Gallons of the stuff,' he reaffirmed grimly. 'I also happen to like your face. You remind me of one of those Madonna paintings—it's possible the medieval females who posed for those were real pains too.'

'Perhaps you think sex is as good a way as any of keeping me in line. Perhaps you're a control freak!' she accused wildly. He was pushing all the right buttons; she had to do something! Or any minute now she'd be... She closed her eyes, unwilling to contemplate what she might be doing next.

His eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he regarded her with a virtuous expression. 'It must have something to do with my careless use of the term "masochism", but I think you've got entirely the wrong idea about the sort of sex I have in mind, Hannah. I'm not into that sort of thing,' he admitted apologetically.

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