He dragged his mouth away from her ear and ran his lips down the column of her neck. “I could live here for a decade and never completely discover all the things I love about it,” he said, mouthing the words against her skin.

He was so hard and so ready to sink into her, his teeth hurt.

Her head fell back onto his shoulder, her eyes closed and her lashes fluttered, fully exposing the area under discussion. Her sweet little body arched in wanton invitation, spreading against his. He wanted to dive in, find Dulciana’s gorgeous, gooey center and feast on it.

This visceral attraction would be satisfied, here and now.

“Lucas,” she breathed, and his erection pulsed. “Lucas, we can’t. You have to stop.”

“Why?” He slid a hand under her tank top, fanning his palm out on her flat stomach and working it north. Slowly. Familiarizing his fingertips with velvety skin. “And if you use that smart mouth to lie to me again about your lack of interest, I will find something better to do with it.”

“I doubt even I could pull off that lie anymore,” she said wryly.

The admission was so sweet, he couldn’t help it.

He found her lips and consumed them, kissing her with every bit of frustrated, pent-up longing. And God Almighty, her lips parted just enough, and he pushed his tongue into her mouth, tasting her, reveling in the hot slide of flesh.

For a few magnificent seconds she tasted him back, triggering a hard coil of lust.

But then she ripped her lips away, mumbling, “No more,” as his thumb brushed the underside of her breast.

She bowed up with a gasp, and his erection tingled. She was so responsive, like it had been ages since she’d... He pulled his hand free and gripped her chin to peer into her eyes. “Hold up a sec. You’re not a virgin, are you?”

That would explain a few things.

He let his fingers fall away as she sat up. “My past experience is not the issue. We agreed to keep this business only.”

No. No more of this endless circling. Business only disappeared eons ago, and she knew it as well as he did.

“Why are you here, in my bedroom? You could have easily moved your stuff and still slept in your room. But you didn’t. Your signals are so mixed up, you’ve even confused yourself. Talk to me, honey. No more pretending. Why the roadblocks, when it’s obvious we both want this?”

She crossed her arms and clamped her mouth shut. But then she said, “I don’t like being some big challenge. If I give in, you win. Then off you go to your cave to beat your chest and crow over your prize.”

“Give in?” He shook his head to clear it. They should both be naked and using their mouths on each other. Not talking. “You better believe you challenge me. Something fierce, too, I’ll admit. You challenge me to be better than I ever thought I could be, to rise to the occasion and go deep so I can keep up. I dig that seven ways to Sunday. Feel what you do to me, Cia.”

Her eyes went liquid as he flattened her hand over his thundering heart, and when the muscle under her cool palm flexed, she curled her fingers as if trying to capture his response. She weaved closer, drawn by invisible threads into his space.

“You’re so incredibly intelligent,” he continued, fighting to keep from dragging her against him and sinking in like he ached to do. She had to choose this on her own. “How have you not figured out that gives you all the power? I’m just a poor, pathetic man who wants to worship at the altar of the goddess.”

She hesitated, indecision and longing stamped all over her face. Whatever stopped her from jumping in—and it wasn’t dislike of being a challenge—drove the battle inside of her to a fever pitch. She spent way too much energy thinking instead of feeling and way too much time buried in shadows.

And here he was trying to help her fix that, if she’d lay down that stubborn for a minute.

“You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and I like that about you,” he said. “We both know strings aren’t part of the deal. This is about one thing only. Sex. Fantastic, feel-good, uncomplicated sex. Nobody gets hurt. Everyone has fun. Sounds perfect for an independent woman with a divorce on the horizon, doesn’t it?”

“Seducing me with logic. Devious.”

“But effective.”

The curve of her lips set off a tremor in his gut. “It’s getting there.”

Hallelujah. He threw his last-ditch inside straight on the table. “Then listen close. Let me take care of you. Physically. You give to your women till it hurts. Take for once. Let me make you feel good. Let me help you forget the rest of the world for a while. Use me, I insist. Do I benefit from it, too? Absolutely. That’s what makes for a great partnership.”

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