‘Thank you…’ she somehow managed to say, her eyes moving away from the steady surveillance of his.

She heard him give one of his trademark humourless grunts of laughter.

‘Aren’t you going to ask me how many lovers I’ve had over the years? Isn’t that what most women would have asked by now?’

‘I’m not interested,’ she answered.

‘How many lovers have you had?’ he asked.

‘I told you before, it’s none of your business.’

‘Well…’ He stroked the line of his jaw for a moment, the raspy sound of his fingers on his unshaven skin making Ashleigh’s toes curl involuntarily. ‘One has to assume there have been at least two. Your son’s father for one and then, of course, there’s dear old Howard.’

Ashleigh felt increasingly uncomfortable under his lazy scrutiny. She kept her eyes averted in case he caught even a trace of the hunger she knew was there. She could feel it. It crawled beneath the surface of her skin, looking for a way out. Even her fingertips twitched with the need to feel his flesh under them once more. Behind the shield of her bra she could feel the heavy weight of her breasts secretly aching for the heat and fire of his mouth and tongue, and her legs were beginning to tremble with the effort of keeping her upright when all they wanted was to collapse so her body could cling to the strength and power of his.

‘Tell me, Ashleigh.’ Jake’s voice was a deep velvet caress across her too sensitive skin. ‘Does Howard make you scream the way I used to?’

She stared at him speechlessly, hot colour storming into her cheeks, her hands clenching into fists by her sides.

‘How dare you ask such a thing?’ she spat at him furiously.

His lip curled. ‘You find my question offensive?’

She sent him a heated glare. ‘Everything about you is offensive, Jake. You might think handing over your father’s goods for free gives you automatic licence to offend me at every opportunity, but I won’t allow you to speak to me that way.’

‘It’s a perfectly reasonable question, Ashleigh,’ he said. ‘You and I did, after all, have something pretty special going on there for a couple of years way back then. I was just wondering, as any other man would, if your future husband comes up to scratch in the sack.’

She folded her arms and set her mouth. ‘Unlike you, Jake

Marriott, Howard treats me with a little more respect.’

‘You mean he hasn’t had you up against the kitchen bench with your knickers around your ankles?’ he asked with a sardonic gleam in his dark eyes. ‘Or what about the lounge room floor with all the curtains opened? Has he done you there? Or what about the—’

‘Stop it!’ She flew at him in outrage, her hands flying at his face to stop the stream of words that shamed her cruelly. ‘Stop it!’

Jake caught her flailing arms with consummate ease and pulled her roughly into his embrace, his mouth crashing down on hers smothering her protests, her cries, even her soft gasp of pleasure…

His tongue slid along the surface of hers, enticing it into a sensuous, dangerous, tempting dance that sent the blood instantly roaring through her veins, the rush of it making her head swim with uncontrollable need—a need that had lain hidden and dampened down for far too long.

Ashleigh vaguely registered the sound of movement in the hall, but was too far gone with the sensations of Jake’s commanding kiss to break away from his iron hold.

So what if Lachlan came in and found her kissing Jake as if there was no tomorrow? The truth was that there was no tomorrow for her and Jake, and this kiss would very probably have to last a lifetime.

But in the end it wasn’t Lachlan’s voice that had her springing from Jake’s arms in heart-stopping shock.

It was her sister’s.


‘ASHLEIGH, I just thought I’d let you know—’ Ellie pulled up short when she came across her sister’s stricken look ‘—that Mum couldn’t make it to pick up Lachlan so…so I decided to come and take him off your hands.’ She pointed in the general direction of the front door. ‘I did try and knock but there was…no answer…’

Jake let his arms fall from Ashleigh and greeted Ellie with his customary somewhat detached politeness.

‘Hello, Ellie.’ He brushed her cheek briefly with a kiss. ‘You’re looking…er…very grown up.’

Ashleigh felt like groaning at his understatement. Ellie had the sort of figure that turned heads, male and female, her most attractive feature, however, being that she seemed totally unaware of how gorgeous she looked.

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