Page 17 of What Lies Beneath

He had tried to wish away his attraction to her, and yet Alex’s words taunted him. This could be their second chance. He’d offered them both a clean slate, and the only thing keeping him from taking this opportunity was his own stubborn sense of self-preservation. Yes, the woman he proposed to had abused everything he gave her. But this was an entirely different woman despite their resemblance. No matter how hard he fought it, she intrigued and aroused him like no woman had before.

What would it hurt to see where this could go, even if only to soothe his own curiosity? He could certainly keep his heart out of the situation to avoid disaster. If things went awry or she regained her memory, he could easily walk away, no harm done. And if he could keep their relationship going long enough to satisfy George Dempsey, it would boost his business. It seemed like a win-win situation if he could let himself give in to it.

Cynthia pulled away slightly, stopping to look up at him. She was clearly excited by her new design adventure, but her expression shifted as she gazed into his eyes. Something changed in that moment, and he could feel the difference, too. The attraction she felt for him was just as strong. He could tell by the way her breath caught, her lips parting slightly and tempting him closer.

She wanted him to kiss her. And he wanted to. He wanted to know how she would touch him. What sounds she would make. How she would feel in his arms. Letting his body and his curiosity win over, he leaned in and captured her lips with his own. There was an immediate connection when he touched her. This wasn’t just a test. It was a real kiss, unlike what they’d shared before. A thrill raced through his body, a tingling in the base of his spine urging him to pull her closer. The need built quickly inside, pushing him to take more from her.

Cynthia leaned into him and placed one hand gently on his cheek. His tongue brushed hers, the taste and feel of her new and unexpected, like silk and honey. The hand resting on her hip slid upwards, caressing her side and tugging her to him. She whimpered quietly against his mouth, a soft, feminine sound that roused a primal reaction in him. He’d never been this turned on by a kiss in his life.

Everything about her, from the gentle caress of her hands to the flutter of her eyelashes against his cheek, started his blood boiling. There was an innocence, a sweetness. She had no agenda, no motives for offering herself to him. She just gave in to her desires and urged him to do the same. It took everything he had not to scoop her off the bench, carry her back to the apartment and claim her as his own.

Unfortunately, by the time he carried her four blocks to their apartment, he would realize it was a mistake. Pulling away, he stayed close, their breath warm on each other’s skin. They sat still for a moment, his mind whirling with the implications of what he’d just done. He needed to keep his brain in charge instead of his crotch, or he’d make a mess of everything.

The loud melody of his phone broke the trance. The gap between them widened, Cynthia self-consciously straightening her clothes while he checked the caller ID. Apologizing, he took the call, ending the conversation as quickly as he could. “Let’s go get you those art supplies,” he suggested, when no other words seemed appropriate.

They gathered up their hot dog wrappers and soda cans, tossing them into a nearby garbage receptacle, and headed back out of the park and toward the nearest craft store.

This time, as they traveled, he felt Cynthia’s fingers tentatively seek out his own. He couldn’t remember holding hands with a girl since high school, and it was charming and unexpected. Hesitating for only a moment, he captured her small hand and they walked together out of the park.

With every step, he felt himself being pulled further in by the fascinating woman he refused to love.

Four

“I’ m so glad you called me, Cynthia. I was wondering how you were adjusting to real life.”

Cynthia smiled across the table at her former nurse, Gwen. She was glad to have someone to talk to. Anita the housekeeper seemed concerned every time she tried to strike up a conversation, and when she spoke to her family, they’d start on her again about coming to stay with them. Even her sister, Emma, had dropped hints, probably at their mother’s urging. She enjoyed the time she’d spent with Pauline—they’d even had brunch on Sunday—but there were expectations there that she didn’t know how to fill. Gwen was the only person Cynthia knew from after the accident, and she appreciated having someone around who didn’t look at her as if she were possessed.

“It’s been interesting. Fortunately, I’ve managed to avoid a lot of people. I guess since I was in such bad shape, they want to wait as long as possible to see me. I don’t think it will last much longer. My mother is planning a big, fancy party to celebrate my recovery. I tried to block most of it out yesterday when she mentioned mailing invitations and hiring an orchestra to play. It sounds over the top and absolutely miserable.”

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