They ordered the works...filet and lobster. With spinach salad and crusty rolls. Clearly, Lucy enjoyed her meal. He enjoyed the fact that she didn’t fuss about calories and instead ate with enthusiasm.
Good food prepared from fresh ingredients was a sensual experience. It tapped into some of the same pleasure centers as lovemaking. It was hard to bicker under the influence of a really exceptional Chablis and a satisfying, special-occasion dinner.
That’s what he was counting on...
Lucy declined dessert. Jeff did, as well. As they lingered over coffee, he could practically see her girding her loins for battle.
She stirred a single packet of sugar into her cup and sat back in her chair, eyeing him steadily. “Enough stalling, Jeff. I’ve come here with you for dinner, which was amazing, I might add. But I need to have your answer. Will you loan me the money, and what are your conditions?”
Lucy was braced for bad news. It was entirely possible that Jeff had brought her here—wined and dined her—in order to let her down gently. To give her an outright no.
Watching him take a sip of coffee was only one of many mistakes she had made tonight. When his lips made contact with the rim of his thin china cup, she was almost sure the world stood still for a split second. The man had the most amazing mouth. Firm lips that could caress a woman’s breast or kiss her senseless in the space of a heartbeat.
Though it had been two long years, Lucy still remembered the taste of his tongue on hers.
“Jeff?” She heard the impatience in her voice. “I asked you a question.”
He nodded slowly. “Okay. Hear me out before you run screaming from the room.”
Her nape prickled. “I don’t understand.”
Leaning toward her, he rested his forearms on the table, hands clasped in front of him. His dark gaze captured hers like a mesmerist. “When you walked out the night before our wedding, we never had closure. I went from being almost married to drastically single so fast it’s a wonder I didn’t get whiplash.”
“What’s your point?” Her throat was tight.
“Divorced couples end up back in bed together all the time. Lovers break up and hook up and break up again. I’m curious to see if you and I still have a spark.”
Hyperventilation threatened. “We can talk about that later.” Much later. “You said you had two conditions. What are they?” For the first time tonight, she caught a glimpse of something in his eyes. Was it pain? Or vulnerability? Not likely.
He shrugged. “I want you to ask Kirsten to tell you what really happened that night.”
“I don’t need to talk to Kirsten. I’m not blind. I saw everything. You kissed her and she kissed you back. Both of you betrayed me. The truth is, Kirsten and I have barely spoken since that night. She has shut me out. I think she’s embarrassed that she didn’t stop you.”
“And you really believe that?”
His tone wasn’t sarcastic. If anything, the words were wistful, cajoling. She’d spent two horrid years wondering why the man who professed to love her madly had been such a jerk. Or why Kirsten, her best friend, hadn’t punched Jeff in the stomach. She had seen Kirsten’s face when Lucy caught them. The other woman had looked shattered. But her arms had definitely been twined about Jeff’s neck.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” she muttered. Jeff hadn’t dated anyone at all in the last twenty-four months according to Royal’s gossipy grapevine. He was a young, virile man in his prime. If he was such a lying, cheating scoundrel, why hadn’t he been out on the town with a dozen women in the interim? “And if I do go talk to Kirsten about what happened? That’s it? What about the other requirement?”
Those chiseled lips curved upward in a smile that made her spine tighten and her stomach curl. “I’d like the two of us to go upstairs and spend the night together.”
Go upstairs and spend the night together.
His words echoed in her brain like tiny pinballs. “You mean sex?”
Jeff laughed out loud, but it was gentle laughter, and his eyes were filled with warmth. “Yes, Lucy. Sex. I’ve missed you. I’ve missed us.”
What was a woman supposed to say to that kind of proposition? Especially when it sounded so very appealing. She cleared her throat. “If you’re offering to pay me twenty thousand dollars to have sex with you, I think we could both get arrested.”