A slow grin tilted his lips at the corner and she became really thankful she was sitting down, because her knees were non-existent. “That’s because you’re already sweet enough.”

“I am not sweet.”

“Is that so?” He leaned closer, his lips grazing her neck. “Mmm—delicious.”

“Did you just lick me?” she hissed, furtively glancing at Gabriel. He rested his chin in his hand as he leaned to one side, thoroughly engrossed in the movie.

“I’ll taste you again, shall I,” Sasha said, his golden head titling to the side. “Just to be sure.” This time his lips didn’t brush against her skin. He actually sucked on her neck and nipped at the spot with his teeth.

Oh God! She clenched her thighs together and tried focusing on the movie, but her vision was too foggy. Everything was blurred and she was having a hot flash. The fire in the fireplace leapt higher and a log snapped. “Behave yourself.”

“Oh, believe me, love, I am.” Sasha eased an arm behind her shoulders.

“You okay, Rose?” Gabriel asked, thankfully paying more attention to the bowl of popcorn in his lap than anything else.

No, she was not okay. She needed to leave. She wanted to run away. Away from her traitorous body so she could focus on the pain Sasha had caused.

“Er, Rose?” Gabriel repeated.

“Aren’t you going to answer him?” Sasha murmured, his sexy voice purring in her ear. He bit down gently on the lobe and she elbowed him, relishing his grunt of pain.

Why was she allowing this? This was so not her. This was something Summer would do. Suddenly, someone—she really didn’t want to know who—grabbed her hand and she shot to her feet. “I have to go to bed.”

Gabriel copied her, his tall and lean form blocking her view of the movie’s ending. Which was fine with her because she couldn’t remember the name of the darn thing—much less the plot or major characters.

“Thanks for having me over. You’re a great cook, Rose,” Gabriel said.

Sasha rolled his eyes, not bothering to stand. He sprawled on the sofa with a lazy grace that made her want to throw a pillow at him. “Ass-kisser,” he mumbled.

“Stop it,” she mouthed.

“Make me,” he mouthed in answer and clasped his hands behind his head.

She shook her head at Sasha before grabbing Gabriel by the arm and dragging him out of the room. “Let me walk you out.”

“Don’t be too long, dear. I need you to tuck me in,” Sasha called out as Rose and Gabriel entered the foyer.

She glanced up at Gabriel and fiddled with the door handle. “He’s joking.”

A wry smile played on his lips. “Is he always like that?”

On the verge of answering yes, she stopped and reconsidered. “Well, no—sometimes he’s…him,” she finished lamely. As if that could sum up a man like Sasha. A man who brought her cheesecake. A man who got up at five in the morning to help her clean and had gotten her chickens back. A man who’d claimed Ivy was his and shunned any store that tried to do the same to Rose.

But it didn’t matter.

She didn’t trust him and the one promise he’d made to her, he’d broken without a second thought. Even if it was for his mother. He could’ve called. She deserved a phone call at least. She would have understood, would have offered her help or something to make it easier on him.

Gabriel brushed a lock of hair over her ear. The same ear Sasha had whispered in and bitten.

She shivered.

Gabriel’s hand fell to his side and his indigo eyes gleamed. “Looks like I’ve got competition.”

“What…you-I,” she floundered for words.

Biting the side of his lip for a moment, Gabriel leaned in and said quietly, “Don’t worry, honey, I’m just teasing you again. Romanov needs to see your worth. Women come too easy for a man like him.”

She furrowed her brow. “You mean you’re not—”

“Who wouldn’t be?” Gabriel cheeks flushed. “You’re sweet, hard-working, and one of the prettiest girls in Holland Springs, but it was over as soon as he walked in the door. You two lit up like twin Christmas Trees.”

Blinking, Rose could barely get out her next words. “But he stood me up.”

A dark look covered Gabriel’s face. “Did he apologize or give a reason?”

My mother isn’t getting any better, or worse for that matter.


“Maybe you should give him another chance. If you want to go with him Friday, I’m okay with that.”

Another chance? She’d already given him too many as it was. “No, I asked you to be my date.”

“Then I’m your date. I’m going out of town tomorrow for a meeting, so I’ll see you Thursday,” Gabriel said.

She nodded and opened the front door. “Bring Miguel over around four.”

“No problem.” He looked over her shoulder and his eyes gleamed again. Suddenly, he bent down and kissed her at the corner of her mouth. “You’re welcome,” he whispered before he stood. “’Night Romanov.”

“Sod off, Edwards,” Sasha growled from behind Rose.

She closed the door and whirled to face him. “Could you be more rude?”

“Let me have a go at him and you can judge for yourself.”

Fisting her hands on her hips, she glared at Sasha. “You- you spoiled—”

Sasha pounced, backing her up against the door and placing a palm along each side of her head. “Yes, I’m spoiled. I’m ruined and it’s all your fault.”

She gaped at him. “My fault?”

“Yes, yours—the woman who drives me insane. The woman I dream about kissing. The woman I hunger to be inside.” His head dipped down, full lips and sexy beauty mark at the corner dangerously close. “Right now, I’m so damn jealous that I want to...” He turned away but she placed her hand on his jaw and forced his face back to hers.

“To what?”

The heat in his eyes made her legs tremble. “I want to lock you in my bedroom with me and not let you out until, until…”

She licked her lips. “Until when?” she prompted. A small part of her reveled in this, his torture. She wanted him to hurt. To feel something.

He laughed, but it was mirthless. “Never, I never want to let you out.”

“Why?” she demanded. “What’s changed between last week and tonight?”

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