Jaci followed Ryan to the shop window and he pulled the door open for her to enter. As she was about to step inside, he grabbed her arm to hold her back. “Hey, this isn’t a torture session, Jace. If this isn’t your type of place, then let’s not waste our time.”
Jaci sucked in her bottom lip. “It’s the type of shop that Gail, my stylist, would take me to.”
“But not your type of shop,” Ryan insisted.
“Not my type of shop. Not my type of clothes. Well, not anymore,” Jaci reluctantly admitted. “But I should just look around. The dress is for the ballet and I will be going with a famous producer and a billionaire.”
Ryan let go of the door and pulled her back onto the pavement. He lifted his hand and brushed the arch of his thumb along her cheekbone. “I have a radical idea, Jaci. Why don’t you buy something that you want to wear instead of wearing something you think you should wear?”
God, she wished she could. The thing was, her style was too rock-chick and too casual, as she explained to Ryan. “Tight Nirvana T-shirts didn’t project the correct image for a politician’s SO.”
“Jerk.” Ryan dropped his eyes to her breasts, lingered and slowly lifted them again. Jaci’s breath hitched at the heat she saw in the pale blue gray. Then his sexy mouth twitched. “There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with a tight T-shirt.” Jaci couldn’t help her smile. “The thing is...you’re not his fiancée anymore and you’re not in London anymore. You can be anyone you want to be, dress how you wish. And that includes any function we attend as a fake couple.”
He made it sound so simple... She wished it was that easy. Although she’d made up her mind to go back to dressing as she wanted to, old habits were hard to break. And sometimes Sassy Jaci wasn’t as strong as she needed her to be. She still had an innate desire to please, to do what was expected of her, to act—and dress—accordingly. When she dressed and acted appropriately, her family approved. When she didn’t they retreated and she felt dismissed. She was outgrowing her need for parental and sibling approval, but sometimes she simply wished that she was wired the same as them, that she could relate to them and they to her. But she was the scarlet goat in a family of sleek black sheep.
“Hey.” Ryan tipped her chin up with his thumb and made her meet his startling eyes. “Come on back to me.”
“Just find something that you want to wear tonight. And if I think it’s unsuitable then I’ll tell you, okay?”
Jaci felt a kick of excitement, the first she’d felt about clothes and shopping for a long, long time. It didn’t even come close to the galloping of her heart every time she laid eyes on Ryan, but it was still there.
Jaci reached up and curled her hand around his wrist, her eyes bouncing between his mouth and those long-lashed eyes. She wanted to kiss him again, wanted to feel those clever lips on her, taste him. She wanted to—
Then he did as she’d mentally begged and kissed her. God, that mouth, those lips, that strong hand on her face. Kissing him in the sunlight on a street in Soho... Perfection. Jaci placed her hands on his waist and cocked her head to change the angle and Ryan, hearing her silent request, took the kiss deeper, sliding his tongue into her mouth to tangle with hers. Slow, sweet, sexy. He tasted of coffee and mint, smelled of cedar and soap. Jaci couldn’t help the step that took her into his body, flush against that long, muscled form that welcomed her. She didn’t care that they were in the flow of the pedestrian traffic, that people had to duck around them. She didn’t hear the sniggers, the comments, the laughter.
There was just her and Ryan, kissing on a city street in the spring sunshine.
Jaci lost all perception of time; she had no idea how long it had been when Ryan pulled back.
Don’t say it, Jaci silently begged. Please don’t say you’re sorry or that it was a mistake. Just don’t. I couldn’t bear it.
Ryan must have seen something on her face, must have, somehow, heard her silent plea, because he stepped away and jammed his hands into his pockets.
“I really need to stop doing that,” he muttered.
Why? She rather liked it.
“We need to find you a dress,” he said, in that sexy growl.
Jaci nodded and, wishing that she had the guts to tell him that she’d far prefer that he find them a bed, fell into step beside him.
* * *
They left another shop empty-handed and Jaci walked straight to a bench and collapsed onto it. Her feet were on fire, she was parched and was craving a cheeseburger. They’d visited more than ten shops and Ryan wouldn’t let her buy any of the many dresses she’d tried on, and Jaci was past frustrated and on her way to irritated. “I’m sick of this. I need a vodka latte with sedative sprinkles.”