Page 36 of Smoke in Mirrors

“This is what I mean by personal,” he said into her mouth.

He kissed her before she could catch her breath. Her fully charged nerve endings exploded on contact. The resulting flash of lightning was so hot she was amazed it didn’t fry the frozen soybeans she held in her left hand.

Definitely personal, she thought. More personal than anything she could remember experiencing in a very long time. Maybe in her entire life.

He pushed her back until the edge of the counter pressed against her spine. He moved one leg between hers. His mouth shifted, deepening the kiss. She was melting faster than the contents of the open freezer drawer.

All she cared about was heat. Lots of it. She lived for heat. She needed it. Craved it. She wanted to go up in flames. She had been so cold for so long she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to get enough of the red-hot energy Thomas was generating.

She heard a soft plop and was vaguely aware that she had dropped the package of soybeans back into the freezer. She wrapped her arms around Thomas, seeking escape from the cold draft.

He muttered something unintelligible and kicked the freezer drawer shut with one booted foot. Then he put a strong, muscular arm around her lower back just above her hips and cradled her head in his other hand. His mouth slid down her throat. She shoved her fingers into his hair. She shivered, but not because she was still cold.

His hands shifted again, closing snugly around her waist. He gripped. Lifted. And then her feet were no longer touching the floor. She thought that he intended to carry her back out into the front room. Instead, he set her on the edge of the counter and moved between her thighs. His mouth never left her body.

He was making love to her right there in the kitchen. As if he just couldn’t wait to get her to a bed. No one had ever been in this much of a hurry before. She had never been so eager, either. It was unbelievable. It was also almost unbearably erotic.

Recklessly, she tightened her thighs around him. He got his hands under her sweater. And then they were on her bare br**sts. What had happened to her bra? Somehow he had gotten it unfastened without her even being aware of it.

The man really was very good with his hands. She couldn’t wait to see what else he could do with them.

Her blood beat more heavily in her veins and the fire got hotter.

Without warning, it all came to a crashing halt.

Thomas went very still, as if he had hit a wall. Bemused, she opened her eyes and found him watching her with grim intensity.

“Do you,” he said with grave precision, “happen to have anything handy that would be useful in a situation such as this?”

She blinked, trying to reorient herself. “Such as?”


“Oh.” Reality slammed through her. She felt herself flush. “No, I don’t.”


“No.” She was probably an embarrassing shade of pink by now. “I certainly didn’t anticipate needing anything here in Wing Cove.”

No need to tell him that she hadn’t needed anything since her engagement had been abruptly terminated.

“I came prepared to pop a couple of locks today.” He gave her a rueful, sexy smile and leaned his forehead against hers. “I didn’t come prepared for this kind of excitement.”

“Oh.” She couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say. She was badly rattled and she knew it.

He straightened and took a step back. “Well, as neither one of us appears to be what you’d call farsighted or visionary, I think we’d better concentrate on dinner, don’t you?”

She managed to resist a terrible impulse to grab him by the collar and scream something idiotic along the lines of, You can’t stop now. I’m hot enough to thaw the contents of that freezer.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. Of course they had to call a halt. Good grief, what on earth was she thinking? This wasn’t love or romance. This was lust. Triggered, no doubt, by the adrenaline overload they had both experienced this afternoon.

“Dinner. Yes. This is crazy.” She took a deep breath and realized she was still sitting on the kitchen counter. “Not to mention extremely unsanitary.”

“Maybe. But it does settle one burning hypothetical question.”

She shoved several wild tendrils of hair behind her ears and hopped down from the counter.

. . . And nearly landed ignominiously on her rear when her knees threatened to dissolve. She had to grab the tiled edge to steady herself. This was mortifying. Absolutely mortifying.

She took a deep breath and pulled herself together with an act of will.

“What burning hypothetical question is that?” she asked.

“When I picked out that bed you’re using, I definitely was thinking about myself.”

Forget the steamed soybeans in their pods and the dazzling display of deceptively casual culinary skill with which she had planned to wow him tonight. She jerked open the refrigerator and reached inside for the plastic container filled with the remains of the potato salad she had made yesterday. She grabbed the leftover hummus and some lettuce, too.

“I wouldn’t read too much into that little display of hormones on parade, if I were you.” She slammed the refrigerator shut and put the containers on the counter. “We were both overstimulated from our big, scary adventure. Too much adrenaline, like you said earlier.”

He watched her, a disturbing intensity in his gaze. “Blame it on the adrenaline if you want. But whatever it was, it wasn’t fake. Right?”

She pretended she had not heard him while she washed her hands at the sink. The project provided her with the perfect excuse to keep her back to him.


“What? I’m trying to put a meal together, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“You weren’t faking it a few minutes ago, were you?”

“Oh, for goodness’s sake.” She picked up the knife and sawed violently at the loaf of crusty bread she had bought in town yesterday.

“Give me that much, at least,” Thomas said. “My male ego is on the line here.”

She glanced quickly over her shoulder. Sexy laughter gleamed in his eyes. He did not look like a man with a serious ego problem. She very much doubted that he needed her to assure him that her response had been genuine. She had been nothing if not blatant.

On the other hand, his wife had run off with his business partner. That kind of thing had to leave a mark.

“For the record,” she said, “I’m a terrible actress. I don’t fake anything well.” Then she went back to work on the sandwiches.

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