But no. We have plans. I have a plan, and I need to stick to it if I’m going to get what I want out of this deal.
“Are you going to cook me a gourmet meal tonight, then?” she’s asking, leaning one hip against the countertop. The pose she’s standing in gives me a flashback to our flight here. To the soft curve of her hips, and how it felt to wrap my hands around them and hoist her up, pinning her against the counter.
The way her body felt twisting under me, the soft little sounds she made, and the way she tasted when I…
I shake myself. If I go too far down this mental path, I’ll never stick to the aforementioned plan. “Soon,” I promise her. “But tonight, I had something special in mind.”
She tilts her head, still keeping that curious little half-smile on her face. “Oh? What’s that?”
I cross my arms. “I’d like to meet my brother and sister for dinner. Introduce you to the family.”
“Oh.” Her face falls again, the same way it did in the elevator. But it’s only for a split second. A moment later, she forces another smile, bright and cheerful, at least on the surface. “Of course. That would be great. I mean, I guess that is what we came here to do, right?”
I frown, studying her. “Are you sure? You seem worried.”
She bites her lower lip. The girl has no poker face whatsoever. “It just…” She glances down, then up at the ceiling. Anywhere but at me. “It seems a little soon, doesn’t it? To do the whole meeting the family thing.”
I can feel myself nodding slowly. “It is, all told, yes. But they’re going to love you, Melanie.”
She snorts. “Doubtful.” She spreads her hands wide, gesturing at the apartment around us. “I feel like…” She shakes her head and points through the nearest open doorway, toward the dining room with its massive glass chandelier—a Chihuly original, naturally. “I feel like a piece of dirt stuck on that expensive chandelier. You know? I don’t fit here, Xander.”
And now I understand. Now I see what her real hesitation is. Without a pause, without thinking about it, I step toward her, and reach my arms out. I think she’ll back away, but to my surprise, she moves toward me, and lets me wrap my arms around her. She sinks into me, the same way she did on the plane when turbulence hit.
Just the feel of her in my arms, her soft skin under my fingertips and the scent of her hair, the shampoo she uses sticking in my senses, makes me tense. The blood starts to flow south, and it’s all I can do not to lose myself to distraction—to her—all over again.
“You’re perfect, Melanie.” Her body shakes with laughter against me, but I push her back just far enough so that she can see me shake my head. “I mean it.” I dip down to kiss her, soft and slow, and I savor the taste of her lips on mine. “You’re so genuine. Your excitement is contagious. My family will love that.” I smile, and this time, she answers it with a smile of her own. A weak one, but I’ll take it. “They’re going to love you,” I repeat, and this time, at least, she doesn’t deny it.
“What the hell am I going to wear?” she asks instead, her gaze drifting around the kitchen. “If it’s somewhere as fancy as this apartment, which I’m just guessing it will be, I doubt anything I brought will be nice enough.”
I smile and release her—if I don’t do that soon, I know I’m not going to be able to anytime soon—and I step back to the far side of the kitchen, reaching for the coffee pot. “What do you like to wear?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “Dresses I guess?”
“Then we’ll go find some dresses.” I flash her a smile.
Her cheeks flush. “But—”
I hold up a hand to stave off any protests she might have. “Like you said, we are going somewhere fancy, yes. Which means I’ll be providing my future wife with whatever she needs to feel comfortable in that situation. If it’s an expensive dress, then let’s go find you an expensive dress.”
“What if I can’t find one I like?” she asks, shifting on her feet.
“Then we’ll keep looking until we find one you do.” I grin at her. “Fifth Avenue is just a few blocks away, and they have just about every store imaginable. We won’t stop hunting until we find the perfect outfit for you. I promise.”
Her throat works with a tight swallow. I think she’s going to protest again, but after a moment’s hesitation, she nods. “Okay.”
* * *
If I thought bringing Melanie home and watching her experience my apartment building was fun, it’s nothing compared to watching her shop. She stops before every window along Fifth Avenue to gawk, her eyes wide and round as saucers. But I have to practically drag her into the stores themselves, since she keeps balking, worrying they’re too nice for her.