How could he not want love? It was a basic human need, as necessary as sunshine and clean water. She knew people married for all sorts of reasons, love being only one of them, but it seemed so...cold-blooded the way he’d spelled it out.
“Danica, wait.” Footsteps pounded on the sidewalk behind her.
She tamped down on the traitorous anticipation swirling in her stomach and turned to face him. “Did I leave something at the restaurant?”
He stepped under the streetlight. The mist-filled night air caused it to create a halo around his head. The very picture of an angelic devil.
“I know what you’re thinking.” He ran a hand through his hair, causing it to stick straight-up in patches. It made him look only more approachable and thus more attractive. “You think I’m doing this because of some long-standing feud. And maybe you’re right. But I’m also doing this for my team. I hand recruited them. They took stock options instead of salary when we started. Now they can cash in on their leap of faith. I’m not being as ruthless as you think I am.”
He moved closer, tripping her pulse into overdrive. “That’s not what I’m thinking,” she said.
He gave her a one-sided smile. “You’re easier to read than you know.”
Fine. She had been thinking that. She glanced over his shoulder and saw the youth basketball team exit the taqueria. The teenagers were laughing and horsing around as they said their goodbyes. It was a scene she had seen many times before, with her brother at the center of the action. Now her family didn’t know if Matt would be able to walk unassisted ever again.
Her parents showed her love was real, but they also taught her family came first. If she successfully completed the search, the money Luke offered would give them much needed relief from financial worry. In a way, she was in just as much of a bind as he was.
Besides, judging by the way he talked about his team, he was capable of caring—if only as the boss.
“I know what it’s like to have your dream job disappear. For your team, I’ll do my best. But if I can be honest? Any marriage entered into under the conditions you describe is doomed to failure.”
“I never fail.” A self-satisfied smirk played at the corners of his devastatingly attractive mouth.
“There’s always a first time.”
He leaned down until his warm breath caressed her cheek. “We’ll see.”
An answering heat welled deep inside her, an insistent compulsion she needed to stop before she did something stupid, like use her hands to determine if his butt felt as muscular as it looked in his jeans. Thankfully, a car matching the description on her app pulled up to the curb. “That’s my ride.”
She turned to say good-night at the same minute he reached to open the car door for her. They collided, her breasts colliding with the hard planes of his chest. She instinctively grabbed on to his biceps to hold herself steady, while his arms encircled her.
Their gazes met, held. She couldn’t get enough air in her lungs. “Sorry,” he began.
She shook her head, once. The fog swirled around them, shutting the world out until it consisted of just him, her and the awareness between them that could no longer be ignored. His gaze turned heavy, matching the heaviness between her legs, asking a question she answered by reaching up to bring his mouth down to hers.
He responded immediately, his lips firm, hot, insistent. Supernovas pinwheeled behind her closed eyelids as his hands settled at her waist and drew her closer.
She had wanted to kiss Luke Dallas since she saw him outside Johanna’s office. She doubted she could break away even if the sensible part of her brain managed to gain control. It had been so long since she had last been kissed.
His tongue licked into her mouth, and she returned the favor. Her pulse thumped hard as his firm arms tightened around her. She heard a low moan and realized it came from her. Her skin needed to be next to his, the insistent desire building deep inside demanding to be fed.
A car horn, loud and insistent, broke through the pleasurable haze surrounding her. She jumped away from him, raising a wondering hand to her swollen lips.
He stared back at her, hands thrust into his jeans pockets, his gaze dark and wild.