Never before had she felt the intense magnetism that existed between her and Theron. She’d spent years searching for something that even came close to the budding awareness that had begun in her teenage years.
She’d experimented with dates. Kisses, the clumsy groping that had inevitably led to her showing the guy the door. There was only one who ever came close to coaxing her to give him everything. In the end, it had been him who’d called a stop to their lovemaking. At the time, she’d been embarrassed and certain that she’d made some mistake. He’d kissed her gently, told her that he was greatly honored by the fact that he would be her first, but that perhaps she should save her gift for a man who held a special place in her heart.
Then, she’d seen it as a cop-out, a man running hard and fast from a woman who obviously equated sex with commitment or at least a deeper relationship. Now, she was just grateful that she hadn’t blithely given away her innocence. Travis was right. Her virginity was special, and she’d only give it to a special man.
She blinked again when she realized Theron was talking to her.
“I think you are wise to place emphasis on…these qualities,” he said uncomfortably. “You wouldn’t want a man who’d mistreat you in any way, and of course you’ll want someone who shares your vision of marriage and a family.”
“But you don’t think I should want a good lover?” she asked with one raised eyebrow.
His eyes gleamed in the flickering lamp situated in the middle of the table. Her breath caught and hung in her chest, painful as her throat tightened. She swallowed at the raw power radiating from him in a low, sensual hum.
“It would indeed be a shame if a man had no idea what to do with a woman such as yourself, Bella.”
He looked up in relief when the waiter came bearing the tray with their food. Isabella, on the other hand, cursed the timing.
Theron surprised her, however, when after the waiter retreated, he caught her eye and murmured in his sexy, accented voice, “Your mother died early in your childhood, did she not? Has there been no one else to speak to you about…men?”
She gaped at him in astonishment. Did he honestly think she’d reached the ripe old age of twenty-two without ever hearing the birds and the bees talk? She wasn’t sure who was more horrified, her or Theron. He looked uncomfortable, and hell, so was she.
Picking up her fork, she cut into her fish and speared a perfectly cooked piece. It hit her tongue, and she nearly sighed in appreciation. It was good, and she was starving.
Theron was clearly waiting on her to answer his question. His really ridiculous question aimed more at a fourteen-year-old, pimply faced girl than a twenty-two-year-old woman.
“If I say no, are you volunteering to head my education?” she asked with a flash of a grin.
He shot an exasperated grimace in her direction. “I’ll take that as a yes that someone has spoken to you of such matters.”
“Next you’ll be offering to buy my feminine products,” she muttered.
He choked on the sip of wine he’d just taken and hurriedly set the glass back down on the table. “You imp. It’s not polite to make someone laugh as they’re taking a drink.”
“I’ll remind you that you started this conversation,” she said dryly.
She watched him take a bite and then wipe his mouth with his napkin. He had really gorgeous lips. Perfect for kissing.
“So I did,” he said with a shrug. “I merely wondered if you’d spoken to another woman about men and husbands and of course which men make the best husbands.”
“And lovers,” she added.
“Yes, of course,” he said in resignation.
She sat back in her seat and stared at him in challenge. “You don’t want the woman you marry to be a good lover?”
He gave her what she could only classify as a look of horror. “No, I damn well do not expect my wife to be a good lover. It’s my duty to…” He broke off in a strangled voice. “We’re not discussing my future wife,” he said gruffly.
But her curiosity had been well and truly piqued. She sat forward, and placed her chin in one palm, her food forgotten. “It’s your duty to what?”
“This is not a conversation that is appropriate for us to have,” he said stiffly.
She sighed and nearly rolled her eyes. He sure didn’t mind playing the guardian card when it suited him, and the last thing she wanted was to plant any sort of parent role into his brain. But she desperately wanted to hear just what he considered his duty to be to the woman who’d share his bed.
“You’re my guardian, Theron. Who else can I talk to about such matters?”
He let out a long-suffering sigh and took another sip of his wine. “I don’t expect my wife to be sexually experienced when she comes to my bed. It’s my duty to awaken her passion and teach her everything she needs to know about…lovemaking.”
Isabella wrinkled her nose. “That sounds so medieval. Have you ever considered that she might teach you a thing or two?”
He set the glass down again, a look of astonished outrage on his face. Clearly the thought had never occurred to him that any woman could teach him anything when it came to sex. So he fancied himself a good lover then. She had to fight off a full-body shiver. She wanted his hands on her body so badly. She’d be more than willing to be an eager pupil under his tutelage.
“I assure you, there is little a woman could teach me that I am not already well acquainted with,” he said with a thread of arrogance.
“That experienced, huh?”
He grimaced. “I don’t know how our conversation deteriorated to this, but it’s hardly an appropriate c
onversation between a guardian and his ward.”
And up went the cement wall again. At least he was struggling to put her back on a non threatening level which meant he considered her just that. A threat.
She dug cheerfully into the remainder of her meal, content to let silence settle over the table. Theron watched her, and she let him, making sure not to look up and catch his stare. There was curiosity in his gaze but there was also interest, and not the platonic kind. He might fight it tooth and nail, but his eyes didn’t lie.
When they were finished eating, Theron queried her on her next course of action.
“I’ll need furniture, of course. Not to mention food and staple items.”
“Make a list of food items and any other household things you need. I’ll have it delivered so that you don’t have to go out shopping,” Theron said. “If you can stand a few more days in the hotel suite, I’ll see if I can fit in a furniture shopping trip later in the week.”
“Oh, I need everything,” she said cheerfully. “Towels, curtains, dishes, bed linens—”
He held up his hand and smiled. “Make a detailed list. I’ll see that it is taken care of.”
He tossed his table napkin down and motioned for the waiter. Then he glanced at Isabella. “Are you ready to return to your suite?”
Isabella wasn’t, but she also knew that she’d monopolized Theron’s entire morning, and he was a busy man. She nodded and rose from her seat. They met around the table, and he put his hand to the small of her back as they headed for the exit.
“I’ll see you up,” Theron said when they walked into the lobby.
The elevator slid open and the two stepped inside. Even before it fully closed, Isabella turned to Theron. He was so close. His warmth radiated from him, enveloping her. She could smell the crispness of his cologne.
“Thank you for today,” she murmured.
She reached automatically for his hands and knew that he was going to lean in to kiss her on either cheek. The elevator neared the top floor.
“You’re quite welcome, pethi mou. I’ll have my secretary call you about your apartment and also about our shopping trip.”
As she thought, when the elevator stopped, he leaned down, his intention to kiss her quickly. She stepped into his arms, her body molding to his chest. Before he could react, she circled her arms around his neck and as his lips brushed against her cheek, she turned her face so that their lips met.
The air exploded around them. Their mouths fused and electricity whipped between them like bolts of lightning. At first he went completely still as she boldly kissed him. And then a low growl worked from his throat and he took control.
He yanked her to him until there was no space between them. His arms wrapped around her body, and his hand slid down her spine, to the small of her back and then to cup her behind through her tight jeans.
She was intensely aware of his every touch. His fingers felt like branding irons against her skin, burning through the denim of her pants. His other hand tangled roughly in her hair, glancing over her scalp before twisting and catching in the thick strands.
It wasn’t a simple kiss, no loving caress between two people acquainting themselves. It was the kiss of two lovers who were starved for each other.
No hesitancy or permission seeking. It was like they’d been separated for a long period and were coming back together, two people who knew each other intimately.
The warm brush of his tongue coaxed her mouth further open and then he was inside, licking at the edge of her teeth and then laving over her tongue, inviting her to respond equally.
She went willingly, tasting him and testing the contours of his lips.
His hand moved from the curve of her bottom up underneath her shirt and to the small of her back where his large hand splayed out possessively as he crushed her to his hard body.
Her breath caught, and she gasped when his hand made that first contact with her bare skin. Her breasts swelled and throbbed against his chest.
She dare not say a word or make a sound, because if she did, the moment would