She saw a momentary flicker in J.D.’s eyes, as if he realized he’d said more than he’d meant to. He waved her question off.

“Never mind. Forget I said that. It’s not important.”

Payton was curious. But she backed off, sensing that pressing the issue would only lead to an argument. And the two of them had had enough of those to last a lifetime.

“So . . .” she said, trailing off. She leaned against the wall of built-in bookshelves, facing J.D., who stood across the room from her.

“So . . .” he replied. He looked her over, as if waiting for her to do or say something first. Which was fine because, actually, there was something she did want to say. She cleared her throat.

“You know, J.D.—for the record—I actually don’t think you’re sexist.” She saw him c**k his head at this sudden admission, so she explained. “I just thought, you know, that was a bad thing for me to say. In a few days we won’t be working together anymore and I didn’t want that left hanging between us.”

J.D. slowly began crossing the room toward her. “In that case, as long as we’re clearing up the record, feminazi was probably a little harsh.”

“A little? You think?”

“A lot harsh.” J.D. moved closer to her, then closer still. Payton felt her heart begin to race.

“And, actually, I don’t think you’re uptight,” she said, still managing to appear cool and collected on the outside at least. “Obstinate and smug perhaps, but not uptight.”

“Thank you,” J.D. said, with a nod of acknowledgment. He stood before her now, so that she was trapped between him and the bookshelves.

“Also for the record,” Payton said in a lower voice, “I don’t drive a Prius.”

J.D. gazed down at her, his eyes dark and intense. “For the record, I’ve never owned a pony.”

“That’s a shame,” Payton told him in a whisper. “I was thinking it must be kind of nice to own a pony.” She felt J.D.’s hand at the back of her neck.

“You’re going to stop talking now,” he said, pulling her to him. “Because I’ve already waited long enough to do this.”

Then his mouth came down on hers, and finally, after eight years, J. D. Jameson kissed her.

Payton’s lips parted eagerly, teasing him as her tongue lightly swept over his. J.D.’s hand moved to her waist and pulled her closer as his mouth searched hers, deepening the kiss. She pressed her body instinctively against his and he instantly reacted, pushing her back against the shelves. With his arms on either side of her, holding her there, his lips trailed a path along her neck.

“Tell me you’ve wanted this,” he said huskily in her ear, and Payton thought her entire body might have just melted. She arched back as his mouth made its way to her collarbone.

“Yes,” she whispered thickly, about the only thing she was capable of saying right then. J.D. kissed her again, more demanding this time. Suddenly they both were impatient; Payton pushed at his jacket, needing it off, and J.D.’s hands grasped her hips and pulled her with him as they stumbled out of the living room and into the kitchen. They hit the counter, and J.D. shoved the bar stools out of the way and flung her up onto it.

Perched on top of the counter, Payton pulled back to look down at J.D. Her breath was ragged. “I like this—you’re not towering over me for once, trying to intimidate me.”

“I doubt there’s anything that intimidates you,” J.D. teased. “Not even being naked in court, apparently.”

“I’m beginning to remember why I don’t like you,” Payton said. But then her breath caught as he pinned her hands behind her back with one of his and stepped between her legs.

J.D.’s eyes sparkled wickedly. “Good—now call me an ‘asshole’ and give me that look like you want to throw something at me—that’s my favorite part.”

Payton laughed, but J.D.’s mouth came down on hers and all joking fell by the wayside. She felt his hands move to her shirt, yanking at the buttons as she simultaneously reached up and tugged at his tie, loosening the knot. There was a rush to their movements, as if each of them was afraid the other would change his or her mind, and Payton was just beginning to have vague musings in the back of her mind about how far this might go, and whether her kitchen counter was the best venue for however far this might go, when—

Her phone rang.

“Ignore it,” J.D. said, his hands moving to the front hook of her bra, and for once Payton wholeheartedly agreed with him.

The ring—coming from the phone in her living room—was easy enough to ignore, but then the answering machine clicked on and Payton’s voice echoed throughout the apartment, sorry, can’t answer the phone, blah, blah.

“Ever hear of voice mail?” J.D. asked as his fingers teasingly trailed along the lacy edge of her bra and Payton tried to muster the wits to think of something sassy to say back when a second male voice called out to her.

“Payton—it’s Chase.”

It was a true marvel of technology, Payton noted, the way the clarity of her answering machine made it seem as though the guy she was dating was standing right there in the kitchen with her and the guy she had straddled between her legs.

“I just wanted to call to say good night and make sure you got home okay,” Chase continued on the machine. “I know you have a long evening ahead of you, and with everything we talked about earlier I forgot to wish you good luck with your trial. I know how much you have riding on this, so try to get some sleep. And just remember what I said about J.D. Watch your back—the guy will do anything to win.”

Tags: Julie James Romance