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“What are the options?” he asked.

“Kill you or kiss you.”

He laughed. “Here, let me help you decide.” Reaching out, he tugged her into him so that she stood between his spread thighs.

She sighed. “I find it really irritating that you smell so good. I want to bite you.”

He gave her a small smile. “Bite away.”

“I’m really mad at you, Joe.”

“I know. Let me make it all better.”

For now, he meant. But maybe not. Even in the dark she could see the need and yearning and hunger on his face. He wanted her every bit as much as she wanted him. Staring at him, she gave a slow nod and in one dizzying move, he snagged her around the waist and tugged her back onto the bed.

And then turned on the light.

“Hey,” she complained and lifted a hand to block her eyes. “Turn that off.”

“I want to see you.”

“You know what I look like!”

“Not when we’re naked,” he said.

“I’m not naked—” She broke off when he slid off her panties. Okay, now she was naked.

“We’ve never done this before,” he said.

She gaped up at him. “What are you talking about? We’ve done nothing but this.”

He smiled but shook his head. “Not as you. You’ve always been in a wig as a disguise. But now you’re you.”

She was finding it very hard to talk with his big, delicious bod holding her down. “I wasn’t in disguise that other morning in the shower,” she said.

“Semantics. Your sweet curves were all warm and wet and covered in soap. I lost my mind.”

“How about the other night when you showed up late—”

“That’s just it,” he said. “It was late. And dark.” He pushed her hair from her face and made himself very at home between her legs. “Where were we?”

With her about to walk. But now she had him this close and she couldn’t hold on to her resolve. Not ready to have the conversation with him in this position, hell, not wanting to have it at all, she rolled so that she was on top. Better. Now he was sprawled out beneath her, all sinew and heat, and she couldn’t think. One last time, she told herself. You can have him this one last time before you walk away. “I think we were just about to rock each other’s world.”

“I like the sound of that.” Then he rolled, and before she could blink, she was pinned beneath him again.

And not, apparently, because he was in any sort of hurry to get to it. No, it was as if it was the complete opposite. A switch had been thrown and suddenly he seemed to have all the time in the world as he worked his way down her body, kissing, licking, nibbling, and then kissing again, every single inch of her. She was writhing, begging him for more, but he couldn’t be rushed as he made his way back to her mouth for a kiss that was hot, deep, and slow, and she absolutely melted. He kissed her like that for long minutes, seemingly content to just drink her in as they rolled over the bed, taking turns on top. She reveled in the dominant position for long, rare moments, reacquainting herself with every inch of him, wondering if she’d ever get enough of feeling his heat, his hard muscles quivering beneath her tongue. And when she took him just a little too far, when he groaned her name and pulled her up to straddle him, she took his hands in hers and pushed them over his head as she brought him deep inside her.

The ambient glow from her bathroom night-light lit his warrior’s body in bold relief, highlighting the sheen of his skin and the flex of his muscles moving beneath it, all the way down past his abs to where their bodies were joined. She watched, helplessly fascinated, as his body surged into hers, again and again and again. Her eyes drank in the details of him, the faint line of hair down his belly, a long, thin scar across his ribs, the line of stitches from the other night, another scar in the hollow of his shoulder.

The muscles in his neck were corded, his head thrown back in pleasure, and his eyes, locked on hers, sent her right over. She felt him go too, his mouth at her throat as he shuddered along with her . . .

They were still gasping for air, still lying tangled together where they’d collapsed. From somewhere in the dark room, Joe’s phone buzzed. The nature of his job and the story of their lives. He ignored it but Kylie was barely able to recognize this fact. She was that far gone in what they’d just done. It felt as though he’d peeled back all her layers and broken into her heart. There were feelings, oh so many feelings, and she knew, dammit, she knew, she wasn’t alone in this.

Not that she was going to wait around for him to realize that. As she worked at putting air into her lungs and waited for the feeling to return to her extremities, she realized the pillows were gone. Her lamp leaned drunkenly against one wall. The blankets and sheets had disappeared and the fitted sheet had been pulled loose, lying twisted and damp beneath them.

The only thing moving was Joe’s hand, slowly stroking up and down her damp back as she continued to struggle to regain her breath and some semblance of control. Only when she was clearly relaxed, boneless, and very near a pleasure coma in fact, did he go for his phone.

When he did, she pulled the blanket off the floor to cover herself. Joe glanced over at her, clearly amused by her sudden modesty. But as he listened to a message, his smile faded.

“What?” she asked when he’d disconnected.

He didn’t answer, just began pulling on his clothes.

She sat up. “Joe.”

He paused with only his jeans on, low-slung and sexy even now. “Remember the cowboy apprentice, Eric?” he asked.

“Of course. What did he want?”

Joe looked pained.

She stared at him. “Joe.”

“He found the imposter’s card. He’s got a number for the guy.”

Chapter 28


Kylie’s heart took a good hard fast leap at the first real progress toward getting back her penguin. Finally, they were getting somewhere. Except . . . She met Joe’s gaze. “Tell me something.”


“Were you going to fill me in on Eric’s call if I hadn’t asked?”

He hesitated and she felt the shock roll through his system. “Seriously?” she asked.

“Okay, hold on a second,” he said, shoving his fingers through his hair in a rare tell of frustration. “Yes, I did briefly consider not telling you . . . yet . . . but I knew you’d get all up in arms over that. I was going to tell you, Kylie.”

“But maybe not until you’d checked it over.”

That one he didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. The truth was in his eyes.

Stunned, she shook her head and stared at him, unsure how to feel. She’d never thought about trust being a premeditated, calculated thing before, but apparently it was. She didn’t like it, not one little bit. Jumping up, she pulled on some clothes before grabbing her phone. “What’s the guy’s name and number?”



He didn’t sigh but he looked like he wanted to. “We don’t have a name,” he said. “Just the business—Wood Specialties—and a number.”

“Fine. Just the number then.” She made the call on speaker. The voice mail was a brusque male voice saying one word. “Beep.”

“I’m interested in your work,” Kylie said. “Call me back.” She left her number and disconnected.

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