Lucy Conrad’s mind was officially blown. Because it turned out the nice guy professor she’d gone out with on a dare was going to be the best lover she’d ever had.
Assuming he ever actually gave it up, that is.
“You’re thinking again, Lucy,” Jamie said as he stroked her. “Don’t think. Just feel.”
Oh she was feeling all right. The guy excelled at making her feel pleasure unlike any she’d ever experienced—and for her, that was saying something. Yet, when it came to going all the way, he remained stubbornly resistant.
Their chemistry was phenomenal. He was an amazing kisser, whether he was taking things slow and sweet or fast and furious. He was also extremely talented with his hands. And tongue. And voice. God, the dirty things he came up with sometimes blew her mind and made her quiver with need.
But during their third date and a mind-numbing make-out session, he’d suddenly pulled back. Intent on proving he wanted more than just sex from her, he’d suggested they delay going all the way. That they build the anticipation and drive each other crazy while at the same time getting to know one another better.
At first, she’d thought he was joking; after all, she’d felt how hard he got for her, seen the way his sleek muscles shook with want, and heard his ragged moans when she touched him. When she’d realized he was being serious, she’d been intrigued. She’d also been confident she could get him to change his mind.
So she’d agreed.
Thus began two months of the most fabulous foreplay imaginable…and frustration the likes of which she’d never experienced before.
They were officially on date number ten…and Lucy was done.
She wanted all of Jamie. And she wanted him now.
She imagined him filling her to the hilt. Stretching her to the point where it almost hurt but at the same time felt better than anything she’d ever had.
“Damn it, Jamie, I need more than this,” she said as he stroked her clit.
“I have a whole lot more to give you, Luce,” he said, even as he penetrated her with one long finger. The combination of his caresses and his finger inside her nearly had her coming, but she determinedly scrambled back from the edge.
“Uh-uh,” he said. “No holding back. Ever.”
She gave a weak laugh. “You’re forbidding me from holding back? You, who won’t fuck me even though—”
She hissed when he plunged another finger inside her.
“Even though what? Even though I absolutely love making you come over and over again?”
Her head fell back on the bed and as she stared at the ceiling of her bedroom, her vision blurring, her mind filled with images of his golden brown eyes, lean, angular face, and slim but powerfully muscled body. When he lowered his head to kiss her stomach, her fingers wove through his dark, silky hair and pulled.
“I want your cock,” she said, then held her breath, once more wondering if her bluntness would turn him off. She spoke plainly. She always had. She wasn’t normally reluctant to swear, especially when it came to sex. But with Jamie? Even though he was a college professor just like her, he reminded her of the boys she’d dated when she was younger. The privileged ones. The ones that always ended up wanting a girl with class. Someone other than Lucy.
She frowned. She didn’t like feeling less than. If Jamie didn’t like the way she talked, he could go fuck himself. But first she wanted him to fuck her.
As if aware of her thoughts, he said, “We agreed to take things slow, Lucy. To get to know one another a little better. This is hard for me, too. I want you so much.”
“Then take me. I’ve gotten to know you. And you—you’ve certainly gotten to know me.”
“I know what you taste like. How you feel. What you look like when you come. And all those amount to fabulous. But you haven’t truly let me in. You’re still holding back. I want in you, not just in your body. I’ve known from the start the way I’m going to get there is by keeping some part of me out of your reach. By showing you that you mean more to me than just a quick screw.”
“I want a quick screw!”
“You’re not getting it from me.”
“Why do you care whether I’m holding something back?” And how could he know? Could he sense the pain she still carried from her past? The hurt that came from never fitting in? The people she should have been closest to—her affluent parents and sister, the teachers and girls from her boarding school—had rejected her for being loud, impulsive and crude. And the boys—God, the boys—they’d sneered at her, making her feel like a whore just because she’d cursed and drank and liked to party.
Jamie wasn’t like that, which didn’t mean he was perfect, either.
He could be cocky. Stubborn. Controlling. Twice he’d even suggested her clothes were too revealing. She’d given him a pass the first time. On the second, she’d made it clear she’d dress how she wanted and if he didn’t like it he could take a hike.
He’d refrained from commenting on her clothes ever since.
And he hadn’t gone anywhere.
Despite knowing better, Lucy’s heart was opening up. Preparing to let him in.
And that scared the shit out of her.
He stopped his sexual caresses and wrapped his arms around her. Kissed her neck. “It’s okay, Lucy. Trust me with you. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”
She’d heard that before. From other men. But this was Jamie. Yes, he had faults, but he wasn’t like the broody bad boys Lucy normally hung with. He was more like the boys she’d been attracted to when she’d been younger. Smart and funny with just a hint of sophistication.
He was more like the boy she’d given her heart to all those years ago.
Now her sister Gail’s husband.
But unlike Mason, Jamie could be trusted.
“Okay,” she whispered.
“I—I’ll trust you?”
He smiled ruefully. “It’s not a matter of saying it, Lucy. Or, in your case, asking it. It’s a matter of proving it.”
“Then I’ll prove it to you. I’ll—I’ll try. Now will you fuck me?”
“What I’m going to do is make you come. And keep coming. And soon, when the time is right, when you finally do let me in, I’ll make love to you. And it’ll be the best you’ve ever had—because our hearts will be involved just as much as our bodies.”
She couldn’t help it. Jamie’s mention of love and hearts made her stiffen and automatically try to pull away from him. He wouldn’t let her.
He traced the hummingbird tattoo that hovered above her left breast. “It’s okay,” he said quietly. “It’s okay to be scared about giving me your heart—”
“I’m not scared,” she said. “I’m horny. Are you going to follow through on your promise to make me come, or shall we call it a night?”
They stared at one another as if fighting some silent battle. Finally, he said, “I always keep my promises, Luce. And it’ll be my absolute pleasure to keep that one.” To prove his point, he covered her mouth with his even as he cupped her breast with one hand and cupped her between her legs with the other.
An hour later, Lucy lay in Jamie’s arms, dazed and exhausted by the pleasure he’d managed to wring from her even without intercourse.
She’d thought she’d been afraid before. Now she was so frightened she could barely keep it together.
Because not only had Jamie delivered on his promise to make her come in spades, but he’d managed to do exactly what he’d set out to do—crack the wall she’d built around her heart.
She liked him.
She respected him.
She enjoyed spending time with him.
And she no longer had a doubt in her mind that she could love him.
Her first instinct was to throw her clothes on and get the hell out of there. Instead, once her brain was functioning again, she stroked his chest. He couldn’t read her mind and it wasn’t like she was going to blurt out her undying love. They were in bed. She was naked. He wasn’t.
They had to do something about that.
She might not be the best when it came to feelings and intimacy, but she was an expert when it came to giving Jamie the same type of pleasure he’d given her. “Guess whose turn it is now?” she asked.
“That was my turn,” he said with a contented sigh. He kissed her nose and said, “I’m hungry. How about you?”
She frowned. He didn’t want her? Didn’t want—
He took her hand and pressed it against his cock, which was straining against the zipper of his jeans.
“You can’t doubt I want you, Luce. But we’ve got all night. I was just thinking we could get fueled up. Shower. Get some sustenance in our bodies before we go another round. Sound good?”
She squeezed his erection lightly, making him groan. “So long as the round involves me making you beg for a change, then I’m all for fueling up.”
He took a deep shaky breath. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world, sweet thing.”
She practically glowed when he called her sweet thing. He didn’t do it often, but when he did it never failed to please her. Sweet wasn’t a term normally used to describe her. Bold. Sexy. Strong. Not sweet.
She liked that he thought that of her.
“Where shall we go?” she asked.
“How about we make dinner here tonight?”
It was a simple question, but a significant one. They’d fooled around in her apartment but they’d never cooked there. The idea of cooking a meal with him gave her more pleasure than it probably should have, but again, she decided not to make a big deal about it and to just go with what her heart was telling her she wanted. More time with him. Alone.
“That sounds great.”
“I was going take a cold shower so I can at least try to focus on something other than touching you again, but if you’d like to join me…”
“You said you were hungry.”
“I’ll always be hungry for you, Lucy.”
Oh wow, she thought, feeling herself melting. Going with the flow was one thing, but she couldn’t get careless or sappy. Feeling overwhelmed with the need to keep some part of herself on guard, she said, “You go ahead. I’ll check out what I have in the kitchen.”
“Sounds good,” he said. He gave her a light kiss, first on her nose stud, then on the lips before heading to the bathroom.
While he took a shower, she slipped on a robe and began to rifle through the refrigerator and cabinets. As she did so, she couldn’t seem to stop smiling.
When they’d first met, Jamie had rubbed her the wrong way. When he’d first asked her out, she’d said no. She’d pointed out that they were too different. That he was too different from the bad boys she dated.
“I’m not a ‘bad boy,’” he’d agreed. “I’m a real man who knows how to treat a woman right. So right that the last thing she’ll want to do is run away when feelings start to get involved.”
Lucy had snorted, “I don’t ‘run away.’ I just know what I want and what I don’t, and I steer clear of what I don’t.”
“And what’s that? Commitment?”
“You’re talking commitment when we haven’t gone out yet? You’re definitely not the right kind of guy for me.”
“What I am is willing to explore possibilities. I don’t always want commitment; I’ve had my share of casual sex. But with you…” He frowned, as if he couldn’t quite verbalize how his feelings for Lucy were different from how he felt about other women. Then his expression cleared. “What’s wrong with commitment, anyway? Long term relationships can be damn sexy.”
She obviously hadn’t looked convinced because he’d smiled. “Think about how sexy it would be to be in a relationship with someone you know every intimate detail about. You’re familiar with every square inch of their body. You know what every sigh means, good or bad, and you know exactly how to cause the good ones. You know that a certain moan means faster, another moan means slower, and that a long, slow exhale means you’re giving them exactly what they need.”
Lucy’s breath had caught in her throat. Her pulse had quickened and she’d grown wet between her thighs. She’d shuddered, hard enough that it was readily visible to him and he’d smiled even wider.
Damn him for getting her all hot and bothered, she’d thought.
“You’re talking about sex, and I don’t need commitment to have sex.”
“No, but committed sex is the best there is. You should give it a try. Go out on a date with me and who knows…”
She’d laughed, but in the end, he’d gotten his way.
She’d gone out with him. And not just because her friends Grace and Melina had dared her to give dating a “nice” guy a try. But because she liked what he said, liked how he looked, and most of all, loved the way she felt when she was around him.
Once more recalling the words he’d used to get her to go out with him, she thought, What kind of man says things like “committed sex is the best kind?”
Maybe a man who she could indeed trust and build a real relationship with.
Maybe even marry—
Whoa, whoa, Lucy. Where had that thought come from? She didn’t want to get married. She forced her wandering thoughts to a screeching halt. She’d settle for a relationship that didn’t burn itself out in six months.
With supplies for a simple pasta dish out on the counter, she went to set the table, picking up the pile of paperwork and files Jamie had set there when he’d come inside. As she moved it, a few papers shifted and fell, and she was straightening them when the invitation caught her eye.
It was printed on delicate paper, announcing the engagement party of Eric Davenport to Brianne Whitcomb. The same last name as Jamie. Huh. Must be a relative? The invitation indicated the engagement party had taken place the weekend before, when Jamie said he was going to visit his parents. At the time, considering Jamie was so big on commitment, she’d wondered why he hadn’t invited her to go with him, but then figured that if things continued to progress between them, she’d meet his family eventually.
Was there a reason he hadn’t told her about the engagement party?
Was it possible he’d taken someone else?
Insecurity swarmed through her and she immediately wondered if he’d been embarrassed to introduce her to his family or if the feelings he professed to have for her were all a lie.
But no, that was just her usual paranoia and cynicism talking. Jamie might have suggested she dressed too provocatively a time or too, but that wasn’t terribly uncommon; men tended to be possessive. He’d never done anything to indicate he was embarrassed of her. Or that she couldn’t trust him.
Then the location of the engagement party caught her eye.
Joyau Cache in Paris, France.
He’d flown to Paris for an engagement party for the weekend? That had to have cost a small fortune.
Who did that?
People like her father and mother did, that was who. People who were very rich. People who had money to throw around. People who, in Lucy’s experience, often thought they were better than most.
Better than her. It didn’t matter that she came from an affluent, respectable family herself because she didn’t act the way a respectable, proper lady should act. She’d been treated like an oddity in her own family for as long as she could remember. Her own family had made her feel bad simply for being who she was. And in order to make sure she never felt that gut-wrenching sensation of rejection again, she never dated men who came from money.
Was it possible that Jamie was richer than he’d let on?
Suddenly the fact that he had commented on her provocative clothing seemed less about possessiveness and more about judgment. The fact he was withholding himself sexually suddenly became more about games and manipulation rather than giving their hearts time to open to one another. Hadn’t other boys, one boy in particular, pretended to love her only to cast her off as soon as he’d gotten what he’d wanted? According to her experience, that’s what rich boys did. Played games. Lied to get what they wanted.
“Hey,” he said from behind her.
She turned around to see Jamie looking fresh and happy, but when he saw the invitation in her hands, his face paled.
Any hope she’d been harboring that things could progress between them vanished.
Because he looked guilty.
And that’s when she knew.
Once again, she’d been a fool.
And he was the one who’d made her one.