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HIS BIG, WARM HAND against the small of her back, Ellie allowed Sandor to guide her into the exclusive Boston restaurant. It felt good to walk into the air–conditioning. Boston in the summer was muggy and hot, but the instant cold sent shivers chasing along her arms and made her nipples bead behind the black silk bodice of her dress.
Rather than discomfort, her body reacted with a sensual pleasure that was her constant companion in this man's company.
It had marked their first meeting and had not abated since, leaving her with a need to explore a side to her character that she usually ignored. Her feminine sexuality. She found herself dressing more sexily around him than she ever had in the past and reveling in the small, possessive touches he peppered their dates with.
Tonight, she'd worn a dress by Armani that she loved because it was both elegant and sexy. Its sleeveless design and scooped neck left her arms, a good portion of her chest and her back exposed, but the hem swirled modestly below her knees. The black silk clung to her understated curves and the thin fabric offered no real barrier between his hand and the sensitive skin of her back. And that single point of contact was enough to send her nerve endings rioting.
She had to concentrate on maintaining a bland faÃ§ade for him and the other restaurant patrons, but she couldn't help wishing they were someplace private. Someplace she might actually get the nerve up to ask why he'd never pressed for deeper intimacy when his good–night kisses were powered by a wealth of barely leashed passion. Passion she'd decided she wanted to explore.
She recognized several faces asthe maÃ®tre d' led them to their table and wished she didn't. She would like to go out, just once, to a restaurant that was not one of the accepted watering holes for their kind. But Sandor Christofides demanded the best. In everything.
Sometimes, it made her wonder what he was doing with her.
She had been born to the world he had worked so hard to enter, but as far as she could see, that was all she had to offer him.At five foot nine, with small curves, average features, and rather boring dark blond hair, she was not particularly beautiful; she did little to cultivate the contacts others would kill to obtain; she abhorred the standards set by money and frequently refused to uphold them. Her job as an employment counselor for the state was as unglamorous as it got. Her clients wouldn't make it on to the "Who's Who" list of anything, for that matter…neither would she. Not anymore.
Her dad considered her career a complete waste of her Ivy League education, but she didn't care. She considered his overwhelming preoccupation with his business a waste, too. Not that she dismissed his company as unimportant, but she hated the fact that it always had and always would come before her, anyone or anything else.
Interrupting Ellie's thoughts, the maÃ®tre d' stopped beside the same table they always had when Sandor brought her here. Its placement was an indication of Sandor's importance, something her father would take for granted, but she didn't think Sandor did. His dark brown eyes would glow with satisfaction for a brief moment at small things like this, as if they really mattered to him.
Which was another reason they weren't exactly well suited. Stuff like that just did not impress her.
Maybe she was jaded by growing up around it, but she got a lot bigger thrill out of one of her clients getting a job, or a certification necessary to do so, or additional education.
She knew why she said yes to every one of Sandor's invitations. Because she was quite literally enthralled with the man. But she didn't understand why he kept extending them. Especially if he didn't want to sleep with her. He just didn't seem like the celibate type, but that might be her own libido talking.
Sandor seated her though typically the maÃ®tre d' would have done so. She took it as a mark of his Greekness…or his possessiveness. She wasn't sure which, but for as little as she understood what Sandor saw in her, she knew she would not be the one to end their relationship. Because the little actions like him seating her personally made her feel special.
They also exhibited a side to his nature she found enticing. He didn't bow to the dictates of the world he inhabited, but insisted it take him on his terms. And when she was with him, she felt truly alive for the first time in her twenty–four years.
She couldn't help watching with a hungry intensity she tried to hide as he folded his six–footfour frame into the chair across from hers. His dark, wavy hair, cut just a little long framed chiseled features she could stare at all night. His superbly muscled frame filled out his dinner jacket in a way few businessmen did.
His hands were well groomed, his nails buffed from a masculine manicure, but they were big and marked with tiny scars from a background very different to hers.
After placing their napkins in their laps, the maÃ®tre d' left without giving them menus, but Sandor did not remark on it.
He was too busy looking at her, his knowing gaze acknowledging the desire she tried so hard to hide.
His even, white teeth slashed in a smile. "I am not on the menu, pethi mou." He paused and his smile turned to a predator's grin. "But I could be."
"Promises, promises…" she boldly teased back even as she felt the blush burning her cheeks.
Her body wasn't feeling any embarrassment, however. It was too busy reacting to his teasing as if to a caress. Unrepentant heat pooled low in her belly while her breasts tingled with the need to be touched. Her already hardened nipples felt like they increased in size, aching for his attention.
She wasn't precisely a virgin, but she'd never responded to anyone the way she responded to him.
He laughed, but didn't deny that he had no real plans to follow through on his taunt. The truth was, though they had been dating for three months, he had never pushed for the ultimate intimacy and he'd ignored her subtle hints in that direction.
She stifled a pang of disappointment and asked, "How did the negotiations go with the department store chain?"
He and her father had combined forces to try to lure one of the biggest worldwide retailers into using their combined shipping companies' resources and Sandor's import/export network.
"It is in the bag."
She loved the way he often talked American slang in his slight Greek accent. Unlike others of different nationalities that she'd met through her father, Sandor did not speak with the flawless accent of an Englishman, trained by exacting teachers. he'd told her he'd learned most of his English after coming to live in the United States when he was a child. His mother still spoke with a heavy accent that required a lot of concentration to understand sometimes. Luckily it was something Ellie was good at. "I'm glad and I'm sure Dad is pleased."
"Yes, but we are not here tonight to discuss business."
"You know we are not."
She laughed softly. "I won't argue. I know more about my father's business since we started dating than I ever knew before and everything I do know, I've learned from you. I'm not exactly the best choice for a partner in that kind of discussion."
"But I think you are the ideal partner for other things."
Was he teasing her again…about the sex thing that she was fairly certain he had no plans to act on? Or did he mean something else? She looked at him in confusion, but though the corner of his mouth tilted enigmatically, he said nothing.
The waiter arrived at their table and poured them each a glass of Sandor's favorite wine. She liked it, too, and had never balked at his standing order for this particular predinner drink. But she was surprised when he confirmed their food order without asking her preference. He had never done that before. But then, both he and the waiter acted as if he'd ordered before even arriving at the restaurant.
That impression was further enforced when the waiter returned to their table seconds later with appetizers.
She sniffed appreciatively at the garlic baked shrimp dripping with melted butter and topped with a grated medley of three cheeses. "My favorite."
"I know." He put a piece of shrimp on a slice of baguette, carefully drizzling the garlicy butter over it and making sure there was just the right amount of melted cheese on top before handing it to her. "I know you very well, Eleanor."
"After three months, do you doubt it?"
"That depends on what you mean. I think you do know a lot about me, but I am not sure you know me." Her dad would have known to order this appetizer, too, but that didn't mean he knew what made her tick.As far as she could tell, Ellie's dad had no desire to know her on any level but the surface.
She couldn't stifle the hope that Sandor would be different.
"Is there a distinction between the two?"
"If tonight goes as I plan, I will have a great deal of time to learn what you mean." "And how do you plan for tonight to go?" Was he finally going to make love to her? Was she ready for it?
She almost laughed aloud at her inner voice. Ready? She was desperate for him. She'd already decided she wanted him, but the possibility of actually having him was throwing her into mental chaos. Which was silly. She wanted this man and while she had no intention of telling him that at this very moment, she would not lie to herself and pretend differently. She refused to indulge in those kinds of games.
"Allow me to reveal my plans in sequence." She should have guessed he had an agenda of some sort. It was so like him. It was one of the more disconcerting ways he reminded her of her father. She didn't dislike it exactly, but it worried her a little. Were his agendas as coldly determined as her father's?
"By all means, I wouldn't think of attempting to divert your schedule."
He took a sip of wine, his dark eyes filled with mock menace. "Are you laughing at me?"
"Maybe, a little. Spontaneity is not your thing."
"You know me well."
"As well as can be expected after dating three months." "Well enough." There was meaning behind his words, but she wasn't sure what it was.
"Aren't you going to have any of the shrimp?" she asked.
"I suppose, but the real pleasure comes from watching you eat them."
She had just taken a bite and her eyes closed in bliss. Divine. "To each their own."
He laughed. "I assure you, I am very happy with my own appetizer."
They were sharing the shrimp and he wasn't eating any, so it took her a second to understand his meaning. When she did, her eyes flew open. He was looking at her with a distinctly predatory light in eyes that had grown dangerously dark.
She took a deep breath, trying to calm the rapid pulse that was making her light–headed. Oh, my. When this man went for it, he held nothing back. She could not wait for later. Tonight, he would not leave her with a good–night kiss that made her toes curl and her body feel hollow with wanting. Not with that look in his eyes.