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Jack knew the minute she walked into the bar. It felt as though the flow of air decreased and the temperature shot up. He didn't immediately understand the cause of the atmospheric disturbance in the room, but when he caught a glimpse of her, he knew. That is, he knew the what of the disturbance, but not the why of it.
He took a slow sip of Scotch and casually assessed the group of three looking for a table, a man and two women. The man was good looking in an Ivy League sort of way: button down collar, sweater wrapped around his shoulders, clean-cut. He had his arms slung over the shoulders of a tall blonde and a medium height brunette with short, curly hair. She was the one who caught Jack's eye. They laughed and chatted like old friends and in a few seconds the man walked toward a table near the door to the outside deck, pulling the women along with him.
It was still too chilly at Nags Head to sit outside, but the drapes were pulled back and late afternoon sunlight brightened the room. Jack sat alone on a stool at the bar and watched the threesome covertly, interested in their actions but unsure of why, exactly. His attention was pulled to the dark haired woman, who happened to take a seat facing him. Her oval face was framed by dark brown curls ending just below her chin. She had a pert nose and a very full mouth that she opened unabashedly as she laughed fully. Jack was sure there wasn't an inhibited titter in her. He sensed instinctively that when this woman enjoyed herself she went full tilt, and that was appealing. He couldn't tell what color her eyes were, but he imagined, even from across the room, how they would sparkle when she wasamused. She wore jeans that conformed to a very trim, compact body and a white long-sleeved blouse with the collar turned up. A tweed jacket topped it all. She looked totally at ease, crossing her legs and leaning back in her chair or forward across the table, when she was making a point to one of her companions in their conversation.
Jack was perplexed because he couldn't put a finger on just who she reminded him of. He did remember seeing the three of them earlier in the day at the Hatteras lighthouse. She had attracted his attention then, but of course, he never thought he'd see her again.
Intriguingly, she was a combination of Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall-innocence and sizzling sexiness, all in the same body. He normally liked his women tall, buxom, blonde, and absolutely independent, ensuring there were no entanglements when his interest waned, as it always did. So he was perplexed by whatever it was about this little brunette that kept drawing his eyes back to her.
The group appeared to be having a good time. They finished off their second drinks and still Jack couldn't tell which of the women was actually with the man. He was debating whether he should just throw caution to the wind and ask the bartender to send over a drink for her with his compliments, when their party broke up. To his relief, as they were saying goodbye, the man took hold of the blonde's hand, and seemed to leave the brunette in the bar. Alone, she ordered another screwdriver and took it out on the deck. Jack wasted no time in venturing out with his own drink.
The bar was located on the third floor of the hotel, so that the deck extended over the sand and provided an unobstructed view of the ocean. Higher dunes stretched out to the right and left of them, but from where they stood the pounding waves supplied an ever-changing display of the Atlantic's power. He stood near the middle of the deck, she at one end. She watched the ocean and the antics of the gulls as they soared overhead. He surreptitiously watched her.
"It's a little cool, but still beautiful, isn't it?" He spoke into the air, as though he were simply saying the words out loud.
She glanced at him then turned back toward the water. "Yes, it is." Her voice was soft and had a delicious drawl. So sexy.
"Are you staying here at the hotel?" He turned to look at her as he spoke.
Well, this wasn't getting him very far. "I am too. I came down for the weekend. I'm actually down South for a conference in Norfolk, but I wanted to see the famous Outer Banks and the Hatteras lighthouse. I think I saw you there this afternoon, didn't I?"
Now she looked at him with suspicion. "Perhaps. Excuse me." She turned to leave.
"Wait! I'm sorry. That came out all wrong. I'm not a stalker or a crazy person. I was just sitting in the bar when you came in with your friends and remembered that I had seen you at the lighthouse earlier today. I didn't mean to upset you. Please stay."
She hesitated briefly, studying him. "Well, you just stay down there and I'll stay down here."
Jack kept his eyes on her as he dutifully backed up two steps.
She answered his question, surprising him after her 'keep your distance' declaration. "Yes, I was at the lighthouse this afternoon. Was it your first visit?" She lightly shook her head, as if chiding herself. "But of course. You've already said that you had wanted to visit here, as if it was your first time. Are you enjoying Nags Head?"
"I just arrived this afternoon and headed right down to Hatteras, but I'd have to say that I'm glad I came. And getting gladder all the time." She gave him a haughty look, but he smiled slowly and dazzlingly. She seemed impervious, simply nodding at him and turning back to the ocean. He cautiously edged his way closer to her. "You must not live here or you wouldn't be staying at the hotel, but you're obviously a Southern girl. Where are you from?"
"Well now," she drawled, with a cold smile, "we Southern girls don't like to give away too much information about ourselves to strangers. Suffice it to say that I am indeed from the South, just as it's obvious that you're not. Where are you from? New York, I'd guess."
He chuckled. "I didn't know it was so apparent. What gave me away? I know I left my Yankees ball cap and the tie with the Statue of Liberty embroidered on it in my room."
That brought a real smile to her lips. "I guess I'm not the only one with an accent around here. And I studied in New York, so I've had some experience with the area."
"You did? Where did you study?" He had gotten close enough to her to see that her eyes were deep chocolate brown. Doe eyes, soft and innocent. She looked even more appealing than she had sitting across the room and he felt a compulsion to get to know her better. Jack noted that she wore small gold earrings, a bracelet and a watch, but no ring on her left hand. Feeling a surprising rush of relief, he stuck out his hand. "My name is Jack, by the way."
She looked at his hand as though trying to decide what to do about it. Jack halfway expected her to ignore it or, if she took it, to briefly touch his fingertips. Instead, when she took his hand she grasped it firmly and gave it a good shake. Pure electricity shot up his arm. He heard her gasp, then she stepped back, pulling on her hand and leading Jack to assume that she had felt the same jolt that he had. He held on to her, resisting her attempt to escape. She looked up at him, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly opened. He saw her look of surprise and how her eyes had darkened.
"What just happened here?" he asked. He set his drink on the railing, then took hers from her left hand and put it there, too. Gently, he pulled her toward him, bending to brush his lips against hers. His body tightened immediately when he heard a soft sigh come from her. He wrapped a hand under her ear and around the back of her head, holding her in place as he pressed his lips firmly against hers.
Suddenly, with her taste in his mouth, he wanted more. Her left hand gripped the railing as if to ground herself, and she moved her lips hesitantly against his. It was when she lightly stroked her tongue across his bottom lip that he jumped slightly, and she pulled back.
This time when she tried to take her hand, he let it go. She took a deep breath, glanced quickly at him and picked up her drink. Without a word, she opened the door.
"Wait a minute," he barked. "What's your name? Can I see you again this weekend?"
"Sally. Sally Jean. And I don't think that's a good idea. Enjoy the rest of your time here." She disappeared into the bar. Jack picked up his drink and turned to view the ocean. He frowned as he finished his Scotch. He had a partial name at least, and surely the desk clerk would remember her, so all was not lost.
He shivered slightly, but it wasn't from the chill wind. He had never been hit with an instant jolt of pure sexual heat when he touched a woman. It excited and frightened him a little too. And when she brushed her tongue across his lip, he had been so affected by it that he couldn't help but react. Truthfully, he hadn't expected her to respond to him as she had, and he liked it so much he was determined to kiss her again, whatever it took. He cast one last look at the darkened waves hitting the beach and walked inside.
An hour later Jack sat alone at a table for four in the crowded hotel dining room. He had just ordered a glass of wine and was contemplating whether he wanted an appetizer when the dining room manager approached his table.
"Sir, this is a bit unusual, but we have a problem. A very large party has just come in unexpectedly and since you are at a table for four..."
"Would you like me to move?" Jack looked around but didn't see any smaller tables available.
"No, sir. I wonder if you would mind sharing your table with another party."
"No problem. I don't mind at all."
"Thanks. A young lady has just come in and she agreed to share as well. We appreciate this very much. Your dinners will be taken care of, compliments of the management." He smiled and left the table, returning a moment later with Sally in tow. She took one look at whose table she was approaching and skidded to a halt. Jack placed his napkin on his plate and stood, smiling.
"Uh, there's a problem," she said to the manager. "I'm afraid I can't sit here. Isn't there someplace else?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am. If you'd like to wait for a couple of hours, things will improve. I'm afraid we've got two weddings and a reunion all going on this weekend. But if you'd rather wait...?"
She wore a dark brown twill skirt that picked up the colors in her jacket, had exchanged her sneakers for loafers, and looked young enough at first glance to be a college student. She looked around the dining room, then at Jack. He smiled. "I will try to act with the utmost decorum," he said. He held up the three fingers of his right hand, folding his thumb over his pinkie. "Scouts' honor."
She chuckled, then sighed and looked at the manager. "This will be fine, thanks." He held out her chair and she seated herself across the table from Jack. "Well, I certainly hope that you will conduct yourself with decorum," she said, with a smile directed at him. When she full out smiled she had deep dimples, he noted, and her dark brown eyes did sparkle, as he had suspected. She shook out her napkin and settled back into her chair. "White wine, please," she told the waiter when he came to the table. Glancing at Jack, she said, "I guess you get to see me again this weekend after all."
"I guess so," he responded. "And I'm glad." He put his napkin back in his lap and took a small sip of wine. "And I've been informed that our dinners tonight are on the house, so I'll be a cheap date."
"Cheap date? What makes you think you're my date?"
"I just thought from your reaction to my 'Southern girls' comment that you were the feminist type and would insist on taking responsibility for dinner. Was I wrong?" Sally gazed at Jack. He flashed her his most innocent look and she relaxed.
"No, no, you're right. And if you're also right about our dinners, having your company for dinner will be worth every cent it will cost me." Her drawl and dimpled smile took the sting out her comments, so Jack smiled back at her.
"I've always heard about Southern hospitality, and it's nice to experience it for myself, thanks."
She had the grace to blush. "I'm sorry. That was churlish of me. I'll behave myself for the rest of dinner, I promise."
"'Churlish.' That's not a word one hears often these days. I like it. I'll have to remember to use myself at one of my meetings. Someone is always being churlish at some point during a meeting. Of course, I'll have to hope it's not me." They smiled at each other.
Sally's wine arrived and she sipped it while she looked through the menu. Jack's menu lay beside his plate. "Want to share an appetizer? I know I want seafood for dinner, but a couple of those appetizers sound good. I was just debating whether I was hungry enough to handle one of them and dinner too, when you arrived."
"Oh, all right. I'm game for just about anything, so pick what sounds good to you. When it comes to dinner, I've had several of their house specialties here over the years, and if you're thinking along the lines of seafood, their crab stuffed flounder is excellent." The waiter returned to take their orders. They decided to share a small round of baked brie topped with honey and pecans, spread on crackers. Jack ordered the flounder Sally recommended and she ordered broiled scallops, shrimp and crab.
Over the brie, Jack picked up their conversation from where it had ended on the deck. "So, where are you from, Southern woman?"
She laughed. "Here in North Carolina. The mountains, where the women are raised up strong."
"Ah. Does that make life difficult for the men?"
"Fortunately, the men are raised up stronger. Actually, there's no one in the world happier than a true Southern man. He's secure enough in his masculinity that he can afford to be gracious in all ways to his woman, giving in sometimes, but taking the initiative to make the hard decisions when necessary. Knowing when to give in and when to take charge is an essential skill that every true Southern man is taught." She lowered her head and looked up at him, appealingly. Her doe eyes didn't look so innocent any more. Instead they shone with humor and flashed with sex appeal.
"But I'll tell you a little secret. A Southern woman is smart enough to know how to make her man think that he's the one taking charge, and of course, how to show the proper, very personal appreciation on those times he gives in. It's a delicate balance and an art that's been finely honed since our feminine Colonial ancestors first fluttered their eyelashes at members of The Virginia Company and then moved South." Sally watched to be sure he was following her logic. "You said earlier that you thought I was a feminist. I have always believed that Southern women were the first feminists, only we've used our wits to get what we want instead of being pushy. I don't know why your Northern women haven't picked up on the trick."
Jack frowned. "So basically the Southern woman is devious?"
"Strongly put, wouldn't you say?" she asked sharply. More softly she added, "But I suppose some people would agree that that's essentially correct." Then with a twinkle in her eyes she glanced around the room as if to make sure no one could hear them. "I could get drummed out of the Southern Womanhood Corps for sharing that secret, but since you're a Yankee and heading back North it doesn't matter." She took a bite of brie spread on a water cracker and sighed with pleasure. "There's something in this brie that I can't quite put my finger on. I'll have to ask the chef next week."
"Next week? You're not just here for the weekend?"
"No, like you I'm in this part of the world for a conference, only mine is here at the hotel. I came early because that's when my cousin and her fiancé were coming and I caught a ride with them. And it gives me time to relax away from work before the hectic week ahead. What is that? Do you taste it? It's so subtle." She puckered her brows, seeming to concentrate, presumably on the flavors on her tongue.
"Sorry. I just taste cheese, honey and pecans. It's good, though. Do you always concentrate so hard on your food?"
"I'm a chef, so I guess it's a habit. What do you do?"
"I'm in construction."
Their salads were delivered just then. "So you probably concentrate on whatever you construct like I do food. 'Construction' covers a lot of territory. Construction as in roads, houses, parking lots? What?"
He smiled slightly. "Construction as in big buildings. Hotels like this, sports complexes, shopping malls. Things like that." He took a bite of salad. "This is tasty. What is that bitter green? It's good with the mixture, but really hits you by itself."
She looked at what he was pointing his fork at. "Chicory. It's used in Southern salads a lot. It's also used in coffee, especially in the Deep South. It's bitter by itself but it does add a bite to the salad, doesn't it?"
"It's good. Are your cousin and her fiancé going to join you later tonight?" He glanced at her from the corner of his eye and realized he was holding his breath.
"No, they've gone up to Virginia Beach to see Beau's mother. Their wedding is this autumn and there are still lots of things to decide. I can't imagine planning a huge wedding like they're doing. I mean, I wouldn't even want a huge wedding like theirs, but even if I did, all of the little details would send me right over the edge. I can plan a sit down dinner for 500 but don't ask me to plan where to seat Uncle Harry or Aunt Henrietta's second husband's third child." She happily munched on her salad and finished the last of the brie.
"So you're not married then, or seriously involved?"
Sally stopped mid-munch and looked up. "Uh, actually, Jack, that is a small detail I might have neglected to mention." She sat back in her chair, and Jack did the same. "I am married, and it just so happens, his name is Jack, too." She smiled wanly. "Isn't that a coincidence?"
Jack was quiet for a moment. He glanced at her left hand. "But you don't wear a ring. What's wrong with your husband that he lets his beautiful wife out in public without letting people know she's taken?"
She cocked her head and looked at him with a surprised expression. "You think I'm beautiful? My mama always said my mouth was too full for my face and that I therefore missed true beauty."
"Sally, yes, I think you're beautiful, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. And your mouth is perfect, your mama is wrong."
"Well, she surely wouldn't appreciate hearing you say that, Mr ... Mr. Jack." She picked up her fork and attacked her salad. Jack couldn't believe it. She actually sounded miffed. He shook his head and finished his wine in two big gulps.
"I think I could use another glass of wine. Do you want more?" He signaled the waiter.
"No, I believe I can get through the meal with you on one glass, thank you," she said in a tight, prim voice. He couldn't help but chuckle.
"Miss Sally Jean, you are something else. Or I suppose that should be Mrs. Sally Jean, but since you choose not to wear a ring, I choose to ignore your alleged marital status. Oh good, here comes dinner." Conversation stopped temporarily as they each sampled their meals.
"Do you like scallops?" she asked, " If so, here have a couple. Then you can see if you want to try them for dinner tomorrow night if you eat here."
"I love scallops, thanks. Do you want a little of this flounder?" He watched as she put two large scallops on his plate with a little beurre blanc sauce. "Where did you study in New York?"
"No, thanks on the flounder. I attended the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park." She smiled at the look of surprise followed closely by respect that she saw in his eyes. "Actually, now I own a small restaurant."
"Really? Where? Maybe I'll come and try your cooking sometime when I'm down here."
"Oh," she hedged, "it's not anywhere you'd be coming. It's just a small place. When I'm ready to break into the big time maybe I'll recommend my architect hire you to build it for me." Her lips pulled up slightly at the ends and she raised one eyebrow at Jack.
"I'd do my best." He held up his right hand and three middle fingers again.
"Yes, I know, 'Scout's honor'. You have been a Scout, haven't you?" He just grinned at her. "I thought so," she said. They ate quietly for a few minutes.
"So how long have you been married?" Jack looked across the table and concentrated on Sally's eyes as she answered. There was something not quite right about this marriage business, and he wanted to watch how she responded to his question.
As he thought, she hesitated and looked slightly away from him as she answered. "About four years now."
"That's quite awhile. And what does Jack do?"
"Oh, a little of this and a little of that." She looked down at her plate and speared a shrimp and green bean.
"So he doesn't help you in the restaurant business?"
She seemed to consider this before answering. "Actually, he has been a very big help in my career although he doesn't play a personal role, as such." She smiled and looked him in the eyes then, as though pleased with her answer.
"I see," Jack said, although he didn't really. Maybe there was a man there, after all. Damn!
"Tell me more about your business. How did you get started in construction?"
"I went to City College in New York and studied engineering. Went into the service for a few years and when I got out decided to build stuff. It's as simple as that."
"I've found that few things are as simple as you make that sound."
"Well, there's always a first time. Want some coffee?" He leaned back in his seat and regarded her in the candlelight. "Or, would you like some dessert? I might be persuaded to split something with you as long as it's chocolaty."
"Oooh. Chocolate is one of my serious vices. I could be temped to take a few bites of a turtle sundae if you're interested." She sat up straight at the table, hands folded in front of her. Her eyes were wide and Audrey Hepburn-innocence stared back at him, hopeful, full of childlike wonder at the prospect of having a sundae.
"Let's see. I think I know what a turtle is. Cake or something, with chocolate, peanuts and caramel?"
"In this case, a brownie topped with ice cream, then chocolate, peanuts and caramel. And whipped cream. It's sinful."
"I'm all for sin," he said with a smile. He ordered coffee and the turtle sundae when the waiter came to the table to remove their dishes. "I think I'll need a walk on the beach after this meal. Care to join me?"
"Probably not a good idea. I think I'll just go back to my room and watch reruns of Law and Order or something. Maybe you should do that. It will remind you of home." She had a twinkle in her eye as she played with her spoon.
"I came down here hoping to experience some charm of the South, not be reminded of the streets of New York. So far, I've not been disappointed." The waiter placed their coffee on the table. "Cream or sugar?" Jack asked.
"No, I take it like a man. Strong and unadulterated."
He chuckled. "It's a good thing I take it black or I'd feel pretty wimpy right now."
"I'm sorry. Sometimes my mouth is in motion before my brain is in gear."
"In some circumstances I'd consider that an asset for a woman," Jack muttered. He had a quick mental image of her lush, full mouth tasting him, and his body immediately reacted.
"What?" She glanced at him sharply.
"You're a very unusual woman, Sally Jean. By the way, why is it that Southerners all seem to have two names?"
"Northerners just think we all have two names. Not true at all. I was just telling my friend, Tammy Lynn, the other day that I don't know where people got the impression that we all have two names." Jack laughed out loud, and Sally joined in. "You're a pretty nice guy, Jack. Thanks for letting me join you."
"I enjoyed it too."
The waiter arrived with the turtle sundae and two spoons. Jack changed seats so they could share more easily. He glanced at Sally and saw her gazing at the dessert. Slowly, she ran her tongue across her lips in anticipation and his groin tightened almost to the point of pain. Sally picked up her spoon and started to dip out a portion of gooey chocolate but she stopped and looked inquiringly at Jack. "You ready to dig in?"
"I'm ready for something," Jack said with a lazy smile, "and I'll start with the sundae." Sally shot him a look that showed her Lauren Bacall sizzle, and once again Jack wondered how two such different personas could be in that one compact package. It was intriguing and sexy as hell.
Jack watched Sally as she put the spoon in her mouth, then closed her eyes as she savored the flavor.
He couldn't take his eyes off of her. When she opened her eyes and stared right into his, he knew he couldn't have gotten up from the table at that moment even if the building had been on fire. He reached over and wiped chocolate from the side of her mouth with his thumb then licked it off. He heard a soft gasp from her as she focused on him tasting the chocolate that had been on her mouth just seconds before.
"You'd better eat some of this before there isn't any left." Her voice was low and husky. She lowered her head and looked up at him as she scooped another bite of ice cream mixed with caramel, chocolate and nuts onto her spoon. Jack took a bite. With little conversation, they finished the dessert quickly and leaned back in their chairs for a second cup of coffee.
"I wish you'd come out onto the beach with me," Jack said in a low voice. The casual tone of his voice was belied by the blaze of desire that gripped him. "You know I'm not from here. What if I get lost? You'd be responsible as the native North Carolinian."
"I hardly think you'll get lost. Start off walking with the ocean on your left; eventually turn around and walk back keeping the ocean on your right. It's not difficult." Sally picked up her spoon and examined it, licking off a spot of chocolate.
"Damn it! I wish you'd stop that."
Sally laughed, put the spoon down then looked at Jack guilelessly. "You know very well why I won't go for a walk on the beach with you."
"Yeah. Husband. Kiss. Who knows what might happen?"
"Right! Now, I've got to go to my room and get ready for that Law and Order rerun." Her dimples flashed as she smiled, taking his breath away. She reached for her wallet and laid a ten dollar bill on the table. "My part of the tip," she explained. "This was very pleasant, Jack. Maybe I'll see you around Saturday or Sunday." She stood to leave and Jack stood too, throwing another ten dollar bill on the table.
"The least I can do to show my manners is walk you to your room." He put his hand against her back and guided her through the dining room, into the lobby to the elevators.
Sally pressed the button for the third floor and leaned against the back wall, her arm barely touching Jack's. Although the contact was minimal, her arm burned where it touched his. He was tall and she felt small and feminine next to him. She breathed in his scent. Old Spice, she determined, and was strangely pleased that he wore something classic and no-nonsense rather than one of those designer fragrances that seemed more like perfumes than after shave. Within moments the elevator doors opened on the third floor and she stepped forward. Jack followed.
Once in the hallway, Sally turned and looked up at him. "You've seen me to my hall, and I appreciate that, but there's no need to come all the way to the door. I'm perfectly safe."
"Call me old fashioned but I like to see a lady to her door."
She laughed. "How do you know I'm a lady? And for that matter, my state is the host here. Maybe I should walk you to your door to make sure you get there safely."
"Maybe you should. I've already mentioned concerns about my sense of direction. I have a very nice suite overlooking the beach, and a huge Jacuzzi tub."
She assumed a strong accent. "I, sir, am a married woman. I do not cavort with strange men in Jacuzzi tubs."
"That's too bad, because this tub is just the right size for cavorting." He gave an exaggerated sigh. "I guess I will leave you here then. Thanks for keeping me from eating alone, Sally Jean." Before she could respond, he put his hand behind her neck and drew her to him. She jumped as his lips touched hers, sighed as he ran his tongue across them, moaned softly as she parted them and his tongue gained entrance to her mouth. Her hands found their way around his waist and linked behind his back. His arm slid over her shoulder and down the length of her back, pulling her close. Jack tapped his tongue against Sally's, urging a response as his lips caressed hers and his hand cupped her buttocks to hold her fast. When he broke for breath, he buried his face in her soft curly hair. His breath was ragged, as was hers.
"Maybe I should take a look at your view and make sure you've gotten your money's worth with that suite. I wouldn't want you to go home feeling put upon by us."
"I would appreciate that," he whispered. He took her hand and pushed the elevator button. When they got off on the ninth floor, Jack led Sally to the end of the hall and opened the door. She entered, immediately going to the sliding door on the opposite side of the living area. Pulling the curtains back, she looked out onto a stretch of sand, silvery in the early moonlight, and waves hitting the shore.
"It's a very nice view," she said.
"It certainly is."
She could see his reflection in the glass, looking at her. "Know what? I'm suddenly and inexplicably nervous. I don't do this sort of thing, you see. I don't know how to have a one night stand, even with a handsome, interesting stranger like you." She dropped the curtain and turned to face him.
He stood before her, all six feet of him, seeming harmless enough. His coal black hair gleamed in the lamplight and his gray eyes studied her face. There was just the hint of a dark ring around the irises, making them very prominent in his face. She admitted to herself with a sigh that she had never seen a more gorgeous man.
"I'm not very experienced, and after the way I was teasing you at dinner I know you probably expect much more than I'll be able to give you." She gave a snort and held her hands out in front of her, palms out. "Or will even know how to give you. I should leave now before I become more of an embarrassment to myself and a burden to you." She started to step around him, but he took hold of her arm to stop her.
"You're making a lot of assumptions. I think there's something between us. I felt it earlier out on the deck and I know you did too. It's not something I feel with every woman, believe me. I don't know what I expect us to find with each other, but I want to explore it. I want you, Sally, very much. Don't you want me? Even just a little?" The cadence of his voice was soothing and as he spoke, he ran his hands up and down her arms, inching closer to her.
Sally took a deep breath and looked into Jack's eyes. "It's just ... Look, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I don't normally have dinner with a man and then jump into bed with him. Particularly not when he didn't even have to pay for the dinner." Jack burst into laughter, which brought a smile to her face. "There is something kind of intriguing about you and I have to admit to a certain tingle when you touch me. It would be interesting to see what came after the tingle." Jack began to put his arms around her when she put her hands on his chest and pushed him away. "However. I don't like the thought of sex as a trifling activity. So, I'm afraid it's goodbye, Jack." She turned dramatically and pulled the curtains back to view the ocean again. "I think you should leave now," she announced, rather imperiously
"But, Sally. This is my room." Jack said it very softly and with a hint of a smile in his voice.
"Oh, yeah." She smiled sheepishly at his reflection.
He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned to her ear. "Look, I don't want our time together to be trifling, but I do want to be with you. More than I've wanted to be with anyone in a very long time. Why don't I step out of the room for a few minutes and let you think through this? If you're still here when I come back, I'll be very happy. If not, then we can wave to each other across the dining room tomorrow morning. Isn't that fair?" She hesitantly nodded. "But I hope you'll be here when I come back." He pushed her hair off of her neck and nibbled the place where her neck met her shoulder. Then he dropped his hands, smiled at her in the window glass and left.
Sally dropped the curtains and wrapped her arms around her waist. What should I do? she wondered. Although she was almost thirty, she was definitely a novice when it came to sex. Out of curiosity more than desire, she had lost her virginity in the backseat of her boyfriend's car her senior year of high school. The episode was decidedly uninspiring, and she hadn't been anxious to try it again. Even so, much to her consternation, Roger, her boyfriend, hadn't asked her to try it again. Not one to give up, she eventually had decided that her disappointment in the activity had been all Roger's fault. So at the CIA, after an evening of "I-need-a-break-from-all-this-pressure" partying, she had gone to the bedroom of a fellow student and tried again, with the same dismal results. She just wasn't good at sex. Oh, she knew she excelled in making puff pastry or roasting a lamb with mint and orange sauce, preparing beef Wellington or making a Hollandaise that didn't break down, but when it came to satisfying a man, she stunk. And that, she thought to herself, is why I'm getting out of here, right this minute.
She started toward the door, but was waylaid when she glanced into the bedroom. What kind of man was Jack? It had only been a matter of moments since he left, and Sally thought she had time for a little judicious snooping. After all, this man had kissed her without being given leave, making her feel something she had never felt, making her respond in a way she didn't know she ever could. She had a right to know something more about him, didn't she? "Well, of course," she muttered. "Who more?"
A suitcase was closed and zipped on the rack at the foot of the bed, which had yet to be turned down. She slipped open a couple of drawers in the bureau, finding them empty. That was interesting. She had sworn he was the kind who unpacked immediately, hanging his pajamas and putting his undies neatly in the drawers, all lined up in little rows. The zipped suitcase called to her, almost begging her to open it and explore, but she resisted that much intrusion into Jack's privacy. Instead, she took a quick glance in the closet, which revealed only a couple of shirts, slacks, and a sports jacket. Next to the sink in the bathroom was his shaving kit. She could smell the Old Spice and the faint scent of mint--toothpaste or mouthwash--in the air.
"If you're trying to determine if I wear boxers or briefs, there's an easier way." His voice came from behind her, making her jump.
Hand over her heart, she spun to see him standing next to the bed, a quirky smile on his face. "You scared half a life out of me," she exclaimed. "Didn't your mother ever tell you it isn't polite to sneak up on people?" She fanned herself with her hand and started out of the bathroom, but he swiftly intercepted her, leaning against the doorjamb and blocking her path. He was almost grinning.
"That's rich. Didn't your mother ever tell you it's not polite to snoop through other people's things?"
"Snoop? Why, I never! I certainly was not snooping. I have no more interest in your things than the man in the moon. Just as I was leaving I thought I heard water running and came in here to check. I see of course that everything looks all right, so I'll be on my way now, if you don't mind." She tossed her curls, stuck her chin out and tried to force her way past Jack.
"Liar." Jack did grin now, as he looked down at her trying to scoot past him. "And I do mind. To tell the truth, I wouldn't have been too surprised to find you gone when I got back, but I'm so glad you stayed." Sally froze. She couldn't get past Jack without rubbing against him. He stroked her hair and bent to kiss the back of her neck. "You weren't really going to leave, were you?" His breath was hot against her skin.
"Yes, yes I was." Her voice had turned raspy, much to her dismay. She cleared her throat as Jack continued his tender assault on her neck. "And I think I will now. Oh my!" she sighed. "Let me pass. Hmmm." She rolled her head to the right to give him greater access to her neck, bracing herself with her hand against the doorframe.
Jack placed a hand on her waist, then slowly moved it up under her jacket to cup her breast. Instead of pulling away, Sally leaned into his hand, making soft little noises in her throat. He turned and leaned his back against the frame, pulling her into his arms. His lips were pliant and warm on hers, and she felt herself melt into him. He ran his tongue across her lips and then dropped tiny kisses along her jaw line. He swept one arm under her knees and lifted her. Her arms went around his neck, her head on his shoulder as he carried her to the bed.
Her jacket was the first thing to go, and shortly after that Jack had unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it off her shoulders, leaving her in her skirt and a white, cotton bra. Jack kissed the curve of her breasts above her bra, then clamped his lips around her nipple through the material. The feeling it evoked in her was amazing. Hot, wet, almost painful, her nipple was so erect. She threw her head back and her hands grabbed at the bedspread, bunching it in her fists. Jack raised up long enough to unhook her bra and pull it off of her.
Sally opened her eyes and saw that him gazing at her breasts. When she tried to cover herself, he stopped her, pushing her arms over her head. Sally felt heat infuse her cheeks as she lay with her head back and arms raised; she bit her lower lip, embarrassed. But when Jack once again took her nipple in his mouth and she felt his lips directly on her skin, she forgot her embarrassment and felt exhilarated by what she was experiencing.
Jack moved up on the bed to take Sally's mouth in a crushing kiss. His hand massaged the breast he hadn't kissed and pinched her nipple into a hard pebble. His tongue ravished her mouth. He felt in such total control, he was startled when Sally responded commandingly with her tongue. She lowered her arms enough to begin unbuttoning his shirt. When she had trouble with the final button, Jack sat up and ripped it off. He made quick work of ridding her of her skirt, shoes and panties and then finished removing his own clothing.
He reached for a bag on the nightstand and took out a foil wrapped condom. As he stretched out full length beside her, he ran his hand between her legs, forcing them open so that he could cup her mons and run his fingers between the folds of her labia. Sally gasped, in shock or pleasure he didn't know. With surprise, he found that she was more than ready for him. The sense of anticipation was almost more than he could bear. He rolled the condom on and, taking one look into her eyes, nearly black with lust, he moved between her legs.
"Sally, I want you. Are you sure you want me? No recriminations about your husband or your honor or anything? Say it now, sweetheart, because in a minute there will be no turning back."
"Jack and I have a very open kind of marriage," she panted. "I would appreciate it if you would bring this act to a completion soon, sir, because I'm about to die here." Jack chuckled, but soon sobered as he slipped slowly into Sally's tight opening. She gasped with each press of his hips, as her body took more of him and adjusted to his size. She fisted his hair, lips parted, throwing her head back with pure pleasure, as Jack sank further and further into her heat. When he was fully encased in her, he held steady, breathing hard, his weight supported on his elbows. He looked into Sally's eyes, which were wide as they gazed back into his.
"Well, my little Southern belle, here we are. Are you all right? I haven't hurt you, have I?" He murmured the words, gazing alternately at her eyes and full mouth, bruised from their kisses.
She gazed back. "Hurt me? No, quite the contrary. This is better than a turtle sundae." Jack laughed, although her tightness and his instinctual need to stimulate them with movement made it a short laugh.
"I hope it will end up being far better than that, Sally," he murmured, touching her lips with his in several light kisses. He rocked his hips gently and watched her face as the fullness in her ebbed and then returned. "You are so beautiful," he whispered. "And so tight. I think you were made just for me." He kissed her deeply as his thrusts increased, and when her breath was uneven and she cried out in her pleasure, he was ready to let go, too.
Posted January 5, 2010
This is a nicely drawn modern romance between a Southern belle and a Northern gentleman. Their relationship is marked by the sparks that fly between them, both sexual heat and friction as their personalities clash. Ms. Knight does a great job with her characters, making them realistic with flaws and endearing strengths. The plot is fairly simple, including their meeting each other while each is out of town on business, separating with each wanting more, and then meeting once again at her grandfather's funeral. Along the way, the belle manufactures some drama, and while the gentleman makes some missteps, he generally does all of the right things. Her overreactions and misinterpreting of his actions are not enough to quench their feelings for one another. At the end, though, the only real reason why they "shouldn't" be together vanishes unnecessarily in a puff of smoke. I like Ms. Knight's writing style and her steamy sex scenes, and her characters are interesting, but that insinuating plot un-twist within 20 pages of the end of the book was unnecessary and seemed like she was trying to buff Prince Charming's armor just a little too much.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.