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Jonas Berringer flipped the Closed sign on the door of the soap shop, Au Naturel. For the ten hours that the shop was open, all he could think about was being alone with the owner, Tessa Rose.
It was a swelteringly hot Philadelphia evening, which was the norm lately. Though it was cool in the storefront, the air-conditioning making it cool where he stood. Plain wood shelves were artfully stacked with every color and scent of soap and lotion he could imagine. Small baskets of samples, lip balms and various other trinkets and testers were placed strategically where customers would find them.
It was classy, elegant and yet still somehow warm and inviting, much like Tessa herself. Aromas of what he now recognized as jasmine, sandalwood, orange and vanilla, among others, filtered through his senses.
The back room wasn't air-conditioned, and a blast of heat hit him as he walked into the small foundry, the workroom where Tessa made her products.
It was a little bigger than the actual store and twice as pungent. He'd gotten used to it though, and it didn't seem overwhelming anymore.
Several tubs and two stoves took up almost all of one wall, and there were shelves of wood soap molds and various containers, amber vials and tools there, as well. On the other side of the room, shelves of curing soaps lined a wall next to a refrigerated unit where more perishable supplies were kept. There was a table for cutting and wrapping next to the desk where Tessa did her accounting.
"Jonas," she said, her pretty blue-grey eyes warming as she looked up before he announced his presence. He knew that she'd been waiting for him, too. They'd been dancing around this, around each other, for several weeks. Now, it was finally going to happen.
He closed the distance between them, oblivious to the slippery coating of lotions and oils slathered on her hands; she'd been working. He didn't care about the mess as he pulled her up against him.
"Jonas!" she exclaimed with a laugh before he covered her mouth with his in a hot kiss that left no guessing as to how hungry he was for her. He walked her back until she was pinned between him and the table behind her. She moaned, pressing tight against him, returning his passion kiss for kiss.
Jonas buried his face in her neck. "You like driving me crazy, don't you?" he accused playfully, nipping her earlobe.
Tessa had always been hands off. The boss's daughter. A woman way out of his league. But being around her 24/7 for the past weeks had pushed his control to the limit, and now all bets were off.
She sighed against his cheek as he nibbled at the soft lines of her throat, and then pulled away.
"I've been trying my hardest. I thought you'd never give in," she said with a sexy smile. "You and that iron control of yours."
"You have too many clothes on," he said gruffly.
Continuing to smile at him in that minxlike way she had, she wiped her hands on a nearby cloth and slid the smock from her shoulders that she always wore while making her soaps and lotions.
Underneath, there was a simple yellow sundress with a halter top tied around her very graceful neck. When she reached up to hang the smock on a hook by the worktable, he could see her delectable shape outlined underneath.
He wanted to touch and kiss every inch of her.
"I'll be right back. I need to lock up," she said, sliding him a glance, still playing. Tempting him. Making him wait.
"I already did. We're alone. Come here," he said. "You're so demanding," she murmured, returning to his arms.
"Desperate for you is more like it," he whispered against her lips.
"I like the sound of that," she purred. "And I feel the same way."
"I can't get you out of my head," he confessed, his arms sliding around her.
His hands shook with the effort to slow down, reminding himself that Tessa was a woman to be cherished. A woman he cherished.
He gasped when she nipped at his lower lip with her teeth, apparently rejecting his gentle approach.
"Don't hold back, Jonas," she said in clear invitation, linking her arms around his neck.
He swallowed hard, sliding his hands up over her slim arms and shoulders, tugging at the halter tie. Her eyes became smoky, her nipples hardening under the thin fabric.
"I'll give you whatever you want," he promised, and he meant it. "Whatever you need."
"Just you," she said, sending his pulse racing.
He pushed the dress down until her pretty breasts were bared to his view. His eyes moved over her as if unable to completely absorb how gorgeous she was. Taking a peach-toned nipple between his fingers, he pinched gently, then soothed and pinched again, watching her head fall back, cherry lips parting, the pulse in her throat pounding.
She tugged both his hands up to her breasts and covered them with her own, squeezing. She was so openly sexual, it mesmerized him.
"More, Jonas," she said, making his cock jerk in response.
Gentleness was forgotten in the wake of desire that took him over. Her apartment was right upstairs, her bed just seconds away, but that was too far, too long to wait. He'd take her here, as he had been fantasizing about for days.
Tugging the rest of her dress away, he pulled her up against him for a deep, hard kiss that made them both breathless, his hands everywhere. Over her shoulder, he perused the shelf of oils and ingredients, breaking the kiss to reach back for a bottle of sweet almond oil.
Dropping a light kiss to her neck as he poured the rich-smelling oil in his hands, and smoothed the slippery-soft substance over her skin. He started with her slim shoulders, strong from the work she did, but still so delicately shaped. Then he worked his hands down over the slope of her back and hips. She leaned back into him with a sigh when he slid around to her front, where he spent long minutes massaging her breasts until her head dropped forward and a small moan delivered from her throat.
She was like a piece of sensual art, a perfectly sculpted woman come to life under his hands.
"Jonas, this all feels good, but I need more," she said, pulling away as she turned to face him. She stood before him in nothing but slight, yellow satin panties, her skin gleaming where he'd worked the oil over her. "You have no idea how much I want you," she said, looping her thumbs into the scrap of material and sliding it off until there was nothing between them.
"I think I have some idea," he whispered, taking off his own jeans and shirt. She walked into his arms and they were skin to skin, finally. The satisfaction of it was mind-boggling.
He ran his hands reverently over her thighs, the rounded globes of her ass, the curve of her hips. His erection jutted against her, eager and needy.
"I want you, Tessa," he said, his breath catching as he kissed her.
"Then take me," she invited with a sultry gaze.
He reached for an open jar of honey she had forgotten to put away and dripped golden dollops on her breasts then licked them off. As he finished, she was shuddering and straining toward him, her nails digging into his arms.
His hand slid under her knee to pull her leg up around his hip, his cock brushing against the silky, wet flesh he wanted to bury himself in.
"Jonas, please," she begged. "Now."
let's make it last," he said. As much as he wanted her, something bothered him. There was something about the light in the room that didn't seem right. He looked around, making sure they were alone.
A lingering sense of dread held him off for a few more seconds.
What was wrong?
Tessa moved against him, oblivious to any problem.
But it was his job to protect her. That was why he was there in the first place, her hired bodyguard. There had been some threats against Senator Rose and his family, and Jonas had been more than willing to keep an eye on Tessa. In fact, he'd found it difficut to take his eyes off of her.
He glanced around the foundry once more. Nothing was out of place. He was imagining things, and turned his attention back to the woman in his arms.
Words evaporated for long, steamy moments as Jonas gripped her hips, lifting her up completely against him so that he could plunder her mouth as he thrust forward, planting himself deep inside her welcoming body. She was hot, tight, and they fit perfectly, as he knew they would.
She pulled back, watching him as he thrust into her. He could tell when she bit her lip, her eyelids fluttering shut, long lashes brushing her cheeks, that she was close.
He found a steady rhythm and tried to focus on every nuance of her as he held her. Small sounds came from her throat that were sexier than hell, her mouth forming a perfect O as she trembled and started to careen over the edge.
He bent to suckle a breast, flicking his tongue against her hardened nipple. That small touch pushed her over. A soft scream fell from her lips, her body tensing and pulsing around him as she came.
Jonas wanted to join her, but he needed more, thrusting faster, harder, focusing on the heat of her body, how soft her skin was under his hands. Her inner muscles fisted around him tightening and releasing again as she writhed in his arms, and he moved faster.
The satisfaction he'd craved was so close it was almost torture, but he couldn't quite get there. His body burned as he drove himself into her, precariously hanging on the edge of the orgasm of his life.
Tessa leaned back in his arms, watching him curiously, her expression serene, happy and satisfied, but somehow distant.
"My father is not going to be very happy about this," she said, sliding her hands up over her ripe breasts, smiling at him. The room around her became hazy and unreal in a way that made him squint.
Then she became transparent, too, the tight heat of her body fading.
"No, wait, please," he cried out, reaching for her.
The golden light around her was fading. The acute emptiness, the ache of satisfaction denied made him gasp in agony, chilled now, shivering.
He was alone. Only darkness remained.
Jonas shuddered with cold as his eyes opened, unseeing, but awake nonetheless. He was sweating and the AC was blasting directly on him. As he rolled to the side, he swore as his foot tangled in a sheet and nearly sent him sprawling on the floor.
He was still hard from the dream, and even the cold blast from the AC didn't seem to diminish the ache between his legs. His body jerked as he remembered Tessa's imaginary touch. The emptiness that always followed the dream was an ache in his chest.
Providing his own release wasn't an attractive option. It wasn't an orgasm he craved; it was Tessa.
He had to get her out of his mind or he was going to go crazy. He supposed it was his punishment, a special little kind of hell, for letting himself get distracted from his job. He'd been assigned to protect her, not have sex with her.
He should have turned around and walked out the first time he entered the shop. When he saw her, it was like being set on fire. Jonas had had plenty of women in his life, but none that made him want at first sight. Not like Tessa.
Senator Rose was responsible for sending Berringer Security several contracts, particularly after Jonas's younger brother had successfully prevented a kidnapping attempt on the senator a few years earlier.
James Rose had even become a friend of sorts. When he'd asked them to guard his daughter after receiving threats concerning a bill he was authoring, they couldn't refuse. The senator had trusted Jonas to keep his daughter safe, and he'd done a rotten job of it. Not one of Jonas's better moments.
Jonas did the usual background checks, and he knew about Tessa's reputation going in. The senator's "wild child," Tessa was a free spirit, nonconformist. She was also heart-stoppingly beautiful and completely off-limits.
Father and daughter had a tumultuous relationship, to say the least. From what Jonas had seen at a distance, Tessa looked like one more spoiled rich girl who liked to rub her father's nose in her exploits. He'd known plenty of that particular type over the years.
Tessa had made several questionable choices in relationships, among other things, that seemed more about thwarting her father's control than anything else.
However, Jonas discovered that the view up close was somewhat different. For one thing, Tessa wasn't a girl anymore, but a mature woman who ran a successful business. As he got to know her, he couldn't help but see her in a different light, though he knew her relationship with her father was still troubled.
Getting in between the senator and his daughter was dangerous. Jonas had to pick one side or the other, and he chose the side that paid the bills. Besides, he knew too well how that kind of slip could come back and bite you in the ass.
Guarding Tessa had been a little more intense than his usual assignments. They'd been around each other 24/7 for several weeks, almost constantly together. He didn't let her out of his sight, day or night, as per the senator's orders. It made it harder to control the heat that had flared between them.
Tessa wasn't big on control, and she tempted his from every angle she could. One night, when they'd returned from a party, he'd given in, right in the parking lot behind the store.
He'd watched her all evening, dancing with friends in a dress that had been molded to her, what there was of it, anyway. A few of the friends she'd danced with had been male, and it made Jonas want to claim her as his in a very basic way.
Ridiculous, but true.
Her sharing even an innocent dance with another man had driven him crazy, and by the time they'd returned home, he couldn't hold back any longer.
He was so distracted that he hadn't noticed someone watching them from a dark corner of the lot.
The guy had approached from behind while he had her in his arms. A hard slam to the head had knocked him out. Tessa had fought back and, admirably, had taken out the intruder with a bat she kept in the back seat of her car.
Jonas had awakened at the hospital later, completely blind.
The senator's aide, Howie, was the first voice he heard after the doctors told him about his condition; apparently Rose wasn't available.