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Not tonight. No, tonight he didn't want to play the mating game. All he wanted was pleasant company with no commitments. No promises or obligations. A third woman stopped the two who had waved at him. As one, they turned to scrutinize him, clear speculation written across their faces. Determination. Sam knew what a wild animal felt like, trapped with nowhere to hide. His gaze darted back to the dark-haired woman sitting on her own, and he came to a quick decision.
His savior--although she might not appreciate the fact.
A soft smile played across sensual lips while she watched both the dancers and the people at the bar. There was an intriguing stillness about her, as if she were content with her own company, but that didn't stop Sam from striding away from the bar, navigating the dancers on the floor, to reach her side. Up close, she had a quiet beauty with creamy soft skin and sapphire blue eyes surrounded by a mass of dark lashes. She wasn't a woman who screamed, "look at me," but her full curves appealed to him. Nothing worse than a string-bean woman with jutting hipbones and stick arms. No, he preferred someone healthy and robust, who didn't look as if she'd break when he held her.
"Hello, darling," he said and he lifted her off the chair, hauling her into his arms. Before she had a chance to react, he lowered his head and kissed her. To anyone else, to the three women stalking him, it would appear like a quick peck between friends, but with this woman, something changed. Shock roared through him and he froze. He pulled back enough so he could stare down at her, trying to fathom the sense of possessiveness that had blindsided him without warning. Yes, her eyeswere beautiful. Stunning. The freckles across the bridge of her nose were cute. She smelled of wildflowers, a light, natural scent that didn't make his eyes water or bring on a sneeze.
This woman was...
No way. No how! Not possible. He wasn't going to act on the instinct screaming through him. He'd traveled that road before. No, all he intended to do was chat, maybe dance and reassure himself that this love at first sight stuff really was a load of crap. And of course, avoid the three stooges stalking him at the same time.
He released the woman and offered her a grin, the charming type his mother and sisters accused him of using whenever he wanted something.
"Hello, I'm Sam. You don't know it yet, but you've just saved my life. I can't thank you enough."
"If you wanted an original pickup line, you've found it," she said dryly, cocking her head slightly to the side to look up at him. Her voice was low and throaty. Seductive. And her mouth. Oh, yeah. Her bottom lip glistened, the plump pink curve highlighted with a gloss of some kind. Sam wanted to touch, but curled his hands to fists to halt the impulse.
"You haven't heard my best ones yet." Sam held out his hand and waited for her to acknowledge his greeting.
"Oh?" The beginnings of a grin twitched at the corner of her sexy lips, but didn't go any farther. Slowly, she stepped back to put a more respectable distance between them. Sam's heart thudded violently without warning, and he found himself wanting to make her smile. He could imagine her face lighting up and wanted to see if his imagination matched the truth.
"How much will you charge me for a smile?"
"You're funny." Slowly, she placed her hand in his. When she tipped back her head to study him and their hands touched, a sharp spark of desire flared up his arm. His sharp inhalation sounded loud, harsh to his ears, but the woman didn't seem to notice. Her attention centered on his lips, in the same way he'd looked at hers. She seemed mesmerized, certainly as interested as he was in touching, tasting her mouth and making her smile. Suddenly Sam felt like he was back at school, a teenager with a crush on the most popular girl in his class. He wanted to swallow and shuffle his feet. He wanted to caress her mouth again in the worst possible way. This time he'd make the kiss slower. Deepen it. Explore. Conquer. The unwanted thought registered, and he frowned, drawing back and releasing her hand.
"And yet I haven't made you smile," he said. "I can't be as funny as you thought." Sam had to clear his throat, something that surprised him since he hadn't felt uncomfortable or ill at ease with a female for as long as he could remember. He frowned inwardly. "I'm going to have to kiss you again. Should I apologize first? Oops, no time." He grasped her shoulders firmly and, with his fingers, gently lifted her chin. Their eyes met and his pulse jumped. Incredible, he thought. The shuffle of feet behind them and a wave of cough-inducing designer perfume told him he was out of time. His mouth swooped to capture hers--his mystery lady. He'd kissed many women. He liked kissing women, and thought he was pretty good at it. This kiss felt different. Heat flared between them, and he felt her shiver in the conflagration. Pleasure radiated outward and he stepped right into the fire, letting his hands wander across the silky fabric covering her shoulders, her back. The blood roared through his veins. His eager response, fueled by her equally natural reaction, sent shockwaves skittering through him. And surprise. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't, wouldn't trust his instincts with women again. That way lay trouble. He pulled back subtly, easing away from the kiss.
Aware his trio of stalkers hovered in the vicinity, waiting for an opportunity to approach, he tightened his grip on the woman and took her hand. Crazy. He should thank her for the save and leave. But he didn't. "Would you like to dance?"
A slight frown creased her forehead. She opened her mouth, as if she might reject him.
"Please," he said hurriedly. "You haven't even given me a smile yet. I look upon that as a challenge."
"Women don't say no to you, do they?"