Cat's Lair(6)

By: Christine Feehan

His voice could mesmerize. At least it was mesmerizing her. She nodded, because his eyes refused to leave her face, drifting over her intently.

He frowned suddenly “Are you afraid of me? All this time I just thought you were shy, but you’re afraid of me.” He made the last a statement.

She looked away from him. Thankfully whatever was inside of her, threatening to burst free, had subsided along with the terrible need to feel Ridley’s hands and mouth on her body.

His fingers settled gently on her chin and he turned her face toward him. “I wouldn’t hurt you. You don’t know me, but I would never harm a woman. I’m not like that. I’m new in town and you’re at the dojo and make fantastic coffee, that’s all. I wanted a little company. Just to talk to, Cat. That’s all. End of story.”

It was impossible to look into his eyes and not believe him. Up close she could smell him, and he smelled nice. Very nice. Very masculine. His lashes were long and thick, framing his incredible golden eyes. His tattoos were just as intricate and intriguing as he was. They crawled up his arms, drawing attention to his amazing and very defined muscles.

He was still looking at her and hadn’t blinked once. His fingers remained firm but gentle on her chin. She’d forgotten that she’d been so mesmerized by his eyes. Catarina forced air into her lungs and smiled. Before she could speak he shook his head.

“I saw the genuine thing, Cat. You smiled at Bernard. You gave him the real smile, the high voltage one that can knock a man off his feet at two hundred yards. I don’t want a pretend smile. Give me the real thing or don’t smile at me at all. I’m telling you again, I don’t hurt women.”

His voice was pure velvet. She shivered, his tone smoothing over her skin. “I’m sorry. I’m not afraid of you.” A blatant lie. “I just don’t talk much.” That was lame. More than lame. She was a total idiot, but maybe that would save her.

Ridley’s fingers slid from her chin. He didn’t move, his thigh tight against hers on the narrow steps. “Unfortunately for you, Kitten, I am very adept at knowing a lie when I hear one. I’ve done my best to reassure you, but talk is cheap. I guess I’ll just have to show you I’m a nice guy.”

She was certain he was not. Oh, not like Rafe Cordeau. Not like that. But he was dangerous. She knew dangerous men, and this one sitting beside her was no domestic kitty cat. He was a tiger, all raw power and razor-sharp focus. But he wasn’t bad dangerous. He was just plain scary dangerous. And a heartbreaker.

She sighed, hating that she actually felt the loss of his fingers on her skin – hating that every single cell in her body was aware of him. He was a good ten years older in years and experience. There were scars. There were the tats. There was the cool confidence and the lines in his face that only seemed to add to his masculine beauty.

She knew what he saw when he looked at her. She’d always looked young and she was barely twenty-one. He would consider her someone he had to look after, just as Malcom did. That was safe. She needed safe, especially around this man.

“Maybe I am a little afraid of you,” she forced herself to admit. “I’ve seen you in the dojo and you’re rather terrifying.” That much was true, and if he really were as adept at reading lies then he’d have to hear the sincerity in her voice.

“That’s a place of practice. This is a coffee-house. Unless you’re going to stand up in front of that mic and read off some really bad poetry, I don’t think you have a thing to worry about,” he assured.

There was a drawling amusement in his voice, one that made her want to laugh with him, but it was as sexy as all get-out, and she couldn’t make a noise. Not a single sound for a few seconds. She cleared her throat. “I’m not good at talking to people.”

“You talk just fine to Malcom. In fact, you laugh when you’re with him. It’s the only time I’ve seen you actually laugh.”

Her heart jumped. She tensed and knew he felt it. Still, as hard as she tried she couldn’t relax. Had he been watching her? Why? What did that mean? She bit down on her lower lip, a little afraid that she was so paranoid even such a simple statement could make her want to run.

“Malcom isn’t people.”

“I know he’s your friend,” Ridley conceded. “He’s very closed-mouth about you and protective.”

She turned her eyes on him. Fixed. Focused. Alert. “Were you asking him questions about me?”

“Of course I was. You’re beautiful. Mysterious. A turn-on in the dojo. When you move, honestly, Kitten, I’ve never seen anything like it. You’re fast and fluid and hot as hell. You put James Marley down with one punch. One. You hit him exactly on his weak spot and dropped him like a ton of bricks. Your eyes are amazing, and so is your hair. You have the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. Are you telling me Malcom doesn’t get asked about you regularly? Women like you don’t walk the streets alone at night. That’s just asking for trouble.”