Sold into Marriage(9)

By: Ann Major


When Adam frowned at the man, he hurried away.

“French waiters,” Adam muttered. “Do I bring out the worst in them or what?”

“It’s probably me, my French, but I’m sure we shouldn’t take his behavior personally. It’s a French waiter thing.”

“Glad you’re philosophical.”

“Moving on. I don’t usually entice men at windows,” she blurted.

“Does that mean I’m special?”

“No!”

“Hidden agendas,” he teased. “Yours…and mine. You’re here and so am I. You left your apartment. You asked me out.”

“My feet were cold.”

“Still, I’m flattered…by all your attentions this evening.”

She blushed again, and so charmingly Adam felt her heat all the way across the small round table. Suddenly he was glad of the block of wood between them that kept her a safe distance away.

What was it about her? Why did he want her?

She was not that beautiful.

He eyed her slim, golden throat, her breasts. He wanted to touch her too much, to pull her close, to nuzzle her beautiful neck and drink in the smell of her skin. He wanted to lick her, to taste her, to devour her.

“I’m not usually a damned voyeur, either,” he muttered fiercely.

“Obviously, we bring out the worst in each other.”

She ran her fingernails along the top of her wineglass and looked away. Then with a frown, she tore off a hunk of dark bread and began to spoon the escargot onto the little plate in front of her.

“So, why did you come out with me?” he asked.

“We couldn’t just keep standing there. Not when my toes were numb.”

“I feel like kissing your toes.”

She looked away, and he knew why. Because to look at each other was to drown, to surrender to something wild and dark and unnamable.

Their eyes met again and not quite by accident. Again, he felt a zing of fiery warmth, and she quickly lowered her gaze.

Suddenly he was very glad she’d chosen this bistro with its smoke-smudged walls and tables filled with other people rather than his apartment, where they would be totally alone with a bed in the next room. Even here, it was all too easy to imagine her in his apartment, willingly naked in his arms, lying underneath him on that narrow bed, her soft body a perfect fit. She would be warm, silky, tight. She’d taste delicious. In his mind, he stripped her and got harder as he kept imagining her naked underneath him, writhing.

He clenched his fists. He had reasons to fear her. Memories…

Flickering candlelight glimmered in her red curls. Her green eyes sparked with childlike delight every time she looked up shyly from slathering globs of butter on her thick rye crust.

She was eating the crusts, his favorite part of the loaf. Oddly, he liked that they had that in common.

“Do you want some bread?” she whispered.

“Not yet.”

“It will be all gone.”

“I’ll order more.”

She lowered her gaze, and he tried to concentrate on the odors of wine and the bubbling sauces, on the smell of scallions, mushrooms and garlic. He should direct the conversation to Lucas and then proceed from there with directness and boldness and honesty.

“So, tell me about yourself. Who are you? Why are you in Paris?” she asked as she began gobbling a buttery snail drenched in parsley sauce with excessive relish.

Now! Tell her you’re Lucas’s brother!

“Ladies first,” he hedged.

She stabbed a snail and held it up to his lips, her gaze lingering too long on his mouth.

Undone, he shook his head. He had to get this little interview the hell over with.

“They’re quite good,” she said before plopping the greasy little sucker into her mouth. Swallowing, she sipped her jewel-red cabernet and stabbed another snail with her tiny fork. He watched as she swirled it in the thick parsley sauce.

She ate another snail and then smiled. “Delicious! I’m so tired of eating alone, of doing everything alone.”

He remembered Madame Picard calling her a poor little thing.

“That’s a trouble with foreign countries,” he said.

“Yes, if you aren’t totally fluent in the native language, it’s hard to talk to people.”

“When we ordered, you sounded pretty damn fluent.”

“Oui. My accent is terrible, though. Cajun French. I—I didn’t study real French…until high school. I’m afraid to open my mouth here because of how vulgar I sound. I sort of live life on the surface. I’ve been here nearly a month.”

“Long enough to become very lonely and feel alienated?”

“Yes.” Her brilliant eyes flared with gratitude that he understood.

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