Ultimatum: Marriage(4)

By: Ann Major


Yowling, Gus hurled himself against the side of the cage, rocking it even harder.

“Your cat says he thinks going inside would be a very good idea,” Jake said.

“He has issues about water, not to mention thunder.”

“Well, if you came over here to grant interviews on my porch, enjoy. But Gus and I have had enough of our five minutes of fame. We’d prefer to go inside and open a can of tuna.”

Once he had set her cat and her bag down inside his ultramodern foyer, which was now covered in glass shards, he ran his hand along the slick, polished surface of his paneled wall until he found the light switch. Flipping it on, he looked back outside. She was still glaring at him.

“Your foyer is not exactly neutral territory,” she whispered.

“Don’t remind me.”

Suddenly he was remembering how they’d torn off their clothes the last time they’d stepped across his threshold. He hadn’t bothered to turn on any lights. Once naked, they’d launched themselves at each other. Heat engulfed him as he remembered how they’d sunk to the floor, and he’d straddled her on top of the Kilim carpet on which he now stood. He’d thought her adorable and sexy as hell.

More flashbulbs captured her ashen face.

The worried little crease between her dark brows deepened and she went even whiter. When he reached for her anxiously, she sprang away from him and jumped across the threshold.

Damn it, he’d only wanted to soothe her. Hell, maybe it was a good thing she’d stopped him.

She plastered herself against his mahogany wall as far away from him as possible, her delectable breasts heaving beneath that thin white dress that clung closely.

The memory of what he’d done to those pink-tipped breasts made him feel much too warm. With a start he realized he’d awakened every night since aching for her sweetness and sexiness.

Annoyed that she was so afraid of him and he so jittery around her, Jake slammed his door. Once it was bolted against the goggle-eyed reporters and their flashbulbs, she began to shiver.

“You’re freezing,” he said, stating the obvious in a harsh tone to conceal his concern.

“S-sorry. A-air-c-conditioning.” Struggling for control, she sucked in a breath. “I’m dripping all over your fancy floor, too.”

“It’s stone. It won’t melt. But wait here. I’ll turn the AC off and get you some towels.”

Thankful for an excuse to leave her and get a grip on himself, he strode down the hall before she could object and quickly adjusted the thermostat. Ducking into his guest bath, he grabbed some fluffy white towels. When he returned, he ripped off his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders and placed the thick towels in her hands.

Although their fingers touched briefly, it was long enough for him to register that her soft skin felt like ice.

With a breathless sound she cringed away from him.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she wrapped a towel around her head and began to pat her hair dry. “I’m s-sorry to be so much trouble.”

“No trouble.” He tore his gaze from her stricken face.

How could he actually want to help her? Whatever was wrong was no business of his. There were at least a dozen reasons why he should hate her, most of them names of people his charity couldn’t build houses for and employees he would soon be forced to fire. But she looked too much like a drowned waif for him to even consider chastising her in any way at this point. The feds and reporters hounding her seemed to have that job well in hand.

Steeling himself against the impulse to hold her close until his body warmth made her stop shaking, his voice was rougher when he spoke. “You’ll feel better when we get you out of those wet clothes and dry you off.”

“We?” She blushed at his suggestion. His own heart began to thud as he realized how that comment had sounded. With an effort he forced himself to look anywhere but at her softly alluring breasts.

Had she deliberately dressed in that filmy, see-through number so he’d want to stare at them? Impotent rage that she could arouse him so easily swept over him.

“What I meant to say is there’s a bathroom down the hall. You probably remember showering in it.”

When she reddened, he wished he hadn’t reminded them both they’d showered together.

“I’ll bring you a robe and more fresh towels,” he said, his tone more clipped.

Glad for the excuse to leave her again, he went back down the hall. But he was soon much too aware of her heels clicking rapidly on the flagstones behind him.

When she stepped inside the bath, the beige marble walls seemed to close in, trapping him. Staring down at her, he recalled again how they’d laughingly showered after making love all over his house. He’d washed her hair, dried her off, taken her back to bed where he’d held her close for hours.

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