His Southern Temptation(9)

By: Robin Covington

“What? You worried a little girl is going to be the one to take down the big, bad Marine?”

He laughed. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Stay with me. Come to bed.”

No answer.

She wasn’t above cajoling. Begging was a different question, but cajoling she could do. “Come on. For old time’s sake.”

He sighed. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“You’re not supposed to think.” She trailed her hand down his chest, the pounding of his heart a tattoo against her palm. “Just a little fun between friends.”

“Just friends, huh? Are you sure about that?”

He lifted her hand to press a hot kiss to the palm, his tongue lingering on the sensitive spot in the middle. She shuddered under the press of his lips and the hot fire in his eyes. She’d seen that look before and it still scared her, made her nervous.

Something between them had shifted over time, becoming less about fun and games and more about the electric current of connection that stretched between the two of them like hot wire. She’d fought it. He’d appeared willing to explore it. She’d panicked. He’d left. Fast-forward two years to now.

The last thing she wanted was to get her foolish heart involved with this man. Love was fleeting; marriage and relationships devolved into humiliating compromise and pain. She’d learned that the hard way, firsthand and in graphic detail.

Definitely not on her agenda.

Unless it was mindless hours in bed, getting sweaty and exorcising this thing between them, she wasn’t interested. But it looked like Lucky was up for more, and they were once again at a possible impasse.

She sighed, stepping back to give them a little space.

“I can’t do this.” He motioned between them.

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Does it matter?” His tone was pure frustration, matching her mood as well.

“Yes, I think it does.”

“How long are you going to be here?” He surprised her with the change in topic.

“Two weeks. Three tops.” Taylor crossed her arms over her chest, the sinking feeling in her stomach increasing with the way his expression shut down even more with each word she uttered. “Just long enough to pack and store what won’t be sold with the house.”

“Your parents are selling Elliott House?” He was genuinely shocked. Apparently Teague had done a good job of hiding some of their dirty laundry from this town.

“Father isn’t coming back from his tacky love nest in Costa Rica, and Mother will not return to the scene of her public humiliation. Apparently, my father violated the most important marriage vow when he ran off with his paralegal.”

“What vow is that?”

“To be discreet.” She tried to curb the venom in her voice, but the situation of her parents’ divorce did nothing but piss her off with its sordidness. If their fake marriage hadn’t been enough cause for her to swear off relationships, the divorce sealed her dislike of the institution entirely.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I’m afraid I do. Not everyone grew up on Promised Land farm.”

That was a low blow. Ashamed, she bit her tongue to stop anything uglier from spilling from her lips. His parents’ marriage appeared to be one of the rare ones that was going to last, but his life hadn’t been perfect. Hurting him was the last thing she wanted to do—he’d seen enough pain in his lifetime.

She continued, speaking mainly to fill the heavy silence and make up for her foolish tongue. “I’m just here to get the house ready for sale so I can get my cut of the proceeds and go back to Hawaii to start my massage therapy business. There’s a tight window of time since my investment opportunity expires in a few weeks, but we’ve already got a couple of folks interested in the house so the Realtor believes it will be a quick sale.”

“There’s no chance of you staying in Elliott?”

“No.” This town held nothing but memories of how she’d been tricked into playing the part of the best little girl in the world—complete with matching sweater sets and the perfect fiancé. Every corner held a part of the past she’d spent seven years burying under a life lived on her own terms.

“So, you want a three-week booty call? Scratch an itch while you’re here in town?” Lucky shook his head, laughing roughly as he stooped to grab the duffel off the floor and headed down the hall, walking past her room to stop in front of Teague’s door.

She followed, knowing she wasn’t going to win him over tonight but taking the chance to plant seeds in his mind of what was on offer. She had three weeks to wear him down…