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"One failed relationship and you're willing to throw in the towel?" Mac climbed onto the bed and leaned back, resting comfortably on his elbows.
"You've got to tell me why?"
"No, I don't."
"Yeah, you do. We're friends, first and foremost. As your friend, I deserve an explanation."
Jennifer frowned. "Could you put a shirt on for the rest of this conversation?"
Mac looked down at his six-pack abs and smiled. "No. But I wouldn't mind if you evened the score and took off your nightgown."
Jennifer realized that was all she was wearing. Her nipples were hard and peaked and embarrassingly visible through the sheer silk fabric. She blushed.
"I need to get a robe."
"You don't need to run away and you don't need a robe."
Jennifer glanced toward the door.
Mac sighed dramatically. "I'm not going to ravage you."
"Ravage me? Have you been reading those bodice rippers again?"
"Ha-ha. Come on, out with it. Let me hear the details."
"Your dating and sexual history. I want to understand what I'm getting into here."
"You're not getting into anything."
He patted the space on the bed beside him.
Jennifer shook her head. "I so don't remember agreeing to anything."
"You will. It's only a matter of time. I'm irresistible."
"I think you mean irrepressible."
"You know?" Jennifer feigned a yawn. "I'm not sure I'm up to this tonight. I think I'm going to turn in." Her gaze returned to the door.
Mac stood and began to pull down the covers. "You win. No sex. No talking. No pressure. Stay."
"Stay here with me."
"You mean sleep with you in your bed?"
"I want to be close to you."
Jennifer shook her head. "Not a good idea. You know it isn't."
Mac grinned widely "You don't trust yourself. See, I told you, irresistible."
She couldn't help but smile at his confidence. "You're a hard man to say no to."
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him. The evidence of his arousal was pressing against her. "I'm hard, I'll give you that. You seem to have that affect on me. But I also know how to control myself."
"Even that dark side?"
"The idea that I might lose control scares you."
"It thrills me and that scares me. I made a mistake once. I can't afford to make that kind of mistake again. I'm not sure I could survive it." Jennifer stared into his deep blue eyes. "Goodnight, Mac."
She pulled herself from his embrace and headed for the door. As she placed her hand on the doorknob, he softly said, "This wouldn't be a mistake. Give this a chance."
"I've given myself to someone before. Completely. It wasn't enough. Not enough to keep him."
"I'm not him. I'm me."
"What I have to offer will never be enough, not for anyone. I'm…empty inside."
"You're not empty. I've seen glimpses of the girl inside. You're more than window dressing." He was standing right behind her now. "You're just closed off from trying to protect yourself."
Jennifer turned back around and leaned against the door. "Protect myself from what?"
"From having to face your demons, whatever they may be. Because if you do, really do, you have to admit it could all change. And that's terrifying beyond belief."
Her mouth was suddenly dry. She licked her lips.
Mac placed a hand on either side of her head and leaned in, until his forehead touched hers. "You don't have to be afraid," he whispered. Seconds ticked away. He slowly lowered his hands until they rested comfortably on her waist. Their breathing became synchronized.
She closed her eyes and felt him, drinking in his scent, allowing the tenderness of the moment to surround her. She let go, if only for a moment, relinquishing control. She permitted him to lead. The pace of his inhalations became deeper, more impassioned. A soft moan escaped her lips. Her resolve was crumbling. She placed her hand, hesitantly, on his forearm.
Mac kissed her on the forehead, then pulled back. "Goodnight."
"Go off to your room and go to sleep, like a good girl. You don't want me turning into the big bad wolf."
"Would you eat me?" Jennifer looked up at him, her voice carrying a tone of feigned innocence.
Mac placed his hands on the door above her head, pinning her in. "You know? That was plain mean. I'm never going to sleep now. I'll be up all night with visions of… You have an evil streak, Jennifer Jones!"
"Yes, you." He opened the door and stepped back. "And I swear, if you offer to let me spank you for punishment I'm going to totally lose it."
"I'm sorry, I don't know what possessed me."
"Maybe unresolved sexual tension so thick I can taste it from the next room?"
"Yeah. Goodnight, Mac." She left, closing the door quietly behind her.
"One, two, three…fuck it." Mac yanked the door open. She was halfway down the hall. In two strides he was on her. He grabbed hold of her hand, yanked her toward him and backed her up against the wall, one hand around her waist, the other around her neck.
He crushed his lips to hers in a breath-stealing kiss. He didn't try to hide his arousal. He didn't try to hold back. He was tired of holding back. He wanted to let go. He wanted her to let go.
Jennifer's hands flew up and tangled in his hair.
Mac needed her to know what she did to him, how she affected him, to feel the power she had over him. He tilted his pelvis so his erection pressed against her soft stomach. It made her gasp. He took immediate advantage, boldly slipping his tongue inside, letting is curl around hers. She was delicious. Her mouth was warm, wet, and oh-so-amazingly-sweet.
As soon as he tasted her, he knew she had been right. He wanted her, all of her. There was no hesitancy, no doubt, no denial. It was about a need that was almost primal. He thought of himself as civilized and sensitive. But here he was, wanting to mark, possess, consume her. No. Holds. Barred. He pulled back abruptly.
Her hair was mussed. Her eyes were wide. Whether from arousal, fear or a combination of both, he didn't know. In the dim light of the hallway, he could see her lips were red and full from his assault.
"You're right," Mac admitted, turning away from her.
Still panting she reached out to touch him. "About?"
He drew back. "I want to make you mine."
Sadness filled her eyes.
He couldn't help himself. His hand lifted and caressed her cheek. "If I were to be perfectly honest I would tell you I've thought of little else since I saw you in that elevator."
"Yes. I'm probably no different than any other wanker you've ever dated, or slept with." He took a fortifying breath before saying what needed to be said. "If you want me to move out, I will."
"If I let you stay, are you going to attack me in the hallway again?"
He stepped back, breaking all contact.
He looked her in the eye. "You didn't push me away. You kissed me back. I wouldn't have forced—"
Jennifer held up her hand. "I know. Now, it's my turn to be honest. I needed that kiss. I wanted it, as much as you did. What I'm asking is, if you continue to live here, will it happen again?
"I don't want to lie to you. Maybe. Probably. Not tonight, not tomorrow, but eventually. My kissing you again is a likely scenario."
"You can stay." She continued down the hall, into to her room "And, Mac?" She'd paused before closing the door.
"You are different."