"Whatever you put in that pan is burning."
She stared at the smoking ruins of the breakfast she'd begun to prepare with such optimism, and the sight lit a match to the fuse coiled deep inside. The layers of control she'd gathered over herself for all these months sputtered and flared in a white-hot blaze. It had been nearly a yearlong months of a fragile pregnancy and weeks of conscientious motherhoodsince she'd indulged in the wicked intoxication of a full-blown temper tantrum.
"I'm trying to be professional," she said as she grabbed the pan and tossed it into the sink, breaking a few of the dishes stacked below with a satisfying crash, "but I guess I'm a little out of practice."
He lifted one eyebrow in that faintly patronizing arcgasoline on the fire.
"Besides," she said, "I've never been very good about keeping my professional life separate from my personal life." She hurled the orange halves and onion stalks toward the sink, missing on purpose, and they bounced off the backsplash and spread in a jumble over the counter. "Considering that my professional self is the same person as my personal self."
She grabbed the mixing bowl and threw it to the floor, where it exploded in bits of crockery and gooey yellow. It felt so good to let go, to let loose, to vent the tiresome frustrations and the nagging fears, to quit playing the role of the polite guest and the grateful recipient of charitable shelter and meals. To play the role of the spoiled brat for a change. No one else could play it as well or with such style.
Too bad her heart didn't seem to be in it this morning. Her anger was already cooling, her battle lust nearly extinguished. But she couldn't quit the stage yet, not until her audience was on his knees, begging for mercy.
Burke leaned his hip against the table in a casual pose and slowly folded his arms across his chest. "I never suggested they weren't."
"No, that's right," she said as she kicked the nearest chair on its side. He flinched a bit at the thud, but he held his ground. "You haven't suggested anything at all. You're too busy telling me what I should do."
She whirled and seized the flour canister and sent it skidding across the counter, into the sink. A choking cloud rained white specks over the mess on the floor.
"I won't have it. I won't." She flung one arm wide, knocking a container of stirring utensils into the air. Burke shifted slightly to one side to avoid an airborne spatula and then settled back into his placid pose.
"If you have anything to say to meto suggest to meyou suggest it to me, not to my agent," she said as she tossed her hair out of her eyes. "Got that?"
"Well, then?" She took a swaggering step in his direction, avoiding the wreckage as best she could, but a strange self-consciousness swept over her. When she'd made a scene before, Ken had always joined in the shouting, storming about and adding to the excitement, contributing to the overall effect. But Burke was... Burke. Calm. Cool. Dispassionate.
Damn. She'd overplayed the scene and underestimated her audience. Her mouth trembled on a giggle, and she clamped down and tried to maintain her fiercest expression.
"Well...what?" he asked.
She moved in close and jutted her chin toward his. "What do you think of that?"
"I think you missed a spot."
He reached for the pepper shaker on the table, unscrewed the lid and dumped the contents over the floury, eggy shards of crockery.
She stared at the mound of black powder, and then at his bland expression, and then she laughed and threw her arms around his neck, loving him, delighted with her patient, clever, wonderful, special, dear friend all over again.
"Oh, you horrible" she kissed him on the cheek "awful-" and on the other cheek "dreadful man." She grabbed him by the hair and pulled his mouth down for a loud, smacking kiss on the lips. "Mmm, I ought to"
He wrapped his long fingers around her arms and held her in place, trapping her face a few inches from his. "Stop toying with me, Nora."
He raised that same eyebrow, and she realized, too late, that she'd misjudged the look in his eyes.
"I'm not making a suggestion." He tugged her another fraction of an inch closer, and her breasts brushed against his chest. "I'm telling you."
She lowered her hands, shocked and thrilled to see her fingers tremble as she spread them over his crisp white shirt. Beneath the fabric, beneath his warm skin, his muscles were smooth, hard, taut.
She felt them bunch and shift as he tightened his grip on her. As he breathed.
A reckless tension coiled through her again, another short fuse spiraling dangerously close to another powder keg of emotion. Her pulse hammered as she narrowed the charged gap between them to nip at his lower lip in a foolhardy dare.
"Go ahead, then," she whispered. "Tell me."
She all but heard his control snap, and then that ferocious focus of his bore down upon her in a glorious assault of mouth and hands and a lean, powerful body pressing hers against the table. With a violent sweep of his arm he hurled everything over the edgepaper, pen, napkins, salt, toys, briefcaseand it fluttered and clattered and crashed to the floor as he sprawled over her, his mouth fused to hers, his lips ravaging, his tongue plunging deep and hot and fast.
She'd never have guessed at the inferno raging inside that cool and controlled exterior. It pumped from him to sear through her, licking like flames along her skin, bubbling through her veins. She strained toward him, seeking more of his heat, craving the flashpoint, answering him with a fiery blast of her own, demanding more, needing more.
"More." She nearly sobbed the word.
His hands fisted in her hair and his teeth scraped along her jaw, and she clawed at his shirt, desperate to get her hands on flesh. One button popped, and another, and she shuddered and groaned with the jolting arousal and the mad, dark pleasure. Skin, at lastfevered satin, coarse hair, ridged muscle and sinew. Raw, rough, exhilarating, male. Burke.
A tremor ran through him at her touch, and he kicked aside another chair and shifted higher, yanking at the sash on her robe, cursing at the knot, sinking into another punishing, tormenting kiss, tangling his legs with hers. The table creaked and groaned beneath them, and she struggled for breath, inhaling the scents of citrus and wood smoke, of shower-fresh soap on heated skin.
She arched against him, shuddering as his hand shoved inside her wrap and beneath the next layer to streak up her side and close over her breast, kneading, tormenting, driving her wild
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From the book MAYBE, BABY by Terry McLaughlin
Imprint and Series: Harlequin Superromance, ISBN: 0-373-71438-6
Copyright ©2007 by Teresa A. McLaughlin
® and are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: www.eHarlequin.com.