A Small-Town Temptation A Small-Town Temptation

You wouldn't dare," she said.

"Take you to bed?"

"Try to cut me out of the deal that way."

He smiled and stroked his thumb across her chin, and she stifled a gasp. "Are you daring me to do it?" he asked.

"Would you try it if I did?"

"I don't take dares, as a rule. Too risky." He shifted closer. "But we could agree to give it a try and see what happens."

"Figures a tactic like that might appeal to a man like you."

His chuckle was warm and low and seemed to rumble right through her. "You have a very low opinion of me, don't you?"

"It balances out the one you've got on the other end of the scale." His gaze dropped to her mouth as he traced her lower lip with his thumb. She imagined his mouth replacing his fingertip, his tongue skimming along that same line, and she nearly melted at his feet in a puddle of lust. It had been far too long since a man had paid her this kind of attention-and none of the men in her past had had quite this syrupy, sensual way about them.

"You can't sucker me on this deal, Maguire," she said. Could he feel her trembling?

"Probably not," he said. "I've never considered doing business in this particular manner before." He edged still closer. "I think I might like it."

"You can't, you know."

"Seduce you?" He slid his arm around her waist, beneath the soft wool draped over her back. "Or cut you out of the deal?"

"Either," she said, her voice faint. "Both."

"Make up your mind, Charlie." He pulled her against him. "I'm getting some mixed signals here."

"That's your problem."

"Mmm." His long, lean fingers fanned across her back. "I like having a problem I can deal with."

He pressed his lips to the side of her neck. Warm, moist, silk edged with stubble. She shivered again at the feel of his mouth on her skin and prayed her trembling body wouldn't shatter into a million pieces and swirl away on the next puff of icy air.

"Can you?" he asked.

"Can I what?" Her eyes drifted closed.

"Deal with it."

She tilted her head to the side to give him more room and encouragement to keep doing whatever fabulous thing he was doing to her earlobe. "I can deal with anything you can, Maguire.

He lifted his head and waited for her to meet his gaze. "This ought to be interesting, then."

There, in his eyes, was desire. For her. She was sure of it. A heady, delicious, feminine thrill coiled through her, and she wrapped her fingers around his lapels. She shouldn't be doing this—it wasn't smart, and it wasn't safe. He was only toying with her, testing her, pushing her buttons—but he still wanted to kiss her. Her. And she wanted to kiss him right back, so much she was willing to ignore all the warnings buzzing in her head and let him get away with it, just this once.

She closed her eyes to blot out the image of the man who made her heart race with a combination of attraction and terror. And then she waited, trembling, for that first contact of mouth to mouth, breath to breath. There had been so few first kisses in her life, and she'd savored the anticipation of each and every one-the tingling excitement, the unnerving intimacy, the dizzying hope.

He didn't disappoint her.

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