Dante's Temporary Fiancée(9)

By: Day Leclaire

He stood and circled the coffee table between them. Reaching her side, he held out his hand. She stood as well and took the hand he offered. Her fingers slipped across his palm. Instantly, heat exploded between them, a stunning flash that seemed to burrow into flesh and bone with unbelievable swiftness. It didn’t hurt. Not precisely. It…melded. With a gasp of disbelief, Larkin yanked free of his touch.

“What did you just do?” they asked in unison.

Rafe took a step back and eyed her with sharp suspicion. “You felt that, too?”

“Of course.” She rubbed her palm against her slacks, trying to make the sensation go away. Not that it worked. “What was it?”

“I have no idea.”

She lifted her hand and stared at the palm. There weren’t any marks, though based on the explosion of heat she’d experienced, it should still be smoking. “That wasn’t…” She cleared her throat. “That couldn’t have been…”

She could see the emphatic denial building in his expression. At the last instant he hesitated, an almost calculating glitter dawning in his eyes. “The Inferno?” he murmured. “What the hell. Why not?”

She stared at him, stunned. “You’re joking, right?” she asked.

“I don’t personally believe in it, no. But I’ve heard The Inferno described as something along the lines of what we just felt.”

“That was your test?” she demanded. “To see if we felt The Inferno when we touched?”

“No. Actually, I was going to kiss you.”

She fell back another step, shocked as much by the statement as by the calm businesslike way he delivered it. “Why?”

“There’s no point in becoming engaged if you aren’t physically attracted to me,” he explained. “My family would pick up on that in no time.”

Larkin gazed down at her hand and scratched her thumbnail across the faint throb centered in the middle of her palm. “So whatever just happened when we touched is just an odd coincidence?”

“I sure as hell hope so.”

Huh. She lifted her head and looked at him. Their gazes clashed and the heat centered in her palm spread deeper. Hotter. Swept through her with each beat of her heart. A dangerous curiosity filled her and words tumbled from her mouth, words she’d never planned to speak. But somehow they popped out, hovering in the air between them.

“I believe you were going to kiss me,” she prompted.

He approached in two swift strides. She knew what he planned, could see the intent in the hard lines of his body and determined planes of his face. He gave her ample opportunity to escape. But somehow she couldn’t force herself to take the easy way out. Another personality quirk…or flaw, depending on the circumstances. Instead, she held perfectly still and allowed him to pull her into his arms.

This was wrong on so many levels. Wrong because of Leigh. Wrong because it wasn’t real. Wrong because even while she wanted to deny it, desire built within her like a tide building before a storm. Waves of it crashed over and through her until she couldn’t think straight and common sense fled. He hadn’t even kissed her yet, and already she could feel the helpless give of her surrender.

He leaned in and she waited breathlessly for his kiss, a kiss that didn’t come. “It feels real, doesn’t it?” The words washed over her like a balmy breeze, stirring the hair at her temples. “Maybe it is real. Maybe this engagement isn’t such a bad idea. We can figure out what all this means.”

“All what?” she managed to ask.

“All this…”

The kiss when it came hit with all the force of a hurricane. She didn’t doubt he meant to keep it light and gentle. A tentative sampling. An initial probing. Instead, the instant he touched her, hunger slammed through her and she arched against him, winding her arms around his neck and hanging on for dear life.

It didn’t surprise her in the least to discover he kissed even better than he looked. With a mouth like that, how could he not? His lips slanted across hers, hard enough to betray the edginess of his control, and yet with a passionate tenderness that had her parting for him and allowing him to sample her more fully.

All the while, he molded her against his body, the taut, masculine planes a delicious contrast to her slighter, more rounded curves. His hands swept down her spine to the base. There he hesitated before cupping her backside and fitting her more tightly between his legs. She gasped at the sheer physicality of the sensation. The scent and taste of him filled her and she shuddered, overwhelmed by sensations she’d never fully realized or explored before.

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