“You know I don’t.”
They danced in silence. He could tell she was annoyed with him. He didn’t really blame her. From the outside looking in, his life must seem like a walk in the park.
Then it hit him, what she might be saying.
“Do you earn enough money?” he asked.
She glanced up in obvious surprise. “What?”
“Should I give you a raise?”
“Where did that come from?”
“It sounded as though you were having money problems.”
“You pay me fairly.”
He searched her expression. He could tell the conversation was hitting very close to home for her. If it wasn’t now, then when? When had she been worried about meeting expenses?
“Your childhood?” he suggested.
“This isn’t about me.”
“Your childhood?” he repeated.
“Fine. We were poor. My mom was single. She drank. A lot.”
He digested the information. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
The orchestra switched songs, but he kept on dancing.
“It was a long time ago,” said Amber. “Truth is, it impacted Jade more than it impacted me.”
“She had a hard time settling into life. She quit school, left town. Then she bounced from job to job. She always picked the wrong men.”
Interesting, but Tuck was far more curious about Amber than he was about Jade. “And you? Did you pick the wrong men?”
She gave a little laugh. “I didn’t pick any men at all. Well, not many. I had a boyfriend in high school. But then I graduated and started working. I took a lot of night-school courses at community college, so there wasn’t much time for a social life.”
“You don’t date?” Tuck couldn’t help but contrast his own active social life.
“Occasionally. Casually.” She glanced around the opulent ballroom. “I have to say, this is the most extravagant event I’ve ever attended. I guess I should thank you for the experience.”
“Anytime.” He was serious.
His brain ticked through the information she’d just given him. He liked the idea of what he thought she had to mean.
“So you’re saying...” He tried to frame the question. “How do I put this...”
“Don’t you dare ask me about my sex life.”
As if anything on earth would stop him. “Tell me about your sex life.”
He gave a brief chuckle. “I’ll tell you about mine.”
“I’ve read about yours.”
“Not the details.”
“Nobody wants the details.”
“I disagree. Reporters ask me about them all the time.” He maneuvered them around the crowd to a quieter spot on the dance floor.
“Do you answer?”
“No. If I did, they’d be disappointed.”
“Did you just tell me you’re a bad lover?”
“What? No. I meant that I’m not as practiced as people assume.” He hesitated, then went for it. “Not that you’d have a basis for comparison.”
“You’re outrageous.” But her tone was laced with amusement.
“I won’t argue with that. But I’m also available. You know, if you’re in dire need of—”
The end of her fist connected sharply with his shoulder, startling him.
“You better believe, ouch,” she sniffed with mock offense. “I had a boyfriend.”
“Not since high school.”
“And I’ve had offers since then.”
He knew that was true. “At least a dozen tonight alone.”
She looked puzzled.
“You’re not paying attention, are you?” he asked.
“To all the men in the room eyeing you up.”
She seemed surprised. “It’s the dress. And maybe the hair. Probably the shoes.”
“It’s all of that,” he agreed. “But it’s more than just that.”
He couldn’t help himself. He splayed his hand across her back, urging her close, molding their bodies together.
“I won’t pretend I’m not attracted to you.”
The word attracted was the understatement of the century. He was wild about her, burning hot for her, growing more so by the hour.
It took a moment for her words to make sense. He’d pictured their conversation taking an entirely different turn.