“What?” she asked, maybe a little snappish.
He just shook his head.
When Dell finally escaped the dance floor, he turned back to their table. Jade was back from the bar, and there was a guy trying to pick her up.
Poor sucker, he thought with a good amount of sympathy, watching as Jade shook her head. As Dell moved closer, he heard the guy say, “Aw, come on, Red. I’ve seen you swing your sweet thang in class, let’s take it to the dance floor.”
“I’m with someone,” Jade said.
The guy admitted defeat and moved off. Dell dropped into the coveted spot right next to her, sprawling out. “Hey, Red?”
She sipped her drink.
“Oh come on. Tell me about swinging your sweet thang.” He accepted her eat-shit-and-die look and laughed.
She rolled her eyes. “So I take a line-dancing class once a week in the city.”
“Which clearly you’re not doing so that you’ll get picked up by guys in bars.”
“It’s for exercise.” She blew out a breath. “And because I sort of promised myself I’d do things for me. For fun. It’s the year of the fun for Jade.”
“Well, I’m all for that.”
At that, she cocked her head and looked at him. “You don’t think it’s silly?”
“Everyone deserves fun, Jade.” He smiled at her and reached for his drink. “Their own brand of fun.”
Jade’s eyes cut to Brady and Lilah, plastered up against each other on the dance floor. “What do you think of their brand?”
Dell took in the expression on Brady’s face, which held warmth and love and a whole hell of a lot of lust, and shrugged. It would be nice to know there was a woman waiting on him at the end of the day. He wouldn’t mind that. It was the emotional depth and level of attachment that bothered him. The love part. Love would take trust and blind faith. It would take allowing access to parts of him that he didn’t allow himself access to. “I’m not really cut out for it.”
“So you’ve tried it, then?”
“Not so much. You? I’m betting you have a spreadsheet for this, for meeting the right guy to give you a white picket fence and two point four kids.”
“Some things even my spreadsheets can’t do,” she said, and he laughed softly just as Brady and Lilah came back looking flushed and happy as they slid into the booth.
“Okay,” Lilah said. “It’s been an hour and no one has said one freaking word about the bling.” She spread her hands on the table. “Seriously?”
Jade’s eyes went directly to Lilah’s left ring finger, and the fat diamond there. “Holy shit!”
Lilah grinned. “I know, right?” She flashed the ring in each of their faces. “Brady had it made for me. It’s the most sparkly thing I’ve ever owned.” Turning to Brady, she clapped her hands to either side of his face and kissed him on the mouth. “I’ve never been all that sparkly, but I am now, cuz of you.”
Brady smiled up at her. “Sparkly, and you smell like a strawberry.”
“It’s the margaritas.”
Adam toasted to Brady and Lilah, and Dell added his congratulations, genuinely thrilled for them. Lilah felt like as much a sibling to him as Brady was. And though he might not quite get why two of his favorite people in the world wanted to tie themselves to each other and give up all the other possible options, it meant that Brady would be sticking around Sunshine. And Dell was all for that, so he grinned and topped off their glasses from the pitcher, giving Lilah the last of it and the most.
Brady slid him a look.
“What, you’re already going to have to pour her into your truck to take her home,” Dell told him. “Might as well make it a night to remember.”
Lilah laughed and slapped Brady’s shoulder, as if he’d been the one to say it. “It will be a night to remember.” Indeed, two sheets to the wind, she blew a strand of her hair from her face and waggled a finger at her new fiancé. “But just so we’re clear—we’re still not crossing that one last thing off the taboo list. I’m not that far gone.”
Adam looked pained.
Brady didn’t look concerned. He was smiling affectionately at Lilah, looking content and confident that he could talk her into anything he wanted, wasted or not.
“You have a taboo list?” Jade asked.
“You don’t?” Lilah asked.
Jade bit her lower lip and Adam laughed. “Jade has a list for everything.”
“True,” Dell said, studying her, getting nothing from her expression. She had quite the game face, his Jade. “You do, you have lists for everything.”
“Jade, you have a list for every situation, big or small, from when to brush your teeth, to how to handle every potential patient to cross my door. Hell, you’ve got a list on what’s in your purse and my office fridge and—”
“And don’t forget the list on how many different ways I could kill you,” she said, sipping her drink.
“Now that’s one I’d like to see,” Brady said.
Adam looked intrigued. “How many ways are there really to do that?”
“You have no idea . . .” she murmured serenely.
Dell laughed. “Come on. There’s no doubt in my mind, you have a list of sexual taboos. Tell us.”
“Yeah,” Lilah said, leaning forward. “Tell us! I might need to add to my list.”
“Why are we still talking about this?” Jade wanted to know.
“The question is,” Dell said, “why are you avoiding talking about this?” He smiled at her and though she blushed a little, she held his gaze evenly.
He didn’t have a hard time imagining Jade as a sexual creature. She was beautiful, innately sensual, from that full bottom lip, to her glorious curves, to the way she moaned while eating her hidden stash of chocolate from her bottom desk drawer.
What he had a hard time imagining was her having a one-night stand. Which meant that she’d have to let someone in close enough to have a relationship with before she had sex. And she wasn’t any better at that than . . . well, him. He got her, he really did. Because other than the people right here at this table, he never felt the overwhelming need to let anyone in, either. “Come on,” he coaxed, teasing. “Give us something from your taboo list.”
She smiled at him. “You should be far more concerned with what’s on tomorrow’s to-do list.”
“Ha,” Adam said to his brother. “You have a to-do list.”
“So do you,” Jade said, and Brady laughed.
“Nice deflection,” Lilah said to Jade. “You’re good at that.”
It was a definite talent, Dell thought, and let her have the deflection. They all hung out for another hour before Brady stood and grabbed Lilah’s hand. “We’re out,” he said.
Lilah smiled wickedly. “’Bout time.” She looked at Jade. “Can we drop you off?”
“No, that’s okay,” Jade said, shaking her head. “Go home with Brady.”
Lilah hugged her and then she and Brady made tracks. Adam’s cell vibrated, and he excused himself out into the night as well. Dell looked at Jade, who was scrolling through her contacts. “Looks like it’s you and me. Come on, I’ll give you a ride.”
“No, it’s out of your way. I’ll call . . .”
“That guy from your line-dancing class?”
She sighed. “Okay, so I could use a ride.”
He walked her out to his truck and then had to clear her a spot in the passenger’s seat because he had a stack of work files, his hockey gear from the weekend league he played on, and some other shit he’d shoved into the truck and forgotten about. “There,” he said, tossing everything to the back.
“Thanks,” she murmured, and got in. “Your truck looks like your desk.”
True statement. “I have a little organizational problem.”
Her gaze met his. “I could help you with that.”
“Sure, if you’ll let me help you with your taboos list.”
“How do you know that you don’t have the same taboos?”
“I don’t have any.”
That shocked her into silence, and the rest of the drive to her place stayed quiet, though she was thinking so loud he could almost hear her thoughts.
The minute he pulled into her lot, her hand was on the door. She was in a hurry. He wondered which of them she didn’t trust.
“Thanks for the ride,” she said.
She glanced back at him, and in a purely feminine move, bit her lower lip, her teeth pressing into the plump curve. “So, tomorrow I thought I’d tackle your office.”
There was a light in her eyes. Lust, he thought, dazed. He nearly groaned. But the lust wasn’t for him, it was for his damn desk. She looked practically orgasmic at the thought of getting her hands on his messy office. “If only I could get you to look at me like that.”
They both smiled because they each recognized the lie. If she looked at him like that, he’d run like hell. He didn’t have anything against a good old-fashioned love affair. It was just that the love part wasn’t for him. He was missing the for-keeps gene, both the ability to love that way, and to be loved that way.
“You’re not a spreadsheet,” Jade said. “Or I would.”
“If you gave it a shot, I’d let you at my accounting system, too.”
“Don’t tease me,” she said, her eyes dilating with even more lust.
His own reaction was far more base, making him laugh, at himself. Time to call it a night before he did something really stupid. He leaned past her to open the door for her.
Jade’s eyes dropped to his mouth, lingering a moment before returning to meet his gaze.
He had the brief thought that he hadn’t called it a night fast enough because then one of them moved, he wasn’t sure who, but they were kissing. She made a soft sound of approval that went right through him, as did the hand she set on his chest, landing right over his heart as she pressed in closer. God, yeah. Closer. His hand slid around the back of her neck, over satiny soft skin, his thumb brushing the exquisite hollow behind her ear.
Her hands slid to his shoulders, his biceps, and dug in as if to hold him here, right here. But he wasn’t going anywhere. He liked her hands on him, liked her tongue in his mouth, and when she made that noise deep in her throat, the one that said she was as lost as him, he groaned, both in pleasure and with a good amount of what-the-fuckery, because he knew.
He was in trouble.
Down to the bone trouble, and he didn’t give one single shit. Knowing this was crazy, that they had no place to go with this kiss, he still slanted his mouth over hers and took more, took everything she gave, and she gave her all, her soft sigh as they pulled apart turning him on almost more than the kiss had.
Still, she didn’t move far, only a fraction of an inch, which meant that they sat there, still wrapped up in each other, noses touching, their exhales coming in fast pants on each other’s skin. One of his hands was still in her hair, his fingers brushing the nape of her neck, the other just brushing the swell of her breast. The temperature of the night had dropped considerably but here inside his truck it was at least two hundred degrees.
Sanity was painfully slow to return. It helped to remember that she was leaving in a month. Theoretically, that took him off the hook. She was going to be the one to walk away.
“Okay,” she said shakily, finally pulling back.
Apparently the only one of them with a lick of sense.
“Not sure what that was,” she said. “But for now, I’m going to ignore it.”
He wasn’t sure how to do that but he kept his doubts to himself and got out with her.
She narrowed her eyes.
“Just walking you to the door,” he said.
“Fine.” She pulled out her keys. “But I’m going to still be ignoring this tomorrow.”
He’d be watching her try. “Night, Jade.”
“Night.” She didn’t go in right away.
He didn’t move, and not just because he hadn’t been inside her place and was curious.
Though he was curious, very much so.
But mostly he wanted a repeat of that holy-shit kiss. He wanted that bad. Because she was leaving. Which mean that he wouldn’t be the one to have to walk away, not this time.
The slight darkening of her eyes said she was considering the same line of thought. He looked at her mouth but the moment had passed and she was shifting back, away from him.
Thankfully Jade’s workday was predictably crazy. Thankfully, because then she couldn’t think too much about the night before.
The Kiss That Had Rocked Her World.
Dell had indeed mucked up the schedule. This demoted him from wildly sexy to downright irritating. It took her all morning and quite a bit of juggling to get it back to a manageable pace but she did it. And to be honest, nothing perked her up or kicked her brain into high gear faster than a problem that she could solve with a spreadsheet.
The phones stayed busy and the waiting room at a dull roar thanks to the patients and the owners that filled it. She knew the chaos would drive most people nuts but it was an organized chaos and she felt right at home, the noise settling over her like a security blanket.
In her not-too-distant past, her day had been filled with grumpy, sick, tired, distraught, rude people trying to get medical attention. She’d discovered that she preferred animals any day of the week. They didn’t talk back, they didn’t scream in your face if you were five minutes late getting them into their appointment.