Well, fine. If he wanted to be stubborn, that worked for her because she wanted to be warm.
Pru was smiling at Finn. “I was hoping you’d say truth. So how did you get to be the poor sap who had to coax someone out here tonight? Why not Spence, Joe, or Archer?”
Finn smiled back. “None of them have a hottie to call.”
She laughed and Finn turned to Archer, sitting next to him. “Truth or dare?”
“Dare,” Archer said.
“Seriously?” Finn asked. “You don’t want to reevaluate and say truth to possibly spare yourself another dip?”
Finn smiled, like gotcha. “What’s up with you and Elle?”
Elle sucked in a breath and did her best to look neutral. Switzerland.
Archer never took his eyes off Finn. “Nothing.”
“That’s not the truth,” Finn said.
But it was, Elle thought. There was nothing up with her and Archer.
And wasn’t that just her problem.
She wanted there to be. She had no idea why but she wanted it badly. Well, okay, so she did know. She suspected it was because he’d once been her hero, acting on her behalf for no other reason than he believed it the right thing to do. There’d been no ulterior motives, he hadn’t wanted a damn thing from her.
And that had been a shocking first for her. She’d never forgotten it. The only reason she even knew what it’d cost him was because she’d kept tabs on him the best she could. Which admittedly hadn’t been very well. She’d lost track of him years ago. Until she’d come to work in the Pacific Pier Building, that is.
“If you don’t think it’s the truth,” Archer said calmly to Finn. “Then give me a dare.”
Finn’s mouth curved. “Okay, I dare you to get Elle to say that there’s nothing going on between the two of you.”
Archer sighed. “We’ll need a moment to discuss.”
“No we won’t,” Elle said.
“Take as many moments as you need,” Finn said as if she hadn’t spoken, and he waggled his brow.
Archer pointed at Finn and made the motion of shooting a gun, but he gamely stood. The next thing Elle knew, he’d wrapped his big hand around one of hers and was dragging her away from the fire and into the woods.
“Hey,” she said, having to run to keep up with him. “My shoes—”
He slowed and without turning to her, reached back, hooked a hand around her thigh and hoisted her up so that he was carrying her piggy back.
It momentarily stunned her. Or, more accurately, the feel of his broad back to her chest stunned her. As did the feel of his arms now hooked around her legs. “Put me down!”
“The terrain’s uneven and God forbid but it’s dirty out here,” he said. “You really want to ruin your Guccis?”
“They’re Kate Spade.” And no, dammit, she didn’t want to ruin them. She blew out a sigh and dropped her forehead to his beefy shoulder.
But this wasn’t helpful as it put his neck within an inch or two of her mouth. He had a really great throat and damn if even after a day in the woods fishing and hiking and God knew what, he still smelled sexy as hell.
“Are you . . . sniffing me?” he asked.
She froze, her nose pressed to the back of his neck. “No.”
“Yes you are.” He sounded amused. “You just inhaled me like I was one of Tina’s muffins from the coffee shop—”
Later she would swear she had no idea what came over her, but she bit him. Not a hard bite, more like a nibble. With a lot of teeth.
“What the—” He stopped and let her slide down his body.
And at the shockingly intimate contact and slow glide of his parts against hers, she felt herself tremble.
He whipped around to face her before she could find her sea legs, his expression dark and unreadable. “What was that?” he demanded.
Planting her feet—or rather, her heels—she went hands on hips. That was the only way to deal with him, just like one would when faced with an animal in the wild. Make herself as big and tall as she could and refuse to back down.
But as for what had come over her, honestly, she had absolutely zero idea. Maybe temper that he could read her like a map. Definitely frustration because he wound her up so tight that she sometimes fantasized about him deep in the night. Or all the time. And the hardest one to admit—embarrassment that she felt this way at all. If he ever found out, he’d be horrified and she’d have to move to Siberia. “Oh, please,” she scoffed, trying to hide her shame. Her only regret was that she hadn’t bitten him harder. “Don’t even try to tell me I hurt you. You’re impenetrable. A rock.”
“You think I can’t be hurt?” he asked with a whisper of disbelief.
“I think you don’t let it show if you are.” She didn’t realize they were literally toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose until she drew a deep breath and felt her chest brush his.
“What would you know about my feelings, Elle?” he asked very, very quietly, his warm breath brushing her temple.
And just like that, a new kind of tension came over her, something else as well, something that skittered along every single nerve ending in her body.
“Nothing,” she said. “I know nothing of your feelings because you’re an island to me.”
“Yeah? Well, you’re Siberia.”
“What the hell does that mean?” she demanded. “Are you saying I’m cold?”
Which was funny because she was so mad she was hot and she couldn’t think, couldn’t speak, so she crossed her arms tight over herself, closing off, which was of course proving his words. And only because maybe way deep down she did want to know his feelings, wanted to know them more than anything, wanted to know that she mattered to him, that she could reach him, that she could indeed hurt him, she poked him in a hard pec.
He wrapped his fingers around her wrist. “Stop.”
Yeah, that would have been the wise thing to do. Definitely. But she’d never been all that wise when it came to him so she used her free hand to tell him he was number one. With her middle finger. “How’s that for icy, you overgrown, knuckle-dragging oaf—”
Swearing beneath his breath, he caught that wrist too and stepped into her, making her not only shut the hell up but also stumble back a few steps, off balance. A tree came up against her back and Archer used that to his advantage, pinning her there with lots of solid muscle.