“You were only suspended?”
“Yes. But I couldn’t go back to the job.”
She stared at him. “So you quit?”
“Yes and you need to know that it was the best thing I ever did. So if you’re harboring some secret guilt, let it go. It’s unfounded.”
If Elle knew one thing about Archer, it was that he did what he thought was right, not what was easy. He’d saved her life and maybe he hadn’t been fired because of it, but regardless of what he said, she was still responsible for the change in course his life had taken.
She’d cost him so much.
She couldn’t bear to cost him another thing and yet Morgan was back. Which meant it was only a matter of time now before they ruined his life again. “You can’t trust her, Archer,” she said. “I don’t understand why you would.”
“I don’t trust her,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know what she’s up to.”
“Fine. It’s your life, but—”
“But you’re still going to tell me what to do?” he asked, a small smile on his lips.
She went into defense mode at his amused tone. “Well, I’m sure as hell not going to be quiet about it.”
“Duly noted,” he said dryly. “And for the record? I never want you to be quiet, Elle.”
She felt her face get warm. They both knew he’d inspired all sorts of noises from her that night, both while clothed and unclothed. “I told you, we’re not discussing that. Because it didn’t happen.”
“You know what I think?”
“That I’m right?” she asked with false sweetness.
He snorted. “Elle, you’re always right. It’s your world and we all just live in it.”
At that, it was her turn to snort.
His tone was amused. “I think you get off on yelling at me.”
True story. And although she’d come in here to do just that, they were now somehow smiling at each other, cynically or not, and they were also standing close.
She stared at his mouth, remembering how it had brushed against the sensitive skin beneath her ear, whispering dirty promises as he’d driven her to heaven and back.
Twice. Okay, three times, but who was counting?
That mouth smiled. “You want to yell at me some more, don’t you?” he murmured.
Yes. But that wasn’t what troubled her. It was the other urge she had—to take off her clothes and climb him like a tree. “I don’t always give in to what I want,” she said stiffly. “For instance, I wouldn’t mind wrapping my fingers around your neck right now and yet I’m not. Admire my restraint, won’t you?”
His smile widened, the sexy ass, and then he shifted so they were actually touching, chest to chest, toes to toes. “Go for it,” he murmured.
Archer watched, fascinated and mesmerized as always by the energy that shimmered off Elle in waves. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes flashing as she slapped a hand to his chest and opened her mouth, undoubtedly to let him have it, and he couldn’t help himself.
He kissed her.
Maybe it’d been to keep her from letting him have it, but mostly it was to get his tongue in her mouth again because he needed the taste of her more than he needed anything on the planet.
Elle held herself still for all of a single heartbeat and then in typical fashion she dove right in, flinging her arms around him with that soft, sexy little moan that came from deep in her throat.
She undid him, every time. Desperate for her, he held on tight. Her breath fanned his face, her lips just grazing his as she pulled back to look at him, her mouth wet.
He stared right back, unable to move, hell, unable to so much as fucking breathe until he had her again. To that end, he slid his hands over her body, knowing now how to make her gasp and writhe against him with that sexy little needy whimper. He had his hands gliding up the back of her thighs when she stopped him with one word.
“Wait,” she gasped.
He froze. “Wait? Or no?”
She hesitated at that and then dropped her forehead to his shoulder. “Okay, here’s the thing.”
Oh good. There was a thing . . .
“I’m still really mad at you.”
“Understood,” he said, wanting to be agreeable.
“I mean really, really mad,” she said. “But now it’s all sort of mixed up with something else.”
“And that is . . . ?”
“I want you,” she said, stirring him up with nothing more than the words. “But,” she said when he started to talk. “I want you on my terms.”
“I’m listening.” In truth, he didn’t care what the terms were, he’d give her whatever she wanted.
“We do this,” she said, “but only with the understanding that it’s within our temporary hold.”
“The temporary hold of me, and let me quote you here, ‘staying the hell away from you’?”
“Yes,” she said. “You good with that?”
No. Hell, no. But he’d worry about it on the other side. He wrapped his hand in her hair and gave a gentle tug so that she was looking at him.
“Archer? You hear me, right? This is happening in another time continuum only?”
“I hear you.” He just happened to disagree. Lowering his head, he leaned in to kiss her but once again she stopped him.
“Another rule?” he asked.
“The light’s on,” she said.
“But it’s already full daylight and these are fluorescent lights. No one looks good under fluorescent lights, Archer.”
“You do. You look good under anything.” He flashed a grin. “You’re going to look amazing under me.” He leaned in to get started on showing her but she put a hand to his chest.
“I know,” he murmured soothingly while dragging his mouth along the slope of her collarbone, thinking the sooner he got her naked, the sooner she could start to fall for him the way he was falling for her . . .
“Look, I know I carefully cultivate this whole ice queen thing”—she broke off with a moan when he nibbled at her throat—“and that you might think I’m perfect and all, but—”