“Come on home, big guy,” she murmured and pulled him in.
And as always, when he sank into her body and hugged her close, he did feel like he’d come home.
Only in the dim recesses of his mind, as he began to move within her, he knew he was the only one who felt that way.
Yeah, that was just what she’d needed. Mia slipped her dress back on. Feeling incredibly good now—funny how a couple orgasms put everything into perspective—she moved toward Kevin’s back door, thinking she’d leave now while Kevin was off disposing of the condom.
“Maybe I should just give you a key.”
She nearly jerked out of her skin at that low, incredibly erotic voice that only a few minutes ago had been whispering hot, sexy nothings in her ear as he’d glided in and out of her body. “A key?”
He leaned against the kitchen entry, tall, dark, and attitude-ridden. “Yeah, you know, so you don’t have to sneak around.”
Definitely attitude-ridden. And not nearly as friendly as he was a minute ago. He’d pulled on a pair of sweats and nothing else. His hair stood straight up—from her own fingers, no doubt. “I don’t do keys,” she said.
“And I don’t do this—this just-sex thing.”
She stared at him, her throat suddenly incredibly thick, and she had no idea why. In fact, she had no idea why she kept coming back…
He stepped closer, then closer still. Before she knew what he meant to do, he took her hand and brought her up against his warm, hard body.
“What are you doing?”
“Shh,” he said when she tried to pull back, holding her still. “Relax, it’s just a hug.”
Relax? She was going to have trouble with that, eased up against him as she was. Her body gravitated toward his as if they belonged plastered together, and he held her there, his mouth nuzzling her neck, his hand stroking up and down her spine in a touch that felt so good she wanted to melt. Her heart was beating so loud she thought for sure he would say something about it, but he didn’t. “See now, isn’t this nice?”
She actually swayed with him and slammed her eyes tight in denial, but that didn’t work, either, because with her eyes closed, her other senses took over. The scent of him, all warm male. The feel of his soft breath brushing her skin. The firmness of his body. The heat that came off him, warming her chilled limbs as his fingers stroked the small of her back. His legs brushing hers…
He felt so good that she couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but hold on. Her hand slid up his chest and then around his neck. At that came a low rumble of approval from deep in his throat, and he tugged her a little closer still. He wanted her again, every bit as much as she wanted him, but she had a feeling his want was different than hers, and she pulled back.
His eyes were enigmatic and intelligent, the eyes of a man who cared and cared deeply about things, things like this. He was the type of man she’d always stayed away from, the type who finished what he started, the type who didn’t quit at something just because it got difficult. He was strong, reliable. Solid.
Oh, no doubt, if she’d been the relationship type, she’d want him for keeps.
But she wasn’t, and she couldn’t be. “I’ve got to go,” she whispered. Stepping back, she averted her face so he couldn’t see the need that was surely written all over it. It embarrassed her, this knot of hunger in her belly, made her feel weak to still feel that all-consuming hunger for a man she’d just had.
“Don’t do this to me again, Mia,” he said quietly.
“I have to.”
“Then don’t come back.”
At that unexpected sharp knife to the gut, she nodded and let herself out into the night.
Kevin woke up reaching for a woman who wasn’t there, and the day didn’t improve much after that.
Mia arrived at the teen center with Hope, both career woman and Goth kid sticking out like a sore thumb, but at least Hope smiled at him and appeared happy to see him.
He couldn’t say the same about Mia, who signed Hope in, then headed back toward her car with only a single long look.
Because he’d already established he was an idiot, he followed her, then blocked her way when she would have slid into her car and driven off without a word, without a smile. Reaching out, he touched the small, nearly healed burn over her missing eyebrow.
She closed her eyes, then opened them. “Kevin—”
“Humor me. How are you doing?”
She certainly looked it, with her perfect makeup, her hair shiny and tamed, her suit dress cut in a way that screamed I am woman, hear me roar. She even let out a tight smile, though it didn’t come close to reaching her eyes. See, he knew the difference now. He’d gotten a real smile last night, for instance, when he’d been buried deep within her, her legs wrapped around his waist.
“What do you want from me?” she asked, sounding genuinely confused.
“Tell you, and you’ll comply?” When she only glared at him, he sighed. “All right. Let’s start with a thank-you for last night.”
“Thank you for the orgasm. Okay, two. Two orgasms. Thank you very much for both of those. Can I have my A plus and be excused now, Mr. McKnight?”
At her mocking tone, he scrubbed his hands over his face. “I have no idea what I was thinking coming out here after you. Forget it.” He started to walk away, then whirled back. He grabbed her, just hauled her up against him and covered her mouth with his.
Oh, yeah, God bless those ridiculously sexy high-heeled sandals because they put her at a perfect height for this. He’d meant to just touch his lips to hers, but he ended up practically inhaling her whole, only vaguely hearing her keys and purse hit the ground, much more tuned to the way she twined her arms around his neck and held on.
God, the little whimper she let out when her tongue met his was the sexiest sound he’d ever heard. Then suddenly she staggered back a step, staring at him for a long beat. Blinked. And then the cool, in-charge-of-her-world Mia reappeared. “What the hell was that?” she asked.
“Stupidity at its finest.” Shaking his head at himself, he bent for her keys and her purse, which she calmly took.
“Thank you,” she murmured as if he was a valet and nothing more. She slipped into her car, slid her shades over her eyes, and started the engine.
Only then did she look up at him through the opened window; the only sign that they’d just kissed each other stupid was that her lip gloss was gone. Something in her eyes shifted, warmed, and she sighed. “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“How about whatever’s on your mind.”
“Okay, how’s this? Seeing you makes me want to rip your clothes off again,” she said tightly, looking unhappy about it. “Thinking about what you do to me when said clothes are off makes me need to sit down. And when you touch me—”
“Yeah.” He closed his eyes. “You’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t talk.”
“Tried to tell you.”
“Right. Well…have a good day.”
She put the car into gear. “You’re the one who’s got Hope, so I should be saying that to you.”
“She’s a good kid.”
“Just lock up anything of value, Ace.” And without another word, she drove off into the morning sun.
Kevin watched her go, then looked down at his jeans, which were straining a bit in front. “Down, boy,” he murmured and headed to face his day.
School went as fine as it could possibly go for a bunch of lazy slackers, but near the end of his class, he realized the Lakers knit cap he’d found the other morning was missing from the lost-and-found box in front of his desk. A quick glance across the classroom had him groaning inwardly.
Adam had it shoved on his head. Adam was the resident jock and, now it appeared, also the resident stoner. Before he could confront that situation, he received a frantic call from Sara at the teen center. Someone had rigged the ice maker on the refrigerator to continuously make ice cubes, and by the time it was discovered the entire kitchen floor was covered with ice.
Kevin rushed over there and found everyone having an ice fight in the kitchen.
There were injuries. A freshman girl had taken an ice cube to the lip and was screaming bloody murder. A sophomore boy had slipped trying to skate on the slick linoleum floor and now had a nice bump to the head, which Kevin figured had a shot of actually knocking some sense into him.
In the middle of the chaos, Hope sat on the ratty couch in the front room, arms crossed defensively, looking straight ahead.
Kevin took one look at her and knew. “Whatcha doing?”
“Taking a time-out from the sandbox,” she said stiffly. “I don’t belong here.”
Kevin looked around at all the kids—diversified, but all basically privileged, and spoiled. “I guess they could use a bit more black in their color scheme.”
She snorted, then chewed on her lower lip. “About that ice thing. Anyone really hurt?”
“Well, Katie can’t wear lipstick for a few days, which she thinks is a felony, but as for Chris, he has a hard head, thankfully. He’ll live.”
She studied her boots.
He crouched in front of her. “Hope.”
It took her a moment to look at him. When she did, she caved like a cheap suitcase. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Are you really?”
“It’s just that the girl told me I was stupid. And the sophomore? He thinks he’s Tony Hawk. The only one who’s nice to me is Adam.”
Adam being the stoner, and also a first-class jerk who bed-hopped with shocking ease among the younger, easier influenced girls. If he was being nice, it was to get into her pants, but Kevin kept that to himself. “Adam is a player,” he said carefully. “Know that now.”
“He said you’d say that.”
Kevin kept his face even. “I’ve been trying to get that ice machine to work forever.”
“It was no sweat.”
“If it was no sweat, and if you really pulled off all that stuff at Mia’s work—”
“She ratted me out?”
“Nah. The grapevine.” He eyed her for a moment. “Pretty impressive list of feats.”
“I didn’t steal the money.”
“What about the other stuff? The phone rerouting, for instance?”
Hope looked away. “Maybe I did that.”
“Do you want to know what I think?”
“I dunno,” she said warily.
“I think you’re incredibly smart and also incredibly bored, and that you should be in my summer science class.”
“I failed science.”
“No possible way.”
“The teacher didn’t like me.”
“Well, I like you. Take my class, do well and pass it, and get credit for it.”
“I’m getting shipped back tomorrow.”
“What about your car?”
“Mia said she’d pay me what it’s worth and I can buy something else back home.”
“Do you want to go back?”
Another hesitation, then a lift of her shoulder.
“Think about it,” he suggested.
Hope let out a laugh that sounded rusty but genuine. “Yeah. Maybe…”
When it came to advertising, Mia had worked her way up the old-fashioned way—from working the mail room to lowly assistant, to gofer, to creative team member, to ad exec, and she’d loved each and every job as she’d climbed the ladder.
But she especially loved where she was now, in a corner office with a glorious view of downtown LA, with accounts stacking up and a reputation for being the best of the best.
A reputation that was taking a beating within the building this week, thanks to Hurricane Hope. For three days Mia had been trying to get Sugar to nail down the plans for tomorrow because one thing Mia wouldn’t do was blindly put Hope on a plane heading east.
Finally, Friday afternoon, Sugar answered her phone. “Tomorrow doesn’t really work for me,” she said right up front.
Mia’s eye twitched. “Sunday then.”
“Sugar. You are coming, right?”
“Actually, Apple, I need another week.”
Mia thunked her head down on her desk, imagining what her h*ps would look like with another week of bacon and eggs for breakfast, imagining also the look on Dick’s face when she continued to leave the office on time to pick up the kid. So much for senior butt-kissing…“Another week?”
“You have no idea what it’s like, being in charge of a teenager.”
Mia was beginning to, and she had to admit, she actually felt some sympathy for Sugar. “I’m not sure Hope wants to stay.”
“She doesn’t have a choice, if her car is really broken.”
“It is.” She sighed. Hell. “Promise you’ll come next week then?”
Only problem, Sugar’s promise had never been worth much.
That night Mia let Hope cook chili dogs and French fries. They had salad for “something green” as Hope said, seeming quite happy loading up her arteries with a year’s worth of cholesterol.
Because the kid looked so…content, Mia waited until afterward to tell her the news. “I talked to your mom today.”
In the act of clearing the table, Hope went still. “What time is she coming tomorrow?”
Mia stood up and took the plates from Hope’s hands, setting them in the sink before turning back to Hope. “She’s not.”