“Cheaters pay a penance. You know that, right?”
She gave him a sideways look. “Do they, now?” she asked, voice softer. Playing a little, he thought, which made his night.
“Yes.” His voice was husky now too. Jesus. This had gone from a playful game to something hot and seductive in a blink. “Maybe you’d like to reconsider some of your answers rather than pay the price.”
She thought about that and…didn’t change any of her answers.
Sophie’s mind was scrambling like a cat trying to get purchase on slick linoleum. Her heart pounded hard against her ribs and her breath caught in her lungs.
How had he known that she was just one big, fancy liar?
And more importantly…what now? Still as stone, she eyeballed him, considering her options. Run like hell? No. This was her boat and she no longer ran from anything. Let this play out? That seemed…terrifying, especially given their unexpected nuclear sexual chemistry.
And then there was the smart thing to do. Hold back.
But she’d never been all that good at self-restraint.
In direct opposition to her inner panic, Jacob was relaxed as he gazed at her, waiting patiently for her to…what exactly?
Lucas had been in perpetual motion, always moving with high-strung nervous energy that had made her own nerves leap.
Jacob was the opposite. He sat there, long legs sprawled out in front of him, one arm out along the back of the seat, the opposite hand—large and capable-looking—easily holding the bottle steady on a thigh. He was relaxed and utterly still.
There was no hiding from him, and that was new for her. The people in her life had always let her retreat, mostly because it’d been an easy way to not have to deal with her.
Jacob smiled at her prolonged—and let’s face it, unusual—silence. “Scared?” he asked.
“Hell no,” she said. Lie number five…
His smile turned into a grin. A Cheshire-cat grin. Had she been cold only a few minutes ago? Because suddenly she was sweating and fumbled to drop her heavy bathrobe.
“A striptease isn’t going to save you, but I’m game for you to try.”
She froze in the act of shrugging out of the robe and choked out a laugh. “Do lines like that ever work for you?”
He grinned that lethal grin, and instead of answering, crooked a finger at her, the universal sign for Get your ass over here.
A part of her wanted to flee, but apparently a bigger part wanted to throw herself at him, because she heard herself say, “Just tell me the penance already.”
Good Lord. Not Take a hike or Eff off…just Tell me the penance.
Seriously? she asked herself, and perfect, now she was actually sweating. Around them, the temp had dropped, but she was sweating.
Unlike her, Jacob showed no sign of sweating, or being ruffled in the slightest. Instead, he cocked his head and studied her like a bug on a slide. Except she didn’t feel like a bug. Not with his eyes so dark and warm, his lips curved in a way that made her own mouth dry.
She wanted that damn kiss. Wanted it bad too. Which settled it—she needed to sell the boat and get her own place with a nice hot shower that had a handheld showerhead so she could go back to taking care of her own business, business that she’d sadly neglected lately.
When the corners of his mouth curved further, more panic filled her. What if he could read her mind?
Reaching out, he wrapped his hand around her wrist, tugging until she stood directly in front of him, looking down at his big, hard body sprawled out on her bench.
“I want four straight truths,” he murmured softly, staring up at her. “And then I want my original reward.”
Her knees quivered. Other parts did too. And an intense heat flashed through her, but she had a decent sense of self-preservation, and her inner alarm was going off now. This man was a danger to her mental stability. And maybe her heart too.
And yet she still didn’t run. “My truths are ugly,” she said.
And they were. She’d grown up with a father who’d been ill a lot of the time, and when he hadn’t been ill, he’d been deeply depressed. She’d spent most of her childhood trying to get his attention, to please him, but neither had ever happened. So what had she done? She’d fallen in love with the first guy who’d turned his head for her and given her an ounce of attention—a guy who’d been rich and charming and utterly unreachable.
And she’d never been able to reach or please him either.
Of course, she’d then compounded her error and had married him young. Not even twenty-one when she’d given him her vows, she’d spent the next few years knowing she wasn’t good enough for him and never would be, no matter how much she tried.