She wavered in the center of the room while he stalked to the nightstand and tossed the bag of condoms on top. He muttered something under his breath, an entire string of unintelligible phrases. While he verbally flogged himself she canvassed the room, noting the family photos on the walls and the heavy oak dresser. The enticing scent of men’s cologne hung in the air.
Beneath her feet, the grass green carpeting muffled the sounds of revelry in the rest of the house. Thick drapes, in a subdued grey and green stripe, were partially drawn across French doors that were flung open to lend a nice view of the second-story deck. Anthony stood rubbing his forearms, evidently searching for a proper apology.
After long minutes, he said, “Look, I’m sorry about what happened.”
The contrition on his face helped shore up her composure. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”
“Blame Theodora’s horse tranquilizers.”
“Well, actually, they were suppositories.”
Where is this headed? “Theodora owns a horse?”
“No, no. We were in the drugstore.” Frustration welled on Anthony’s face. “I was trying to dodge her. I ran into the rack of condoms. I wanted to buy you a sweet gift but I knocked into the rack—”
She nicked him with a narrowed glance. “The next time you want to add condoms to a sweet gift, choose a more opportune moment. Like when your parents aren’t around. For the record, I don’t think rubbers fall into the ‘sweet gift’ category.”
“It was a crazy, impulse purchase—”
“Keep your impulses to yourself!”
He took a step closer then halted beneath her warning glance. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he said. “It’s not like I thought we’d have sex today—”
“Got that right.”
What had he been thinking—they’d get down to the good stuff in the middle of a picnic? Granted, their attraction had reached a fever pitch. Even if they were foolish enough to broach intimacy, where would it lead? She couldn’t let him into her heart, not with the move back to Cincinnati looming on the horizon.
Instead of listing her objections, Mary said, “We shouldn’t have this discussion in your bedroom. We’re both at the end of our rope.”
“Are you talking about our attraction?”
“We aren’t kids, Anthony. It’s safe to acknowledge if we don’t leave your bedroom, we will end up making love.”
Her sudden candor squashed the distress on his face. Grinning, he threw his hands over his heart. “Making love—you didn’t refer to it in a cold, clinical way as ‘having sex’.” He went into a fake swoon. “We use the same love language. We are meant for each other.”
She laughed, easing the tension between them. “You’re crazy. You know that?”
“For you alone.”
“We aren’t embarrassing ourselves with a quick roll in the sack while your parents eat barbecue out back.” She paused, unnerved by the rising excitement stirring her blood. Anthony was to blame. The way his lusty gaze roamed her face, it was difficult to have any restraint.
“No worries,” he said, advancing. “My parents aren’t virgins. There’s nothing we can dream up they haven’t tried.”
“Stay where you are.”
He appeared intent on cornering her. Grinning, she backed toward the wall between the nightstand and the French doors. She hung on his gaze, the arousal he telegraphed heightening her senses as he erased the ground between them.
“I care about you,” he said, crowding her.
“Let’s go downstairs.” She gulped, her resolve slipping. “The look on your face is unnerving. It’s so . . . focused.”
“It’s way too yummy. Get back.”
“You’re breaking my heart.”
“I’m not trying to,” she said in a breathless voice. “I’m not sure who I distrust more—you or me.”
Her confession altered his expression so quickly, her heart thudded. A very male sort of determination glinted in his eyes. But his gaze skittered as he rubbed his hands down his thighs, his thoughts tumbling one over the next. The air between them stilled with the promise of beginnings.
He stepped back, as though coming to a decision. “Look, Mary,” he said, suddenly serious. Licking his lips, he stalled for time. Then he plunged forward quickly. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
The best thing? When was the last time a man had said that to her?
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