Authors: Lauren Gallagher
Tags: #canada, #Torfino, #movie stars, #actress, #contemporary erotic romance, #erotic romance, #Hollywood
Maybe he genuinely liked her. Or maybe he was just a sleazeball looking for another notch in his bedpost. Her thoughts drifted to the tattoos sneaking out from beneath his taut shirt, the way his fingers nimbly manipulated the camera lens, the ripple up his arm, the casual way he touched his tongue to his lips when he was thinking. His soft, tantalizing touch. The way his kiss sent tremors up and down her spine.
After what he did to her on the pier, she'd carve the notch in his bedpost herself if it meant getting to see what else his fingers could do, and what his tongue would feel like—
"Simone!" She scolded herself. Her face must have been cherry red, judging by the way it burned just then. But that wasn't the only place feeling some heat. She couldn't help but wonder what his tattoos looked like, how their edges would feel against her tongue.
! Anne-Marie's voice echoed in her head.
But the more she thought about Jason, about the way his mouth tasted and his fingertips brushed her skin, Simone realized that "no men" was an entirely different proposition than "don't fuck Jason Connor"
"If you saw him, you'd understand, Anne-Marie," she said aloud. She pushed herself out of the chair and snatched a halfway decent blouse and pair of jeans off the bed. Whatever happened . . . happened. She wouldn't let it consume her. She could control herself, just have some fun, and go back to L.A.
"What happens in Tofino," she said, pulling her T-shirt over her head, "s
Jason's house was several miles out of town, on a secluded, dirt road way back in the woods. She rounded the last bend and found a log cabin, much larger than AnneMarie's, nestled in the trees with a meticulously kept yard and the familiar red Jeep parked out front.
She took a breath as she put the car in park. Just one night, she promised herself, pretending she wasn't already ridiculously aroused just thinking about him. When he answered the door, her breath caught in her throat.
His face was clean-shaven now except for the slim, neatly-trimmed mustache and goatee that outlined his boyish smile. His hair was still spiky and unruly, but less so than the day before. Beneath the sleeves of his white, button-down shirt, she could make out the vague outlines of his tattoos, though a thicker undershirt kept her from seeing the rest of them. As he put his arms around her and kissed her gently, a hint of his musky cologne sent goosebumps prickling down her arms.
"I'm glad you came," he said. Instantly his cheeks darkened. "Came over, for dinner."
Simone pursed her lips to keep from laughing. "I'm sorry I'm not better dressed," she said, gesturing self-consciously at her jeans and casual blouse. "I didn't pack much, so—"
"You look great."
So do you, she thought.
Good God, so do you
He showed her into his spacious house. As he did, she forced herself not to stare at the way his butt looked in those slacks, or the way his shirt pulled tight across his broad shoulders. She tried to focus on the house and everything in it. The cabin was sparsely furnished, but hardly a bachelor pad. His taste in décor was simple, but elegant: matching black furniture. A few odds and ends that suggested he'd either visited some exotic places or just had eclectic taste. Framed photos hung neatly on the walls. One wall was almost completely glass, with vast picture windows overlooking a stunning view of the water.
The kitchen was separated from the living room by a small dining room table—
tablecloth, candles, the works. It wouldn't have surprised her if he said the silver was hand-polished.
And his hands would be perfect for—Simone! Stop it!
He led her into the kitchen. Judging by the immaculate stainless steel appliances and meticulously arranged counters, his kitchen was not just a place to heat up TV dinners. The aroma of something delicious filled her nostrils. Her mouth watered.
"Wine?" Jason asked.
She hesitated. Just one glass of wine. A glass, not the whole damned bottle. Just one glass. "Please," she said.
He pulled a bottle from a well-stocked wine rack and poured two glasses of white wine. "Dinner's almost ready," he said, handing her a glass. Gesturing toward the living room, he added, "You're welcome to look around if you'd like." His smile seemed more shy than confident.
"Take your time," she said, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring smile.
Or, skip dinner altogether and take me to bed
. She quickly turned away and sipped her wine, willing her cheeks to stop burning as she looked at the photos on the wall.
Jason's hands were unsteady inside the oven mitts as he checked on the halibut filets. Somehow he'd managed to pour the wine without spilling it all over the place, and with any luck, she hadn't noticed how much his hands shook. What was she doing to him?
He felt like a school kid trying to impress a girlfriend. She probably thought he was only trying to get her into bed—and, holy hell, after last night, he certainly wasn't adverse to doing just that—but his intentions tonight were not entirely sexual. He asked her to dinner because he wanted to be with her again, to talk to her, to hear her laughter.
He stole a glance at her as she walked through the living room looking at his pictures. She'd been embarrassed by her casual attire when she came in, but he didn't object at all, not with the way those jeans accentuated her long, slender legs and the gentle curve of her hips. He remembered the warmth of her skin beneath his fingertips, the way her hips fit perfectly into his hands. What he wouldn't have given the night before to get her into bed. Hell, if she'd given him the word, he would have fucked her on the pier. Right there. Right then.
And watching her now, he was more than a little tempted to forget dinner and take her to bed. Right
Shaking his head, he turned to check on one of the pots on the stove, taking a deep breath to calm himself down. Ever since last night, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about her and now that she was in the same room, he could barely see straight. He reached in to pull the fish out of the oven. In the back of his mind, he wondered what she would say if he suggested foregoing dinner altogether and finishing what they'd started on the pier. It took every bit of self-control he had not to grab her by those exquisite hips, lay her across the table, and fuck the hell out of her.
," he muttered to himself through clenched teeth.
Her voice startled him and he nearly dropped the pan as he pulled it out of the oven. He laughed. "I didn't realize you were there."
"I'm sorry." She bit her lip, stifling a giggle. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay." He laughed, silently thankful she hadn't seen what his thoughts of her had done to the way his slacks fit.
"I was just going to ask you"—She gestured over her shoulder with her wine glass—"About one of the pictures in the living room."
He set the pan down and took off the oven mitts. Simone couldn't help but notice the contrast in him: the tousled, rough around the edges man with the boyish face, who wore a neatly pressed button down as well as he wore a ratty T-shirt, wearing oven mitts and pouring wine.
"Which one?" he asked.
"The picture?" he said. "You wanted to ask about one of them?"
"Oh. Right." She turned and headed into the living room before her face got red enough to light up the whole place. She stopped at a print beside the fireplace. It was an island, its shore completely devoid of any human influence. It was tiny, perhaps twenty yards across, its edge made up of a sandy beach shaped like a little crescent moon.
"Where is this?"
"That's the place I mentioned yesterday," he said. "It's a few miles from here by boat." For a moment, he just gazed at the picture, his expression almost reverent. "It's my favorite place in the world."
"It's beautiful," Simone said, turning back to look at the picture. I wish you'd take me there, she thought.
Jesus, Simone! You barely know him!
He cleared his throat. "Dinner is ready."
He pulled out her chair at the table, and went about preparing their plates. Soft music filled the air and she wondered when he had turned on the radio. Had it been playing the whole time? Maybe she just hadn't heard it over her pounding heart.
Jason laid a china plate in front of her with a halibut steak covered in a red and white salsa. Beside it, several stalks of asparagus were neatly piled, drizzled over with a dark sauce.
The fish was exquisite, its delicate flavor and tenderness superior to anything she'd ever tasted in the finest restaurants of New York and L.A. "This is amazing," she said. "Really."
"I'm glad you like it." He sipped his wine.
"Where did you learn to cook like this?"
"My mother," he said. "She was a gourmet chef for years, taught my brother and me everything she knew."
Glancing at the photos on the wall, then back at him, she said, "Is there anything you do that you
do perfectly?" She regretted it the instant she said it, wishing she could retrieve the words. Her face burned and she knew he saw it this time.
"Well," he said with a laugh, looking down at his plate, but not completely hiding the mischievous smile on his face. "I can't sew to save my life. And I'm hands down the shittiest golfer you'll ever find."
Simone laughed. Their gazes met across the table. The electricity in the air prickled her skin with goosebumps, but she hoped he didn't notice. He cleared his throat. "So, where are you from, anyway?"
"Northern? Southern? Somewhere in the middle?"
"Southern." She gestured around the spacious room. "This is a beautiful house, by the way."
He cocked his head slightly, eyeing her, but followed suit with the subject change. "Thanks. Built it with my brother a few years ago."
"Really? Just the two of you?"
He shrugged. "Well, we roped a few friends in for some of the heavy stuff, but for the most part, it was just the two of us." He sipped his drink and chuckled. "He says I'll pay him back for it someday in some still undetermined currency."
"What's he going to do?" Simone laughed. "Have you whack one of his enemies?"
Jason rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. "Knowing him, it'll have something to do with keeping an eye on his kids for a few days." She raised an eyebrow. "You don't like kids?"
"Oh, no, it's not that at all." He smiled. "I love kids. But my brother seems to like handing them off to me after they've each had a Red Bull or two."
"Now that's just cruel. How old are they?"
"Two and four."
They chatted lightly, like they had the day before on the beach. Even after they'd finished eating and Jason quickly cleared the table and counters, they returned to the table and chatted. The table between them created a comforting but frustrating distance; she desperately wanted to pick up where they'd left off the night before, but neither made the first move. They could barely pull themselves away from each other in his Jeep the night before, but now it felt like a silent game of chicken to see who would finally make contact again.
The CD in the player changed and Chris de Burgh's
Lady In Red
drifted through the air. Simone paused and cocked her head, listening.
"What is it?" he asked.
She knew she was blushing, but tried to laugh it off. "I haven't heard that song in ages, but I love it."
"So do I, actually," he said. "Even if it is a cliché prom song." Simone laughed. She didn't tell him it was the song she and Gregory danced to at their wedding.
He stood. "How about a dance?"
Her heart quickened. "Right now?"
Because my legs will collapse under me if I try to stand
. She swallowed. "Okay." Jason extended his hand and she took it. The warmth of his fingers against hers sent a shiver through her. He led her into the living room, in front of the fireplace, where there was more room. Her gaze flicked toward the black leather sofa. She
wanted to pull him down on it, to have what she hoped he wanted as badly as she did, but she let him take the lead.
He held her hand in his and set his other on her waist. She rested her free hand on his shoulder, resisting the urge to grope the muscles beneath his thin shirt. It had been so long since she'd danced—probably since her wedding, a lifetime ago—but he led her with a gentle insistence that said, "don't worry, I know what I'm doing, just follow me." She did follow him, and he did know what he was doing, guiding them around his small living room as if it made perfect sense to do so. The sharp edges of a tattoo hid just beneath his starched collar. Tattoos had never turned her on before, but his intrigued her. She wanted to see them, to touch them, to trace her tongue along the edges of them. She suddenly wanted to taste his skin. She realized he was looking at her, watching her stare at his shoulders. Clearing her throat, she said, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you're a good dancer, too." His lips curled into a shy smile. "You're not so bad yourself." Moving his hand from her waist to the small of her back, he pulled her closer to him. She took in a sharp breath as their bodies touched, and his cologne intoxicated her.
"I'm really not that great of a dancer," he said, finally, his lip brushing hers so lightly she almost thought she'd imagined it. "I just wanted a reason to touch you again."
Simone swallowed hard, trying to remember how to breathe, speak,
, as he looked into her eyes. Jason's words hung in the air between them, his mouth close enough to hers to taste.
Finally, she said, "You didn't need a reason." They had stopped moving. She wondered how long they'd been standing still, while the music moved around them. He inched closer, tilting his head as if to kiss her, but still he kept that agonizing sliver of space between them. "So you're saying I could have just touched you, and you wouldn't have minded?"