Authors: Lori Foster
Harris studied her. He figured it was the combined effects of sleeping alone, his mystery woman, and hearing about Clair’s boyfriend that had him seeing her with a new perspective. “How come you’ve never gotten contacts?”
Bending this way and that, stretching her arms high, Clair asked, “Why? You don’t like my glasses?”
“I didn’t say that.” Watching her flex was getting to Harris. She was a supple little thing. Funny how he’d never noticed that before.
Clair straightened, then stared up at him with her big green eyes, magnified behind the lenses of her glasses. “I tried contacts once, but they bugged me. I think my eyes are just too sensitive. Besides, I like wearing different frames.”
“I noticed that.” Tonight her frames were red, a stark contrast to the white shorts and tank. What she lacked in jewelry she made up for in eyewear.
“I have as many pairs of glasses as I do bras.”
Harris did a double take. Bras? Why the hell did she have to mention her unmentionables? His besieged brain launched into a series of visuals: Clair in something white and lacy. Clair in something black and slinky. Clair in something barely there.
Clair in his bed.
She said again, “Ready?”
Oh yeah, he was ready all right. For all kinds of things. His gaze dipped to her breasts, but he didn’t see any telltale signs of lace through her tee. “How many bras do you have?”
Laughing, Clair shook her head and started walking at a pre-run clip, leaving him two paces behind her. “What is this? Twenty questions?”
“It just occurs to me that I don’t know you that well.” He tried, but he couldn’t seem to get his gaze off her ass. Was she sashaying just a bit? Putting a little extra swing in the swing and sway?
Turning to walk backward, depriving him of his preoccupation with her behind, Clair frowned. “You know me better than most people.”
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.” Harris took satisfaction in pointing that out.
She turned her back again and started moving a little faster. “What’d you think, Harris? That I was a virgin? A nun? A misanthrope?”
“A misan-what?” Harris trotted to keep up.
“Misanthrope. You know, a hater of men.”
“No.” He was sure of one thing. “You like me and I’m a man.”
Over her shoulder, she smiled at him, a smile unlike any he’d ever seen from Clair before. “That you are.”
Harris’s eyes widened. Was she flirting? Did Clair even know how to flirt? But her voice was different, too, sort of soft and playful. He caught up to her. “So who was the boyfriend?”
“No one important.” They began jogging in earnest, gliding along smoothly. “Just a guy I knew who seemed nice enough and interesting enough to pass the time.”
“You weren’t serious about him?”
She snorted, giving Harris all the answer he needed—though why he needed an answer, he couldn’t say.
They loped on in silence, past the dark, quiet park, along deserted streets where older homes sat back in majestic splendor, along the levy where a concrete path had been poured.
Their movements were fluid, well timed to match. They had a great rhythm together. Harris groaned. He could just imagine setting the pace in bed, and how easily Clair could keep up.
“So how many bras do you have?”
Her laugh got carried away on the evening wind. “At least one for every day of the week.”
He thought about that. “A special one for each day?”
“No, just variety. Different colors, different fabrics.”
Like French lace or slinky nylon or maybe... “What are you wearing tonight?”
“We’re jogging, sweating. So it’s plain old comfortable white cotton.”
Somehow, when he pictured it on Clair, cotton didn’t seem the least plain. He was wondering about her panties, whether they matched the bra or not, when Clair slowed, veered off the pavement to mosey into the grass, then leaned her shoulders against a thick maple tree.
That far from the street, the light of lampposts barely penetrated.
Immediately, Harris was beside her. “Hey, you okay?”
“Mmm-hmm.” She tipped her head back and closed her eyes. “Just a little tired today.”
She’d been pale earlier, unsteady on her feet, and now she was tired? Clair never got tired. Hell, usually he was the first to get winded when they ran, and he knew he was in extremely good shape. All firefighters were.
Come to that, so was Clair, and he didn’t mean healthwise, although that applied too. Her white shirt and shorts reflected the scant moonlight, emphasizing certain swells and hollows, making her body look more feminine than ever.
She bent one knee, stuck the other leg out straight. The pose showed off the length of her long legs, causing Harris’s mouth to go dry. Her dark brown hair, hanging loose tonight, lifted a bit with a gentle breeze. His fingers twitched with the need to smooth it back into place. He resisted.
Still with her eyes closed, Clair smiled.
“Why,” Harris asked, full of suspicion now, “are you smiling like that?”
Her eyes opened, her head tilted. “Like what?”
“Like you have a secret.”
For a single moment there, Harris thought he saw alarm flicker in her gaze. Then she straightened away from the tree. “Don’t be absurd. Can’t a woman smile?”
“Sure.” He propped his hands on his hips. “When she’s got a reason.”
“I’m happy,” Clair snapped, in a very unhappy tone. “I feel good. The air’s fresh, your company, before just now, wasn’t too heinous, and so I smiled.” She shoved past him. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
Harris caught her arm and pulled her around. She slammed into his chest, but quickly back-stepped. “You get mad too easy, too fast.”
She relented just a bit, tugging free of his hold and folding her arms around her middle. Sounding mulish, she said, “I’m not mad.”
“No? Then what?”
She stared up at him, one expression after another crossing her features before she stalked in a circle around him. Harris turned, keeping her in his sights.
“You told me I wouldn’t understand about lust.”
Oh hell. First bras and now this. Except for the racing of his heart and a twitch of male interest, Harris went very still. “Yeah.”
Shut up, Harris. Let it go....
“You were wrong.”
He shouldn’t have pushed for an explanation. “I am, huh?”
She nodded. “I’m...antsy. The guy you were asking about? We broke up two months ago.” She peeked up at Harris, all innocent temptation. “I haven’t been out with a guy since.”
No way could he have this conversation. Not with a platonic girlfriend. Not without a bed around. He took a step back. “Right. Gotcha. Maybe a, uh, run will help.”
“No. I need to find a new guy.” As if she hadn’t just dropped a verbal bombshell, Clair turned away and headed back to the sidewalk. “In the meantime, running just exhausts me so I can sleep at night instead of fantasizing.”
Fantasizing! Well, yeah, so all women probably fantasized, same as men. But Clair? Harris stomped after her. “What the hell does that mean, you have to find a new guy? You make it sound like shoe shopping.”
She ignored his furious blustering to say, “Come on. Let’s finish our run.” Rather than wait for him, she took off, forcing Harris to catch up.
Because he was annoyed now, it took him only two long strides to reach her side. “So where do you intend to look for this new guy?”
“I dunno.” She glanced at him over her glasses. “You got any suggestions?”
Of all the nerve. “You can’t tell me you’re horny, then expect me to help you find a guy.”
She whipped around so fast he nearly plowed over her. They bumped. Hard. Harris had to catch her arms to keep them both on their feet.
Giving her a small shake, he groused, “What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Me!” She pushed him away, almost landing him on his butt. “I didn’t say anything about being
—how crass is that?”
“You think antsy sounds prettier? It means the same thing.”
Clair gasped. “It does not.”
Disgusted, Harris stared into her sexy green eyes and taunted, “Then I was right. You don’t know anything about lust.”
Her pupils flared. The seconds passed with the impact of a ticking bomb. He could feel the tension building, stretching almost to the breaking point—and she attacked.
One second Harris was standing there, smirking at her, and then he was flat on his back in the cold dank grass, little rocks prodding his spine, mosquitoes buzzing with delight at the feast thrown to them.
And Clair, well, Clair had an unshakable grip on his skull and her mouth was plastered to his, hot and wet and demanding. Somehow, with the prodding of her tongue, he opened and she plundered, licking and tasting, stealing his objections and melting them with her heat.
Astounded, instantly aroused, Harris cupped her head, felt the silkiness of her hair, the warmth of her skin. He tipped his head for a better angle and let her deepen the kiss more.
he thought. This was Clair straddling him, Clair kissing him with so much passion. Her breasts flattened on his chest, her thighs shifted against his, wrenching a deep groan from him.
Then she was gone.
Moon and stars filled Harris’s vision. His lungs labored to draw in more cool night air. His body burned. Confused, he pushed up to his elbows. Clair stood over him, hands on her hips, her glasses askew, her white shorts now dirty.
“That,” she said, “is lust.”
Harris nodded in complete and total agreement. “I’ll say.”
She offered him a hand, and when he took it, she helped haul him to his feet. Looking down into her earnest face, Harris scrambled for something to say, some way to get back into that full-body contact. But before a single idea could form, Clair touched his chin, his jaw, gently, softly.
Harris went mute with anticipation.
She stepped up against him, cuddling into him, wrapping her arms around him. After a long, meaningful stare into his eyes that scorched him clean through to his bones, she went on tiptoe and kissed him again. This kiss was as different as night and day from the first. It was purposeful, sweet, and it consumed him.
Like a slow burn, she involved his entire body, her small hands touching up and down his bare back, over his shoulders, as if in awe of his muscles and strength. Her feet moved between his, which aligned her soft belly with his groin. She pressed, proving she was aware of his erection.
Her breasts brushed against him, teasing, taunting, until he felt her stiffened nipples and growled.
She made small sounds of pleasure and hunger too, her tongue now shy, loving.
With a pat to his rear, Clair pulled away. He watched as she slowly licked her lips. “And that,” she whispered, “is antsy.”
Breathless, hot, more than a little ready, Harris reached for her. “I don’t think I quite understand yet. You better do a little more explaining.”
CLAIR’S QUICK BACK STEP kept her out of reach. “If that explanation didn’t suffice, then nothing will. You’re hopeless.” She turned away.
Did women always have to be so confusing?
Neither of them jogged this time. Hell, just walking was tough for Harris. He had a major Jones and she just didn’t seem all that affected. Except for the wobbly way she walked. And the way she breathed too deeply.
He couldn’t just let it go, so after half a dozen steps, he cleared his throat and ventured into murky water. “So...that was just a lesson, huh?”
“Think what you will.”
She sounded all prickly again. Clair never got prickly with him. He wasn’t used to it and didn’t have a clue how to deal with her in this mood. “How about you just explain it?”
One shoulder lifted in a halfhearted shrug. “Men get horny and want to get laid. Women get antsy and want to touch and be touched, to cuddle and be affectionate.” She cast him a quick look. “And then make love.”
He raised his hand. “I’ll take either one.”
“I wasn’t offering.”
“Yeah, you were.” When she turned to face him, Harris chastised her with a look. “I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but I’m not a complete dolt. You’re coming on to me.”
She didn’t reply to that one way or the other.
He needed verification, damn it. “I’m willing, Clair.”
The incredulous look she gave him didn’t bode well. “Willing? Oh great, bring out the band. Harris is
” Her laugh reeked with sarcasm. “How did I get so lucky?”
Figuring her out wasn’t going to be easy. “Bad word choice? Should I have said happy to oblige? Anxious? Maybe desperate?”
Her eyes narrowed behind the lenses of her glasses. “Are you?”
“After those killer kisses, what do you think?”
She reached around him to pat his ass again—right over the pocket that held the photo and his key. The woman sure had a thing for his rear.
“I think you’re desperate to find your stupid mystery woman and I’d just be a way to pass the time.” She crossed her arms over her chest, going all stiff and angry.
He took too long trying to figure out what to say, because she demanded, “Isn’t that right?”
Harris held out his hands. “C’mon, Clair. I can’t just forget about her. But hell, I don’t even know her.”
“You told me you didn’t know me that well either.”
They were a good mile from home, which ensured no matter what he said she couldn’t just stalk off in a temper. That gave Harris small comfort, though, when he didn’t know what the hell to say. “Up until a few minutes ago, I didn’t know you were interested in...that.”
“That?” she asked meanly, curling her lip, being deliberately derisive.
“The two combined?”
“Exactly.” He wrapped his fingers around her upper arm, slowing her furious stomp to a more sedate pace. When she didn’t object, he decided to just hang on to her. Touching her was nice. At least now it was. Before she’d kissed him, he hadn’t really noticed how it felt to touch her. Realizing that, he said, “I need a few minutes to adjust, that’s all. Neither of us has thought that much about sleeping together.”