She shook her head, turned her glance back to the water. A faint breeze tugged at her hair, loosening a few of the shorter strands around her face. “Not without a crew. And that would defeat the whole purpose.”
“That’s not outrageous. That’s just escape.” He recognized that need easily enough. He’d just never expected that she would feel it. “Next choice?”
“How about throwing my dinner at the next waiter who interrupts eight times to ask if everything is prepared to my liking?”
“A food fight at Four Seasons. Yeah,” he muttered, nodding as he considered. “That might be a little shocking.” He smiled. “What else?”
She pondered for a moment, clearly searching for what, for her, would be scandalous behavior. “Skinny-dipping.”
His glance cut to where she stood at the rail. He didn’t know how tall she was. Five-five maybe, without the heels that brought her to his chin. But he had no trouble estimating the size and proportion of the rest of her slender, supple-looking body.
He’d been conscious of her since the moment he’d opened the front door. He had not, however, been prepared for the jolt of pure physical awareness he’d felt when he’d caught her by the arms moments ago. He’d barely had his hands on her, barely breathed in her subtle, faintly erotic scent and every nerve in his body had gone on alert. Then, she’d looked up at him and his glance had settled on the gentle part of her lips. Her lush mouth had looked soft, moist and as ripe as a peach. And the prospect of tasting her had turned certain parts of his anatomy as hard as stone.
“You think you’d do that?” he asked casually.
“No.” She sounded disappointed. “But it sounds like something that would take nerve.”
“For some people.”
“Have you done it?”
He lifted one shoulder in an offhanded shrug. “The water’s warm in Tahiti.”
Ashley’s glance moved from his broad shoulders to his narrows hips, then jerked back to where the low security lights made shadows on the boat in the distance. She had a profound appreciation for art in all its forms and his body, magnificently, gloriously naked would definitely be a work of art. As for experiencing the freedom of being naked in the water herself, she couldn’t imagine the sheer lack of inhibition doing something like that would take.
At the moment, growing more relaxed by the wine, protected by the darkness, she realized she truly hated being inhibited.
“What does it feel like? Being that…free.”
She felt rather than saw the faint lift of his shoulder above hers. “Good, I guess.”
“I mean really.” She waved her glass toward the vast darkness beyond them. “How does it feel to not care about convention and just go where the moment leads you?”
“What makes you think I know?”
She knew he did. Actually, she was dead sure of it. Her memory about why that was just seemed a little fuzzy at the moment. And, as relaxed as she was and, surprisingly, not feeling nervous at all, it didn’t seem to matter anyway. “You don’t?”
Matt reached over, slipped the glass from her fingers. “Maybe,” he conceded. “But we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about you.” He took a swallow of wine. Rather than handing the goblet back, he kept it for himself. “In your mind, is going for a swim without a suit the most outrageous thing you could do?”
He spoke quietly, thoughtfully, as if he really wanted to know her secrets. As if learning them might tell him something he had always wanted to know.
The thought that he might have always wanted to know more about her drew her eyes to the shadowed angles of his face. The years had carved character into his compelling features and made him far more dangerous than he had ever been in his reckless youth. Dangerous because he was far easier to talk to than she ever would have imagined. Dangerous because he drew her in ways she didn’t totally understand, didn’t trust and at the moment really didn’t care to consider.
Looking from the sensual line of his mouth, wondering if it would feel as hard as it looked, she could easily think of something far more shocking than diving naked into a pool. For her, anyway.
“No,” she heard herself quietly admit. “It’s not.”
“So, what is?”
She shook her head. The thought of curving her arms around his neck, stretching herself up against his chest and thighs and unabashedly kissing him felt bold enough. No way would she say it aloud. Especially no way could she tell him that, at that moment, what she would really like to do was tug off his sweater and let her hands roam over all those beautiful muscles. She’d never fantasized about seducing a man before, but if she were to do it, he would definitely be her fantasy.
Realizing she was fantasizing, her eyes widened. Dragging her glance from his mouth, she heard Matt chuckle. The deep delicious sound washed over her like the caress of warm velvet.
“Come on,” he gently coaxed. “In vino veritas.”
“In wine there is truth,” she translated, smiling. “That does seem to be true.” She’d already exposed far more of herself to him than she had anyone else. “But some things are definitely better admitted only to oneself.”
“But I already know you have a deep-seated wish to throw food and swim naked.”
“That’s just between you and me.” She quickly glanced up, her eyes suddenly serious. “Okay?”
“I won’t tell a soul.”
“Promise,” he replied, and reached over to tuck back the strands of hair that curved by her mouth.
His touch was light, oddly reassuring and, at that moment, felt like the most natural thing in the world. It seemed strange that she should feel such certainty about him, but she didn’t doubt that she could trust him with everything she said. Not once in all the years he’d known her brother had he ever said a word about a Kendrick that had shown up in print.
Even in the lovely fog relaxing her body and mind, she knew that alone was worth its weight in platinum.
His hand slowly fell. Over the tranquil lap of water, she heard the faint clink of the goblet touching wood as he set it on the railing ledge.
“So.” His eyes glittered on her face, down the line of her throat.
“So,” she murmured back, feeling strangely warm everywhere his glance touched.
“Are you going to give me those keys or not?”
She swallowed, drawn by that delicious heat, drawn by him.
“I hadn’t planned on it.”
Humor glinted in his eyes, tugged the corner of his mouth. “Do I have to go after them?”
Her heart bumped her breastbone. The thought of his big hand slipping inside her jacket and inside her bra pooled that heat low in her belly.
“You wouldn’t.” She swallowed, thinking she should feel far more alarmed than she did by the thought. Or, at least, alarmed by the jolt of anticipation it brought. “Would you?”
He edged closer, making her tip her head back farther to look up at him. His grin was as seductive as the deliciously dark tones of his voice when he slipped his fingers along her jaw. “There’s something you need to know about me, Ashley.”
His head descended, making her pulse leap, her breath go shallow.
His mouth hovered inches from hers. “I’ve always found it hard to resist a challenge. Right now,” he said in response