Any thoughts of controlled technique vanished. Eric banded his arms around her, molding the long length of her body against his as he delved deeper, stroking the satiny warmth of her mouth, tasting rich crème brûlée and even richer Holly. His fingers tightened on the curve of her waist, and his palms prickled.
Holly felt good—too good—in his arms. Her pelvis nudged his as she shuffled closer. His response was instantaneous and enthusiastic.
He was too damned old to get aroused from a dead-end kiss. His only hope was that Holly hadn’t noticed. He gripped her upper arms, lifted his head and put a few inches between them.
“Good night.” His voice sounded strained and no wonder. His lungs weren’t working.
“’Night.” She licked her lips and raised her lids to reveal slightly dazed eyes.
Instead of releasing Holly and stepping away the way his brain ordered him to do, Eric found his arms encircling her, pulling her closer. He kissed her again and again. He couldn’t help himself. Even as he consumed her mouth, his conscience shouted, “What are you doing?”
Her arms twined around his neck, pressing her soft breasts against his chest. His fingers glided upward from her waist. He had to feel her weight in his hand, to cup her fullness. Had to.
The sound of a car starting and crunching down the gravel driveway barely registered, but the barking dogs hurling themselves at the other side of the front door managed to infiltrate the haze clouding his mind. His hand stopped inches short of its target. He lifted his head and swore.
Holly stiffened, jerked her hands from around his neck and pushed against his chest. She looked past his shoulder. “Octavia’s gone. I, um, think that probably convinced her.”
She licked her lips again and need clawed at him, but Eric released her and stepped away.
What in the hell had just happened?
Whatever it was couldn’t happen again.
He, more than anyone, knew that strong emotional attachments made a man weak. If he ever needed a reminder, all he had to do was look at his henpecked father.
He backed away from temptation and left as quickly as he could and still maintain his dignity. Two miles down the road, he realized he still had Holly’s check in his pocket, but he couldn’t risk turning the ’Vette around. Until tonight, no woman had ever rattled him enough to make him forget that money and the power attached to it made the world go round.
Who’d have thunk it?
Holly leaned against the inside of the door and sank to the floor. Monet and Seurat crawled all over her, jostling for attention. She absently scratched them while willing her pulse to slow.
If anybody had told her uptight Eric Alden’s kisses held more sexual promise than the pages of the Kama Sutra, she’d have laughed. And darn it, she could not turn the page to see what the next chapter revealed.
How unfair that when she finally met a guy who could singe the toes out of her panty hose, he was the one man she couldn’t have. Not only had she tried and failed to fit into Eric’s world, she’d promised Juliana after the auction that there was nothing sexual about buying her brother’s date package.
Those melt-her-mascara kisses had made a liar out of her. Her body still hummed and her lips wouldn’t stop tingling, no matter how hard she bit them. If he’d been anybody but Eric, she would have invited him in for more than a nightcap, thereby breaking her born-again virgin vow. But she’d promised herself she wouldn’t settle for anything less than happily ever after next time. If such a thing existed. And she had her doubts. Waiting for a prince—a prince who didn’t need fixing or financial assistance—to love her and all her foibles hadn’t worked thus far. Better to do without a man altogether than be disappointed yet again.
Holly shoved to her feet and dodged the dogs all the way to her kitchen. She’d have to do a better job of keeping her distance from Eric Alden. She sifted through the pile of magazines and junk mail that had piled up on the counter while she was finishing her current project until she found the bachelor auction brochure. She read over the eleven enchanted evenings promised in Eric’s date package to refresh her memory and groaned. “Talk about monotonousness. Jeez.”
As long as he didn’t kiss her again, then his offering of meals at stuffy see-and-be-seen restaurants where even the wait staff had condescending attitudes would make ignoring the chemistry between them easy. Each date would be a reminder of the world she’d left behind—the world that had turned on her when she’d dared to sully her hands at manual labor.
Juliana and Andrea were the only friends who’d stuck by Holly when she’d said to hell with being miserable doing what was expected of her, quit her job at the Caliber Club and moved to her grandparents’ farm. Being happy was more important than being accepted.
Eric thrived in society with all its restrictions, expectations and conventions, but Holly was a debutante dropout who’d suffocated until she’d escaped. He was a banker who lived by the bottom line, and she was a bleeding heart who’d given away more than she could afford, a situation illustrated by her current predicament. One she needed to address ASAP.
Despite the smoldering kisses, she and Eric couldn’t be a more mismatched pair—a fact she’d better not forget if he ever hit her with another one of those break-her-celibacy-vow kisses.
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