Blue-Eyed Devil Page 77

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"You don't have to," I said earnestly. "I trust you. If you show me what you want, I'll do it. I mean, whatever you and Beebe did . . . "

His lips twitched with rueful amusement. "Damn it all. Forget her, honey. I spent one night with her and never went back for seconds."

"Well, regardless," I said, filled with a competitive spirit. "You don't have to be careful with me. I can take it."

The hint of amusement broadened into a smile. "Okay."

I tugged his head down. Reaching his mouth, I kissed him ardently. He responded without hesitation, searching the depths of my mouth until we were both gasping.

Hardy lifted me to my knees, facing him, his hands clasped beneath my arms in a strong but solicitous hold. His gaze was blistering, but his voice was gentle. "You want to try something new, Haven?"

I gulped and nodded, my h*ps riding forward in a subtle sway. He noticed. I saw how aroused he was, and it made me giddy with desire. His hands slid to my wrists. He raised my arms, and guided me to grip the top of the tall louvered headboard. My br**sts lifted with the movement, the tips contracting.

Hardy stared steadily into my eyes until I was drowning in the depths of blue. His breath was hot against my lips. "Hold on," he whispered, clamping my fingers on the headboard.

And then came scalding minutes of intimacy . . . of skillful torment that led to fever. Fever that led to sweetness. He was everywhere, all around me, inside me. Somehow I survived, but just barely. By the time Hardy had finished with me, my fingernails had dug crescents into the headboard, and I couldn't remember my own name. I collapsed slowly into his arms, every limb quivering with release.

"Just you," Hardy said when he got his breath back. "All I want is you."

I felt like I was falling through clouds as he lowered me into the down pillows. Falling hard and fast. And there didn't seem to be a thing I could do about it.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

"Let me get this straight," I said to Jack, standing at his apartment door. "You're not going to cut Hardy any slack even though he saved my life two weeks ago? What does he have to do for you to treat him politely? . . . Come up with a cure for cancer? Save the world from an asteroid?"My brother looked exasperated. "I didn't say I wasn't going to be polite. I can do that much."

"Gee, that's big of you."

That night Hardy and I were going to a rigs-to-reefs party, which was being sponsored jointly by a couple of major oil companies.

Rigs-to-reefs was a program in which companies chopped off the tops of their used platforms and left them on the ocean floor to create an artificial reef. Since the entire Gulf of Mexico was mud bottom, the rigs created a supportive environment for the fish.

Despite protests from naturalists, fish seemed to like the abandoned platforms. And oil companies loved the program because it saved them millions in lieu of platform recovery. So they had donated an exhibit to the Houston Aquarium to display how much, in their opinion, rigs-to-reefs benefited the Gulf.

My family would be at the exhibit opening. And I had done my best to make it clear that not only would I attend with Hardy Cates, but I expected the Travises to behave like reasonable human beings. Apparently that was asking a lot. I had called Joe, who had informed me darkly that I was being used by Hardy, just as he had predicted. And now Jack was being stubborn. I certainly didn't expect anything different from my father, whose opinions were as unalterable as his blood type.

That left only Gage to worry about . . . but I felt certain he would be decent to Hardy, if only for my sake. He'd indicated as much when I had talked to him after the elevator incident.

"All I said was," Jack continued, "Cates doesn't get extra credit with the Travises just for doing what any guy would have done. I told you before, if you'd called me or Gage, either of us could've gotten you out of that elevator just fine."

"Oh. I get it."

His eyes narrowed. "What?"

"You're mad because you didn't get a chance to do macho stuff and show off. You can't stand for anyone else to be a hero. You're the head caveman, and no one's club is bigger than yours."

"Damn it, Haven, quit fighting like a girl. It has nothing to do with the size of my club." He glanced up and down the hallway. "Come inside for a minute, will you?"

"No, I don't have much time to get ready. I'm going up to my place. I only wanted to stop by and tell you to be nice to my — " I broke off abruptly.

"Your what?" Jack demanded.

I shook my head, disconcerted. God knew what word or phrase I should apply in Hardy. "Boyfriend" sounded so high-schoolish.

And inappropriate, since Hardy was fat from a boy. Lover . . . well, that was old-fashioned and melodramatic. Significant other? Friend with benefits? No, and no.

"My date," I said, and gave him a warning frown. "I'm serious about this, Jack. If you're a jerk to him tonight, I'm going to skin you like a buffalo."

"I don't get what you're asking for. If you want my approval, you're not getting it. I don't know enough about the bastard yet . . . and what I do know isn't consistent."

My temper ignited at his assumption that my love life depended on his good opinion. "I don't want your approval," I said curtly. "Just basic good manners. I'm just asking you not to be an ass**le for two hours. Think you can manage that? "

"Shit," Jack muttered, drawing the word out to a full two syllables. "Bossy as you're getting, I almost feel sorry for the guy."

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