Cowboy Casanova Page 46

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Ben tipped her chin up and gazed into her eyes. “I didn’t?”


“No. You were always making our…encounters about furthering my education about the Dom/sub relationship.”


He brushed his thumb over her bottom lip. “I’d let you touch me now.”


“Ben.”


“But you’d much rather I commanded you to touch me, wouldn’t you? Should I? Ainsley, put your hands all over me.”


That deep, Dom voice traveled through her ear and unfurled inside her like liquid heat, like a drug. She had to twist away from him to hide the longing in her eyes. But longing for what? “I can’t.”


“I know.” He kissed the top of her head. “I should go.”


“But your shirt is soaking wet. You might catch cold if you go home with a wet head. The least I can do is wash and dry it for you, while saving you from possibly getting sick.” Did that sound like a flimsy excuse to him?


“I never get sick.” He raised an eyebrow. “Besides, you think that’s a good idea, given what we were? Just last night?”


Of course he reminded her of his Dom role at every opportunity. “I believe we can keep our hands to ourselves for an hour or so, don’t you?”


He shook his head no and said, “Yes.”


Ainsley laughed and snatched the shirt. She was surprised Ben followed her to the small laundry area.


“On the way over here I was kinda hopin’ you’d answer the door in heels and an apron. Then you’d say something like, I need a guy with a big tool to check out my plumbing. And I’d reply, I know how to plunge deep.”


“You imagined I’d lured you over here with a fake porn scenario?” It boosted her ego Ben believed she could conjure up such a sexy scene. “I didn’t know you watched porn.”


“All guys watch porn.” He grinned and towel dried his hair. “Them guys that say they don’t are lyin’. We never watched porn together. Pity. There are lots of scenes I would’ve loved to act out with you.”


She started the washer and her focus caught on his incredible chest again. Right. He needed to cover up. “I’ll find you a shirt.”


Just to be ornery, she picked her Cat Lover T-shirt.


Ben caught it one handed and slipped it over his head. “Speaking of cats…they raced outta the room the instant I stepped foot inside. They hate me.”


“Because you smell like dog. Your dogs hate me because I smell like cat.”


“Mmm. But I like how your pussy smells.”


“Bennett McKay.”


He laughed. “Hand me the remote. We’ve already missed ten minutes of Wheel.”


Ainsley sat next to him, like she always did. Bennett jerked her close to his body like he always did. Only when the show ended did she remember they weren’t supposed to be twined together. He wasn’t supposed to be touching her. She wasn’t supposed to have her head on his shoulder.


Almost as if he’d read her mind, he murmured, “Sorry. Habit.” His fingers trailed across her forearm three more times before he released her.


She stood and retreated to the kitchen. He followed. Closely. “Look, your shirt still isn’t dry. Why don’t you stay for dinner? It’s nothing fancy. Just a skillet pot pie.” When Ben didn’t respond, she backtracked. “But don’t feel obligated. I’m sure you have better things to—”


He growled that Dom-like warning, curling his hand around her jaw, destroying her protests and her mind with a prolonged, soft-lipped kiss packed with sweet heat. His kisses alone could rocket her into that sublime floaty space.


Her lips tingled when he pulled back. His face was pure Dom. “I want you. Now. Bent over the table with that kitchen towel tyin’ your hands together behind your back.”


She tumbled backward into the counter. “No.”


“You don’t get to say no to me, sub.”


“I’m not your sub anymore, remember?”


Immediately Ben froze. He shoved his hands in his pockets and took two big steps back. “Have I mentioned how much I fucking hate that?”


Remind him he brought this on himself. Reset the boundaries and make this about business. “I sent your loan paperwork off today.”


“Find anything in my financials worth mentioning?” he asked tightly.


“You make a lot more off your furniture sideline than what I’d expected. So that’s on the plus side of getting loan approval, since it’s enough income to make the monthly payments.”


“Any idea on how long it’ll be before you know for sure?”


She shrugged. “Next week probably.”


Then he was invading her space again. “And then what, Ainsley?”


“What do you mean?”


“Our official business will be over. Can we pick up where we left off?”


“Oh, you mean us sneaking around? You bossing me around in private?” She shook her head. “That ship has sailed for us. Our month would’ve been up next week anyway.” Ainsley realized she’d literally let him back her into a corner. “Back off, Ben, or I will snap you in the crotch with this dishtowel.”


He put his hands up and looked at the towel twisted in her hands. “Fine. Sorry. But we will talk about it later.”


It was telling how comfortable they’d gotten with each other that no awkwardness lingered even after that exchange. She told him a few funny stores from her vagabond childhood. He told her about being raised with his McKay cousins. It was weirdly like they were on a first date. It was…nice. Normal. Relaxing.


Ben peered through the clear lid on the skillet. “That’s it? Two big cans of condensed vegetable beef soup, a cup of cream and plop a can of biscuits on top?”


“That’s it.” A tickle started in her nose and she reached for a tissue. She sneezed. Loudly. Three times in a row. “Maybe I’ll lay off the pepper next time.” She sniffled. “I forgot to ask if you wanted a beer.”


“Didn’t think you were a beer drinker.”


“I’m not. I bought it for you last week, in case you ever dropped over.”


He offered her a deeply dimpled smile. “I’ll drop over more often.”


Yes, please. And oddly enough, him cuffing her and ravishing her until she came screaming wasn’t the first scene that popped into her head.


And what does that say? That you’d be happy to have a dating-type relationship with this man?


Could they try it? She shot him a look from beneath lowered lashes. He’d said he’d be interested in dropping over for a beer. They’d cooked together. Watched TV together. They’d done…normal stuff. He’d asked where this relationship could go after their official loan business was behind them. He’d even backed off when she’d become more aggressive than usual. Could that be his way of hinting he wanted to try a plain old regular relationship with her but didn’t know how to go about it? Could they start simple? Start over?


That might work. She’d broach the subject and see how he responded.


After they’d eaten, she said, “So I’m thinking that we could be…friends.”


“Friends?” he repeated like it was some sort of disease.


“Sure. You have friends, don’t you?”


“Define friends.”


“You could come over here for dinner. I could go over to your place. We could kick back. Shoot some pool.” Crap. She shouldn’t have tossed that last one in. His expression was a heated reminder of how they’d used his pool table the last time.


“You haven’t said anything.”


“Because I don’t know what the fuck to say to that.”


The dryer buzzed.


Ainsley got his shirt and helped him put it on. She automatically started buttoning him up, like she’d often done. Something about redressing him was almost more intimate than undressing him. She focused on smoothing wrinkles from the cotton as an excuse not to look into his compelling eyes as she touched him. Even when she wasn’t supposed to be touching him.


Command me to stop, Bennett. It’s always been your job to set the physical parameters between us.


When she finished buttoning, Ben pressed her hand against his chest. Right beneath his thundering heart. Was this side of him more dangerous than his Dom side? She had experience dealing with brash Bennett. This dateable Ben? Not so much.


But she wanted to see this side of him too. Maybe he just needed encouragement that she’d accept this side of him.


Their eyes met. Then their lips. The kiss wasn’t much more than a simple peck.


“So, call me tomorrow, friend,” she murmured.


“Ainsley, I don’t know if I can be—”


“That was not a request.” She kissed him again, then firmly shoved him out the door.


Chapter Twenty-Four


Ben rang Ainsley’s doorbell again. He’d tried calling her cell several times and she hadn’t picked up.


Maybe it was an excuse, showing up on her doorstep, but something felt…off. Something besides the bogus friendship she was trying to force on him.


Jesus. He didn’t want to be her fucking friend. In the last two days he’d already seen her pulling away. Not only from him, but from her submissive side. Trying to remake him into the type of guy he wasn’t, denying her nature and attempting to change their relationship into something it never had been and never would be: normal.


Ben was starting to lose her. That thought had driven him bat-shit crazy all day after she hadn’t returned any of his calls. Hopefully she hadn’t reverted to old habits, like that post-date game mind-fuck where the woman waited a certain amount of time before returning her date from the previous night’s calls, so as to not appear too eager.


Fuck that. They weren’t goddamn dating. She needed a reminder of what they were together. Of how right it was. And if he had to wait until the loan went through, to prove it to her, so be it. But he wouldn’t lie to her and he wouldn’t allow her to lie to herself.

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