Read Just about sex Online

Authors: Ann Christopher

Just about sex (page 5)

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Finally she took a desperate glance at her watch. “Look at the time!” she cried. “Juan should be here any second—”

“So if I wanted to tell you how beautiful your eyes are,” Greene said softly, “I should have said they’re the stormy color of the sky right before the first snow of the winter?”

“Oh,” she said faintly.

They stared at each other, heat sizzling between them. If only she could laugh at him again, or throw him out, or do something—anything—to buffer herself from the absolute sincerity she saw in his piercing brown eyes. Her heightened senses made her excruciatingly aware of every detail in the room: the quiet tick of her desk clock, her hot, shivering, goose-bumped flesh, the flecks of gold in his eyes, the sudden harshness of his breath.

“Simone, honey.”

They both jumped at the sound of Freddie’s loud, clear voice over her intercom.

“Simone?Simone?”

“I’m here,” she said.

“Juan Romero is here. Should I send him back?”

Thank goodness something had broken Greene’s spell over her. Without looking at Greene, she jumped to her feet and snatched her jacket off the coat rack.

“No,” she said in the phone’s direction, shoving her arms in the sleeves. “Tell him we’ll be right out.” She hurried to the door. “Let’s go,” she said over her shoulder at Greene.

He got up and followed her. “Simone—”

Something in his soft, vaguely beseeching voice stopped her, even though she was dying to get away from him. She turned, and a strange compulsion—to share something personal with him, like he’d done with her just now—came over her.

The words slipped out before she could stop them. “He wasn’t special enough.”

Greene froze, his gaze riveted to her face.

“John Daniels. That’s why I didn’t sleep with him.”

Silence fell, except for the thundering of her pulse in her ears as she waited for his reaction. His face slowly softened until his eyes crinkled at the edges. He didn’t say a word, but she had the idea he was very happy with her answer.

Chapter 8

Alex trailed Simone out to the reception area, his hands shoved deep in his pants pockets to stop himself from reaching for her. He felt crazy happy, and all because Simone hadn’t slept with some guy he didn’t even know. Something was seriously wrong with him and, one day when he wasn’t so ecstatic, he’d have to try to figure out what it was.

So Simone was discriminating, was she? Only slept with special guys?Hewas special. Well, maybe notspecial,but certainly…unique. Wasn’t he? He sighed harshly, his bubble of happiness deflating a little. Who was he fooling? He was weird. Crazy as a loon. Friends who truly understood him had always been a precious commodity. He’d never fit in anywhere in his life, except for his years at MIT, where almost everyone’s brain worked the way his did.

Luckily, Simone didn’t know he was weird. Well…she didn’t know how weird, anyway.

Yes, he thought as he watched those provocative hips sway down the hall ahead of him, he could pretend to be special—if that’s what it took. Simone was attracted to him; she was his to lose. He could open up a little more—she’d seemed to like that. He could compliment her—she’d liked that, too. If he just had a little more time alone with her, he could work miracles. Heknewit.

Of course the Web site made things much harder, but he wouldn’t take it down until she apologized, and she had to apologize. She’d calledhimarrogant, butshewas haughty, and she needed to eat a little crow. If he backed down now, it would set the wrong tone for their relationship—and therewouldbe a relationship. This was one power struggle he had no intention of losing; Simone was not going to wrap him around her little finger.

She had to apologize.

As for the site, he’d never wanted to keep the thing in the first place, but it’d turned out to be a valuable resource—how on earth would he have ever found out about Daniels if not for the site? Soon, as soon as he’d won the battle over the apology, he’d take it down. But in the meantime he’d see what else he could discover about her. He wanted to knoweverything.No detail about this fascinating woman was unimportant.

Knowing she couldn’t see him, he allowed himself to grin idiotically. Suppressing the extra bounce in his step was impossible. This one time, he felt like he held the world in the palm of his hand. Sunny skies, a calm ocean and smooth sailing lay ahead. Simone had warmed up to him a little. From here it was only a matter of time before he wore her down and got her into bed. He was, let’s face it, the man. King of the—

Simone turned a corner and exclaimed over something. A deep male voice—not Freddie’s—answered, and she laughed.

A faint, unwelcome feeling of dread crept over him, prickling his scalp. Walking faster, he turned the corner into the reception area and saw Juan Romero, grinning from ear to ear, hand Simone an enormous bouquet of red roses.

Alex gawked, disbelieving, at the scene: Freddie sitting behind his counter, phone headset on. Romero, wearing jeans and some silky type black shirt, leaning down to kiss Simone on the cheek. Simone, her cheeks flushed a pretty pink, smiling at Romero the way he imagined Sleeping Beauty smiled at the prince after he kissed her and woke her up from her hundred years’ sleep.

“You really didn’t need to do this, Juan,” Simone said, her face barely visible above her armfuls of flowers and greenery.

Alex’s gut clenched, hard. What was thisJuanbusiness? She’d never called him Alex—only Greenethisand Greenethat.Alex watched through narrowed eyes as Simone shot an uncomfortable glance his way and then turned back to Romero. “But thank you. They’re so beautiful.”

Romero’s chest inflated like an air mattress. “Ees notheen.”

What an ostentatious display. He’d seen smaller arrangements of roses draped over the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby. Now the whole place smelled like his grandmother’s favorite air freshener. Disgusted, Alex snorted.

Simone’s gaze shot to him, a faint, perplexed frown creasing her forehead.

Freddie, perhaps sensing a confrontation, laid his headset on his desk and hurried out from behind the counter. “I’ll take those, Simone.” He veered around several cushy tan armchairs and over to where she stood in front of the carved mantel. “I’ve got a vase in the kitchen.”

“Thanks.” Simone handed him the flowers and Freddie disappeared down the hall.

Romero turned to Alex, held out his hand, and smiled one of those winning I’m-an-athlete-everyone-loves-me-and-you-will-too smiles that Alex hated. “Ju doan like flowers, Aleex?”

Seeing no graceful way out of it, Alex chose the high road and took the man’s hand even though he wanted to punch out his perfectly whitened teeth.

This was exactly the type of guy—well, minus the heavy Spanish accent and steroids, anyway—that had made his life a living nightmare for as long as he could remember. The type who could play any sport well within ten minutes. The type who looked down on Alex, even though Alex’s IQ was fifty points higher than his. The type who bullied him and made fun of his stutter. The type that women still tended to prefer to Alex, even though Alex had exercised his way to a similar body and worked his way to a pretty decent lifestyle.

Alex managed a brittle smile. “Who wouldn’t like a fifty-pound bouquet of six hundred roses?”

Romero’s wide grin faded into what looked like bemusement, not that Alex cared. But then Simone shot Alex a killing glance and his heart sank.Wonderful.Now, because of Romeo here, he’d lost whatever precious little ground he’d gained with Simone.

Ignoring Romero, he turned to her. “Don’t we need to get going?”

Simone looked at her watch. “Yeah. I thought we’d go to the gardens first, then the pavilion. I think the gardens will be better for the auction, but we’ll see.”

They followed her out the front door and down the short cobbled path to the street, where an enormous mustard-yellow pimped-out Hummer with fancy spinning hubcaps—if Liberace had owned a Brink’s truck, it would have looked exactly like this—was parked behind Alex’s black Saab sedan. The plates said PLAYR.

Simone put one hand on her hip and stared up at the vehicle, which towered over her like a mountain. “Wow,” she said, delicate brows raised. “I’m guessing this belongs to you, Juan.”

Grinning, Romero waved at the monstrosity. “We take my car.”

Alex’s temples throbbed and he realized he’d been grinding his back teeth. Oh, hell no. No way was he riding in PLAYR’s car—to set foot in that car would be a repudiation of who he was and every ounce of confidence he’d earned since high school.

He fished his keys out of his pocket. “I’m happy to drive.”

“I inseest, Aleex.” Romero clapped a hand on his shoulder and, smiling, tried to steer him toward the rear door. “My car, ees big. Ees fun. We all go. Together.”

Alex didn’t budge. “I—I don’t think so.”

As soon as Alex heard the stutter, the tips of his ears began to burn with that familiar frustrated embarrassment. For goodness’ sake! Romero didn’t stutter in EnglishorSpanish. Why did he? And why now?

Simone’s thoughtful gaze swung back and forth between them, lingering for half a second longer on Alex. Then she turned to Romero and smiled sweetly. “Actually, Juan, I’ve been thinking of getting a Saab. If we go in Alex’s car, I can check it out.”

Simone’s angelic smile, bestowed on some other man, caused a suffocating wave of jealousy to wash over Alex. When the worst of that had passed, a new agony hit Alex with the force and pain of a fastball right between the eyes: pity. Simone felt sorry for him, stuttering, non-Hummer-having fool that he was, and was trying to rescue him.

Bitter humiliation collected like bile in the back of his throat, and he silently cursed her. He’d take anything she had to offer but charity, and he sure didn’t want her riding in his car out of pity.

Seething, he considered his options. Much as he wanted to tell them both to go do something anatomically impossible, he wasn’t about to give Romero a clear shot at her. If he went in his own car, that left Simone alone in Romero’s car for the better part of an hour, riding around looking at ballrooms.

No way. For all he knew, that Hummer had a back seat that converted to a king-sized bed with satin sheets. He’d sooner give a rare beef tenderloin to a lion for safekeeping than leave Simone alone with that man.

Alex scowled at Simone, the source of all his ongoing unhappiness. For such a small woman, she’d wrought more misery in his life than a rampaging Godzilla ever brought to a Japanese village.

Jealousy and possessiveness, it turned out, beat pride. “Let’s take the Hummer,” Alex said.

“Greene,” Simone began.

The concern in her voice and eyes only pissed him off more. Ignoring her, he stalked to the Hummer and got in, slamming the door.

 

As they sat waiting at a light, Simone shifted uncomfortably on the soft leather seat of Juan’s…what? Truck? Tank? Behemoth? Whatever he called the thing, she wished he’d drive faster so she could get back to her office and out of this five-star hotel on wheels.

She stared disgustedly at the overloaded dashboard. What would make a man waste money on something like this? A few months’ payments on this car probably cost as much as a decent down payment on a house, not that Juan was on anyone’s payment plan. How idiotic.

The car, with its computer screens, TV screens and hip-hop blaring speakers, was so ostentatious it screamed to be carjacked. And how much did it cost to fill up? Seventy dollars? A hundred? Enough to keep her in groceries for a week. Unbelievable. Stifling a snort, she turned away and looked out the window, seeing nothing.

In the side mirror she caught a glimpse of Greene, sprawled over the back seat and staring fixedly out of his own window. Mr. Personality himself. She couldn’t wait to get away from him, either. He’d sulked and glowered the whole two hours they’d been out, never talking except in one or two-word grumbles. She had no idea what his problem was, and felt disgusted with herself that she cared, even marginally.

She shot a glance at Juan, who had his seat reclined so far back he may as well have been driving from bed. How he could see over the steering wheel, she had no idea. One massive arm was draped over the wheel, the other dangled out the window.

“So,” he said as he drove through the intersection, smiling with a flash of those blinding teeth, “Ju come, eh? To Reds game tonight? I promise good game.”

From the back seat she thought she heard Greene make a strangled sound, but couldn’t tell for sure over the music.

“Oh, I’d love to,” she said, even though she hated baseball and had never voluntarily gone to a game in her life. If she wanted to be bored to death, she’d watch C-SPAN in the comfort of her own home. “But I’m way too busy these days. I’ve got the book coming out, and my column to do. Thanks anyway.”

To her chagrin, Juan’s smile widened. He was obviously one of those men who tooknoas a challenge. Well, he had no idea who he was up against this time.

“Deenner, then,” he said. “I cook ju real Puerto Rican food. Not fast taco.”

Another indecipherable sound came from the back seat.

“Juan,” she began.

“Ju likepastelón de carne,eh? Meat pies?”

“Juan, I—”

“Andempanadillas,with the lobster, and I can make ju theboudin de pasascon coco, eh, the coconut bread pudding. Ju come, okay?”

Normally Simone would kill for a home-cooked Puerto Rican meal. She’d spent time in Puerto Rico with her mother, and loved the flavors. But not this time, and not with this man.

“I just can’t,” she told Juan, trying to sound politely disappointed, but not disappointed enough that he kept trying. To her great relief they turned onto a quiet, tree-lined street, and her office, which was in the bottom half of a brick professional townhouse complex, came into view.

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