The kiss principle (erotic romance)

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The K.I.S.S. Principle

 

By Karen Booth

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, andincidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are usedfictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living, or dead, business establishments,events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

THE K.I.S.S. PRINCIPLE © 2015 by Karen Booth

 

Portions of this book were previously published by Ellora’sCave under the title For Keeps. Some editorial changes have been made to the2015 release.

 

Published by Karen Booth. All rights reserved. No part ofthis book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without writtenpermission of the author.

 

Contact Information:

[email protected]

 

Book Cover Design by Piper Trace

 

The K.I.S.S. Principle

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

About Karen Booth

Excerpt from Rock Starred

 

Chapter One

 

What a brilliant idea to bring home a mountain ofwork, especially with the long, lonely Memorial Day weekend staring Allie Flynnin the face. She grumbled, struggling with the banker’s box overflowing with files.If only she’d packed lighter. Balancing the box on her thigh, she keyed intoher apartment building, wedging her knee between the door and jamb.

“Hey, Allie. Wait up. Let me help,” a familiar voicesounded behind her.

She turned and her sights landed on Cooper Hale,resident of 3B, the apartment directly above hers.Great.Here comesMr. Tall, Hot and Too Young for Me. And I look like crap.

Cooper, wearing navy basketball shorts and a rattygray t-shirt from Sweeney’s, a bar in Wicker Park, held the door. His aroma,although a bit ripe, was achingly appealing, musky and masculine.

“Oh, thanks. No.” She straightened and adjusted hergrip on the box but her laptop bag slipped off her shoulder for what felt likethe fiftieth time. “I got it.” She stumbled into the vestibule where theapartment mailboxes were, her heels clicking on the tile floor. Cooper followedand the glass door whooshed shut behind him.

“Give me that.” He snatched the box from her grasp.His face had a subtle sheen and his messy, sandy-brown bangs clung to hisforehead in spots. “Go ahead,” he said with a nod. “I’ll bring it up to yourplace.”

Allie hitched her laptop bag and purse back onto hershoulder. “Really. It’s fine.” She held out her arms, but the condescendingarch of Cooper’s eyebrows said that he wasn’t planning on handing over the boxany time soon.

Backlit by ribbons of sun streaming into the hall, histawny brown eyes turned a deeper hue. He tossed the box up onto his shoulder asif it were full of feathers and Allie couldn’t help but notice the well-definedcontour of his biceps as he curved his hand over the cardboard lid. He nodded towardthe stairs again. “Shall we?”

She turned, now flustered, and started up the steps.“I’m not helpless. My laptop kept slipping off my shoulder.” She glanced at himwhen she rounded the corner to climb the next flight.

He grinned and rolled his eyes. “People complainchivalry is dead, but you try to help a woman and she insists she can do itherself. I’m just being a gentleman.”

 Allie sighed as they approached her door. “I’msorry. Thank you for carrying the box for me. I appreciate it.”

“I don’t really buy it.” He smirked. “That’s about thelamest apology ever.”

Allie feigned a huff. “It’s been a long week, Cooper. Idon’t know what more you want.”

“A beer would be a start.”

“You want to come in for a beer? Now?” Her plan forthat night had involved wiggling out of her too-tight skirt and drinking mostof a bottle of merlot while playing Scrabble on the computer. Her visionnarrowed on Cooper’s face, his strong jaw shadowed with a day’s worth ofstubble, high cheekbones, the tempting swell of his lips. Too bad he wasn’twearing his glasses. Or maybe it was good that he wasn’t. She liked him evenmore in his glasses.

“No time like the present.” He smiled yet again,mesmerizing her with his teeth. “You haven’t had me over since the power wentout.”

The ice storm.Mother Nature hadwreaked havoc on the city in March, a truly nasty bout of weather even forChicago. She and Cooper endured two days without lights or heat, occupyingthemselves with gin rummy, endless conversation, and many bottles of red wine. Allie’smiddle-floor apartment stayed comparatively warm and she had food, unlikeCooper. They’d been friendly before the storm—a few hundred frustrating glimpsesof innocent flirtation—but those forty-eight hours cemented theirfriendship. It also set in motion her full-blown crush on the guy who spent twonights snoring on her couch while she shivered under a heap of blankets in herbed.

“It’s not like I have anything else to do,” shemuttered as she unlocked the door. “Fair warning, I’m not even sure I have anybeer.” Her keys clattered when she dropped them onto the glass-topped entrytable. The setting sun filtered through the towering windows along the far wallof her apartment.

Cooper slid the box of files onto the black granitecenter island in the open-concept kitchen. “May I?” he asked, opening thefridge before Allie had a chance to respond. He leaned forward, rummagingthrough the bottom shelf.

She leaned against the center island, appreciating theview. Her thumb rode along her lower lip as she settled her gaze on his long,muscled legs and the mind-blowing curve of his ass. The way his slightly sweatyt-shirt draped over the defined plane of his back caused her to shudder.SweetJesus. Don’t do this again. He’s way too young. He’s way too easy on the eyes.Every woman he meets has to be thinking what you’re thinking.

“We have a winner, but you only have two,” he said,tucking the amber bottles under his arm. “Bottle opener?”

Allie pulled herself out of the stupor brought on byCooper’s physique. She opened a drawer and handed him the metal church key.“Sorry I didn’t have more of a selection.” She closed the cabinet with a bumpof her hip.

“Cheers.” He clinked his bottle with hers. “That’sokay. We can switch to wine after this.”

 

“After this?” Allie asked.

“Well, yeah. Aren’t you making me dinner?” He watchedthe smile creep across her face. The way her eyes lit up when she was even theslightest bit coy put his entire body on alert. “And you’re the one who saidyou didn’t have anything to do.”

“You weren’t supposed to hear that.” Allie yanked openthe fridge, planting her hand on the full curve of her hips. Her black skirthugged all the right places and as he’d noticed many times, Allie had all kindsof right places. “I have some steaks. Sound good?”

“Better than good. I’ll be back in ten after I showerand change.”

He took the stairs two at a time up to his apartment.Dinner with Allie was a significant improvement over the originalplan—order a pizza, watch hours of mindless TV and jerk off before goingto sleep.

Striding through his kitchen, he slowed as he reachedthe living room, shaking his head in dismay at his tired black futon couch, thehand-me-down coffee table from his parents. Being in Allie’s perfectlydecorated apartment only brought out the ridiculous shortcomings of his.I’malmost thirty and this place is like a freaking dorm room. I make enough money.I just need to find the time to shop for it.

He stripped off his clothes and cranked the showerhandle, stopping to study himself in the mirror as he waited for the hot water.He’d gone two days without shaving and the scruff along his jaw was scratchy. Hewondered how Allie felt about facial hair.I’m probably pushing it.

The warm spray beat against his back and his thoughtsdrifted to Allie as they did most of the time when he was naked. It had beenimpossible to get her out of his mind since the ice storm. Those two days hadshown him that she was more than beautiful and hot, she was smart, sarcasticand funny as hell, a lethal combination. Every time he’d seen her in thebuilding since, he found idle ways to steal her time, asking her questionsabout things like the weather and basketball, when he knew for a fact that shedidn’t really like sports.

Allie was out of his league, a career woman with hershit together. But then, that was the challenge, part of the appeal. Women intheir twenties were so transparent, open books filled with agendas and mindlesschatter about things that were wholly unimportant right now.I’m not readyto get married. I don’t want to have kids. I just want someone who can carryher end of the conversation and do it for me in bed.

Every day since their weekend together, he imaginedwhat it might be like with Allie, mentally undressing her whenever he had thechance. She had a few more years of experience to her credit and that wasintriguing. There would be fewer games to play, no learning curve. Plus, he’dread in a magazine that at forty, a woman was close to if not at her sexualpeak. No doubt Allie’s body was at its peak. Any guy who’d seen her in theblack skirt knew that.

To his chagrin, Cooper’s cock had responded to the sirensong of Allie and was now eager for his attention.Shit. I told her tenminutes.He gripped his rigid shaft, rubbing his thumb back and forth overthe tip as his chin dropped to his chest. The steam billowed around him,warming his already overheated body. A primal breath escaped his lips and hewidened his stance, placing his other hand on his thigh while he arched hisback.

He wanted to take his time, but all he could do waspump furiously. The mental image of Allie materialized, lowering herself to herknees and wrapping her luscious lips around his cock. The thought sent jagged tremorsthrough him. She sucked, swirling her tongue and flashing devastating glancesup at him. Her dripping, chocolate-brown hair clung to her shoulders, tendrilstrailing over the swell of her full breasts.

Perhaps Allie knew some blowjob techniques that he’dnever experienced. The mystery of what that might involve was too much andCooper felt his balls draw tight against his body. Pressure came, quicklydoubling and then doubling again. A hum buzzed through him until the forcecould no longer be contained and it surged in steady pulses. He convulsed withthe final wave.Jesus.

He turned and rinsed off his body, washing away theevidence before toweling his chest and legs. He’d whacked off dozens of timesto the visions of the Allie that resided in his head. I’m acting like a damnkid. I need to man up.

After shaving, he threw on a clean pair of dark washjeans and tucked in a mostly wrinkle-free white dress shirt. He even took thetime to put on a belt and find his Italian leather dress shoes at the back ofthe closet. Any guy with half a brain knew that women were impressed by goodfootwear. Allie wore killer shoes, often sky-high and always dead sexy, makingthe already appealing shape of her legs even more tempting.

When Allie answered the door, the air was knocked fromhis lungs. She’d changed into jeans, formfitting and worn and…dangerous. Awhite V-neck t-shirt hugged her curves and her feet were bare, accentuating herpetite stature. At six-foot-four, he felt like a giant towering over her, but therewere worse things. He had a mind-blowing view down into her ample cleavage.

“Oh, wow. You look nice,” she said. “Sorry if I’m notquite up to muster. I had to get out of those work clothes. That black skirt isso tight. It had to come off.”

Nobody was stopping you earlier. I would’vevolunteered for zipper duty.“I think you look perfect.” Helost all sense of time and place as he sank into the mystifying blue-green ofAllie’s eyes, rimmed with dark, feathery lashes.

“Perfect, huh? Careful. You’re going to give me a bighead,” she said, with more than a hint of flirtation. A winding jazzinstrumental, John Coltrane if memory served, played in the background. “Comeon. I have bruschetta in the oven.”

He trailed an extra step behind, savoring the motionof her ass as she traipsed into the kitchen. The hypnotic sway of her hips wasenough to send him careening off a cliff. He reminded himself how miserable he’dbe if he was a wimp about it and had to go sleep in his own bed tonight, alone.

 “Your kitchen is so much nicer than mine,” hecommented. “I should’ve upgraded to the six-burner when they rehabbed my unit.Guess it would’ve been a waste, though. It’s not like I cook or anything.”

 

Allie forced a smile at the mention of the stove.She’d gone with the upgrade because her boyfriend at the time, Ian, loved tocook as much as she. It was one of the few things they did well together. Therest of their relationship had been anything but a partnership, especially inthe bedroom. Six months without him, and his cooking was the only thing shemissed.

She slid a sheet pan of sliced French bread from theoven. “You okay with tomatoes?” Two cut cloves of garlic sat on the cutting board.She rubbed the raw sides over the surface of the hot bread.

Cooper came up behind her and placed his hand on herback, startling her. “Smells good. What are you doing?”

She swallowed back the pleasurable hum that came fromhis touch but it took considerable effort. “This gives you the flavor of thegarlic, but without giving you the world’s worst breath.”After placingthe last of the bread on a serving plate, she began topping the slices with amixture of chopped tomatoes, basil and olive oil.Like he cares about garlicbreath around me.

“Interesting.” He took a piece of bruschetta beforeshe’d had a chance to offer it to him. “Wow. This is good,” he said, holdinghis hand over his mouth. “Hot, too.”

She poured a glass of red for him before topping offher own. “Thanks. Most people wait a minute for it to cool before diving in.”She settled back against the counter.

“Wait too long and you miss out.” Cooper steppedcloser and his smell was more evident—clean and fresh. His scrubby hairwas still damp from his shower and the vision made Allie feel as if she couldbenefit from a cold one. He took a second piece of bruschetta as he held hisglass out to hers. “Cheers.”

His eyes stayed on her as he drank. In fact, it feltas if he was doing nothing but looking at her, watching her, studying. Shewiped her mouth with a napkin and ran her tongue under her lip.Do I havesomething in my teeth?

Cooper’s pointed stare made her less self-consciousabout the fact that she couldn’t keep her eyes off him. She’d always been asucker for a guy in a pair of jeans, and the way Cooper rocked his waspositively groan-worthy.

Her attraction to Cooper had sprung to life the momentshe first laid eyes on him, but the weekend of the ice storm kicked it intooverdrive. Forty-eight hours alone was a delicious form of torture, watchinghow expressive his eyes were when he laughed at her jokes, how he managed tomove that long body with ease. When he talked about his flourishing start-upcompany, the self-confidence oozed out of him, making him irresistible.

 His self-assured demeanor told Allie that he’dnever be interested in her. He was an absolutely stunning physical specimen andat twenty-eight, with his looks, he could have any woman he wanted. He was sosmart that he sometimes tried to hide it, always lightning-fast with aself-deprecating quip.

“What’s the latest in the world of software design?”she asked.

Cooper leaned against the counter, remaining close asshe worked on dinner. “Our new office space is almost ready. It’s going to beamazing.”

“On schedule? Impressive. How many people do you have workingfor you now?” She sprinkled peppercorns into a stone bowl and cracked them witha pestle.

“We finally broke down and hired an office manager. Mybrother Brian has an assistant now. That takes us up to…” He counted on hisfingers and looked at the ceiling, putting the stretch of his sinuous neck ondisplay. “Twenty-one people.” He crinkled his forehead. “Is that even possible?It doesn’t seem that long ago that it was three of us in my old apartment.”

“That’s what happens when you’re successful.” Allieturned on the gas and placed a cast-iron skillet on the flame.

“Hey. My mom has a pan like that.”

Of course she does.She sighed.Fabulous. I’m like his mom.“It’s good for steaks. It holds heat well.”

“How’d you get to be so good at cooking?”

“I’ve always liked it, but Ian showed me a lot ofthings.”

Cooper downed another piece of bruschetta. “Right. Theex. Do you still talk to the Grim Reaper?”

She caught the smirk painted across his face andlaughed. “I forgot you’d given him that nickname.”

“What? It’s not a nickname. He really is the GrimReaper.”

Ian didn’t come off well to most of the world, andshe’d asked herself many times since their breakup what she’d ever seen in him.“I suppose you’re right.” She pressed the steaks into the hot pan and theysizzled and bubbled, the aroma quickly rising. The fan gently whirred to lifeas she flipped on the range hood.

Cooper’s presence behind her was evident again and hepressed his hand against her back, but this time it had landed in a decidedlylower spot. A tingle built from the heat of his palm and fingers. She glancedover her shoulder and rolled her neck as if she were working out a kink.

“I always wondered what a woman like you was doingwith a guy like that,” he said in a warm tone, his baritone lazing over her.

Her heart thumped as he leaned closer. The placementof his hand was exactly what she wanted and completely unfair. She didn’t wantto get revved up for nothing. “I should get the salad going,” she said,stepping away to the fridge. “Do you mind getting the salad bowl down for me?It’s on the top shelf of that cabinet.”

“Sure.” He stretched as he reached for the bowl but itall played out in painfully slow motion. Everything about him was solong—his arms, his torso, his legs.

Dammit. Stop staring at him.Shedumped a bag of pre-washed arugula into the bowl and began slicing a cucumber.“Balsamic vinaigrette or honey mustard?”

“Balsamic all the way.” He plucked a piece of cucumberfrom the cutting board and munched on it. “What’s up with you and work?” heasked. “Things must be busy. You brought home fifty pounds of files.”

Allie’s nose twitched at the hint of a new smell inthe kitchen. “Shit,” she said, lunging for the tongs and flipping the steaks, whichwere now charred around the edges. “I hope you’re okay with blackened.”

“Sure. I love Cajun food.”

 She added a touch of olive oil to the skilletand adjusted the flame. “I’ll try to keep from burning the other side.” Steambegan to escape another pan on the stove. She lifted the lid and pulled out agreen bean. “Want to be my official taste tester?”

He surprised her when he didn’t use his hand when sheoffered it, but his teeth instead. The motion of his lips, mere inches from herfingers, was infinitely fascinating. Her throat tightened, her chest heaved. “Mmm.They need another minute.”

Ineed a minute.Allie checked the steaksagain, turned off the heat and transferred them to a plate, covering them withfoil. “I need to let the meat rest.”

He coughed and twisted his lips before reaching forher wineglass. “Let me top you off.”

They took their meal to the small dining table on thefar side of the kitchen, in front of the windows. The sky was a bluish black, brokenby scattered rectangles of light from the building across the street. She’d setout a single candle but stopped short of dimming the lights or changing themusic to something seductive. The embarrassment of setting the stage forromance when one person wasn’t interested would last a lifetime.

Chapter Two

 

Cooper dug into his steak as Allie served the salad.It was the best tasting thing he’d eaten in weeks and he’d been to toprestaurants all over the city. “Allie, this is so good.”

She smiled and he felt as if someone were yanking arope tied to his bellybutton. “Glad you like it.”

“Salad and beans are great too. You’re making sure Iget my veggies.”Why the fuck would you say that?The corners of herlips turned down and although the pout of her lower lip was enticing, his heartsank again.

“I try to eat healthy. I suppose you probably needmore to eat than this, huh? I should have made some mashed potatoes orsomething. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. This is perfect. Really.”Time tochange the subject, dipshit.“I asked you about work earlier, but we gotsidetracked by the steaks.”

Allie wiped her mouth with a black cloth napkin. Shetook a long sip of wine, plump raspberry-pink lips curving around the glass. “Thingsare going surprisingly well. We have a handful of new clients, a few proposalsout right now.”

“What’s in the box?”

“I have a huge presentation due on Tuesday. It’s oneof my old clients. They’re not happy now that my old agency is so big. If I getthe account, it’ll be the third that left to work with me again. That’s prettygratifying.”

“Doesn’t that piss off the Grim Reaper? I thought yousaid he’s a big shot now that the company expanded.”

“Big shot isn’t the half of it. He’s the Senior VP ofaccounts. He was just another marketing guy two years ago. Luckily, he hasn’tsaid anything. They’re so big now, maybe he won’t notice.”

Allie had winced when she mentioned Ian, and it madehim feel oddly protective of her. He didn’t just dislike the guy because he wasonce Allie’s boyfriend. He’d only met him once, but that had been enough.

“Don’t worry. Send me after him if it’s a problem.” Hewinked at her and although her reaction was an immediate smile, he regrettedit.You’re always winking. Stop acting like a goon.He needed to get hisact together. Quick. “You’re beautiful in this light, you know.”

The shade of pink that swept across her cheeks wasripe with a warm glow. “You don’t look half bad yourself.” She bit her lowerlip and cast her eyes at him for a moment before shying away.

“I’m not just saying that,” he said, taking anotherbite of his steak, but no longer hungry for food. His stomach twitched withanticipation.Just make a move already.

 

After dinner, they cleared the table and Allie got outflour and eggs. “I thought it’d be fun to make crepes. I should’ve made thebatter before you got here, but there wasn’t enough time.” She turned as Cooperplaced the dinner plates in the dishwasher. “Thanks for cleaning up.”

“No problem.” He shut the stainless door and wiped hishands on a kitchen towel. “What can I do to help?”

“You can get the butter out of the fridge. I need twotablespoons melted.”

“Got it. Now what?” He wagged the stick back andforth.

She eyed him, loving the playful smile across his facethat unfortunately highlighted the boyish quality of his charms. “Look at thelines.” She ran her finger along the parchment wrapping. “Cut off twotablespoons, put it in a bowl and pop it in the microwave for thirty seconds.”

“That much I can manage.”

His bangs flopped down onto his forehead as he worked.His profile was strong and something about that particular view of his mouthleft her breathless. It didn’t take much to imagine gently tugging on his lowerlip with her teeth, sinking into him, their tongues tangling. Staring at him,thinking naughty thoughts may have been an ill-advised plan, but after a glassand a half of merlot, she could no longer keep her brain from the course it longedto take.

“I need you to drizzle in the butter while I beatthis,” she murmured.

He pulled the bowl from the microwave and flashed hiseyes at her. “Yes ma’am.”

Her eyes clamped shut for an instant.No you don’t.Please don’t call me ma’am.She whisked the batter and he parked a hand onher lower back, streaming the golden-yellow butter into the bowl.

“Like this?” he asked.

Oh yeah, like that.His hand wasscorching through her thin cotton t-shirt. “Yes,” she answered. A rough huff ofair escaped her lips as he applied more pressure when the final drops spiraleddown into the bowl.He’s driving me crazy.“I was thinking Nutella inthe crepes. Does that sound okay?”Please say yes. Chocolate might help atthis point.

“It all sounds good to me.” His voice was as rich asthe butter in the bowl. “Over here, right?” A pang of disappointment hit herwhen he lightened his touch and stepped away. He was only gone for an instant,but she missed his touch all that time.

“The batter needs to sit.” Allie turned as Cooperunscrewed the lid from the jar. Her breath caught when he dipped his fingerinto the chocolaty spread and popped it into his mouth.

“Mmm,” he hummed. “So good.” His tongue swept acrosshis lower lip.

“It is,” she mumbled, the most coherent string ofwords she could assemble.How long before I melt into a puddle on the floor?

Cooper dipped his finger into the jar a second time.

“You’re cheating,” she said. “No double-dips.”

He shook his head and his eyes softened, drawing herin as her pulse quickened. “It’s not for me.” He eased closer and held out hisfinger. “You know you want some.”

Her mouth gaped, but more from shock than a cravingfor chocolate. She drew in a long, slow breath.Is he doing what I thinkhe’s doing?He let his finger rest on her lower lip before sliding it intoher mouth. Her tongue quivered with anticipation of the sweet reward. She cursedher impatience, but immediately closed her lips around his finger and sucked.Her eyelids felt impossibly heavy, but closing them was an idiotic idea. The smolderin his eyes told her she’d done exactly what he’d been hoping for.

He pulled his finger from her mouth and she droppedher chin in disappointment. If the highlight of her entire weekend had justhappened, that would be sad. Luckily, he didn’t step away. Instead, he leanedcloser. His hand slid around to her back. At first, she was confounded by hislighter touch until he began to caress her back with the tips of his fingers.They rode along her spine in long passes, even over her bra strap.

He lowered his head and she sensed what was about tohappen. She’d been in this position before but never with Cooper, never with aman she’d fantasized about in such detail. Her mind raced to make sense of itall—up was down, left was right. Everything else was backward. She couldfeel every drop of blood pumping through her body as she raised her chin. Shedebated whether or not to close her eyes, but eventually they fluttered shut asshe began to act on nothing more than pure instinct.

Cooper’s lips were on hers, warm and giving, at first themost exquisitely gentle pressure, then more insistent. He urged her closer,flattening his hand against her back while heat bloomed where her stomachpressed against his. His mouth opened as she kissed him back, a hint of sweetchocolate traveling between them. She rose on to her tiptoes as he suggested hewanted more with a commanding tug at her waist.

As mind-boggling as the kiss was, her mind scrambledfor a reason.Is he doing this to see what it’s like to kiss an older woman?He had an entire weekend with me in my apartment and he didn’t try a thing.Her shoulders became rigid, her back tight, even when she wanted only tosurrender.

“Are you okay?” he mumbled, still grazing her lipswith his. “Was I out of line?”

 

Allie shook her head and dropped back to a flat-footedstance. “No. I mean yes. Shit.” Her eyes were wide with bewilderment but theysoftened when he smiled. “I’m fine. I was just surprised.”

He reached for her hand, gathering her cool, slenderfingers in his. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”

Pink colored her cheeks and her mouth sat open in anenticing “O”. She moistened her lower lip with her tongue, which he took as apossible sign of approval. “You do realize that I’m significantly older thanyou.”

“Twelve years is nothing.” He saw the doubt in hereyes and he wished it would go away. His hand went to her hip as he becamedetermined to show her that he wasn’t feeding her a line. “I mean it.”

“You’re saying that to make me feel better.”

“Nope. You couldn’t be more off base if you tried.” Heslid his hand to her hip and sneaked his thumb under the hem of her t-shirt,caressing the petal-soft skin. It was meant as reassurance that he truly wantedher, but that one touch set off fireworks in his belly. He dragged his fingersaround her narrow waist, entranced by the flutter of her eyes. “I hope dessert canwait. If I touch any more of you, I won’t be able to stop.”

Allie raised her chin, causing his breaths to lag as thegraceful sweep of her neck tempted him. “I’m not starving. Are you?”

“I can always eat, but I’d rather kiss you.” He grippedher waist and hoisted her onto the center island. The instant she wrapped herlegs around his hips, all blood seemed to rush to his groin as she muscled himcloser with the heel of her foot.

Allie rested her arms on his shoulders and dug her fingersinto his hair as her lips worked against his. Her mouth was so much better thanhe’d ever imagined, impossibly supple and welcoming. He took in her scent, softand seductive, like rain on a hot afternoon. There was no naming the fragrance—heonly hoped to be permeated by it before the end of the evening.

His hands slid under her top, her skin dotting withgoose bumps from his touch. Every response her body made to his was a vote ofconfidence, a nudge to keep going. He sensed she was his for the taking and themost testosterone-fueled parts of his brain thought he was a fool if he triedfor anything less than a command performance.

He eased her t-shirt over her head, suddenly concernedhe might be going too fast. Allie’s take on the pace of things became apparentas she bowed her back and eliminated the sliver of space between theirstomachs. Her breasts were full and perfect and he couldn’t wait to rid her ofthe lacy white bra. He kissed the creamy skin of her chest as his hands went tothe clasp. It wouldn’t budge on the first try, nor would it cooperate on thesecond. He continued to kiss every part of her breasts he could get to whileher bra frustrated him, anticipation chipping away at his resolve.

The third time was the charm. His gaze washed over heras he traced the edges of the straps before pulling them forward. “You’rebeautiful,” he said as she ruffled it from her arms.

He couldn’t have wished for a better reaction fromher, now that her breasts were bared. She showed no timidity, planting herhands on the countertop, arching her back to give him free rein. She gasped ashe teased the taut skin of her nipple with soft flicks of his tongue. A moan bubbledfrom the depths of her throat as he took her into his mouth, sucking whilecaressing the underside of her velvety breasts with his thumbs.

Allie leaned forward and tugged his shirt from hispants, working on the buttons as he explored her breasts with his mouth. Herskin was so soft and alluring, with a taste all its own—his lips couldhave remained forever and he would’ve been content. His cock pulsed in hispants and he was reminded that no, that would not be enough.

She pushed his shirt past his shoulders before hestripped the sleeves from his arms. Now that he had a few inches of distance, seeingher naked from the waist up the second time was even better than the first. Thewait to see the rest of her, even if it was only five minutes, would beinterminable.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” she asked in abreathy voice.

His eyebrows drew together.Huh?“Do you meanyou and me?” He stopped short of describing in greater detail everything hewanted to do with her, everything he wanted to dotoher.

“We’re friends. Our age difference.”

He shook his head. “I love that we’re friends. And nomore mentions of age. It’s just a number.” His hand dug into the silky hair atthe nape of her neck. “You are much more than a number.” His mouth lingeredover the sweet-smelling skin along her jaw.

Her fingernails trailed lightly up his back as shemoaned into his ear. “Kitchen sex could be fun, but maybe we should go to myroom.”

His brain momentarily froze after hearing “kitchensex”, but he snapped back into the moment when she smiled and hopped off thecounter. Taking his hand, she led him to the far side of the apartment.

Allie’s bedroom was dark with soft strains of lightfrom the living room. She slipped her hand into the waistband of his jeans, pullinghim to her. He watched as she unbuckled his belt and unhitched the button. Thevision of her slender fingers grasping the zipper and drawing it down brought agroan from the depths of his belly.

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