Brighter Than the Sun Page 60

He was dangerous to all women. God, if this was all it took, he had to have women in his bed every freaking day, or at least anytime he wanted them. A man like him didn’t need to settle down with one in particular and embrace a life of monogamy. He could play by any set of rules he wanted, and Zoe doubted women would even care.

So why was he focusing so much of his attention and charm on . . . her? It didn’t make any sense. Zoe wasn’t being pitiful or woebegone. She was matter-of-fact about her assets, features and appearance. She was just mediocre. She wasn’t ugly, but she was far from beautiful. Definitely average. Someone who blended with a crowd, never standing out. She wasn’t the type to ever stop traffic, and she was grateful for that fact. It had enabled her to disappear and remain out of notice thus far, so she had to be doing something right.

“What the hell are you torturing yourself about now?” Joe murmured, stroking his fingertip lightly down the curve of her cheek.

Such a simple caress had the power to rob her of speech and make her completely forget herself and what she was doing. What had she been doing? Other than staring at him like an idiot. She opened her mouth to respond but found she couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

“I have no idea,” she finally admitted. “Every time you look at me that way or touch me, my mind goes to mush.”

Oh God, had she just admitted that? Could the floor open up and swallow her . . . like now?

But he didn’t laugh or make fun of her. No, he was as serious as someone could get.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one in way over his head here,” he said quietly. “It would suck if I was the only one feeling that way about you looking at or touching me.”

Her mouth fell open as she gaped at him. Then she snapped it shut and quickly returned to her meal. Eat. Just eat and pretend he hadn’t said something that outrageous or that the result of him saying that had her heart fluttering so wildly that she couldn’t catch her breath.

She ate robotically, afraid to glance his way again in case he had any other mind-blowing revelations guaranteed to tilt the earth on its axis. But he remained quiet until she had finished. She pushed her plate back with a sigh and then flashed him a smile without directly looking at him.

“That was fantastic, Joe. I really enjoyed it.”

“I’m glad,” he said simply.

He lifted one leg over the stool and grabbed their plates before heading to the sink to dump them. Then he simply returned to where she was sitting and laced his fingers with hers before pulling her up and guiding her toward the living room couch.

He settled her onto the plump cushions and then eased beside her, pulling her into the crook of his shoulder. She tensed for a long moment before gradually relaxing into his embrace. His arm was wrapped around her shoulders, resting on her opposite arm, his fingers lazily tracing lines up and down her skin.

He was seducing her with nothing more than the lightest of touches. Already she was ready to squirm off the couch, and she could kick herself for overreacting so badly the night before when he’d kissed her. Now, he’d never kiss her again. But she could kiss him, couldn’t she?

She licked her lips before realizing what she was doing. He groaned softly and closed his eyes, strain evident on his forehead. He sucked in a deep breath and then turned his head toward her, their noses just inches apart.

He reached up to touch her face, tracing her cheekbone with the gentlest of caresses.

“Tell me something, Zoe,” he said quietly. “If you could have anything you wanted in the world, have any wish granted, what would you wish for?”

She swallowed nervously. If that wasn’t a loaded question destined to get her into huge trouble, she didn’t know what was. But maybe he was tired of being the one making all the overtures. Was this his plea for her to meet him halfway? Had she sent the wrong message after all?

Closing her eyes, she sighed and gathered her courage tightly around her, her hands trembling as she tried to work the knot from her throat. Then finally, she was able to form actual words.

“You,” she whispered. “You, Joe. I’d wish for you.”

Satisfaction and so much relief blazed in his eyes, telling her that she hadn’t in any way just made the worst mistake of her life. He cupped her cheek as he lowered his face to hers, his eyes half lidded and heavy with desire.

“Then make both our dreams come true, Zoe,” he said in a gruff voice. “Make love with me. Let me make love to you. Let me show you how very perfect it would be between us. I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life. I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I want you.”

She bit her lip as her heart hammered thunderously against her chest wall. Her mouth went completely dry and she had to unstick her tongue from the roof of her mouth so she could speak.

“Do you really mean that?” she asked hoarsely.

“If you give me the chance, I’ll show you,” he vowed.

“Then make love to me,” she said in the softest whisper. “Please.”

“That is something you never have to ask me for,” he breathed past her lips as their tongues met hotly.

He delved deep, stroking his tongue over hers and then exploring the deepest recesses of her mouth until she was breathing him. Smelling him. Utterly intoxicated by his taste and touch. She shivered as his fingers danced lightly over her shoulders and then skated down her arms until they circled her wrists like bracelets.

He entwined their hands as he pulled her to her feet and then began walking her backward toward another room. Even as she backstepped through the open doorway, one of his hands flipped the light switch while the other slid beneath her shirt, pulling the ends free from her pants.

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