Until one day, I was browsing my local bookstore for something new to read.
Studying a book jacket, I was distracted when a woman’s silhouette caught my attention. She was lissome and pretty, the sunlight catching her light red hair. She was reading the back of a book, her finger running over the spine. Something about her beckoned to me yet seemed familiar. With a grin, I realized it was Dee, and I approached her. “Find something good?”
She glanced at me, startled. I was close enough to see the flecks of brown in her wide green eyes. She smiled and slid the book back onto the shelf. “Not really.” She indicated the books I had in my hand. “I think you’ve had better luck.”
“You can borrow one if you like. I tend to buy in batches.”
She tilted her head, silently mouthing the titles. She looked up with a smile. “That would be lovely.”
“I was gonna grab a cup of coffee. Can I interest you in joining me?”
“I’d love to.”
Seated across from her, I realized it was the first time we’d ever been alone.
“You come here often?”
She shook her head with a wry grin. “Is that your best pick-up line, Maddox?”
I chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here until today.”
“I was in the office for a short while, then dropped in here. Usually I browse on my lunch hour.”
“That makes sense.”
Silence fell as we sipped our coffee, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I noticed she nibbled at the end of her thumb, and it struck me as odd. Given her stoic persona, I found it rather endearing.
And I found my thoughts strange. Endearing wasn’t a word I used often—if ever.
She met my gaze. “So, is it?”
“Is it what?”
“Is that your best pick-up line?”
I studied her as I drank my coffee. “I don’t typically do pick-up lines.”
She smirked. “I’m not surprised.”
“With that whole silver fox thing you’ve got going, I’m sure you don’t have to.”
I frowned. “Silver fox?”
“Maddox, the silver fox. Young, sexy, wealthy, plus that premature gray? I bet you beat them off with a stick.”
I shook my head, amused at her thoughts. “I’m sorry to disappoint, but no.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
I sat back, crossing my legs, swinging one foot. “What about you, Deirdre? All prim and pretty. You drive the lawyers crazy at your firm?”
She laughed. “Dee. No one calls me Deirdre. It’s stuffy and formal.”
“No. It’s a lovely name for a lovely woman. It suits you. The lawyers you date don’t call you by your full name?”
She ignored my comment about her name. “I don’t date lawyers, or anyone else at my firm,” she stated firmly. “In fact, I don’t date.”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “No. Love, romantic love, isn’t for me.”
I took in a deep breath and spoke. “Why is that?”
“It’s dangerous. It overwhelms and kills you.”
At my raised eyebrow, she continued.
“I’m not saying I don’t see people. I have…needs. But I don’t do romantic relationships. I’ve seen the way love destroys people.” She held up her hand before I could speak. “I know it works for some, but I’m not built that way.”
I drained my coffee, then leaned forward. “Neither am I.”
She widened her eyes. “Really?”
“Love equals power. The power to destroy. The ability to hurt and cause pain. The chaos it causes. That’s what love means to me. It destroys trust and leaves you weak.”
“You feel that way about everyone?”
“There are a few exceptions. And I will never break them for a woman.”
Our eyes met, silent understanding passing between us. The air shifted, and I felt our mutual desire grow. It stretched out, pushing tentatively against the boundaries we had erected. She propped her elbow on the table, lifting her thumb to her mouth. Her small teeth gnawed at the flesh. It was an innocent gesture, yet I found it provocative.
“I have needs too,” I murmured. Reaching over, I tugged her thumb from her mouth, inspecting it. From the roughness of the skin, and the fact that it was the second time she’d done it since we sat down, it was clearly a nervous habit for her. I slowly dragged my fingers across her palm, then laid her hand on the table.
Her breathing hitched. “I’m older than you are.”
“Three years,” I scoffed. “It’s nothing.”
“I’m serious. I don’t do relationships.”
“Nor do I.” I bent forward, lowering my voice. “May I be blunt with you?”
“I prefer blunt.”
“I find you incredibly attractive, Deirdre. Very sexy in your buttoned-up clothes and calm exterior. I’d like to see what happens when you’re naked and aroused.” I tilted my head, studying her. “Like now—are you aware in the past few minutes, your breathing picked up and your eyes darkened? You have the loveliest color across your cheeks. Even the tips of your ears are pink. I wonder how far down I could make you flush that way.”
Her color deepened, but she didn’t flinch. She shifted closer, our knees pressed together under the table. Her normally husky voice was even lower, turning me on. “You want honest?”
“I think you’re one of the sexiest men I’ve ever met, Maddox. I see how your toned body moves when you walk, and I imagine you moving in me. You use your hands a lot when you talk, and I want to feel them on my skin. Your muscles flex under your expensive suits, and I want to feel them tighten under my touch.” She ran her finger over her lips. “I want to taste you and watch you fall apart.”
“Then maybe we should go and explore each other.”