The Hating Game Page 44

It’s like he’s put out a dish of seed and is now sitting very still, waiting for the cowardly little chicken to make a move. And it does take me a while. I tentatively pick up his hand and lace his fingers into mine. For a scary moment he doesn’t react, but as the warmth of his hand begins to glow into my palm, he gives me a deep, delicious squeeze. He lays our joined hands back down, picks up his mug with his other hand, and nods at the screen.

“I watch medical dramas to spite my dad. They drive him insane. You could never have this on in their house.”

“Why? Are they inaccurate?” I’m glad to be able to focus my attention on something other than this strange hand-related development.

“Oh, yeah. They’re complete fiction.”

“I prefer Law and Order. I love when a restaurant worker finds a body in a Dumpster.”

“Or a dog walker in Central Park.” He gestures at the screen with his coffee. “That so-called doctor isn’t even wearing gloves.” He scowls at the screen like he is offended to his core.

The art of holding hands is underrated and it’s embarrassing how much this simple act has me nearly breathless. The pads of each of his fingertips reach across the backs of my hands to my wrist.

Large men have always intimidated me. When I mentally line up my ex-boyfriends, they’ve all been definitely on the jockey end of the scale. Easier to deal with. More of an even match. There’s never been any of the astounding masculine architecture I’m sitting next to now.

The rounded caps of muscle on his shoulders balance on smoothly curving biceps. His elbow and wrist joints are like something from a hardware store. How would it feel to lie underneath a man as big as this? It would be staggering.

Josh watches ER and yawns, not at all suspecting I’m trying to estimate how big his rib cage is like a meat-eating predator.

It’s possible our size mismatch has added a friction to our interactions during our working hours. I’ve always tried to make myself stronger in the only way I can: my mind and my mouth. I think he’s converted me. I think I’m into muscles now. I’ve started to breathe a little hard, and he looks at me.

“What’s with the weird eyes? Relax.”

“I was thinking how big you are.”

I look at our joined hands. He carefully strokes the length of my palm with his thumb. When we look at each other again, his eyes are a little darker.

“I’ll fit you just right.”

Goose bumps scatter my skin. I press my thighs together and accidentally make a little pony-snort. I’m sexy as hell. I can’t resist; I look over my shoulder at his bedroom. It’s so close it would take maybe five big strides to be pushed backward down onto his mattress. His tongue could be on my skin in under thirty seconds.

“If you’re going to fit me so well, show me.”

“I will.”

Our palms are slick. The back of my neck feels hot under my hair. I need to be kissed again. This time, I’m going to slide my tongue against his until he groans. Until he presses something hard against me. Until he takes me into his bedroom and takes off his clothes.

The end credits of history’s longest episode of ER begin to roll. My heart is threatening to pop like a balloon.

He mutes the TV ominously and turns his head until we’re playing the Staring Game. I watch his eyes tip into black, breathless for whatever is about to happen. I can feel a pulse point in all the sensitive parts of my body. Between my legs is heavy and warm. I look at his mouth. He looks at mine. Then he looks at our joined hands.

“What happens now?”

He slants me a look. The next word out of his mouth is like the lash of a whip. “Strip.”

I flinch and he laughs to himself and turns the TV off. “I’m kidding. Come on, I’ll walk you down to your car.”

I am getting dangerously high off his smiles. This is my third one now? I’m stuffing them in my pockets. I’m cramming them into my mouth.

“But . . .” My voice is plaintive. “I thought . . .”

His eyebrows pinch together in a fake display of incomprehension.

“You know . . .”

“It’s rather hurtful to only be wanted for my body. I didn’t even get the date beforehand.” He looks down at our hands again.

“From what I can see, you’ve got a fabulous set of bones. What else should I want you for?” I start holding and squeezing some of his arm joints. It’s the worst seduction routine imaginable, but he doesn’t seem to mind. His elbow is too big to fit in my hand. My dress helpfully slips down a little when I reach for him, and his eyes trail down to the revealed cleavage.

When we make eye contact again, I realize that I’ve said the wrong thing.

He swiftly conceals it by frowning. “We’re not doing this tonight.”

I nearly snap back but as I watch his eyelids close and he takes a deep breath, I realize how badly I don’t want this evening to end. “If I ask you a question about yourself, will you answer?”

“Will you do the same?” He’s regaining composure, like I am.

“Sure.” Everything we do is tit for tat.

“Okay.” He opens his eyes and for a moment I can’t think of anything to ask that won’t be revealing too much of myself in the process.

What do you really think of me? Is this all some elaborate plan to mess me up? How badly hurt will I be?

I try to sound light. “Let’s make it a game, like everything else we do. It’s easier. Truth or Dare.”

“Truth. Because you’re dying for me to say dare.”

“What are the pencil codes in your planner? Is it for HR?”

He scowls. “What’s the dare?”

His scent is fogging spicily around me. The plush, warm couch conspires to tip me closer to his lap.

“You even need to ask?”

He stands up, and stands me up too. My hands curl into the waistband of his jeans and I feel nothing but firm male against the backs of my knuckles. My mouth is nearly watering.

“We can’t start this tonight.” He takes my fingers out of his jeans.

“Why not?” I think I’m begging.

“I’m going to need a little more time.”

“It’s only ten thirty.” I follow him to the front door.

“You’ve told me we’ll only do this once. I’m going to need a long time.” I feel a fluttery pinch between my legs.

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