Authors: Karen Erickson
“I think.” He paused, his mind coming up with all sorts of ideas, all of them wicked. “I think if you want me to pretend to be your boyfriend then we need to get in some practice first.”
Her brows lowered and she frowned. “Practice? What do you mean?”
“I mean I haven’t even kissed you yet.” Feeling bold, he snatched her hand in his and yanked her close. She fell against him, her hands braced against his chest, her sweet little body molded against his. “Don’t you think we should make sure we’re compatible?”
“I think we’re plenty compatible,” she murmured, her gaze locked on his mouth. As if she couldn’t think of anything else but kissing him.
“Yeah, but it’s best we make sure.” Her gaze met his, wide and so blue and for a moment he lost himself in her eyes. Shaking himself from his Mia-induced trance, he dipped his head. Settled his mouth on hers.
He felt the zing of electricity, the instant connectedness the moment their mouths touched. Her lips parted, and he slipped his tongue inside, tasting her, reveling in her. His head spun, his cock twitched and he settled his hands on her waist. Gripped her there for fear he’d let his hands wander too far and piss her off.
The very last thing he wanted to do was piss this woman off. He liked her too much.
They kissed for minutes, for hours, he wasn’t sure how long. All he knew was he didn’t want it to end. He broke away from her tempting lips to kiss her neck, earning a full body shiver from her and she wound her arms around his neck. Gripped his hair with her fingers.
She liked that. He’d have to remember that for later.
No doubt there would definitely be a later.
Finally, she shoved at his shoulders, as if she needed a little space. Her breath came rapidly, her cheeks were flushed and her mouth was so swollen he could only stare at it. Wished he was still kissing her.
“I think—I think we’re definitely compatible,” she said a little breathlessly.
He silently agreed.
Mia still couldn’t believe he said yes. She pressed her clammy palms together, then rubbed them on the skirt of her cotton dress. Her pale green, halter style dress that probably showed too much skin, but she couldn’t resist it when she saw it at the mall yesterday. And it had been on sale, making the purchase extremely practical.
She was all about the practical.
Now she sat inside Jake’s truck. The both of them were silent as he drove to her boss’s house. He hadn’t even batted an eyelash when she made the suggestion last night. And that kiss…good Lord, that kiss. She would’ve stripped off all her clothing and demanded he do her right there against her car if it would’ve continued.
It was like her very dream come true.
He’d looked rather pleased with himself once she’d finally forced them to stop. Listened attentively when she told him what she needed from him.
Dress casual but neat, be quiet and attentive; he needed to act more than anything absolutely comfortable with her. As if they’d been together for almost a year since that was when she made up the little story. They needed to behave as if they were a true couple in every sense of the word.
“That won’t be a problem,” he’d told her in that warm, sexy voice. A knowing glimmer shone in his green eyes. As if he was going to enjoy every minute pretending to be her boyfriend.
He’d kissed her again. One single, gentle kiss that left her wanting more and then he was gone. Backing away from her so she could get in her car, he’d watched her start it, back up and pull out of the lot. She caught sight of him standing where she left him in her rearview mirror as she’d turned onto the street.
The memory of him watching her had left her feeling protected the rest of the drive home.
But could they pull it off today? If she could convince her boss she had someone else and didn’t much appreciate his not-so-subtle advances, it would be a huge relief. That she even had to worry about this was something that went against her better judgment but she really didn’t have a choice. This was her job and at the moment, they weren’t easy to come by.
She slid a glance in Jake’s direction. He’d dressed casual and neat, just as she asked. White polo shirt that offset his tanned skin and jeans, nice jeans that weren’t faded or had holes in them. His brown hair looked slightly damp at the ends, and he must’ve showered before coming to get her.
The thought of him naked beneath a hot spray of water sent her temperature spiking and she immediately banished the thought.
No point in getting hot and bothered just before she was at her boss’s house, right?
“Should we go over our dating history?” she asked, desperate to fill the silence.
He shot her a wicked grin. “We’ve been together nine months. You even stood by me when I was injured.”
Her brows lifted. He’d told her about his near fatal injury last night. It blew her mind he could be so nonchalant about it. “I’m a faithful girlfriend, I guess.”
“Yeah, you are. I know we need to convince this Larry guy that we’re for real. But we don’t need to give too many details, do we?”
“Not really. We just need to be in sync, you know?” He seemed totally on board but one silly slip and they would end up looking like fools.
“Absolutely.” He nodded once, focused on driving since the traffic suddenly grew heavy.
She waved toward the right when they came to an intersection. “Turn here.”
He did as she instructed, his movements easy, his posture relaxed. She envied his mood. Wished she wasn’t so wound up. It felt as if everything was at stake this afternoon. As if she needed to work her hardest at impressing a man who didn’t deserve all of her worry.
Her boss took total advantage of her, she was finally starting to realize. And yet…she couldn’t do anything about it. Not yet.
She glanced up, saw that they were sitting at another red light and Jake watched her, a concerned expression on his gorgeous face. “Everything’s going to be okay,” he said, reaching out and grabbing her hand, giving it an affectionate squeeze before he released her.
“I just need you to follow my lead. Don’t deviate,” she said, her voice weak, her entire body buzzing from his simple touch. He had nice hands. Big and strong and slightly calloused. She wondered what they would feel like sliding over her skin…
He flashed her a naughty grin. “Sorry. I promise I’ll be on my best behavior.” His gaze drifted down her front. She’d never been so brazenly checked out before until she met him.
She had to admit she liked it.
“Don’t know if I can maintain that promise, though, with you in that dress,” he added.
Mia glanced down at herself. “What do you mean?”
“You look amazing in it.” His gaze now lingered on her bare shoulder. “Lots of skin.”
It wouldn’t do to mention she wore no bra. She didn’t really need it, she wasn’t particularly big in that area and it wouldn’t work with the halter style of her dress. One tug on the tie at the base of her neck and she’d be completely exposed. She couldn’t help but envision Jake doing exactly that.
But now she worried. Was it too much? “You don’t think it’s inappropriate, do you? Maybe you should turn around and go back to my place so I can change. I don’t want to look too…you know.” She waved her hand around.
“Cheap?” he offered.
With a nod she wrinkled her nose. “Yes, exactly.”
“You definitely don’t look cheap. Elegant and sexy, absolutely, but cheap? No way.”
“Oh.” Mia didn’t know what to say. He thought she looked elegant and sexy? Hearing him say it suddenly made her feel elegant and sexy.
She liked the way he made her feel. The way he looked at her, paid attention when she talked, the things he said. As if he was totally into her. Oh, she might be projecting a bit since they barely knew each other but he made her feel…wanted.
No man had ever made her feel truly wanted before.
They arrived at Larry’s house mere minutes later. Jake pulled into the curved driveway, maneuvering past the parked cars until he found an empty spot. Too eager to wait any longer, she opened the door. Could hear the sound of music and laughter drifting from the backyard as she slipped out of the truck. Smoothing her skirt out with shaky hands, she reached for the tie at the back of her neck to make sure it was secure. She watched as Jake slid out of the truck, his movements careful, as if he was afraid he might hurt himself and she immediately felt sorry for him. Was he hurting right now? He never complained so she didn’t have a clue.
But he didn’t want her sympathy, he’d never asked for it. She wasn’t about to give it to him for she had a feeling it would make him upset. And right now she needed a happy, agreeable Jake.
Jake, her fake boyfriend.
He went to her, reaching for her arm so that it circled about his. “Ready?”
Breathing deep, she nodded, unable to find her voice. She must’ve looked panicked because he frowned.
“You need to relax,” he murmured, his fingers stroking the inside of her forearm.
His touch sent a scattering of tingles across her skin. Not relaxing her in the least, more like ratcheting up her anxiety big time.
“I’m—nervous,” she admitted, wincing when she heard her jittery voice. She cleared her throat, desperate to get her nerves under control. “I don’t like change. And I’m not that great in a crowd.”
“No.” He drew the word out, a bit of teasing sarcasm in his voice as he slowly shook his head. “I couldn’t tell.”
She was about to chastise him for teasing, but he drew her close, leaning himself against the side of his truck and pulling her along with him so she had no choice but to lean against him. Her free hand rested against his chest, the heat of his skin burning her palm even through the fabric of his shirt and she gazed up at him in confusion.
“What are you doing?” Her voice squeaked as she glanced about the front of the house, hoping like crazy no one saw them. If anyone she worked with caught her in some sort of passionate embrace she’d probably live to regret it.
“Trying to get you to relax.” He released his hold on her hand and placed his hands on her back, his touch assured as he stroked her in a soothing gesture.
“Groping me in front of my boss’s house is not going to relax me,” she protested, trying to squirm out of his embrace. But his hold was too firm. And, she had to admit, it felt really, really good.
“Yeah? Well maybe this will.” And then he leaned in and kissed her.
Damn, the woman made him nervous just watching her. An agitated bundle of nerves, he’d done the only thing he could think of to get her to calm down.
Pull her into his arms and kiss her.
Maybe not the smartest move but Jake wasn’t about to regret it. She fit perfectly in his arms, her body nestled against his, breasts pressed against his chest. Her mouth opened in startled protest as his descended, giving him the perfect opportunity for an opened-mouth kiss. She froze in his arms, eyes wide open. He didn’t let that bother him. No, he coaxed her into the kiss, nibbling on her lips, sliding his tongue into her mouth. Her eyes drifted closed as her body slowly melted into his. Her tongue dabbed out, tangled with his, slick and hot and sweet.
He couldn’t contain the groan as he pulled her closer, his hands wrapped about her hips, pressing their lower bodies together. Just as she had the night before, she felt amazing. She tasted amazing.
And he needed to end this and quick before he did something he might regret. Like haul her skirt up and dive a hand beneath her panties.
Jake reluctantly broke the kiss and released his hold on her. She stumbled. Reached out to grab hold of his truck, training her gaze on him. Her sky blue eyes were hazy, unfocused and a surge of male pride filled him at the sight. Knowing that he did that to her, rattled her like he’d been so keen to do.
“Um, okay.” She cleared her throat, her fingers playing with the cotton strap that wound up and around her neck. Tied in a perfect bow, she looked like a pretty package and he was dying to unwrap her.
Later, bro. Settle down.
“Should I apologize?” Was that the wrong move? Maybe, but he wasn’t about to regret it.
“N—no.” She shook her head, pressed the tips of her fingers to her lips. His still tingled from that mind blowing kiss. He wondered if hers felt the same. “It was just—totally unexpected.”
“I couldn’t resist.” He reached for her, unable to stop himself. Trailing his fingers along the delicate line of her jaw, he felt her tremble. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. We’re gonna make this work. Trust me.”
A little smile curled her lips and she leaned into his touch. As if she wanted more of it. “Then let’s get this over with.”
He took her hand as she led him to through an open gate and into the backyard. His fingers threaded with hers, palms clasped. A united front, he hoped they made that impression on everyone. She still looked a little scattered, her gaze dreamy, but at least she didn’t seem so panicked. Her body language wasn’t tense but loose and languid. He wondered if he’d kissed the tension right out of her.
Hell, he hoped. That had been his intention all along.
A woman appeared out of nowhere with a wide, insincere smile on her face. Gleaming, too perfect teeth shone, framed by her deep red-stained mouth. If he thought Mia immaculate then this woman was downright plastic. Perfectly curled and unnaturally vibrant red hair, her face was pulled tight and nary a wrinkle in sight. She was most likely in her forties but preserved via a plastic surgeon’s care.
It was disconcerting, her face. It barely moved when she spoke.
“Mia, so good to see you. When Larry said you were coming I didn’t believe him but look at you. Pretty as a picture in your simple green dress.” The woman made simple green dress sound like an insult as she drew Mia into a hug, though she really didn’t touch her. Her gaze shot in his direction and she eyed him hungrily with a narrowed gaze. “Who is this? Don’t tell me it’s your mysterious boyfriend.”
Jake grabbed Mia’s hand and yanked her back to his side. His hackles already went up at her remark about Mia’s dress and the predatory way she watched him. “I’m most definitely the mystery boyfriend.” He offered a hand to the woman. Even though she set him on edge his mama did raise him right. “Jake Miller.”