A guest tittered loud enough to catch her attention. That’s when she noticed everyone was staring, and conversations seemed centered on her and Caleb. Self-conscious, she brought her lips to her martini glass.
“Don’t care what they think.” Caleb indicated the room. “They have no power you don’t give them.” He took her hand back, and brought it to his lips, caressing each knuckle with a butterfly kiss. It was like a branding, and she couldn’t help but wonder what his lips would feel like on her neck, her breasts…between her legs. Francesca was finding it hard to breathe with any sort of consistency.
“You don’t…care?” she said.
“Not about them.”
Them. Who were still staring. Francesca pulled her hand from his, and allowed her skepticism to show. A man with his level of intensity felt too damn much not to care. “So, no one has any power over you?”
He smiled. “Do you want power over me?”
Francesca took a deep breath, feeling like her dress was too damn tight, and she was at risk of swooning like a twit. He had her trembling, for heaven’s sake, because he was so damn much. He scared the be-jeepers out of her, and he was enjoying every minute of it.
“I’m not afraid of you.” Damn. She’d said that aloud, and though he didn’t exactly laugh at her, she saw amusement in the crinkling of his eyes, and his efforts not to smile. Francesca lifted her chin, wondering if he would make fun of her.
“I’m glad,” he said.
She placed her glass on a passing waiter’s tray, and used the distraction to buy herself time to shore up her courage. She had the impression he was humoring her, and instinct made her want to slap that down.
“I’m tougher than I look. I’ve been taking care of myself since I was in fifth grade, so I could have handled Nathan without help.” He glanced at her wrist, prompting her to flushed. “Nathan didn’t mean to hurt me.” Just like her father didn’t mean to hurt her when he left her at boarding school, and chose to be a stranger to his daughter.
Caleb frowned. “What happened in fifth grade?”
His question took her aback. “My mother died.” The topic was far from relevant, and even farther from the kind of conversation she wanted with this extremely sexy man. “How did we start talking about my dead mother?” She shook her head, feeling awkward. “I was feeling…”
Caleb stepped closer to her, and he tilted his head, as if her next words were more important than any other thing in his world. “What were you feeling?”
She’d been feeling good; good about herself. Wanted. But couldn’t say any of that and keep her pride, though she had a feeling if he continued to press she’d throw pride out the door if it meant he’d kiss her. She had a feeling kissing Caleb Smith would be divine, but hadn’t a clue about closing the deal. What would it take? Bat her eyelashes? Maybe. She feared he was the type to require her to come out and say it. It being the operative word for…what she wanted to do with him between the sheets. Unfortunately, a glance over her shoulder revealed they continued to be the center of attention, so she forced herself not to do anything too obvious.
“Are you sure you’re not afraid of me?”
He couldn’t hide how important her answer was to him, and it broke her heart. Suddenly, she didn’t feel the need to defend her self-esteem, and now was in the position to bolster Caleb’s. Who knew? Neither were very sure of themselves.
She smiled. “Should I be?” He stepped even closer, his gaze dropping to her lips, flooding her mind with thoughts on what it would be like to kiss Caleb Smith.
“Very afraid.” He smiled back.
ABOUT KRIS RAFFERTY
Kris Rafferty was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the youngest of four in a rambunctious Irish-American family. She became obsessed with books early on, and remembers her first library adventure. She wrote her first story when she was six and never stopped. She received her BA at U/Mass Boston, married the love of her life, has three perfect children, and earned her third degree black belt in Parker American Kenpo Karate. She plays classical piano, loves road trips, and is a fanatic for warm water ocean. If she’s not writing, she’s reading all sorts of romance. Ms. Rafferty lives happily ever after in North Carolina, writing.
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