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Authors: Jennifer Greene

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BOOK: Blame It on Paris
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They both seemed to reach the same decision—that it was better to peel off their soaking clothes right there, in the dark, not waiting. There was no point in dragging the ocean of wet stuff all through the apartment. And Will's teeth were chattering as hard as hers were.

Still, she was exhilarated. “I can't believe how much we saw!”

“Yeah, well, I should have listened to my better sense and dragged you home hours ago.”

“But you said you were stuck doing some work tomorrow. And even if it's Sunday, I still have to push through the passport nightmare. And this way, we had the whole day for you to show me Paris.” Her mind was still reeling with the wonders. Île Saint-Louis and the Hotel de Ville. Sacré-Coeur. The Eiffel Tower. The Jardin du Luxembourg.

“You
don't
see gardens in the pouring rain, not if you have a brain.”

“But it was perfect. All rain-clean. And nobody else there but us—oomph.” Her fanny seemed to connect with his elbow. It would have helped if they both weren't fumbling to get off wet things in the cramped foyer.

Her head shot up at the same time he tried to get out of the way. And then her head seemed to somehow bump into his chin.

They both let out a responsive howl, and Kelly was inclined to convulse in laughter again. She'd shucked off both shoes, where he still had one on. Both their jackets were draped and steaming on chairs. She'd managed to pull off her damp sweater, but she couldn't wait to get the clammy wet socks off, and it was impossible to do anything fast. Both of them had chilled-clumsy fingers, and every time they bent down, they seemed to collide again.

It was such an easy problem to solve.

All they had to do was turn on a light.

Move into the larger space of the apartment.

Instead, in their shivering, laughing scuffle, there was an instant—at least for Kelly—when she suddenly remembered the night before. Remembered him as a lover, naked, evocative, demanding, challenging. Lusty.

It wasn't as if she'd forgotten that for a second all day.

It was just that all day she'd been good at blocking it out.

Denial was a learned skill. She'd practiced her whole life. And she was safe, she'd thought, because neither of them could possibly be in the mood. They were both cold and tired and had sore feet. He couldn't possibly want her. She looked like a drowned rat.

And she was about to sneeze again.

Then in the blink of a second, his eyes met hers.

There was a second of silence. A second when the laughter died. A second when the shivers and exhaustion and rain pelting the windows in torrents seemed to fade out, as if they were all background colors in an old picture.

He was all foreground. Even in the shadowy foyer, she caught the clear shine in his eyes, heard his breath catch, could swear she actually saw the sudden arc of lightning between them.

She didn't mean to suck in a breath, but he seemed to take that as an invitation.

Maybe it was.

She was in his arms like that. As if she'd die if she couldn't touch him that very minute. As if she'd die if she couldn't have him. As if nothing in her life had created need like this, fire like this, a hunger to live like this. Until him.

She surely accumulated a dozen bruises navigating the hall toward his bedroom, and him probably more. Darkness and dampness were only two of the obstacles. She refused to stop kissing him—to stop being kissed—refused to be severed from him for even a second.

“We're going to kill ourselves,” he muttered against her mouth.

“You can always say no.”

And then, when they finally reached the bedroom, when she finally had him naked, he mentioned, “You know, we don't have to go this fast.”

“You want slow?”

“No.” His voice turned thick, just like that. Thicker than honey. Thicker than molasses. Thicker than a bluesy sax on a hot night in Paris. “I want you now. Totally. Every which way. Total dominion over you.”

“You got it,” she murmured, in a voice that wasn't hers. Kelly—the Kelly Rochard she saw in the mirror every day—had a voice meant for a church choir. A voice that giggled with children, that played family diplomat in touchy moments.

The woman's voice talking to Will was a slut's voice. A bad, bad woman's voice. Conscienceless. Greedy. Wicked.

It was all a trick, she thought. A trick her heart was playing on her. A trick that made it okay to be a brazen hussy—not in life, not in general, but with him. Will Maguire. Here. Now. In Paris.

And that was the last coherent thought she had.

CHAPTER FOUR

S
OMEWHERE AROUND
ten the next night, they both woke up, hungry. It wasn't the first meal Will had brought back to bed. This time he made melted cheese sandwiches, and carted them in with chips and cookies.

She laughed, knowing they were going to sleep with crumbs, not caring any more than he did. Still, something was different when she woke up this time.

It was as if, in the past twenty-four hours, she'd been Will-drugged. Still was, when he carried in the tray, buck naked. The man didn't have a modest bone in his entire long, strong, deliciously male body. But suddenly she felt different. Different enough to tuck the sheet securely under her arms. It seemed silly, when he'd obviously seen every inch of her body in exquisite, thorough detail, but somehow she felt the odd need to hide all the love bites and nuzzle marks he'd left.

He plunked down beside her and they dove into their makeshift meal. She didn't try talking until she'd devoured a second sandwich, but after that, she swiftly ducked under the sheet, pulled up his fluffy comforter and snuggled into the pillow.

“Will…” Outside, it was still pouring, lightning spearing the sky, wind howling through the cracks. “What are we going to do?”

“As soon as we're both done eating, I'm guessing we're going to sleep. You wore me out, woman.”

“That's what I've been trying to grapple with. It's not possible that we've been doing this. That I've been doing this. It's seriously wrong.” She recognized that her entire behavior had led him to believe otherwise. Hell's bells, her entire behavior had led
her
to believe otherwise, but there it was. Reality seemed to have shown up out of nowhere. Or maybe she'd finally caught a couple seconds where she wasn't sucked under by all that wicked, powerful passion.

He lowered his empty plate to the floor, switched off the lamp and eased down next to her, pillow to pillow. He didn't brush her off. He could have. Didn't roll his eyes at her sudden attack of regretful guilts, either, and for damn sure, he could have done that.

“Just for the record,” he said, “I've never gone near a woman who ever took me under before. Not like this. I mean it. Ever.”

“Yeah, well. It's totally my fault, not yours.”

But he wasn't playing scorekeeper on the guilt record. “I don't do guilt. It's one of the best things about giving up Catholicism. Truth is, I don't think people need guilt to keep them in line anyway. Most people seem to get up every day, trying to be the best people they can be at that moment in time.” He ran his fingers through her hair, looking thoughtful, as if confused how that bit of philosophy had sneaked out of him. In other ways he was being careful, like in not touching body parts. More, he was keeping in touch, with that finger-light caress. “So I don't know how to draw conclusions about what's going on with us…except to say that you and I seem to fit. To be right together. I wasn't looking for it, wasn't expecting it. But that's sure how it is. At least for me.”

“For me, too.” Since he was doing that finger-caress thing, she did, too. On the slope of his shoulder, gleaming in the rain-light. “In fact, that's exactly what's scaring me. What's confusing me. I've never done casual relationships. Ever. It's not possible. If you just knew me…”

No smile. But he suddenly loomed over her, an expression on his face that she'd never seen. Tenderness. And something else. Something…that invoked a soft shiver all through her.

“I do know you,” he said. “I know you like this….”

And he showed her.

 

W
ILL FIGURED
it had to be around three in the morning. If there was a fire, he doubted he could find the energy to move. Not that he'd say it out loud, but he'd always considered himself a good lover. Certainly he'd never had a problem with some eloquent sustaining action, so to speak.

But they'd made love how many times?

His legs were limp. His body was limp. Even willie was limp. He could have slept naked in a snowstorm. He was that wiped. His eyelids were too tired to open.

But Kelly was still talking.

“Okay,” she said. “So self-discipline didn't work for us. Or denial. Or pretending this wasn't going to happen again. Or guilt. And I know
you
don't do guilt, Will, but I do. And it doesn't seem to make a lick of difference. I still want to be here, right here. With you.”

He managed to find the energy to open one eye. “Do you have to sound so miserable?”

“I'm
not
miserable. That's the whole problem.” She shifted on top of him, her elbows digging into his shoulders, using his body for her own personal mattress. But then she bent down and kissed him. And even though willie was wiped, even though he was too tired to breathe, he felt her soft skin from breast to tummy to thighs, layered against him. As if she had the right. As if he did.

When she lifted her head, her lips still just inches from his, she murmured, “You know what you taste like?”

“What?”

“Hot sex. Love. Wonder. Magic.” She sighed. “I can feel him. You'd think he'd be tired by now.”

“He is, he is.”

“Yeah, right.” She let out a long-suffering sigh, but there was something in her eyes. A gleam. A wickedness. The way she wiggled her hips was hardly the act of an inhibited, guilt-ridden, goody-good kind of woman. And then she took a nip out of his neck. Not a big one. Not drawing blood or anything like that. Just a nip. With her teeth, then her lips, then her tongue. She whispered, “You'd better hold on to the headboard, because I think this could be a real rough ride.”

He said primly, “I don't do bondage with women I barely know.”

“You'd do bondage with any woman who'd let you get away with it,” she corrected him.

Well, hell, she already had his number. There was no point in fighting with her, when making love with her was so much more fun.

 

W
HEN THE ALARM CLOCK BUZZED
at seven, the word
work
entered Will's brain…welcomed on a par with tetanus shots, cavities, the flu. It couldn't be Monday morning. It just couldn't be.

He pried open one bleary eye. Then the other.

There seemed to be a naked woman standing in front of him, holding a steaming mug of coffee. Hazelnut. He could smell it. He lurched out of the bed, nose-first, realizing at that instant that he was hopelessly in love.

The first sip of joe confirmed it. “I can forgive a woman anything who makes outstanding coffee,” he told her.

“Oh, good. Then you don't mind if I empty out your bank accounts, trash your place and decorate your living room pink?”

“You're going to still make the coffee, though, right?”

She chuckled. There was no way, no possible way, she could be this perky. Neither had had any sleep. Her hair was messy, and she was sashaying around the room naked as if she had the cutest boobs, the sassiest butt, the skinniest legs this side of the Atlantic.

Which she did.

Damn, but she did.

“What'd you do with all your Catholic guilt?” he asked her a few minutes later…which was after a shower, after he'd finished the first cup, after he'd yanked on a starched shirt and pants and found—ye gods—breakfast waiting for him in the minikitchen.

“It hasn't disappeared. I just figured this whole thing out.”

“Uh-oh.” He didn't mean to say that aloud, but it slipped out. He wasn't thinking that coherently when he saw her lift the skillet and plop a light, fluffy omelet on a plate for him.

“I'm just going to be part of your life until the money gets all straightened out. And my passport. The stuff I have to have to survive again.”

“And then…” He motioned, waiting for the next part.

But apparently there was no next part. “That's it. The end of the plan. You're in Paris. I'm going back to South Bend. We're not hurting anyone if no one else ever knows anything about this. I mean, you and I could hurt each other. But it's just about you and me. No one else.”

He took another bite, but he was watching her bright eyes. She'd pulled on a shirt by then. His shirt. A blue one. It made her look like the most feminine bit of fluff ever born. Times ten. Something made him want to argue with the plan, but he couldn't put a frame on it. It should be exactly what he wanted—sneaky, free sex—yet somehow, the last bite of delectable omelet didn't want to be swallowed.

“You're going to shake the fiancé when you go back.” Will didn't phrase it like a question, although it was. For whatever reason, he needed to know.

She bounced up to refill both their mugs. “Well, that was my theory, too, when I tried to call him on Saturday morning. But now I think that stinks. It would be plain wrong and cowardly to try to say anything serious to him in a phone conversation. So there's nothing I'm going to do about Jason until I get home.”

He put down his fork altogether. “But
then
you're going to shake the guy.”

“Hey. This is the deal. You and I are going to be our own personal Vegas. What's between us this week stays between us. But there's no point in doing before-and-after analyses. I mean, you're not coming home to South Bend, right?”

“Right,” he affirmed.

She nodded, as if to say they were both in agreement.

Only they weren't.

Will couldn't very well babysit her all day. She had a ton of stuff to do, all of which was fraught with peril—for a tourist, an American, an adorable woman who was an American tourist, and specifically for Kelly, who didn't seem to have the directional sense of a stone. But he left her maps. He left her lists. He left her money, his cell phone, his telephone number at work and instructions to check in every two hours so he'd know she was okay.

At the doorway, when he was leaving for work, she interrupted all his considerate help to say mildly, “You really think you're a lazy, live-for-today, happily irresponsible, completely recovered Catholic, huh?”

Which just went to show, he thought when he climbed into his Citroën, that you could make love to a woman for three days straight and still, she didn't know you at all.

Twenty minutes later, he parked the car—feeling victorious when he fit into a spot smaller than a dime—and ambled into the office with a lazy stride.

The building was older than the guillotine, dark, crowded and drafty.
“Bonjour, m'sieur,”
said Marie, of the Antoinette temperament. She ran the place, something he'd realized the day he applied for a job here.

He greeted her, then the office staff in the bull pen, then Yves, the owner. His boss was a prince of a guy, devoted to his family, but he both looked like and had the temperament of a high-strung terrier. Talk about a worrywart. He sprang up the instant he saw Will.

“You managed to connect on the Wisconsin thing yesterday?”

“Yup. No problems. All fixed.” Except for having to do that wrangling on a Sunday, but not like doing a few phone calls at home killed Will.

“Several calls came up early this morning, backup on shipments. Catalog proofs are on your desk. Looks good to me, but if you can get to that today…and that advertising affecting Lucerne and Copenhagen…”

Will listened a while longer, took it on, then aimed for his office—such as it was. A trailer closet was bigger than his cubicle. There was just enough room for him to drop to the desk chair and wade into the five pounds of files and samples and folders and debris.

Kelly wasn't here, of course. If she saw the place, she might leap to the conclusion that he was a hardcore workaholic, busier than a one-armed bandit in a bank vault.

That would be the wrong conclusion, of course. From the minute he'd arrived in Paris, he'd committed to become the laziest, most irresponsible slacker on the planet. That was what he wanted to be.

That was what he'd been
trying
to be since he left South Bend.

 

T
HE MOMENT
Will left the flat, Kelly felt her smile deflate like a needled balloon. The apartment felt alien and lonely without him.

Still, it wasn't as if she didn't have a full day of complications to deal with. As soon as she poured a last mug of coffee, she addressed crisis number one by dialing her mom. And this time,
finally,
Char Nicole Rochard Matthews answered.


Mom!
For Pete's sake, where have you
been?

“Out gallivanting.” The sound of her mom's chuckle was as familiar as sunshine. “You were gone, and I had nothing on the agenda for the weekend. Mary and Ann and I got to talking and next thing I knew, the three of us were off on a road trip to Mall of America. We were only gone for three days. What a place that is….”

BOOK: Blame It on Paris
9.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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