Susan sat in the sunshine on a grassy spot beside a gurgling fountain. Deeply engrossed in the novel, she was startled when something nudged her foot.
She looked up to see Jake towering above her. Hed obviously showered, since his hair was still damp and hed changed clothes. He wore beige shorts and a copper colored knit shirt. And he held a covered basket.
As though hed been invited, he settled on the grass beside her. How do you feel about apple and cream cheese coffee cake, tomato quiche, a ham roll, orange juice and coffee? He lifted the basket lid, pulled out a checkered table cloth and unfolded it. With a snap of the fabric, he spread it before her.
Bewildered, Susan watched him lift out a thermos. Coffee first, or juice?
What are you doing?
He unscrewed the cap on the thermos. I missed breakfast, so I thought Id eat.
And you came out here to do it?
His grin flashed, crooked and sensual. Dont be obtuse, Miss OConner. I could hear your stomach growl ten feet away. He lifted out a mug and filled it with steaming coffee. I was a jerk last night. He held the mug toward her Can you forgive meand eat?
The inviting scent of strong coffee wafting up, she eyed him levelly. You were, you know.
Ouch. He winced. And, if youll notice, Im trying to apologize. He pressed the mug closer. Dont starve just because you cant stand the sight of me.
She accepted the brew, and exhaled, releasing with that breath any lingering hard feelings. The man was impossible to resist. She took a sip. I wasnt exactly the queen of charm, myself. She shook her head. Im sorry I was such a shrew.
He poured himself some coffee, then leaned back on one hand and took a drink. Im grateful you didnt cripple me.
He smiled, and she had no choice but to smile back. Bosses I cripple tend not to give me my Christmas bonus.
How narrow-minded. He watched her, his grin now full-fledged sexy.
Laughter gurgled in her throat and she felt a light-heartedness she shouldnt let herself feel. And youre not narrow-minded?
I didnt say that. He stretched out his legs, his calf brushing her knee. I just happen to believe youre not going to cripple me.
She eyed him speculatively. Im not?
He tasted his coffee, a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth.
Youre sure about that? she asked, enjoying their little game, whatever it was.
No, but He lay his mug on the cloth and lounged back on both elbows. Im an optimist.
She laughed, outright, and shifted to sit on her feet. Oh, you are, are you?
He nodded. Theres a lot to be said for optimism.
Okay, Mr. Optimistic, what did you say you have in that basket? She leaned over his long tan legs, giving herself an instant of guilty ogling pleasure, before she began to forage for food. Im starving.
So, Susan, why arent you married?
She jerked to stare at him. What?
I asked, why you arent married?
She sat back, her face heating in a furious blush. Thats none of your business.
A brow rose. Come on. My private life has been laid bare for you. Its only fair you share a little of yours with me.
No, its not.
He laughed. Youre one tough customer. Okay, Ill have to assume nobodys asked.
Yes they have! She bit her lip. Hed taunted her into that, the shrewd bum!
He lifted his chin as though skeptical. Really?
She eyed heaven. Okay. Ive broken two engagements. Satisfied?
His brows dipped. Have trouble with commitment, do we?
She glowered at him. We do not!
He angled to face her more fully. Youre sure?
He was inching too close to a truth she could never allow him to know. Making a quick grab for the basket, she hefted it over his legs. An instant later, it thudded to the grass on her side of his legs. Whirling to put her back to him, she dug in the hamper. I think Ill try some of that quiche.
So did you not show up at the church, or did you give the poor bastards a little notice?
She gritted her teeth and kept fishing around. A pan of quiche came into view. Thankfully it was pre-cut. She grabbed a slice and a linen napkin to put it on.
I should be grateful you turned me down flat, he said, as though he had her complete attention. You saved me the humiliation of being left at the alter.
She took a huge bite of the quiche and chewed. It was probably delicious, but she couldnt taste it. She had to swallow several times to get it down.
Considering your history with men, Jake went on, casually, What do you think it would take
To get you to shut up? She twisted around to impale him with her most savage scowl. Unfortunately she underestimated the vehemence of her spin and ended up sprawled on top of him.
Shocked by her unexpected collision with his body, she could only blink and stare.
To her great dismay, Susan was compelled to note how painfully gorgeous Jake looked up close and personal, his tempting lips barely a hands breadth from her own. How tormentingly good he felt, so solid, so male, beneath her.
Most disturbing of all, however, was the way Jake stared back. To say he was shocked by her impromptu, full-body attack would be laughingly inadequate.
From the book HONEYMOON HITCH, by Renee Roszel
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 2000 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA), April 2000, ISBN # 0-373-03599-3
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