“Well?” she asked.

He didn’t say anything at first. He was looking at her like he was shocked again. She crossed her arms, readjusted herself into the pleather of the seat and waited.

“I… god, you’re beautiful,” he said.

She narrowed her eyes. She didn’t doubt that he meant the compliment, but she didn’t intend to give him an easy out in case it was a diversionary tactic.

“So you’ve said,” was all he got as a reply. Her attention was briefly drawn to the man who had tried to join her when she’d first walked into the side room off the Honky Tonk.

Honky Tonk. What the hell are you doing in a Honky Tonk? Again? she asked herself.

Cole turned a little to see what she was looking at and his eyes narrowed, too. The two men sized each other up momentarily. She wondered why the other bothered. Cole easily had a good six inches on him, and though he wasn’t going pro, his body still screamed linebacker. She had to give the other man credit for not backing down, but he wasn’t foolhardy. Cole’s nostrils flared and the man left the room, not risking another glance in her direction.

“Someone you know?” Cole asked, looking at her again.

She chuckled. “And if he was, I don’t see how it’s any business of yours. Lately you’ve been making sure that nothing I do is any business of yours.”

That hurt, he thought. “Guess I had that coming.”

“You guess?”

He could tell she was really mad. But he was enchanted by her presence again. He knew it had sounded like a line the night they’d met, when he’d asked her if she was an angel. He’d never seen eyes that black-violet color and she was so stunning, angel was the most logical thing he’d been able to think of. After a couple of beers. He wanted to look into those incredible eyes again, but she was looking away from him, towards the door of the room. He realized he’d better start talking before she got up and left. But then she started before he could.

“You said you wanted to see me. Did you actually have something to say, or can I get back to the girls?”

He took a deep breath. “I… kind of panicked, got scared, I guess.” Her expression changed. “What?” he asked.

“What on earth did you have to be scared of?”

What did I have to be scared of?’ he thought. Is she serious? It took like three days to fall in love with her and she doesn’t know why I was scared?

“I disappeared because I was scared of getting in your way. We… we haven’t known each other long, but… you know, um… how I feel about you, and… and I was scared that you might decide to stay with me, and not do what you’ve dreamed about.”

God you sound like a fucking retard! he thought.

God, he’s such a clueless prick, she thought. I’m a grown woman, I don’t need to be babied or managed.

She told him exactly that. He looked shocked.

“I wasn’t trying to…”

“What else would you call it?” She cut him off. “You decided that I wasn’t capable of making my own decision, so you made it for me. And hurt me in the process.” She got up to leave, she didn’t want him to see the tears in her eyes.

Shit. She’s right, he thought.

He caught her wrist and hauled her back to him. She didn’t sit, just stopped between his knees. They had a bit of an audience and he felt the need to mark his territory. If she’d let him.

“Baby, I’m so sorry.” Her eyes glowed in the club’s lights. “You’re right. I acted like an ass. A right ass. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“No shit.” She wanted to chide him for calling her baby, but didn’t.

“Can I make it up to you?”

She raised an eyebrow. That was all the encouragement he needed. His grip slipped down to her hand as he stood and pulled her back into the main room and onto the dance floor. The music was a little faster than he would have liked, but it didn’t matter. He got to a darker, more secluded corner of the dance floor and pulled her close to him.

“I’m sorry.”

She felt him say it, less than heard it as he held her close.

Come on baby, he thought. You’re too stiff. She was trying to move in time with the music, fighting his attempts to move more slowly.

“I am.” He had to bend far to whisper into her ear. She was so tiny compared to him, but all curves and warmth. Her hair was a waterfall of curls he wanted to feel cascading around his face again.

She grunted, but still didn’t say anything. He pressed her even closer. She had to choose between pulling away and letting his thigh slide between hers. He let out a breath when she chose the latter.

“I’m an ass,” he breathed against her neck.

“Say it again.”

He barely heard her, but he smiled.

“I’m an ass. I’m the biggest ass in the world. Goddamn you feel good. I can’t tell you how much I missed you, how hard it was turnin’ my back on this.” His hand slid lower, opening wide, caressing the delicious curve that was the meeting of her back to her hips. His thumb tucked under the waist of her halter top, and he lightly stroked the skin on her lower back. He felt her shudder.

She remembers. He smiled, letting himself remember how he’d just barely stroked the same place the last time they’d been naked together. He could still feel how she’d cooed, arching, pressing her incredible breasts into his chest.

She still didn’t say anything, but let herself mold to him. She took a deep breath, savoring his smell, hating how much she wanted more, wanted to drench herself in it and carry it back home with her again.

“Look at me, baby. Show me those angel eyes.”

She looked up at him, finally letting her hands slide up his massive arms and link themselves behind his neck. He grunted, bringing his face close to hers.

“I’m an ass,” he said, looking her in the eye.

“Enough,” she whispered.

“You forgive me?”

“No reason to waste any more time being mad.”

He smiled. “You’re right. I don’t wanna waste any more time.”

“Me either,” she whispered. Her lips were so, so close. He reached out, but she pulled back. “Not yet, Cole.”

He didn’t understand.

“You can kiss me all you want, later on. When I decide you’ve been punished enough.” She sounded angry, but she looked like she wanted him. He pulled her back to him, bringing his mouth close to her ear.

“Punish me, baby.” His voice was deep, breathier than usual. It gave her goosebumps. He sighed across her skin. “I’ll do whatever you want, obey your every command. As long as I get to sink myself into your tight, throbbing wetness afterwards.” He felt her take a sharp breath. Her breasts pressed hard against his chest.

“Mm,” he grunted. “Lemme tell you more, baby.” He moved to her other ear. “Will you let me get down on my knees? You know how much I like that, how much I love bein’ down on my knees… between those warm, welcoming thighs. Let me beg for your forgiveness… or lick for it if you prefer.”

Bastard’s not playing fair. She’d been reluctant about receiving oral sex before she’d met him. Then he’d turned her into an addict.

“Tell me baby,” he continued. “If I got down on my knees right now, could I tell?”

She couldn’t breathe.

What is he getting at? And why the fuck does his accent sound so good all of the sudden?

“Could you tell what?” she was finally able to ask.

“How wet you are.” His sigh sent chills down the side of her neck. “Could I smell you baby?”

Fuck him.

He didn’t stop. “I know your smell now. And when I can smell ya’, I can taste ya’. And you know exactly what that does to me.” He rocked his hips a little and she had to stop trying to convince herself that it was his belt buckle poking her in the stomach.

“Stop it,” she said.

“Why?” He just barely licked her neck.

“Cuz my thighs are slick.”

Fuck. He had to taste her again.

“Come with me to the corner?” he asked.

The people who ran the Honky Tonk had to know what went down in that corner.

“No,” she said.

“Please? I gotta taste you.”

“No. We’re going back to my table. I’m gonna let the girls know everything’s ok, then you’re gonna wait for me there when I excuse myself to go powder my nose. When I come back, I’ll have a little present for you,” she said.