Dana raised a surprised eyebrow. “You knew?”
Jared shrugged. “I wasn’t absolutely certain until I met you. The first thing that crossed my mind when you walked into my office was that no straight man in his right mind would let you slip through his fingers.”
Dana couldn’t help but smile at the compliment. “Thanks. I had no idea about Luther’s sexual preference until recently. He came to see me and told me the truth. I can only appreciate that he broke our engagement when he did.”
Jared nodded. “The two of you dated for over a year and you had no idea?”
Dana shook her head. “Not even a clue, although I realized afterward that the signs were all there but I ignored them.”
Jared’s brow furrowed. “What signs?”
Dana met his gaze. “Sex for instance.”
A knot formed in Jared’s throat. Silence grew between them—rather awkwardly, then he asked in a strained voice, “Sex?”
“Yes, sex. We decided that we wouldn’t sleep together until after we were married.”
Jared nodded. “Soo.” He drew the word out, as if his mind was befuddled. “Whose idea was that?”
Dana bit her lip before answering. “It was Luther’s idea and of course I went along with it since sex is overrated.”
Jared’s gaze was puzzled. It wasn’t overrated in his book and he wondered how she could think such a thing. “Is it?”
She had him curious and he couldn’t resist asking for clarification. “Why would you think that?”
She shrugged. “I’m not a virgin, Jared. I’ve had sex before and frankly I’ve never experienced anything worth losing sleep over.”
He wondered who the men were who had disappointed her? He met her gaze, locked on it. “Maybe you haven’t done it with the right person.”
His softly decreed words spurred a hot little quiver that moved down the length of Dana’s spine before blossoming out to every part of her body. She couldn’t help wondering if a tumble between the sheets with him would make her think differently, then decided it was something she would never know. But still the thought caused a warm pool of heat to form in her belly.
She cleared her throat, needing to regain control of her senses. “Trust me, twice was enough. I can possibly understand the blunder in college, but I was involved with someone a few years ago and my opinion hasn’t changed.”
He leaned back in his chair, surprised that she was able to dismiss such a profound intimate act from her life just like that. “A few years ago? How far back was that?”
“Three years, closer to four.”
Jared raised a dark eyebrow. “Are you saying that you haven’t slept with a man in almost four years?” he asked, not sure if he had heard her correctly.
Dana lifted her chin, wondering how they had gotten on such a personal subject, but decided to answer anyway. “Yes, that’s just what I’m saying.”
Deciding she had given him enough information about herself, she said, “So tell me what things you expect us to do during this pretended engagement?”
He watched as she licked her lips again and wished it were his tongue at work instead of her own. And if that wasn’t bad enough she crossed her legs and his gaze moved down the length of them, catching sight of the thigh he’d gotten a glimpse of earlier. His gut clenched when he thought of licking those legs and thighs.
Damn! He couldn’t help but curse his bad luck. He was still way too attracted to her and the last thing he needed was a reason to spend more time in her company. In this situation, his mother’s needs came before his own. But boy did he have needs and the enormity of those needs was hitting home—in this case right below his belt. He shifted in his seat to relieve the strain he felt behind his zipper. He could definitely use some sexual playtime and would’ve loved to suggest a purely physical relationship, with no emotions involved. But after her broken engagement, the last thing he wanted to do was take advantage of the situation by suggesting such a thing.
He cleared his throat. “What kinds of things did you and Cord do together?” He gave her a lopsided grin. “You’ve already told me about one particular activity the two of you didn’t do.”
Dana smoothed down her skirt. He watched as she then rolled one shoulder, which made his gaze move from her legs to her breasts. Suddenly he felt tension in his fingers. He would give just about anything to cross the room, lift her top, unhook her bra—if she was wearing one—and take his fingertips and graze her flesh before taking his mouth and latching on to a nipple and sucking—
“Luther and I went out a lot,” she finally said, snatching back his focus. “We attended concerts, plays and parties. He was a sales representative with his company and often had to do a lot of socializing.”
For several seconds Jared looked at her, thinking because of his clientele he often did a lot of socializing, as well. However, recently he’d cut back because of his workload. “We can do those same things. However, my mother is big on family gatherings and would expect us to also attend any. Can you handle that?”
Dana thought about how much she had enjoyed herself yesterday, almost too much. “Yes, I can handle that. Like I told you yesterday I think you have a wonderful family. But I’d hate deceiving them.”
“It’s for a good reason.” A grin turned up the corners of his lips. “And I’d like to think that a pretended engagement with me wouldn’t be so bad. I’m a pretty decent fellow.”
Decency was the last thing on Dana’s mind at the moment although she knew it shouldn’t be. Heat was curling in her stomach just from staring at him. “How long do you think this pretended engagement will have to last?”
“That will depend on my mother’s condition. If this is a false alarm, then we’re only looking at a couple of weeks. But if we’re looking at treatments, the last time they lasted for eight weeks. Will that be too long for you?”
Dana sighed. Any length of time would be too long as far as she was concerned. “No, umm, that would be fine.”
Jared hated the uncertainty, the wariness he saw in her eyes but knew those emotions mirrored his own. He swallowed hard as he stood, shoving his hands in his pockets. “So, you’re willing to keep on pretending to be my fiancée?”
Several tense minutes passed before Dana answered. She knew she might be asking for trouble, considering how attracted she was to him. But under the circumstances, there was no way she could turn him down. “Yes.”
A relieved smile touched Jared’s lips. He crossed the room and taking her hand he pulled her from her seat. “Thanks, Dana. Now I’m the one who’s in your debt.”
Having Jared in her debt stirred strange sensations in Dana’s belly. She licked her dry lips, tried to smile and said teasingly, “That’s okay. I won’t demand anything that I don’t think you’ll be able to deliver.” As far as she was concerned that left the options pretty wide-open.
Jared’s gaze was drawn to Dana’s lips; lips that were still moist from the recent sweep of her tongue. They stood so close that all he had to do was lean down and capture what he wanted most in his mouth and feast on it.
“So what’s first?”
Her question made him lift a dark brow. He was about to say that a tongue-sucking kiss wouldn’t be so bad, but changed his mind. “What’s first?”
She smiled and he wondered if she knew what he’d been thinking, since his gaze was still glued to her lips. “Will your family need to see us together again anytime soon?”
He inhaled slowly. It’s a good thing she’d asked. He had almost forgotten. “Yes. My brothers are remaining in town until Sunday, except for Quade. He had to get back to D.C. and flew out this morning. The folks are planning a cookout on Saturday evening.”
Dana nodded. After spending time with Jared’s family she knew his brother Quade worked for the Secret Service; Durango was a park ranger who lived in Montana; Ian was a ship’s captain whose luxurious riverboat cruised the Mississippi River and whose home was in Memphis, and Spencer was a financial advisor, who lived in the quaint and quiet community of Sausalito, California. Jared and his youngest brother, Reggie, were the only ones living in the Atlanta area.
“Do they know what’s going on with your mother’s health?” she asked.
Jared shook his head. “No, and knowing Mom she’ll tell us as little as possible and only what she thinks we need to know. It’s her way of protecting us. But I’m going to tell them what I do know. We’re meeting for dinner at Chase’s Place in an hour, and I’ll call Quade with details later tonight.”
“Will you tell them the truth about us?”
Jared shook his head. “No. The less people who know the better. I won’t take a chance on one of them letting something slip. I don’t want to give my mother any reason not to think our engagement isn’t the real thing.”
Dana nodded. Suddenly, she remembered something. “The ring!”
Jared frowned. “What about it?” His gaze went to her left hand. He had noticed earlier that she wasn’t wearing it.