When they returned to the hotel, they reluctantly went their separate ways to dress for dinner and within an hour’s time, the food had been wheeled into Jared’s suite. Even he would admit it was a night of romance with the candles burning on the table and the soft music playing in the background, compliments of the hotel’s management. Evidently Jeannie had mentioned when she’d made reservations that they were a recently engaged couple and the hotel staff wanted to be remembered, in case they were undecided as to where they would spend their honeymoon.
A honeymoon that would never take place.
For the second time that day, Jared felt numb, his feelings paralyzed. All he could think about was that he and Dana didn’t have a future together. He forced himself to get a grip and refused to dwell on that now. All he wanted to think about was the woman sitting across from him, who was slowly sipping her champagne—another compliment of the hotel—as she watched him through beautiful dark eyes.
His body’s temperature rose a few degrees. All during dinner he had been turned on by everything she did. Even watching as she opened her mouth to eat her food had stirred a flame of arousal within him. She had a pair of sensuous lips and every time she used them he felt his loins burning.
He couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. She hadn’t been talkative and the attorney in him, the one whose senses were sharp and mind alert, was waiting patiently for her to say something. Anything that would give him an indication of what was going on inside her head.
Since the suspense was killing him, he decided to just ask. “A penny for your thoughts.”
Dana placed her glass down on the table. An intimate smile played at the edges of her mouth. “I was just thinking about you and how grateful I am that you came and how much I enjoy your company.”
“I enjoy yours, as well.”
And he really meant it. He had dined with other women but this was the first time he had felt so totally comfortable. So at ease with a beautiful woman that he both liked and desired.
“You mentioned earlier that you wanted to talk to me about a party that Thorn and Tara are giving,” Dana said, recapturing his attention.
He fixed his gaze on her, looking fully into her eyes. “The weekend after Mother’s Day is Thorn and Tara’s first wedding anniversary. They’re planning a huge celebration and I wanted to make sure you’re free to attend with me that Friday night.”
Dana’s smile faltered. “But that’s two weeks after your mother’s surgery.”
Jared nodded. “Yes. Is there a problem with that?”
She thought there was. “I assumed that if things were fine with your mother’s surgery that we wouldn’t…”
When it became apparent that she was having difficulty completing her statement, Jared reached across the table and took her hand in his. “That we wouldn’t what?” he asked softly.
“Be seeing each other again, that you’d end things, break our engagement.”
Jared stared into dark brown questioning eyes as he thought for a moment. Although he understood what she was saying and agreed that at one time he had thought breaking up with her as soon as possible was best for all concerned, there were a few things he felt they should take into account.
“My family, especially my mother, will find it rather odd that we broke our engagement so soon after her surgery. I think we should at least wait a couple of weeks before dropping the bomb on them.” And I don’t know how I’ll let you go.
Dana couldn’t see putting off the inevitable. “We’re going to have to end things sooner or later, Jared. We can’t continue to deceive everyone.”
Jared stared at the hand he was holding then slowly released it. “I guess you’re right. If things work out and my mother won’t need any further treatments, then maybe the night of Thorn and Tara’s party should be the last time we see each other. Agreed?”
Dana tipped up her chin and held his gaze. “Yes. Agreed.” She knew that meant they had only three weeks left to spend together. Already she felt a deep pain in her heart but refused to let it ruin her evening.
“Dinner was wonderful,” she said dabbing at her mouth with a napkin.
Heat flared within Jared. He would have been more than willing to wipe away any lingering crumbs from around her lips with his tongue.
He reached up and loosened the top button of his shirt. For dinner he had dressed casually, wearing a pair of khaki slacks and a black collared shirt. Dana was wearing a beautiful printed dress that had an endless slit up the side. That dress had nearly driven him crazy before she had finally taken a seat for dinner.
Moments later, his gut clenched. It seemed she was about to drive him crazy all over again. “I like the view from the balcony,” she said, taking her glass and walking over to the double French doors.
“Yes. Gorgeous.” He liked the view, as well, but he wasn’t talking about what was on the other side of those French doors. The view he was feasting his eyes on was right in this very room.
“I bet it’s simply beautiful at night,” she said softly, turning around and meeting his gaze, looking at him with something akin to desire in her eyes. He shook his head wondering if that’s what he actually saw or what he wanted to see.
“I bet it is, too,” he managed to say as his gaze did a long, slow slide down the length of her body. “If you stick around for a while, I’m sure we’ll see just how beautiful it is. It won’t be long before it’s completely dark.”
A smile creased the corners of her eyes. “Can you imagine standing out there under those stars?”
It was on the tip of his tongue to say he would rather be lying down under those stars and making love to her. He picked up his own glass and slowly walked over to her. When he came to a stop in front of her, a thick silence hung over them as he held her gaze, watched her uneven breathing and smelled her scent.
He was an experienced man. A man who knew women. And he would recognize that scent anywhere, especially with Dana. It was the same scent he’d drowned in that night they played Red Light, Green Light. The same one that had almost driven him over the edge while watching her first orgasm. If there was any way he could bottle that scent he would. Tonight it mingled with the fragrance of the seductive perfume she was wearing and the combination was a very passion-stirring force.
“Let’s make a toast.”
Her words broke the silence and his deep concentration. “And what would you like us to toast, Dana?” he asked huskily. Intense desire was mounting within him. It wouldn’t take much for him to drop to his knees, lift her dress and go straight to the source of that scent. Both his fingers and his tongue itched to—
“I propose that we toast life.”
He met her gaze as his mind was jerked back to attention. “Life?”
“Yes. It can be taken from you in a second, a minute, at any place, anytime. That’s why you should live life to the fullest. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Because when it’s gone, it’s over. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Jared considered her words. Life. He couldn’t help but think of how different his had been since she had walked into it. Stormed into it was a better word. In a span of less than eight weeks, he had met her, introduced her to his family and given them the definite impression they were engaged, had purchased a very costly ring for her—one he intended for her to keep—and had spent the last couple of weeks pretending to be a man very much in love. To say that Dana Rollins hadn’t affected his life would be an understatement.
“Okay, we’ll toast to life,” he said, lifting his glass to connect with hers. They took a sip of their champagne.
“Umm, want to have some fun?” she asked, holding his gaze over the rim of her glass.
Jared lifted a brow. “What kind of fun?”
A smile turned up her lips. “I’d like to play a game,” she said softly.
“Yes. A game of hide-and-seek. I hide, you find me.”
Jared smiled. He liked the thought of doing that. “And what happens when I find you?”
She returned his smile. “That depends.”
“Where I’m found.”
Jared downplayed the possibilities as he glanced around the room. “There aren’t many places you can hide.”
She grinned. “Oh, between my room and yours I’m sure there’s a few.”
Jared was tempted to tell her that hiding from him wouldn’t do any good since her scent would give her away. When it came to her, his nose was like radar.
“All right. So what do you want me to do?” he asked, more than willing to play this game she’d suggested.
“Leave the room for about ten minutes. When you come back, the suite will be totally dark, and remember I’ll be either hiding in my suite or yours.”
Jared nodded. This was the second game they had played together, and for someone who usually lived a structured life, he was enjoying letting go and being adventurous with Dana.
He began walking toward the door. “Ten minutes. That’s all I’m giving you. Then I’ll be back, whether you’re ready or not.”
Dana watched as he gave her one last stomach-churning smile before opening the door, walking out of it and closing it behind him. She slowly crossed the room and dropped down on the floral-printed sofa and kicked off her sandals. She inhaled deeply and smiled seductively.