Jared watched as Charlotte strode in and his heart skipped a beat. He’d better resolve this problem before there was too much damage done. Somehow she’d gotten under his skin and he needed to learn more about her. The desire to taste her rosy lips again filled his mind and he shook it off. Thinking about that was not going to repair the situation.
She scanned the room before locating whomever she was seeking and then sauntered over to him. When he caught sight of her intended target and she started to flirt with him, a surge of jealousy rushed through him. Mitch, his unattached, charming brother - just what he needed. Seeing his immediate response to her made him suddenly livid. Envy pieced his heart.
Mitch never struggled to relate to women – some would say he was a womaniser - whereas Jared’s cautious and solemn nature made it difficult for some women to understand him. He didn’t like where this might go and he needed to put an end to it before it got started.
* * *
Mitch spotted Jared approaching over Charlotte’s shoulder, his dogged stride indicating his mood. The moment he saw the determined, stern expression in his brother’s eyes, Mitch sensed he was treading on rocky ground. Charlotte had gotten to Jared and no doubt in his clumsy way Jared had screwed it up.
Knowing his brother was within earshot, Mitch elected to provoke Jared’s envious nature to perhaps inspire him to let his guard fall. He dropped the punch line to a story he was telling and she let out a spontaneous throaty laugh. The effect was anticipated correctly as Jared seethed. Mitch knew when to step aside. He now hoped Jared could make amends with her as he knew how easily his little brother could offend.
* * *
Jared heard Charlotte let out a husky laugh and the sudden deep timbre tore through his composure. Pure hunger shoved aside any rational thought. He gazed at her standing with her back to him and for the infinite time took in how amazing she looked in that dress. It hugged her perfect slim tall figure and the colour next to her skin was amazing. Strawberries and cream.
“I see you have met my entertaining brother Mitchell,” he said irritably.
“Yes, and he is one funny guy,” she said touching Mitch’s arm, leaving Jared incensed.
“Yes, he’s very jovial,” he replied his voice rich with derision. “May I talk to you for a moment please, Charlotte?”
“I think we have talked enough. Besides I’m talking to Mitch who I have to admit is much better company.”
“Ouch,” Mitch said and laughed.
Jared sent him a warning glare.
“Go ahead, Charlotte, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll wait for you to come back,” Mitch told her, identifying this would make his brother crazy. Perhaps Jared would feel rather than think for a change.
“Fine, I really don’t know what you could possibly say to … ” She was cut off by a forceful hand on her arm. Jared all but dragged her outside to the very same spot he’d taken her breath away minutes before.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
She didn’t answer as a jolt of electricity ran through her veins.
“I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for offending you before. I sometimes lack diplomacy,” he told her with
“Fine, apology accepted.”She started to walk off.
“Wait, where are you going?”
“Back inside to talk to a more pleasant Montgomery.”
“OK, I asked for that. Please stay, I really want to talk to you some more. I think our first impressions of each other have been inaccurate and I wondered if perhaps we could start afresh.” Her eyes searched his face and she seemed for a moment to consider.
“You’re very serious aren’t you?” Her beautiful face held a slight look of amusement, as though a smirk was hiding beneath the surface.
“Well, I can be too. I take my job and the health of animals very seriously. I also take the health and wellbeing of my family very seriously. Just because I like to have fun and tease doesn’t necessarily mean I’m superficial as well. Besides, seems to me you could loosen up a bit and be less … rigid.”
“Probably,” he said as he took a step towards her. She leant against a post near the opening at her back.
He brought his arm around her waist and pulled her to him again. “I haven’t been about to stop thinking about you since I met you. Especially how your lips would taste and now that I have tasted them, I want to again.”
He pressed his lips with gentle force against hers. Instantly she became giddy and loose limbed again. She wrapped her arms around his neck to steady herself, should her legs betray her, and played with
the curls which skimmed his collar. All the while desire surged through her body, taking control of her senses and mind.
He took in the details this time to savour her. Lips soft and full and hair like silk. Her bare skin under his hands felt velvety and far better than anything his imagination could have conjured. Her aroma was intoxicating and his fuzzy mind couldn’t put a name to the fragrance.
As he continued to trail his hands down her smooth bare back, caressing every inch along the way, she moaned into his mouth and it was almost his downfall. He stopped and pulled back slightly, without releasing her.
“I have to stop, babe,” he said hoarsely, “or I won’t be able to prevent what happens next.”
Her passion-filled gaze was her only response.
“I don’t do casual. As much as I want to keep going, I also want to know more about you. You are the most beautiful, intriguing woman I have ever met.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.”
He smiled and she felt her pulse quicken. His smile was incredible.
“I would like to see you tomorrow, cook for you, but I have to work. Can I pick you up when I finish?”
“Yes,” she replied breathlessly.
Stunned by the affect she was having on him, it took him a moment to answer.
“About six, ok?”
She nodded. “I’d better get back before my family wonders what has happened to me.”
“As long as you stay away from Mitch, then you can go.” He held her tight against him, reluctant to release her.
“Oh, so he does have a sense of humour.” Her teasing smile didn’t seem as frivolous now as he’d first thought. Though seductive, it was also sincere.
“I’m not completely humourless but in this instance I’m deadly serious.”
“Hmm, a little possessive too. I like that.”
“If you take up with me, you will come to realise very quickly that I do not share.”
“I haven’t made up my mind about that yet and I like to keep my options open,” she said flippantly. “Now would you kindly release me?”
She rolled eyes. “You cannot ban me from talking to your brother.”
She wriggled to see if she could break free and found it to be pointless; he was way too strong.
“Fine, I’ll stop flirting with him.”
“That will do for now.”
He grudgingly removed his hands and watched her stroll gracefully back to the party.