“Alone at last,” Jake said in an almost deprecating way. “Have you missed me?”
“I’ve been counting the days.” Addy’s machinations made Eve flippant. Extreme caution, my foot. Even Addy wasn’t immune to Jake’s allure. Flopping into Addy’s vacated chair, Eve crossed her legs, unable to keep a frown from her face. “I can’t marry. Martin just died.”
“I don’t want to hear about Pierce and I don’t care about conventions,” Jake snapped.
“Then why suggest marriage?” Eve raised a judicious eyebrow. “You can’t get much more conventional than holy matrimony.”
Jake’s expression turned mulish. “It’s what I’ve decided I want.”
“I hate to break it to you, but marrying a widow whose husband’s barely cold will cause gossip.”
“I can weather it.”
“Maybe I can’t.” Eve took a meditative breath. “Stop for a minute and consider my position. Martin—”
“I told you I don’t want to discuss Pierce,” Jake ground out. “That man came between us.”
“We’ve been over this. There was no us.” Eve shook her head, failing to conquer her annoyance. “He didn’t steal me away from you. I made a choice.”
“It was a poor one. A matter of time until you came to that conclusion yourself.”
She removed imaginary lint from the sleeve of her pajama shirt. He hit too close to home. “So you’ve said, but I did love my husband.”
Jake’s laugh sounded nasty. “You ought to think about the quandary he’s left you in rather than waxing poetic about love.” He put his cup on the side table. Eve bore the weight of his perusal for several minutes.
“I could’ve handled our break up better, I admit that—”
Jake held up a hand. “Save it, Angie. We were together months.” He shook his head. “You meet a wealthy, older man, and within a week, you move on. Hell, I suppose I can’t blame you for not taking your chances with me. I wasn’t exactly cultured and refined in those days.”
“Our relationship was strictly sex.” Eve argued, “You couldn’t expect I’d accept your proposal when that was all you offered.”
“Things are different now.”
She snorted. “Believe me. I’m well aware of that.”
“Martin Pierce had his turn. I’ve waited long enough for mine.”
“I don’t like what you’re implying. My husband married me because he loved me.” Cheeks burning, Eve remembered Cape Azul, which took the wind from her sails.
“If that’s your brand of love, then the concept doesn’t interest me. I prefer a direct and honest approach.” Jake got up and strode toward her. Was he always so tall? Eve shrank into her chair.
The masculine tang of his cologne invaded her senses when his strong, tanned fingers closed over her upper arms. Jake hauled her from her chair like she weighed nothing. He bent his head, bringing his lips to hers.
Eve pushed against his chest, stunned. She couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. His fingers cupped her chin, forcing her to meet his captivating green eyes. It was as if he stared straight to her soul. Her resolve dwindled. It was terribly draining to be strong, always making the right choices. She wanted to feel good for the first time in a long time. Oh, hell. It’s useless to object. I want this.
She nodded her assent. Jake’s mouth was explorative, persuasive. His tongue pushed against her lips and she granted him access to the soft contours of her mouth. Eve made a sound, part whimper, part approval. Twining her arms around his neck, she buried her fingers in Jake’s hair, happily drowning in him.
His experienced fingertips traced her spine, making her shiver. Eve admitted to herself in those reckless moments that if he laid her on the sofa to have his way with her, she would welcome it. It was madness, but she welcomed it. Then Jake pulled away, and she moaned in frustration. He raked a hand through his hair, his breath in gasps.
Reality slowly came back, and with shaky hands, she fixed her clothes and her hair, mortified by her behavior. Wanton. She was a naive eighteen-year-old virgin again, willing to give Jake everything. You’ve learned nothing. Eve put her hand to her cheek. Her face was on fire.
“See?” Jake’s voice was mild, but his smile mocked. He appeared in control again, but Eve couldn’t claim the same. She remained breathless. “We still have it after all these years. It scares you. It’s always scared you.”
She shook her head. Huskily, Eve said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s not enough.”
“That kiss was an experiment, Angie. It’s proven I want you.”
“What if I don’t want you?”
“Your body never could lie to me.” Jake let his words sink in. “I wanted to know if the spark remained. It does. But it’s up to you whether we hit the sheets.”
Eve squinted. “Wait—are you saying sex isn’t part of your offer?”
“No, my offer’s marriage. Sex is up to you.”
Bullshit. “I don’t believe you.”
“Do you think I get my jollies blackmailing women into my bed? Don’t insult me. You’ll be in my bed because you want to be.”
“You’d accept my refusal?”
“Yes.” His expression turned roguish. “But I can be very persuasive.”
“Okay, Romeo,” Eve muttered, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I know if I’m patient enough, you’ll come to me of your own volition.” He laid a business card on the table and slipped on his overcoat. “I will have you.”
Trailing him to the foyer, she intended to knock his ego down a peg. “Maybe you won’t.”
“You know I will, baby.” Jake opened the front door. “There’s no denying what we have. It’s stronger than both of us.”