It isn’t the fact that she’s oblivious to my career, or the way her curvy body felt pressed against mine. It isn’t the appealing blushing, or the killer legs, or how great her ass looks in that short skirt.
I like her because she treats me like a…human being.
She knows who I am now, and she still doesn’t care. She isn’t trying to impress me, isn’t holding her tongue. Aside from my mother, this redheaded waitress is the first woman who isn’t scared to tell me exactly what she’s thinking.
“Okay, so what do you want?” she repeats, her lips pursed in irritation. “And don’t say a date, because I really don’t have time for that.”
I laugh again and decide this is the best conversation I’ve ever had with a girl.
“What do I want,” I say thoughtfully. I pull one hand out of my pocket and with it comes her pink panties. With a chivalrous bow, I hand her the silky underwear. “First, to return these. I don’t want your pretty little butt getting cold.”
A whisper of a smile crosses her mouth as she tucks the underwear into her purse. “My butt is just fine, Mr. Barrett. I do own more than one pair of panties. And second?”
“You said the underwear was first. What’s second?”
I poke my tongue in my cheek and eye her, experiencing one of those rare moments when words escape me. What do I want? Well, I know what I need, and that’s to figure out where to spend the night without ending up on the news again.
What I want, though, is to pull this chick into my arms and kiss the hell out of her. And then maybe go back to her place and fuck the hell out of her.
Then again…who says that my needs and wants are mutually exclusive?
I need a bed.
I want this woman in bed with me.
Why can’t I have both?
“You’re doing it again,” Maggie accuses, jolting me back to reality.
“Staring at me. Be honest, do I have something stuck between my teeth?”
I laugh. “No.”
“Then quit staring. It’s rude.” She shakes her head in exasperation. “Okay, we’ve wasted enough time here. I have to go back to work and you—”
I cut her off. “Let me stay at your place tonight.”
My jaw closes so abruptly I can hear a few teeth rattling around in my mouth. Is this man insane?
Let me stay at your place tonight.
Seven words I never expected to hear, and yet the second he says them a thrill shoots up my spine.
Fine, so maybe the idea of bringing this sex god home is seriously tempting. But unlike most people, I’m pretty skilled at resisting temptation.
I stare into Ben’s dark blue eyes and wonder if he’s joking. He doesn’t look like it. No amusement on his face, just a dead-serious expression.
Does he actually think I’m going to let him stay at my apartment?
“No offense or anything, but are you strapped for cash?” I ask carefully. The guy’s financial situation isn’t any of my business, but I have to know.
“No, I’m doing all right in the finance department.”
He takes a step back, but I still feel the heat radiating from his lean body. His leather jacket doesn’t emphasize his muscled arms or rippled chest, but I remember those details well. I wonder if he has any other tattoos I might have missed in the dark. Then I wonder why my thighs are trembling at the idea there might be more.
For God’s sake, stop checking him out and focus.
Right. It doesn’t matter how many tattoos might be hidden on that hard body of his. That’s no reason to invite him to stay with me.
“Okay, so you’ve got money,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest. “Which means you can afford to check into a hotel.”
“I’d much rather stay with you, Red.”
“Are you in trouble with the law?”
“No. I just need a place to sleep. It’ll only be for a few days.”
My jaw drops. “A few days?”
“Yeah.” He gives me a little boy look. “Is that a yes?”
“No!” I’m still gawking at him. “Why not a hotel?”
“Do you always ask so many questions?” he counters.
“When a stranger asks to crash at my place, yes.”
“We’re not strangers.” He moves closer and dips his head so we’re at eye level. “We’ve been in bed together, remember?”
He has to bring that up again, doesn’t he?
“I just don’t get why you’re asking me this.”
He sighs, and his warm breath tickles the bridge of my nose. “Here’s the short version—I haven’t slept in days because the press is on my back for a silly scandal they fabricated. This morning they thought I was abducted. The cops gave a statement that I wasn’t, but the media is still camped out in front of my building.”
“No friends you could call?”
“Friends?” He makes a bitter noise that sounds like a cross between a laugh and a snort. “Let me enlighten you about my so-called friends. A guy I grew up with—we were inseparable since we were six years old, I was best man at his wedding. Last year he sold pictures of me from his bachelor party for a quarter million. Sound like a friend to you?”