His lips closed over hers.
Tomilola drank him in, drawing in a long, deep breath of his spicy aftershave. Running her hands over his strong, broad shoulders. Reveling in his kiss.
Breaking her moratorium on men the second she'd made the decision to stay on the Big W was maybe rushing things a bit. But. . .
He deepened the kiss, pulling her closer, slipping his tongue past her lips to taste and explore and claim. Maybe it wasn't. No kiss had ever felt this hot or this urgent or this damned. . .erotic. The intensity with which he kissed her was frightening.
It was as if he wanted to devour her very soul. Something that should have scared her to death. But it didn't. Beneath his hard core of determination was a gentle, caring heart. One that brought a bottle of red label to soothe the turmoil of a difficult day. One that waited to show her a closet full of gifts until she could appreciate them. One that sent her roses as a gentle reminder of her dreams.
She wanted to know that heart better. Wanted to be closer to it. Closer to the man who owned it. She opened her mouth, letting his tongue in deeper, tasting his heart, his need. His hands moved down her back, pulling her hips to his.
Yes, Electric tingles shot through her. He was so big and so strong and so damned hard. . .everywhere. With a soft groan, she pressed closer, reveling in the feel of him, reveling in the knowledge that he wanted her as much as she wanted him. An answering groan vibrated from his lips, and the next thing she knew she was backed up against the rough wooden planks of the stall, one of his hands plowing through her hair, the other lifting her leg alongside his hips, opening her to him.
Oh, yeah. She rocked her hips forward, hot need slicing through her. She'd been attracted to him from the moment she'd first seen him. Had wondered more than once what it would be like between them. But she'd never imagined anything like this.
This was explosive. Like throwing gasoline on a fire. She cursed the material separating them. She wanted to feel those supple muscles beneath her fingers. Wanted to feel his skin against hers. Wanted to feel him, long and hard, inside her.
She slid her hands up his torso, loving every inch as she made her way to his collarbone. There, she grabbed hold of both sides of his shirt and pulled. The pearl-buttoned snaps gave way with one soft pop after the other.
His lips jerked away from hers. His whole body tensed. "Oh, God. What am I doing?"
No, No, No, No. She wasn't going to let him have some attack of conscience - or whatever the heck this was - now. She grabbed his shirt and held on tight. "You're kissing me. And I'm enjoying every second of it. Don't you dare stop."
He shook his head, his breathing hard and ragged. "We can't do this. I can't do this."
"But you were doing it. Really well, I might add." She didn't even try to keep the whine from her voice. He let go of her leg, untangled her hands from his shirt and stepped back. "You're going to make a good home for yourself here, Tomilola. A good life. But beyond my role as executor to this estate, I don't belong in that picture."
"What the heck do you mean, you don't belong in the picture? For pity's sake, if you hadn't been around to hold me up the last few days, I would have fallen apart by now."
"No, you wouldn't have. You're too strong for that. And supporting you through a tough time isn't the same thing as taking you to bed. Which is where that kiss was heading." He took another step back. "You need help with the estate, I'm your man. You need anything else, you need to look elsewhere." He turned on his heel and started down the aisle.
She ran after him, grabbed his arm and pulled him back around. "Wait a minute. You can't kiss me like that and then just walk away."
He looked down at her, something cold and bleak and. . .immeasurably lonely filling his expression. "It's the only thing I can do." He pulled from her grasp and headed out of the barn, his boots ringing hollowly on the hard cement. She watched him go, her lips throbbing, her body aching, her heart squeezing. "This isn't over, Demola." He looked back at her as he pulled the big wooden door open and stepped into the night. "Yes, it is." He closed the door between them. She narrowed her eyes on the long, marred planks. "Oh, no, it's not."
A few nights later, Demola pulled up to his house and got out of his truck. Every muscle and bone ached up his fatigue. It had been a long brutal day. Tomorrow, which would be rolling in another couple of short hours, would be another. Thank God. He needed the work. Needed the exhaustion to keep the images of Tomilola at bay.
Tomilola looking at him with heat and need in her eyes. Tomilola in his arms, stretching toward him, rocking her hips into his.
Tomilola. . .
He startled as he stepped onto his porch. Was he hearing her voice now? Great.
But when he peered into the shadows he spotted her sitting in his rocker, rocking. At least he wasn't crazy. But he was alone with her, here in the middle of the night. And every nerve and cell in his body knew it. "What are you doing up so late?" He kept the question short and curt.
"Waiting for you." Her voice was as warm and sultry as the night air. "You've been avoiding me."
Hell, yes. And he had every intention of continuing to do so until this attraction between them died out. Considering the way that kiss had gone, a year - or ten - ought to do it. He resisted the urge to reach out and touch her. Resisted the urge to pull her into his arms and pick up where he'd cut things off the other night. "I've not been avoiding you, I've just been really busy with the accounts."
She peered up at him through thick lashes. "Did the kiss scare you that much?"
It had scared the living daylights out of him. But having her here, obviously pursuing the matter, pursuing him, scared him more. He'd already proved he had no resistance where she was concerned. And the desire pounding him now only understood that truth.
He needed her to keep her distance, not come knocking at his door. "The kiss was a mistake. One I don't intend to repeat. Now, is there anything concerning the estate I can help you with? If not, I'd like to get some sleep. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow."
"Oh no, you are not going to shut me out that easily. We're going to talk about this. You're going to explain why you walked out on me."
He tightened his fist around his keys. If he told her, he wouldn't have to worry about keeping any distance between them. She'd be the one keeping it. But she might well decide to keep it by firing him. And he couldn't risk that. Not yet.
He'd convinced her to stay the other night. But he wasn't a fool - at least not about some things. He'd obviously been out of his mind when he'd kissed her, but he was clearheaded about this. She'd decided to stay, yes, but, considering her past records with jobs, that decision would be fragile at this stage of the game. He needed to stay around long enough to solidify it. Then, if she found out who he was, what he was and sent him packing. . .
In the meantime, he needed to shut this discussion down. "I'll take that as no, you don't have any questions about the estate. In which case, good night." He slipped inside before she could stop him, bolted the door shut and walked away from it.
As far away from it as he could get. Far enough, he hoped, to keep him from jerking it open and pulling her in with him.
He made his way into the kitchen. If he drank himself into oblivion, maybe he wouldn't spend the night hot and agitated and miserable. He snatched an unopened bottle of red label from the cabinet and broke the seal.
He could hope.