Font Size:  

Just watching her bite her full lower lip now made him want to kiss that tender lip, and then lick the seam of her lips so that she’d open for him and let him have his way with her.

His tongue in her mouth.

His tongue on her breasts.

His tongue between her legs, lathing her clit.

Dal hardened all over again, his skin so tight he felt like he’d explode.

“You have no idea what I want to do to you,” he said huskily, picturing stripping her naked so that her full breasts were bared, her nipples peaked. He’d work her nipples, pinching, teasing, sucking, until she was wet for him and arching, hips lifting, begging.

He wanted to be between her thighs.

He wanted to clasp her hips and hold her still while he devoured her.

He wanted to feel her shattering and hear her cry and know that she was his, and only his.

“Not interested,” she said. “I don’t want to sleep with you, or marry you. You’re not my type—”

“You don’t have a type, Poppy. You haven’t dated once in all the years you’ve worked for me.”

“Not true. I had a boyfriend three years ago—”

“A boyfriend?”

“Yes. A boyfriend. He was lovely, too, until well, he wasn’t so lovely anymore.”

“And just how long was he your boyfriend?”

“I don’t remember.”

“That means he wasn’t around long enough to truly signify.”

“That’s not what it means. It just means I decided to move forward and put the past behind me.”

“I have a feeling he was your boyfriend for all of three weeks.”

“It’s not really any of your business whether he was my boyfriend for three minutes or three years. What matters is that I don’t want to be your girlfriend, or your wife, or anything at all because your values are not my values. You don’t want what I want in life. We’d be a disaster together.”

“Even though you like how I can make you feel?”

Color stormed her cheeks and her eyes snapped fire. “You must be confusing me with someone else on your list because I care about you, and yes, I enjoyed kissing you last night, but I’m not going to give up my freedom and future just because I felt a twinge of lust!”


BACK IN HER ROOM, Poppy allowed Imma to help her ease the stunning plum kaftan off her head. While Imma hung the gorgeous gown back up, Poppy removed her dangling gold and diamond earrings, tucking them into a drawer next to her bed before taking off her makeup.

But even a half hour after changing into her pajamas, she felt hot and riled up. Dal was beyond annoying. He was the worst. The absolute worst.

Poppy stripped off her nightgown and put on her swimsuit and cover-up, and headed for the pool.

She swam a lap under water, and then another lap under water before surfacing to float on her back.

The warm water soothed her, relaxing her tense muscles, while the gentle lap of water against her skin made her feel buoyant and free.

She heard a scraping sound and opened her eyes to discover Dal sitting down on the foot of her lounge chair.

He was still dressed for dinner, which reassured her somewhat because that meant he wasn’t planning on swimming. Maybe if she closed her eyes and ignored him, he’d leave soon.

She flipped over onto her stomach and did a slow, easy breaststroke toward the opposite end of the pool. She pretended she was alone, without a care in the world, even though she could feel his eyes, his gaze, following her every kick and stroke.

At the far end she reached for the wall and turned around, facing him.

He looked at her, his handsome face expressionless.

She almost wished for one of his small, mocking smiles. The smiles and ironic laughter were easier than this tension between them now.

“What do you want?” she called, even as she stretched her arms out along the tiled pool edge, and leaned back so her legs could float up.


“But I don’t want you.”


The low, husky pitch of his voice sent shivers racing through her, making her tummy clench and her knees press tight.

She couldn’t engage, couldn’t encourage him; it would be disastrous to provoke him at this late hour.

Poppy forced herself to relax. She closed her eyes, let herself float where she was, and as she breathed in and out, she pictured him getting up and walking away. In fact, she willed him to leave, pouring all her concentration into making him disappear, but when she opened her eyes, he was still there.

“I can prove it to you,” he said.

“We’re not children. There’s no need to prove anything to anyone.”

“You can’t hide forever from the truth.”

“But I can get some laps in, can’t I?”

“I’ll wait.”

“I have a lot of laps.”

“I’ll count them for you.”

She shot him a frosty look, not comfortable with this game.

She dove under water and swam half the length of the pool before needing to surface for a breath. When she glanced over her shoulder toward the lounge chair where she’d left her things, she realized he was gone. For a split second she felt relief, and then she noticed the pile of clothes set next to her tunic on the lounge chair.

He’d undressed.

Poppy spun in the pool, discovering him behind her. “What are you doing?” she demanded breathlessly.

“Joining you for a swim.”

“Are you...naked?” she asked, afraid to look down.

“Have you never gone skinny-dipping?”

“No.” Her voice came out strangled. “So you are naked.”

“Would you feel better if I told you I was wearing briefs?”


“Then I’m wearing briefs,” he answered, reaching for her and drawing her toward him with the assurance of a man who knew exactly what he was doing. He drew her through the water until her breasts brushed his chest.

His body was so large and warm, and it felt unbelievably good to be pressed to him, skin to skin. Her breath caught when his large hands circled her waist, drawing her hips even closer to his.

He wasn’t naked. But he was hard...very thick and very erect. Her eyes widened as he rubbed her across him, the tip of his shaft finding the apex of her thighs and all the sensitive nerves there.

Her lips parted. She made a soft hiss of sound.

He lifted an eyebrow. “Did you say something?”

“This isn’t a good idea,” she choked, even as he did it again, and the thick blunt tip against her core made her want to swoon.

Maybe he wasn’t wearing briefs after all...

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” she said hoarsely, even as her pulse raced and her skin felt exquisitely sensitive.

“We’re just playing,” he said.

She stared at him, mesmerized, at the gleam of water on his shadowed jaw, and the way the pool light reflected onto the hard features of his face. “But this kind of play is dangerous.”

“You’re safe with me.”

“I don’t think that’s true at all.” In fact, she knew it wasn’t true, and yet it was hard to move away from him when everything in her wanted this with every fiber of her being.

But that didn’t make it right, a tiny part of her brain shrieked. Sugar is delicious, but too much will make you sick.

And he most definitely wasn’t sugar.

He was spice, wicked, sexy spice and beyond addictive.

“You want danger,” he murmured, his lips brushing her ear, and then finding the hollow below.

Pleasure shrieked through her and she gasped, lips pressing to the warm wall of his chest.


“But you want danger that won’t destroy you,” he added, his teeth catching at her earlobe and giving it a tug. “And you know I would never destroy you. I’d just teach you all the things you’ve always wanted to know.”