Monday, September 1

it was the day after a dark and stormy night...

I woke up late. Later than usual for me, around eight, cursing Grant and his late-night barbeque-centered activities. Curses! Luckily, the coffee maker was cheerfully bubbling out the last drops of the viscous nectar I sought as I entered the sunny kitchen where He was washing the dishes left over from yesterday's pancake-and-mimosa brunch with Christine and Sebastian.

I let my eyes wander over his glossy black hair and rippling muscles as he scrubbed a bowl of dried pancake batter. This guy could scrub my dishes any day. I had a lot of dishes. But I couldn't linger. Time was short. Too short for lingering. Too short for giving in to my own selfish desires. I poured myself a cup of coffee and turned. He met my eyes over the steam rising from my mug.

"So you're awake," he said in his sultry voice, his eyes dark with unspoken passions and pancake batter smeared sensually on his cheek. "I've been waiting for you."

"You have?" I said, my heart skipping a beat.

"Yes," he said. "I have."

"What do you need me for?" Two could play at this game.

"Someone has to feed the dog," he whispered. "And my hands are wet."

I shook my head, trying to clear my muddled thoughts. He was dangerous, that much I knew. What I didn't know was if I could stay out of harm's way when I was around him.

I needed time to figure it all out, so I took my coffee and left him standing alone in the kitchen, water dripping like sweat from his strong hands.

It was warm outside, but not yet hot. It soon would be, but now it was not. Not yet. Not hot, that is. But it was warm, that much was clear.

There were things I had to do. Important things. Like think about where we were going to put a vegetable garden. I breathed deep and spilled coffee all over my hands. Curses! I was still too shaken by our all-too-brief encounter in the kitchen. Would I ever be able to control my traitorous emotions? Times like these called for strength, for focus! I clutched desperately at my temples. Would I ever be able to do what must be done?!?

I needed a shower. Maybe a shower would clear my swimming head. But to get to the bathroom, I'd have to pass by Him again. With his glowing skin and that blasted debonaire grin and those cheekbones. Those cheekbones that could cut a woman's heart out with one smile. Cut it out and toss it right into the garbage like it was old wadded-up tin foil with bits of burned-on vegetables stuck to it.

I couldn't let him stop me. He was only a man, after all. Nothing but a man. And what man had ever been able to stop me? I had no need for men. I had no need for the desperate, fluttering emotions so many men aroused in so many women. Weaker women than I.

I marched into the kitchen, determined to avoid eye contact. I placed my coffee cup on the counter next to the sink so that he could wash it. Wash it the way he could wash out my insides with just a glance in my direction. Like he'd taken a hose to my guts and opened the nozzle so that water came out in the hardest spray possible. The kind of spray that flattens the tomato plants and decimates the herbs.

He grabbed my arm as I tried to pass and whirled me around, pulling me up against his rock-hard chest, looking down into my eyes.

"What do you want?" I breathed.

"You never fed the dog," he said. "I think she's getting really hungry."

"Is she asking for food?" I demanded, trying to wrench my body from his grasp, cursing my shaking voice, unable to take my eyes from his.

"Maybe," he said, pulling me closer. I could feel the heat of his body. Hot and moist like the air that comes out of the dishwasher when you pull it open just after it's finished washing the dishes. "I'm not sure. She nosed her dish a little."

I tried to yank my arm away but he held me tighter. "Yeah, sounds like she is," I whispered, trembling in his grip.

"I washed all the dishes," he said meaningfully, and I shivered.

"I know," I said. "Thank you."

"You want more coffee?"

That's when I realized I couldn't fight him anymore. It was too hard. I was too weak. A man who did my dishes and made me coffee and cared whether or not the dog was hungry? Who was I trying to fool anyway? This was the man for me. This dark-haired devil.

"I'll tell you what," I murmered into his ear. "You pour me another cup while I'll feed the dog."

When he kissed me, I felt the way the dishes must feel at the first touch of that cleansing, steaming hot water. I felt the dried pancake batter caking my soul melt away as the fresh grapefruit-scented dish soap of his desire washed over me.

And I had a feeling the dog was in danger of never getting breakfast at all.

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