The perfect neighbor, p.9
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       The Perfect Neighbor, p.9

         Part #9 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
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  blinked.

  “I said I had plans. Oh, my God, you didn’t get it, did you, you thick-headed jerk? You’re the plans. Oh, hell.” She made a dash back through her open door for her key, realized she didn’t have anywhere to put it. With a shrug, she stuck it into her bra rather than waste time running upstairs for a bag.

  In thirty seconds flat, she was risking a broken neck by running down the stairs.

  * * *

  “Woman trouble, sugar lips?”

  Preston looked over at Delta as he took a break to wet his throat. “No woman. No trouble.”

  “This is Delta.” She tapped a finger to his cheek. “Every night this week you come in here late and you play like a man who’s got a woman on his mind. And this man doesn’t much mind having her there. Now tonight, you come in early and you’re playing like a man who’s got trouble with the woman. Did you have a fight with that pretty little girl?”

  “No. We’ve both got other things to do.”

  “Still holding you off, is she?” She laughed, but not without sympathy. “Some woman take more romance than others.”

  “It has nothing to do with romance.”

  “Maybe that’s your problem.” Delta wrapped an arm around his shoulders and squeezed. “Do you ever buy her flowers? Tell her she has beautiful eyes.”

  “No.” Damn it, he had brought her flowers. She hadn’t bothered to stick around to take them. “It’s sex, not a courtship.”

  “Oh, sweetheart. You want one, you better do the other with a woman like that.”

  “That’s why I’m better off without a woman like that. I want it simple.” He picked up the sax, lifted a brow. “Now, are you going to let me play, or do you want to give me more advice on my love life?”

  With a shake of her head, she stepped back. “When you have a love life, cher, I’ll have advice.”

  He blew off a riff, listening to the music inside his head. Inside his blood. He let the notes come, but the music didn’t take his mind off her. He could use that, as well, he told himself. Here, where sharing was a pleasure. Not with words, where it was often pain.

  The notes slipped out, throbbed in the air, sobbed into a wail.

  And she walked in the door.

  Her eyes, full of secrets, met his through the haze of smoke, held. And the smile she sent him as she slid into a chair made his palms go damp. She moistened her lips, trailed a finger up from the center of the low bodice of the slinky black dress to the base of her throat. And back again.

  He watched, his blood swimming, as she crossed long, long legs with a movement so slow, so studied, it had to be deliberate. Surely the way she ran her hand from calf to knee to thigh was designed to make a man’s gaze follow the movement.

  His did, and his pulse leaped like a wolf on the hunt.

  She sat through the song, leaning back in the chair, hooking one arm provocatively over the back. When the notes faded, she traced the tip of her tongue lazily over those hot red lips.

  Then she rose, her gaze still locked with his as the music pumped. She ran a hand down her hip, turned on those man-killer heels and started back out. She glanced over her shoulder, sent him a sultry invitation with no more than a lift of eyebrow and left the door swinging behind her.

  The oath that came out of his mouth when he lowered the sax was absolutely reverent.

  “You going after that, brother?”

  Preston crouched to push his sax into its case. “Do I look stupid, André?”

  “No.” André chuckled and kept on playing. “No, you don’t.”

  Chapter 7

  She was waiting on the sidewalk when he came out, standing in the white wash of a streetlight with one hand resting on a cocked hip, her head angled, her lips curved in the barest hint of a smile. It made him think of a photograph, some arty shot perfectly framed and cropped for a classy magazine.

  Sex in black and white.

  He started toward her, taking more in the closer he came. The short, whiskey-colored hair sleeked to frame her face. The short black dress sleeked to frame her body.

  No jewelry to distract the eye.

  Mile-high heels designed to showcase mile-long legs.

  The only color was on those huge green eyes under sooty lashes and the siren red of her mouth. A mouth, he noted, that was curved in smug, female satisfaction.

  He was three steps away when her scent reached out like a crooked finger and beckoned him the rest of the way.

  “Hello, neighbor.” She purred it—one more hot bullet to his loins.

  He tilted his head, lifted a brow. “Change of plans … neighbor?”

  “I hope not.” She took the last step, moving into him, deliberately sliding her hands up his sides, over his shoulders, around his neck. Her body fit suggestively to his as she purred again.

  Then she laughed, shook her head. “You were the plans, you knothead.”

  She wondered if it was the announcement or the mild insult that had his eyes narrowing in speculation.

  “Is that so?”

  “McQuinn.” She tilted her head, brought her mouth a whisper from his. Then, with her eyes on his, slowly licked. “Didn’t I tell you, you’d be the first to know?”

  “Yeah.” With his free hand he cupped her neck, keeping that wet red mouth tantalizingly close to his. “How fast can you walk in those heels?”

  She laughed again, just a little breathlessly now. “Not very. But we’ve got all night, don’t we?”

  “It might just take longer than that.” He stepped back, and after a moment, held out a hand for hers. “Where did you get the lethal weapon? The dress,” he added when she gave him a blank look.

  “Oh, this old thing.” This time her laugh was warm and rich. “I bought it today, thinking of you. And when I put it on tonight, I was thinking of what it was going to be like when you took it off me.”

  “You must have been practicing,” he said when he could manage to form words again. “Because you’re damn good at this.”

  “Actually, I’m making it up as I go along.”

  “Don’t stop on my account.”

  It was amazing, she thought, that a balmy spring evening could suddenly seem as sultry as summer in the tropics. “Sorry I wasn’t more specific in my note. I had a lot on my mind.” She turned, delighted that the heels brought her eye level with his mouth. “A lot of you on my mind.”

  “It pissed me off.” It didn’t seem so hard to admit it.

  “Pardon me if I find that very flattering. When I knocked on your door and you didn’t answer, I had essentially the same reaction. I spent a lot of time getting ready for you. You can be flattered.”

  “It must have taken a while to paint on what there is of that dress.”

  “Not just that.” She’d managed to keep her heartbeat fairly steady, but as she paused at the entrance to their building, it began to plunge and kick. “I made dinner.”

  “You did?” He wasn’t just flattered, he realized. He wasn’t just aroused. He was touched.

  “A fairly fabulous one, if I do say so myself,” she added, backing into the building. “With a sassy little white wine to set it off—and an elegant and icy champagne to go with dessert.”

  She led the way into the elevator, pushed the button for three, then leaned back against the wall. “Which I thought we could enjoy in bed.”

  He kept a step away, knowing if he touched her they wouldn’t be leaving the elevator for a very long time. “Anything else I should know about these plans of yours?”

  “Oh, I don’t think you’re going to need me to write anything down.” She stepped off the elevator, tossed one of those slow smiles over her shoulder and strolled to her door.

  He thought if he managed to get inside without exploding, he’d show her he could make plans of his own. “Key?”

  “Hmm.” Keeping her eyes on his, she slid a finger under the deep scoop of her bodice, touched metal and watched his gaze drop, heat, linger. “Gee.” She slid her finger up a
gain, circled it lazily at the base of her throat. “I can’t seem to find it. Maybe you can get it for me.”

  He decided he had news for medical science. It was possible to remain conscious and upright after all the blood had drained out of your head.

  He trailed his finger along the inviting swell above the black silk—felt her shiver, heard the catchy intake of her breath. Then dipped down, taking his time, gliding his finger lazily over heated flesh, gently abrading her nipple until her eyes clouded and closed.

  “I’d say you’re the one who’s been practicing,” she managed, and made him smile.

  “I’m just making it up as I go along.”

  “Mmm-hmm. Don’t stop on my account.”

  He didn’t intend to. Not for hours. “Looks like I found it,” he murmured, hooking the key.

  “Yeah.” She let out a long, long breath. “I just knew you would.”

  He slid the key home, released locks. “Ask me in, Cybil.”

  “Come in.”

  He pushed open the door, backed her inside. Reaching behind, he locked the door. Clamping his hands on her hips, he kept walking.

  “Dinner?”

  “Can wait.” He lifted the phone off the hook as they passed it.

  “The wine?”

  “Later. Much later.” Her heels bumped into the bottom step. This time he smiled. “Keep going.”

  On legs that had gone weak, she moved up the stairs with her hands braced on his shoulders.

  “Ask me to touch you.”

  “Touch me.” She sighed as his hands traveled up.

  “Ask me to taste you.”

  “Taste me.” And moaned as his mouth brushed over the rise of her breasts.

  When they reached the bedroom door, his teeth scraped along her throat, her jaw, and left her mouth aching for attention.

  “Kiss me.”

  “I will.” But he only teased the corners of her lips with the tip of his tongue. “I want the light.”

  “No, I have candles. They’re everywhere.” She broke free to grab a matchbook, then fumbled. “I can’t. I’m shaking. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

  He took the matches from her and danced his fingertips along her thigh. “I want you to. Don’t move,” he ordered, then worked his way around the room setting the candles alight.

  The glow shimmered. The scent whispered.

  Tossing the matches aside, he moved back to where she stood, her eyes huge and full of nerves, needs and candlelight.

  “Now.” His hands slid around her waist, down. “Ask me to take you.”

  She kept her eyes on his. “Take me.”

  His mouth captured hers, plundered, rocking her with the first punch of the power they’d built between them. She grabbed on, as much to add to the storm as ride it. This was what she wanted, this bold, blistering, battering heat. The crash of senses, the war of needs.

  “I want you.” She raced wild kisses over his face. “I want you in bed.”

  Then she gasped as he whirled her around, dragged her back against him. It stunned her to see them reflected in the mirror, to see the gleam of desire in his gaze as it traveled down her body.

  “We have all night,” he reminded her. “Watch.”

  He dipped his head to the curve of her neck and shoulder, sharp little bites that had the first helpless sounds catching in her throat.

  She watched his hands travel up, saw them, felt them cup her breasts, squeeze, release, slide over silk, his fingers sliding under it, tugging the material. She braced for him to rip.

  Then shuddered as he simply let his hands glide over her again, then down. She cried out in aroused shock as he pressed against her center.

  His head lifted, his teeth catching the lobe of her ear as their gazes met in the mirror. She’d driven him crazy when she’d walked into the club. He intended to return the favor.

  “Tell me you want more.”

  Her muscles had gone lax, her bones to jelly. “Preston.”

  He traced his fingers up and down her thighs, felt the muscles quiver and the flesh heat. “Tell me you want more.”

  “God.” Her head fell back on his shoulder as she fought for air. “I want more.”

  “So do I.”

  He moved from silky hose to silky flesh, torturing himself. Her scent was destroying him, the feel of her urging him to take all of her. But he drew it out, even as his own breath became labored; he held back the animal pacing inside him.

  Because when he let it go, he knew it would devour them both.

  He nipped his way around the back of her neck, her shoulders, while he tugged down the zipper of her dress. He peeled it off her, then bit back a groan.

  Sex in black and white, he thought again.

  Even through the haze of desire she saw his eyes change. Saw something dangerous flash into them. It shocked her to realize that was what she wanted. The danger, the risk, the glory of breaking whatever choke chain he had on his control.

  Power swirled into her as she covered his hands with hers and guided them over her. “I bought this today,” she whispered, holding his hands to her breasts, “so you could rip it off me tonight.”

  She curled her fingers with his, nudged them over the thin silk connecting the lace. And let out one sharp gasp when he yanked the dress apart.

  And with that single movement, he broke.

  He spun her around, his mouth ravishing hers now, his hands close to brutal as he dragged her to the bed.

  He was going to eat her alive, and couldn’t stop it. He felt her arch and buck when his hand covered her. Heard her choked scream as he drove her over the first ragged edge. Then he was tearing at silk and lace, desperate for more.

  He feasted on her breasts, the firm, fragrant swell of them, while her heart hammered against his mouth. Her hands drove him wild as they pulled at his shirt, as her nails scraped down his back.

  Her mouth was as greedy as his, her hands as rough and impatient as they tugged and dragged at his jeans. And when they closed around him, fire burst in his blood.

  She rolled with him, tangling in the sheets she’d so carefully smoothed. Panting, shuddering, she wrapped herself around him, bowed up in urgent demand.

  When he drove into her, heat into heat, the explosion of pleasure was huge, a fast, hard, turbulent wave that drenched the skin and swamped the soul. With one throaty moan, she matched him for speed and fury.

  More was all he could think. He had to have more of her. Clamping her hands on the slim iron poles of the headboard, he plunged deeper. She arched, accepted. Mad on the pleasure of her, he watched her face, absorbing every flicker of shock and delight as he took her higher, and faster, then over so that she sobbed out his name, so that her eyes went dark and blind.

  As her body melted under his, he let himself pour into her. Surrendered himself.

  His hands continued to hold hers on the rungs, though her fingers had gone limp. His body continued to cover hers while she quaked. He stayed inside her. Mated.

  “Are we still breathing?”

  He turned his head, felt the pulse in her throat scrambling. “Your heart’s still beating.”

  “Good, that’s good. Is yours?”

  “Seems to be.”

  “Okay, then it’s probably safe for us to stay here like this for the next five or ten years. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to move by then.”

  He lifted his head. Though she kept her eyes closed, Cybil was aware she was being studied, imagined that clear blue and focused gaze. And smiled. “I seduced the hell out of you, McQuinn. It was awfully nice of you to return the favor.”

  “No problem. It was the least I could do.”

  “Nobody ever made me feel like this before.” She opened her eyes. “No one ever touched me this way.”

  She saw her mistake immediately. The way his eyes shuttered, the way he retreated from the intimacy. If it was light, if it was sexy, if it was dangerous, he was with her. But there was to be no tenderness, no heart, no slippery se
ntiment, to change the balance.

  It made her ache for both of them.

  “You’ve got great hands.” She made her smile sassy as she wiggled her fingers under his. “Definitely major-league hands.”

  “You’ve got some real contenders yourself.” He rolled onto his back, relieved and annoyed with himself for feeling that deep inner jolt when she’d looked at him with so much dazzled emotion in her eyes.

  He wasn’t going to let things shift into that area between them. Because once it did, it was over. That part of him that was hope and heart had long ago been calcified.

  She wanted to curl into him, to curve her body into the warmth of his, but imagined that was another taboo. Keep it simple, she warned herself, or he’ll walk right out the door.

  So she sat up, instead, flicked her fingers through her disordered hair. “I think that wine would go down well right now, don’t you?”

  “Oh, yeah.” He skimmed his fingers along her calf, because he had to touch, had to keep that connection. “You mentioned something about dinner.”

  “McQuinn, I have an amazing meal in store for you.” She leaned down to give him a careless kiss. “Everything’s done but the crepes—seafood crepes, which I will whip up in front of your astonished eyes.”

  “You’re going to cook?”

  “Mmm-hmm.”

  He watched her slide out of bed, walk to the closet on legs that had his blood stirring again. “What’s that for?”

  “This? It’s called a robe,” she said with a laugh as she slipped into it. “It’s often used to cover nakedness.”

  He got up, crossed to her and tugged the belt loose again. “Take it off.”

  A quick thrill shimmied down her spine. “I thought you wanted dinner.”

  “I do. And I want to watch you cook it.”

  “Then—oh.” She laughed again and pulled the robe together. “I am not cooking crepes naked. That little fantasy of yours is doomed.”

  He didn’t think so. “Actually, I was wondering if you had any more of …” He turned to the bed, found what was left of the lacy black garter belt. “This sort of thing.”

  Surprised, then intrigued, she lifted her eyebrows. “No intelligent shopper buys only one. I have another little ensemble in red. Break-your-heart, tart red.”

  His smile spread slowly as he tossed the black lace aside. “Why don’t you put it on? I’m really hungry.”

  * * *

  Preparing crepes in sexy underwear was not without its risks. Cybil discovered just what it was like to be ravished against the pantry door.

 
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