Midnight Man (Midnight #1)

“Yeah?” He smiled down at her. It was his first real smile. An amazing smile. He still looked tough, probably nothing could change that, but the smile took years off his face.

She suddenly remembered his birth date from his discharge papers. He was only eight years older than she was. He was probably much older than her—eons older—in terms of life experiences, but in terms of actual years, there wasn’t that much of a gap. He was only thirty-six. Still young for a man.

“Don’t you have to pay, or something?”

The smile deepened, showing two grooves on either side of his mouth. On any other kind of face they would be considered dimples. On his face, they were…dents.

“Not necessary. I keep a corporate account here.”

Oh. Well, that explained the special treatment and the magical appearance of a free table on a Friday night.

He reached around her to open the door.

It had started to sleet. Suzanne stopped and buttoned her coat up, wishing again that she’d had the good sense to wear boots. Her pretty Rossetti shoes were going to get so waterlogged.

John looked up at the sky and handed her his big black umbrella. “Here, you carry this.”

“Okay.” Startled, Suzanne took the heavy umbrella, wondering how she could protect the two of them when he was so much taller than she was. In one easy move, he scooped her off her feet.

“What are you doing?” she cried.

“Making sure you don’t get those pretty shoes wet. Now, are you going to use that umbrella to cover us or are you going to catch the rain with it?”

With a start, Suzanne realized she’d been holding the umbrella upside down. She righted it. The only way to protect them both from the needles of sleet was to hold the umbrella behind his neck, embracing him. Her face was inches from his. Lips inches from his.

He moved smoothly down the street, carrying her easily. Their mingled breath condensed in the cold night, forming a little cloud around them.

Suzanne’s cheek brushed his as they walked. This weather made for treacherous footing. It was icy out and the street was filled with puddles. If she’d had to walk the distance, she’d have made it only by moving carefully and watching her feet.

Not him. He wasn’t having any problems. Even carrying her, even unable to look down at his feet, his pace was steady and sure, as if he were out on a stroll on a warm spring evening.

Suzanne’s arms were around him. At first, she tried not to touch him, but the umbrella was heavy and moved in the wind. She was only able to keep it steady by bracing her right arm along his back. In a perfect position to feel the bunch and play of his strong shoulder muscles as he carried her.

His breath warmed her cheek, smelling of wine and chocolate, heady and hot. Hot. His body heat penetrated through her coat. She had to work to keep her breathing even, staring resolutely over his left shoulder at nothing at all.

They stopped and she turned her head, practically nose to nose with him. This close up, she could see features she hadn’t noted before. He had a scar cutting through his left eyebrow, lifting it into an inverted V and giving him the look of a devil. His nose had been broken once, maybe twice and a very thin, white scar ran from behind his ear toward his chin, stopping just under the jaw, as if someone had gone for his jugular with a knife and had been stopped just in time.

Who knew what other scars he had on his…body.

Heat surged through her.

Oh God, think about something else, anything else. Think about the sleet and the dinner and maybe the scar over his eyebrow but not his body. Not while he was holding her in his arms, not while she could feel him, feel his body heat through who knew how many layers of clothing.

It had been bad enough wondering about his body after he’d left, when the mere thought of him naked had turned her legs to jello. It was much easier to imagine him naked now that he was holding her.

He turned his head slightly and wham. Their eyes met and she knew—she just knew—that he could tell what she was thinking. Even worse, what she was feeling. He’d felt her breast at dinner, felt her nipple.

He knew.

She stopped breathing.

They stared at each other for a second. His head dipped, and her senses went on red alert, heart thumping, but he was just reaching down for the door handle.

“There you go,” he said softly, and lifted her into the passenger seat. A few seconds later, he was in the car and had started the engine.

The sleet was turning into snow, building up under the windshield wipers as he drove across town. Suzanne waited for her heartbeat to get under control as she tried not to look at him. But it was impossible.

His hard profile appeared, disappeared then reappeared as the street lights flashed by.

There was no small talk to be made. The atmosphere in the cabin was so sexually charged that there was nothing she could say that wouldn’t betray her agitation. Her voice would tremble if she opened her mouth. Even her breathing was erratic.

In the end it was easier to say nothing and watch him as he easily battled the worsening weather. He was fascinating to watch. She’d be in a sweat if she had to cross town in this weather, but he was calm and relaxed, big hands easy on the wheel, movements loose but controlled.

Maybe they taught driving through sleet and snow in the Navy. Maybe he had a medal in it.

He parked just in front of the short sidewalk leading to the entrance. Snow was already building up along the wrought iron fence.

The snow muffled all sounds. When he opened her door and reached for her, it was as if the entire world had hushed so she could lean down into his arms.

Linking her arms behind his neck seemed like second nature by now.

“You don’t have to carry me,” she protested. “It’s only a few steps.”

A muscle danced in his jaw as he looked down at her. “Delighted to do it, and you’re welcome.”

The trip in his arms from the Yukon to the front door took forever and was over in seconds.

He put her down at the door, keeping one big arm around her, holding out his other hand. “Now’s a good time to give me that copy of the key. And to give me the security code. ”

“Oh, of course.” Suzanne bent her head to rummage in her purse. “Seven two four six one three nine. See? I memorized it.”

“Good girl.” He took the key she handed him, punched in the code and opened the door.

Suzanne usually relaxed once she walked through her door, out of the dangers of Rose Street and into the warm and welcoming environment she’d created. But now she stood tensely, still half in John Huntington’s arms and shivering with what she told herself was the cold.

“Turn the alarm off,” he said. Her hands were shaking as she punched in the code again to finish the sequence. Only the lobby lights were on as they walked down the dark hallway. Again, he made no sound at all. The only sound was her own shoes, tapping nervously, in time with her own nervous heartbeat.

Her hallway wasn’t long. Before she could gather her senses they were at her door. She rummaged in her bag and pulled out her key, holding it so hard the jagged edges cut into her palm.

Suzanne turned slightly and looked up at him.

Again their eyes met. Held.

She was acutely aware of the fact that they were completely alone in the building.

He was going to kiss her. It was there, in his body language, in the glitter of his eyes, in the tightness of the skin across his suddenly flushed cheekbones.

And she wanted him to kiss her. Her body was telling her clearly what it wanted. Her breathing was rapid and shallow. Her breasts were full and aching, her nipples painfully erect, and she tingled between her legs. He knew it. Those dark eyes saw everything, noted everything.

John’s arms came up and the hairs on the nape of her neck rose. But instead of pulling her into a tight embrace, he rested his large palms on either side of her head against the brick wall and looked down at her.

Neither spoke. John bent his head slowly, eyes on hers, gaze so intent she finally had to close her eyes at the first touch of his mouth to hers.

Soft. His lips were so soft, she thought dreamily. Everything about his face seemed so hard and cold and yet his lips were so warm and soft. Gently, gently, his lips slid over hers, keeping the pressure light. He tasted so good, of chocolate and man and, intriguingly, of the wine they’d had for dinner.

Was that why her head was starting to swim? His mouth opened a little, his tongue glided over her closed lips and she opened her mouth eagerly for a better taste. His mouth lifted, then settled again, still gently. The light behind Suzanne’s closed lids turned golden as her head tilted back slightly. Just enough to offer her mouth more to him.

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