Authors: Mia Zachary
As Aunt Celeste dragged Uncle Matt and Keisha over to look for native diamondback terrapins in the Tidal Marsh, Danny guided her toward the Coastal Beach display. He stood close behind her, subtly rubbing his hip against her nearly bare bottom as they watched the tropical fish that traveled the mid-Atlantic current.
“I love the beach. It’s so hot and sticky.”
Jordan groaned, both at his lame innuendo and in response to the sensations he created. She was feeling pretty hot and sticky herself. Especially when he caressed a particularly sensitive spot at the back of her neck. It was one of the erogenous zones he’d discovered Wednesday night.
She and Danny followed the rest of the family upstairs to the Surviving Through Adaptation gallery. She barely noticed the displays of electric eels, giant octopus or lionfish. Her thoughts were on the way Danny’s hands felt casually stroking her bare arm.
“Oh, look over here!” Aunt Celeste pointed excitedly at the sign for Phantoms of the Deep, a special exhibit of several different types of jellyfish.
Her mother and cousin followed, while her father and uncle headed upstairs to the Amazon River Forest, deeply engrossed in a heated discussion about the Orioles chances of winning tonight’s baseball game.
Danny kept her back with a hand at the base of her spine. “Wait for a minute. Let them go through first.”
Jordan slid a sideways glance at him, the hint of a smile touching her mouth. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing yet, but who knows what might happen once your family moves on.”
His gaze traveled her body and she felt the look like a physical touch. A shiver of awareness battled with a twinge of apprehension. His intent couldn’t have been clearer and the sensual side of her that he’d awakened the other night impatiently anticipated his touch, but the good girl in her was nervous about fooling around in a public place.
As soon as her family went upstairs, Danny led her into the darkened gallery. The walls, floor and ceiling of the alcove were pitch-black, highlighting the seven tanks against the back wall. Softly colored underlights differentiated the delicate and graceful jellyfish and emphasized the angles and planes of Danny’s face.
He pulled her to him. “You have no idea how turned-on I am right now, knowing that this skirt is the only thing between me and your sexy body.”
The husky edge of his voice resonated through her, even if she didn’t believe his words. “I’m not—”
“Yes. You are.”
Danny moved his hands up to her breasts, cupping their weight in his palms. His thumbs traced circles around her nipples, making her gasp and look around, afraid someone could see them. His head came down to capture her open mouth in a searing kiss. It was then that she felt the proof of his desire against her thigh. No longer caring if they got caught, she deepened the kiss with eager enthusiasm.
Danny slid his hands down to her waist, pushing her away slightly, before shifting his right hand to the hem of her skirt. His questing fingers delved beneath the fabric until he made contact with her bare skin. A heavy, aching need settled in her belly as his large palm caressed the curves of her bare bottom. Then he moved around her hip to touch the damp curls between her thighs.
The feel of his finger on her delicate flesh was a delightful shock, but after a few seconds, she relaxed and widened her stance. He rubbed lazy circles around her clitoris before dipping into her moist heat. She was on the edge, breathing hard against his mouth as her body tightened.
With a soft groan, she broke the kiss and tugged at her skirt. “I can’t do this. Somebody could come.”
“I’m hoping it will be you.” He pushed a little deeper, making her wiggle against his hand.
A flame of desire ignited within her, burned away her inhibitions. He urged her on, increasing the sensual pressure until the slow, insistent throb became a deep pulsing tremor. Danny held her to his chest until her heart rate slowed and her legs stopped trembling. Then he kissed her once and adjusted her skirt back in place.
“Um, what about you?” Slightly self-conscious of her action, Jordan brushed her hand across the bulge in his jeans.
“All I wanted for now was for you to fulfill one of my fantasies. That was number six, by the way—Barely Behaving.”
Instantly recognizing the scenario, Jordan let out a startled laugh. “I was wondering if you saw my book yesterday morning.”
His wide smile gleamed in the multicolored lights. “I bought my own copy last night.”
When they finally made it to the next level, Angela glanced over at them briefly, but Jordan wasn’t fooled for a second. In that one instant, her mother’s sharp eyes had taken in their intertwined hands, the bright color on her cheeks and the grin on Danny’s face.
Her cousin noticed, too, but unlike her mother, Keisha was not at all pleased. Jordan knew it was petty, but she couldn’t help a little jolt of satisfaction that for once
was jealous of
Reveling in the moment, Jordan planted a quick kiss on Danny’s lips.
The best part of the National Aquarium was the Atlantic Coral Reef, a 335,000-gallon, circular four-level tank filled with vibrant tropical fish. As they slowly descended the series of ramps inside the silo, marveling at the vividly colored parrot fish, silver lookdowns and sparkling angelfish, Danny was so attentive and affectionate that Jordan had to keep reminding herself it was all an act.
When the tour was over, Daddy and Uncle Matt complained that looking at all of those fish had made them hungry. Her mother offered Danny a smile.
“Why don’t you join us for dinner, David? We’re only a few blocks from Little Italy.” She turned her head. “Jackson, do you want to walk over to Velleggia’s or Chiapparelli’s?”
If she hadn’t been focused on Danny’s face, Jordan might not have seen the slight contraction of his features. Though his expression didn’t change, she sensed his withdrawal. His brow crinkled in regret, but his tone held a note of insincerity.
“Sorry, everyone, but I can’t make it. I’ve got a ton of work to do on the Gregg case.”
Her father slapped him on the back. “It’s Friday night, David. Surely it can wait until Monday.”
Jordan had no choice but to support the fabrication. “Senior associates are expected to put in a six-day week, Daddy. If David is going to join us for the cookout, he’ll have to make up the time.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” her mother began.
Danny smiled at her. “Thank you for the aquarium tour, Mrs. Gregory. I had a great time.” He turned to give Jordan a hug. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow, okay?”
She nodded and watched him walk away, confused by her sudden feeling of loneliness. It wasn’t as if her real fiancé had just abandoned her. So why did it feel that way?
The idea of sharing a meal with the Gregorys had panicked him. Dinner around a single table would have been a dangerous opportunity for probing questions he wasn’t prepared to answer. Sharing a meal would have made the charade all too real.
He’d never had to meet any of his other girlfriends’ families.
that Jordan was his girlfriend. They were barely even lovers. And yet, here he was, driving down St. Paul Street instead of sleeping.
Danny found a parking space and, recalling the first time he’d stood on this front step, rang the doorbell. Fun and games, that’s all this was. Several minutes later, Jordan finally answered the door. She looked disheveled and annoyed. She looked beautiful. Her face had the sleepy glow of a woman who’d just left a warm bed and even warmer dreams.
As she poked her head through the opening, however, her voice was frosty. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
He offered her a lazy smile. “In accordance with our agreement, counselor, let me in.”
She groaned, scrubbing a hand over her face, and moved aside. “I thought you were picking me up for the barbecue.”
Danny shrugged. “I am. I just didn’t say how early.”
“It’s too early for sex.” Jordan covered a yawn.
“I was afraid you were going to say that.” He closed the door behind him. “Nice jammies.”
That woke her up. Her eyes widened as she realized she had on purple jersey sleep pants and an orange T-shirt. She made a halfhearted attempt to cover herself with her arm then gave up the effort. “If you ever tell anybody you saw me wearing these, you’re history.”
“My lips are sealed.” To prove it, he caught her into his arms for a fast kiss. She felt warm and soft and cuddly and he was glad he had followed his impulse to come over.
Jordan seemed flustered, combing her hands over her hair as she backed away from him. She gestured toward the living room. “Make yourself comfortable while I get dressed. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“You look great. Don’t get dressed for my benefit. In fact, how about getting undressed?” He tried to put his hands on her hips and pull her to him, but she danced out of reach.
“The remote control is on the coffee table.”
Danny affected a scowl and crossed his arms. “I think we have a breach-of-contract issue here.”
“So sue me,” Jordan called over her shoulder as she went up the stairs.
He sighed and wandered into the excruciatingly neat living room. Crystal lamps with embroidered silk shades cast a soft glow over the two blue velvet love seats. A stack of fashion magazines, neatly sorted by title and date, was piled on one of the end tables. Across the room, the movie cases were arranged alphabetically in the oak entertainment cabinet.
He wasn’t exactly a slob, but the degree of Jordan’s organization was kind of scary.
Danny flopped down on the couch and turned on the television. He surfed the channels for a minute, finally recognizing
All About Eve
on a classic movie station. By the time Bette Davis figured out that her rival had usurped her place on stage, he was wondering why Jordan was taking so long. When the credits rolled and another movie began, he decided he’d better check on her. He was just about to get up when he heard her come down the steps.
The Philadelphia Story.
I love Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in this one.”
All he could do was stare. Her dark, thick hair was curled into sexy waves and she’d painted her face. Who the hell wore all of that makeup on a Saturday morning? She’d changed into a light cotton sweater and a pair of jeans. She looked ready to go to the barbecue, but a glance at the clock on the mantel told him they still had an hour and a half before they had to leave.
She sat down next to him on the love seat, her attention on the TV screen. Danny watched her more than he did the movie. Considering the type of women he usually dated, it surprised him that he preferred Jordan with crazy sleepwear and an unadorned face. She looked pretty now, but her natural beauty was better.
“I meant it when I said you looked great before.”
“Yeah, right. With wild hair and a pale face and my neon jammies.”
She tucked her feet beneath her and cuddled against his side. The warmth of her seeped into him as he draped his arm over her shoulders. Then he realized what he’d done. This little scene was too damned cozy. He felt discomfited by her closeness, by the casualness of the moment. This wasn’t part of the deal.
Danny’s pulse accelerated and he suddenly felt agitated. Remember the sex. Think about the sex. Maybe he should reach down and grope her breast. Or better still, just kiss her senseless and take her right on the couch. It had been a mistake to come over here. What the hell was he thinking?
“This is nice.” Jordan smiled at him.
He suppressed a sigh and nodded his head. “Yeah.”
“How about some breakfast?”
“Don’t go to any trouble.” Now this was really getting domestic.
She patted his stomach playfully. “Oh, it’s no problem. Unlike you, I cook.”
She hopped up and headed toward the kitchen. So there he was, sitting on the couch, watching a romantic comedy while the little woman cooked bacon. He felt entirely too at home, but there was no way he could leave. He’d just have to tough it out. Besides, a guy needed to eat.
Within fifteen minutes, Jordan returned from the kitchen with a covered serving tray. His stomach made itself loudly known, anticipating firehouse chow—fried eggs, sausage, potatoes. Instead Jordan lifted the cover with a flourish to reveal egg white omelets with turkey bacon and sliced tomatoes.
Danny picked up his fork and poked at the food on his plate. She was still standing there anxiously so, not wanting to hurt her feelings, he speared a mouthful of white fluff with red and green specks and swallowed.
“I’m so glad you like it. Enjoy and finish watching the movie while I go get ready.”
“Huh?” His brows drew together in confusion. “You’re already dressed.”
“Oh, I’m not wearing
Danny tapped the cushion of the love seat and tried the fake bacon. “Jordan, you look beautiful. Just get your plate and sit here and eat with me.”
“It’ll only take me a few minutes to change.” Before he could stop her, she was headed back upstairs.
Knowing his arteries would thank him someday, Danny forced himself to finish breakfast. He was on his third classic film before Jordan reappeared, this time wearing a floral sundress. The short-sleeved dress ended just below the knee, showcasing her spectacular legs. She looked really pretty. In fact, she looked perfect. That was the problem.
As she grabbed what looked like a camera case from atop one of the shelves, she smiled over at him. “Are you ready to go?”
He arched one eyebrow and returned her gaze. “I don’t know, Jordan. Do you think these tennis shoes go with my outfit? Maybe I should wear a different shirt.”
She twisted her fingers together and unexpectedly offered him a glimpse behind her mask. For a second, she looked uncertain and nervous and very human. That absence of perfection made him want to wrap his arms around her and hold her until…until they had mind-blowing sex. Yeah, that’s it.
“The barbecue today will be the first time my whole family meets David.”
Danny aimed the remote to switch off the television. “What exactly have you told them about your
“As little as possible. I didn’t want to get tangled up in the details.” A flush appeared on her cheeks, heightening her sheepish expression. “I was able to dance around the family’s questions last night at Velleggia’s. We probably won’t be so lucky today.”
“Well, how am I supposed to act when we get there?” He ran a hand over his hair, feeling adrift and oddly resentful. As well as he knew his brother, he wasn’t sure how long he could play David.
Her confident image was back in place as Jordan picked up her handbag. “Just be yourself.”