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Authors: Melanie Shawn

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BOOK: Scandalous
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“Something wrong? Did you lose visual?” he asked crisply, immediately back in the game.

Cristal looked at him coolly, “I still have visual. They're probably playing footsies because the tonsil hockey has subsided.”

“Then what’s with the stiff back and shoulders?”

She raised her eyebrows, haughty, and spoke in an airy tone of voice, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Ooookay...” Dominic said. He refocused his thinking. The amount of time that Cristal was being forced to spend with him because of their mutual assignment was limited, and he certainly did not want to spend it fighting. He thought it would be a good idea to change the subject.

He thought he could talk to her about Red retiring and the buyout offer, but that would most likely lead to unpleasantry. After all, they both wanted the company, so they were in direct competition.

He could try again to broach the subject of them getting to know each other better, but he knew that was a non-starter. She would shut it down with one dry sentence. He could hear her voice in his head already. “Never gonna happen.”

Since it seemed he had exhausted all other topic choices available to him, he decided to go with the only thing he could think about rationally at this moment…sex.

“I haven’t been that close to coming in my pants since middle school,” he said bluntly.

Cristal smiled, although Dominic could sense it was begrudgingly. She said, with the first hint in her voice that she might be enjoying the conversation, “Perhaps your body is simply regressing until it matches your level of maturity.”

Dominic chuckled, “That could very well be. Or maybe it's the fact that I haven’t been dry humped since seventh grade and my body reacted accordingly,” he gave her his 'devilish' smile and added, with a wink, “Not that I’m complaining.”

One corner of her mouth raised slightly in a naughty half-smile, “Good, cause I don’t seem to remember hearing a lot of complaining a few minutes ago, and I wouldn't be interested in listening to it now.”

“You’re right,” Dominic said, and then lowered his voice to an intimate level as he laid his hand lightly over hers on the table, “I didn’t make any complaints. Just promises.”

A flush rose up Cristal’s neck and she involuntarily snatched her hand back. He could see her almost instantly attempt to mask her reaction...and she almost succeeded. She didn't, though, not entirely. Dominic saw the light of passion that burned just beneath the surface calm in her eyes. He knew that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.

He smiled.

This was going to be interesting.

But before things got physical with them again, Dominic wanted to talk to her. He cared about her. After their one and only night together, Cristal had gone almost six months before really speaking to him.

She had only broken her silence at that point because they had been on an assignment together. If that had not happened, she still may not be speaking to him to this day. As much as he wanted another earth-shattering night with her, if the price he would have to pay for it was that she would rebuild those six hundred foot titanium walls that Dominic had no clue how to get beyond, then Dominic wasn't willing to pay it. It simply wasn't worth it.

It was tempting, though, Dominic had to admit that. He would make pretty much any other sacrifice in the world to spend one more amazing night with her – but not enduring being shut out again. That was the one thing that wasn't worth it. He cared about her too much.

“Do you always keep your promises?” she asked, and although her tone was flat, passion flared in her eyes.

Before he was able to answer her, the waitress appeared once again with their entrees. She placed each plate in front of them carefully. As she was leaving, she brushed Dominic’s arm and said, an intimate undercurrent to her voice, “Let me know if you need anything else.”

He nodded at her, just wanting her gone as quickly as possible so he could get back to the conversation with Cristal. Finally, after staring at him a moment more than was comfortable, she moved away to go attend to her other tables.

He looked back at Cristal to see that her demeanor had changed once again. All of a sudden, a very interesting thought occurred to him.

“Wait a second...are you
jealous
of the waitress?” Dominic said, a smile beginning to spread across his lips.

“No,” Cristal snapped, “Why would I be jealous of Cheerleader Barbie? She's not even anatomically correct.”

Dominic could not believe it. She was! He grinned wider.

“She’s just annoying!” Cristal defended her reaction.

“Mmmmm,” The non-committal sound escaped from him before he could stop it.

“Mmmm,” Cristal repeated, “What does mmmm mean?”

Dominic just shook his head, making a conscious effort to control the smile that still wanted to play across his lips. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

He knew when to pick his battles. And, besides...finding out that Cristal was
jealous
, of all things, was more than enough for him to feel like he won that round.

Not that he was keeping score.

Much.

Cristal glared at him, but suddenly the glare disappeared from her face, replaced by a combination of concentration and eagerness as she once again picked up her phone and began ‘texting.’

“They’re paying now,” she said briskly, “Wow, they seriously can’t keep their hands off of each other. You get the check, I’m gonna follow them. See you at home.”

She was up and out of the booth before Dominic had a chance to respond.

He smiled. He liked how the words “see you at home” sounded coming from her mouth. He liked them a lot.

 

--- ~ ---

 

Cristal had been able to get all the evidence she needed almost without trying. It was an easy-peezy case. The lovebirds had gone to a motel a few blocks away and she was able to snap pics of them as they headed into room #145. She had already uploaded them to Raiza and would complete the paperwork tomorrow.

She sat in the driveway of the rented house and stared at Dominic’s truck. She knew that, eventually, she would have to go in and face him. She was holding out a small bit of hope that he may have already gone to bed.

Since his cover job was working construction, she knew that he must have had some long days. She also knew, however, that he was in amazing shape and he hadn’t seemed that tired at dinner...so the scenario of him off in sleepy land, leaving her to sneak back to her room undetected, was...yeah. Probably not a reality.

Plus, what would that buy her? One night. One night to put off the inevitable. She knew something was going to happen between them, but she hadn’t decided what that something would be.

She just needed to figure out how she planned on handling the facts that she had admitted to herself before dinner. Avoidance no longer seemed like it was going to be a viable option. Dominic seemed
hell bent
to spend time with her...and, oddly enough, it appeared as though talking was what he had on his agenda.

Talking was the
last
thing on Cristal's mind when Dominic was within a four block radius. She had a physical connection to him unlike any she had ever experienced with a person before. She
craved
him - his touch, his voice, his smell. And since that one night they had shared together, no man had even come close to fulfilling the desire that Dominic had ignited in her.

Not that there had been all that many who had been given the opportunity to try. In the two years since she had been with Dominic, there had been only three other men. But, she also knew that quantity was not the issue - it was quality. The one unifying quality shared by all three of those men had been...well, that none of them was Dominic. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Out of sheer self-preservation, she had kept Dominic at arm’s length, and it had been working like a freakin’ charm…until now. Until this assignment, where they were cohabitating. Cristal took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She figured that the only way to deal with this was to face it. No more hiding, no more deflecting, no more denying.

No time like the present.

Another deep breath, she told herself - in through the nose out through the mouth.

God, why did she feel like a lamb being led to the slaughter? This was not a feeling she was familiar with, and she didn’t like it. She liked power, she liked control...she liked feeling like she wasn’t about to jump out of her own
skin!

She needed to take back some control. Lay down some ground rules. If they were going to get physical again, then it had to - once again - be on
her
terms. That was the only way she would do it.

But this time, she was going to make sure that he knew exactly what her terms were. No getting personal. Just sex, no emotion.

If all went according to plan, they could get each other out of their systems once and for all, and then move on with their lives.

Good.

Problem solved.

Let's review the plan, she thought. Quick conversation. Hot monkey sex. Go to bed.

Good plan.

“I can do this,” She mumbled as she made her way up the walkway.

Opening the front door, she noticed her hands were shaking a little and she felt her heart beating like a bongo drum. OK. Not the best start. Maybe some wine would help. She knew she must still have a bottle in the fridge. She began crossing toward the kitchen.

“Finally decided to come in, huh?”

Cristal jumped, letting out a high-pitched squeal. She hadn’t seen Dominic sitting in the living room.

Dominic didn’t take his eyes off the television.

“What?!” She demanded. That was not what she expected him to say...well...not that she was quite sure
what
she had expected him to say...but it wasn't that.

“You’ve been sitting in the driveway, looking terrified, for almost thirty minutes. Scared I might bite? I would say that I don’t, but we both know that’s a lie,” he said, feigning disinterest. He lifted his beer bottle to his mouth and took a swig. Slowly his eyes moved from the 48" screen to find hers.

As soon as he locked eyes with her Cristal felt a hum of excitement run through her. His tone had been flat and controlled, but his eyes were filled with an intensity that made all her nerve endings stand at attention. Oh, boy. She really needed that wine.

“I’m gonna grab a glass of wine,” she mumbled and quickly retreated to the safety of the kitchen.

She reached for the glasses and heard him step behind her.

“We need to talk,” h
is voice sounded gruff.

“We will, we will. Just let me get my wine.”

She heard the sound of footsteps echoing against the linoleum as Dominic returned to the living room, allowing Cristal a momentary reprieve. She poured herself a glass of Red Moscato and took a few sips. Then, summoning all of the bravery she possessed, walked into the living room and sat down on the couch.

“You wanted to talk,” Cristal said, taking another generous sip of wine.

“This feels like deja vu.” Dominic said with a small smile, “But this time, no running off to your room. Agreed?” He raised one eyebrow in a challenging stare.

“Agreed,” Cristal took one more rather large sip, finishing her glass of wine.

“Look,” Dominic began, “I want you to know that I care about you Cristal...”

“Don’t,” Cristal interrupted, “Don’t do that.”

“Do what? Tell you how I feel?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because, I don’t…I can’t…God! I just don’t want to know,” she finished lamely. Cristal couldn’t explain the 'why' to him...or maybe even to herself, if it came to that.

Cristal had no idea where this conversation was headed and, honestly, she had no real desire to find out. What she
did
know was that she wanted to change the direction that this night seemed to be headed in.

Watching Dominic seated on the couch, leaning forward, his biceps flexing as he ran his hands through his thick black hair, his brow furrowed seriously and his jaw tense...Damn. Staring at his lips, his eyes, his arms, his hands...well,
talking
was the last thing on her mind.

The desire surging through her from the tips of her toes to the top of her head was a welcome sensation. It made her feel much more in control. Sex, she understood. Emotions…not so much.

 

Chapter Six

Dominic had no idea how to proceed. He wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to continue, but he knew she was serious. He would try not to say anything that would trigger a bad reaction, but honestly, he felt like he was walking through an emotional minefield.

“Look, the last thing I want to do is upset you,” he said sincerely, “I don’t know a lot about your past. But I just want you to know that I’m here. If you ever need anything, I’m here for you. You don’t have to shut me out. I would never hurt you,” he looked up and met her eyes, and the temperature in the room shot up.

BOOK: Scandalous
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