Rebecca removed the apple pie from the oven and placed it on the cooling wire. In a couple of minutes, she’d call Jed in for a drink. He’d been on the roof for the past couple of hours. Every now and then, she heard a hammer hitting home. The sun was quite fierce, and she knew he would be thirsty.
She poured a drink and went outside. Unable to see him, she called out, “Jed, there’s a beer waiting for you.”
“Okay, be right down.” His disembodied voice returned from the roof.
Sitting at the table, Rebecca sipped at her cool lemonade. When Jed walked in, her heart seemed to stop working. Naked from the waist up, sweat glistened on his tanned torso as he washed his hands in the sink. “Something sure smells good.”
With her concentration focused on Jed, the glass slipped from her fingers and shattered noisily on the tile floor, breaking into a thousand pieces. “Oh. How clumsy of me.”
Just as she bent down to tidy up, he did, too. “Watch you don’t cut yourself, Rebecca.”
His hand accidentally brushed against hers as he reached for a large piece of glass. She looked up into startlingly blue eyes. His gaze slipped to her mouth, and she couldn’t help but lick her lips. His perfectly toned body rippled with muscles mere inches from her. All she had to do was reach out and touch him.
He spoke. “Rebecca, I—”
“I’ll get a brush,” she hastily interrupted. Getting quickly to her feet, she went and retrieved a dustpan and brush from the broom cupboard. Better to deny the attraction between them than to start something that would only lead to disappointment.
It had been like this for the last couple of visits. Every time they were alone together, this feeling would consume her like nothing she had known before.
“Rebecca, I’ve been coming here for the last month. There’s an attraction between us. I feel it, and I know you feel it, too.”
With an effort she barely thought possible, she looked him straight in the eye. Confusion reflected on his features as he held her gaze. Denial would be the safest option. “I don’t know what you mean, Jed. Surely you know I’m not your type.”
He laughed, his brows drawing together as he studied her. “And what type are you?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been told I’m too cold. What type would you suggest? Ice queen? Ice maiden?” She began sweeping the shards of glass into the dustpan with exaggerated movements. Anything to keep herself from looking at him.
“Who told you that?”
“No, I don’t think you do. My father was a vicar. A preacher, if you like. I’ve got plenty of hang-ups that would make you unhappy.”
“Is that why you came to America? To escape your father?”
Lifting her head from her task, she stared at him. His piercing gaze held her captive. It was all she could do to keep breathing. Surely he was the most attractive man she’d ever seen? “My father’s been dead for two years now. I came to America to leave the humiliation of rejection behind. I don’t wish to add any more.”
“So you’d rather reject me, Rebecca, than have some fun?”
“I’m sorry. It’s for the best.” All her emotions surfaced as she put the brush and pan to one side. She would always be a failure where men were concerned. She’d hoped to leave the past behind her, but she just didn’t seem to have the courage to make that final step. The idea that she would be a disappointment to any man scared her the most. She just couldn’t deal with the humiliation again.
“What are you frightened of, Rebecca?”
“I’m not frightened.” She moved out of his reach. “How about some apple pie?”
“Instead of you, you mean? I don’t think you’re taking anything I say seriously.”
Without warning, he pressed her hard against the kitchen table. Taking her hands in his, he pinned them down on either side of her. His gaze focused on her mouth, her own eyes unable to ignore the pure masculine presence of him. The hard contours of his chest, so close and overwhelming, made the breath seize in her lungs in a short, sharp gasp.
He leaned forward, his warm breath fanning against her neck as he whispered softly in her ear. “I see I’ve got your attention, Rebecca, because you’ve sure as hell had mine these past few weeks.”
“Jed.” He felt so incredibly sexy standing right up against her. His heat soaked through the dress she wore. His male scent pervaded her senses like nothing she had known before. “Believe me, I’m the complete opposite to you.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve seen you looking at me when you think I don’t notice. There’s a connection between us. You want me, just as much as I want you.”
“You are mistaken.”
“Uh-uh.” He brushed his lips against her cheek, his mouth nuzzling her soft skin as he tasted a line to her ear. Pressed back against the table, her hands pinned beneath his, she could barely move. It excited her like never before. “Truth be known, you’d like me to take you here, on this table, right now, and fuck you senseless.”
The image and the language he used shocked and startled her. No one had ever spoken to her like that before. Jason had never been as crude as that. Trouble was, Jed turned her on far more than Jason ever could. Maybe Jed was right. Maybe she was more like him than she realized.
Only a few base words wouldn’t begin to change a whole lifetime of concealment. To allow Jed in, she would have to let her defenses down, and she just wasn’t ready to do that. She liked her safe little world. That way she wouldn’t disappoint herself or anyone else.
“As I said, Jed. You are mistaken. Now let me go.”
He stared at her for a moment. “Very well.” Then he leaned in and whispered low in her ear. “You may fool everyone else. You may even fool yourself, but you can’t fool me. Maybe you need a man like me, rather than that dickless wonder back in England. I bet your father approved of him.”
She looked sharply at him. He’d hit the nail on the head. “He did.”
“Well, darlin’, he would never have approved of me.” With that, he moved away and went back outside, leaving her feeling incredibly empty. Jed had given her plenty to think about.