Page 15 of The End of Faking It

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She looked up at him. ‘Don’t you want me to?’

He stared hard into her face—from her mouth to her eyes. ‘The setting isn’t working for me,’ he said. ‘We should get out of here.’

She sat back on her heels and swallowed. Suddenly cold. Suddenly aware she was half naked. She wriggled her breasts back into her cold wet swimsuit with absolutely no dignity whatsoever. Not able to look at him again until she was as covered up as she could be, with the towel like a tent around her. By the time she did look across at him he’d fixed his own clothing and was standing waiting for her.

He held out his hand. ‘Come on.’

She couldn’t refuse his offer of assistance. But as soon as she was on her feet he dropped her hand. He was careful not to walk too close. She was careful not to stare at his strained trousers. She really wished he’d let her do something about that. She really wanted to, wanted him, but it had to be her way. Only, as she’d suspected from the first, Carter wasn’t one to let that happen.

They got to the door and Carter turned the handle. It didn’t move. He twisted it again. Then the other way. It still didn’t move.

‘It’s locked,’ Penny said. ‘Did you lock it when you came in?’

‘No.’

Penny frowned and tried the door herself. Then she looked through the small window to the darkened foyer beyond. ‘Jed must have locked it.’

He must have had a quick look in and seen the empty pool—and not seen their entwined bodies in the dark corner at the end of the room. He thought she’d gone so he’d locked it up for the night.

‘So we’re stuck in here?’

‘Looks like it.’ She swallowed and drew the damp towel closer around her shoulders.

‘We could bang on the door, he’d hear us, right?’

She shook her head. ‘He’s up one floor and he listens to his iPod.’

Carter rolled his eyes and cursed under his breath.

‘Don’t make trouble for him,’ Penny said quickly. ‘I talked him into it. It’s my fault really.’

‘Why do you come here after hours? Why not when it’s open?’

‘I like having the pool to myself. It gets really busy before and after work.’

‘You don’t think it’s dangerous?’

‘I’m a really strong swimmer. And Jed knows I’m here.’

‘He’s useless at his job, though, isn’t he? He doesn’t know I’m in here too.’

‘He’d have heard the lift you were in and thought it was me going back up. He probably thinks I left the building while he was down doing the lock-up.’

‘Don’t try to make excuses for him.’

‘He has a young family, he doesn’t get much sleep and he needs the job, Carter. Leave him alone.’

‘Well, if you really care about him staying in employment then you should stop getting him to break the rules.’

‘Okay, fine.’

He sighed and glared back at the deep blue water, and the big still space. Then he looked back at her. ‘You can swim in the pool in my apartment complex. It’s big and private and hardly anyone swims there.’

‘Do you?’

‘Yes, but in the morning. You can have it all to yourself at night. And I’ll watch.’

‘I’m not going to be there at night.’

‘Oh, I think you are.’ He stepped closer and put his hand on her shoulder. Even through the damp towel she could feel the sizzle. ‘You should get dressed.’

She braced for his reaction to this last pearl of info. ‘The only way to the changing rooms is through that door.’

‘You’re kidding,’ he snapped, immediately trying the door one more time.

She shook her head.

Carter leaned forward and banged his head on the wood. They couldn’t even get to the changing rooms where there might have been a condom machine on the wall. He’d hoped anyway. Because they had no cell phone, no condoms, no couch, no cushions, nothing to cover them in what was going to be a long, cold, frustrating night. He frowned as he felt her shivering beside him.

His clothes were damp and freezing. The whole place was freezing. And all she had on were wet togs and a wet towel. ‘What time do they open up in the morning?’

‘Six o’clock,’ she answered. ‘I think the gym attendant gets in around quarter to.’

Just under eight hours away. Eight hours alone with her mostly naked and he couldn’t even take advantage of that fact.

‘Come on, then, let’s try and get comfortable.’

He walked back down to the far end of the pool. Foam flutter boards weren’t the softest things in the world, but they were better than cold concrete. He scattered a couple by the wall, gestured for her to take one and he sat on another himself. She cloaked the towel around her and avoided both looking and talking.

Carter tried not to stare at her too obviously while he attempted to work out what had happened when she’d pulled away from him so abruptly. He didn’t think he’d hurt her; he’d been being gentle and taking it slow. Well, kind of slow. But it was as if she’d suddenly freaked out—and he’d thought she was so close. She had been so close. Right on the brink. Was that the problem? She hadn’t wanted to come?

He shook off the idea. So unlikely. Who didn’t want to have an orgasm? Maybe he’d touched a too sensitive spot too quickly. Which meant he had to go even more slowly. Which frankly surprised him. It wasn’t as if she were some skittish virgin—hell, the way she kissed was so damn hot and welcoming. But when he’d really begun to push for the ultimate? Boom. Was it simply a total withdrawal from a total tease?

Actually he didn’t think so. Because her refusal hadn’t been total. He didn’t think she was playing games—the fact she’d tried to go down on him proved that. But it seemed she didn’t want to receive the pleasure herself. Was it some weird control thing? Did she like the power of bringing a man to his knees and begging for her to swallow him whole? Or was she truly that little bit scared?

Wow. She really was a mass of contradictions and complications. And he was beyond intrigued—he was bound to follow through on this with her, he just had to figure out how. His muscles twitched beneath his skin. Patience wasn’t one of his virtues. But for Penny Fairburn, he might have to make an exception.

He stretched out his legs and drew in a deep breath to ease the tension still wiring his body. The question now was how to fill in the time. How to tempt her back, how to find out what secrets he needed to unlock her totally. He couldn’t make more moves, not in this place, not without warmth, comfort and contraceptive protection. Which left only one thing.

Talk.

‘You’ve always swum?’ Lame, but it was a beginning. He couldn’t dive straight into all the intense, personal questions that were simmering within him.

‘Since I started travelling,’ she replied distantly. ‘Most places have nice pools somewhere.’

Penny answered his light chat completely uselessly, her brain still barely processing that she was trapped in the pool room all night. With Carter. It was the ‘with Carter’ bit that really had her reeling. That and the extreme throbbing still going on in some sensitive parts of her body. Staying in control of the next eight hours was going to take serious concentration and she needed to stay in control. The avalanche of sensation he’d triggered in her had taken her by surprise—despite the warning signals she’d had from his earlier kisses.

Too much emotion—even just lust—led to fallout, not fun. She couldn’t deal with fallout. Mind you, she might not have to, because he wasn’t exactly busting his moves now. In fact he was quite carefully keeping a distance while she grew colder by the second.

He wasn’t even looking at her any more. And now the last of the light let in by the high windows was fading so she couldn’t hope to read his expression. But he did seem inclined to talk. And she was definitely inclined to ask.

‘So your family’s in Melbourne.’ She’d picked up that nugget at dinner last night.

‘Dad is

. My mum died when I was fourteen.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry.’

‘It’s okay. Dad’s on his third marriage now.’

She clamped her lips to stop her ‘oh’.

‘He remarried within a year,’ Carter continued bluntly. ‘Twenty years younger than him, gold-digger. The whole cliché you can imagine, only worse.’

‘Oh.’ Couldn’t stop it that time.

‘Eventually he got out of it but went straight into the next marriage. Another much younger woman—Lucinda. They had a baby last year.’

‘Really?’ That was big.

‘Yeah, Nick.’

‘You have a baby half-brother,’ she processed. ‘And you’re okay with it?’

‘Actually, he’s quite a little dude. Why, you don’t like kids?’

‘It’s not that I don’t like them…’

He twisted to face her. ‘You don’t want them?’

‘Definitely not,’ she answered immediately.


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