Page 4 of The End of Faking It

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She jerked back, ripping her mouth free from his. Their eyes met, faces inches apart. A flare of something dangerous kindled in his—different from the earlier fury but just as frightening for Penny. She pushed as far back against the cool metal cabinet as she could, breathing hard. She shook her head, the only method of communication she could manage. While he stood, rock hard, and stared right back at her.

A million half-thoughts murmured in her head—desperate thoughts, forgotten thoughts, frightening thoughts.

Carter Dodds wasn’t the kind of man to let a woman stay on top—Penny’s only acceptable position, metaphorically anyway. He’d just demonstrated he’d always ultimately be the one in charge—his almost pretty-boy packaging disguised a total he-man with all masculine, all dominant virility. He’d made his move that way—lulling her into a sense of sweet security before unleashing his true potency and damn near swamping her reason. She liked sex—enjoyed the chase, the fun of touch, the fleeting closeness. But she never, ever lost control. She had to be in charge—needed to be the one who was wanted—even if only for that little while. She was very careful with whom she shared her body because she would always walk away. She ensured that a lover understood that. Commitment wasn’t something she could ever give. Nor was complete submission. So the sensations now threatening to submerge all her capacity for rational thought were very new. And very unwelcome.

But there was a logical explanation. Less than five minutes ago she’d thought she was being attacked. Her heart hadn’t had a chance since to stop its manic stuttering and it was still sending ‘escape now’ blasts through her blood.

‘Well, that was one way to burn off the adrenalin overload.’ She totally had to act cool.

‘Is that what you were doing?’

‘Sure. You know, I was still wired from the fright of you assaulting me in my own office.’

He stepped back, taking his heat with him. But his scrutiny seemed even more intense than ever. ‘Oh. So what was it for me?’

She hazarded a simple guess. ‘Normal?’

His mouth quirked. ‘Not.’

Cool just wasn’t happening but she had to scrape her melting body back together. She wasn’t afraid of taking fun where it could be found, but there wasn’t fun to be had here. Anything that hot eventually had to hurt. And any emotion that intense scared her. In ten minutes with Carter she’d already run the gamut of terror, fury and lust—way too much of the latter. So she turned away from the challenge in his eyes.

‘I need to get going. I’m late as it is.’ The sooner she got to the bar, the better—she had to burn up the energy zinging round her body like a demented fly trapped in a jar. Fast and free on the dance floor for the next eight hours might do it.

‘Hot date?’

‘Very.’ She lied, happy to slam the brakes on anything between them by invoking her imaginary man friend. She opened up her gym bag; she’d straighten up her appearance and then her insides. But those insides shrieked—she breathed choppily, her heart jack-hammered—so the hairdryer’s cacophony was completely wonderful. It muted her clamouring nerves.

Carter took a couple of strides to get himself out of physical range so he could get a grip on the urge to haul her back against him. He didn’t know what had got into him. He’d just kissed a complete stranger. A stranger who he’d initially thought was Mason’s cheating thief.

He should probably apologise. But how could he be sorry for something so good? Except for a second there she’d looked at him as if he’d struck her, not snogged her. She’d looked shocked and almost hurt, almost vulnerable.

And then she’d blamed that chemistry on adrenalin? Who did she think she was kidding? And now she was apparently late for her date and she had her hairdryer blasting. But it wasn’t her hair getting the treatment. It was her shirt. She held it out from her body, blowing the warm air over the silk. Then she lifted the nozzle and aimed it down her neckline—what, so she could dry her soft, wet skin? Not helping his raging erection subside any. Nope, that just yanked it even tighter.

A light flickered on her desk. Her mobile. He glanced back up; she was still focused on her shirt. He picked up the mobile to hand it to her, his thumb hit the keypad and, oh, shame, that message from Mel just flicked up on the screen.

Where r u? Kat & Bridge already on d-floor & lookg tragic. Need yr expertise.

Her hot date was with Mel, Kat and Bridge? A bunch of women out on a mission—on a Monday night. That shouldn’t amuse him quite as much as it did. He walked up, took the dryer from her hand and pointed it at his wet hair. Immediately he jerked back from the blast of air. ‘It’s freezing!’

The pink in her cheeks deepened.

‘Yeah,’ he teased, the sparks arcing between them again. ‘I thought you were feeling hot.’

‘It’s malfunctioning,’ she said sulkily.

Carter fiddled with the switch and then aimed the dryer at her like a gun. ‘Or maybe it’s because you had it turned on cold.’

Boom—even more red blotches peppered her creamy skin. She snatched the appliance back off him and switched it off.

‘Here’s your phone.’ He bit the bullet and handed it over.

She looked at the screen and frowned. ‘You read my text?’

‘It flashed when I picked it up.’ He shrugged almost innocently.

‘You didn’t need to pick it up.’

‘But I like picking up pretty little things.’ Even less innocent.

Blacker than black eyes narrowed. ‘I’m sure you’ve had plenty of practice.’

‘Well, that does make for perfect performance.’ Yep, wickedly sinful now.

‘Is that what you think you offer? Perfection?’

He grinned at her tone. She made provocation so irresistible. ‘You don’t think?’

Her eyes raked him hard and, heaven help him, he loved it. ‘I think you could do with some more practice.’

‘You’re offering?’

She turned away from him, retrieved the jug from the floor and marched to the water cooler to refill it. What, she was literally going to douse the flames again? But, no, she poured the water around the base of the monstrosity that was supposedly an office plant.

‘What is it, some kind of triffid?’ He reached up to the branches overhanging the cabinet. ‘If it grows any more, there won’t be room for anyone to work in here.’

‘She belongs to Carol and she’ll be here when she gets back. All healthy.’

‘You think that’s really going to happen?’ Carter knew Mason’s long-time assistant had a cancer battle on her hands. She’d been off for months and Mason was paying her full salary out of his own pocket. Which was why finding the person stealing from him was a priority. He was paying for two PAs. He was a hardworking, generous employer who deserved better than some skunk skimming and putting the entire company in jeopardy.

‘Of course she’s coming back.’ Penny banged the jug back on top of the filing cabinet and finally looked at him directly again. The flames were still there. ‘Is someone really stealing from him?’

Carter nodded. ‘I think so.’

‘But Mason’s one of the good guys. He gives so much to charity. He doesn’t deserve that.’

‘That’s why I’m here.’

Her appraisal went rapier sharp. ‘Well, you’d better lift your game.’

‘Hmm.’ He nodded agreeably. ‘I was thinking that too.’ But the game he meant was the one with her. And he didn’t miss the warring desire and antagonism in her expression.

He walked alongside her down the corridor, rode the lift in silent torture. The space between them was too small but he wanted it even smaller—to nothing but skin on skin. Like a tiger, he was ready to pounce. At least his body was; h

is brain was frantically trying to issue warnings—like he didn’t have time for this, like he needed to focus.

The security guard leapt up from his desk to get the door. ‘Goodnight, Penny.’ His smile widened as he watched her walk across the foyer towards him. That smile faded when he glanced behind her and registered Carter’s frown. ‘Goodnight, sir.’ Suddenly all respectful.

Carter made himself nod and smile.

‘Hope Maddie’s better when you get home,’ Penny said lightly.

‘Me too.’ The guard’s smile spread again. ‘See you tomorrow. Not too early, you understand?’

She just laughed as she went through the door.

‘Have fun, Penny,’ Carter drawled softly as they hit the pavement.

She turned and fluttered him a look one eyelash short of do-me-now. ‘Oh, I plan to.’

So she couldn’t resist striking the sparks either. And he knew the kind of fun girls like her liked—the eat-men-for-breakfast kind. He smiled, happy to play if she wanted, because experience had made him too tough to chew. She could learn that if she dared.

She walked away, her legs ridiculously long in that sexy strip of a skirt, her balance perfect on the high, narrow heels. Her glossy brown hair cascaded down to her almost too-trim waist. He bet she worked out in the pursuit of perfection. Not that she needed to bother. She nailed it on attitude alone.

Testosterone—and other things—surged again. So did his latent combative nature. That vulnerability he’d seen upstairs when he’d startled her, and again after he’d kissed her? A mirage—she’d been buying time while assessing her position. For Penny the PA knew how to play men—the slayer look she’d just shot him proved it. Mason thought the world of her. The security guy was falling over himself to help her. She’d want to bring Carter to heel like every other man she knew. Yeah, he’d seen her vixen desire for dominance. She thought she could toy with him as some feline would a mouse.

She was so wrong.

But he could hardly wait for her to bring it on.

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