Page 9 of The End of Faking It

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Raw lust was his problem, and he’d felt nothing like it in his life. So what that she was attractive? There were millions of pretty women in the world—that didn’t mean his body had to start acting as if Penny were the only one that could switch him on. It had been a while, that was all, too many hours on the job and not enough off socialising. But maybe seeing her in that half-wet top last night had put some spell on him, because all he could think about was getting her naked. Her and only her.

Well, he’d get over it.

He walked out of the bar, knowing he’d probably just caused a massive stir and a ton of gossip, given he hadn’t bothered to speak to any others on the staff. Still, better for them to be gasping over his sex life than his real reason for being there. It provided good distraction in terms of his cover.

But for him, it was an absolute nightmare. Penny’s accusation this morning had been on target. She was more than a distraction, she was catastrophic for his concentration, and he couldn’t let sexual hunger affect the job he was doing for Mason. He’d commandeered an office on the floor below so he wouldn’t even see her during work hours unless it was absolutely necessary, but it wasn’t enough. Not when he was hunting her out at night. There was only one way forward—he had to forget her and just get on with the job. She could toy with that other guy. He damn well didn’t care.


PENNY felt as if she’d overdosed on no-doze. Her heart hammered, she fidgeted. Hyper-alert, she watched every second, hoping he’d hurry up and come say hi. But he didn’t. Minutes dragged like decades. Mason had emailed in again to say he’d spend another day working at home. Maybe Carter was with him. Or maybe he was locked in his office down the stairs. She wasn’t going to go see. She wasn’t going to waste another minute wondering where he was or why he’d done the vanishing act last night. And she certainly wasn’t going to regret the fact that he had.

Eventually she went out for a power walk. Fresh air might help her regain her equilibrium and stop her from doing all those things she’d told herself she wasn’t going to do.

Twenty minutes later she walked back into the building, even more hot and edgy. As the automatic door slid shut behind her Carter stepped out of the lift. He didn’t hesitate when he saw her, just strode straight across the foyer like a man possessed.

‘Did you enjoy the rest of your night?’ he asked, still ten paces away.

‘Yes,’ she said brightly. She’d hated it. She’d danced and danced until she couldn’t fake it any more and gone home to stare at the ceiling.

‘Really?’ Now he looked angry and he lengthened his stride even more.

A rabbit in the headlights, Penny failed to leap out of his path. And all of a sudden he did what she’d wanted him to do less than twelve hours ago—yanked her close—one hand round her waist, his other pulling her plait so she was forced to tilt her head back. Not that he needed to force it, because she melted right into him. For hours in the early morning she’d lain half asleep, dreaming of this. Now she wasn’t sure if she was still dreaming—and only by clinging, by putting her palm to that sharp jaw could she be sure that he was real and kissing her hot and rough and right in the middle of Reception.

Her groan caught in her mouth as he plundered. How could she ever say no to this? She was lost to it, utterly lost.

But just as suddenly he pulled away.

‘You’re still hungry.’ His words whispered low and angry.

Stunned, she stared. And by the time she got herself together enough to say something, he’d already gone out of the door behind her.

Her anger hit. What the hell did he think he was doing, carrying on like that in public? Thank heaven no clients had been waiting for appointments. Only the receptionist was there, though that meant everyone in the company would know about it by now—she’d have emailed them already. Not that they’d be surprised after the dirty dancing display last night. Penny ground her teeth. Yes, it was a good thing she was going soon because things were getting more than a little untidy. She marched up the stairs and felt even more hot and furious by the time she got to the top.

Files, she’d sort out the wretched files. She stomped over to the cabinet and slid the drawer open, pointlessly checking all the contents were in the right order. Which they were—but the perfectionist in her just had to be sure.

‘Got you some tea to calm your nerves,’ Carter said smoothly.

She whirled fast to face him. Stepped so close, so quick, he actually took a step back and deposited the steaming cup on the nearest flat surface—the top of the cabinet. She moved closer still, keeping the scarcest of centimetres between them.

‘I don’t fool around at work, Carter.’ She furiously whispered in his face, using anger to hide both the turmoil raging inside her and the desire he’d roused so effortlessly. ‘Don’t embarrass me like that again.’

His hands whipped round her, pulling her flush against him. Letting her know how lethally he was turned on. Her nerves shook beneath her skin, her muscles melted—only to reform even tighter and aching to feel his impression.

‘You liked it, Penny.’ His hand firmly cupped her butt, pulling her yet closer against his thick erection. ‘You liked it as much as I did.’

She had and she did nothing to deny it now, did nothing to pull away from the searing embrace. If anything she melted that millimetre more into him. There could be no denying the force of it. She gasped as he thrust his hips harder against her—his expression told her he knew it all. But he was angry too.

‘Who was it who ended that kiss, Penny? Who was it who pulled back?’ His smile was a snarl. ‘If it had been up to you we’d be sweaty and catching our breath right about now. If we’d been alone you’d have let me do anything. And you’d just about be ready to go for round two.’

Her blood beat through her with such force she felt dizzy. ‘Well, then, what the hell were you thinking making that move there?’

He held still for a moment, and although his body remained rock hard she felt the anger drain away from him. The next second he actually laughed. ‘I wasn’t thinking. Isn’t that obvious?’

Shaking his head ruefully, he looked up above them. ‘Here we are again. I’m starting to think this plant is like some kind of magic mistletoe.’

‘You always have the urge to kiss me when you’re under it?’ The urge to flash him a look was irresistible.

‘I always have the urge to kiss you, full stop.’

Admittedly he didn’t sound that thrilled about it, but even so a spurt of pleasure rippled through her. It was good he wanted her like that. It evened the score. She leaned back against the filing cabinet and looked at him, feeling as if she’d done her warm-up and was ready for the race—excited, a little nervous, full of anticipation.

Carter stepped forward, closing the gap until he was fully pressed against her again. His blue-green gaze devoured her features. She wished he’d just hurry up and kiss her. She put her palm to his jaw again, unable to resist just that small touch.

‘Go on, Penny.’ Ragged-voiced, he dared her. ‘Deal with me.’

Their mouths hovered, barely a millimetre apart, hot breath mingling with even hotter desire. How could she possibly resist? She opened her mouth that little more.

‘Well,’ a deep voice sounded. ‘Looks like I finally get to meet him.’

Penny leapt a clear foot, or she would have if Carter hadn’t had such a grip on her—a grip that suddenly tightened.

‘Matt,’ she squeaked. Wide-eyed, she stared past Carter at the tall figure standing beside her desk.

‘I’ve heard so much about you but I didn’t think I’d get to meet you.’ Matt walked closer, his too-intelligent eyes nailing Carter and then flicking to her. ‘Penny, you didn’t tell us he actually worked with you.’

She was still trying to wriggle out of Carter’s grip but he’d tightened it even more to pinch-point. ‘Yes,’ she managed to say softly but Matt didn’t hear her.

‘You’re him

, right?’ Matt asked Carter direct. ‘The “man” she keeps emailing about—the one who dines and dances and takes her away every weekend.’

Penny wanted the world to open up and suck her under right this second. Because what would Carter think about that lot of detail? What would Matt think when he found out the truth?

She looked into Carter’s eyes, saw the blues and greens and ice-cold anger out in equal doses. She pressed against him just that little more, softening herself in the hopes he’d also soften. Okay, she was pleading as she, oh, so slightly nodded her head at him, all but begging with her eyes.

But Carter felt as if he were made of rock as he rubbed one fist across his lips. He seemed to see into her soul with his bleak, penetrating glare. She waited for the axe to fall. Carter wanted her but he didn’t think much of her, she knew that. So he wasn’t about to come riding to her rescue now.

And Matt, impossibly tall and grown-up Matt, was waiting for an answer.

‘Yes,’ Carter finally said. ‘I’m that man.’

In shocked relief Penny softened against Carter completely, but felt every one of his muscles flinch.

‘I’m Matt Fairburn, Penny’s brother.’ Matt flashed one of his rare smiles and held out his hand.

An infinitesimal hesitation and Carter reached out too. ‘Carter Dodds, Penny’s man.’

It was a firm handshake, Penny could tell. It went on that half-second too long, as if they were testing each other’s muscles and manliness or something. Which was ridiculous, because last time she’d seen Matt he’d still been half-boy, half-man. The intense student too focused and serious for his own good. But now he was…different. Now he was assessing, and judging—just as he wanted to do in his career.

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