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Her Secret Thrill(4)

By:Donna Kauffman

He grinned and finished off his coffee. “For someone who seems fairly at home with her sexuality, you appear to be pretty conscious of those who aren’t. Are all the lawyers you work with that uptight?”

She was honestly surprised at his assessment. But the surprise and the late hour had her responding before she could stop. “What makes you think I’m at home, as you call it, with my sexuality?”

“The clothes you’re wearing, for one.” He shrugged off her expression with a smile. “I know I probably shouldn’t judge you by your appearance, but I don’t know much else about you. What I do know is that outfit is definitely not for the faint of heart. Or a person not completely at home with the fact that she’s a woman.”

She wouldn’t squirm. She wouldn’t. But damn if she didn’t want to. She should have felt self-conscious about that description. And she did. But she also kind of…liked it. Still, she felt compelled to be honest. Besides, no way could she back up what this outfit promised.

“Thank you for the compliment. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that these clothes belong to Liza.” She folded her arms on the table. “She didn’t find my legal-eagle party clothes suitable for her party. Which basically just proves my point. Liza is sexually adventurous, and her wardrobe and lifestyle reflect that. But I’m not, and my wardrobe and lifestyle reflect that.” There, now at least he’d know she wasn’t advertising something she had no intention of putting on the market.

Although, she couldn’t deny that the thought sent a brief thrill through her.

Jake seemed to think for a moment about what she’d said. “So which precludes which?”

Confused, she said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, does the lifestyle and wardrobe follow the inherent nature of the woman? Or does the woman simply choose to bury her nature due to her lifestyle and accompanying wardrobe?”

Natalie had no answer for that. It was one thing to reveal that maybe, just maybe, she’d enjoyed daydreaming once in a while about having a wild fling after hearing one of Liza’s tales. It was quite another admitting she was really more like Liza deep down, or would be if she allowed herself to be.

Was she? Had she really subverted her nature because of her family and her career?

“I guess a little of both,” she answered as honestly as she could. “My family is not outward about stuff like that, but I can’t say I share that. Not fully. I might not be comfortable with outward displays, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy them. Maybe. With the right person. I do enjoy my career, and it is my priority right now. I don’t feel like I’m giving anything up for that.” She shrugged. “But maybe I repress that side of me to some point. I don’t think I deny I have it, however.” She looked at him with a little grin. “I guess I haven’t found an easy way to combine the two, so sex usually loses out.”

Was she really sitting here having a frank talk about her sexual nature with a man she just met? But she couldn’t deny it was the most stimulating thing she’d done in recent memory. Stimulating in several ways.

He didn’t say anything, just responded with a little smile of his own.

She realized she was really enjoying herself. He was fun to talk to, intriguing, thought-provoking. She was ashamed at her earlier assessment and rejection of him. Maybe she was guilty of categorizing men, making them less appealing to her so she didn’t have to deal with them. Something else she’d have to think about. What was she afraid of, anyway? Well, that she knew. Though it wasn’t fear. Merely an intelligent assessment of past problems. Entanglements impeded her career. Right now, she was simply not up to dealing with all the baggage and emotional drain that inevitably came with building a long-term relationship.

He smiled at the waitress when she brought more coffee and cream. He waited for her to leave, then turned his full attention back to Natalie. “I can hear the wheels turning over there. What are you thinking?”

She lifted her shoulders and sipped at her coffee. “Nothing. Everything.” She laughed lightly. “I’m not used to such deep philosophical conversations at—” she glanced at the wall clock and groaned “—four-thirty in the morning. My God, how did it get to be so late?”

“It was already ‘so late’ when we started this.”

She looked at him then. And he was looking at her. Really looking at her. And it was as if the air stilled…or something. A certain kind of quiet descended between them, encompassed them. Her throat grew tight, as he continued to look at her.

“Started this?” she managed to say, hardly above a whisper.

He didn’t shift so much as a hair. Didn’t reach out to touch her or make any kind of calculated move. He simply held her gaze as easily as he had all night long and looked at her as if he knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “This.”

Natalie felt such a rush of arousal that she clutched her coffee mug like a lifeline. Amazing. No one had ever made her react like that. And other than that little brush of his fingertips, he hadn’t even touched her since they walked in. And yet…she felt him.

She wanted to believe it was just the obvious stimulation of their conversation. But surprisingly, neither of them had been at all leering or suggestive the entire time they’d talked. Which made the way he was looking at her now all the more erotic.

Ridiculous. There was nothing here. It was simply an intriguing interlude with a stranger.

A stranger that was currently soaking her panties just by looking at her. And honestly, when was the last time that had ever happened to her? More honestly, when was the last time she’d ever have let anyone get close enough for her to find out?

And this little moment she thought they were sharing could be in her sleep-deprived head, too, she thought with a silent laugh. Or she could just come out and ask him what he meant by this. No. No, she couldn’t. This was fun and even exciting. But no. She had a life to return to, a plane to catch late tomorrow. Later today, actually. And he had business. In Wyoming of all places. She was never in Wyoming—

Which suddenly made this sound perfect.

She was wanting. He looked to be willing.

She wanted to clamp a hand over her mouth. A one-night stand? Natalie Holcomb? But in the next breath, she thought, and why the hell not? Maybe she’d been repressing more than she thought. Because the idea scandalized her. And turned her on so much, she thought she might come just thinking about it.

Oh…my…God. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.

Liza would.

She looked at him, then down at those hands of his. When she looked back up, that amused twinkle was back in his eyes.

“We’re not— This is just—” She couldn’t look away from his eyes. “Coffee,” she finished, almost breathlessly.

He nodded. “Best coffee and conversation I can remember having. Maybe ever.”

He glanced down at his coffee but it was the look in his eyes when he lifted his gaze back to hers that did it. Not smug, not aggressive, not pleading. Simply…honest.

“Would you like to extend this conversation?” he asked.

Her throat closed over. Her nipples were so tight now that they actually hurt. He wanted her. Right now. And there was no denying she wanted him. Right now.

And frankly, right now, that was all that mattered.

It was that simple. That thrilling.

“Yeah.” She cleared her throat, her heart began to race. “I mean, yes. Yes, I believe I would like that. Very much.”

“More coffee?”

Natalie jerked her gaze from Jake and looked up at the waitress. “Um, no. No thank you. Just the check.”

The waitress laid the bill on the table. Natalie nervously fished out a ten and tossed it on the pile, not caring about the change.

Now what?


IN THE MOVIES, this was where it always segued to the two lovers groping inside the private confines of their room. Lovers. She swallowed. The movies never dealt with that awkward transition sequence.

Then Jake was standing beside her holding out his hand, that charming grin crinkling the corners of his blue eyes. And it was as easy—and as hard—as just reaching out and taking that hand. She took it.

He let her hand go as soon as she stood, but there was that electric brushing of his warm hand on her bare lower back as he guided her to the front door and out into the New York sunrise.

She stopped and turned, an awkward laugh escaping her. “Um, I guess the standard ‘your place or mine’ is out of the question?” She wanted the adventure, but she wasn’t taking him back to her place.

He laughed. “Yeah. I had forgotten about that.”

Her heart was pounding, but Natalie relaxed a little. It was obvious that he wasn’t used to this, nor had he planned it, any more than she had. That relieved her. And somehow made this all the more erotic and exciting.

“Maybe another room at The Maxi?” she offered.

“Actually, I know a place. Uptown. I’ve stayed there before. It’s quiet, out of the way.” He caught her gaze. “Private.”

She liked the sound of that. “Okay.” She stepped to the curb to whistle for a taxi. The streets were pretty quiet; only the early risers and workaholics were out.