Adam had to stop this or he was going to go insane. He had
spent his whole life polishing an image, but now his image
was blowing up in his face. This wasn't right.
Her legs shifted restlessly, trying to pull him closer to
her, trying to fit him against her.
Jess was like an armful of flame, and he needed to find the
strength to resist. For God's sake, they were in a car.
It was no small feat to end the kiss, and he was mighty proud
when he did. His eyes locked with hers, a muscle ticking in
his jaw. "I need to leave. Now. I'll walk you up."
Her mouth opened then closed, her lips still swollen from
his kiss. Her eyes had lost the soft haze she wore earlier.
Now they were hard. He knew the exact moment when she remembered
who he was.
She adjusted her dress with a shaking hand, but he didn't
dare touch her. If he did, he wouldn't have stopped.
They made it out of the car without saying a word, her heels
echoing a smart clip on the concrete pavement, and they walked
to the elevator. Opposite sides for three floors.
He was going to explain this to her. Explain that making love
was a bad idea. Explain to her that he was going home to settle
in Alabama when this whole damned assignment was done.
But she never looked at him once.
When they got to her door, she fumbled with the keys and he
reached out to help her. Finally the damned thing was open,
and she turned to face him.
"Sorry, Taylor. Don't know what's come over me." She
braced one arm against the door, a casual gesture.
"Jess." He reached out to touch her, and she jerked
He tried to straighten the mess he'd made. If he had just
kept to his normal business procedures, none of this would
have happened. "Don't be mad. This isn't right. It wouldn't
be fair to you."
"Please don't do me any favors right now. I think you've
done enough." She shoved her hair out of her eyes, and
he remembered how the silky strands felt in his hands.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"And please don't apologize either. I'm an adult. You're
an adult. These things happen," she said, in a cool, logical
voice that flew in the face of the passion that sparked between
"This isn't just one of 'those things'," he said,
simply because it sounded so trite and pithy, like so many
things he'd said in his life, and he was determined that his
feelings for her would not be subjected to such an insult.
"The grand love affair, then?" she asked, raising
a skeptical eyebrow.
He stayed silent, a damning silence, watching as her eyes
Then she really lit into him. "You're always such a professional,
always the right words, never saying too much, always just
enough. I bet you're used to all the girls just fawning all
over you. And you'd encourage them until it was time to actually
follow-through. I knew guys like you. The high school football
"No. Chess club."
"Really? Imagine that. Good night, Mr. Taylor." She
started to slam the door.
He caught his foot in the jamb, just enough to really hurt. "I'm
not going to leave you like this."
"Because I'm too distraught? " she said, in a voice
that implied she was definitely distraught.
"Yes. No. For God's sake, Jessica. Let's not have this
discussion in the hall."
"Leave me alone."
If only it were that simple. "I can't," he answered.
Slowly, the door opened. "You have to stay away from
He didn't move, didn't breathe. "Is that what you want?"
"No. But it's what I have to do. This is temporary, an
aberration. After a few days, it'll just go away."
"No, it won't," he said. Because he knew.
"Then we'll turn it into a game. I can handle a game.
Of course, I can handle a game," she said, more to herself
than to him. When she looked up her eyes were lit with fire. "Ten
days. You can't seduce me."
It sounded like such a bad idea, but he knew what she was
doing. It was the perfect way to keep Jessica Barnes at a distance.
Threaten her with the one thing she couldn't bear- defeat. "We're
going to do this, aren't we?" he asked in a tired voice,
ready to bend to the inevitable, ready to do anything to avoid
Already the wheels were turning in her head, plotting new
ways to win. "Let's just be clear about the ground rules," she
There wasn't supposed to be rules. "No rules."
"There's always rules. 10 Days. Full penetration."
His mouth went dry. "Pardon?"
"Foreplay -- which you're very good at, by the way --
He forgot his lines. "I think foreplay should count."
"I can take it," she said, so resolutely he wanted
to disagree simply on principle.
He was toast. Stay the course, Taylor, remember the purpose. "10
days from today or 10 days from tomorrow?"
"I'll give you a handicap. 10 days from tomorrow." He
loved to hear the snap of smug confidence back in her voice.
They were doing the right thing.
He turned to leave, turned to go home to a long, cold, shower.
He'd almost made it to the elevator.
"Adam, what are the stakes?" she called down the
He hadn't made it out of the fog of thoughts of foreplay yet. "The
"You know, what are we betting on?"
He ran a hand through his hair and clutched his keys like
the lifeline they weren't. "Whatever the winner wants"
She leaned against the doorframe, long legs crossed in front
of her. "Anything goes?" Long legs and a saucy mouth.
He punched the elevator button. Down. Hard. "Anything
goes," he whispered to himself. Oh, hell.
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