Home > Managed (VIP #2)(9)

Managed (VIP #2)(9)
Author: Kristen Callihan


“I think we should name our kids by number,” I tell him.

His muscles clench and shift under my cheek. I can almost hear him internally debating how to respond.

“Dare I ask why?” he says finally.

“Because we’ll have so many, numbers seem easier. We can do like the king in Stardust. Una, Secundus, Septimus…”

“That seems inordinately cruel. Think of the shit they’ll receive in grammar school.”

“They’ll be too tough to be bullied. And I see you’re warming to the idea.”

I grin when he grunts. It’s not a no—more like a you’re crazy. I can work with that.

“I hate this,” he says.

“Snuggling?” But I know what he means.

His laugh is wry and brief. “Weakness.”

“Everyone is afraid of something.”

“What are you afraid of?” he lobs back, sounding dubious.

Never being good enough. Being used up and tossed aside. I swallow hard. “Tidal waves. I have nightmares about being swept away. I blame all those disaster movies.”

“Somehow I suspect you’d be the sort who would survive.”

I smile at that.

A gust of warmth along at the top of my hair makes me realize he’s pressed his lips to my head and is breathing me in. “What color is your natural hair?” he asks, almost idly.

“That’s an awfully forward question, Mr. Scott.” Turbulence aside, our little cabin is quite cozy with the cream-colored finishings and the lights dimmed.

“Supposedly I’m fathering at least seven of your children. A fair enough question to ask.”

The plane makes a particularly nasty thump, and he sucks in a sharp breath. I nuzzle closer, my nose filling with the scent of his cologne and, underneath it, the sweat of fear.

Closing my eyes, I spread my hand out, pressing my palm against his abdomen where his muscles quiver. “I’m a blonde.”

“I see that,” he deadpans.

“Natural blond, I mean. I went a few dozen shades lighter this time. Last week I had blue hair.” I smile a little, imagining how he would have reacted to that.

“I’m not surprised in the least.”

“Mmm…” The tip of my finger toys with a wrinkle on his sweater vest, which is cashmere—and I still resent the fact that he looks so good in it. The hem has ridden up, exposing his shirt beneath. My fingers drift to one of the buttons.

As soon as my finger rests against the little circle, the air seems to grow thicker. My body seems heavier, somehow, as if intent has made it laden and hot.

Because I feel the firm abs beneath his shirt, and I now know a way in. What gets me even hotter? I realize he knows this as well. We both seem to hold our breath.

I pluck the button open.

It’s as if I’ve plucked a chord instead. Tension vibrates between us so strong, I can nearly hear it. Gabriel stiffens, his abs clenching, his fingers halting their exploration of my hair.

What the hell are you doing, Sophie? Stop now. My fingers don’t seem to get the message. They slip through the open space in his shirt to find the hot, smooth skin beneath.

Oh, hell. Because he is hot, his skin firm and tight, and I want more of it. My fingers barely move. As if, by being sly, he won’t notice that I’m feeling him up. Nice dream.

I clear my throat, searching for my voice. It comes out rusty. “Red hair is always fun. So many shades to work with.”

Yes, talk and you won’t come off as such a creepster perv. Brilliant idea.

I can’t seem to shut up. “Bright red. Auburn. Strawberry red.” Great, you sound like the Bubba Gump of hair coloring.

He grunts, his body stiff, unyielding, but he doesn’t protest my roaming fingers. Doesn’t say a damn word. Which speaks volumes, really. Because this guy is not the type to remain silent if he doesn’t want to.

A band of heat clenches low around my belly at the realization that he’s letting me explore.

Gently, I stroke the small patch of skin I can reach. The tip of my finger glides over smooth skin to find rough hair.

Jesus on a motorcycle, he has a happy trail.

The urge to follow that trail down is so strong, I nearly moan. I clench my teeth, take a breath. “I’ve also had purple hair. Green doesn’t do anything for me, though.”

Without my permission, my fingers slink downward to the where the next button is secured, waiting for me to open it. His whole body stills, as if he’s just willed himself not to move. But when I start to free that small button, he expels a breath and his hand comes down on top of mine.

It is warm, firm, and clearly states, no more.

And nothing is more effective at snapping me out of this madness. Because, really, what the hell am I doing? I don’t even like this guy. Well, I kind of do. Which just blows. Dead end might as well be stamped on Gabriel Scott’s forehead.

The plane has started to rattle hard again. Gabriel shudders, our awkward pause forgotten, and clings to me once more, his breathing erratic.

Comfort. Don’t grope. Just comfort.

That I can do. I think.

 

* * *

 

Gabriel

 

* * *

 

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. If anyone had photographic evidence of my current predicament, my reputation as a fearsome bastard would be dead in the water. I can almost hear the snickering now—the great, implacable Scottie wrapped around a woman as though she was his woobie.

Killian would never let me hear the end of it. I don’t even want to imagine the shit I’d get from Brenna.

In some ways, plummeting to my death would be preferable.

That was a stupid thing to think. Terror arcs through my body, making my insides swoop and my limbs tingle. And I find myself clinging just a bit more tightly to the strange, softly rounded woman at my side. Perhaps this truly is a nightmare; nothing seems real or makes much sense.

I do not engage in continued conversations with strangers, especially ungovernable, chatty, irreverent women. And I most certainly do not cuddle. I cannot remember the last time I held a woman. The sensation is so foreign, yet pleasurable.

My entire body seems to be straining for greater contact, my skin sensitive and hot beneath my clothes. I want them off with a fierce agitation. I want to feel skin on skin, the warmth and plush give of her flesh.

I will not think about the fact that she snuck her fingers beneath my shirt to stroke my abdomen. The phantom of her touch still burns like a brand on my skin.

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