WARNING: This chapter contains sexual content/a "sex scene"...sort of. So, if you're offended by that sort of thing, you might want to skip the last half of this one. That is my disclaimer.  Otherwise, just enjoy.

Nearly an hour late to Jean's party, Aidan wasn't surprised to find that the house his friend had leased for the six months he planned on spending in Seattle was right on the water. As he drove up the stereotypical circular, gravel path leading to the house, he couldn't help but think that Jean didn't do anything on a small scale.

A mix of modern lines with a hint of classical flair, the house was two stories with a dark exterior broken up by several floor-to-ceiling windows that reflected the darkness of the street. Immaculate shrubs framed the image perfectly and, as Aidan stepped out of his car, tossing his keys to the waiting valet, it occurred to him that no matter how elegant this party turned out to be, he'd rather be at home.

Unlike Jean, Aidan wasn't a crowd person; he didn't find any fulfillment in trying to impress dozens of perfect strangers—not that Jean did either, more likely he enjoyed watching them all try to impress him. With a grin, Aidan took the steps two at a time, thinking to himself that if anyone was made to be a jetsetter it was Jean.

The Frenchman's friendly, yet ambitious nature was partly what had drawn him and Aidan together all those years ago back in boarding school. Aidan had been the dreamer who wanted to be a photographer and Jean, well he'd been the one that even the headmaster of the boarding school couldn't break. It had always been his way or no way.

Pressing his finger against the doorbell, the sound echoing sonorously within the house, Aidan shifted in his dress clothes. The party was supposed to be 'casual,' but Aidan knew that to Jean's expensive tastes that meant slacks, Italian shoes and a dressy shirt. In a pair of coal black slacks and a crisp white, collarless dress shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, Aidan fit the bill perfectly.

The door swung open and he came face-to-face with Jean-Philippe who looked very much the party host in a custom-made charcoal suit that probably cost more than Aidan made in six months.

"Aidan," Jean greeted him cheerfully. "Bonsoir."

Clasping the hand Jean held out to him, he caught the perfect enunciation his friend gave to each of his syllables and knew from experience that Jean was just this side of being drunk. Maybe this could be interesting, he thought, returning Jean's wide smile as he entered the house.

"Bonsoir," he replied, a near-perfect accent on his French. "Ca va?"

"It's going amazingly well," Jean retorted in English, hooking his arm through Aidan's as he led him to toward the back of the house. "A few more people than were on the guest list but," he gave his classic Gallic shrug, "that just makes it more interesting, no?"

"Hmm," Aidan replied noncommittally.

They were passing through the great room where a fired burned unheeded in the corner and a few dozen beautifully dressed partygoers lounged around with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Everyone wore bored expressions that said, quite clearly, that they and their surroundings were elegant beyond belief but they were too used to that elegance to pay it any attention.

A wall of windows, with a pair of glass doors in the center, framed the scene outside like some sort of Vanity Fair tableau. Tables and sleek, steel-backed chairs hid in the shadows not reached by tiki lamps burning around the pool. The crystalline blue water of the long, kidney-shaped pool sparkled back into the night air, every now and then catching and reflecting the vivid colors of the costly silks and satins worn by Jean's more elite acquaintances.

Sliding one of the doors open, Jean all but dragged Aidan out onto the patio. "I want you to meet someone," he said, nodding a greeting at several people as if he were a visiting monarch.

Allowing Jean to lead him along, Aidan found himself glancing around the people gathered to celebrate Jean-Philippe's success. He didn't know any of Jean's friends and he didn't expect to find a friendly face…save one: Rainey's. Since Saturday, he'd wondered if she would actually go through with attending the party but his question had been answered when he'd talked to Karen on Tuesday and she was practically bubbling over with excitement about tonight.

But, if he guessed right, and he was sure he did, Rainey would hate being here as much as she'd hated going to the club. Did she see the same vacuous nature in the surroundings that he did? The blatant seductiveness that seemed to drip from every low-cut dress he saw; the appraising glances in the eyes of stiff-lipped women; the predatory gleam in the eyes of wealthy men who looked at those women as if they were potentially their latest acquisition.

Maybe he was bitter, Aidan mused. Maybe he only saw the rough edges of the whole masquerade because love was something that hadn't turned out for him. The dice didn't always roll true for everyone, he thought, and that wasn't a reason to look at these people and imagine that all of their motives were bleak, desperate and cold when it came to relationships.

Still, his eyes scanned the moderate crowd, where was Rainey in all of this gem-like luxury? He wondered how she was faring amidst people jaded by years in the 'fast track.' Maybe he should find her…

Even as the thought occurred to him, Jean pulled to a stop in front of a brown-eyed, blonde beauty wearing a strapless black dress with a slit up the side that reached mid-thigh.

"Aidan, I'd like you to meet Colette Fitzroy. Colette, Aidan Murphy."

Colette held a narrow flute of champagne in one hand, the other arm crossed over her waist as she gazed at Aidan, a look of sexual appraisal clear in her gaze. Stepping toward him, she unfolded her arm and held out her hand for Aidan to kiss.

"It's nice to meet you," he murmured, bending over her hand, his lips hovering in the air just above her skin.

"And so very, very nice to meet you, Aidan," she replied, leaning into him, boldly pressing her breasts against his chest as she dropped imaginary kisses on either side of his face in the European style. "Jean has told me so much about you."

Aidan's brow shot up and he turned to give Jean a speculative glance only to find that his friend had deserted him. So, Aidan thought, Jean-Philippe is trying to play matchmaker with this Anna Nicole Smith clone. He made a mental note to take care of Jean later. As it was, he found himself trapped in a conversation with Colette.

"…tells me you're a photographer," she was saying.

Aidan nodded. "Between that and freelance journalism, I'm pretty much able to keep the telephone company from disconnecting me," he said flippantly.

Her mouth dropped open in surprise, and he was curious to see what her response would be. Instead of speechlessness, she let out a tinkling laugh, placing her perfectly manicured hand on his upper arm. "Jean did tell me that you like to speak your mind." She ran the tip of her tongue over her bottom lip and locked her eyes on his. "I find that very attractive."


On the other side of the pool, from behind a half circle of chairs at which Karen was the center of attention, Rainey watched as Aidan bent over a blonde's hand. An empty glass of champagne—her third, or was it fourth?—hung limply in her fingers as she tuned out the conversation going on a few feet in front of her.

She and Karen had arrived half an hour earlier and, after being boisterously greeted by Jean-Philippe who gushed over Karen until her head spun, were turned loose on the patio to fend for themselves while Jean saw to his other guests.

Karen was completely in her element; she'd strode across the stone patio like she spent every weekend rubbing elbows with the rich and elite of the West Coast. But, Rainey was forced to admit, in a frothy, mid-length aquamarine dress that was shockingly translucent when she passed in front of the soft glow of the pool-side tiki lamps, Karen did belong here with all of these other gorgeous women and their expensively dressed male counterparts.

Rainey, herself, wore a peach-colored blouse that tied, rather precariously, around her neck, and a white chiffon skirt that had made her cringe when she saw the price tag. Karen had assured her that the cut accented her hips, something she usually avoided at all costs, but, placing complete faith in Karen's expert eye for fashion, Rainey bought it anyway.

Now, surrounded by silk, satin and slim-waisted women, Rainey just felt fat and dumpy. Her mood wasn't at all helped by the fact that she and Karen had taken a seat at one of the tables on the patio after Karen talked Rainey into accepting a glass of champagne from a wandering waiter, and men, some of them ten years older than them, had started gravitating toward Karen. As always, Rainey sat on the sidelines and listened to conversations about…well, she didn't know what they were talking about because she'd stopped paying attention so soon into the evening.

The waiter made his way past them a few more times and, out of boredom more than anything else, Rainey plucked a glass of champagne from his tray every time he made his rounds. The amber-colored drink was so light and airy, the bubbles tickling her nose each time she raised her glass to her mouth, that she found herself feeling better and better by the moment. So what if Karen got all the attention? Rainey didn't want attention…well, at least not from anyone but Aidan.

She giggled a little as that thought occurred to her. Sobering quickly, she glanced around to make sure no one had heard her laughing to herself—of course, no one was even looking in her direction—and she eyed her half-full glass dubiously. The tiny bubbles danced to the surface with vigor and she wondered if she was a little tipsy. When that thought also inspired a tiny fit of giggles, she decided that she was a little light-headed.

Maybe she should stop…

The waiter appeared again on her left and she reached out, plucking another fluted glass from his ever-full tray. After this glass, she'd stop.

Glancing around, she idly held up the glass in front of her face so that the world took on a golden glow. Bubbles flitted between people from her viewpoint and she imagined, in her less than able-minded state that every bubble was a bit of laughter floating around in the air.

People needed laughter. Laughter was good. It was a pretty thought and it brought a smile to her lips. Turning toward the glass doors that led into the great room where even more people were enjoying champagne and caviar on gourmet crackers, her breath hitched when she saw Aidan's form, tinged gold by the champagne, appear flanked by Jean-Philippe. She'd forgotten about him for one, long blissful moment.

She settled the glass into the palm of her hand and watched as Jean led him toward the other end of the swimming pool. He seemed distracted, brooding; his eyes were restless, moving over the crowd like he was searching for something.

Bringing him to a stop near a gorgeous blonde in a black dress that barely stayed together because of the huge slit running up her perfect calf and thigh, Rainey watched Jean motion between Aidan and the woman. Even at a distance, the acute interest in the woman's eyes made Rainey's stomach churn. Unconsciously, her hand tightened on the stem of her glass of champagne.

Rainey watched as Aidan bent over the blonde's hand and the woman, damn her, pressed her breasts against Aidan's chest as she kissed his cheeks. They began conversing and, much to Rainey's disgust, the blonde laughed, tilting her head back and running a hand over Aidan's upper arm.

Her eyes narrowing, Rainey felt anger begin to simmer sharply in her belly. No wonder Aidan only wanted her as a friend. When he had Jean-Philippe to introduce him to sluts like the one he was talking to right now, how could he ever be interested in her?

The waiter appeared as if on cue and Rainey reached out her hand for another glass…


"I usually spend springtime in Monte Carlo," Colette was saying, one finger suggestively stroking the stem of her champagne glass, "but when Jean told me that he was opening a club in Seattle, I just had to stay in the States for the party."

"That's…understandable," Aidan replied absent-mindedly, trying to ignore the pounding in his head after fifteen minutes of inane conversation with Colette.

He didn't try to hide the fact that he was searching the crowd for someone and Colette, used to being the center of attention, was taking her good time in realizing that Aidan wasn't interested in anything she had to offer.

Where the hell is Rainey, he thought fiercely. Had he even come? Aidan hadn't had the chance to ask Jean, so he might just be wasting his time looking for her. Maybe…

He stopped mid-thought, when he saw her on the other side of the pool. So she had come and, he noted, she looked as miserable as he'd expected her to be. Karen, alluringly beautiful in a way only someone could be when they were young and reckless, was holding court and Rainey was sitting behind the little gathering looking forlorn.

Dammit, he thought fiercely. Why does she let herself get elbowed out of the way like that? There was nothing that Karen possessed that Rainey didn't besides a bit of self-confidence and even that, Aidan realized, would make people see the beautiful person that he already did every time he looked at Rainey.

He watched her twirl a glass of champagne in her hand and his brow knitted a little. She was only nineteen so she shouldn't technically be drinking but, he sighed, feeling ten years older, it wasn't like she was a little girl, either.

Yes, he'd admitted that to himself. She wasn't a kid and he wasn't a little boy. There was something between them…something that reared its ugly head every time he was within sight of her, but he was getting over it, he told himself. He could control it.

A waiter passed by Rainey and she reached out to pluck a glass of champagne from the tray but somehow her hand knocked against the bottom of the tray, sending two glasses of champagne crashing into her lap.

"Aidan…Aidan are you listening to me?" He brushed off Colette's voice like he would a pestering fly.

"Excuse me," he murmured, and started toward Rainey. Was it just him or did she look a little unsteady?

He could hear her muted apologies to the waiter as she pushed out her chair to stand. Karen stood up too, ready to help however she could, but Rainey urged her back into her seat and headed into the house, presumably in search of a bathroom so she could clean up her skirt.

With long strides, Aidan followed her through the great room and down a darkened hallway where the voices of partygoers faded into a dull murmur.

"Rainey," he called out her name, lengthening his stride when she turned a startled gaze on him. He came up next to her and gripped her arm. "Are you okay?"

"Aidan…" it was all she said, her voice was like a sigh and she had a strange, half-smile on her face.

His brows clapped together. "Damn it, are you drunk?"

She laughed, throwing her head back so that her hair, left loose and wavy, fell back over her shoulders. "Of course, I'm not drunk. What…what are you doing? I thought you had a date."

Damn, she bit her lip, fully aware that she'd given away the fact that she'd been watching him flirt with that blonde woman. But, her mind argued, how dare he come after her and act like her friend when they both knew that they never could be just friends?

"What are you talking about? What date?" He looked confused, but Rainey ignored him, shaking his hands off.

"Never mind. I'm just…I spilled champagne on my skirt and I need to find a bathroom."

She tried to turn away from him but he caught her arm again. "Never mind, nothing. I'm not done talking to you." Her eyes glittered dangerously and Aidan was shocked to find anger in their depths. What reason did she have to be angry with him.

"Well, too bad. No," she said when he would have interrupted her. "Just…just go away. I'm not afraid of anything."

She referred back to their first conversation at the club when he'd told her she was beautiful and she'd denied it and he'd asked her what she was afraid of. What the hell did that have to do with tonight, he wondered. But then it hit him. "Like hell, you're not." With a firm grasp on her wrist, he hauled her behind him as he opened doors along the hallway until he found the bathroom.

It was modern-looking, full of chrome and white tile, but he didn't notice any of that as he pulled her inside the room and closed the door. She leaned back against the firm wall of cool oak as he took a towel from the rack, wet it, and handed it to her so she could wipe at her skirt.

She did so in silence until Aidan spoke again. "Don't tell me that you're not afraid of anything when I find you tipsy in the middle of a party." She didn't respond, just scrubbed harder at the spot on her skirt.

"You were nervous, weren't you?" he asked quietly, but again, she didn't respond. He watched her for long moments, her hair falling heavily over her shoulder, cheeks flushed; God, he had a perfect view of down her shirt from the way she was bent over like that. She was so beautiful.

He clenched his jaw in an effort to focus. She was doing her best to ignore him so he moved toward her and wrapped his hand around her wrist until she stopped scrubbing uselessly at the spot that was already overtaken by the dampness of towel in her hand.

"Rainey," he heard himself whisper her name and wondered why every time he said it, it came out like a prayer.

Raising her head, she looked at him with clear eyes. "I'm not, you know?"

His grip on her wrist tightened. "Don't tell me you're not afraid. Don't lie to me."

She sighed and closed her eyes. "Would you at least believe that I'm not tipsy? I mean…not anymore, at least. You can leave, I'll be fine."

"Rainey, I'm not leaving." He knew it was true. He couldn't walk away from her this time.

Opening her eyes, she saw the truth in his and she grew anxious. "Why? Why can't you just leave me alone?"

Her voice was frantic, panicked. Looking into her eyes, Aidan could see there was real fear in their depths, but not fear of him, more like a bone-deep wariness that matched his own. She'd haunted him for days now and she was so close tohim, so tantalizingly close.

"I wish I could," he murmured.

His hands were halfway to her hair when he realized it and, by then, he didn't have the strength to stop himself. He wanted to touch her. He needed to touch her. He pushed his right hand into her hair, groaning inwardly when the cool strands slid sensuously between his fingers, and brought his left hand up to cup her cheekbone. It was such a prominent, feminine curve beneath the drugging warmth of her skin that he had to lean forward and press his mouth against the spot. His lips were parted just enough so that on his next exhalation it took little effort for him to lightly touch his tongue to her skin. Tasting her.

Rainey was practically panting into the silence. Gasping in shock when his mouth opened gently against her cheek she reacted automatically, turning toward him only to find herself staring into his eyes, suddenly so close to her own. The quick, involuntary movement brought her mouth right next to his.

They were so close, so near to one another, that they were breathing each other's air. Her every exhalation fed his inhalations for long, silent seconds as they staredinto one another's eyes, both of them realizing that the inevitable moment had finally come despite their best efforts to fight it.

"Damn," Rainey thought she heard him whisper just before he pressed his lips to hers, but the sound of his voice, and every other thought, shattered to insignificant pieces when he opened his mouth over hers. He started out slow, the barest brush of flesh on flesh, but the unsure movements of her mouth beneath his drove him insane. On a groan, he leaned into her and deepened the kiss.

Taking her lower lip between his own he sucked gently, her ensuing moan sent ripples of desire flowing through him. Tilting his head to the side, he pressed his upper body against hers, silently persuading her to lean back against the door. Dragging his mouth away from hers, he drew long, hot kisses down the length of her neck. Her hands, which had been pinned between their heated bodies, sank timidly into his hair and, when he nipped at her earlobe and she tightened her hold in response, he grunted his approval.

"Open your mouth," he whispered urgently against her swollen lips, barely waiting for her to comply before plunging his tongue hotly inside.

He couldn't taste enough of her fast enough. Sliding his tongue against hers, hard then soft, fast then slow, he slowly drove himself insane. He could smell her…the heady sweet scent that had taken over every inch of his apartment and kept him up at night.

She shifted against him and, beneath the peach-colored top she wore, he felt her nipples, hardened into little nubs of desire, rub against his chest. His penis tightened and twitched between his legs; he pressed himself into her, not caring about anything else in those heated moments save the need to be closer to her.

Dragging his mouth away from hers, he brought his lips to her neck, nipping gently at the place where her collarbone curved so beautifully. Her moan made him shiver, a sensation completely overshadowed by the feel of her hands timidly finding their way beneath his shirt. Her palms were cool against his heated flesh; he imagined how they'd feel wrapped around his length, stroking him.

Rainey was on fire. Aidan's mouth was doing things that she'd only ever read about in books. Still, even when she should be frightened of the way he was touching her in the bathroom of this huge, cavernous house, she wasn't—she wanted his touch. She wanted him.

Turning her face toward him, she brought his mouth away from her shoulders and silently, urgently, offered herself to him while her hands toyed with the hard planes of flesh just above his waistband.

His tongue rubbed fiercely against hers, yet she longed to be closer to him, to taste the taut flesh of his chest, to tongue his nipples and watch his eyes darken to even deeper pools than the ones that were now staring back at her.

She couldn't look away from the raw truth in his gaze. Sexual tension wasn't something she'd had much experience with in her lifetime, but it was recognizable in his face because she was feeling the same things.

The fabric of her shirt sighed into the silence of the bathroom as his hands found their way beneath to stroke idly against the silken skin of her belly. Sharp arrows of desire began skidding around inside of her; she pressed her thighs together, trying and failing to bite back a moan when his right hand slid lower to grind against the aching apex of her thighs.

"Do you know what you do to me?" His voice was hoarse as he whispered his question. He didn't wait for her to respond, only slid deftly to his knees in front of her and pressed his face into the soft valley of her thighs.

"You smell so good…" Both of his large hands stroked up the back of her legs, bunching her skirt as they moved upward to cup her ass in a vice-like grip. It turned him on completely that, beneath her sultry attire, she wore simple panties that fired his desire more than any scrap of scarlet lace ever would have.

He opened his mouth against white triangle of fabric that covered her sex, his breath hot and damp against the dark curls beneath. She groaned, the touch of one of her hands feather-light and fleeting against the back of his head. Hooking one hand over the band of her underwear, he held her securely with the other as he pulled the panties off.

Her breath hitched; she reached down with a jerky motion to press her hand against his, forestalling him. She was biting a swollen lower lip when he looked up at her.

"I…we…can't…" Her breasts were heaving with unsteady breaths.

"Shhh, sweetheart…just let me…please…" He'd never been so close to begging in his life. Apprehension was clear in her eyes, but the damp spot on her panties and her musky scent told him more than words how much she wanted him.

When she moved her hand away, he pulled the panties the rest of the way down, allowing her to step out of them; his heart slammed violently against his rib cage and he had to fight for control as her lush center, the downy curls glistening with the liquid of her excitement, was revealed. Pushing at her right leg, just behind the knee, he moved her so that it was draped over his shoulder. With two fingers, he parted her lips and leaned forward to taste her, his tongue flitting out to tease the engorged nub at her center and he took great pleasure when he heard her ragged moan.

"Oh, God…" Her head slammed back into the door at that first contact, but when she felt his tongue, hard, pointed and insistent, lick along the length of her, her head began to swim. Driving her fingers into his dark wavy hair and she held him there as she ground her hips into his face. Digging his fingers into the flesh of her pelvis, Aidan only encouraged her, forcing more of her into his mouth. Opening his mouth wider, he covered her entirely and sucked fiercely.

"Aidan," she cried out, her hips bucking out at him. The sound of his name on her lips nearly drove him insane; he flicked his tongue faster, harder, bringing his middle finger up to sink into her heated core.

Pushing up inside her, he felt like his hand was sinking straight into heaven; he groaned as her tiny, inner muscles twitched violently around his finger, drawing him deeper. Slowly, he began to push in and out, working her with his finger, watching hungrily as she tried to swallow the long digit. God how he wanted to sink deep inside her, hear her scream as he thrust them both into oblivion.

Every sound seemed to be magnified. The wet sloshing noise Aidan's hand made as he pleasured her echoed in Rainey's head, nearly drowned out by the sound of her panting. With every move he made, her breathing became louder and she tried to control herself—almost succeeded, but then Aidan pushed another finger into her wet, hot depths and she felt herself sucking him in with muscles she never knew she had.

Humping against his hand frantically, she tried to force his fingers deeper to rub against a spot that was burning for attention. Rainey groaned, her eyes screwed shut, her head turning from side to side against the door.

Looking up into her face, Aidan found the sight unbelievably erotic, her face was flushed and her hair, tousled by his hands, floated around her face like a chestnut halo. Despite the ever-increasing ache between his legs and his burning need for release, he wanted to hear her scream, he had to hear her scream.

Three fingers buried themselves inside her. Rainey felt her knees growing weak and she was vaguely afraid that she was going to pass out. He was driving her insane; with every noise she made, he pushed harder, stroked her faster…pushed her toward the edge. His tongue rejoined the assault and she began slamming her hips into his face, gasping and desperate now, to find release.

"Oh, God…" her voice was strained, passion drenched. "Aidan…please…"

He could tell she was close so he stood, his chin shining with the juices he'd brought forth, her aroma strong in his nostrils, and brought his mouth to hers, one hand hiking her thigh onto his hips as he rubbed against the tender flesh of her lower lips with deft fingers. Her mouth opened into a single-minded O as she ground herself in tiny circles against his hand.

A guttural groan ripped from her throat when he pushed a finger back inside her but kept up the attention on her nub with his thumb. He wasn't gentle as he forced his way in but, from the whimpering sounds she was making, he didn't think she wanted him to be. Her fingers dug into his shoulders and, unable to resist any longer, he pressed his mouth against hers, shoving his tongue inside, allowing her to taste herself.

Their tongues slashed together for long minutes, muffling her moans as his hand drove her closer and closer to climax. Finally breaking the kiss, Aidan sucked her lower lip into his mouth—just like he'd wanted to do that first night in his car—and whispered, "I love how you feel around my finger."

Her eyes shot open, cloudy and dazed, and met his. She could see the blatant desire clearly on his face and she knew, without a doubt, that he wanted her, wanted to be inside her, no matter what he'd said about their being friends. It was such an erotic realization that she felt herself clench violently around his finger and tiny ripples of pleasure radiated down through her belly to that fiery spot that he was paying so much attention to.

She fell forward as she felt her climax beginning, her head resting against his shoulder, her fingers taking a death grip on his upper arms. "Oh God!" Outside the bathroom, muffled voices drifted down the hallway making it obvious that someone was walking their way. Not giving a damn, Aidan rubbed Rainey harder, forcing her climax to peak sharply.

She screamed, and he had to cover her mouth with his own to quiet her, groaning fiercely when she sucked vigorously on his tongue, lost in her pleasure. He kept stroking her, his motions slowing as her hips stopped moving.

"Oh my God…" she groaned quietly against his mouth, still clenching his finger between her legs. The voices outside were louder; whoever was out there was passing right by the bathroom and the thought of someone overhearing the aftermath of her climax was a surprising turn-on for Rainey.

The ensuing silence was heavy and tangible, but she felt warm all over so Rainey barely noticed. Aidan disengaged his hand from between her legs and straightened her skirt as best he could without letting her go completely.

"Are you okay?" he asked, watching as Rainey's eyes slitted open and she gave him a dreamy smile. His heart slammed into his chest at the look in her eyes. He never wanted to stop touching her, never wanted her taste to fade from his lips…but just the fact that he was thinking those things meant, more than anything else, that he had to let go.

"I…" she raised a shaky hand to push uselessly at her tumbled hair. "I think so." Glancing at him, her cheeks grew pink, rather belatedly in Aidan's estimation, but he didn't say anything. "I can't believe…" she began, then bit her lip, her eyes straying to the buttons on his now-wrinkled shirt. "I, um…wow."

Her lack of adequate words to sum up what had just happened between them was so typically Rainey that he started laughing. He kissed her on the nose before dropping his forehead against hers, looking into her still-dazed eyes. "I know," he whispered. "I would say I shouldn't have done that but," he brought a hand up to play with her disheveled hair, "we both know that'd be a lie."

She bit her lips and her cheeks grew even darker but, to his surprise, she held his gaze. "I've never…I mean, no one's ever…done that before," she said quietly.

Ridiculously, Aidan felt his chest swell with possessiveness and relief at the knowledge that he was the first man to give her pleasure. Part of him, some idiotic part, wanted to demand that he be the last, as well, but he held his tongue. "You," he kissed her lightly on the lips, "are definitely a natural."

She gave him the smile he'd expected, but then her face took on a contemplative air and he knew that she had something important to say; he found himself holding his breath. "Aidan, what…what does this mean?"

He'd known she would ask but he didn't have an answer for her. He'd wanted her and he couldn't resist. After days of thinking about her, days that felt like years, he just hadn't been able to back away once again. But, he knew that she wanted to know more than that. She wanted to know what it meant. Was is just random, emotionless lovemaking, well, almost lovemaking, in the bathroom of his friend's house or did he want something more from her?

Her smell, that familiar scent clung to him still and, gazing at her, he knew that he wouldn't soon forget the taste of her, the sound of her calling out his name in passion. It was clear now to both of them that he wanted her and he knew that she wanted him, too—the question was, where did the wanting end and the needing begin?

It scared him that he couldn't even give himself a straight answer to that question, so he evaded hers by giving a half-answer. He cupped her cheek and stroked his thumb across her lower lip; he'd never felt anything softer than that few inches of warm flesh.

"I just couldn't help myself," he admitted, trying to ignore the vague shadow of disappointment in her eyes. "Now," he said, moving her away from the door before she could respond. "Karen's probably looking for you and Jean…well, he's probably not looking for me, but either way you'd better get back out there." He held the door open for her, watching as she straightened her hair and clothes in silence.

When she moved past him, he caught her elbow and held her still for a moment. She stared into his eyes and, bewitched by that haunting green gaze, he said the first thing that came to mind. "You have no idea how much I want to…but I can't."

As cryptic as the words sounded to his own ears, he knew that she understood his meaning because her mouth quavered a bit at one side, only to break into a whisper of a smile. "I know," she said simply, and then she was gone.

Suddenly alone in the expensive elegance of Jean-Philippe's leased bathroom, Aidan felt more alone than he had in a long time.