Cat's Lair(9)By: Christine Feehan
She shook her head and took two steps back, trying to put distance between them despite his fingers around her wrist. In spite of the fact that she couldn’t look away from him. What was wrong with her? Her lack of control was frightening. She couldn’t blow this. She didn’t dare.
“I have no interest whatsoever in a relationship with anyone. I don’t do one-night stands and I don’t date. I don’t want attention from you or any other man. I’m asking you politely to let go of my wrist.”
She could barely get the words out. There was something, a part of her she’d never known existed, a part of her that didn’t want to walk away from this man. He was beautiful. Sexy. Intelligent. And Dangerous. Everything a woman might find attractive in a man. Everything she found attractive when she hadn’t even known she could be attracted.
He didn’t release her right away. His amazing eyes searched hers for a long moment. His face softened, and the male challenge was gone from his hard features as if it had never been there. Instead, he looked gentle. Still holding her wrist with one hand, he retrieved her hat with the other and gave it to her.
“You really are afraid of me, aren’t you? I’m not going to hurt you, Cat. No matter what you think, I won’t do that to you.” His voice was pure velvet, stroking over her skin, low and vibrant and all male, almost a purr. His eyes hypnotized her all over again. They hadn’t blinked. Not once. She was watching to see. He was absolutely, entirely focused on her and her alone.
Her belly did a slow roll and her breasts ached. Each separate spot where the pads of his fingers touched her bare skin felt as if he burned a brand right through her skin to her bones.
She hated that she was so susceptible to his voice. To his eyes. She retreated back to the character that always served her so well. She let her eyelashes fall, and nodded as if she understood. She couldn’t handle a man like Ridley. She knew that. She didn’t dare chance becoming his friend. She wouldn’t know what to do with him.
He let her go. The moment she was free of his grip, she pulled her arm to her, pushing her wrist up against her body as if she could hold in the heat from his touch. She sent him one look from under her lashes and hurried past him back inside.
CATARINA looked at her watch for the hundredth time and then looked at David. He rolled his eyes. He held up his hands, fingers spread wide and grinned at her.
“Last call, everyone,” David shouted. “If you want a coffee for the road, come get it now. We’re closed in ten.”
She flashed him a small, tired smile. It had been a great night for Poetry Slam. Business was huge. Huge. The take was the most they’d ever done. The tip jar was overflowing, which meant extra gas money. It had been a great night, but she was exhausted. She hadn’t even been able to keep track of how many different variations of coffee she’d made that night. She could do ten more minutes, but beyond that…
Three men swaggered up to the counter to give David their closing orders. She avoided looking at them. One of the three, a man his friends called Jase, had twice tried to engage her in conversation. She’d given him a vague smile without meeting his eyes and stayed busy inventorying her various coffee beans both times.
“Hey, Cat,” Jase called out to her, overloud.
She winced and forced herself not to glance toward the corner where Ridley continued to read his book. She was all too aware he hadn’t missed both times Jase had tried to get her to converse.
“I can hear you, Jase,” she answered, without looking up.
“What’s it take?”
She made a mistake in pausing as she made his friend Marty his favorite latte. “I’m sorry?” she said, frowning a little, trying to puzzle out when he meant.
Ridley moved. He put down his book and stared hard at Jase.
“To fuck you. Tell me what it takes. We’re trying to figure that out and you’re giving us nothing.”
The coffee-house went utterly silent. David froze. Catarina blinked and Ridley was behind Jase, one hand on his shoulder. He spun the man around and punched him in the face. He hadn’t pulled back his arm for strength. It was a short punch, but Jase’s head snapped back on his shoulders and his legs turned to rubber. The only thing holding him up was Ridley’s hand on his shoulder.