One and Done
“Balen, are you homeless?”
His brow arched. Autumn wasn’t sure why he looked so surprised she asked. It wasn’t a very far leap. The writing was on the wall—his friend making that crack about him being a jobless beach bum, him volunteering to spend the week with her…and now here he was, needing a place to say. She wasn’t an idiot. One plus one usually equaled two.
Balen studied her until the tension in the room grew stifling. “Is my socioeconomic status an issue for you? You’ve got the spare room and I happen to be in need of one for the next week. I thought… Look, if staying with you is going to be a problem, I can leave.”
“I didn’t say I wanted you to go. It’s just…” The furrow of skin between his brows grew tighter and Autumn’s explanation died on her lips. But Balen wasn’t going to let it go. Great…she’d offended him.
“It’s just what, Autumn?”
Damn, this was getting awkward. “It’s just, now it makes sense. That’s all.”
“What makes sense?”
“Why you’d want to give up a week to spend it with someone you don’t even know. It makes more sense if you were down on your luck or something.”
The corner of his mouth twitched, not quite making it into a smile. “So, the lure of spending the week with a beautiful woman isn’t reason enough for you? Would it make you feel better if I told you I wanted to fuck you? Is that honest enough for you? Does it somehow make this scenario more believable?”
If he was trying to shock her with frankness, it worked. She was waiting for him to crack a smile and tell her he was joking, but he just stood there…staring at her. Holy shit, he was serious.
Maybe he was retaliating because she’d offended him? Autumn’s heart hammered inside her chest, heat bloomed in her cheeks, flushing down her neck and traveling lower. Refusing to let him rattle her with all his sexy, she notched her chin, met him dead in the eye and said, “I don’t think that’s it. You haven’t even tried to kiss me since we—”
He laughed, cutting her off. “So then I must be homeless? That’s your only other supposition here?”
His amber-flecked gaze dropped to her mouth, and Autumn instinctively moistened her lips. The air charged between them, becoming electric and lighting up her nerve endings. Undeniably, she had never been more attracted to a man than the one standing before her. She wasn’t sure why she’d made that snarky remark about him kissing her. It’d just sorta slipped out. Maybe she was subconsciously goading him.
When he spoke, his voice was lower—a husky rumble she felt all the way to her core. “Do you want me to kiss you, Autumn? Is it driving you crazy that I know what you taste like, what your mouth feels like against mine, and you can’t remember a single second of it?”
“Yes…” The confession was out of her mouth before she could call it back. She wasn’t sure if she was saying yes to the kiss, or yes that her alcohol-induced amnesia that was annoying the hell out of her—probably both.
Balen stepped closer and she caught a hint of his spicy scent mixed with the briny freshness of sea air. The heat deep inside her bloomed to a full-blown ache. He was so close his breath kissed her lips as she parted them in anticipation, waiting for him to close the scant distance separating them. Her breath stalled in her lungs, her lids fluttered closed. But his lips didn’t touch hers. Instead, they brushed the outer shell of her ear as he whispered, “Good…”
Her eyes flew open and she took a surprised step back.
“Learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them.”
Really? This jerk is going to stand here and lecture me on propriety? Now Autumn was pissed. She didn’t need him judging her. She wasn’t judging Balen because he didn’t have a job or a place to live. Who the hell did he think he was?
“Fuck you, Dr. Phil.” She turned to walk away, but before she could put any distance between her and this morally arrogant, beach bumming surfer, Balen grabbed her arm and yanked her against him. His arm wrapped around her waist and a hand cradled the back of her head as his mouth came down on hers.
His lips were soft, yet frim as they crushed hers… Autumn’s startled gasp was all the invitation he needed to take the kiss deeper. Balen’s tongue delved inside, tangling with hers. Wow… Just wow…
The consuming way his mouth claimed hers, stole the air from her lungs. She felt his kiss all the way to her toes, lighting up every erogenous zone on the way down. Autumn melted against him, a soft, throaty moan of long-denied need escaping her on exhale.
How could she not remember this? It was amazing. Thankfully, Balen seemed more than willing to give her a reminder. His hand slipped into her hair, the tugging pull angled her head a little to the left. The kiss was hot, intense, and over as fast as it started.
Balen broke away and Autumn’s squeak of protest was drowned out by his own self-damning curse. Her heart was racing so fast she felt dizzy.
Reaching out, she grasped the island to steady herself, panting to catch her breath. Holy shit… She’d never been kissed like that in her entire life. The passion he sparked inside her was like an all-consuming fire. If just a kiss could do this to her, what would it be like to surrender herself to him? What had it been like?
“All right,” she said, still a little breathless. “You can stay…”