The Driven Snowe

Mass Market Paperback • November 2001
Harlequin
ISBN: 037379018X

When a health scare forces Angela Snowe to re-evaluate her life, she realizes she’s been letting the world pass her by. Driven by a need for new experiences, she decides to start with the scariest thing on her list of things to do: losing her virginity. And who better to lose it to than Josh Montgomery, one of the biggest businessmen in her town, with a reputation for talent in the bedroom as well as the boardroom?

 

 

 

 

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“4 stars. The Driven Snowe by Cathy Yardley is a steamy tale with an enticing premise, seductive characters and enthralling scenes.”
– Romantic Times

“Both characters are very well developed and believable. With a plot that could happen in real life (we should all be that lucky) and wonderful sensuality, here’s hoping this is the first of many Blazes by Cathy Yardley.”
– Romance and Friends

 

 

 

“How do you do that?”

Josh Montgomery didn’t look up from his Palm Pilot until he’d finished jotting in a name and phone number. In the notes section, he added: Melissa. Redhead from Cable Car. Likes water skiing. With that done he tucked the gadget back into his pocket.”Sorry, Adam. How do I do what?”

Adam, his best friend and business partner, was grinning. “You only talked with her for five minutes, and she acts like she’s ready to jump you behind the bar — but classy about it.” He shook his head. “It’s like this everywhere I’ve ever seen you. Even here in backwoods Northern Cal.”

“Manzanita is not backwoods,” Josh demurred. Granted, a stuffed moose head overshadowed the jukebox, and the Corona he was drinking was still looked at askance when perfectly good Bud was available, but a lot had changed since he’d grown up in the small town.

Adam huffed impatiently. “You know what I mean. City or hicksville, you’ve got women lining up. What’s your secret?”

“No secret.” Josh took a swallow of beer.

Adam’s eyes narrowed. ”It’s the rich thing, isn’t it?”

Josh laughed, gesturing at his khakis and denim shirt. “Yup. I just scream millionaire.”

“Well, then, what is it?”

Adam had joked about this before, but tonight, he sounded stubborn about it. Josh thought about wanting an answer. ”I think it’s because I’m a nice guy.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“No, really.” Josh considered it a few more minutes, then said slowly, “My dad once said if you ever want to sell something, don’t talk about what it is that you’re selling. Ask about what it is they want to buy.”

“That’s catchy,” Adam said. ”I don’t see the point, but it’s catchy.”

“The point is, if you want women to want you, you don’t advertise what you are. You find out what they want.” He grinned as Adam rolled his eyes. ”My Mom would actually agree with that.”

“You may be the only man I’ve ever met who isn’t insulted by being called a nice guy.” Adam’s voice expressed a mix of disgust and curiosity. ”You’re also possibly the only guy I’ve ever met that is a ‘nice guy’ and still manages to get laid on a regular basis. Normally, women just toss out nice guys like garbage.” He looked cheered by this. ”I don’t suppose you’ve been dumped?”

“Um, not really,” Josh said, grinning even more at Adam’s look of disappointment. ”I am also — well, nice enough to be completely honest with the women I spend time with. I don’t promise them a bunch of stuff, and then not deliver it. So there you have it — honesty and attention.” He paused. ”It’s just like sales, now that I think about it.”

Adam smirked. ”Think your patented nice guy sales approach would work on that blonde over there?”

“Depends on what you’re selling.” Josh glanced over to where Adam was staring. The woman in question had brilliant platinum hair that stood out like a beacon against the dark wood paneled walls. ”Happy hunting.”

“Nice guy. I’m a nice guy,” Adam muttered as he walked away. ”God. My fraternity would tar and feather me.”

Josh watched as Adam made his way to the blonde’s corner, easily striking up a conversation.

Josh turned back to the bar. He’d already collected three numbers that night. He pulled out his Palm Pilot, and glanced at his schedule. No late meetings or out of town business next week, which meant that he’d probably be making dates with at least two of the women he’d met. They’d go out to a restaurant. Maybe a club in Sacramento. As far as anything more, well, physical — he considered his prospects with an almost clinical detachment. The redhead seemed like a candidate. As had the young Asian woman he’d met an hour before.

Or was that last night?

He took another swig from his Corona. He could predict the future already — he could practically type it into his Palm Pilot just sitting there. Two weeks with redhead — dinner, dancing, partying. Go back to her place/my place. Two more weeks, maybe three, of some really romantic interludes.

He sighed.

Figure out that I’m getting bored with her. Very gently disengage contact. Repeat cycle with new candidate.

He was getting into a rut.

“Josh Montgomery?”

He barely glanced over his shoulder, still stuck in his own thoughts, but the soft, lyrical voice gave him pause. ”Yes?”

It was another woman. She was just over average height, maybe 5’8″, with a well-proportioned build. A bit on the lean side, but she had curves in the right places. She was wearing a black dress that would have looked a lot better if she’d stop tugging at the hemline. She had luxurious mahogany hair that was pulled back in a severe ponytail at the nape of her neck. Fortunately, she had the kind of face that could pull it off, with high cheekbones, aquiline nose, and huge, wide-set doe eyes that surveyed him with velvety-brown seriousness.

“Well, hello,” he said, with more enthusiasm.

She didn’t smile. Her lips, which looked full, were pulled taut with obvious strain. ”I was hoping I’d find you here,” she said, her voice a musical rush. ”Can I, er, buy you a drink?”

He glanced at his beer. It was half full. ”I’m doing all right,” he replied.

“Oh.”

She stared at him.

He waited for her to shift the conversation into something else, likely some other sort of come-on. Haven’t I seen you before? or Don’t you know so-and-so? or even Come here often? But she just stood there, clutching at her little beaded purse.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he finally offered, smiling.

“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” She glanced at the list of drinks posted above the bar. To his amusement, she pushed at the bridge of her nose, then blinked with a startled jolt. She wears glasses, he thought. She’s not used to her contacts. ”I’ll have an Amaretto and orange juice. Not too strong,” she added with emphasis.

The bartender quickly poured her drink, and Josh motioned to add it to his tab. She still stood, staring at him.

“Why don’t we find someplace to sit?” Josh said.

He wasn’t sure why he was doing this. She was pretty, but she wasn’t stunning. Not to be immodest, but he’d been around enough stunning women in his career to know. Still, there was something about her that intrigued him. Maybe it was because she seemed so out of place.

“So. You were hoping you’d find me, and here we are,” he said, as she settled herself in her chair. ”Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t know you, do I?”

“You don’t know me,” she confirmed, taking a sip of her drink. It had very little alcohol, but he noticed her wince.

Not a big drinker, either. What’s she doing in a bar?

“Actually, I don’t really know you, either. Well, other than by reputation.”

Groupie. Knows I’m rich. He smiled, even as his interest in her ebbed. ”Oh. Then you know my company, Solar Bars.”

“Of course I know Solar Bars. You’ve turned the economy of Manzanita around with it.” She didn’t sound impressed, and waved the comment away with her hand. ”That wasn’t the reputation I was referring to, though.”

“It isn’t?” He frowned, and dammit if that intrigue didn’t creep back into his consciousness. His mind shuffled through the possibilities for a minute. ”Not the football thing. I’d like to think I was a good quarterback when I was at Manzanita High, but that was how many years ago?”

She grinned, took another quick sip and made a sour face. ”No, it’s not that. I did live here then — I remember you from high school.” She smiled shyly.

Now he was baffled and just bordering on aroused. ”I guess I’m just going to have to ask,” he said, with a note of seduction in his voice. ”Which reputation are you talking about?”

She smiled, brightly, taking a deep breath.

“I picked you because you’re a sure thing.”

I must be out of my mind! Even as the words left her mouth, Angela Snowe felt like grabbing her bag and tottering on her big stupid heels out of this meat market.

His eyes blazed at her. ”I’m a sure thing?”

“That is, I had heard you would be very likely to – well, I was hoping…” She stammered, and tried for another deep breath. This wasn’t working the way she’d planned. ”I really need help with a situation. A, uh, sexual situation. I thought your stance on, um, things like this was common knowledge.

“It’s common knowledge that I’m the town slut?”

She could feel her skin heating with a blush. ”I wouldn’t have put it that way.”

“You just did.” His eyes narrowed. ”So you’re propositioning me, is that what’s going on here?” His voice was whiplash sharp, and each word cut. ”You just need to get serviced…”

“I’m a virgin.”

The simple phrase stopped his righteous tirade cold.

She felt nervousness bubble through her, and took a bracing sip from her drink. ”I’m twenty-nine years old, and I’m a virgin. That’s why I came looking for you.”

He stared at her as if she’d escaped an asylum. Then he smiled, slowly. ”Okay. This has got to be some kind of funniest videos show. Who put you up to this?”

It wasn’t a person that had put her up to this. It was more like a thing. Not that she was about to explain it to him. “This is far from a practical joke, believe me.”

He sat there as if silently weighing what she’d told him, then shook his head. ”If you’re serious… no. I’m sorry,” he said, in a tone that didn’t really sound as if he was, “but I just couldn’t.”

She was surprised at how crestfallen she felt. This man was notorious for his number of conquests. The fact that he would not sleep with her spoke volumes. “Why not?” she blurted.

“Why not?” He shot her a look of disbelief. ”Because despite what you might think, men don’t just… perform. And contrary to ‘common knowledge’, I sure as hell don’t. Were you planning on paying me when we were done, too?”

“Um,” she chuckled weakly, “would that change your mind?”

He shook his head, blue eyes flashing like lightning. ”Lady, you’re killing me.”

“Honest, I was kidding,” she mumbled. ”I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you sound like some sort of gigolo, or something.”

“Well, that’s a relief.” His sarcasm could have cut glass. ”I suppose you were kidding about the whole virginity thing, too.”

“No, I was serious about that. I’d really like you to help me with my, well, situation. Tonight, that is. I don’t really have a lot of choice about that.” She shook her head, her fear and embarrassment warring with her determination. ”I know it’s a bizarre request, and I can’t explain it to you. I’m… it would mean a lot to me.” She glanced down at the tabletop. ”I had to at least give it a try.”

He studied her silently. She felt as if she was drowning in the humiliation of it.

His hand reached out, stroked her cheek, and she felt a shuddering ripple through her body. His eyes got low-lidded, and he leaned toward her.

“So I’m a sure thing. What else would a modest woman like yourself call that? A man of questionable morals? Of ill repute?” He laughed mirthlessly at himself, then looked at her, his eyes suddenly turning intense. ”And you’re a virgin, huh?” He murmured, moving closer. ”Only one way to find out, I guess. That is, for a guy like me.”

His lips covered hers. They were soft, yet firm, and quickly molded against her mouth. After a second of shock, she became curious and pressed forward. It felt like… like eating jalapenos, she thought after a moment. The initial sweet, then a ring of fire burning her lips. She pushed forward a little more, putting a hand against his chest.

He cupped the side of her face. She felt his tongue run along her lips, causing the faintest tickle, before parting them and tickling her tongue. Her heart pounded heavily in her chest.

Just as suddenly as it had started, it seemed, it was over.

Startled, she opened her eyes, breathing raggedly. His breathing was also uneven, she noticed. His blue eyes sparked like sapphires and flame. ”What’s your name?”

“Angela.”

“I’m sorry, Angela,” he said. “I’m not going to sleep with you.”

* * *

Ten minutes later, Josh had dragged Adam outside in front of the bar. ”I have to talk to you. Now.”

“I was about to close the deal with that blonde chick using your patented nice guy technique.” Adam looked decidedly surly. ”This had better be life-threatening.”

“Oh, it’s life threatening, all right,” Josh promised with his own brand of menace. ”I’m going to kill you for this little prank.”

To his credit, Adam’s face was blank. ”What little prank?”

“Don’t play stupid.” The incident he’d just experienced in the bar still coursed through him, and he was angry at almost being taken in by it… at how affected he was by Angela and her fake soulful plea. Hell, his body was still affected by her, protesting his refusal with a vicious throb. ”The really low thing was the set up. A virgin, all serious and scared, calling me a ‘sure thing’ and asking for anonymous sex!” He growled. ”This is low, even for you.”

Adam was silent for a long moment. ”Buddy, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I am suddenly very, very curious.”

Josh felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. ”You mean, you really don’t know? You didn’t set this up?”

“No, but you’re starting to make me wish I had.” Adam’s obvious humor and interest convinced Josh that he was telling the truth. ”Who is this woman?”

“I have no idea.” Josh rubbed his face. ”Who else would set me up like this? What kind of a sick prank…”

“How do you know it’s a prank?”

“She said she was a virgin, but I don’t buy it.”

“Why not?”

Because Josh couldn’t figure out what the hell else she could be. Because he couldn’t figure out what the hell she was, period. It had to be a prank. She couldn’t be for real. ”For one thing, she’s twenty-nine.”

Adam burst out in a short bark of surprised laughter. “Get out!” He quickly headed back to the bar to peer into the darkened room, but Josh stopped him.

“I’m not kidding. Not that she looks it, or anything, but I get the feeling she would have yanked out her driver’s license if I had asked her to.”

Adam squinted at him. ”So why do you think she’s lying about being a virgin?”

Her kiss. His blood stream was carbonated, and his body was on fire. No virgin could kiss like that.

He tried to focus on more tangible evidence. ”Well, for another thing, she was insistent: she wanted to lose her virginity tonight. Like it was some sort of mission, or something. That’s where the whole ‘sure thing’ came in.”

And didn’t that comment still sting?

He could tell Adam was getting plenty of amusement from the statement. ”So what’d she do? Go home?”

That made Josh pause. He had been keeping an eye out for her. “She’s still in the bar.” The fact made him uneasy.

“Really?” Adam’s voice was gleeful. ”Maybe she wasn’t kidding. Maybe she’s looking for another taker. Heck, maybe I should go back inside…”

“No. She said that she was looking for me in particular.”

She also said that she was going to lose her virginity tonight. Like she didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

A chill washed over him. It took him a second to realize it was fear. She might be tall for a woman, but she could easily be overpowered by any of the men that were sitting in the Cable Car, right this second.

What if she were telling the truth?

“Josh? You okay?”

“Adam, do me a favor. Get lost for a good fifteen minutes. I don’t want you to witness this,” Josh said, not quite sure what he was going to do. Thinking about it, he growled, “If you breathe a word of this to anyone…”

“I won’t, but I’m going to harass you bright and early tomorrow, and you’d better fill me in.” Josh knew he wasn’t kidding. ”Happy virgin hunting.”

Josh didn’t dignify the comment with a reply. He was striding back into the bar in two heartbeats.

A big man in a red-checkered shirt had taken Josh’s earlier seat, and now leaned over to talk to Angela. She looked totally uncomfortable. She was sitting on the edge of her seat. Josh could sense the tension in her body from across the room. He couldn’t imagine she was willing to sleep with the man she was sitting with, but something about her determination, her strange practicality, kept setting off unreasonable alarms in his head.

I don’t have a lot of choice…

Dammit! What she was doing was dangerous. Didn’t she realize that?

“Angela.”

Her head whipped around, her eyes wide and surprised. And relieved, he noted. ”Josh.”

“Me’n'her were having a little talk,” the bull-necked guy protested.

“Not anymore,” Josh replied. ”The lady has a situation, and I promised her I’d help her with it. Tonight.”

He saw hope flare in her eyes, and, to his surprise, fear. ”Will you excuse me?” she said, not even looking at Bull-neck. She got up and let Josh put his arm around her. The man grumbled and lumbered back over to the bar.

“You’re following me home,” Josh said, his voice tight. ”Then we’re going to take care of this little ‘situation’ of yours.”

And I’ll show you what can happen when nice girls go looking for trouble.

* * *

Angela sat, parked in Josh’s driveway, watching him as he got out of his black Infiniti.

This may be the single most stupid thing you’ve ever done.

Her hand fumbled on the seat belt release. If she were this clumsy on the belt buckle, how was she going to be when she had to… when they were…

No “may be” about it. This is definitely the most stupid thing you’ve ever done!

She glanced at the car keys in her hand. All she would have to do…

A knuckle rapped on her window, and she gasped, dropping the keys.

“You okay in there?” He was still grinning, as if the whole thing were some sort of fraternity dare.

If he’d been menacing, or even over-eager, she would have driven off. But his obvious amusement kept pushing buttons she didn’t even know she had. Oh she’d do this, all right, she thought as she threw her keys in her small purse. Even if she mangled him trying, she’d lose her virginity tonight.

She got out of the car, closing the door with a slam. ”So. This is your house?” she said, sounding as casual as her anger and nervousness would allow. ”It’s nice.”

“I like it. Lots of privacy. You could make all sorts of noise,” he looked at her suggestively, “and nobody would hear a thing.”

Ignoring the statement, she followed him in the house. He turned on the lights. He doesn’t live like a hedonistic bachelor, she thought, then almost laughed at the primness of her own observation. What had she expected? Empty beer cans, bras hanging from the chandelier?

The furniture was modern, but not harshly so — clean lines, and a subtle styling she appreciated. Windows opened up to the trees beyond. A large octagonal fish tank illuminated the corner. ”It’s great.”

“So. Should we go at it on the couch, or what?”

Her high heel caught on his carpet, and she stumbled. ”Sorry?”

“After all, you’re here for sex, right?” He sat down on the couch, patting the cushion next to him. ”I imagine you’re in something of a hurry.”

“I see.” She didn’t, but then, he was the expert. ”So… the point of this is to just dive in there, and be as fast as possible? I mean, is that normal for you?”

“Hardly.” He looked insulted, though that wasn’t her intent. He stood and faced her. ”If you want slow…”

He went to her and took her mouth and her breath in the same instant. He moved languorously, seducing her lips.

Oh my, can this man kiss!

It was the last coherent thought she had for several minutes. Soon, the slow seduction became a building need. He went from sampling her lips to devouring them. She felt his kiss wash over her in waves, like a relentless storm. She was helpless to do anything but give herself over to it.

When he released her, it took her a moment to get her bearings. ”Well. That was better than I expected.”

He let out a burst of sharp laughter. “How would you know what to expect — being a virgin, and all?”

“I read a lot.” She took a calming breath, nerves fluttering in her stomach. ”But you’re right. I’m out of my depth here…” She paused, registering the smug smile that was spreading across his face. ”And you knew it. That’s the point you’re trying to make here, isn’t it?”

She snatched up her purse. ”If you just brought me here to prove something,” she whispered, her voice shaking, “then maybe you should have left me at the bar.”

He went and stood between her and the door. “And then what would you have done?”

“I don’t know.” She felt deflated. She wished she could take off her shoes. The pinching made it hard for her to think. “It took me all day just to get the guts to ask you. And I know this will make you angry, but after all I’d heard, I didn’t think that you were going to say no.”

“Angela, what the hell have you heard about me? I mean, I’ve had a lot of fun in my time, but I’m hardly the Casanova of Manzanita.” He smiled when she giggled, a real smile this time, not a smug, challenging one. He sat down and patted the sofa again, with no suggestive overtones. ”Sit down for a sec.”

She did so, feeling the heat coming off his body. She paused, then kicked off her shoes. He grinned at the action.

She studied him. His black hair and cobalt blue eyes. The way his grin curved, the way his chin looked like it was carved out of granite. The small scar over his right eyebrow. The kindness of his smile, one of the first things that had struck her, and the gentleness in his voice.

She had made the right choice.

“Why are you doing this? Really.” His voice was low. “Are you sure you even want to?”

“Oh, yes,” she breathed. ”I’m sure. Scared or not, it’s definitely what I want.”

“It’s the scared part that concerns me,” Josh muttered. He tilted her chin up, looking her square in the eye. She closed them, anticipating another delicious onslaught.

He chuckled, and her eyes flew open. ”No, not yet,” he said. He pulled her against his chest and put an arm around her shoulders. He smelled good, like something spicy. A vague scent of sandalwood, maybe…

“Still with me?”

“Hmm?” She looked up to see his blue eyes glowing down at her. He’d obviously noticed she was paying attention to something other than his conversation. ”Oh. Yes.”

“Why are you doing this now?”

She tensed against him. ”Why?”

He frowned. ”Nobody just decides to lose their virginity overnight, Angela. What set you off?”

She shifted uncomfortably. ”I don’t think you’d understand…”

“Try me.”

“I have a pretty good life,” she started, thinking quickly. ”But I sort of… well, I realized I was going to be thirty. I’d kept putting off the big stuff I’d always meant to do. I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never gone skinny-dipping, I’ve never eaten a seven-course meal…”

“So,” he said, grinning. ”You’ve got a really full night ahead of you, huh?”

“Well, I figured that I was the most nervous about sex, so I’d just start with that,” she said, with an embarrassed laugh. ”If I can do this one, I can do anything.”

It wasn’t the whole reason, but it was close enough. Even brushing past the true reason made her feel queasy.

“Do you always make decisions this way?” She could feel the rumble of his voice under her ear. It tickled the side of her head, and she nuzzled him a little. He moved her so he could better look at her face. ”Well, do you?” he repeated.

“Pretty much.”

He laughed, and something in his eyes shifted. “Sex changes things. Even when it isn’t supposed to mean anything. Maybe especially when it isn’t supposed to mean anything,” he said. ”Believe me, you should think a little more about all of this.”

She’d come so far, her body protested. Was he going to send her home?

She glanced around, and for a brief second glanced at an electrical cord that was draped by the fish tank. She then gave the arm of the sofa an appraising look.

I could tie him up.

She giggled. Oh, she was in trouble when ideas like that made even a modicum of sense.

He smiled at her, stroking her side in what she guessed was supposed to be a comforting gesture. The feel of his broad hand moving down her body was anything but, and she felt warmth spreading up from her abdomen.

“I mean it,” he repeated. ”It’s not something you just want to rush into.”

“Josh,” she said, “I’ve been ‘rushing into’ this for about twelve years or so now, don’t you think?

“You know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t think I do.” How was she supposed to explain this, she wondered? ”I’ve wanted this for a long time, and to be honest, I want you. I’m sure you think that I’m going to have all these regrets tomorrow — or worse, that I’m going to have this incredible night and then think that it’s going to mean happily ever after. I’m twenty-nine, not seventeen,” she chastised gently. “I know it’s not going to be like what I’m expecting, but I also know that I can live alone quite comfortably. I might be unhappy, but in a way, I’ve been unhappy for years already. I’d rather take the misery and the sex.”

He laughed. ”Angela, I don’t know who the hell you are,” he said, his voice gruff. ”But I like you, you know that?”

“I like you too,” Angela said with a broad grin. ”I wanted to do this — and when I first got here, it all hit me, the reality of it. I wanted to, and I didn’t want to. Now, I’m sure that this is what I want. You’re making this so much easier for me.”

He was being so sweet and considerate, when he could have been so horrible. Without thinking about it, she leaned forward and kissed him.

It lasted a little longer than she had intended. When she pulled away, his eyes were half-lidded. ”You’re not bad at that.”

She blinked. ”At what?”

“Kissing,” he replied, and his voice was husky-rough. She felt her stomach clench, and her heart pound. ”I know I shouldn’t sleep with you, no matter how ready you think you are. But maybe we could make do with that kissing of yours.”

She couldn’t help but feel disappointed. ”Just… kissing?” Was he kidding? What had she just said she wanted?

The smile grew hotter, it was the only way she could describe it, and his eyes suddenly glowed. ”Trust me. Kissing will be more than enough.”

He moved toward her face, and she closed her eyes.

His mouth pushed on hers gently, a dry handshake of a kiss.

Save me from men who think they know better than I do, she thought with aggravation. Has all this been for nothing?

With a slow movement, his tongue flicked across her lips, then retreated. She could feel the movement of his mouth like a slow dance against her own. It was different than the rushed assault of a kiss he’d given her when he was trying to prove his point. This one was a pure, slow seduction of the senses. The sigh she gave now was anything but disappointment.

He still wasn’t really touching her. He was just teasing her, with these breathed kisses, his tongue every now and then tracing her lips and retreating, caressing her tongue and then disappearing. She felt restless, and her own mouth began to move. Hesitantly, she moved her tongue forward until it touched his.

He growled with approval.

She moved her hands up to this chest. It felt rock hard beneath the thin cotton shirt he was wearing. She ran her nails down it, and the kiss deepened. His hands moved to her waist, fingers clenching her hips.

She felt her heart racing, and she was having trouble breathing. Every nerve ending seemed to pulse to the pounding beat of her heart. She felt an intense throb in the pit of her stomach, and between her legs.

With a low moan, she barely realized she was moving until she pressed closer to him, winding her arms around his neck, burying her fingers in his hair. It felt cool, silky beneath her fingertips. She tugged his face closer, darting her tongue against his, following his lead, copying his actions as best she could.

They were sitting side by side on the couch, an awkward, high-school necking angle. They weren’t close enough. She could feel the tension building in her, thought she might explode with the new emotions that were tearing through her like a freight train. She tore her mouth away, breathing in gulping gasps. “Oh, Josh. Please…” She felt like she’d taken some drug that heightened all of her senses. Her bra, which was ordinarily just an annoying garment worn out of habit, now rubbed against her over-sensitized breasts. They felt heavy and almost ached. Between her legs was a strange ache as well — a slightly different ache. She trembled with energy she didn’t know how to release.

“It’s only kissing, Angela,” he murmured, the rumble of his voice against her only intensifying the pleasure.

“Josh,” she whispered on a startled moan. He was kissing her throat with a suction that stung with slight pain, multiplying all the rest of what she was feeling. It was sensory overload. She closed her eyes, unable to handle more input, and drowned in the pure sensation of his touch.

She let herself be lowered to a reclining position on the couch. He now propped himself over her with one arm, and she felt the length of his body pressed against her side. She tried to push up against him, but he gently resisted, instead moving to the hollow of her neck and nibbling gently, moving out to stroke with his tongue. She felt a shudder roll through her body, like a power surge. She whispered his name under her breath like a chanted prayer.

He moved to one sensitive breast, and she quickly started to slide her dress up.

“Now, now,” he said, and she opened her eyes to see him laughing down at her, not with amusement but with delight. ”Just kissing, remember?”

She was dying with need. The man was insane, some sort of sadist. With surprising strength, she pushed him away. ”I remember.”

She yanked the whole thing over her head. Lying there in just a bra and panties, she shot him an innocent look.

“We’ll just be kissing,” she reiterated.

She could feel his eyes caress her body. He hesitated for only a moment before lowering back down to her. She could feel the damp tip of his tongue through the silky material, and her body rocked against him. Her back arched, and he took more of her into his mouth. Her hands moved awkwardly to her back, undoing the clasp to her bra.

“Angela,” he breathed. ”We shouldn’t…”

She ripped the garment out of her way. ”I can take it,” she rasped, “honest. I know I can.”

He stopped, and his eyes gleamed. ”Well, if you’re so sure of it.” He reached for the edge of his own shirt, pulling off the denim shirt with ease.

For a second, she ignored the jolting pulses of desire ringing through her body, and just thought: My God. She traced her fingers over the chiseled muscles of his arms, and felt the satin over corded steel of his chest. Slowly, she leaned up and traced the hollow at the base of his neck with her tongue, then moved to feel the texture of him beneath her lips. She edged across his chest, feeling the slight tickle of hair grow thicker as she moved down toward his waist. He took a hurried breath as she got to his pants. She smiled, noting the bulge there. Impishly, amazed at herself, she leaned down and traced it with her mouth, just like she’d once read in a book.

Something happened, as if she’d thrown a switch. He groaned, tugging her up to his mouth. He pushed her deeper into the cushions, and she reveled in it. The feel of his bare chest against hers seemed to intensify the feeling of his lips and tongue meshing with hers. He wasn’t so careful this time, and she could feel his weight unintentionally shifting over her legs.

She spread her legs, angling away from his body, drawing him on top of her. He did not seem to notice, only pursued her mouth more diligently, stopping to dip low and take one breast between his lips. She cried out as he moved his weight between her legs. He was still trying not to crush her. Having him press against her sensitive ache was just what she needed, she realized, and her hips bucked upward, feeling the bulge in his jeans pushing against her, desiring entrance.

He was breathing like a long-distance runner. ”You’re no virgin,” he said, his eyes wide with disbelief, as he allowed himself one long push against the apex of her thighs.

“I don’t feel like a virgin,” she admitted, wrapping her legs around his waist and reveling in his low moan. She reached up and dug her fingers into his muscular shoulders, bringing him down against her, loving his weight and his strength and the feel of him crushing her into the couch. ”Make love to me, Josh.”

She was ready. She was sure she wanted this. She was going to do this, now, with this man.

She waited.

“No.” He untangled her limbs from his, then retreated to the far end of the couch. ”Dammit, Angela. You don’t know what you’re getting into, and I do. Don’t you want your first time to be with someone who means something to you?”

She didn’t know whether to kiss him or kill him. Need lanced through her like a bolt of electricity. ”You mean something to me,” she breathed. ”What other man would have treated a stranger this… this wonderfully?” She stood up, gathering what was left of her courage. She reached for the thin straps of her silk panties. ”Josh, I trust you. Please.”

With that, she inched the panties to the ground, stepped forward, and waited.

He stared, like a starving man suddenly placed in the main dining room at the Four Seasons ? a combination of naked, almost primal hunger and a stunned disbelief. He looked up into her eyes.

“I trust you,” she repeated, and closed her eyes.

His touch wasn’t the fierce taking she was expecting. Instead, she heard him stand up, felt his arms embrace her and then gently cradle her against him. She could feel the heavy beating of his heart against her ear as he stroked her hair, and despite the clawing need she felt, her heart suddenly ached for an entirely different reason.

“Your first time is not going to be on my couch,” he said in a rough drawl.

She barely registered him gathering her up, naked against his bare chest, as he carried her down the hall. Didn’t notice the neat masculinity of his bedroom as he pulled back the covers and placed her reverently on the cool sheets, as easily as if she weighed nothing. She watched as he undid his jeans, pulling them down with his boxers in one fluid motion. His erection emerged, huge with need.

She was taken aback. She hadn’t seen one of these things in real life. For pity’s sake, she’d rarely seen pictures of one. It was… well, odd. She stared at it.

He half-chuckled on a deep exhalation, taking a step forward. ”Change your mind?”

She shook her head, then reached out with curious fingers, only to stop abruptly. She glanced up at him. ”Can I…”

He closed his eyes, as if begging for strength. ”Gently, now. You’ve got me more worked up than I ever would have believed.”

Her fingertips reached out, cautiously, and skimmed over the surface of his penis. He groaned, and she pulled her hand away as if he were an open flame

“No, go ahead, honey,” he said, but his eyes didn’t open. ”You won’t hurt me. You might kill me, but you won’t hurt me.”

She bit her lip, feeling the aching intensify as she traced him. It was amazingly soft… amazingly hard. The skin was like heated velvet. Her fingers circled him for a moment, fascinated. He let out a low, rippling growl. She took him into her hand with a slightly firmer grip.

He rocked toward her, then exhaled slowly. He moved her hand away with a light touch. ”Okay, now that’s enough. You’ll have to explore later.” He stretched out on the bed next to her, and her heart rate tripled. She could feel the heated tip of him brush against her thigh, and moaned, her body moving forward to meet him. She felt the tight ache of her body melt in a rush of wetness.

He kissed her deeply, so deeply that she was surprised when his fingers reached the curls between her legs. She took in a startled breath when his fingers brushed against her, tenderly pressing into her.

“Josh,” she murmured, pushing harder against his palm. She could still feel the rod-like hardness of his body, now between her thighs, as his fingers moved slowly deeper into her. It hurt, but his movements were slow, flicking against her, lovingly stroking her, gradually widening her. She felt the wetness again, and closed her eyes as the pressure built.

“Josh.” She was all but sobbing now, dying for release.

“Shhh,” he said, licking at her breasts and inching her temperature up yet another notch. ”I want to, too, but I don’t want to rush. I might hurt you.”

“Hurry. Please hurry!” She moved against him rhythmically, feeling an increasing tension surge through her.

He groaned against her, and she felt a drop of wetness against her thigh. He moved away, and she heard the ripping of foil. ”I hope you’re ready. I don’t think either of us can wait any more,” he said on a vehement whisper.

She felt his weight on top of her again and almost wept with gratitude. She felt him brush against her, his hardness tracing her entrance the way his tongue had traced her lips. She started to move, but he stilled her.

“Slowly,” he cautioned, and the feel of his stomach against hers, his hips against her inner thighs, was enough to hold her for a second. ”Slowly, then it won’t hurt so much.”

She could feel the slow movement of him inside her, filling her by inches, retreating, stroking the now insanely sensitive flesh between her thighs. Pain blurred with intense, consuming passion.

“Josh,” she whispered, in harsh, panting gasps.

“Angela.” With a smooth, gradual motion, he filled her, pushing in until he was buried as far as he could go.

She felt him brush against her clitoris, and she shuddered. She felt… filled was the obvious word, but at the same time it was woefully inadequate to describe what she was feeling. She felt like her body was on fire… like it was brimming to the point of exploding. She was breathing in quick inhalations. Her body started to move of its own accord, moving sinuously against him, feeling the stroke of his erection as if it were a lever that activated waves of pleasure across her whole body.

She was moving faster, mindlessly, and she felt him pushing harder against her. With each joining, she felt closer to him… felt the repeated brush of him as a new shock of sensation ripped through her. She was hurtling toward something. She didn’t know what she was experiencing, but at this point, the sensations were so overwhelming that she didn’t care. She couldn’t process. She could only hang on for the ride.

Suddenly, a sensual wave hard as a punch flooded through her body. She felt the muscles between her legs clench as she wrapped around him, trying to draw him even deeper into her. ”Josh!” she screamed, clawing at his back, flooded by the pleasure of it.

He drove into her, and the wave redoubled, shaking her to the core. “Angela,” he responded, then drove into her again, sending echoing pulses with each pounding movement against her body.

She felt like she’d had the wind knocked out of her. Her body was one quivering nerve. He collapsed on top of her, and she cradled him, stroking his back, comforting him even as she felt overwhelmed with… awe. There wasn’t any other word for it.

After a few moments, he leaned up heavily on one elbow. ”Angela?” His voice was tentative, and he moved a wayward lock of hair away from her sweat soaked forehead. ”Are you all right?”

All right? She wasn’t sure. No, all right was too tepid a phrase for what she was feeling at that moment.

“I’m…” She paused. Then she brought her arms up around his neck again, pulling him down to her. She pressed her lips against his, trying to say with the most tender kiss possible what she didn’t have words for.

“Thank you,” she breathed.

Now I won’t have to die a virgin.