Wow. Jake Mahoney had changed in the ten or so months since she’d seen him. His boot-
camp-short black hair had grown to curl around his ears and was liberally sprinkled with gray.
If memory served her, he hadn’t had the goatee either, but it added to the severe look: sharp
cheekbones, long thin nose, a deep fan of laugh lines around his startlingly blue eyes. She’d
forgotten what an impact those eyes had made on her when they’d met at Georgine’s.
And that well-honed bod. Looks like he’d worked off ten pounds of soft and gained twenty
pounds of hard. When he’d lifted her to her feet and she wobbled into him, it felt like bumping
into a tree trunk. Her nipples recognized testosterone when they scraped against it. It had
reminded her that her wet clothes clung to her like tissue paper and the image had pushed her
into the laundry room for dry and loose and hidden.
With a sigh, she forced herself to stand. Might as well put the cookies into their gift tins
while she waited.
She wasn’t halfway done when she heard him say, “What are you doing up on your feet?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, holding onto the edge of the counter as she turned to him.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come across so dictatorial. It’s just, you should have waited
until I came back, in case you got dizzy, or lost your footing or something.”
“Jake. I’m fine.” To derail any further comments, she turned to the convection oven they’d
splurged on when they redid the kitchen. “Here. I turned it on to three hundred fifty degrees.
That should do it.”
“Thanks. It’s lasagna. There’s enough for an army. I hope you’ll join me.”
“I could probably eat a few bites.”
As she finished packing cookies, he slid the pan in the oven, set the timer, then surprised
her by setting out plates and cutlery as if he’d been in her kitchen before. But then, she
reminded herself, he’d set out teacups while she’d been changing.
“That’s enough,” he said when the last tin had been filled and she began to clean the
detritus from the countertops.
She lifted her chin pugnaciously. This was her kitchen and it was too messy for company.
He took the three steps to stand before her and gently cupped her cheeks between his
warm hands. “Terri. Humor me. You called me a white knight. I’m just living up to my title.
Come.” He pulled out her stool. “Sit down. Please.”
Breathless, she did. He’d been so close, she was sure he’d been aiming to kiss her. And
she’d have let him. There was something…compelling…about him.
“Let me just check you out again.” Bending down, he ran questing fingers through her hair,
searching, she imagined, for bumps or sore spots. Her lashes fluttered downward. He grazed
her sore temple, her cheek, with a knuckle. “Anything hurt when I press on it?”
She shook her head, no.
“Did you use the frozen peas at all?”
In a deceptively soft voice he said, “I guess I’ll have to punish you for that.”
A delicious shiver zapped down her spine. Was he a…
She gave herself a mental shake. Now wasn’t the time to think about any kinks he might be
harboring. “How? By making me watch you eat all the lasagna?”
“You know what I do with a smart mouth like that?”
She was looking at his mouth, inches from hers, plump and moist with just a suggestion of
a smile. Kiss me, she wanted to say.
Both of his hands were delving into her hair, almost dry now and rediscovering its normal
wavy pattern. Was he still looking for bumps or bruises? Or preparing her for something else?
Her heart stuttered. His actions made her yearn for what she’d been missing for too many
years-the pull of her man’s fist on her hair, the sound of his palm smacking her bare ass.
Get your mind back into the present!
He held her captive for so long that she dared look into his eyes. What she saw there
banished any pain from her fall and sent electricity zinging to every inch of her body. She could
smell her sharp arousal beneath the sweatpants and wondered what he’d think if he knew she
couldn’t find clean panties in the laundry room so was going commando. Her breasts tingled;
she was glad her sweatshirt was thick enough to disguise how painfully hard her nipples were.
The timer chirped, breaking the spell. She knew it would beep every ten seconds until it was
silenced. To cover her nervousness about what almost happened, she blurted out, “Saved by
He took a step back. “Not saved. Just postponed.”