Let Me Count the Ways
LA Love Lessons, Book 3
She's thinking fling, he's thinking forever.
Sexy former film star Claire Calhoun is used to having her pick of studly young men. Now that she and Derek have called it quits, however, the actress-turned-entrepreneur is feeling vulnerable. After one mojito too many at a party one night, she decides it would be fun to try something new-in this case, Mike Sherman, her staid accountant and long-time fan.
Claire has been Mike's fantasy since the first time he saw her bare it all for the camera. Now that she's in his bed he'll do whatever's necessary to keep her there. But he's not a stalker, right? He's just a devoted fan.
NEW: look for a new Christmas story featuring Mike and Claire available this Christmas as part of the Let's Get Naughty antho available for pre-order now: https://books2read.com/letsgetnaughty
Claire was looking at me strangely when I finished talking. “That is a very romantic story.”
“You think so?”
“Mm-hm. And it’s a beautiful car.”
Well, that part I agreed with. “It is. It’s a classic. Beautiful, elegant, it can’t ever really go out of style. And it handles... well, like I always knew it would.” Suddenly, I remembered that she wasn’t feeling well. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have gone on so long. You must be bored.”
Claire shook her head. “Not a bit. And don’t be sorry. I asked, remember?” Then she flashed that wonderful smile at me again. “Why don’t we get going now?”
I nodded, feeling just a little sorry because this was a moment I knew wouldn’t likely come again. It would have been nice to stretch it out a little longer.
If only she were feeling better. If only I’d thought to pack a picnic, a blanket, a bottle of wine. But, given the circumstances—really not a good idea. I’d started the car when I remembered, “I still don’t know where you live.”
“That’s all right,” she said as she re-fastened her seatbelt. “I don’t want to go there anyway.”
My eyebrows rose. “Well, then, where are we going?”
Her hands stilled on the buckle. She looked at me questioningly. “I thought... your house. No?”
She nodded. “Mm-hm. You know, the one you said you helped design? I’m intrigued. I’d really like to see it.”
“But... that’s... that’s all the way out in Topanga Canyon.” Surely she didn’t expect me to drive all the way out there, then back here, then back out there again? All in one night? Or was she so drunk the idea seemed reasonable?
Claire’s lips quirked. “I know where it is. Is there a problem?”
I sighed. That would be a Yes on the drunk question, wouldn’t it? “Look, Claire, that’s a little far for a joy ride, don’t you think?” I hinted, as gently as I could.
“Weren’t you planning on going home tonight anyway?”
“Yes. Once. But not... not two or three times.” Not that the idea of spending all that time alone with her wasn’t heavenly but... well, no, damn it, this was not quite what I’d had in mind. “I know I said the drive back into town only takes a matter of minutes but, even so, those minutes do add up. And I’ve driven out there and back once tonight already. Besides, it’s getting a little late. Wouldn’t you rather I just take you home now?”
Claire was staring at me fixedly, as though attempting to puzzle something out. Finally, “Michael, I thought you understood? When I asked you to take me home I meant I wanted to spend the night with you.”
This time, I knew for certain I was hearing things. I shook my head, hoping to clear it. “Spend the night?”
She nodded. “With you. Yes. Is something wrong?”
The only thing wrong was the way the blood had left my skull, headed straight for my dick. Somehow, I’d have thought that would make my brain feel clearer, but it didn’t. “Just—Jesus, how much did you have to drink back there anyhow?”
Laughing, Claire slipped her seatbelt off again. She leaned in close and lifted one of her hands to frame my face. Her fingers felt as cool as they had before; but this was even better than before because this time she was touching me on purpose. Her eyes were dark, her smile was sultry and her voice and her words were something out of a dream. “You’re a very sweet man, Mike. You shouldn’t sell yourself short.” Then she kissed me.
For a moment, I think I forgot who either of us was. We were simply Man and Woman and nothing had ever felt more right. Her lips were soft, her scent was sweet and everything male in me responded. Mine. Fierce and insistent, the instinct to claim her, to take her as my own—now, tonight, forever—overrode everything else.
I kissed her back, tugging her hard against me, my tongue coaxing hers into play. Touching everything I could get my hands on, I practically tore the material of her dress as I sought for the zipper. Then my hands registered the feel of the sequined gown they were coasting over—the same glimmering garment I’d been trying, all evening, not to stare at. Suddenly, I remembered where I was and who I was with.
“Claire. Oh, my God. I’m sorry, I—”
She opened her eyes. Something dark flickered in their depths—heat and passion and something else. Alarm, maybe?
“Wow.” Her voice emerged hoarse and breathless. “Mike. You really shouldn’t sell yourself short.”
A relieved laugh burst from my lips. I’d been half expecting her to slap me, never mind that she’d started it. “I think that ‘wow’ just made my night. Thank you.” I took a deep breath. Resting my forehead against hers, I forced myself to take control. “But, please tell me where you live so I can drive you home.”
“What?” Claire pulled away from me. “I already told you. I don’t want to go there.”
I nodded. “I know you did. But, come on, you’ve been drinking. Even if I thought you actually meant it, I still can’t take advantage of you like this.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?” She shook her head, gazing at me in disbelief. “So I’ve been drinking, Mike. So what? It’s not exactly the first time that’s happened you know. And, besides, isn’t that really the reason most people drink to begin with? So they can loosen up, release their inhibitions, forget about the rules they don’t want to follow?”
“Sleep with people they wouldn’t otherwise in a million years?”
“That too.” Laughter sparkled suddenly in her eyes. “Which is not always a bad thing, you know. And, besides...” Leaning in, she ran one hand up my chest. Her lips were only inches from mine; her voice husky and low. “I want you. If you’re trying to imply that’s only because I’m drunk, it’s not true.”
My heart was hammering in my chest. If I wanted to remain sane, I needed some space. Now. I pushed her away a little. “Claire. Stop kidding around. You know it’s true.”
“It’s not! Not even a little.”
“Oh, it isn’t? Really? I’ve known you for months. How come this is the first time it’s come up then?”
“Well, I mean,” Grinning, she peeked up at me through her lashes. “I don’t always sleep with everyone I meet within minutes of meeting them either, you know. Besides... a million years, Mike? That’s a really long time.”
“I know how long it is.” And I figured it was maybe half as long as it was gonna take me to forget that kiss. Or to stop wanting to kiss her again. Right now. But, want it or not, it wasn’t going to happen.
A petulant frown creased Claire’s brow. “You can’t possibly believe I’m so drunk I don’t know what I’m doing? Or do you think I’m gonna wake up tomorrow morning and wonder, what the hell was I thinking last night?”
That was exactly what I thought. I felt my jaw clench. “You might.”
She shook her head. “I won’t”
“Your address,” I repeated stubbornly.
Uttering an exasperated sigh, Claire collapsed against the car door. Arms folded, she glared at me. “You know, Mike, a little hesitation is endearing, too much feels like rejection. No woman likes that. And I can assure you I’m not anywhere near as drunk as I’d have to be to forget about this. Is that really what you want me to remember when I wake up tomorrow morning? That I asked you to take me to bed and you turned me down? Because I can promise you, I’m not gonna like it any better then.”
“Claire, I am not turning you down. I wouldn’t ever do that.”
“Oh, you’re not?”
“No! I—I… shit.” What the hell was I saying? Of course I was turning her down. What the fuck was wrong with me?
I couldn’t believe this conversation. And, as bad as the one I was having with her, it had nothing on the internal one I had going on with myself. It was like one of those old cartoons, where I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other; both urging me on, both sounding incredibly convincing. Only one of them could be right and, as usual, that would be the one telling you what you didn’t want to hear.
“Look, I don’t want you waking up tomorrow and remembering I took advantage of you while you were drunk.” That would be the worst. I was pretty sure that would be worse than any of the alternatives. Wouldn’t it?
“Why don’t we let me worry about how I’m going to feel about things in the morning, hmm?” Claire arched an eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to give in.
I said nothing.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” she fumed. “It’s just sex, Mike. It’s fun. It feels good. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re looking for something you can feel guilty about, I suggest you run a few stop signs on the way home.”
She shook her head sadly, shoulders sagging, and I could tell I’d finally worn her down. Winning had never left me feeling so shitty. But I was wrong. She wasn’t done. Not quite yet.
Taking a deep breath, Claire raised her head and fixed me with a steely gaze. Her voice, when she spoke, was clear, quiet, sad. But not the voice of someone who was intoxicated. Not even a little. “There have been a few things in my life I’ve regretted doing, Mike. If I live long enough, I’m sure there’ll be more. Sleeping with you tonight would not have been one of them. Can you say the same, if you turn me down?”
And, no, God help me, I couldn’t say that. Without another word, I put the car in gear and floored the gas. What else was there to say, after all?
“Now, that’s more like it,” Claire murmured happily, settling back in her seat and snapping her seatbelt back into place.
A man can only withstand so much temptation. And, when the choice is one of being damned if you do, damned if you don’t, well, that’s really not much of a choice now, is it?