“No, hey, you. You’re a guest here. I picked you up from the airport, then didn’t see you for the rest of the day. Would it hurt you to play the friendly chatter game?”
That sounded almost as though she was disappointed. Nick kicked off his shoes and walked to the edge of the pool. Grace looked up, her eyes wide and mouth slightly open. He stepped over the edge and sank down, fully clothed. His feet touched the tile bottom and he pushed off. When he opened his eyes, his face was a few inches from hers.
“How friendly did you have in mind?”
Her mouth opened and closed the way it had when her cousin’s kids and her niece had tried to pick his pocket. Nick had a feeling it took a lot to leave her speechless. Instead of answering, she turned to swim away, but he caught her arm.
She tensed as if he were a threat. Maybe he was—to his own peace of mind, most certainly. To this case, very possibly. He had to stop whatever was going on with his libido before it got out of hand. And he would. After he kissed her.
Just once. Because her lips were too tempting to resist. Even now, when her expression was one of consternation, her lips were ruddy and full. Her upper arm was soft, although the muscle seemed solid and ready to fight him off if necessary. But the slightly questioning look in her eyes told him it wouldn’t come to that if he kept things civilized.
He kicked his feet. His jeans were heavy and cold on his skin even though the water was warmer than he’d expected. When he was close enough to detect the faint odor of garlic and spearmint on her breath, he said, “It would probably be uncouth to kiss you, wouldn’t it? We haven’t even dined together, yet.”
She ignored his question. “I work odd hours. Sort of the split shift from hell.”
“How ’bout breakfast?”
Even in the faint light, he could tell that she’d read more into the offer than he’d intended. “My treat,” he added. “We could meet out front. You can take me to your favorite spot.”
She laughed shortly, confirming her embarrassment. Oddly, this small vanity made her suddenly very human, and real. He knew without a doubt that she wasn’t Charles’s stooge or cohort. She was Grace Parlier, her father’s princess who was just trying to keep her family together.
He’d never met a woman like her, and if he had, he’d have pushed her away. This time, he pulled her closer. Her chest brushed against his.
“I think you might be crazy,” she said, laughing. “And here we were worried about you being a hit man. You’re really just plain nuts.”
“That’s one explanation. Dazzled by your beauty is another.”
He lowered his head to kiss her, but she slipped, mermaid-like, from his hold and swam underwater to the far end of the pool. She pulled herself up and out of the pool, grabbing a towel from the back of a lawn chair. Even in the misty lighting, Nick could tell her breathing was shaky.
She started away but stopped and turned slightly. With a smile that made him groan, she blew him a kiss and said, “See you at breakfast. Any day but Saturday— I sleep in on Saturdays.” Then she disappeared into the darkness.
As he sank under the water, he heard the sound of a door closing. Submerged, eyes blinking against the sting of the chlorine, he shook his head. She was right. He was crazy.