I’m in No Mood for Love

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"I think I mentioned yesterday that I write romance novels," Clare felt compelled to point out.

Sebastian raised a brow as he lowered the mug. "Yeah. You mentioned it along with the fact that you do all your own sexual research."

That's right. Dang it. He’d made her mad and she’d said things she wished she could take back. Things that were coming back to haunt her. Things said in anger that she’d learned long ago to keep behind the happy facade. "And you don’t have one condescending thing to say?"

He shook his head.

"No smarmy questions?"

He smiled. "Just one," he turned and set the mug on the counter by this hip.

She held up a hand like a traffic cop. "No. I'm not a nymphomaniac."

His smile turned into a chuckle and laugh lines creased the corners of his green eyes. "That isn’t the smarmy question, but thanks for clearing that up." He folded his arms across his rumpled T-shirt. "The real question is: where do you do all your research?"

She dropped her hand to her side. Clare figured she had a couple ways to answer that question. She could get offended and tell him to grow up or she could relax. He seemed to be playing nice today, but this was Sebastian.

"Are you afraid to tell me?" he goaded her

She wasn’t afraid of Sebastian. "I have a special room in my house," she lied.

"What’s in the room?"

He looked totally serious. As if he actually believed her. "Sorry, I can't divulge that sort of information to a reporter."

"I swear I won’t tell anyone."

"Sorry."

"Come on. It's been a long time since anyone's told me anything juicy."

"Told or done?"

"What's in your kinky sex room, Clare?" he persisted. "Whips, chains, swings, slings, latex body suit?"

Slings? Holy heck. "You seem to know a lot about kinky sex closets."

"I know I'm not allergic to latex. Other than that, I’m a fairly straightforward guy. I'm not into being beaten or trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey." He pushed away from the counter and took a few silent steps toward her. "Restraints?"

"Handcuffs," she said as he came to stand a foot in front of her. "Fuzzy because I’'m a nice person."

He laughed liked she’d said something really amusing. "Nice? Since when?"

So, maybe she hadn't always been nice to Sebastian, but he loved to provoke her. She straightened and looked up past the stubble on his chin and into his green eyes. "I try to be nice."

"Babe, you might want to put a little more effort into that."

She felt her temper rise a bit but she refused to take the bait. Not today. She smiled and patted him on his rough cheek. "I’m not going to fight with you, Sebastian. There's nothing you can do to provoke me today."

He turned his face and lightly bit the heel of her palm. His green eyes stared into her and he asked, "Are you sure about that?"

Her fingers curled against his scratchy cheek as a disturbing awareness curled in her stomach. She lowered her hand but could feel the warmth of his mouth and sharp edge of his teeth in her palm. Suddenly she wasn’t so sure of anything. "Yes."

"What if I nibbled..." He raised his hand and touched the corner of her mouth... "here?" The tips of his fingers slid down her jaw and brushed the side of her neck "...here." He slid his fingers down the edge of her halter dress and across her clavicle. "And here."

Her breathing stopped in her chest as she stared up into his face. "Sounds painful," she managed as shock tightened her throat. It had to be shock and not the heat of his touch brushing her throat.

"It won’t hurt a bit." He raised his gaze from her neck to her eyes. "You’ll like it, trust me."

Trust Sebastian? The boy who'd only been nice to her so he could tease and torture her? Who'd only pretended to like her so he could throw mud on her clean dress and make her cry? "I learned a long time ago not to trust you."

He dropped his hand to his side. "When was that?"

"The day you wanted me to show you the river and threw mud on my new dress," she said and figured he'd no doubt forgotten that day long ago.

"That dress was too white."

"What?" How could something be too white? If it wasn't white, it was dingy.

He took a few steps back and grabbed his coffee. "You were always too perfect. Your hair. Your clothes. Your manners. It just wasn't natural. The only time you were any fun at all was when you were messed up and doing something you thought you shouldn't."

She pointed at her chest. "I was plenty fun." He lifted a dubious brow and she insisted, "I'm still fun. All my friends think so."

"Clare your hair was too tight then and you're wound too tight now." He shook his head. "Either your friends are lying to you to spare your feelings, or they're as much fun as a prayer circle."

She wasn't going to argue about how much fun she and her friends were, and she dropped her hand to her side. "You've been in a prayer circle?"

"You find that hard to believe?" His brows lowered and he scowled at her for about two seconds before the corner of his mouth tilted up and gave him away. "When I was in college, one of the first stories I was sent out to cover involved a group of evangelicals recruiting on campus. They were so boring, I fell asleep on a folding chair." He shrugged. "It probably didn't help that I was hung over as hell."

"Sinner."

"You know that old saying about finding something you're good at and sticking with it." The other side of his mouth slid up into a wicked smile, leaving little doubt that he'd turned sinning into an art form.