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Several birds fluttered back and forth. He told her the names of the birds. She almost chuckled when she realized he really was a birder. Then, damn it, she realized she kind of liked it, too. Miranda would have a field day with this.
Then Della’s mind took her back to when she was here before. When a certain bird, named Steve, had shown up.
Not that she feared he was one of the birds now. He was in Paris. And for some reason, that made getting close to Chase easier. Out of sight, out of mind.
Not really, her heart spoke up. She had thought about him. And damn if she wasn’t even more confused about how she felt, too.
No, that wasn’t exactly true. She knew how she felt about Steve. In spite of being angry at him for getting close to her when he knew he was about to leave, she still cared about him. Liked him. Liked him too much. Was attracted to him.
What confused her was that she felt all that for Chase, too.
And more.
It was the “and more” part that scared her. Before, she could compare what she felt for Lee to what she felt for Steve. The same emotional draw. The same kind of desire. This, what she felt for Chase, couldn’t be compared to that. It seemed bigger. More intense. More powerful. And she felt more vulnerable to those feelings. Much more than she was with Steve.
Was it the bond? She didn’t like thinking it was, because she didn’t want anything to have control over her. Even if at times, giving in sounded rather delightful.
Chase stood up from his chair and came to stand in front of her. He set his sunglasses on top of his head, and then pulled her up. He slid his hands around her waist, and his fingers went slightly under her shirt. He leaned forward. His forehead came against hers.
“What you said earlier?” His thumbs touched her bare skin and she wondered how just a simple touch could feel so good.
“About what?” she asked and pulled back just a bit. She knew where this was going. She just didn’t want to go there.
“I wouldn’t have brought it up, but after what you said—”
“Then let’s just forget I said anything.”
“Look, Della, I’m not going to deny that as much as I like those jeans on you, I would love to take them off, but—”
“Now there’s a come-on line I haven’t heard. What country-western song did you steal that one from?” She glared up at him.
He frowned. “Let me finish. But … when the time comes, you will be the person to say when. I would never pressure you into doing anything you didn’t want to do. Got that?” he asked. “You say when, not me.”
His words whispered around her head and made her dizzy from want. Or was her dizziness due to his thumbs making little circles on the tender skin of her waist?
He exhaled. “For the record, if it was up to me, I would’ve said ‘when’ a long time ago.” He grinned, and while flattered, she was equally flabbergasted.
She opened her mouth to talk, but nothing came out for a second, and then she finally said, “I’m … I’m not much on saying ‘when.’”
But his touch, his breath against her temple sent shivers to parts of her body that didn’t normally shiver. And she knew “when” would feel nice on her tongue, just like his hands felt around her waist.
He arched one eyebrow. “Have you said ‘when’ before?”
That was it. The feeling of being flattered crashed at her feet and flabbergasted took over in first gear. Had he actually asked her that? She punched him in the gut.
“Ouch.” He grabbed his abs and stared at her. “That was not nice.”
She glared at him. “I know. A guy’s not supposed to ask that. You’re lucky I didn’t go for your balls.”
He took a step back, and now he looked befuddled. “Guys are supposed to ask that. A guy who cares needs to know. You don’t have to tell me now, but before we … go there, we should talk.”
Embarrassment started making her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. “First, who said we’re going to go there?”
“I … well, you kind of hinted that you thought I was going to take it there. And we’re bonded, so odds are we’re going there eventually.”
She stared at him, not believing his nerve. Then she felt her face flush like when she’d had her nose buried in his crotch.
He studied her. “If you haven’t gone there yet, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“I’m not embarrassed,” she lied, and then she felt pissed that he made her feel that way. “You’re the one who’s dancing around the word ‘sex.’ I’m not a virgin, I just don’t think it’s any of your business.”
“Okay,” he said, now looking uncomfortable. “I was trying to be polite.”
She cut her eyes up to him. “Are you a virgin?”
He laughed.
She wanted to punch him again. Really hard.
“No … I’m not.”
“Then why are you laughing? Is it because you’ve got a ton of notches on your belt and you’re proud of them?”
“No,” he said seriously. And he seemed to grasp for words before he finally said, “I guess I’m a little embarrassed, too. I was trying to deal with this like an adult. But I guess I screwed it up. Give a guy a break.”
“You’ve asked that once. And you never told me what you wanted broken. But I have a few ideas.”
He chuckled. “You aren’t going to make anything easy, are you?”