Her mood teeter-tottered back and forth like a seesaw. Unfortunately, now jealousy had raised its ugly head and her blood boiled for a fight. As she marched to the garage, Grace stomped her fancy shoes, making little puffs of dust with every step in the dirt. Tight fists swung back and forth with every step.
The wooden stairs to his room echoed her angry steps. Reaching his door, Grace gripped the doorknob and swung open the door. John stood half-naked, shaving in front of an old cracked mirror.
“Don’t believe in knocking, princess?” He never looked her way, just continued to shave. The straight blade scraped along his neck, one graceful swipe after another.
His concentration was obviously on the task at hand and not on her. “I didn’t want to startle you and have you slit your throat.” She crossed the room and sat on his bed. Shock that she’d burst into his room and was sitting on his bed briefly flashed into her mind. She dismissed it and tried to calm her racing pulse. Trying to appear relaxed, she rested her arm on the iron footboard. Overlapping her legs, she swung one long leg gracefully back and forth.
“So, you decided to just barge right in and that would be quieter?” He rinsed the blade in the sink full of water and surveyed his jaw once more in the mirror for spots he may have missed. “I’m not in the mood for games this morning, Grace.”
“Who said I wanted to play games?” Her chest puffed out.
“You tell me. I’m not the one who barged into your room.” John splashed his face and then patted it dry with a towel.
“My, you’re in a temper this morning.” The swinging of her shoe increased in speed.
“I’m not angry.” He reached for a comb and ran it through his hair. “Just tired.”
This was not going as planned. All the words that she wished to say were suddenly gone. Instead, she just blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “Well, I’m angry with you.”
“For what?” He turned and sat his backside against the sink, his arms folded over his chest.
“You left me alone last night.” She stood, walked to his side, and leaned a shoulder on the wall.
“Your brother was here.” John faced toward the mirror again and returned to combing his hair.
He was trying to ignore her, it would seem. Had he lost interest so fast?
“That’s not what I meant.” Her nose raised and her hand settled on her hip.
“And what do you mean?” John halted, tossed the comb on a shelf, and stepped closer. So close she could smell the clean scent of his soap. Her cheeks heated as she recalled that part of her dream. His chest was bare except for the springy dark curls that graced his chest before narrowing to a line that disappeared into his trousers. Her ears burned and she swallowed.
“I trusted you.” She settled deeper against the wall.
“Is that it? I passed another test on your list and now you are angry because I didn’t live up to your standards.”
How did he know she had a list? “Something like that.” Her lower lip stuck out and she stared at the floor.
“So what did I do to lose your trust?” John crossed his arms. A line creased his forehead.
“Daniel said you went to Roxie’s.” Grace peeked at his eyes before looking away. It never mattered that her father or brother had probably frequented there, but with John, it was a different story.
“Aye, and what has that got to do with trust?” His voice rose in anger now, which riled her even more.
“Why are you yelling?” She bit her lip to keep it from trembling.
“Because I’m tired, frustrated, and I don’t know what the hell you are doing here?”
“I can understand you being tired, but I thought that ‘kind of activity’ was supposed to ease a man’s,” she searched for the right word, “exasperations.”
He laughed and braced a hand on each side of her shoulders along the wall. “Is that what this is? You’re jealous.”
“I am not.” The tip of her chin rose. “I thought we had a business agreement.”
“Are you offering the same kind of business as they do at Roxie’s?” He leered at her chest and raised an eyebrow.
Her cheeks flamed. “Heavens, no. What kind of lady do you think I am?” The man was infuriating.
“I know what kind of lady I’d like you to be.” He wasn’t backing down.
“Be that as it may, I won’t waste my time on any man who doesn’t love me full time.” She narrowed her gaze. “Or one that spends his time in a whorehouse.”
“You think I spent the night between some woman’s thighs.” He stepped closer and the tip of his finger tapped her nose.
“Don’t be crude, John, and don’t be silly. Why, I should give two bits about whom you spend your time with.” But, she did care and it hurt like hell to think of him with someone else.
His right hand framed her jaw and his thumb slid across her lower lip. The rapid beat of her heart threatened to bring on the vapors.
“Oh, yeah,” he whispered.
Was that a question or a statement? She couldn’t decide.
“Yeah.” It was all she could manage to say before her eyelids lowered.
She jumped when his lips touched hers. His large frame pressed her smaller one against the wall. The kiss was forceful before gentling. Her knees weakened as he nipped her lips. When she kissed back, his tongue gained entrance. The kiss tasted sweet, like maple syrup. John’s arms reached around her back and held her close. Her breasts compressed against his chest. Her soft curves yielded to his hard length. Grace gasped for air when the kiss ended. His eyes shone darker than usual.
“I was there, princess, but the only pair of legs I want to be between belong to a woman who wasn’t there.”
The comment brought her crashing back to Earth. She reached an arm back to swing and he grabbed her hand before it could make contact with his face. “You’re nothing but a thug, John O’Malley.”
A smile crinkled little lines around his eyes. “Aye, but I’m your thug.” He enfolded her in a hug and swung her around. “I think you want a thug, Grace.” He released her and grinned. “A gentleman thug.”
“There is no such thing.” She placed her fists on her hips.
“Aye, there is and it is just what you need. A gentleman thug—that’s a man who will open the door and then slap your perfect arse as you pass.”
That kind of man did sound intriguing, but he didn’t need to know that. “Be that as it may, I still don’t know if I can trust you.” Her spine straightened and she gazed at an old picture of three horses in a storm hanging on the wall.
“Can I trust you, Grace?” he asked softly.