He hates her for breaking his heart. She detests him for destroying her future. But beneath all the loathing, simmers an intoxicating passion that neither can ignore… and the harder they resist, the harder they will inevitably fall.
Then, without warning, he crushed his mouth to hers.
The shock of it made her grow still, her eyes still open, even as his closed and a groan tore from his throat. The sound of it woke her, startling her into a new awareness. Max was kissing her, his lips firm and familiar, his tongue bold and commanding, daring her to retaliate.
And she did, slanting her mouth beneath his, parrying with his tongue while clutching handfuls of his shirt in her fists. He groaned again, and the vibration of it had the strangest effect on her eyelids, for they drifted closed. Her head tilted, lips parting, allowing him deeper. She wasn’t sure if this was part of a battle or a strange sort of truce.
Then again, weren’t truces civilized affairs between warring factions with cooler heads? That was certainly nothing like her and Max and this heated skirmish of mouths and hands.
She didn’t know what possessed her, but she pulled the hem of his shirt free of his trousers, and now her palms were pressed against the hard plane of his abdomen, her fingertips grazing a soft dusting of hair. It seemed the sensible thing to do—explore the terrain of her opponent’s territory—and she refused to overthink her actions.
The clasp of her cloak slipped free from her neck, the garment falling away as Max’s hands skimmed over her back, down the row of buttons descending to her derriere, then swept upward past the scalloped lace and to the bare flesh between her shoulder blades. His touch sent a shiver down her body, making her arch like a bow against him, poised to strike. Every inch of her skin suddenly felt taut, her breasts heavy, tingling. Her stomach dropped lower, weighted, emitting a sweet clenching sensation that seemed to deplete the air in her lungs.
She broke away from the kiss, turning her head, breathing hard now. Max did not cease his onslaught. He was battle ready, always, and far more skilled in this manner of warfare.
Even so, Juliet had no intention of surrendering. “You destroyed the walls because you’re afraid that I will win our wager and bring another man here? My, my, Max, that sounds rather like a jealous man.”
His attention shifted to the column of her throat, where his wet, open-mouthed kisses called attention to the steady throb at the apex of her thighs. She wanted to close her legs against it and squeeze tightly, but Max was there, the hard length of him pushing against her, driving her back against the wall. Her hips rocked against his in retaliation—or perhaps because she wanted to feel him once more. Suddenly, she wasn’t sure that a battle was supposed to feel this good. But with Max, it was difficult to tell the difference. Part of her loved fighting with him. Every argument felt like a prelude to something more, something so near and yet still out of reach.
Her frustration mounted when he did not answer her taunt, and so she slipped her hands free of his shirt, took his face in her hands, and kissed him again. Yes, that would show him that she was in control. This time, her tongue swept into his mouth, and her hips rolled slowly against his. And because she wasn’t finished proving it, she continued, even as he lifted her off the ground, his hands clasped over her hips and lower still, until he was cupping her bottom.
She found purchase on a demilune console, Max between her thighs, his position edging her skirts upward. But now the muslin was bunched between them. Parting her knees did nothing to bring him back to where he was a moment ago, to ease that insistent pulse. It was just like Max to give her a taste of something, only to leave her without. But she wasn’t going to let him do that to her again. So just like in many battles, she took him prisoner, locking her legs around him.
Max set his hands over her wrists and slowly drew them down from his face, his gaze fierce. “I am not going to be the one to stop this, Juliet. Do you understand? It will be you, like always.” He shook his head, pressing his forehead to hers. “I have reached my limit, and this game of ours must conclude, one way or the other.”
Her first impulse was to challenge him in return, but when she read his expression, she couldn’t. The edgy mockery she typically saw was no longer there. He searched her gaze, his dark eyes seeming vulnerable, and the furrows between his brows no longer angry but pained. He was open and exposed, revealing a raw desire so potent that it almost frightened her. Mostly because she felt it too.
She realized this was no longer about the house or any of their arguments. In fact, she wasn’t sure if it ever was. No, this was about something more, that tangible thing between them that she couldn’t shake loose.
If she chose to leave, she sensed that things would never be the same between them again. And if she stayed . . . things would never be the same between them again.
But she’d come this far, and running away was not an option. She’d had five years to think about Max’s kiss. Five years of wondering what it might have been like if she’d made a different choice.
“I haven’t once looked at the door, Max.” And then she tipped her chin and pressed her mouth to his.
USA Today bestselling author, VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is an Avon Impulse author of works including: Tempting Mr. Weatherstone, The Wallflower Wedding
Series, The Rakes of Fallow Hall Series, The Duke’s Christmas Wish, and the Season’s Original Series.