Unwrapping His Convenient Fiancee

Harlequin Presents

Available: 10/18/2016

ISBN-13: 9781488001345

ASIN: B01BSGFJH8

Violet Drummond can’t face another office Christmas party as a singleton, but charismatic family friend Cameron McKinnon seems like the perfectly platonic “plus one” for the festive season. Until he reveals his plan to make Violet his convenient fiancée!

Wealthy architect Cameron sees this charade as the perfect escape hatch from the unwelcome attention of an important client’s wife, but soon fake feelings shift to real attraction…

There’s only one thing Cameron wants to unwrap on Christmas morning—the staid suit from Violet’s lush body—and he’s willing to push the boundaries of their agreement to accommodate his growing desire…

An Excerpt from Unwrapping His Convenient Fiancee

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS THE invitation Violet had been dreading for months. Ten years in a row she had gone to the office Christmas party sans partner. Ten years! Every year she told herself next year would be different, and yet here she was staring at the red and silver invitation with her stomach in a sinkhole of despair again. It was bad enough fielding the What, no date? looks and comments from her female colleagues. But it was the thought of being in a crowded room that was the real torture. With all those jostling bodies pressing up so close she wouldn’t be able to breathe.

Male bodies.

Bodies that were much bigger and stronger and more powerful than hers—especially when they were drunk…

Violet blinked away the memory. She hardly ever thought about that party these days. Well, only now and again. She had come to a fragile sort of peace over it. The self-blame had eased even if the lingering shame had not.

But she was nearly thirty and it was time to move on. More than time. Which meant going to the Christmas party to prove to herself she was back in control of her life.

However, there was the agony of deciding what to wear. Her accountancy firm’s Christmas party was considered one of the premier events in the financial sector’s calendar. It wasn’t just a drinks and nibbles affair. It was an annual gala with champagne flowing like a fountain and Michelin star quality food and dancing to a live band. Every year there was a theme and everyone was expected to be part of the action to demonstrate their commitment to office harmony. This year’s theme was A Star-Struck Christmas. Which would mean Violet would have to find something Hollywoodish to wear. She wasn’t good at glamour. She didn’t like drawing attention to herself. She wasn’t good at partying full stop.

Violet slipped the invitation between the pages of her book and sighed. Even the London lunchtime café crowd was rubbing in her singleton status. Everyone was a couple. She was the only person sitting on her own. Even a couple pushing ninety were at the table in the window and they were holding hands. That would be her parents in thirty years. Still with the magic buzzing between them as it had from the first moment they’d met. Just like her three siblings with their perfect partners. Building their lives together, having children and doing all the things she dreamed of doing.

Violet had watched each of her siblings fall in love. Fast-living Fraser first, racy Rose next and then laid-back Lily. Been to each of their weddings. Been a bridesmaid three times. Three timesGroan. She was always in the audience watching romance develop and blossom, but she longed to be on the stage.

Why couldn’t she find someone perfect for her?

Was there something wrong with her? Guys occasionally asked her out but it never went past a date or two. Her natural shyness didn’t make for scintillating conversation and she had no idea how to flirt… Well, she did if she had a few drinks but that was a mistake she was not going to repeat. The problem was that men were so impatient these days, or maybe they always had been that way. But she was not going to sleep with someone just because it was expected of her…or because she was too drunk to say no. She wanted to feel attracted to a man and to feel his attraction to her. To feel frissons of red-hot desire scoot all over her flesh at his touch. To melt when his gaze met hers. To shiver with delight when he pressed his lips to hers.

Not that too many male lips had been pressed to hers lately. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been really kissed by a man. Pecks on the cheek from her father and brother or grandfather didn’t count.

Violet was rubbish at the dating game. Rubbish. Rubbish. Rubbish. She was going to end up an old and wrinkled spinster living with a hundred and fifty-two cats. With a chest of drawers full of exquisitely embroidered baby clothes for the babies she had longed for since she was a little girl.

‘Is this seat taken?’

Violet glanced up at the familiar deep baritone voice, a faint shiver coursing down her spine when her gaze connected with her older brother’s best friend from university.

‘Cam?’ Her voice came out like the sound of a squeaky toy, an annoying habit she hadn’t been able to correct since first meeting Cameron McKinnon. She had been eighteen when her brother brought Cam home for the summer—or at least the Scottish version of it—to their family’s estate, Drummond Brae, in the Highlands. ‘What are you doing here? How are you? Fraser told me you’ve been living in Greece designing a yacht for someone super-rich. How’s it all going? When did you get back?’

Shut up! Funny, but she was never lost for words around Cam. She talked too much. She couldn’t seem to help it nor could she explain it. He wasn’t intimidating or threatening in any way. He was polite, if a little aloof, but he had been a part of her family for long enough for her to get over herself.

But clearly she hadn’t got over herself.

Cam pulled out the chair opposite and sat down, his knees gently bumping against Violet’s underneath the table. The touch was like an electric current moving through her body, heating her in places that had no business being heated. Not by her brother’s best friend. Cam was out of her league. Way out.

‘I was in the area for a meeting. It finished early and I remembered you mentioning this café once so thought I’d check it out,’ he said. ‘I’ve only been back a couple of days. My father is getting remarried just before Christmas.’

Violet’s eyes widened to the size of the saucer under her skinny latte. ‘Again? How many times is that now? Three? Four?’

His mouth twisted. ‘Five. And there’s another baby on the way, which brings the total of halfsiblings to six, plus the seven step-siblings, so eleven all together.’

Violet thought her three nephews, two nieces and the baby in the making were a handful—she couldn’t imagine eleven. ‘How on earth do you keep track of all of their birthdays?’

His half smile looked a little weary around the edges. ‘I’ve set up automatic transfers via online banking. Takes the guesswork out.’

‘Maybe I should do that.’ Violet stirred her coffee for something to do with her hands. Being in Cam’s company—not that it happened much these days—always made her feel like a gauche schoolgirl in front of a college professor. He was an unusual counterpoint to her older brother who was a laugh a minute, life of the party type. Cam was more serious in nature with a tendency to frown rather than smile.

Her gaze drifted towards his mouth—another habit she couldn’t quite control when she was around him. His lips were fairly evenly sculpted, although the lower one had a slightly more sensual fullness to it that made her think of long, blood-heating, pulse-racing kisses.

Not that Violet had ever kissed him. Men like Cameron McKinnon didn’t kiss girls like her. She was too girl-next-door. He dated women who looked as if they had just stepped out of a photo shoot. Glamorous, sophisticated types who could hold their own in any company without breaking out in hives in case someone spoke to them.

Cam’s gaze briefly went to her bare left hand where she was cradling her coffee before coming back to hers in a keenly focused look that made something deep in her belly unfurl like a flower opening its petals to the sun.

‘So, how are things with you, Violet?’

‘Erm…okay.’ At least she wasn’t breaking out into hives, but the blush she could feel crawling over her cheeks was almost as bad. Was he thinking—like the rest of her family—Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride?

‘Only okay?’ His look had a serious note to it, a combination of concern and concentration, as if she were the only person he wanted to talk to right then. It was one of the things Violet liked about him—one of the many things. He wasn’t so full of himself that he couldn’t spare the time to listen. She often wondered if he’d been around to talk to after that wretched party, during her first and only year at university, her life might not have turned out the way it had.

Violet stretched her mouth into her standard everything-is-cool-with-me smile. ‘I’m fine. Just busy with work and Christmas shopping and stuff. Like you, I have a lot of people to buy for now with all my nephews and nieces. Did you know Lily and Cooper are expecting? Mum and Dad are planning the usual big Christmas at Drummond Brae. Has Mum invited you? She said she was going to. The doctors think it will be Grandad’s last Christmas so we’re all making an effort to be there for him.’

Cam’s mouth took on a rueful slant. ‘My father’s decided to upstage Christmas with his wedding on Christmas Eve.’

‘Where’s it being held?’

‘Here in London.’

‘Maybe you could fly up afterwards,’ Violet said. ‘Or have you got other commitments?’ Other commitments such as a girlfriend. Surely he would have one. Men like Cam wouldn’t go long between lovers. He was too handsome, too rich, too intelligent, too sexy. Too everything. Cam had never broadcast his relationships with women the way her brother Fraser had before he’d fallen madly in love with Zoe. Cam was intensely private about his private life. So private it made Violet wonder if he had a secret lover stashed away somewhere, someone he kept out of the glaring spotlight that his work as an internationally acclaimed naval architect attracted.

‘I’ll see,’ he said. ‘Mum will expect a visit, especially now that her third husband Hugh’s left her.’

Violet frowned. ‘Oh, no. I’m sorry to hear that. Is she terribly upset?’

Cam gave her a speaking look. ‘Not particularly. He drank. A lot.’

‘Oh…’

Cam’s family history was nothing short of a saga. Not that he’d ever said much about it to her, but Fraser had filled in the gaps. His parents went through a bitter divorce when he was six and promptly remarried and set up new families, collecting other biological children and stepchildren along the way. Cam was jostled between the various households until he was sent to boarding school when he was eight. Violet could picture him as a little boy—studious, quietly observing on the sidelines, not making a fuss and avoiding one where it was made. He was still like that. When he came to visit her family for weddings, christenings or other gatherings he was always on the fringe, standing back with a drink in his hand he rarely touched, quietly measuring the scene with his navy-blue gaze.

The waitress came over to take Cam’s order with a smile that went beyond I’m your server, can I help you? to Do you want my number?

Violet tried to ignore the little dart of jealousy that spiked her in the gut. It was none of her business who he flirted with. Why should she care if he picked up a date from her favourite café? Even if she had been coming here for years and no one had asked for her number.

Cam looked across the table at her. ‘Would you like another coffee?’

Violet put her hand over the top of her latte glass. ‘No, I’m good.’

‘Just a long black, thanks,’ Cam said to the waitress with a brief but polite smile.

Violet waited until the girl had left before she spoke. ‘Cra—ack.’

His brow furrowed. ‘Pardon?’

She gave him a teasing smile. ‘Didn’t you hear that girl’s heart breaking?’

He looked puzzled for a moment, and then faintly annoyed. ‘She’s not my type.’

‘Describe your type.’ Why had she asked that?

The bridge between Cam’s ink-black eyebrows was still pleated in three tight vertical lines. ‘I’ve been too busy for any type just lately.’ His phone, which was sitting on the table, beeped with a message and he glanced at it before turning off the screen, his lips pressing so firmly his mouth turned bone-white.

‘What’s wrong?’

He forcibly relaxed his features. ‘Nothing.’

The phone beeped again and his mouth flattened once more. He clicked the mute button and slipped the phone into his jacket pocket as the waitress set his coffee down on the table between them. ‘So, how’s work?’

Violet glanced at the invitation peeping out of the pages of her book. Was it her imagination or was it flashing like a beacon? She surreptitiously pushed it back out of sight. ‘Fine…’

Cam followed the line of her gaze. ‘What’s that?’

‘Nothing… Just an invitation.’

‘To?’

Violet was sure her cheeks were as the red as the baubles on the invitation. ‘The office Christmas party.’

‘You going?’

She couldn’t meet his gaze and looked at the sugar bowl instead. Who knew there were so many different artificial sweeteners these days? Amazing. ‘I kind of have to… It’s expected in the interests of office harmony.’

‘You don’t sound too keen.’

Violet lifted one of her shoulders in a shrug. ‘Yeah, well, I’m not really a party girl.’ Not any more. Her first and only attempt at partying had ended in a blurry haze of regret and self-recrimination. An event she was still, all these years on, trying to put behind her with varying degrees of success.

But secret shame cast a long shadow.

‘It’s a pretty big affair, isn’t it?’ Cam said. ‘No expense spared and so on, I take it?’

Violet rolled her eyes. ‘Ironic when you consider it’s a firm of bean counters.’

‘Pretty successful bean counters,’ Cam said. ‘Well done you for nailing a job there.’

Violet didn’t like to admit how far from her dream job it actually was. After quitting her university studies, a clerical job in a large accounting firm had seemed a good place to blend into the background. But what had suited her at nineteen was feeling less satisfying as she approached thirty. She couldn’t shake off the nagging feeling she should be doing more with her life. Extending herself. Reaching her potential instead of placing limitations on herself. But since that party… Well, everything had been put on pause. It was like her life had jammed and she couldn’t move forward.

The vibration of Cam’s phone drew Violet’s gaze to his top pocket. Not just to his top pocket but his chest in general. He was built like an endurance athlete, tall and lean with muscles where a man needed them to be and where a woman most liked to see them. And she was no exception. His skin was tanned and his dark brown hair had some surface highlights where the strong sunlight of Greece had caught and lightened it. He had cleanly shaven skin, but there was enough dark stubble to suggest he hadn’t been holding the door for everyone else when the testosterone was dished out.

‘Aren’t you going to answer that?’ Violet asked.

‘It’ll keep.’

‘Work or family?’

‘Neither.’

Violet’s eyebrows lifted along with her intrigue. ‘A woman?’

He took out the phone and held his finger on the off switch with a determined set to his features. ‘Yeah. One that won’t take no for an answer.’

‘How long have you been dating her?’

‘I haven’t been dating her.’ Cam’s expression was grim. ‘She’s a client’s wife. A valuable client.’

‘Oh… Tricky.’

‘Very. To the tune of about forty million pounds tricky.’

Forty million? Violet came from a wealthy background but even she had trouble getting her head around a figure like that. Cam designed yachts for the super-wealthy. He’d won a heap of awards for his designs and become extremely wealthy in the process. Some of the yachts he designed were massive, complete with marble en suite bathrooms with hot tubs, and dining and sitting rooms that were plush and palatial. One yacht even had its own library and lap swimming pool. But, even so, it amazed her how much a rich person would pay for a yacht they only used now and again. ‘Seriously? You’re being paid forty million to design a yacht?’

‘No, that’s the cost of the yacht once it’s complete,’ he said. ‘But I get paid a pretty decent amount to design it.’

How much was pretty decent? Violet longed to ask but decided against it out of politeness. ‘So…what will you do? Keep ignoring this woman’s calls and messages?’

He let out a short, gusty breath. ‘I’ll have to get the message across one way or the other. I’m not the sort of guy who gets mixed up with married women.’ His mouth twisted again. ‘That would be my father.’

‘Maybe if she sees you’ve got someone else it will drive home the message.’ Violet picked up her almost empty latte and looked at him over the rim of the glass. ‘Is there someone else?’ Arrgh! Why did you ask that?

Cam’s gaze met hers and that warm sensation bloomed deep and low in her belly again. His dark blue eyes were fringed with thick ink-black lashes she would have killed for. There was something about his intelligent eyes that always made her feel he saw more than he let on. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You?’

Violet coughed out a self-effacing laugh. ‘Don’t you start. I get enough of that from my family, not to mention my friends and flatmates.’

Cam gave her a wry smile. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with the young men of London. You should’ve been snapped up long ago.’

A pin drop silence fell between them.

Violet looked at her coffee glass as if it were the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. The way her cheeks were going, the café’s chef would be coming out to cook the toast on her face to save on electricity. How had she got into this conversation? Awkward. Awkward. Awkward. How long was the canyon of silence going to last? Should she say something?

But what?

Her mind was blank.

She was hopeless at small talk. It was another reason she was terrible at parties. The idle conversation gene had skipped her. Her sisters and brother were the ones who could talk their way out of or into any situation. She was the wallflower of the family. All those years of being overshadowed by verbose older siblings and super articulate parents had made her conversationally challenged. She was used to standing back and letting others do the talking. Even her tendency to gabble like a fool around Cam had suddenly deserted her.

‘When’s your office party?’

Violet blinked and refocused her gaze on Cam’s. ‘Erm…tomorrow.’

‘Would you like me to come with you?’

Violet had trouble keeping her jaw off the table and her heart from skipping right out of her chest and landing in his lap. Best not think about his lap. ‘But why would you want to do that?’

He gave a casual shrug of one broad shoulder. ‘I’m free tomorrow night. Thought it might help you mingle if you had a wingman, so to speak.’

Violet gave him a measured look. ‘Is this a pity date?’

‘It’s not a date, period.’ Something about his adamant tone rankled. ‘Just a friend helping out a friend.’

Violet had enough friends. It was a date she wanted. A proper date. Not with a man on a mercy mission. Did he think she was completely useless? A romance tragic who couldn’t find a prince to take her to the ball? She didn’t even want to go to the ball, thank you very much. The ball wasn’t that special. All those people drinking and eating too much and dancing till the wee hours to music so loud you couldn’t hear yourself shout, let alone think. ‘Thanks for the offer but I’ll be fine.’

Violet pushed her coffee glass to one side and picked up her book. But, before she could leave the table, Cam’s hand came down on her forearm. ‘I didn’t mean to upset you.’

‘I’m not upset.’ Violet knew her crisp tone belied her statement. Of course she was upset. Who wouldn’t be? He was rescuing her. What could be more insulting than a man asking you out because he felt sorry for you? Had Fraser said something to him? Had one of her sisters? Her parents? Her grandfather? Why couldn’t everyone mind their own business? All she got these days was pressure. Why aren’t you dating anyone? You’re too fussy. You’re almost thirty. It never ended.

The warmth of Cam’s broad hand seeped through the layers of her winter clothing, awakening her flesh like a heat pack on a frostbitten limb. ‘Hey.’

Violet hadn’t pouted since she was about five but she pouted now. She could find a date. Sure she could. She could sign up to one of any number of dating websites or apps and have a hundred dates. If she put her mind to it she could be engaged by Christmas. Well, maybe that was pushing it a bit. ‘I’m perfectly able to find my own date, okay?’

He gave her arm the tiniest squeeze before releasing it. ‘Of course.’ He sat back in his chair, his forehead creased in a slight frown. ‘I’m sorry. It was a bad idea. Seriously bad.’

Why was it? And why seriously bad? Violet cradled her book close to her chest where her heart was beating a little too fast. Not fast enough to call for a defibrillator but not far off. His touch had done something to her, like he had turned a setting on in her body she hadn’t known she’d had. Her senses were sitting up and alert instead of slumped and listless. Had he ever touched her before? She tried to think… Sometimes in the past he would kiss her on the cheek, a chaste brotherly sort of kiss. But lately…since Easter, in fact…there had been no physical contact from him. None at all. It was as if he had deliberately kept his distance. That last holiday weekend at home, she remembered him coming into one of the sitting rooms at Drummond Brae and going straight back out again with a muttered apology when he’d found her curled up on one of the sofas with her embroidery. Why had he done that? What was wrong with her that he couldn’t bear to be left alone with her?

Violet picked up her scarf and wound it around her neck. ‘I have to get back to work. I hope your father’s wedding goes well.’

‘It should do, he’s had enough practice.’ He drained his coffee and stood, snatching his jacket from the back of the chair and slinging it over his shoulder. ‘I’ll walk you back to your office. I’m heading that way.’

Violet knew the tussle over who paid for the coffee was inevitable so when he offered she let him take care of it for once. ‘Thanks,’ she said once he’d settled the bill.

‘No problem.’

He put a gentle hand in the small of her back to guide her out of the way of a young mother coming in with a pram and a squirming, red-faced toddler. The sizzling heat of his touch moved along the entire length of Violet’s spine, making her aware of her femininity as if he had stroked her intimately.

Get a grip already.

This was the problem with being desperate and dateless. The slightest brush of a male hand turned her into a wanton fool. Stirring up needs that she hadn’t even registered as needs until now.

But it wasn’t just any male hand.

It was Cam’s hand…connected to a body that made her think of smoking-hot sex. Not that she knew what smoking-hot sex actually felt like. The only sex she’d had was a surrealist blur with an occasional flashback of two or three male faces looming over her, talking about her, not to her. Definitely not the sort of romantic scene she had envisaged when she’d hit puberty. It was another thing she’d miserably failed at doing. Each of her siblings had successfully navigated their way through the dating minefield, all of them now partnered with their soul mate. Was she too fussy? Had that night at that party permanently damaged her self-esteem and sexual confidence? Why should it when she could barely remember it in any detail?

She had been surrounded by love and acceptance all her life. There should be no reason for her to feel inadequate or not quite up to the mark. But somehow love—even a vague liking for someone of the opposite sex—had so far escaped her.

Violet walked out to the footpath with Cam, where the rain had started to fall in icy droplets. She popped open her umbrella but Cam had to bend almost double to gain any benefit from it. He took the handle from her and held the umbrella over both of their heads. Her fingers tingled where his brushed hers, the sensation travelling all through her body as if running along an electric network.

Trying to keep dry, as well as out of the way of the bustling Christmas shopping crowd, put Violet so close to the tall frame of his body she could smell the clean sharp fragrance of his aftershave, the woodsy base notes reminding her of a cool, shaded pine forest. To anyone looking in from the outside they would look like a romantically involved couple, huddled under the same umbrella, Cam’s stride considerately slowing to match hers.

They came to the large Victorian building where the accounting firm Violet worked as an accounts clerk was situated. But just as she was about to turn and say her goodbyes to Cam, one of the women who worked with her came click-clacking down the steps. Lorna ran her gaze over Cam’s tall figure standing next to Violet. ‘Well, well, well. Things finally looking up for you, are they, Violet?’

Violet ground her teeth so hard she could have moonlighted as a nutcracker. Lorna wasn’t her favourite workmate, far from it. She had a tendency to gossip to stir up trouble. Violet knew for a fact their boss only kept Lorna on because she was brilliant at her job—and because she was having a full-on affair with him. ‘Off to lunch?’ she asked, refusing to respond to Lorna’s taunt.

Lorna gave an orthodontist’s website smile and aimed her lash-fluttering gaze at Cam. ‘Will we be seeing you at the office Christmas party?’

Cam’s arm snaked around Violet’s waist, a protective band of steel that made every nerve in her body jump up and down and squeal with delight. ‘We’ll be there.’

We will? Violet waited until Lorna had gone before looking up at Cam’s unreadable expression. ‘Why on earth did you say that? I told you I didn’t want a—’

He stepped out from under the umbrella and placed the handle back in her hand. Violet had to extend her arm upwards to its fullest range to keep the umbrella high enough to maintain eye contact. ‘I’ll strike a deal with you,’ he said. ‘I’ll come to your Christmas party if you’ll come to a dinner with my client tonight.’

Violet screwed up her face. ‘The one with the persistent wife?’

‘I’ve been thinking about what you said back at the café. What better way to send her the message I’m not interested than to show her I’m seeing someone?’

‘But we’re not…’ she disguised a little gulp ‘…seeing each other.’

‘No, but no one else needs to know that.’

You don’t have to be so darned emphatic about it. Violet chewed at one side of her mouth. ‘How are we going to keep this…quiet?’

‘You mean from your family?’

‘You know what my mother’s like.’ Violet gave a little eye roll. ‘One whiff of us going on a date together, and she’ll be posting wedding invitations quicker than you can say I do.’

There was another yawning silence.

I do?

Are you nuts? You said the words ‘I do’ to the man who views weddings like people view the plague!

Something shifted in Cam’s expression—a blink of his eyes, a flicker of a muscle in his lean cheek, a stretching of his mouth into a smile that didn’t involve his eyes. ‘We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.’

If we come to it? There was no if about it. That bridge was going to blow up in their faces like a Stage Five firecracker on Guy Fawkes Night. Violet knew her family too well. They were constantly on the lookout for any signs of her dating. MI5 could learn a thing or two from her mother and sisters. How was she going to explain a night out with Cam McKinnon? ‘Are you sure we should be doing this?’

There was a slight easing of the tension around his mouth. ‘We’re not robbing a bank, Violet.’

‘I know, but—’

‘If you’d rather not, then I can always find someone—’

‘No,’ Violet said, not even wanting to think about the ‘someone’ he would take. ‘I’ll go. It’ll be fun—I haven’t been out to dinner for ages.’

He smiled a lopsided smile that made the back of Violet’s knees feel like someone was tickling them with a feather. ‘There’s one other thing…’

You want it to be a real date? You want us to see each other as in ‘see each other’? You’ve secretly been in love with me for years and years and years? Violet kept her face blank while the thoughts pushed against the door of her reasoning like people trying to get into a closing down sale.

‘We’ll have to act like a normal dating couple,’ he said. ‘Hold hands and…stuff.’

And stuff?

What other stuff?

Violet nodded like her head was supported by an elastic band instead of neck muscles. ‘Fine. Of course. Good idea. Fab. Brilliant idea. We have to look authentic. Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea… I mean, well, you know what I mean.’

Cam leaned down and brushed her cheek with his lips, the slight graze of his rougher skin making something in her stomach turn over. ‘I’ll pick you up at seven.’

Violet took a step backwards to enter the building but stumbled over the first step and would have fallen if it wasn’t for Cam’s hand shooting out to steady her. ‘You okay?’ he asked with a concerned frown.

Violet looked at his stubble-surrounded mouth that just moments ago had been against the smooth skin of her cheek. Had he felt that same sensation ricochet through his body? Had he wondered in that infinitesimal moment what it would feel like to press his lips to hers? Not in a brotherly kiss, but a proper man-wants-woman kiss? She sent the point of her tongue over the surface of her lips, her breath hitching when he tracked every millimetre of the movement. Keep it light. ‘For a moment there I thought you were going to kiss me,’ Violet said with a little laugh.

The navy-blue of his gaze turned three shades darker before glancing at her mouth and back again. But then his hand dropped from her arm as if her skin had scorched him. ‘Let’s not go there.’

But I want to go there. I want to. I want to. I want to. Violet kept her smile in place even though it felt like it was stitched to her mouth. ‘Yes, that would be taking things too far. I mean, not that I don’t find you attractive or anything, but us kissing? Not such a great idea.’

There was the sound of heels click-clacking behind her and Violet turned to see Lorna coming back. ‘Silly me. I forgot my phone,’ Lorna said and with a sly smile at Cam added, ‘Aren’t you going to kiss her and let her get back to work?’

Violet sneaked a glance at Cam but instead of looking annoyed at Lorna’s comment he smiled an easy smile and reached for Violet’s hand and drew her against his side. ‘I was just getting to that,’ he said.

Violet assumed he would wait till Lorna had gone back into the building before releasing her but Lorna didn’t go back into the building. She stood three steps up from them with that annoying smirk on her mouth as if daring Cam to follow through. Cam turned his back to Lorna and slipped a hand under Violet’s hair, cupping the nape of her neck, making every nerve beneath her skin pirouette.

‘You don’t have to do this…’ Violet whispered.

Cam brought his mouth down to within a whisker of hers. ‘Yes, I do.’

And then he did.

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