Shari ignored the prickling down her back that told her that she was being watched. Once Manny disappeared from her sight as they drank the last toast, she’d been overly aware of just how much she wanted Ben. But he was right -- their friendship was so damn ingrained into them. It was something of legend, their ability to not let sex get in the way of being there for each other, regardless of circumstance. Yet -- yet, Manny said they were meant for one another. Could it be true? Really, honestly, made by the universe true?
Concentrating on rinsing off the last bit of dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, Shari started humming a tune before realizing that it was a song playing on her stereo. Placing the last dish into the rack, she poured in the detergent, shut the door, locked it and turned it on. Inhaling slowly, Shari tried to calm herself; there was no way Ben was playing her favorite romantic song because Manny had told him they were meant to be lovers. A small scuffing against the floor made her turn around. There, lounging against the open doorway, was Ben.
He had removed his tie, rolled up his sleeves to mid-forearm; the top three buttons of his shirt undone, showcasing just a hint of hair on his chest. Even his leaning against the doorjamb was sexy, his faded jeans hugging him in the right places. She swallowed as desire swept through her body, dampening her panties. Thank gods he didn’t have a preternaturally keen sense of smell. “What are you still doing here, Ben? I thought you were heading home, just like the others.”
“We need to talk about Manny’s appearance and what he said.”
“There’s nothing to say, Ben. You said it all, without asking my opinion on things. Why bother discussing it now?”
He stepped toward her and Shari retreated before realizing that he was making her on guard in her own home. Spreading her feet shoulder-width apart, Shari put out a hand to stop Ben in his tracks. “Don’t try to overrun me in my own home, Ben. It’s not going to work. Not now, not ever.”
His smile seemed to light his face as his eyes darkened in thought. “I’m not trying to overrun you, Shari. I agreed to give Manny a chance to see if this thing between us is truly meant or not. So why not give in wholeheartedly when he promises me that if it’s not, that our friendship won’t suffer.”
“Oh, is that what he promised? Planning on wiping my memory, are you?” Shari crossed her arms in front of her chest, trying to ignore the pain of being treated as an experiment. How dare they put together a scheme against her? Weren’t they all friends? Or is this the result of being shown whatever Manny had forced into Ben’s mind?
“No, nothing like that, Shari, I promise. Manny said that even if we indulged in one night’s passion, our friendship wouldn’t be hurt by it.” Ben sighed as he reached for one of her hands, bringing it to his chest. The heat of his body warmed her chilled hand as his words flooded her mind. “I want to believe him on this. Too many times have I wanted you, wanted to make love to you only to stop because our friendship is the closest thing to a treasure like my parents shared.”
Closing her eyes briefly, Shari listened to his heart, allowing herself to see if he was lying to her. His pulse was steady, there were no other telltale signs of lying, and she wanted to believe him. She had wanted him just as much as he wanted her. Why not give into one night of passion? Tonight could celebrate the joy of life after losing someone like Manny, who brought love and life into each person he touched. Opening her eyes, she nodded briefly. “Fine. One night, my home, my rules. Our friendship remains even if this romantic interlude doesn’t work and even if it does.”
“One night, your home, our
rules. I won’t let you have the upper hand in this.” This time his smile reached his eyes. “I know how you can be; you forget how many times you’ve told me about the latest sex escapade, not realizing how hot it made me to claim you myself.” Tugging her close, Ben slid one hand into her loosened hair, then pulled, guiding her lips toward his. “Tonight won’t be like anything you’ve ever had before, Shari. That, I promise.”
His lips were warm and demanding while his tongue swept along her lips, trying to slide between them. With a soft moan, she opened to him as she slid her hands up his chest to his strong shoulders. His taste was not just maleness at its finest, but a combination of the wine he had drunk, the chocolate cake, and something spicy that defied recognition to her sensitive taste buds. Her tongue slid against his, teasing him with bold and then soft strokes as she pressed her body against him. Too long she had denied herself even thinking of the only kiss they had shared so long ago. This kiss seared the old one away, leaving behind quaking need as his tongue caressed the roof of her mouth before slowly withdrawing to outline her lips.
“Gods above, Shari,” he hoarsely whispered against her lips as their foreheads touched. “I need you tonight. Say yes.”
Deep blue eyes filled with desire, respect, and something else captured her gaze. There was no other answer to give. To deny this one night would be denying the dreams she’d had for months now. “Yes.”