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The Paternity Proposition(10)

By:Merline Lovelace



All right, all right! If she added up the minutes they'd spent in each other's company, honesty would force her to admit he aroused her a whole bunch more than he'd irritated her. That still didn't excuse her idiocy in tipping her head back for his kiss.

And idiocy it was. The shock that jolted through her gave ample proof of that. Not to mention the shiver that raced down her spine when he curved his free arm around her waist.

"The hair's different," he murmured, drawing her against him, "but you taste every bit as good as I remember."

His mouth brushed hers again. Lightly. Deliberately.

"Forget good," he said a moment later, his voice husky. "You taste great."

He punctuated that with another kiss.

He held her splayed against his long, hard frame. Every pressure point in her body was alive and kicking. Her breasts. Her hips. Her belly, where it pressed against the stiffening bulge just below his belt buckle.

Oh, God! It was just like last time. They'd barely slammed the door of that sleazy motel room before they started ripping at each other's clothes. She had the same urge now, could barely keep her hands from sliding up his ribs and down his muscled flanks.

And look what that raw hunger had produced, the last sane corner of her mind shouted. Two people caught up in a tangle of if's and maybe's. The thought acted like a fire hose on her raging hormones. It was time to end this charade, she decided grimly. Past time. Not even the shimmering vision of a brand spanking new Lane 602 could make her continue it.

"Alex, listen to me. I wasn't pregnant when I left for South America. I didn't give birth in a Chilean hospital or some remote mountaintop clinic. I'm not the mother of your child."

She pushed away and put some breathing room between them while her fingers fumbled in her hair. She found a random couple of strands, yanked. Her breath still ragged, she looped them around the top button of his shirt.

"Here. Take these. Run whatever tests you want to."





Five

The abrupt command knifed through Alex's intense absorption with her scent and her feel. Mentally grinding his teeth, he forced himself to shift from lust to think mode.

Why the hell had she plucked those strands now? She could have waited the entire week to ensure he honored the deal he'd struck with her and her partners. Could have continued to feed his increasing doubts, let him struggle with the question of why a woman with her strong will and fierce work ethic would abandon a child. Instead, she'd laid her cards on the table. Or more precisely, wrapped them around his shirt button.

Slowly, the ice-minded executive preempted the hot-blooded male. Alex wanted this woman with an ache that wouldn't quit but he needed to understand her motives.

"Okay," he said slowly.

"Okay?" She blinked up at him. "Okay what?"

"Okay, I'll do whatever needs to be done."

She looked surprised and more than a little deflated by his controlled response. "I thought you'd be pleased. Isn't that what you wanted? Proof positive of your baby's parentage? Or in this instance, proof that I didn't provide half of her DNA mix?"

Yeah, that's what he wanted. Most definitely. The uncertainty had been hanging over him and his brother for weeks now. Blake handled it with his usual deliberate approach to any and all problems. Alex was more impatient.

Yet instead of providing a definitive answer, Julie had just reopened the debate. If she wasn't Molly's mother, who was? The unresolved issue frustrated Alex almost as much as the hunger this woman stirred. It was still there, gnawing at him, as he fumbled for a solution that would keep her within reach.

"I'll send the sample in tomorrow. It'll take some time to get results, though."

"How much time?"

He decided not to mention the mountainous backlog of tests handled by various labs around the country. Or the court case Blake had cited, nullifying seemingly irrefutable results certified by overworked and overstressed lab supervisors.

"At least as long as you'd planned to stay in Oklahoma City," he said instead.

She took that with a philosophical shrug. "I guess the time frame doesn't really matter. You know the truth now. You can call off your private investigator. Or sic him on another candidate."

"There aren't any others."

"Oh, that's right," she recalled with a crooked smile. "I was the last one on your list."

Funny how that had worked. She might have been last on his list of possible mothers but since they'd renewed their admittedly brief acquaintance, she'd jumped to the top of another. One that had him sliding a hand through the warm silk of her hair.                       
       
           



       

"Now where were we? Oh, right." He dipped his head. "Just about … here."

He captured her mouth in an assault so swift and sensual that Julie never got a chance to vent her admittedly feeble objections. His lips moved over hers, demanding a response. She resisted for all of three or four seconds.

Sliding her arms around his neck, she angled her head. Alex took that as a green light to hook her waist and tug her against him again. One hand stayed buried in her hair. The other molded her hip, then slipped under her tunic hem. Her rioting senses registered its warmth, its strength, its tantalizingly slow glide to the small of her back.

She found herself riding a tidal wave of relief that she'd ended the DNA farce. Jumbled in with that were memories of their gloriously erotic previous encounter. But those were fast getting edged out by newer, even wilder sensations. She could feel his imprint on every inch of her body. Feel the heat of his hands, his mouth, his thighs. Hunger raged through her like an out-of-control bush fire.

An almost out-of-control bush fire.

Just enough sanity remained for Julie to tear her mouth from his. Panting, she willed air back into her lungs. It was a few moments, though, before she could trust her voice. Even then it came out low and husky and more tentative than she intended.

"This, uh, isn't a good idea."

The fire in his blue eyes scorched her. Julie couldn't decide whether she was more relieved or disappointed when he slowly, inexorably, tamped it down to a slow burning ember.

"Probably not," he agreed after a pause that had stretched her nerves to their max.

Ignoring her body's instant wail of protest, she put some space between them once again. "I'll leave tomorrow. No sense complicating an already messy situation."

"You can't leave."

Her brow creased. "Why not?"

Alex could think of a dozen reasons, not least of which was his now rock-hard resolve to finish what they'd started here.

"You haven't met Molly. Or my mother," he added to forestall the protest he saw forming in her eyes.

"What's the point?"

"The point," he said with more composure than he was feeling with his insides still tied in knots, "is that Delilah Dalton is a major shareholder in the corporation Agro-Air will become part of. You need to know who you're dealing with."

An arrested expression entered her unusual eyes. "You intend to honor the business end of our deal? Even though I've given you proof I'm not Molly's mother?"

Alex stiffened. "Did you think I wouldn't?"

"I don't know what to think." Scowling, she shoved a hand through her hair. "You …  The baby …  This whole crazy situation has got me caught in a vicious crosswind."

The admission eased his irritation over her assumption he would renege on their agreement. It also gave him the fierce satisfaction of knowing she was thrown for as much of a loop as he was by the way their past had unexpectedly collided with the present.

Deciding he'd better call it a night before he gave in to the urge to pull her back into his arms, Alex beat a reluctant retreat.

"Thanks for coming to Oklahoma City, Julie." He flicked the curling auburn strands wrapped around his shirt button. "And for these, although the fact that you volunteered them pretty much makes them unnecessary."

"Yeah, well … "

Uncertainty still clouded her eyes and pursed her lips. Before he could stop himself, Alex dropped a quick kiss on that pouty mouth.

"I'll see you in the morning. Mother's expecting us for brunch. Ten o'clock. We'll need to leave here about nine-thirty."





Julie was more used to getting up at dawn than lazing around until mid-morning. As a consequence, she woke the next morning at her usual time and futzed around the lavish apartment, making coffee and munching on one of the bagels included in the guest basket on the marble kitchen counter.

With another couple of hours to kill, she tugged on a tank top and a pair of khaki shorts and power-walked the still deserted city blocks. The morning rush was just starting to fill the streets when she took the elevator back up to the penthouse suite. A hot, stinging shower sluiced away the sweat. A frothy shampoo with the exotic mango scent provided by Dalton International for its guests left her hair soft and glossy.

Wrapped in a fluffy bath sheet, she slid open the louvered closet doors and surveyed her meager wardrobe. She'd found herself in some tense situations over the years. The terrifying time she'd flown through a storm into the remote Andean village and almost got swept down the mountain in an ensuing mudslide certainly topped the list. Going head to head with Delilah Dalton was fast taking on the same ominous overtones. So what the heck should she wear to beard a tigress in her den?

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