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Just To Be With You (Page 28)

He could see how frustrated she was and was equally frustrated that he couldn’t reach out to soothe her without risking a friendly embrace turning into so much more. So instead, he did what always helped him when he was confused. He took things apart piece by piece.

“Call Smith back. And then come with me to the office so that you can keep doing your research for your role.” Soon, hopefully, they’d figure out how to keep their growing attraction at bay. Now that it was out in the open, at least—and he’d made it perfectly clear to her that they couldn’t do anything about it—things had to get easier.

But as he watched her war with herself, a part of him—a really big part that he wasn’t proud of—was praying she’d ignore everything he’d just said and kiss him anyway.

Finally, though, she nodded. “There’s just one question I need to ask first before we go ahead as if nothing has changed between us, even though we both know it has.”

He braced for her question. “Go ahead.”

“Do you really think one teeny-tiny little kiss would be that big a deal?”

“With you,” he said, as serious as he’d ever been in his life, “I’m certain that no kiss could ever be teeny. Or tiny. Or little.”

“A hug then. Now that we’ve cleared the air from yesterday, I think we should at least be able to give each other a friendly hug.”

Even that was a bad idea, Ian knew, but before he could make that clear, her arms were already coming around his neck.

She was so much smaller than he, but they still fit together perfectly, her soft curves against his muscles, taut with the effort it was taking not to lift her up on the kitchen counter and wrap her legs around his waist so that he could devour her.

He could feel her breath warm against his neck, her long eyelashes brushing his skin as she closed her eyes, then opened them again. He could feel her heart beating against his chest, fast and hard, as they stood in the circle of each other’s arms for what was one of the most precious, extraordinary moments of his life so far.

Ian never wanted to let her go, didn’t know if he’d ever find the strength to do it, but he also knew he needed to shatter the moment before it spun off into another even more heady one.

“My driver is waiting outside. You can call Smith on the way to the office. That is, if you still want to come with me.”

When she finally drew back, cool air rushed in where her curves had been warming him. “I do. Of course I do.”

Her words were slightly breathless, and knowing why, knowing that he aroused her that much with only a hug, did crazy things to him. Especially when he couldn’t help but wonder just how aroused she would become if he kissed every inch of her, then followed up his kisses with caresses.

She reached for her phone with a slightly shaky hand and was already dialing his cousin as they headed out. “Smith, Serena and her mother just left my place.”

He was impressed how quickly, and successfully, Tatiana turned her attention to the job Smith had asked her to do. Especially when he knew firsthand just how difficult—impossible, actually—it was to pull off that kind of focus when they were together.

“Serena’s a winner,” she told Smith. “There’s a depth to the emotion inside of her that, when combined with her beauty, is frankly mind-blowing. Ian was watching, too, if you’d like to hear his opinion. Valentina told you I’m shadowing him to research my new role, didn’t she? I’ll put you on speaker—hold on a sec.”

“Tatiana was right on the money,” Ian told his cousin once they were all on the call together in the back of his town car. “Serena did a great job—despite her horrible mother doing everything she could to get in the way.”

“You owe Ian, Smith,” Tatiana said, “since he barely escaped with his life around that woman. However, I still think you should hire Serena. Just figure out a way to keep Genevieve off the set as much as possible.”

“Will do,” Smith said. “Thanks, both of you, for your help. And Ian, drinks are on me next time I see you.”

But Ian knew that if Smith had even the faintest inkling about his feelings for Tatiana, the very last thing in the world he’d be doing was thanking him or buying him drinks.

CHAPTER TWELVE

All Wednesday afternoon after they’d gone back to Ian’s office, and then Thursday while they went on an extensive tour of the massive physical warehouse facilities in which he was considering an investment, Tatiana’s brain had been spinning as she tried to figure things out, both regarding Ian and her new role.

She’d meant it when she said she was no good at holding things in. She had always been passionate about what she was working on, and once she’d tapped the well of inspiration and passion for acting, she’d never even considered turning it off. Her sister had made more than one worried comment over the years about her putting in long hours and so much emotional commitment to her roles. Tatiana wanted to please Valentina, who had always been more of a mother to her than a sister, but even for Val she couldn’t change who she was.

All or nothing.

Go big or go home.

And no matter how high, or how risky, the stakes were, give her all and her best.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, then, that she had gone and fallen in love with a man who absolutely, positively refused to let himself do the same.

Since the previous Friday when she’d stumbled into his arms, how many times had he deliberately kept his distance, making certain not to touch her with even the barest brush of their fingers or legs against each other? Only yesterday when she’d been talking to him about losing her father had he forgotten to keep that space between them.

The only thing she knew for sure was that she wanted Ian and he wanted her. Yesterday in her kitchen, he hadn’t denied their attraction the way other men might have, because he wasn’t a man who lied. Ever.

Immediately, she’d discounted playing the seductress. Not only because she wasn’t sure she knew how, but also because she respected Ian too much to trick him like that. If and when they finally came together, she wanted it to happen on honest ground, and to know that they were both all the way in.

As for her new role, while she’d learned a heck of a lot already about how to successfully run a company from watching Ian—he was shockingly hands-on, tough but fair, and made sure to surround himself with brilliant, friendly people who always kept their eye on the ball—she was still lost. Seeing the way Serena had dived straight down into her character when they’d done the short read-through of Smith’s script the previous day had only highlighted how screwed Tatiana was.

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