Home > Stripped (Stripped, #1)(4)

Stripped (Stripped, #1)(4)
Author: H.M. Ward

Jonathan gives me a twisted smile—one that's equal parts pleasure and surprise. He presses his fingers to his chest and follows me as I turn away from him. "Are you ditching me? After I went to all the effort to come down here and hang out with you. I'm hurt, Cassie, I really am."

I laugh once, and glance over my shoulder at him. He can't be serious? Why is he following me? I notice Jonathan's eyes and the downward glance that I assumed was on the floor—it's not as low as I thought. He's staring at my ass. I stop short and he rams into me. Damn, he's a wall of muscle and toned flesh. When our bodies collide I feel a slight tingling under my skin, like I licked an outlet. I suck in a jagged breath, trying to slow the frantic pace of my heart. Oh, what the hell? My body reacts to this guy like he's my goddamn soulmate, but he's not. There's no way he is. I want more than the stuff he's made of, without a doubt.

Jonathan's hands come up and steady me, holding lightly onto my forearms. Those blue eyes cut right through me and I forget how to think. "Easy there, Cassie." He offers a crooked grin. The vibrato in his voice is gone and he looks as shaken as I feel.

My mind has pulled out the warning siren and is screaming at me to step away from the hot man. I'm rendered mute and unable to move. Our eyes lock and linger way too long. Jonathan's lips are parted, like he wants to say something, but he doesn't. Or can't. I wonder if his heart is racing like mine? It can't be, not if he's screwed every girl in his path, which is the distinct impression he's given.

Jonathan's hands slip off my skin and I remember how to breathe. Sucking in air, I take a step away from him. What the hell was that? Averting my eyes, I speak before I should. My voice quivers slightly and lacks confidence. "I need to go shopping. You don't have to babysit me. I'll find my way around—"

For a moment his features are softened and completely serious. His fingers wiggle at his sides as his hands start to lift. I think he might touch me again, but he slides his hands into his pockets instead. "I don't plan on babysitting you. I'll help you with your shopping and then make you fall madly in love with me..." he glances at his watch and tips his head to the side like he's considering something, "By dinner time. That sounds about right. You'll be a molten ball of lust, unable to tell me no by then." When he glances up, he gives me a boyish smile. It's so smug, so utterly confident, and so completely fake.

I fold my arms across my chest and throw out my hip. "I don't think so."

Jonathan's eyes dip to my cl**vage. "I know so. One day with me is all it takes, baby."

Huffing, I turn on my heel and head down the mall corridor, looking for some place that he won't follow. Tampax really needs to add a tampon store in here because right then, I don't see any place that will deter him to that extreme. "One minute's enough for me, thanks."

"Ouch!" He's behind me and catches up, falling in step beside me. "Are you always this feisty?"

"Bitchy, the word you're looking for is bitchy." I don't look at him.

He laughs. "You are not a bitch, not by a long shot. For one, real bitches don't make it sound cute."

Go away, go away, go away! "I'm not cute. I'm—"

He steps in front of me and cuts me off. "You're not cute at all." I stop abruptly and stare at him with my mouth hanging open. He laughs lightly. It's the perfect sound; completely amused, kind, and warm. If a laugh could double as a tender embrace, that's what Jonathan's would do. His voice deepens and sounds completely different when he speaks this time, "You're beautiful, devastatingly so."

I can't tell if he's teasing me or if he's serious. The way he says it, the way his eyes meet mine make me think he's telling the truth, but there's a slight curve at the corners of his lips that makes me think he's playing with me. Those words catch me off guard and seep inside. I hate it. This is no one. He's just some random guy that my cousin called up to have sex with me. He's not serious. From the look of him, he's never serious. I swallow hard and look away.

A light laugh escapes before I can swallow it down, but I don't care. I'm never going to see him again and there's no doubt in my mind that he's just trying to get into my pants. When I look up, my gaze meets his and I step toward him, placing my hands on his chest. My voice is deeper, quieter. My lips form the words slowly, hugging each one tightly. His eyes dip to my mouth as I speak. "So are you. You're exactly my type...too bad you're not a virgin. We could have had something." I wink at him and turn away with a smirk on my face.

Jonathan seems stunned, but he snaps out of it fast enough to grab my wrist. He pulls me back and doesn't let go, which sends a surge of sparks shooting up my arm. A devilish smile is on his face. "Are you seriously tossing me back because I'm not a loser?"

"Virgin and loser aren't synonymous." SAT word. See, I'm smart. I can handle this guy. He probably doesn't even know what it means.

He catches my superior tone and throws back, "Well, that's where you're wrong, because they usually are. It's not everyday that a guy meets a hot girl and finds out that she hasn't had sex yet, because she chooses not to. It's usually because the opportunity was never given to this girl, and as soon as an opportunity prePixsents itself, she'll say yes. So, Cassie Whatever-your-last-name-is, do you want me to show you a few things and punch that V card for you?" He's so smug, so overly confident, that I want to punch him and knock the sly look right off his face, but I'm too busy tripping over my jaw. It's hanging open and I have trouble snapping it shut.

Stepping toward him, I lean in like I'm going to kiss him, but I pinch his cheek instead. "Awh, you're so cute! You think you'd be doing me a favor?" I drop my hand, along with the plastic smile, and roll my eyes. "How very noble of you."

"I know. I'm a noble fellow." He tries to take my hand, but I move. He ends up with my wrist and I feel that tug inside my body again.

The physical reaction to his touch is horrifying because it shoots through me like a bolt of electricity, frying my brain and landing directly between my legs. "You're anything but noble, and no, I'm not interested. I was serious about what I said before."

Jonathan drops my wrist as a baffled expression crosses his face. "You can't be..." I roll my eyes and start walking again. I spot a pink store that repels most guys, so I make a beeline for the front. Jonathan trails behind me. "You're the first chick who's shot me down."

"Good, then maybe you'll learn something."

Jonathan stops walking for a second and then races after me. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were trying to teach me a lesson." The infuriating smirk on his lips is still there, bright and beautiful. "You see, I was distracted by your perfectly sinful body. My brain actually exploded back there when you said you only use it for good, which isn't good at all, since that makes you off limits."

I'm smiling, and trying to suppress the grin, but I can't help it. I reach into my purse and pull out a Kleenex. I hold it over my shoulder for him. "Here's a tissue, go clean it up." Every time I try to stop, he laces together some sort of flattery with self-deprecation. Apparently, I'm a sucker for that combination.

He snatches it from me, grabs my shoulder, and spins me around. There's a huge smile on his face as his eyes dart between my lips and my eyes. "Let me convince you. You're so wrong about sex that it isn't even funny. It's not something to be saved in a glass jar. It's hot and sweaty with two slick bodies giving in to one another. It's ecstasy and agony mingling together to form the perfect high. It's not the kind of thing you save. It's the kind of thing you learn to master, and you can't do that with just one guy. Give me the day to convince you that you've got it wrong."

His words rattle me as much as his touch. There's something about the way he says it that makes my stomach twist. I glance away from him with a plastic grin on my face. "And how do you plan on doing that? I'm assuming it's a hands on learning experience? Get over yourself, Jonathan. Not every girl wants you."

He feigns being hurt, but recovers quickly, moving his face way too close to mine, whispering, "I think you do want me, Cassie."

"You're so arrogant."

"You're so uptight."

I glare at him, surprised he said it. "What a dickish thing to say."

His voice is smooth and the words sound intoxicating even though he's insulting me. "What a prude thing to say."

"I'm not a prude."

He laughs softly as his eyes lock on my lower lip. "Ah, that must be the problem, because you're the definition of prude. When Webster was talking to Merriam about that entry, your name came up."

My jaw drops open and hangs there for a moment before a sharp smile cuts across my lips. I'm in his face, so close to him that I can feel his warm breath. "At least my picture isn't in the Wiki entry for male slut."

Jonathan grins and his dark brows lift, like he didn't think I had it in me to spar with him. "Did you even know that term before you met me?"

I fold my arms over my chest, throw my hip out, and c*ck my head. "I've met a million guys like you. There's nothing special about you. You're a mask of perfection with no substance underneath. You're like every other guy out there who's wanted to get into my panties, and you'll end up like the rest of them as well—rejected. Access denied." As I speak, I drop my arms and step toward him. We're nose to nose, eyes locked, and breathing way too hard. I wonder if I've gone too far. At one point something changed and it felt wrong, but I couldn't shut up. I had to have the last word.

Jonathan blinks those dark lashes slowly, and when he lifts his gaze to meet mine, he notices that I've been staring at his lips. They look so soft, and the way the corners of his mouth curl up into that cocky smirk makes me crazy. The mall noise fades away and I'm only aware of him and me. His voice is barely a whisper. "Kiss me, Cassie."

My stomach flips as every muscle in my body tightens. The pull is there, the attraction doesn't stop just because I don't want it. If anything, his words were like throwing water on a grease fire—everything combusts. I'm too close to him and getting way too hot. Watching him through lowered lashes, I finally turn away.

His hand reaches out and touches my cheek lightly, directing my face back toward him. Jonathan leans in closer, slowly, which makes my pulse pound wildly in my ears. A shiver takes hold of me and rushes through my body. Jonathan's light pink lips are perfect. I'm gazing at them, watching him come closer and closer. When his head tips to the side and I feel his breath on my mouth, panic takes over. A lifetime of choices are about to be wiped away because I want to kiss a stranger in the mall. I turn away just as his lips touch me. Instead of kissing me on the lips, his mouth lands on my cheek.

I'm shaking and can't hide it. This guy is making me come apart at the seams. I'm going to lose my mind if I don't put some distance between us. But God, his lips—when they brush against my cheek, my eyes close and I hold my breath. His touch is so soft and his lips are warm and perfect. He pulls away slowly and looks at me from under dark lashes with those sapphire eyes.

My heart is pounding and I can't think. It wasn't supposed to be like this. He's a goddamn stranger, but it feels like there's a cord between us, pulling us together. Fate couldn't be so cruel. This guy can't possibly be my soul mate, but what I feel deep within protests. It's like I've recognized my other half and he isn't who I thought he'd be. Everything about him is wrong.

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