Lovers & Strangers

     Faith sighed and closed her eyes, nestling into him as they swayed together on the dance floor.
     Don't, he wanted to say to her. Don't trust me. But he folded his arms around her and lay his cheek against her hair.
     Faith felt unutterably safe, cradled, oh so gently, in the hard circle of his enveloping arms. She felt his lips move against her temple, whisper soft, and she wanted more than safety and gentleness from him. She stirred restlessly in his embrace.
     Jack's arms tightened around her. "Be still," he murmured raggedly, fighting for control.
     Her answer was a plaintive murmur of dissent and the soft press of her breasts against his chest as she slipped her arms around his back and nestled closer.
     Jack moaned in defeat and desire and bent his head lower, burrowing through her hair to press his face against the curve of her neck. His lips touched warm flesh and, helplessly, he opened his mouth to taste her.
     Faith felt the dampness of his lips and tongue against her skin and shivered in response, unconsciously letting her head fall back to give him better access. "Jack," she sighed, her voice rife with longing. "Jack."
     "Dammit, Faith, I'm no good for you," he growled, low, but his tone made the harsh words a caress. "I've done things and seen things you can't possibly imagine. I'm too old for you. I—Faith, dammit, open your eyes and look at me."
     She lifted her lids, looking up at him through eyes made slumberous and heavy with desire. He stared down at her for a long moment, frozen with indecision and guilt. And then she parted her lips slightly, her tongue peeking out as if to taste the kiss he hadn't yet given her, and he was lost.
     A low sound, half pain, half pleasure, rumbled in his chest. "I'll probably burn in hell for this," he growled, his voice savage, his mouth so close his lips brushed hers as he spoke. "But I can only resist just so much temptation. And you, Angel—Dammit, you I can't resist at all," he groaned, and took her mouth with his.
     "I didn't want to leave you that night." He reached across the table and put his hand on her arm. His fingers seemed to burn right through the sleeve of her robe. "I wanted to stay and make love to you again. Slowly, all night long. Like we used to." His fingers tightened on her arm. "I still want to," he said quietly.
     Daphne closed her eyes for a moment fighting the weakness that had invaded her body at his touch, fighting the temptation of his words. Fighting... What was it she had told herself? Oh, yes. It wouldn't work. She opened her eyes and eased her arm out from under his hand.
     "You didn't call," she accused, surprising herself. It was the last thing she had intended to say.
     Adam let her pull away. "I wanted to." He ran his hand through his hair. "But I thought it would be better—for both of us—if I didn't." He began tearing at the hapless cinnamon roll on the plate in front of him, reducing it to crumbs. "We've got separate lives now," he went on, half speaking to himself. "Successful lives," he emphasized, "on separate coasts. And it's been eleven years. We've both gotten along fine—just fine—without each other for eleven goddamn years."
     He looked up, his eyes faintly accusing, as if it were all her fault. "I actually thought I was over you. Over wanting you," he amended. "But you're like a fever. Like a..." He shook his head, looking as confused as she felt, and ran his hand through his hair again. "You're like a drug to me, Daphne. And all I have to do is see you and I start to ache for you all over again." He took a deep breath and dropped his hand to the table. "Why the hell did you have to come back here?"
     "Because I ache for you, too," she said simply.
     "You, too?" Adam's hand reached out again, tentatively touching hers where it lay on the table.
     "Me, too." She lifted her hand, palm toward him, and let him lace his fingers with hers. "After that night I couldn't get you out of my mind. Couldn't forget how good it was. How good it's always been between us."
     His fingers tightened. She squeezed back.
     "I told myself it would be best if we didn't see each other again," she continued. "That it was just a temporary aberration and it would go away if I ignored it. But then Sunny called and invited me to your birthday party and I thought…well, why not? We're both adults now, not two crazy kids. We could be friends. Lots of ex's are friends. Right?"
     Adam nodded slowly, his expression wary.
     Oh, hell! Who am I trying to kid, she thought, seeing it. Adam? Or myself?
     She straightened and pulled her hand from his. "No, that's not true." She laced her fingers together on the table. "The truth is," she said, staring down at her hands, "that I quite cold-bloodedly decided to come to Sunny's party to start an affair with you."
     "What?" Adam's blue eyes opened wide.
     "An affair." She glanced at him from under the sweep of her lashes. "You know, two people meeting over a period of time for illicit sexual purposes?"
     "Yes, I know what it is. What I don't know is why you'd want to have one."
     "Well, I thought... that is." She lifted her head and met his eyes straight on. "I thought having an affair with you would be the way to get you out of my system. I mean, this intense thing we seem to have for each other would have to fizzle out sooner or later and—"
     "It hasn't fizzled in eleven years."
     "No, but I think that's because of the way it ended. It was so abrupt and the... the..." She stumbled over the word, knowing love was the right one but not willing to go that far. "The passion never had a chance to die a natural death. We parted still wanting each other physically, even though the emotions were gone. And I thought, if we had an affair it might, uh, might—"
     "Get me out of your system for good," he finished for her.
     She nodded, completely forgetting that she had spent most of last night deciding that nothing was going to get Adam out of her system for good. "Yes." She smiled ruefully. "Do I sound totally crazy?"
     "Maybe. But if you're crazy, then so am I, because I agree. An affair is just what we need to get over each other for good."
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