“I have more respect for trees than to punch them,” he said gravely, but his eyes were sparkling. He leaned around the table, closing the distance between them, and bent his head to whisper in Irina’s ear. “And I can think of better uses for my hands.”
Irina had automatically leaned in to hear Grant better, and now she found herself frozen in place, her head bent close enough to Grant’s face that she could feel his breath tickle her ear. Her skin broke out in goosebumps, every nerve in her body tingling, ready for more. More than just the touch of his breath.
If she turned her head...
“Do you know what?” Grant started speaking again before she could make a decision either way: stay where she was, or turn around and raise the stakes. His voice was a low rumble that seemed to reverberate in her very bones.
“Hmm?” Irina didn’t trust herself to be able to make words. Was she trembling? Was she trembling so much that he would be able to tell? It wasn’t like they were actually touching—yet...
“If I’m honest… I think you would be enjoying this meal more if you’d already had your fill of me.”
Oh, my God.
Irina didn’t stop to think. She felt as though electricity was dancing across her skin, and that if she looked down, she would see silver sparks leaping to cross the distance between her body and Grant’s. Her lips ached to be touched, and Grant’s face was so close to hers—
Screw it, Irina thought just before she closed the gap.
His lips were soft, a heart-melting contrast to the prickly stubble around them. Irina pressed her own lips against them, gently at first, until she felt Grant’s tongue slip out to tease her lips and realized she couldn’t hold back any longer. She gripped the table with both hands for balance and dove into the kiss, recklessly losing herself in sensation.
Somewhere very far away and very, very unimportant, she heard footsteps approach and beat a hasty retreat.
“Hmm,” murmured Grant against her lips. “I think that was our dessert course.”
Irina tried to catch her breath, but caught another kiss instead. By the time their lips parted again, she was gasping. Her face was stinging where Grant’s stubble had scratched her skin, and her lips felt bruised and red.
She’d never kissed anyone on a first date before. At least, not like that.
She was still leaning too far forward, far enough that her chair was almost tipping over, but somehow her hands had moved from the table to press against Grant’s broad shoulders. She could feel the swell of muscle under her palms and the hard line of his collarbone under one thumb. Grant’s own arm was twined around her waist, holding her up.
The hell with it.
“Dessert?” she repeated, dazed. “If that means dinner’s over… is it time to head home?”
Is the car still outside? Grant projected wildly in what he assumed was Lance’s general direction, the downstairs area of the restaurant. He’d told the other man to take the evening off, but hadn’t been surprised when he sensed the snow leopard shifter still downstairs. An evening off eating one of Moss’ dinners beat anything else.
Keys, he thought suddenly. Shit. Keys?
You have your own set in your pocket, came Lance’s voice in his head, dryly amused. Do you—
Can’t talk. Got to go.
She was in his arms—beautiful, glorious Irina was in his arms, and he couldn’t waste any more time talking.
Kissing, though. He could waste time kissing.
He wrapped his arms more tightly around her, pulling her onto his lap. The pleased gasp she made as he held her close was almost infuriating. She turned him on so much, and every noise she made only reminded him how much closer he wanted to be to her. His cock was straining against his trousers. Could she feel it? Could she feel how badly he wanted to rip his clothes off and cover her body with his own?
“Your place or mine?” he growled into her mouth.
“Not mine. God no. Yours?” Irina turned pleading eyes to him. No force in the world could have made him refuse her.
Bring her home. His single-minded panther was insistent. And for once, Grant agreed with it.
“Follow me,” he growled and stood up. For one delicious moment he held Irina’s full weight against himself before he lowered her to the ground. He patted his pocket. Keys. Good. He took Irina’s hand, and she gripped it tightly. “My place isn’t far from here. I’ll drive.”
“Wait.” Irina stopped at the top of the stairs. “Is—Lance—he’s not coming with us, is he?”
“He’s off duty,” Grant growled, and the uncertain look on Irina’s face disappeared.
“Good. Because…” She bit her lip on whatever she was about to say next.
“If you say anything involving the words ‘personal assistance’…”
“I would never.” She burst out laughing and then covered her mouth with one hand, as though shocked at herself.
They hurried down the stairs together, Grant acutely aware of how close Irina’s body was to his as they navigated the narrow corridor.
He caught Lance’s eye as they burst out into the main dining area and was shocked by the wave of adrenaline that hit him when he saw the other man looking across at him and his mate.
No, it’s not the man, he realized immediately. It’s his leopard.
Really, there were some things about being a shifter that were just ridiculous. A few moments ago, even the mere thought that Mathis might have crossed paths with Irina had unsettled his panther. And now it was seeing Lance as a competitor, too.
The icy night air hit him like a freight train as they hurried out into the street, and Grant automatically pulled Irina to him, shielding her from the cold wind. She looked up at him, her eyes so warm he almost forgot how cold it was.
“The car’s just around the corner,” he said, resisting the urge to tip her head further back and cover her face with kisses.
“And your apartment?”
“We’ll be there before you know it.”
He spoke too soon. The street had filled up while they were eating, and they soon found themselves in a sea of honking horns, angry shouts and idling engines. Grant started to growl deep in his throat, echoing the car engines…
...But not his car’s engine, which was electric and silent.