“It is.” Liese stopped breathing as he inclined his head, ducking down until their lips met in a soft, barely there brush of satin against satin. To her dismay, and the affront of her hormones, he didn’t deepen it.
With infuriating restraint, he pulled back. “And you? How do you feel about the way I look at you?”
“I feel like . . .” Liese hesitated and thought about the way his eyes had roamed her body when they were alone earlier. The intense scrutiny hadn’t been new; he’d looked at her like that before, only this time she understood it better. “. . . I don’t want you to stop.”
He grinned. “That’s reassuring.” Ryder laced his fingers through hers and tugged on her hand, leading her to the kitchen.
More dark wood and cream and slate greeted her. Ryder released her and motioned to a high-backed stool in front of a large island. As Liese made herself comfortable, he rounded the island and uncorked a bottle of red wine. “Would you like a drink?”
“Please.” Liese looked down at the black granite countertop, tracing the streaks of gold with her fingertips. Lust merged with uncertainty to consume her.
The soft clink of a wine glass startled her, and she lifted her head. Ryder pushed the glass toward her as he leaned on the counter. “Do you like chicken?”
“Chicken. Are you opposed to it?”
“You sound rather uncertain.”
The teasing tone made her smile. Ryder opened the fridge and held up a package of chicken before tossing it on the counter. “I assure you, it’s not a trick question. I just want to make dinner.”
“Dinner?” Food certainly hadn’t been on her mind when she’d walked through his front door.
“Yes, dinner. What did you think?” He pried the wine glass from her fingers, setting it down on the counter. Ryder’s hands slid up the outside of her thighs and back down again. Pausing at her knees, he nudged them apart, palms resting on the inside of her legs, just below the hem of her skirt. Heat spread through her limbs, her breath coming shallow and fast. She couldn’t fathom what having him inside her would be like if a simple touch made her feel as though she might ignite.
“Tell me, Liese, did you expect I would take you to my bedroom immediately, with no precursor?” His voice was decadently smooth, the words inspiring her imagination.
“Something like that.”
“Despite the fact that I find it torturous not to succumb to that particular option, I was raised to be a gentleman, at least to some degree.” He withdrew his hands and relocated them to her waist.
She groaned in frustration. “I don’t need you to be a gentleman.” She fingered a button on his shirt.
His mouth hovered over hers, his hands encasing hers to prevent any attempt to undress him. “I’ll keep that in mind for later. However, I should remind you, you still have a detention to serve for that folder of unseemly pictures I found this afternoon, not to mention being late this evening. I can’t very well have you serving it before dinner. That would be rude.”
Ignoring his words, she leaned in, her focus on the proximity of his mouth. She parted her lips in expectation and felt the warmth of his breath against her skin.
“Do you want me to kiss you?”
“Good.” Ryder released her hands and turned away. Putting the island between them, he left her gaping after him.
Never had she been so turned on and sexually frustrated at the same time. “That wasn’t very nice.” She gave him a dirty look from over her wine glass.
“I promise I’ll make it up to you later.” He raised an eyebrow. “After we’ve discussed the contents of your laptop.”
A blush crept into her cheeks. Though she wanted to be angry with Marissa, Liese now knew she might wind up thanking her instead.
Ryder moved around his kitchen with efficient grace, preparing dinner. He refused her offer to help, topping off her wine periodically as he sautéed and stirred. He filled the silence with questions, gleaning personal details she would have thought trivial had he not seemed so enthralled by her answers.
“Do you have family close by?”
“My parents moved to California a few years ago. My mother likes the heat.”
“And you don’t?” Ryder paused to devote his full attention to her.
“I don’t mind it, but I liked New York. They moved during my undergrad, and I didn’t want to switch schools. My father’s a military man—retired now—so we didn’t stay put for long while I was growing up.”
“That must have been difficult.”
“I didn’t know any different.”
“So your father was in the military. And your mother, what does she do?”
“She’s a sex therapist. They’re currently making their way through Europe, so I haven’t heard much from them lately. It’s supposed to be a vacation, but I think my mother’s using it as an excuse to visit Amsterdam and check out the red light district. She’s all about freedom of expression.”
“Not when you’re a teenager,” Liese replied. “What about your parents? What do they do, and where do they live?”
“Giselle and Donovan live just outside of Allentown, less than an hour away. They’re professional assholes.”
Liese choked on her wine. “Pardon?”
“Sorry, that was a joke. They’re lawyers.” Ryder wiped his hand on a dish towel and handed her a napkin.
“Right.” Liese coughed into the white square, dabbing at her mouth.
“Dinner’s ready. Shall we eat in the dining room?”
The dining room table seemed unnecessarily large for one person, unless Ryder had seven roommates he hadn’t mentioned. If they sat at opposite ends, they’d have to slide things across the table to each other as if they were curling.
“I usually eat in the kitchen. However, I thought a more formal environment would be welcome this evening.” Ryder answered Liese’s unasked question as he pulled out a chair for her. He sat perpendicular to her, close enough that her foot bumped his shin when she crossed her legs. Ryder reached under the table and grazed her knee. His eyes locked on hers as his palm slid down the back of her calf, giving it a slight squeeze.