The moment Tarla and Logan were alone in the apartment, she knew
she'd made a serious mistake. He was absolutely fuming! Her stomach squeezed into a knot of anxiety. How could she have
forgotten how dangerous he was? He wasn't a kitten to tease with a piece of yarn. He was a full-grown panther.
And he was stalking her.
"Now, Logan," she said, trying to conceal
her fear as she backed away from him, "it's your own fault. I mean, I probably went too far—"
"Probably?" His voice was eerily soft. "Too far? You paraded
us halfway back to Earth."
She kept walking backward around the room, occasionally
bumping into furniture, but he continued to track her. She had only wanted to push him into a compromise, but now she could
see she'd pushed him way beyond that.
"If you would just be reasonable about this
servant business when we're alone, I'd be reasonable about acting the mistress when we're in public. It makes
me extremely uncomfortable to have you waiting on me. I understand the need for caution, but we also have to find a way to
live together in this apartment without driving each other crazy."
"That is definitely
not possible since you've already driven me way past crazy. You think you're uncomfortable? Look at me! This
She obeyed his order to look at him without thinking of the
consequences. A giggle escaped before she clamped her hand over her mouth.
ahead, mistress, let it out. You've been strangling on it all day."
in her cheeks to hold back the smile. "I am sorry, Logan, really, really—"
"Way too late for sorry, angel. I want to hear you laugh. I want you to get every last giggle out
of your system, before you wreck this whole operation by cracking up in public…or before I go completely nuts and turn
you over my knee!"
She thought the predatory gleam in his eye seemed to glow
a little brighter with the thought of spanking her. "Logan please, you're scaring me. I said I'm sorry—"
"And I said I want you to laugh. If you can't do it yourself, maybe I need to help you."
He took a large step toward her but she escaped his grasp.
"Stop it!"" Tarla
ordered and sped up her retreat.
"I'll stop it when I hear you laughing,"
he countered, then picked up his own pace.
She evaded him for almost a whole minute as she
circled the room and dodged between pieces of furniture. Suddenly his hands latched onto her caftan, bringing her to an abrupt
halt and pulling her close. As she tried to get free again, his fingers wiggled in her sides. "Laugh, Tarla," he
said, tickling her without mercy.
She squealed from the unexpected tickle and saw
a victorious grin spread across his face instantly erasing all traces of aggression. It was such a relief to realize he had
intended to tickle rather than humiliate her, she almost gave him the laughter he'd demanded. But her own stubborn streak
kept her from giving in that easily. "You can't make me!" she declared.
an extremely vulnerable spot below her ribs that caused her to squeal again, yet she still managed to hold back a real laugh.
The more she squirmed in an attempt to escape, the more effort he put into tickling her. The struggle
tilted them both off balance and they tumbled over a row of foam cubes and onto the floor in a tangle of legs and arms and
yards of pink and aqua fabric.
That did it for Tarla. She burst out laughing and
Logan joined her the next second.
"You broke the couch," she teased between
chuckles and gasps for air.
"I can fix the couch. What are you going to do about
my broken back?" He returned, managing to reduce his laughter to a crooked smile.
problem," she said as seriously as possible. "I'm a nurse. I can fix your back." With him sprawled half
on top of her, she scraped her fingernails down his spine to give him a taste of his own medicine. His reflexive jerk gave
her such satisfaction, she tried to extract a bit more revenge by tickling his sides as he had done with her. But that only
caused him to pay her back again. As each tried to get the better of the other, they rolled across the floor, laughing too
hard to really administer a good tickle.
"I give up! You win," Tarla finally
said, fighting more for a deep breath of air than for her freedom. His body had hers pinned to the floor and, though he looked
much too pleased with himself, she didn't have the strength to continue the mock battle.
"If I win, that means you lose, and you know what happens to losers?"
cocked one eyebrow suspiciously.
"They have to pay off the winner," Logan
informed her. "Now what payment should I demand?"
Logan looked as though he was
giving a great deal of thought to choosing her payoff.
"I won't make you go
on any more walks in public," she offered quickly, before he could think of anything more difficult for her to forfeit.
He shook his head. "Not nearly enough."
"Umm, I won't
talk to you like you're a complete imbecile in front of guests."
she was no longer laughing or engaged in a tickling match, she began noticing other things—like how right his hard body
felt covering hers and how she could feel the coarseness of the hair on his legs because their caftans were twisted above
their knees. How he shifted to find a more comfortable position. How his lower body was changing shape where it was pressed
"Still not enough," he murmured as the expression on his face
turned serious and his eyes darkened with desire.
There was something else she noticed—she
was suddenly getting very warm…and incredibly, abnormally horny…and her nerves felt like they were
on the outside of her body…almost as if—
No! That was completely
impossible. Not here. Not after all this time. Not with a Terran.
She forced her gaze from his seductive eyes only to have his mouth capture
her rising interest. If she was right about what was happening to her, there was nothing she could do to stop the inevitable
burning desire, the mindless need.
But maybe she was wrong. Maybe the business of
touching his mind had her imagination running amok. It might be nothing but stress…
Though Tarla couldn't verbalize her third concession to the winner, her eyes closed and her lips parted in preparation
of giving him the prize she assumed he wanted.
His groan sounded more like one of resigned defeat
than glorious victory, but before she could question it, his mouth came down hard on hers…exactly as she needed.