Anna curled her fingers around his and let him lead her into the crush of dancers. Could this boy move! Such a flexible body; lithe snaking hips, rolling expressive shoulders. And energetic. She hadn’t danced so fast since parties with her husband. Exhilaration bubbled through her blood, threatening to kindle a long-dormant fire.
Lights softened. The music slowed to cool sensual jazz. Danny’s saxophone sobbed into the sultry night. Liquid notes trembling with the promise of passion. Honeyed tones awash with burgeoning desire. A beat inflamed with longing.
Partners snuggled together in the breathy intimacy of this summer darkness. Prue and the new, young police constable. Her parents, Helen and Tony. Karen and Prue’s brother, Trevor. Widowed Steve Powell and the recently divorced doctor. Martin and his wife. Even Merle and Ernie Young. Even, for God’s sake, Barb and Brian.
Everyone except Anna and Kyle.
Sure, he was holding her. But keeping a respectable distance between the nudging peaks of her breasts and the begging-to-be-stroked ruffles of his shirt.
Last year, she’d danced this smoochy, final dance with Brian. The year before, with Steve. Before that, she didn’t remember. Until seven years back, those torrid times with Roger. How they’d slip away before the end of the music, frantic to lose themselves in each other.
This year—she was a heartbeat away from whisking Kyle into the house with the same luscious intention.
“Dancing,” he whispered, his breath fuzzy on her cheek.
How come he made dancing sound as if it were light years from something you’d do in public in a paddock?
And wasn’t it, dancing with the sexiest man in the galaxy?
“Next best thing to…” Unspoken words of lust pulsed in the crackling space between them.
Mm, the solid muscle of his shoulder under her palm. One warm strong hand squeezing hers. The fingers of his other hand discovering pleasure points on her spine. His cologne, cool with the scent of a freshly sliced lemon. Heat from his mouth scorching her forehead. She pursed her lips to stop herself from kissing him in front of everyone.
They seemed sealed in a bubble of desire. Desire so intense she could almost taste its hormone cocktail. She knew he was hanging onto sense for both of them, avoiding intimate contact. Her, she’d sell her grandmother as a galley slave rather than miss this opportunity of nuzzling him, feeling his body tight against hers.
Wrong time. Wrong place. Right man? Didn’t matter anyway; she wasn’t looking for the right man.
* * * *
This Anna. Kyle ached to taste the wet sweetness of her mouth. Her irresistible lips, slicked raspberry again. Seductive curves, no bony angles. The glowing ivory of her skin lit by the full moon. A hint of apple perfume. The swish of her dress as she moved with him. Her warmth, of body and soul.
Wrong time. Wrong place. Right woman? Before her, he hadn’t known he was looking for the right woman.
“Kyle.” Anna was wriggling again. “Hold me closer,” she whispered.
How was that for an invitation? Just what he was burning to do. He crushed their bodies together, her nipples pressed taut and tempting against his chest.
“Because my dress is slipping.”
What a letdown.
“Can I fix it for you?” Touch your skin. Skim my fingers over your delicious breasts.
“Well, er…” She slid him a cheeky look from beneath half-lowered lids. “Maybe not here.”
Squeezing her fingers between his chest and hers, she fiddled with her dress.
“Okay.” She pulled back from him. “I’ll last the distance.”
“Anna,” he murmured. “The engineering of your dress wasn’t really suspect, was it? We’re desperate to be close. And in two seconds, I’m going to do something with you that Last Chance won’t forgive either of us for.”
“Who’s counting the seconds?” she whispered.
Brian and Barb tooled past them, two pairs of eyes on full alert.
“Mr. Kinross,” she breathed into his ear. “Back to reality. Behave yourself. And for heaven’s sake, help me to behave myself.”
“In public,” he murmured.
As the music slowed to its finale, pitchforks of lightning split the sky. Bruised clouds scudded across the moon and blanked out the stars.
Anna and Kyle returned to her table, where Prue’s parents were packing up.
Tony Moffat jerked a thumb toward the west. “Could we be so lucky rain’s coming?”
“Understatement,” Helen declared. “We’re getting a storm.”
Slashes of lightning flared over the paddock. Thunder rattled across the landscape. People scurried around collecting their things. The band packed their instruments and left. The lighting operators dismantled the system.
The guests shouted and waved as they hurried past.
“Another great ball!”
“I’ll find Barb,” Helen said. “We’ll take her home.”
Half a dozen fat spots of rain slapped the ground. The temperature dropped ten degrees. Two stabs of lightning and a bass drum roll of thunder filled the air, then the storm unleashed itself. Sheets of water bounced off the hard-packed earth of the paddock. Wind flattened Anna’s dress against her body.
The alpacas! Were they safe?
She flew to the breezeway. Untied Hooli. Switched the automatic security lights for the house and the animal sheds to remain on. Slipped into an oilskin and shoved feet into gumboots. Grabbed the flashlight in case she needed to search the paddock.
Hooli beside her, she raced toward the girls’ paddock. The dog’s solid, faithful company was reassuring, and he could track any stray animal.
The storm crashed. She heard nothing except booming thunder and rain pounding on the iron roofs of the house and sheds.
The lights died.
Where was Kyle?