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Sugar and Spice

Written by Lynnette Kent

Chapter six

Wearing a velvet dress and sexy heels, Cass arrived at eight p.m. on Friday to find Ian's house dark and apparently empty. She waited in her car for a few minutes, thinking he might be running late. Then she wondered if he expected her to let herself in with her key. He might even be planning to spring some kind of surprise when she did.

No surprise. No Ian. Just the chill and the dark and the smell of fresh paint met her at the front door.

She turned on the lights in the family room?? she'd placed two floor lamps and another table, with the right lamp to set on it, by the sofas. She sat in an armchair for a while, staring at the blank television. The apples smelled good, and Cass finally acknowledged how hungry she was.

In the refrigerator, she found hints of Ian's plans, including chicken breasts, a bottle of white wine, fresh broccoli, and fresh pasta. The thought of what she could do with those ingredients made her mouth water and her stomach growl.

But tonight she would not take charge. She would let Ian keep control.

By nine-thirty, she was ready to weep with hunger. He hadn't called and she didn't know how to contact him, except through the answering service, which wouldn't give her any information except to say he wasn't on call tonight. Great. So where was he?

At ten, she consigned his male ego and his desire for control to hell. First, she turned on the gas igniter in the fireplace and set the logs to blazing. Then, she pounded the chicken breasts thin, dredged them in flour, and set about making chicken Piccata with the lemons and capers she found in the fridge. Great minds think alike.

Just as she was stirring the sauce, lights flashed outside and the garage door lifted. In another moment, Ian came into the house. He closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, staring at Cass with an expression very close to despair.

"Smells good," he said quietly. And then, "I am so sorry. I'd have called, but I was in surgery the whole time."

Cass looked at him a moment, and her irritation bled away. "It's okay. Why don't you get out of your scrubs while I dish this up, and we can eat in front of the fireplace?"

Ian squeezed his eyes shut. "Sounds great. I??" But then he opened his eyes, shook his head, and went to his room without finishing the thought.

When he came out again, the plates were set on the coffee table, with glasses of wine waiting and a CD Cass liked playing softly. "I have no idea what kind of music you enjoy," she said as they sat on the floor opposite each other. "Is this okay?"

"I haven't had much time for music. But this is good." He took a bite of chicken. "Mmm. So's this." He toasted her with his wine. "How is it you always end up taking care of me? I really meant to do the honors tonight."

"You take care of people all day long."

"You feed people all day long."

"Not the same level of pressure as heart surgery."

"Sometimes being fed is more important."

"Give it up, Dr. Baker. I'm not going to let you take the blame. Just eat your dinner."

"Yes, ma'am."

She wouldn't let him clean up afterward, either. With the dishes in the dishwasher, she brought the wine bottle out, refilled their glasses, then turned off the lamps and curled up on the couch where she could watch Ian, still on the floor, and the fire. "Thank you for a lovely dinner. Consider yourself cleared of all obligation."

"You cooked, cleaned up, and waited two hours to begin with."

Cass shrugged. "I'm a take-charge kind of person. Being waited on really doesn't suit me."

Ian pushed himself up off the floor and onto the opposite sofa, bracing his elbows on his thighs as he held his wineglass in both hands. "What does suit you?"

The answer slipped out before she could stop it. "Being needed."

"Yeah?" He moved to her couch, setting his glass on the table. "What else?" The fire flickered over his face, striking blue sparks deep in his eyes.

"Um?being comfortable."

Reaching out, he slipped off her shoes. "Better?"

Cass smiled and wiggled her toes. "Much."

"Anything else?"

Staring into her wine, she debated asking That I want you to take off? but decided she wasn't brave enough to be quite that blunt. She risked a quick glance at the man next to her. "That suits me?"

"Well?"

His hand still rested on her ankle, his fingers circling lightly on her skin. The tremor caused by his touch streaked straight up her leg and set off an earthquake deep inside of her.

"To be wanted," Cass said, barely above a whisper.

He took the wine goblet from her shaky fingers and set it beside his on the table. "So, there are a few things I can do for you, after all." His fingers tilted her face up. His mouth touched the point of her chin, grazed the line of her cheek, placed a kiss on each eyelid. "I've wanted you from that first night," he said softly, skimming his fingers, then his lips, over her ear. "You were like a candle coming into my darkness, leaving warmth and light behind even when you weren't here."

His kisses, light as they were, pressed her back into the soft leather sofa. She raised her hands to grip his shoulders, bring him closer, but Ian held back. "Are you warm enough? Too warm?" He set his mouth to her throat, nibbled lightly.

"Ian?" She was losing the ability to think.

"You're the first thing that comes to my mind in the morning when I wake up." He ran his fingers along the edge of her dress, over the sensitive skin of her shoulders, the tops of her breasts. "Seems like you're the sunshine that starts my day." He followed the trail of his fingers with his lips. "I need that thought of you to get me going."

Crazy with her own need, Cass pulled his face to hers, seized his mouth for a breathless eternity of kisses. She let her hands roam freely, as his were, and soon they lay together with no barriers at all, except a desire to prolong the pleasure as long as possible. Finally, Ian settled over her, joining their bodies with a deliberation that drove her even wilder.

Then he lifted his head to look into her eyes, his own glinting with a smile. "Are you okay? Comfortable enough?"

"I'm going to kill you." Cass adjusted her hips with a move that made him groan.

"You know, lady," he said breathlessly, "I think you might be right."

To be continued...

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