Carson couldn’t take his eyes off Eva. He’d finished with the portraits an hour ago and once he’d packed away his gear, had stayed as a volunteer chaperone. He shouldn’t have bothered. He had no idea what the kids were getting away with right under his nose because Eva had his full attention.
She, on the other hand, was checking up on her young charges, deftly separating those who stood too close to one another, rounding up those who stood too far away from the crowd. But it was the way she accomplished both tasks that had Carson’s face aching from the grin that wouldn’t quit.
Like a nymph, a sprite nipping in and out of a field of flowers, she flitted and flirted her way through Lake City High’s darkened cafeteria decorated in silver and blue. The kids either laughed or dropped their jaws in awe. This age group was too young to have known who Eva had been during her two years in the modeling industry. But word was circling like a wagon train.
Eva was in her element. As much as she hated any reminders of her days in New York, she had survived and gone on to build this life here with her son. She had survived worse times as well: the loss of her mother, the loss of the man to whom she’d been married—the man who’d been the father of her child.
Eva had told Carson she didn’t know if they stood a chance of making this thing work the second time around. She was wrong. Having been with her here the last month, he knew without a doubt she was wrong. They might not have been able to make a go of the relationship they’d had in their younger years. But now they had what it took.
Standing just inside the cafeteria door watching her, he was suddenly stuck with an overwhelming sense of all that he was feeling. The emotional and the physical had long since ceased to be two separate entities.
What he felt for Eva was love, complete with all the emotion’s complexities and simplicities. He couldn’t concentrate on any one aspect without the rest coming away attached. And the power of what he was feeling was something he needed to share with her. Now.
He moved into the room, hugging the perimeter as he began his advance and seduction. After a moment of reconnaissance, he found where she had landed. The poppy-red butterfly had found her offspring and was gettin’ down with an energy that rivaled Zack’s and Katie’s. He recognized several of the teens’ friends. Holly and Aaron. Bonnie and Ben.
Hands stuffed in his pockets, Carson ventured forth into unfamiliar territory. He acknowledged Katie’s wave, the lift of Zack’s chin, but had no real attention for anyone but Eva.
He wanted to lick away the bead of sweat rolling from her temple to her neck. He wanted to make quick work of her dress, even if it was with the scissors she’d been contemplating earlier. None of those were possible with an audience, or even practical from any point of view.
He had to get her out of here. He took hold of her upper arm. She glanced his way and asked him a question with her eyes. He inclined his head with a silent, “Let’s go.”
She smiled and answered, “Were you looking for me?”
Had there been a time in his life when he hadn’t been looking for her? Hadn’t half his travels around the globe been in search of what he’d found here in Lake City, Texas?
“I can’t decide who’s having more fun. The kids or the chaperone who thinks she’s a kid,” he said, as she walked beside him off the dance floor.
“I never had a prom,” she reminded him. “I finished high school with a tutor’s help and graduated by correspondence. I missed Homecoming and Valentine’s and Sadie Hawkin’s. So don’t give me a hard time.”
The hard time he had in mind for her had nothing to do with the prom. He glanced back over his shoulder, a furtive check to see if they were being watched. And then he propelled Eva out of the school cafeteria.
The hallway was empty and quieter, though not silent. Eva’s heels clicked against the tiled floor. The bass from the band playing in the cafeteria boomed and rattled the walls. He heard as well the beat of his heart in his ears. And the cadence of his labored breathing.
Finally they reached the door to the gymnasium. He put a hand flat on the sign that said, “No Admittance—Photographic Equipment in Use,” and pushed. The cavernous room, dimly lit and darkly shadowed, echoed the sound of Eva’s laughter.
“What are we doing in here, besides breaking more than a few rules?”
“We’re adults. The rules are for the kids.”
‘Most of the kids are gone. The chaperone ratio won’t be undermined if you slip out for a quickie.”
A quickie?” she asked, and her eyes flashed. Even in the dimly lit room, her eyes flashed.
He placed his hands on her shoulders. His palms skimmed both red silk and flesh. “I’ve wanted to get my hands on this dress since I walked into your bedroom.”
He nodded, skated his fingers down the line of her spine and dragged his palms to her sides. He measured both the strength and the muscles of her back, and the decidedly female indentation of her waist. “I’ve wanted to get you out of this dress since I walked into your bedroom.”
“I don’t think this is the time or place.”
Her voice quivered, and he knew she was only giving lip service. His hands had reached her stomach now. He opened his fingers wide and pressed upward, cupped the fullness of her breasts. “I’m going to get beneath this dress and I’m not going to wait until we get back to your bedroom.”
Her unbound nipples pebbled in the center of his palms, and she pulled in a thready breath when he tugged. “Now? Yes. Here?” He glanced around. “Not exactly.”
He took her hand and drew her forward, past the doorway to the weight room, the dressing room, and then around the corner and down the narrow aisle that separated the gymnasium bleachers from the wall.
And there in the darkest corner, he blocked her body with the bulk of his, reached behind her, and tugged up the hem of her dress to expose her bare bottom and her garters.
“Carson. I don’t think we should be here.”
He didn’t care what she thought. He grabbed her bottom and squeezed. “Unzip my pants.”