|In this scene, Celeste and Roarke have gone off alone to a local lounge to spend time together.
He chuckled. "The etymology of names is kind of a hobby of mine."
"Really?" She looked skeptical.
"What, you doubt me? Pick almost any name, and I can give you the origin and the meaning."
"I'm serious. Pick one. Make it good."
She screwed up her face into the cutest little scowl, exaggerating her efforts at concentration. "How about . . . Celeste?"
He spread his palms wide. "Come on -- too easy. Give me a harder one."
She put a hand on her hip. "You don't know, do you?"
He cast an incredulous look in her direction, unable to believe she'd challenged him. "What? Are you questioning me, my skills, and my honesty?"
She cast her gaze upward toward the ceiling as if to think about it. "Umm . . ." Her gaze lowered again. "Yes."
"Do you even know what your name means?"
"Of course!" Her indignation was adorable.
"All right, then. It would have been a shame for a man whose life centers around astronomy to not know this one. The name Celeste is derived from Latin. It means ‘from the heavens.'Heavenly." He couldn't take his eyes off of her, and he shouldn't have edged closer.
The smile on her face made a downward slide. Her throat muscles worked a slow swallow. "Correct," she said.
"I know." Roarke rested his elbow on top of the back of the sofa and let his forefinger play with a lock of her hair. She didn't move away. The back of his hand lightly grazed more of the fine strands. With Herculean strength he resisted the urge to grab a handful. "So what do I get?" he asked.
"I don't -- I don't know what you mean."
"You challenged me, and I won. Don't I get something?"
"You want a prize?"
A look of uncertainty crossed her face, but after a few seconds, she offered, "How about a hug?"
"A hug is nice, but I'd rather have a kiss." At her look of alarm, he amended his request. "On the cheek."
Her brow furrowed in an indication of distrust. "You're not going to do that thing where you turn at the last minute so I end up kissing you on the mouth, are you?"
Not a bad idea. "No, I'm not. I'm one of the good guys, remember?"
"Good guys don't coerce kisses from women they just met," Celeste pointed out.
Undeterred, one corner of his mouth lifted into a half smile. "Actually, they do."
The pink tip of her tongue peeked out to moisten her lips. His mouth went dry as he watched the fleeting movement. In slow motion she leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his cheek. His jaw hardened on impact, and warmth spread along the side of his face. The light fragrance of her perfume -- peaches? apricots? -- invaded his nostrils and dismantled his resolve to remain impassive.
He couldn't resist holding her in place, smashing the soft curls against the back of her head. He heard the sudden inhalation of her breath as he brushed his hair-roughened cheek against the silky-smooth softness of hers.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked in a thick voice.
He'd tried to sound nonchalant, as if they were having a normal conversation, but there was nothing normal about his attraction to her. He dipped his head and pressed a quick kiss to the underside of her jaw. She shivered, and she reached out and sank her fingers into his upper arm. The warmth of her touch sent his heart rate escalating at a dangerous pace.
With his hand securely at the nape of her neck, his gaze locked with hers. She'd roused something in him. A powerful, consuming need that made him question the workings of his normally logical brain, now clouded in a befuddling haze of lust.
Her wild-eyed stare signaled her own confusion. "No, it wasn't," she whispered.
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