Seduction (Worth the Risk #7)

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There’s something to be said for making lists.

Despite having the urge to sit and analyze everything that’s been happening between her and Teddy, Hermione resists until late Wednesday night. She’s not foolish enough to think that emotions, which are tricky and unpredictable, can be analyzed thoroughly and made to fit neatly into organized lists, which is why it seemed silly to try. However, the events on Wednesday night have left her feeling somewhat guilty and more confused.

Since Teddy first approached her in her office, she’s been thinking about herself. Her family, her job, her friends, her reputation. All of the issues that she keeps dwelling on affect her, even if some do affect Teddy peripherally. For some reason, she has failed to consider that Teddy has issues, too. Different ones, of course, and not as complex as hers, but the age factor and work and how their close friends and family will react are all important matters in his life. Just hearing him admit that he’s scared, too, brought a few things into focus for her that she hadn’t thought about until Wednesday.

It’s now Friday, and Teddy’s due over to pick her up for their dinner date within the hour. For the last two days, she’s thought about their relationship and the complications. She’s made list after list, most nonsensical in an odd shorthand with a few that are more developed, complete with diagrams and general graphs. Lists help her focus and gather her thoughts. Whether it’s work or chores or just moments that require more in-depth thought, she’s always depended on lists and schedules to help her prioritize and organize her life. While this current dilemma is definitely emotional and irregular, it’s surprising how much the simple act of sitting down with a clean piece of parchment and a fresh quill to make a list helps.

After too many hours of analysis and a dozen lists ranging from brief to lengthy, she’s no closer to having any idea what the future holds. There are a lot of factors to consider, for both of them, and no amount of focus can predict how everything will go between them or what might happen if they do progress to a point where others will learn about their whatever this is between them. Until now, it’s been private, a secret they keep not because of shame but because of uncertainty and perhaps even a little insecurity. But, if things do continue to move along, they will eventually reach a time when the secrecy will become less comforting and more frustrating.

It’s only been one week since that night in her office when she’d been scolding herself for months of fantasies about him only to find out he was having fantasies of his own. Seven days in which her life has changed irrevocably, regardless of how the future goes. If anything, her lists and analysis have confirmed her suspicion that there is no going back. She can’t think of him as simply Teddy Lupin, the boy I babysat for years. Not anymore. He’s now Teddy-Call-Me-Ted Lupin, the man she can talk to for hours on end, who makes her breathless with his kisses and causes her body to heat up with even the most casual of touches.

Wednesday night made her aware that he isn’t as secure and confident as he seems, and it also forced her to acknowledge that this isn’t just about sex for him. A part of her has wondered if it’s just a crush or desire, after all, and his easy manner and casual flirting has merely supported that idea without giving her a solid reason to believe otherwise. Seeing him lose his temper, which she’s only witnessed a very small handful of times in nineteen years, and seeing his face as he experienced a variety of emotions was what she needed to realize it isn’t just a game and isn’t merely a desire for a good shag.

None of these things change the fact that this is risky. Mutual desire and affection is wonderful, but the complications are still there. If anything, they’re worse because this isn’t a simple affair that will end after one shag. Neither of them are interested in casual, it seems, which is bloody frightening. The worst case scenarios that she’s thought about during the last couple of days scare her to death, and she’s too honest and logical to really think about best case scenarios. She can’t very well rely on an ideal expectation of everyone accepting them without a word of disapproval when she knows that she, herself, is hesitant due to their age difference and their close familial-like bond over the years. They aren't related by blood, but Teddy has been part of the Weasley-Potter family since his birth, so it's a valid concern.

One thing she’s come to accept during her hours of list making and thought, however, is that she wants him. Oh, she’s known she lusted for him since shortly after they started working together, and she knows he arouses her in a way she hasn’t been for years, with no blame placed on Ron during the last couple of years of their marriage. She’s been too scared and worried to allow herself to let go and just surrender to desire because she’s not really that sort of impetuous person by any means. There’ve been times in her past when she’s been rash, certainly, and she and Ron used to be quite mischievous when it came to sex and spontaneity, but her concerns in that area have been more problematical than even Teddy knows.

With the knowledge that there’s no going back to how things were, not that she wants to, and the acknowledgement that she wants to have sex with him as well as continue letting things between them develop however they will, she has been able to come to a decision or two that don’t have her stomach tied up in knots of tension or worried about how everything will go.

It’s inevitable, really. The attraction between them is reciprocated and intense. One kiss makes her want another, and she wants to touch him, wants to see his face when he slides into her, wants to hear him make noises as they give each other pleasure. It was too soon Wednesday night, and she has no regrets about stopping when she did. Maybe on some level she needed to know that it mattered to him and to see that he was scared, too. Or maybe she just needed to take the time to really think and focus in a way she hadn’t until then even with the constant concerns and knowledge of the complications facing them if they actually took the risk.

Whatever she needed, she seems to have got it because she feels more certain than she has since things changed between them last Friday. It might be foolish, it might be far too soon, it might just makes things even more of a mess in some ways, but she thinks it’s the right choice. It’s not something she’s decided lightly, after all, and she’s fully aware that it’ll change things, so she’s going into it with her eyes open and not simply reacting to lust or being impulsive. Teddy means more to her than just a shag, fantasies or not, and she wants to let things happen between them without the sense of panic and fear.

Well, she knows there will still be a little panic, because it’s been years since she’s had sex, and she’s only ever been with Ron, who isn’t like Teddy in many ways, so she assumes they’ll definitely be different when it comes to the bedroom. She has no intention of comparing them, of course, any more than she hopes Teddy compares her to his previous lovers, but her insecurities are what are nagging at her now that she’s made her mind up. The complications and the future are still lurking around her, but it’s the thought of being naked with Teddy that has her nervous and tense.

She’s thirty-eight and the mother of two children. Her body certainly doesn’t hide her age or motherhood. She has stretch marks, her tummy is more flabby than flat, her breasts are full and sensitive but they’re definitely not firm or perky, her thighs aren’t hard and toned, and her bum is well-rounded. This isn’t her insecurities making her think about why she shouldn’t get naked, it’s simply the truth she sees whenever she looks in the mirror.

Fortunately, she’s happy with her body, and thinks she’s look pretty good considering her age, her stressful job, and having two active children. She has a natural confidence now that she lacked when she was younger, and she’s got years of experience that make her feel more capable and assured. While the thought of Teddy seeing her naked and not finding her attractive is a worry, it’s a common one that many people feel the first time they become intimate with someone. Sharing yourself with another person means something, to her, at least, and she imagines everyone has their little anxieties in this situation.

So, tonight, instead of going out to dinner, she’s making dinner for them. They’ve both been in and out of the office the last two days, so it’ll be nice to have a chance to talk and catch up. Besides, she plans to seduce him, and that’s far more easily accomplished in privacy because she’s not likely to do anything so bold in public. She knows he finds her attractive, doesn’t doubt that at all after their kisses and everything else, but she likes the idea of getting some of the control back that she’s lost this last week. It’s not that Teddy has taken it, so much as the situation has left her flailing and uncertain.

It’s nice to feel confident about things again, even if she’s never actually had to seduce anyone before, so she’s not completely sure what it entails. She and Ron had been together for months when they first had sex, and it had just happened without any particular effort on either of their parts to persuade the other. There were times during their marriage that she took the initiative and seduced him, of course. The circumstances and relationship they had weren’t the same as this at all, though.

It’s different to approach sex this way, but it’s also rather exciting and the anticipation has been building all day, mostly because she knew this morning what she planned for tonight and Teddy has no idea. She doesn’t want to force it or make it seem like it has to happen now that she’s ready in a demanding sort of way. This is about intimacy between them, so it has to be a choice they both make. She wants to have sex with him tonight and she thinks that he won’t mind being seduced at all, but, if it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to ruin anything because she’s ready for that progression whenever it does happen.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to plan even if she intends to let things happen somewhat naturally. She’s making dinner so they can eat privately and be close to the bedroom, just in case. She considers changing into something sexy, wearing a clinging dress and naughty knickers, but that feels false to her. Instead, she’s just taken off her work robes and unbuttoned the top two buttons of her blouse. Her knickers are comfortable blue cotton, her brassiere matches in material and simplicity, and she’s wearing a skirt that falls past her knees. One of her only indulgences is stockings, so she’s wearing a garter and black silk stockings that end high on her thighs.

While the food cooks, she does go upstairs to freshen up. She checks her legs to make sure they’re smooth and then washes up before she takes her hair out of its plait. She brushes it then adjusts her bra, wanting her breasts to look appealing instead of somewhat lopsided. It doesn’t take long, and she’s back downstairs finishing up dinner when she hears the Floo.

Since there’s a chance that she has an uninvited visitor, she leaves the kitchen to go see who it is without calling out a greeting. She stops in the doorway and smiles when she sees Teddy standing by the fireplace. He’s still wearing his work clothes, though he did leave his robes at home. His gray trousers are well tailored, something she knows from staring at his bum earlier, and his pale pink shirt, a color few men would even attempt to pull off but he manages to successfully, fits him well. She notices that he’s removed his tie and has unbuttoned the top buttons, showing a glimpse of skin when he raises his hand to brush his fingers through his hair.

“Good evening, Ted.”

“I was starting to wonder if you planned to speak or just wanted to watch me for awhile,” he says, flashing her a cheeky grin. He uses a charm to clean his clothes and walks further into the room. “I could have posed for you, you know? If you like to watch.”

She snorts when he wiggles his eyebrows and manages to make his last few words sound extremely suggestive. “Perhaps I do,” she quips, deciding now is as good a time as any to try flirting. “And exactly how would you pose, Teddy?”

He blinks at her and then smiles as his brown hair begins to change color. “Any way you want me, Hermione. Don’t you know that by now? I’m yours.”

It isn’t the answer she expects, which is quite frustrating when she’s trying to flirt. Of course, her tummy flutters at the easy way he says that he’s hers, as if she’s silly for not knowing. His hair is turquoise now, which she’s beginning to associate with him being happy. The very idea of judging his moods by his color is ridiculous, she’s sure, but certain colors seem most present during certain emotions, so she can’t help but wonder if he’s not always in control of his gift.

“And that isn’t supposed to make you purse those pretty little lips and become speechless,” he informs her, shifting awkwardly for a moment.

“Not speechless, just thinking.”

“God, that’s even worse. I’d suggest that you try not to think, but it’s so much a part of who you are, that it would feel weird if you didn’t.”

“I’m glad that I have your permission to think.”

“Well, so long as it’s good things and not anything bad about me.”

“Nice addendum.”

“I’ve learned that one must be thorough around you.”

“Thoroughness is definitely an admirable trait. Does your thoroughness extend everywhere?” she asks, dropping her gaze to look him over before focusing on his face again. She smiles slightly when she sees him blink again and wonders if it’s so very surprising that she can be suggestive, too.

“Um, well, I guess.” He cringes slightly and shakes his head before he nods emphatically. “Yes, it does. Very thorough in all activities. Want proof?”

“Not right now. I’m hungry, and dinner is nearly ready.”

“Not right now?“ he repeats thoughtfully before he arches a brow. “Wait, we’re not going out?”

“I asked you out to dinner, but I never specified where,” she reminds him, turning so she can go back into the kitchen to check on the food. “I haven’t cooked all week, so I thought this was as good a time as any to start getting back into the habit. Hugo will be home in a couple of days, after all. It’s nothing fancy, just Shepherd’s pie and vegetables, but I thought a home-cooked meal and relaxing here sounded better than getting out again.”

“It smells delicious.” He catches up to her as she enters the kitchen. She feels his hand brush lightly against the small of her back as he asks, “Do you need me to do anything? I can set the table or make myself useful some way.”

“Well, dinner’s about ready, so I guess you can set the table, if you want. You know where everything is located.”

“I think that staying in tonight is a great idea,” he says. She glances over to watch him getting plates and forks, wondering if he has any idea how graceful he can be at the simplest of actions. When he glances at her, she smiles instead of looking away, and drags her teeth over her bottom lip. He blinks again, which she notices is becoming common behavior tonight, and then shakes his head slightly. “Work has been stressful the last couple of days, so it’s definitely good to unwind in private.”

“Ogden is a good man, and he taught me a lot when I first joined the department, but he’s very demanding and set in his ways.”

“He’s also as old as dirt and thinks I’m an incompetent child.” Teddy’s face shifts until she’s suddenly looking at Tiberius Ogden. “You, boy, go get that file and don’t bother looking at it because it has big words you wouldn’t understand. You, boy, what’s the fifth word on page sixteen of that archaic book you’ve never even heard of?”

“Teddy!” She shakes her head. “You should be more respectful.”

He should be more respectful,” he protests as his face changes back to normal, thankfully. “I know I can learn a lot from him, it’s one reason I was pleased that my internship is split between both your offices, but the man is convinced that I’m irresponsible and a lay about just because I’m not fifty. Well, the hair color might also have something to do with it, but, if so, that’s still discrimination based on my natural abilities instead of age.”

“No, it’s just your age because he’s color blind and wouldn’t know if you had purple hair with yellow polka dots. Besides, he was the same way to me when I started in the department, and I was several years older than you are now. It’s just his way. Once he knows you’re serious and you’ve earned his respect, he’s an excellent friend to have on your side.”

“I didn’t realize he was color blind.” Teddy smiles mischievously as he finishes setting the table. “So, purple with yellow polka dots?”

“No, you will not,” she says firmly. “He might not know, but I would, and we try to behave professionally in the work place.”

“Ah, right. During office hours, at least.” He smirks as he looks at her lips, obviously remembering last Friday and the kiss in her office since it’s what’s come to her mind. “Right. I’ll stop whining about Ogden, if only because I’d much rather talk about more enjoyable things than that old geezer. Like that case you won today. Brilliant job.”

“Thank you.” She smiles as she finishes up dinner. She summons the plates he’s just set out and begins to fill them. “It was a relief to have it finished, in all honestly. I mean, I’m thrilled we won, of course, but it’s taken months to get there. I’m always happy when those lengthy cases end well.”

“Yeah, you were working on that one when I first started,” he recalls. “Juice or water?”

“Pineapple juice, please. And, yes, it’s been about nine months since the file first crossed my desk. It wasn’t even anything overly complicated, not like sometimes, but it was just continuance after continuance and it took ages for it to finally be heard.”

“It’s done now, though, which is exciting. I managed to sneak out to watch part of it in between the ‘you, boy’ calls. You’re amazing, you know? I mean, you’re just so confident and sharp and almost scary. I’d certainly not want to argue a case against you, that’s for sure.”

“Almost scary?” She puts the plates on the table and looks at him. “Goodness, I need to work harder, I guess, since I’m going for ‘wet yourself frightening’ whenever I’m up there.”

“I say almost because I’ve felt you shudder against me while moaning. I can’t see you as full-on scary after that,” he admits. “It’s, uh, always sort of in the back of mind now.”

“Oh.” She ducks her head and rolls hers eyes at herself. ‘Oh’? That’s all she can come up with after such an admission during the night she plans to seduce him? She’s bloody useless when it comes to all this nonsense, obviously.

Teddy sets their cups on the table and sits down, his legs pressing lightly against hers. “You sound surprised,” he murmurs, looking up at her from beneath turquoise fringe. “Kissing you isn’t something easily forgotten, Hermione.”

“Not surprised.” She picks up her fork and bites her lip as she thinks. Finally, she says, “Okay, maybe a little surprised. I’m not really used to my kissing being so distracting for someone.”

“If Ron didn’t find your kisses distracting, well, I’ll keep my opinion about him to myself.”

“He did when we were younger,” she defends automatically. “And, really, I’d rather not hear slurs against my ex-husband, Ted. He’s still my best friend, even if we aren’t in love anymore. I’m certainly no saint nor was I easy to live with, so don’t let your feelings for me change your opinion about him. He’s a wonderful man and an excellent father. We were happy together for many, many years, longer than a lot of people are lucky enough to find, and it’s neither of our faults that we just drifted apart as time went on.”

“I like Ron, Hermione, but he’s a fool for letting you go,” he says simply. “In this case, maybe I am too young to really understand. I mean, I understand what you’re saying, and I can even see it, just from my point of view of you two during the years. You weren’t as happy near the end, because you didn’t smile as much when no one was looking, and you looked sad the Christmas before you separated. I didn’t really know why until after, of course, but I noticed it then.”

“You’ve always been too observant,” she murmurs. “I thought I hid it well, when I started to feel discontent. I didn’t even really know I wasn’t happy, because, on so many levels, I was happy. Ron and I, when we talked about and started to understand, we considered staying together because it was good, better than being alone and trying to deal with the entire mess that a divorce would entail. In the end, we realized it wasn’t fair to either of us, though, so we made the difficult decision. But I was never regretful for my life with him, the years we had together, or our children, and now we’re close friends who share a lot of our lives, so it’s been an odd circle, I suppose, back to where we started with the experience and knowledge that we’ve had our moment.”

“I think it’s great that you’re both still friends,” he admits in between bites of his food. “I knew kids at Hogwarts who had divorced parents, and they had it much worse than Hugo and Rose ever will because you two are able to get along.”

“Our children mean the world to us and they’re our number one priority regardless of anything else in our lives,” she says simply. They lapse into comfortable silence as they focus on their food, which is pretty good considering she hurriedly made it after work. As they eat, she remembers her plans for tonight. It’s not that she’s forgotten, but it’s so easy to talk to Teddy that she’s not been thinking that much about seduction. Since he hasn’t even tried to kiss her, though, it’s obvious that she needs to take the initiative this time.

Midway through the meal, she shifts in her chair and moves her leg against his. It’s innocent, in theory, and not alarming as she’s just moved, so he doesn’t do more than tighten his grip on his fork and move his legs to give her more room. He’s too bloody considerate, which isn’t normally something she’d find worthy of grumbling by any means. Now, though, it’s just making it more difficult to seduce him without being ridiculously obvious.

“How is the pie?” she asks before she casually moves her foot along the back of his leg.

He jerks suddenly, knocking his knee against the top of the table, which makes him curse under his breath. “Fuck,” he mutters, blinking across the table at her as his cheeks flush with color. “I know, language. Uh, the pie? It’s delicious.”

“Oh, God. Teddy, are you okay?” She's about to get up to check his knee and summon the first aid kit before she remembers that he's not her child. No, he's not a child at all anymore; he's an adult, a man that she wants to do very wicked things with, which makes her mothering instinct just plain wrong.

So, she doesn't move from her chair, and she fights down that impulse, rather proud of herself in the end. Of course, she's also somewhat concerned that his reaction to her fondling the back of his leg with her foot is to curse and pull away. What’s happened to the brazen young man who has been trying to get into her knickers for days? She frowns slightly and moves her foot again, this time along his other leg until she reaches the back of his knee.

“I’m fine,” he squeaks as he pushes his chair back and stands up. “Getting seconds, in fact.”

She watches him hurry to the kitchen before she can say anything and sighs. Maybe he doesn’t like having his legs touched? She knows that everybody has their own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to arousal and sexual interests, but she’s surprised because Teddy seems so sensual. He even eats sensually, which is rather bothersome when one’s trying to focus on something besides his lips and tongues and the odd little moans he occasionally makes after a particularly pleasing bite.

When he comes back into the dining room, his plate is full, his hair is a dark green, and his shirt isn’t tucked in anymore, which means he’s obviously getting more comfortable even if he seems tense. He stares at her a moment before he sits down and pulls his chair closer to the table, shifting in a way so that his legs aren’t touching hers. Well, bloody hell.

“Do you cook much?” he asks in that husky tone that makes her think about sex. He clears his throat and takes a drink of his juice. “I mean, I know you work a full day and then come home to take care of Hugo, so I was curious if you do a lot of cooking, because this is really good.”

“I cook quite a bit,” she says thoughtfully. “Ron and I used to share the cooking, because it’s certainly not just my responsibly because I happen to be a woman, but now that he’s gone, I do indulge in take-away occasionally. I’m also teaching the children how to cook, of course. Hugo is quite fond of making biscuits, with supervision, and Rose is really good at making pasta dishes. When they’re both older, they’ll be able to help more with cooking and other chores.”

“I like to cook, though I can’t do anything too fancy,” he tells her. “Gram made sure I could cook and clean and take care of myself. No coddling from her.”

“Fancy only happens at special occasions, usually. I can follow a recipe, of course, but there are a few things, like Shepherd’s pie, that I try to keep ingredients on hand for after a long day at the office when I just want to make something good and easy.” As she talks, she moves her legs and presses her foot against his upper thigh.

“Good and easy. Right.” He coughs and shifts again, turning in his chair until he’s practically hanging off one side. If he falls off, she’s not at all sure that she won’t laugh, though it would possibly be hysterical laughter since she’s starting to wonder what she’s doing wrong. When she frowns and presses her foot against his leg again, he groans. “You’re driving me absolutely insane.”

“I am?” She tilts her head slightly and flexes her toes when he reaches down to grip her foot.

“You have to know you are,” he accuses in what could be called a whiny tone. “With the legs and the foot and, God, I’m trying to be good because you want time and I fucked up on Wednesday, but you don’t make it easy.”

“Language. Why are you behaving so strangely, Teddy?” she asks curiously. “You’re not pulling away because you have some sort of intolerance for having your legs touched?”

“What?” His eyes widen and he snorts. “Bloody hell, you can’t be that daft. I’ve been squirming in my chair, had to get up so I could pull my shirt free in an effort to conceal my erection, and you’re asking if I have an intolerance of some kind?”

“I’m not daft,” she says sharply. “It’s not my fault that you’re fidgety and not reacting at all like you’re supposed to.”

“How am I supposed to react?” he demands, staring across the table at her. “Wait! What do you mean, supposed to? It wasn’t just accidental?”

“I highly doubt that it would be an accident for my foot to stroke your thigh.” Her tone is dry, which is a simple defense mechanism as she frowns at him. She remembers something he just said and focuses on his face. “You had an erection?”

“God, don’t say that word,” he mutters, tightening his grip on her foot. She can feel his finger brush against the bottom of her foot, rubbing the soft silk against her skin, and she bites her lip as heat spreads over her. “Yes, I had one, okay? Happy now? I’m so aroused by you that I get hard watching you lick your fork and feeling your legs against mine. It’s embarrassing because I wasn’t this pathetic even when I was fifteen.” He hesitates a moment as if remembering something and sighs. “Okay, maybe I was, but I’m twenty now and too old for instant-erections every time you turn me on.”

It takes her a moment to absorb everything he’s said. When she does, she has to smile. “I don’t think men are ever too old for that gift, so I’d enjoy it while you can because, in a few years, you’ll be whining about the good old days,” she tells him. “And I actually am happy, for the record. I was starting to think that I was obviously doing something wrong, so I’m much more confident now that I know you were just being foolish by trying to avoid your reaction.”

“Foolish?” He moves his thumb along the curve of her arch and glares at her. “Considering everything that happened Wednesday night when I didn’t avoid my reaction, I don’t see how my not wanting to make things awkward again is stupid. I haven’t kissed you tonight, despite thinking about very little else from the moment I saw you standing in the sitting room looking all sexy and kissable.”

She’s never given her feet much thought at all when it comes to erogenous zones, but Teddy is managing to arouse her just by stroking her foot. She presses her thighs together at the unbidden image of him lying naked at the end of her bed licking her feet while stroking himself. His earlier teasing about her liking to watch is more accurate than she cares to admit, since she does find it exciting to watch her lover pleasure himself while she’s touching herself for his enjoyment. Teddy is looking at her expectantly, and she shifts in her chair, feeling his hand grip her foot more so she can’t pull it away.

“This is Friday, Teddy. Not Wednesday. Some things have changed since then,” she says primly, staring across the table at him. “A lot of things are still the same, of course, but you know about the complications and the risks, so it’s not really the right time to talk about all that again, especially when there’s no easy answer for any of it.”

“Then what’s changed?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s a lie, Hermione. You just said some things have changed. What things?”

“It’s not a lie. It’s just difficult to explain.”

“Try me.”

“I’ve made lists and analyzed things, you see, and I’ve realized that logic isn’t necessarily the best way to approach this situation.”

“By situation you mean our relationship? Because it is a relationship now, even if you insist on calling it ‘whatever this is’ whenever you mention it. We’re dating, I want you, you want me, and I don’t mean just the sex, even if I really do want that, too.”

“Whatever this is between us does appear to be developing into something that could loosely defined as a relationship,” she acknowledges. “Though I’m not sure if your claim that we’re dating is entirely accurate or if we’ve dated is more appropriate.”

“Dating,” he says, stressing the latter half of the word. “I certainly don’t have any intention of stopping seeing you unless you tell me no, after all. Now, to get back to my earlier question before you started to try be all distracting with wetting your lips and looking at me that way, what’s changed?”

“Oh, honestly, Teddy, as if it’s not obvious,” she mutters, annoyed that he’s going to make her actually say it. He looks confused, though, even as he continues reducing her to a puddle of goo by massaging her foot as if he’s not even consciously doing it. She puts her heel on his thigh, feeling firm muscle beneath his trousers, and she licks her lips as she tries to focus on his question.

His gaze drops to her mouth as she licks her lips, and it takes him a moment before he looks back at her. His eyes are intense, in that same way that‘s slowly becoming more familiar, and his cheeks are flushed again, only this time, she‘s pretty sure it‘s arousal instead of embarrassment. “Maybe I’m the one who’s daft, then, because I’m utterly clueless at the moment.”

“You honestly don’t know? Bloody hell, I must be worse at this then I thought. I wanted to be subtle and natural, but not so subtle you don’t even realize what it’s happening.”

“Subtle about what?” he asks as he continues moving his thumb along the bottom of her foot. “What was I supposed to realize?”

“Having to tell you outright just proves my utter failure in this regard,” she points out. When he looks as if he‘s about to ask again, she smiles sheepishly even as she speaks matter-of-factly. “That I’m trying to seduce you, of course.”