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LONG TIME GONE
by Meg Benjamin

Genre: E-book, Contemporary Romance

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After they’d finished the espresso Lee insisted on giving them for free to make up for the wine problems, Morgan let Erik walk her down the darkened street toward her SUV. She could hear music from the beer garden next to the Faro, guitars and a distant drumbeat.

“Konigsburg nights.” She smiled, shaking her head. “Lordy, it makes you want to sit and put your feet up on a front-porch rail someplace.”

“You have a front porch?” He sounded faintly amused.

She couldn’t see his eyes in the darkness, but she knew they’d be riveted on her. They had been all during dinner. Every time she’d looked at him, she’d found that smoldering gaze following her. It made her feel itchy and hot and altogether unsettled. Chief Toleffson was way too much man for a disheveled novice winemaker like her. He should probably be pursuing somebody slightly larger than life, like Calamity Jane. Somebody who matched him in size and reputation.

“We’ve got the patio outside the tasting room. That’s as close to a porch as I get.” Morgan stopped beside her SUV and tried not to fumble as she looked for her keys. Now came the tricky part—getting away without getting too close to him. She had a feeling getting too close would lead to complications. And she really didn’t want complications.

Did she?

“Let me.” He took the keys from her suddenly limp fingers and pressed the button to unlock the front door. Then he handed them back, not moving from his position between her and the SUV.

Morgan took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me. I mean I’m not…” She groped through her vocabulary trying to find a word that worked.

What exactly aren’t you, Morgan?

He was smiling at her, that same small lopsided grin he’d had in the Dew Drop. She wondered if he ever grinned completely.

“You’re not…” He arched an eyebrow.

“I’m not…loose.”

Oh lordy, she was a moron. Loose. What are you, the Church Lady?

At least she’d answered her own question—Erik Toleffson was definitely grinning on both sides of his mouth now. “Loose?” His eyebrow arched again.

“I mean…” She waved a hand, helplessly. Why had she suddenly lost all ability to speak in coherent, adult sentences? If this was the kind of effect the chief had on her, she needed to run for cover while she still could.

“You mean you don’t usually allow somebody you know only slightly to kiss you for an extended period of time without punching him in the jaw.” His grin slid back to lopsided.

“I’ve never punched anyone in my life.” But then she’d also never had a kiss like the one with him at the winery last night. Of course, punching him definitely wouldn’t have been her reaction of choice.

“I could show you how to punch somebody, if you want.” He folded his arms and leaned back against her SUV. “It’s all in how you make a fist. Don’t ever tuck in your thumb—you may break it if you do.”

“I don’t really need to know that. I’m a nonviolent person.” She stood still, wondering how she could ask him to move aside so she could get into her SUV and go home.

Wondering if she really wanted him to move aside.

He reached toward her, running his index finger along the ridge of her cheek bone. A thin streak of heat followed his fingertip. Morgan worked on not whimpering.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t go around kissing almost strangers either.” His voice was soft, like a caress in the darkness. “But it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

She swallowed. Was that disappointment she heard in his voice? “It was a good idea,” she blurted. “Just a sort of unusual one.”

She took a deep breath. Morons. Morons on my team.

He grinned again. “I thought so, too. Still do.”

She exhaled slowly. Her body felt tight, as if she’d been holding herself taut for far too long, like a stretched string. “What do we do now, then?”

He pushed himself up straight, sliding his fingertip along the edge of her ear, then sinking his hands into her hair. His fingers wrapped around the back of her head, pulling her toward him.

And then she was resting against his chest, caught in the warmth and closeness of his body.

“We pick up where we left off,” he murmured.

She smelled the faint tang of mingled sweat and aftershave as he lowered his mouth to hers. Then she opened her lips and breathed in his warmth.

She slid her tongue against his, feeling the edge of teeth, while a jolt of excitement seemed to spread from her breasts downward to her belly and thighs. He tasted spicy, with a lingering savor of coffee. She angled her head slightly to take the kiss deeper and felt his hands slide from her shoulders to her hips, pulling her tighter against him.

She could feel the hard ridge of arousal jutting into the joining of her thighs, making her want to move. His fingers dug into her buttocks, kneading, pushing her to ride the heat kindling between them.

She pressed her body tighter against his, rubbing slightly. Tension built in her belly, the heat spreading. She was inching closer and closer toward the edge. A small moan built up in her throat. She wanted him. However she could get him. Right now, right here.

In front of the Millsburger Building in downtown Konigsburg where anybody could walk by at any moment.

She lurched back, gasping for breath, wondering just where she’d left sensible, no-nonsense, exhausted Morgan Barrett, who sure as hell would have been smarter than this.