Ryder let his arm fall as he turned, amusement evident in the tilt of his head. “Are you not well, Annaliese?”
Liese touched the back of her shaking hand to her cheek. “I’m a little warm, but I’m sure I’m fine.” She forced a reassuring smile.
“You should have told me you were ill. We could have rescheduled our meeting for another time.” Ryder faked concern.
“It’s fine, really. Once we’re finished I’ll go right home and crawl into bed.” It wasn’t until after the words were out that she realized the loaded context.
Ryder’s eyes widened, and Blake blinked. Liese rearranged a stack of Post-its.
Blake hesitated, but when the silence grew uncomfortable, he had no choice but to leave. “Oh, okay. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Sorry I missed rehearsal, Blake. I’ll be at the next one,” Liese assured him.
“Have a nice evening.” Ryder continued to smile, but his tone revealed his impatience.
“Sure,” Blake replied as he eyed them one last time. “See you tomorrow.”
Neither Liese nor Ryder uttered a sound until the main door to the library clicked shut. Only when Ryder had verified that Blake was indeed gone did he truly relax. “I thought I locked that damn door.” He fingered the keys in his pocket, making them jingle.
It had been too close a call. That could never happen again. None of this should ever have happened in the first place. It would be damaging enough if they tried to pursue a relationship, but to get caught going at it on her desk was unconscionable.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think he’d actually come looking for me,” she offered.
Ryder moved swiftly and his hands came down on the arms of her chair, trapping her. A flash of something primal glinted in his eye as he leaned in close. “Is there something going on between the two of you I should know about?” His tone was low, controlled, and almost seductive despite the rage beneath the surface.
“Of course not.” Liese didn’t try to hide her offense; she flattened her palms against his chest, intending to push him away. Ryder caught her wrists in one hand and pulled her out of the chair. His other arm wrapped around her waist to hold her against him again. The charge between them sparked like tripped wire. And just like that, she forgot they’d almost been caught.
Satin-soft lips brushed over her throat, and his tongue swept out to taste her skin—an apology without words. “I don’t like how interested he is in you.” Releasing her hands, his fingertips moved over her cheek, and he pressed a soft kiss against the hollow beneath her ear.
“He’s just a friend.”
“Does he know that?”
“He’s not interested, and neither am I.” Liese felt a strange compulsion to reassure Ryder.
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Why?”
“I can’t stand the way he is with you. It makes me want to do unreasonable, violent things to him.” His hand traveled gently down her side and back up, the touch a contrast to his hostile declaration. It was kind of a turn-on. Although almost everything about Ryder seemed to get her hot.
“There’s nothing going on,” Liese whispered.
“Maybe he’s having trouble accepting that.” His knuckles traced along the column of her neck and over her collarbone. Ryder followed the action with his mouth, lips parted, tongue warm and silky on her skin. She stifled a moan as he nipped at the same spot with his teeth. The shock of pain gave way to a burst of pleasure.
“Men and women can just be friends, you know,” she managed.
Ryder made a sound of disbelief against her skin, sucking lightly. She wanted to get closer, back to where they’d been before Blake interrupted.
He moved his mouth to her ear. “That issue is up for debate, but I don’t want to talk about it right now. Reminds me we shouldn’t be doing this.”
Liese tensed, and her fingers, threaded through his hair, stilled. She’d wondered how long it would take him to come to his senses. Now what would happen? Ryder’s next suggestion shocked the hell out of her.
“As much as I would love to have you right here on your desk, considering the circumstances, I think it might be more prudent for this conversation to continue in a more private location.”
“That way I can discipline you properly for breaking my resolve with inappropriate pictures before I get inside you,” Ryder explained as he stepped back. His eyes moved over her in a hungry sweep.
“Discipline me?” The thought of retribution did something to her, particularly when she envisioned herself bent over his desk. All the things he could do.
“You didn’t honestly think you’d go unpunished for this type of indiscretion, did you?” he asked, challenging her to disagree.
She almost did, just to see what would happen. “I, uh . . . well . . . what kind of punishment?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.” With a sardonic smile, he grabbed a pen and a Post-it from her desk. “Do you know where I live?”
“You do now.” He placed the paper in her hand and folded her fingers around it, pulling her close once again. “I’ll meet you there in half an hour.”
The press of his lips against her own made it impossible to deny the order. He reached around her, lifted her laptop from the desk, and tucked it under his arm.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking this with me.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll get it back. Eventually. Considering the sensitive nature of the content, it would be best if I ensure your personal laptop is removed from school property safely. We wouldn’t want this getting into the wrong hands, would we, Ms. Harper?”
“Of course not.”
“I thought not.” He gave her a sly smile. “I expect to see you in less than thirty minutes.”
The or else was implied.
With shaking arms, Liese propped herself against her desk and looked at the doorway through which Ryder had departed. Her constant, graphic dreams about him now seemed laughable compared to the real thing. The simple act of kissing him, not to mention the way he’d manipulated her with his hands, obliterated any fantasy she’d contrived.