“I’m fat,” she retorted abruptly. “That pastry was the last thing I needed to be eating.” She’d known Gabe since she was a child, so Chloe didn’t see any reason not to be blunt.
Gabe stepped back just a little, assessing her boldly from head to toe, his eyes devouring her in a way that made Chloe warm and more than a little uncomfortable.
He shook his head as his eyes finally locked with hers. “You’re beautiful,” he finally countered. “I don’t see a single damn flaw.”
Chloe’s eyes grew moist at his compliment, but it was obvious he’d been drinking—maybe a little too much. Still, it was nice to hear a man say something complimentary about her for a change, even if it was the ramblings of a drunken guy. “You’re intoxicated,” she told him, rolling her eyes as she tried to move away from the seductive heat of his body.
Gabe reacted quickly for a man who was slightly inebriated, pinning her body against the counter as he put his hands on the granite surface near her hips. “Did he tell you that?” His voice was irritated.
Chloe knew exactly who Gabe was talking about. He’d never liked James, and he never missed the chance to remark on what a jerk her fiancé could be.
She answered calmly, “Yes, and he’s right. I need to lose some weight. I shouldn’t have bought this dress. It’s probably not appropriate for a woman who’s built like I am.”
She tensed as Gabe closed the distance between them, pressing his hard body against her. Her breath seized in her lungs as he moved a hand to tilt her chin up to look at him.
“Don’t let any man ever tell you that you aren’t fucking perfection. Maybe you shouldn’t have bought that dress, but only because any man who sees you wearing it is going to have a boner the size of Texas,” Gabe grumbled, running a rough finger along her cheek.
“Not James,” she answered breathlessly, mesmerized by the heated desire she saw in his eyes.
“He’s a dumbass. Always has been,” Gabe answered, anger flashing in his gaze. “Don’t marry him, Chloe. If he can’t appreciate what he has and be damn grateful that he has you, dump the bastard.”
“I love him,” she answered automatically.
“No you don’t, darlin’,” he drawled.
“I do,” she said defensively. “We’ve been engaged for years.”
“I don’t see a ring on your finger, and time has nothing to do with how a man treats a lady. Since he hasn’t ever bothered to make your engagement official, I don’t feel guilty about doing this,” Gabe growled.
Chloe didn’t have time to react before his mouth was capturing hers. Shocked, she froze, waiting for a feeling of revulsion that never came.
Despite the fact that Gabe was obviously drunk and annoyed, he devoured her mouth carefully. Slowly. Thoroughly. He took his time, cajoling her into accepting his embrace as he explored her lips, and then delved into her mouth with his tongue.
Stunned by the wave of heat that flowed through her body, Chloe wrapped her arms around his neck, savoring every nip and lick, tasting the strangely seductive flavor of smooth whiskey and chocolate when their mouths completely merged.
Every thought except Gabe’s tender seduction fled from her brain, her body responding naturally, automatically, as though his heated embrace was the only thing that existed in her world at that very moment.
His kiss controlled every one of her senses as she lost herself to him, completely unaware that a simple caressing of mouths could be this sensual, this all-consuming.
She speared her hands into his coarse hair, moaning against his mouth as she felt the strands between her fingers, relishing the feel of him. Of Gabe.
When he finally lifted his head, Chloe was panting for air. “Oh, God,” she moaned, panicking as she realized what was really happening.
She was making out with a man who was intoxicated. A man who wasn’t her fiancé! Having stopped after one drink, Chloe was far from drunk. She should have rebuffed him, but hadn’t known how to resist the urge to get even closer to him.
“You know what just happened, Chloe?” Gabe rasped against the side of her neck.
Pushing against his chest, she tried to create distance between them. “Yes. And I hate myself right now,” she replied in a confused voice, her body still humming from the feelings that Gabe had wrung from her body with only an impassioned kiss.
He stepped back, allowing her to escape. “Don’t,” he requested in a gruff voice. “Seems like you do plenty of that for no good reason.”
“I’m engaged,” she spat out disgustedly, still trying to catch her breath as she moved to the other side of the kitchen.
“Seems you might want to reconsider that arrangement,” Gabe answered, his voice raspy. “A woman really in love doesn’t respond to another man like that. You never would.”
Chloe’s face flushed, knowing he had a point. She’d shamelessly let him kiss her when she was engaged to another man. “It was a mistake. You drank too much, and I was upset.” She wasn’t sure how to truly justify her actions, but she had to try. She’d never kissed any man but James, and she wasn’t the type of female to cat around.
She heard shouts and cheers ring out through the house, knowing the clock must have struck midnight without her even knowing.
“If it makes you feel better to think that, then do it. Think whatever you want, but it was no mistake for me. I think you know the truth,” he answered gravely. “Happy New Year, Chloe.” Gabe nodded his head in her direction, turned, and walked away.