Then he slid his hands down her arms and around her waist, his palms splayed over her stomach and driving heat down to the core of her. "We have to forget about that night, Bryce. We have to or I can't stay here."
"It's hard to forget when I've kissed you, tasted you." He dragged his mouth down the side of her throat. "Been inside you," he said in a voice wrought with desire.
A sharp tingling spiraled out of control and, determined to hold tight to the resolutions she'd made only moments ago, Ciara twisted out of his arms.
Bryce simply stared as she turned off the range. Her hands were shaking. Hell, he was shaking. But with Ciara, this heat and fire, just … existed. No explanation. So how was he supposed to fight it?
Well, the way she was looking daggers at him should help. But it didn't. It made him want to crack through that armor she threw up between them at will and find out why she did it.
Then Carolina squealed with delight.
And it was the smile she gave his daughter, warm and without hesitation, that softened him. But when she brought her gaze back to his, staring at him with cool indifference, Bryce wondered how she could turn her emotions on and off so easily. He sure as hell couldn't. And that reminded him that she'd strolled into his life one night like a hot summer storm and walked out just as easily without a backward glance.
Leaving him naked and hungry on a hotel room floor.
It hadn't bothered him then, but there was more at risk now. His daughter meant the world to him, and Bryce could see she was already attached to Ciara. He was grateful that if he couldn't be with his baby, at least Ciara was giving his daughter the attention she needed. And although he'd contracted for a permanent live-in nanny and housekeeper, she'd walked effortlessly away before. Would she do it again? Still, she wasn't here for his sake, he reminded himself as she bent to play with Carolina for a bit.
She was here for his daughter and he decided he wouldn't look for trouble so soon.
"Sit," Ciara said, pointing to the chair near Carolina.
Like a trained puppy he obeyed.
Ciara went back to the stove and served up the meal, placing the plate in front of him. Giving Carolina a glance to be certain she would be content for the next hour, Ciara surveyed the table, then walked toward the door.
"Where are you going?"
She paused at the doorway to glance back. "To my room."
He gestured to the seat at the table. "You're not joining me?"
"I'm the help, Bryce. And we need this line of division."
"The hell we do," he said and when her posture stiffened, her eyes hardening, he took another approach. "Come on, join me, it's boring eating alone. Carolina isn't exactly talking my ear off, you know."
Her gaze shifted to the child and he noticed how Ciara's expression softened.
Bryce left his chair and went to the cabinet, retrieving a plate, filling it, and setting it opposite his. He gathered utensils and when he plopped the last one down, he faced her.
If her expression could have gone colder, it did.
"No, Bryce. You aren't in the market more in this relationship and neither am I."
But it was tempting, so tempting. Especially when Carolina was working a Cheerio between her lips and bouncing up and down in her high chair. Her gaze shifted to Bryce, the table, then back to the child. It was as if she could forget her career and slip right into their lives. But she couldn't. She had a traitor to catch and a job to return to, hopefully, before she was gone too long and forgot what being a secret agent was all about.
She spun away and disappeared around the corner. Bryce looked at his daughter, who had gone so far as to voice her opinion in a scream loud enough to peel wallpaper.
"I know, frustrating woman, isn't she?"
He dropped into his chair and picked up the fork. He didn't really see or taste the roasted pork loin stuffed with spinach and mushrooms. All he could envision was how cold Ciara could be when she wanted.
And right now, he thought, staring at the empty kitchen, she was knee-deep in ice.
After he'd finished his meal, Bryce cleaned the kitchen, stored the leftovers and flipped on the dishwasher. By then, Carolina was squirming to get out of the high chair and not making an effort to be dignified about it. Cleaning her off and lifting her into his arms, Bryce strolled around the house, telling himself that he was just looking around. He ended up alone in the sunroom, sinking down onto the flowered sofa, his daughter on his lap. She played with the buttons on his shirt and he studied his little girl, trying to see his late wife in his daughter's features and failing.
What would Diana think of her, he wondered, then knew. Diana had been possessive about him and she would be the same about their daughter. His late wife had seemed to be grasping for something, afraid he would be torn from her, and he supposed that came from her being orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster care system too long. But one thing was for sure, she would have loved her daughter with everything she had.