Katrina slammed her bedroom door and yanked open the closet to survey the meager contents of her wardrobe.
'Something classic, not too fancy.' Gavin's words rang in her brain.
"What a joke. I don't have anything fancy, nor do I have anything that could even remotely be considered classic," Katrina muttered.
She sighed as, she took out her only good dress. It was an old black knit that was tailored on good lines, so it didn't appear too out-dated. She looked carefully at it. Was it good enough? She held it up to herself, looking in the mirror, trying to judge the effect of the dress.
Quiet strains of a tune being whistled wafted through her bedroom door. Reminded of his threat, she decided it would have to do. Her dime-store pearl necklace would dress it up.
Quickly she changed clothes and hurried into the bathroom to complete her toilet, his whistle being the impetus for her high-speed motion.
Now, more than ever, she appreciated having a good cut to her soft brown hair. She smoothed on a pale, frosty pink lip gloss, added just a touch of color above her eyes and mascara to her lashes. Taking a look in the mirror, Katrina felt horribly inadequate for this evening, regardless of what he had in mind...even if it were only staying home. She did not feel up to this night in the least degree.
Katrina checked her reflected image. Was she a mouse or a marshmallow? A marshmallow just sat there, but a mouse, though timid and inclined to hide in corners and tremble, could at least move. Looking directly into her mirrored eyes, she squared her shoulders, her chin coming up just a little with renewed determination.
"Katrina Lee McSwayne, don't you dare let him get the best of you! You have paid enough. Do not let Mr. Gavin Browning scare you out of any money, or any information he doesn't absolutely have to have to get him out of your hair and out of your life. Now, go out there and make him buy you the biggest steak or the most expensive item on the menu and have yourself a grand old time. You don't get chances like this very often. And smile...a lot." She gave herself a smile that looked more confident than it felt and left the bathroom.
Katrina walked into the living room.
Gavin was standing with his back to the room, staring out the window. She stopped just inside the door, looking at Gavin. Now that he’d made her say his name, it came more easily to the mind.
“Gavin,” she tried it out, liking the way his name felt on her tongue. 'He would be marvelous to come home to each night.' Unbidden, the thought flashed through her mind. It brought a furious blush to her cheeks. 'It's a good thing that he can't read your thoughts, you foolish girl,' she chided herself.
Just at that moment, he turned. “Yes?”
Oh no! She’d said his name out loud. “I…I’m ready, if this dress will do.”
She watched his face carefully, trying to read his reaction to her dress. She saw his eyes widen a little and it seemed to her he caught his breath for a moment, but that was only a fleeting impression. She disregarded it almost as fast as it had come to her. Why would he react in that manner to a virtual stranger? Especially her? And in this old dress? It was a ridiculous thought.
Gavin stood still, just watching her. It was almost as if he was trying to memorize her in this setting. She looked down at her dress. Suddenly she was filled with many doubts.
"Am I…? Do I…? I...hope this is...all right. You didn't give me a whole lot of time, or notice, either, come to that." She looked up and offered a tentative smile.
He stood still, just looking at her.
She suddenly felt very dowdy and insignificant. She looked at her toes, noticing that even her shoes looked worn. Keeping her eyes downcast, she took a deep breath and spoke.
"If...if...” she swallowed, trying to keep her voice from showing how nervous she was. "Um...if I don't look...that is, if my dress isn't...well, if you'd rather stay here than be seen in public with me, I'll understand. I don't have any fancy clothes. I...don't go many places where I need fancy things." She finished in a rush, knowing if she didn't say it fast, she would never get it out.
Still silent, Gavin walked over to stand in front of her. He put a finger under her chin and raised her face until he was able to look directly into her eyes. He looked at her hard, pinning her gaze with his, as if he were trying to see if she were being facetious or just plain rude. His eyes still locked with hers, Gavin put his hands on her shoulders, holding her at arm's length for a moment. He shook his head.
"You're really serious, aren't you?" he asked her incredulously.
She nodded, licking her dry lips in her nervousness.
"Oh, Katrina," he groaned, "don't you know?" Without waiting for an answer to his question, he pulled her close to him, crushing her to his chest. His lips sought hers in a deep kiss, moving over them with a roughness that kindled a raging desire in her. His hands slid around to her back, moving gently but firmly up and down, molding her to him, as if he couldn't pull her close enough.
His tongue parted her soft lips and plundered the sweetness he found there. Katrina's body shivered with the fire racing through her veins. She felt she would be consumed by the heat spreading throughout her body. She could feel the desire in him mount and become more demanding, more urgent; could feel her own desire match his.
Finally, he broke away and set her at arm's length again, his hands once again on her shoulders. His breathing was ragged and his eyes were darkened with their passion. If he let go of her, Katrina knew she would collapse in a heap at his feet. There wasn’t enough strength in her legs to keep her upright under her own power. She felt she had just run a mile without stopping, her breathing as ragged as his.
Katrina opened her mouth to speak, questions filling her mind. Gavin looked in her eyes and put a finger to her lips.
"Hush, Little One. Don't spoil it with questions. Not yet. Not now. Let's get out of here." He took her hand and hurried her to the front door, picking up her jacket and purse on the way. As he opened the front door for them to leave, he turned to her, once more looking deeply into her eyes.
"Katrina, I'm both proud and happy to be seen with you in public, or anywhere. You look…" his eyes roamed over her for another moment, then a grin split his handsome face, sending additional shock waves through her system. "Delicious."
Grabbing her arm he hustled her out the door, slamming it quickly behind him. Taking her keys from his pocket, he locked the door, then handed them to her with admonition.
‘You shouldn’t leave your keys dangling in your lock,” he said with a wicked grin. “Anybody may come along and take them.”
She took the keys silently and dropped them into her handbag, snapping it closed automatically’ Normally she wasn’t being harangued as she opened her front door, so the likelihood of her repeating that mistake was small. She bit her lip to keep from answering the totally unfair accusation. She looked up at him and caught a look on his face which sent her thoughts spinning. He turned and guided her down the steps and along the walk to his car.
Katrina was in a total state of confusion. She didn't know how to take the man now seated beside her. He was so changeable. One moment, he was tender and gentle with her, the next minute he was insulting her. One thing about it, she wasn't bored by him. His mercurial changes meant she had to be on her toes with him. She found it exhilarating. And scary. Very, very scary.
Gavin drove with his eyes straight ahead and did not even acknowledge she was anywhere near him. Katrina turned and stared out the window, but was more aware of the man beside her than the passing scenery. She was highly unsettled by his actions. She didn't want to find out why he was here, because it had something to do with Charleston, but she was glad for whatever reason had brought them together. She couldn't deny the electrical shocks which bolted through her each time he touched her. Nor could she ignore the maelstrom of emotions that flew through her when he kissed her. She sighed, wondering what the evening would bring.