The man tying up at Lark’s dock was gorgeous. Broad-shouldered, Cajun and dark, he was a giant of a man. God, that was a Breaux for you. There was no missing the impressive erection he sported, either. Apparently she had the same effect on him he had on her. Wet heat blossomed between her legs. His eyes were fierce, an ice grey that melted as he examined her face. For a fleeting moment, he’d looked like a cold-blooded killer and a predator. Now he just looked hungry.
He wore a pair of faded jeans, but otherwise he was barefoot and bare-chested. He made absolutely no pretense at being civilized, and yet she couldn’t help herself. She breathed in the clean, male scent of him and wanted him on sight. He stood motionless at the end of her dock, where he had tied up his boat, frozen in an almost predatory stillness. As if he wouldn’t move until she gave some unspoken signal.
As if he believed she might be afraid of him.
The only thing she feared for right now was her virtue.
His bare chest had her heating right up, and when she dropped her gaze to the denim-covered thighs, she almost went up in flames. Dear God. They grew them hot in the bayou. The sweet flush of arousal sweeping through her was better than any date she’d had with her vibrator.
A slow, masculine smile tugged at his lips, and he strolled towards her, six-plus feet of rugged Cajun man. Her mind promptly took a detour into fantasy land.
And yet he seemed more familiar than her few long-distance glimpses of his family warranted. “Have we met?” she asked.
“Not yet.” That honeyed accent made listening to him pure pleasure.
“Lark Andrew,” she said, holding out a hand. He wrapped her fingers in his, turning her palm up and stroking the lines there with his thumb.
“Rafer Breaux.” His fingers tightened briefly on hers.
“You come in from the bayou?” Sidetracked by her libido, her brain produced an inanity to help the conversation along. He didn’t look like he minded much, though.
“Sure did.” His caramel drawl was sinful. “Do a little fishin’. A little huntin’.” He watched her, clearly waiting for her to say something.
“What can I do for you today?” She took a step backward. Heat blasted off him. She turned and headed back up the dock, knowing instinctively that he’d follow. Sure enough, he was close on her heels.
“I wan’—” His voice was hoarse, deep. Sexy as hell. Like he didn’t speak often and made it count when he did. “Flowers,” he finished, and for a moment she wondered if he’d intended to substitute another word. Another desire.
And damned if that didn’t make her wetter.
The walk to the greenhouse was too short. Her thighs clenched with need, her pussy drenched because he was right behind her. She had the strangest sensation of being stalked by a wild animal, but she didn’t feel threatened. The warm flush of desire was so unlike her. She wanted to wrestle him to the ground, mark him and claim him as hers.
He didn’t speak again until they reached the first greenhouse. “You alone here?”
She waved a hand at the other people working in the yard and fields. “Does it look like I’m alone?”
“Family.” His hand shot out over her head, pushing open the door for her. She had to duck under that hard arm. “I’d heard Miss Dixie passed on.”
The pain was still there, a softer stab now rather than a bright, hard hurt. She missed her grandmother. “You really don’t get out of the bayou much, do you?”
He followed her down the greenhouse’s narrow aisle, and she should have been nervous, but wasn’t. He was large and too close, a predator on her heels. And that was ridiculous. He was just a man. An almost-neighbor who simply lived deeper inside the bayou than she did.
“No,” he said quietly. “I don’ leave the bayou much anymore.”
And yet he’d come to her for flowers. She stopped by a wooden table loaded with fragrant sweet pea. “What’s the occasion?”
He looked at her but didn’t answer. Maybe it was one of those bayou things. She probably didn’t need to know, but, damn it, he intrigued her. She wanted to learn more about her bayou man.
“What do you need the flowers for?” she asked again, finding the dark flush of color on his face strangely endearing. “An evening out?”
“Somethin’ like that,” he agreed.
He struck her as a man who knew precisely what he wanted, but maybe flowers weren’t his thing. Choosing for him wouldn’t be a problem. She reached for the scissors.
“You’re going to get grower’s choice.”
That slow smile was back in his eyes. “You can always choose for me, chère.” He propped a hip against her worktable and watched her cut, his eyes following her hands.
She cut slowly, selecting her favorites. “This one has a pretty scent,” she suggested, handing him a slim spray of flowers. He took the stem from her, his fingers touching hers. Deliberately. The soft-rough brush of his calloused skin against hers kicked the heat in her belly—and lower—up a notch. She’d have to change her panties after he left. His eyes flared as if he knew. Which was impossible.
“This one’s sweet,” he agreed, leaning forward and tucking the stem into the bouquet she was building. The sexy look of concentration on his face as he maneuvered the flower into place, big fingers stroking down the petals, almost overruled her sensible side. She didn’t know him. If Rafer Breaux rarely left the bayou, well, she never went in the bayou.
He pulled his hands away, but not before she got a good look at the nicks and scars carving up his fingers. Knives, fishing lines… She didn’t know what would mark a man so deeply, but his hands were strong and capable, a road map of doing what had to be done. Some primitive part of her responded to the way he wore his scars like a badge of honor. He was strong.
She reached for a sheet of lacy paper, rolling the flowers up into a neat cone. They were almost done here. He’d leave, get back in his boat and return to the bayou. And yet, for some reason, she wanted to prolong the moment. Keep him with her.
He turned away, examining another table loaded with lilies. The stargazers filled the greenhouse with their lush, exotic scent.
“These,” he said, reaching out.
Too late. He jerked back, head swinging around to hers, frozen with his fingers brushing the stamen. Like he’d done something far worse than touch a flower.
“No touching.” His deep voice was more growl than anything. “You got it, chère.”
“They stain,” she explained awkwardly. Grabbing a damp cloth from the table, she took his hand in hers before she could think too much, swiping carefully at the pollen. His hand was warm and firm, deliberately relaxed in hers. Despite her best efforts, the stamen left a dark orange-red streak on the masculine hand cradled in hers. Curious, she ran a finger over his palm. Blinked. She’d thought she’d seen something. A strange shimmer and a hint of fur.
“I need to tell you something.” He paused, his gaze pinning hers. She let go of his hand and retreated backwards a step. “I need you to listen to me, chère.”
“Okay.” She cut stargazers, giving the pollen-heavy stamens a hit of hairspray to hold the pollen in before adding the fragrant buds to Rafer’s bouquet. When his hand on her arm gently turned her to face him, the greenhouse felt too small. She felt too feminine. And yet she could see the farm’s other workers through the glass walls, so everything had to be okay. She didn’t feel threatened. He was big and dominant, but he was being deliberately careful.
“You changed your mind about the flowers?” she asked lightly.
“No.” An indecipherable look flashed over his face. “Your nannan ever talk to you about the families living out in the bayou?”
She’d lived almost a lifetime here on the bayou. The Breaux brothers weren’t entirely unfamiliar, although she’d never had more than a passing glimpse of one brother or another before they’d been gone. Spotting them had been like spotting a wild animal. A quick flash that had her doubting her eyes and then nothing, the men blending seamlessly into their bayou surroundings and disappearing. She didn’t even know how old they were. They were fine-looking men, and at least one of them had to be her age, but she’d met none of them in school. Some of those old bayou families didn’t bother with a formal education, so she’d thought nothing about it. She hadn’t met them in town or at the market either. The Breaux brothers were a mystery. Six feet of tall, dark mystery.
“Sure she talked.” She stared at the lacy scrap of ribbon she’d tied around the paper-wrapped bouquet. That stab of pain was back. Her grandmother wouldn’t be telling any more stories.
“She tell you about my brothers and me?”
“She mentioned you Breauxs.” A smile spread across her face. “Once or twice.”
He nodded. “She warned you about us. That’s a good thing there.”
She shrugged, testing the string. She didn’t want his flowers to blow apart on that boat of his. God knew how far into the swamp he lived. “Not really. Just said you and your brothers were trouble, and I should run like crazy if you ever came knocking on my door.”
“Run.” He shook his head. “That’s the last thing you should do, chère. Don’ run unless you mean it.”
He stepped forward, trapping her between him and the worktable.
“Are you planning on hunting me down?” she said the words lightly, but the sensual tension in the room ratcheted up. He suddenly seemed larger. More feral.
“Of course,” he said. She looked for the laughter in his eyes, but there was none. She could almost swear he was serious. “We like to hunt, and we do everythin’ together.”
A zing of heat hit her at his words. He couldn’t possibly mean everything.
“You know about the blue moon?” he asked.
“I’ve heard of it.” She’d heard stories, warnings. Her mother didn’t want her anywhere near the bayou. Those stories couldn’t be true—and yet nothing seemed impossible anymore. The bayou was a place for dark magic. She fingered the gris-gris Mama Jolie had given her.
“Wolves go out huntin’ during the blue moon.” He watched her intently, his face turned towards hers.
“That doesn’t have anything to do with me.” She wondered if he could smell the lie. His big body didn’t move.
“If you say so, chère.” He reached down beside her, picking up the paper cone of flowers. “What do I owe you?”
“Nothing. Consider them a gift.” She licked dry lips, unsure of what to do next. Of how to handle this inexplicable, intense attraction to a stranger. He was so alive and certain. So completely out of her league.
“That’s real nice of you.” He moved swiftly, leaning into her before she could so much as blink. His heavy weight pinned her against the table as his hand came up and cupped the side of her jaw. “May I?”
God. She’d let him do anything he wanted.
“May you what?”
“Touch you,” he said hoarsely.
He didn’t kiss her, not quite. His face pressed against the skin of her throat, her head falling back in a strangely vulnerable gesture. He inhaled roughly, his breath a hot brand on her ear, his mouth moving over her jaw to the corner of her mouth. To her eternal embarrassment, she moaned. She wanted more. More Rafer, more touches.
He stepped away, the flowers cradled gently in one massive arm.
“Tomorrow night, you stay home, stay inside your nannan’s place. You’ll be fine. Or…” his voice dropped lower, a heated drawl, “…you come on out and see us. But we’ll be hunting.”
He turned and headed down her dock, back out into the bayou, but he’d be back. She knew it.