Their short walk to the dance floor was conducted in silence. When he took her in hisarms, she knew that Adam had consciously and studiously not placed his hand on her bare skin. It had annoyed her even more at the time, the fact that he couldn’t even bring himself to touch her.What would it cost him to have simply laid his palm on her bare skin? Nothing. Sheknew, that by now, she should be used to his behaviour. But still it hurt. She knewthat it would hurt either way. For if he had touched her, she would have been in agony pretending his touch meant nothing. She’d have fought hard to appear indifferent,even as her nerves would have fired up in automatic response to contact with him. Butshe wanted these small morsels of contact. To touch him without guilt. To be held inhis arms, openly. The opportunity to pretend, and imagine what it would be like to bea couple in love. Or at least a couple who were friends. Hah. Fine chance.The dance was taxing. On so many levels. She placed her palms on his shoulders, andhe’d loosely laced his fingers and rested his hands just south of the curve of her butt,neatly avoiding touching her skin. It was hard to breathe, standing this close to him.The air filled with tension. She was sure he felt it, but from all outward signs he didnot respond to the hum that reverberated through them.Adam had taken years to develop this mantle of structured unawareness where shewas concerned. While she appeared to take delight in annoying him, just for the sakeof it, he had over the years come to feign ignorance of her antics. Hope glanced up athim from beneath her lashes. Just once, she thought, just once she wanted him to reactto her.With her disappointment banked she looked over his shoulder. None of the other couples on the dance floor registered for as per normal the rest of reality disappearedwhen she was with him. They moved, barely acknowledging the beat of the tune,making just a tiny allowance for the fact they were supposed to be dancing.At the time she was miffed by his deliberate strategy to avoid contact. Now, given the jolt of current, she was somewhat relieved, for his touch on her skin left her all but bereft of breath. The man was a potent force of quiet dominance, shielded within utter patience, outer calm, obvious indifference where she was concerned. She knew thathe liked to be control. Very rarely did he loose control. In reality she couldn’tremember the last time she’d seen him concede control.Despite her constant, routine approach that considered of baiting him to what shehoped was the point of annoyance; he’d remain calm, indifferent and as a result annoythe hell out of her. But still she couldn’t help wanting to be with him. Of course sheknew her pulse would race. Her heartbeat rarely managed a standard pace when hewas around. But after a two-year absence she had expected her reaction to be moretempered. But it was as if the two years meant nothing. If anything, her feelingsescalated. Not a good thing.Why did it have to be him? She was tired of trying to juggle her feelings, wanting himand wanting to ignore him, usually within the same span of a breath. She wanted himso badly that she’d do stupid things to engage his interest.Adam scowled as he steadied Hope. For a big man he was always gentle in the wayhe handled her, which was in direct contrast to his verbal skills in suggestingindifference when he taunted her by not responding to her standard patter of engagement. But then, that never stopped her. She gave as good as she got, the onlydifference being that he was better at hiding just how much she got beneath his skin.