They'd just reached the sewer sublevel when Alec finally said something. They'd been accompanied until they reached the sublevel, and Alec had been grinding his teeth the whole time. Max knew she'd messed up, but she'd had no choice.

"Can you explain to me why you're always in such a rush to blame me? Not like I haven't thought about it, but Max, I'm not the type of guy to steal another guy's girl."

Max's jaws clenched. "I'm not some guy's girl!"

Alec rolled his eyes. "Oh, save it. I know. You're 'not like that.'"

"That's not what I meant, jackass! I'm not someone's property to be stolen."

"Yes you are. You're the property of the U.S. government."

Max considered hitting him. "You know what I meant. It's disgusting and insulting."

"Then why'd you say it was me?"

Max took a deep breath. She knew the answer. Alec was an endurance model – lean and muscular in all the right places, not to mention he was pretty easy on the eyes and could physically do more than Logan. And he had been hanging around her the whole year. She knew Alec was intimidating to Logan. And when Logan saw them together, everything fell into place. "I had to push him away," she finally answered.

Alec turned his stare back forward and kept walking, playing through the scenario in his mind. It made sense that Max would push Logan away with him, but only if there was something already there between them. If it was believable, it was because there was something between them.

He was so caught up in his thoughts, he almost missed her question.

"Wait a minute, you've thought about it?" she accused, on the verge of smiling.

"Of course. I'm a red-blooded American man," he started. "I'd have to be dead not to have thought about it."

Max was taken aback. As Alec continued forward, she asked, "Really?"

For a moment, Alec didn't answer. He stopped walking, turned to face her, and with a serious and honest expression, answered. "Yeah, really."

"Well how come you never said anything?"

Alec turned to start walking again, sighing in frustration that he had allowed the conversation to continue this long. "Because I'd rather not be castrated. Besides, I kinda did."

Max caught up to him, thinking back through the things he had said in the past.

"You were always distracted," he added.

"No I wasn't. I'd remember if you said anything. You haven't. You've never even looked at or talked to me the same way you do other women."

"That's because you're not some vapid, obvious automaton," he bit back at her audacity to presume she knew his style.

"Is that a compliment?"

"Besides, I did try that when we first met, but as usual, you were distracted, and it never would have worked anyway."

"So you're saying you are the kind of guy who'd steal another guy's girl."

"No. I'm only suggesting that given our history, now you'd know if I was coming on to you."

"By all the intense staring and sweet caresses you're known for?" she replied sarcastically.

Finally fed up, Alec stopped in his tracks, pushed her to the wall, and held her body there with his. "You'd know because I wouldn't love you from a distance, I'd love you up close with every piece of me. And it wouldn't be pansy-ass hand holding and eternal stares, it'd be the way we were built: hard and rough," he said through gritted teeth, pushing his body intimately against hers until she gasped, wide-eyed and with expanding pupils, before continuing, "breathless and with bared teeth and pounding hearts, and always riding that wicked line between misery and ecstasy."

Though she felt his growling throughout her body awaken what she'd thought were long lost instincts, Max had the urge to cross her legs to help alleviate some of the pressure the solid planes of his body formed against her.

She tried to wiggle out of his grasp. Bad move. It only turned her on more and allowed his thigh to muscle between her legs and press even more intimately at her center. What she'd meant to sound like a disapproving groan instead came out like a moan of pure pleasure.

Her traitorous body relaxed a fraction of an inch, and true to form, he filled the space. Pressing his nose to her neck and shoulder, he inhaled as Max tried to will her body to follow her commands. No dice.

He nuzzled his face against her skin. "Jesus, Max. I had no idea I did this to you." He inhaled again, her scent a strange and suddenly powerful intoxicant.

Managing to get her hands between them, she started pushing him just as he backed away. "Ugh! Get off!" she grunted as she shoved him back a couple of steps.

He regained his balance within the second, but she'd seen how blown out his pupils were. No way he got that hot just from smelling her, right?

"I'd be happy to help you with that, you know," he offered.

"With what?"

"Getting off," he answered simply, recalling her shouted words.

Her body was fighting to get to him but her brain was desperately trying to hold firm on her stance. "You couldn't handle me," Max said. It sounded like a 'no' in her mind, but after she'd said it out loud, it sounded like a challenge. She tried to undermine it by adding, "I'm too much woman for you," but somehow that hadn't worked either.

Alec laughed as if he knew she was full of it. "Max, you do know that we have cat in our DNA, right? I can smell you."

Max stammered to hit him back with a quip – maybe something about how much he stunk, but he beat her to it.

"I mean, really smell you." His eyes danced down to her pants and she felt the immediate contradictory necessity to rip her pants off and strap on the chastity belt.

"You're mistaken," she eventually came up with, shutting her jaw tight. She tried to refrain from looking at his pants to see if she'd had any effect on him, but her curiosity outweighed her brain function and her eyes traveled down his body to confirm the telltale sign of his erection pressing against his (constricting, her mind supplied) jeans. She knew her pupils dilated, she just hoped he hadn't seen it.

"You sure? You sure you're not zooming in on my package right now?"

Damn it! Why'd he have to call me out on it? Max asked herself. "Yeah, just looked like you wet yourself," she tried to recover.

Alec rubbed at his pant leg where he'd held her up against the wall and brought his fingers to his nose. "I'm not the wet one," he said, smirking, and began walking again.

Max refrained from groaning in frustration. Did he know how infuriating he could be?