“Like we’re happier in our bubble?” Niall finished for her.
Everyone looked at me, almost in unison. I hadn’t wanted to be the reason we would leave Connecticut early, but in the end, it seemed I wasn’t the only one wanting to escape. Finally I gave in. “Okay, fine. You’re right.”
Glancing at me, she laughed and added, “Well, other than me.”
A weight was lifted after we agreed to cut the trip short in Connecticut. The idea had been a good one; the reality less so. Instead, we would hop into the van and head up to Vermont early for a little more than a week of quiet in the cabin. Like Niall said: back in our bubble.
It all sounded easy, really. Relaxed, right?
Except we still had one more night in the B&B, and the other two couples were planning to hole up with takeout, and . . . well.
Jensen and I could either go out to eat and risk running into Becky and Cam in this tiny town . . . or simply stay in.
We didn’t discuss it. We didn’t have a plan. We just sort of . . . walked that way, went inside, dropped our things, and gazed at each other.
After bending to catalog the minibar, he pulled out a half liter of chardonnay, holding it up in question.
“I don’t think I would ever grow sick of wine,” he said, reaching for the corkscrew.
There was no need for nervous chatter while he opened the bottle. He was a man used to being watched at the head of the room, to the room quieting when he spoke, to being brought there specifically so that others would hear what he had to say and do as he did. I watched his forearm flex as he turned the corkscrew, the cork gently squeaking its way out of the glass neck.
“What are you thinking, watching me right now?” he asked, looking up only once the cork was free and captured in his wide palm.
He nodded as though this answer was enough, and it made me smile a little because it was precisely the kind of answer Mark would give me and I would have needled him for more.
I wondered if this thing we had going was weird to Jensen, tethered as it was in absolutely nothing. No business partnership would come from this fling; no romantic partnership, either. For a man used to spending his effort only on things worth his time, I wondered if, just being here, he had to overwrite some Efficiency Required program, or whether I was like text written on a dry-erase board with the instructions Leave this up until October 28.
He came toward me slowly, extending a hotel tumbler half filled with wine. But before I could bring it to my lips, he was there, bending in close, his closed mouth over mine pressing, opening, tasting me.
Somewhere in the last couple of days, the tables had turned. Jensen looked less windblown in his surprised reaction to me and more sure of himself, like he was going after something familiar now and was ready to reestablish control.
Pulling back, he nodded to the glass in my hand and let me sip it before immediately returning, licking the wine from my lips.
“I like the way your lips move,” he said quietly, so close, his eyes still focused on my mouth. “Whenever you speak it’s impossible to not watch them.”
“It’s the accent.” I’d heard this before. American men liked watching British women speak; it wasn’t a mystery: we pout our words, we flirt with them.
But Jensen shook his head. “They’re so pink,” he said. “And full.” Bending, he kissed me again and then pulled back, shifting his gaze up to my eyes, and higher, to my hair. “You said you often dye your hair?”
He reached up, capturing a strand between his thumb and fingers, and dragged them down to the tip.
“I like it like this,” he said, watching his fingers repeat the action. “Not red, not blond.”
I suspected the reason he liked it like this was the same reason I tended not to: It was rather quiet, well-behaved hair. It was long and predictably wavy. Vaguely blond, vaguely red, maybe even vaguely brown—unwilling to commit. I wanted hair that made a declaration: TODAY, I WILL BE PINK.
“Your hair like this makes your eyes bluer,” he continued, and my mind hit the brakes. “Makes your lips pinker. Makes you look too perfect to be real.”
No one had ever said that to me, and suddenly pink seemed like a terribly distracting thing for hair to be.
“That’s a delightful compliment,” I said, grinning widely up at him.
His eyes mirrored the expression, but his mouth stayed the same: lips only slightly parted, as if he tasted me in the air. He lifted his glass, finishing the short pour in a long gulp, and then put it behind him on the desk and turned back, clearly waiting for me to do the same.
“Pippa,” he said, laughing as he bent to kiss my neck.
He brought my hand to the front of his trousers so I could feel why. “I’ve spent all day watching you jump and run around in those tight pants and that practically sheer shirt.”
“You really are used to seeing women in thick turtlenecks and smart wool skirts to their knees.”
My smile slid from my face and he watched it happen, that realization of what we were about to do.