God, what a nightmare. It was cold on the street and warm in my car. Maybe even warmer in a doughnut shop round the corner, where I could eat my feelings with a side of powdered sugar. A car pulled up to the curb behind me and I realized how I must look: standing in front of a house, staring in the window. I straightened as the automatic lock sounded in a bright chirp, and turned, walking directly into a hard body.
“I’m so sor—” I began, dropping my purse. Flustered, I bent to pick it up.
I stared at the polished brown shoes on the ground in front of me, pondered the smooth, gentle voice that had said my name.
“Hallo.” I didn’t bother to get up quite yet.
I’m sure, to anyone witnessing, I appeared to be genuflecting at the foot of a businessman, but if there were some secret code I could tap on the concrete to make the sidewalk open and eat me, I would have done it in a heartbeat. This was . . . horrifying. Very slowly, I put the contents of my purse back in the bag.
He crouched down. “What are you doing here?”
“Hanna . . .” I said, reaching inside for my car keys. “She gave me your address. I thought—” I shook my head. “Please don’t be cross with her. Knowing there would be no lingerie-loving mistress inside with you gave me some bravery to stop by. I guess I wanted to see you.” When he didn’t immediately reply, and I wanted to burst into flames, I added, “I’m sorry. You told me you were busy.”
A large hand came toward me then, wrapping around my elbow and pulling me up with him. When I looked at his face, I saw a faint smile there.
“You don’t have to apologize,” he said quietly. “I was just surprised to see you. Pleasantly so.”
I looked at his suit and then back at his car. “Are you just getting home?”
He nodded, and I glanced at my watch. It was after eleven.
“You weren’t kidding about the work thing,” I muttered before looking up at his house. “Your lights are on.”
Of course they bloody are.
And without another word, he bent, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me closer so he could press his lips to mine.
The relief of it, the warmth. There was no stutter to the kiss, only the familiar sweep of his lips across mine, the reflexive opening together, the aching stroke of his tongue. His kisses narrowed, shortened, until he was just placing tiny pecks on my mouth, my cheek, my jaw.
“I missed you,” he said, kissing down my neck. Exhaustion was evident in the curve of his shoulders, the way his lids looked heavy.
“I missed you, too,” I said, wrapping my arms around his neck as he straightened. “I just wanted to say hi, but you look like you might drop where you stand.”
Jensen pulled back, looked at me and then up at his front door. “I am about to drop, but you don’t need to go. Come inside. Stay here tonight.”
We passed through the downstairs without speaking. Jensen held my hand, pulling me with determination to the bathroom in the master suite—where he retrieved a fresh toothbrush for me—and, after we’d brushed our teeth in smiling silence, through the double doors into the bedroom.
His room was full of muted colors: creams and blues, rich brown wood. My red skirt and sapphire-blue top looked like jewels in a river on his floor.
Jensen didn’t seem to notice. His clothes fell beside mine and he drew me with him down between the sheets, his mouth moving warm and barely wet over my neck, my shoulders; his lips sucking at my breasts.
We’d never made love like this: without the awareness that had seemed to heighten everything on the winery trip. Here, it was just us in his bed, in his dark bedroom, our hands touching now-familiar skin, laughing into kisses. A heavy ache settled low in my belly, radiating between my legs, and his body grew hard and hungry over mine until he was there, pushing inside, moving with the same perfect curl of his hips, the same anchoring of his arms around me, the same press of his mouth to my neck.
It was heaven, and it was hell. Relief was a drug: being here with him was as it always was—perfect; under his mouth and his possessive hands, it was impossible to not feel that I was the only person in the world who mattered. But this awareness was a torture—accepting for the first time how starkly temporary it all was. Knowing now that if I hadn’t come, he wouldn’t have made the effort.
“It’s good,” he gasped into my neck. “Jesus, it’s always so good.”
I wrapped myself around him, arms and legs and heart, truly, feeling once again what I had in Vermont. What reverberated between us wasn’t a respectful admiration but something with fire and depth, something that would be hard to shake. I felt, as he moved over me, shifting right where I needed, that the question of whether I could fall in love with Jensen was moot.
The realization made me gasp, a tiny cry that he caught, and he slowed, not stopping entirely but adjusting so that he could see my face.
“You okay?” he asked, kissing me. Above, his shoulders shifted higher and back, higher and back. I stared at the muscular curve of his neck, the definition of his chest.
“Will you ring me when you come to London?” I asked, in the absolutely most pathetic voice.
Apparently I would settle for that.
He slid a hand down my side to my leg, pulling it higher over his hip. With the movement, he pressed in deeper and we both shuddered from the relief of it, from the maddening ache. He tried to smile down at me, but it came out as more of a grimace from the tension all along his body.