We’re heart to heart and he fades into me until I don’t know where I end and he begins.

“I’m getting close and I want to come inside you.” He keeps moving as he talks and I wrap my legs around his waist, my head spinning with the ecstasy of his words. I forget who he is, who I am, and what we are to each other.

I want him to mark me, to make me his. I lock my legs around him and squeeze. He couldn’t free himself from my tight hold if he tried. “I want you to.”

He pushes harder inside me. I can’t see his face because it’s buried against my neck, but he’s close. I know he is about to fill me with a part of him.

It’s in this moment I know without a doubt that Blake is my past. Jack Henry is my present, and as much as that pleases me, I want him as my future. The feelings and emotions he stirs inside me make it impossible to contain the way I feel about him. I lock my arms around him and squeeze my legs tighter as he groans and spasms inside me.

“I love you, Jack Henry,” I whisper against his ear as he empties himself into me.

I love Jack Henry McLachlan. And now I’ve told him. And I regret saying it the moment the words leave my mouth. Words of love aren’t what he wants to hear from me. He doesn’t feel the same. This isn’t what he signed up for, and I’ve probably just ruined the little bit of time I have left with him.

His face is still buried against my neck so I can’t see his reaction. And I don’t want to. I feel him breathing heavily against my hair. I think he’s contemplating his next move, so I give him the easy out I owe him.

“Let me up.” I push him off me without meeting his eyes and dart into the bathroom so he can dress and leave without feeling obligated to talk about what I said.

I wonder if he’ll ask me to leave when he comes home from work. My back is against the door, my tear-streaked face in my hands. Maybe I should save him the trouble and just leave on my own.

I lie on my back and look at the ceiling. Well, fuck me running. Laurelyn loves me. I wasn’t expecting to hear that. I’m not really sure how I feel about it.

Our days are winding down and I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to feel when she’s gone. I admit I’m confused by the emotions I have. I’ve never grown attached to any of my companions in the past, but I’ve known from the beginning that everything about Laurelyn is different. She means something to me—more than any of the others ever did—but does it equal love? I have no idea.

A part of me wants Laurelyn to leave so I can go back to my life before her, but then there’s another part that wants to beg her to stay forever. As hard as I try, I can’t decide which is stronger.

I feel a terrible ache in my chest when I think of her leaving. Is that what love feels like? I hadn’t thought so, but then I hear her say she loves me and I feel more confused than ever.

I sit up on the edge of the bed and ponder what to say when she comes out of the bathroom. Several minutes pass and I realize she has no intention of coming out while I’m still here.

I knock on the door. “Laurelyn, will you come out so we can talk?”

“I really don’t want to. Please, don’t make me.” She sounds nasally, so I know she’s crying. It’s almost more than I can stand because I want to be the one to wipe away her tears, not the one to cause them.

“I really think we should.” I reach to twist the knob but already know it will be locked. “Please come out.”

Another minute passes before I hear her unlock the door. She opens it and stands wrapped in a towel, her eyes downcast refusing to meet mine. I reach out and tilt her chin upward so I can see her eyes, but she closes them and locks me out.

I asked her to come out so we could talk, but now I don’t have a damn clue as to what I should say. I feel something genuine for her, but I don’t know what it is. I can’t say I love her, so I do the only thing I can to show her how I feel.

I untuck the towel from under her arms and it falls to the floor. I put her arms around my shoulders and pick her up. “Wrap your legs around me.”

I put my hands under her thighs and carry her back to the bed. I lay her across the mattress side to side and creep over her on all fours. I take her chin in my hand. “Look at me, Laurelyn.”

She hesitates and then opens her eyes and stares at me. Tears roll down her temples and I lean forward to kiss them away. I wish I could say I love you.

I can’t give her my heart, but there’s one thing I can give her.

I lower my hand and feel that she’s drenched with my body fluid all the way down the insides of her thighs. I run my fingers through it and rub it into her skin as if to mark my territory. I’m shocked to find how much I like having that part of myself on her. And in her.

She is mine, at least for a little while longer.

I enter her slowly and within seconds, her hips are meeting me stroke for stroke. I want to be gentle because making love to her is new and I like the way it feels, but she has other ideas in mind. Using her thighs, she coaxes me to move faster as I slide in and out of her. She reaches for my neck to pull me down against her and whispers in my ear. “Harder!” I give her what she asks for and when I feel her contract around me, it pushes me over the edge. I push deep inside her one last time as I erupt.

What is it about coming inside her?

I push her hair from her face and she watches my eyes. I see fear as she asks, “Are we okay?”

I lower my mouth and softly kiss her lips. “We’re so much better than okay.” I give her an Eskimo kiss and then sit up to check the time. Shit! I really need to get back to work.

I get dressed while she watches. I sit on the edge of the bed to put on my shoes and she crawls behind me to slide her arms around my waist. I lean my head back against hers. “I’m never going to make it back to work at this rate.”

“I’m going to let you go in a minute. I just need to savor this moment for a little while longer.”

Why would she need to savor the moment? Is she going to leave me because I didn’t tell her I loved her?

I spin around and push her down on the bed. I imprison her with the weight of my body and pin her arms over her head. I watch her eyes when I ask, “Are you going to leave me?” She swallows hard and doesn’t answer. “Don’t you even think about not being here when I come home this afternoon. I’ll come for you and drag you back by your hair like a caveman.”

This brings a smile to her face and I can’t resist kissing her one last time before I leave. “I’ll probably be late getting in tonight since I need to make up the work I’ve missed this morning. Be here when I come home tonight.”

I still have her hands pinned over her head. “I will.”

“Promise me.” I don’t know what good I think a pledge will do. If she wants to leave, she will.

My guts tells me she was about to run, so it doesn’t matter if she promises me or not. She will run if the notion strikes her, so being away from her today won’t be easy for me. I won’t rest until I get home and find her still here.

I send my fifteenth text to Laurelyn today and await her response. I’m probably annoying her, but she needs to understand how much I want her to stay with me until she goes home next week. I’m not ready to say goodbye. At least not today.

I’m able to relax because that doesn’t sound like a response from a woman who has run away.

When I get back to the house, I almost race through the door to get to her. I’m eager to see proof she isn’t gone. “Laurelyn, where are you?”

“In the kitchen.” Relief. That’s the only word to describe how I feel at the moment. I can breathe again.

I go into the kitchen and find her standing in front of the stove. “I let Mrs. Porcelli go early because I wanted to cook for you. I hope you don’t mind.”

I come up behind her and put my arms around her waist. I kiss her neck and peer over her shoulder to see what she’s cooked. Hmm. Lasagna? My favorite. I wonder if she knows that. I’m reminded of the night we ate at the Italian restaurant in Auckland for her birthday. “Smells delicious.”

“My lasagna has been known to bring men to their knees.”

“Baby, it doesn’t take food for you to bring me to my knees.”

She faces me and puts her arms around my shoulders. “Is that so?”

“Good. I like you on your knees.”

The second the words leave her mouth, I see her remembering our morning. After the touchy incident following the Blake Phillips conversation, I decide it’s best to change the subject. “Can I help you with anything?”

We both know what I’m doing, but she rolls with it. “As if you’d know what to do.”

“I’m not totally helpless in the kitchen. I think I recall cooking brekkie for you one morning.”

“I’m not sure a bagel with cream cheese counts as cooking breakfast, but regardless—I’m good. Why don’t you go choose a wine for us?”

I kiss the side of her face. “That I can definitely do.”

I go into the cellar and choose a merlot. As I walk back to the house, I hear myself whistling “Private Dancer” without thinking about. Damn, she’s always on my mind, even if it’s my subconscious.

I hear Laurelyn talking to someone when I return from the wine cellar. I walk into the kitchen and she turns to see me standing behind her. She’s upset and that’s when I know it’s him. He’s called again.

I take the phone from her hand and hit the end button. “Don’t take his calls again. He upsets you and I don’t want to spend what little time we have left with him on your mind. I want to be the only one you think about. Agreed?”

I want her to forget his call, his face, his name, so I pull her close for a kiss. “Now, do you think you can make it through dinner without him in your head, or do I need to take you to bed and give you a reason to forget all about him?”