“Over the past year, my life has been full of moments that took my breath away, moments when I was so filled with surprise that it’s me living this life that it feels as if I stumbled into a fairy tale.”
Jess Donovan has come a long way in a year, from waiting tables and eating ramen noodles at every meal, to a dizzying new life with more choices and more trouble than she ever imagined. After a tumultuous spring that left her heart shredded, Jess stepped away from both Tyler and Kaleb to live on her own terms. Now, as her life is about to take one more huge turn with the opening of the movie Torches, Jess finds herself squarely between Tyler and Kaleb once again.
The chemistry is off the charts with her sexy co-star Kaleb, but he’s macho and stubborn. Artist Tyler has shown a devotion that’s unshakable, but his temper is volcanic and he still doesn’t see Jess as his equal.
Which means Jess has to grapple with a painful question—how does a woman choose the right man for her?
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Over the past year, my life has been full of moments that took my breath away, moments when I was so filled with surprise that it’s me living this life that it feels as if I stumbled into a fairy tale.
Riding in the back of a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk is one of those moments. It’s a bridge you’ve seen a million times in a movie or on the news, lights strung over it like it’s Christmas all the time. I open my window and put my head out to look up and back, at the lights of the city coming on against a twilight sky. Not everything in my life is where I want it to be, but this rocks. I gather it in, the way it looks, the way it feels, remembering it so I can tell my dad and Electra.
We just crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, I text. Be there soon.
I’ll be waiting outside.
“Miss, will you roll up the window, please?” the cabbie asks in an accent I don’t know, something rolling and beautiful. Cabbies all seem to have accents, Russian or Pakistani or Iranian or a surprising number of French. Until I took so many cabs, I had no idea the French had colonized so many places in the world. This man, older, weary-looking like he might have lived through a revolution somewhere, doesn’t seem to want to talk, so I settle back and hold my phone, peering through the windows with the same deep delicious pleasure that’s gripped me since I got here a few weeks ago. I’ve only been once before, a disaster of a trip last spring, and that was only overnight.
I didn’t know I’d love the city so much, but I love everything—the old buildings, the rushing irritation of the pedestrians, quiet residential streets where normal people walk their dogs and sit on the porch steps smoking and talking on the phone. I love the bodegas on every block, each with its own particular personality, and the food that is everywhere, everywhere. Mercedes and I have been sampling the vast offerings, then walk them off by exploring, walking miles and miles and miles around the city.
The cab driver loops around farther away from the bustling centers of things, and heads down a nearly deserted street. “You sure this address is good?” he asks, slowing.
I spy a lone figure standing in a pool of illumination cast by a street light that has just come on in the dusk. My heart stutters. He’s tall and long legged, wearing a navy pea coat and jeans, his hair gleaming. “Yeah, right here,” I say.
Before I can get out of the car, Tyler is loping toward the curb, and I remember with a faint shock how gracefully he moves, like light, like something dancing on the wind, as if there is no gravity, only air. A shiver slips down my spine, pooling in my hips.
It has been nearly six months since I’ve seen him, since right after the movie wrapped in Aspen. Things had grown tense between us again, and although we’ve been emailing back and forth, we haven’t really talked since then. When Mercedes and I arrived last week for the premiere of Torches, it seemed mean to refuse his invitation to come see his paintings, have dinner, catch up.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I would feel, and that shiver warns me to be careful as I step out of the car. It’s perfectly natural to hug him, but I’m unprepared for how he wraps me up hard, how the scent of his skin—morning and grass and something entirely belonging to Tyler—fills my head, making me dizzy. I hold on longer than he does, my eyes closed tight, my hands gauging the play of muscles on his back. I think of a kiss in the rain, and a room filled with green light, and a day on the side of a lake, and poems and—
Before I can register the solid slab of his chest, the breadth of his shoulders, he’s letting me go. “It’s so good to see you,” he says, his hands on my arms, his clear eyes like that lake, sparkling on top, but full of unseen depths, where things both murky and beautiful live.
I pay the driver and Tyler opens a battered-looking iron door, and gestures for me to go ahead into a tiny, grimy vestibule with a single light bulb hanging down like something from an old movie. He hauls the door closed with a thunk and locks it with a heavy bar. “Come on, we’re up here.”
He dances up the stairs ahead of me, narrow iron stairs that make me queasy because they’re open work and I can see the floor beneath my feet. I hold on to the rail and look up, trying not to focus on Tyler’s gorgeous ass too much.
“This is it,” he says, and steps aside. “It’s kind of rough around the edges.”
The space is long and open, all of it facing a bank of multi-paned windows that show more sky than I’ve seen in days, all of it pale purple edged with a glow of yellow from a sun I can’t see. The buildings across the street offer a dark line of uneven blocks silhouetted against the water shining a couple of blocks away. I can’t remember which river it is, East or Hudson, or maybe it’s the ocean. I get confused.
Once I tear my eyes away from the windows, I see the rest of the space is pretty crude. At one end is his studio, with easels and paintings and all the detritus I remember from his little house in Manitou. Closer to us, tucked in a corner, is a sort of kitchen, with cabinets and stove and a counter, an old-school turquoise fridge with rounded edges, a few stools grouped around a bar that might be made of crates. In between the kitchen and studio is a living area, a couch and a chair and a bed with books piled up all around it. There are books on the windowsills. No curtains. “The light must be amazing,” I say.
“Yeah, and trust me, if it had been upgraded even one level, the rent would be impossible.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What, you can’t afford it, Rich Boy?”
His mouth lifts in a half-grin. “Maybe you could give me a loan, Rich Girl.”
It’s true that our positions have shifted on this level. When we met, I’d just lost my crappy waitress job and had no idea how to pay my rent. Thinking about that, I look toward a boat with yellow lights making its way across the rippling lavender river. “I rented an apartment today.”
“Not Brooklyn. West Village.”
I give a shy little shrug, but the truth is, I can afford it now and wanted something halfway nice. “It’s nice. Simple, just a bedroom and a living room and a kitchen, but the windows are big.” I glance at him, then away. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m not following you. Mercedes talked me into it. LA just didn’t fit me, and she said we could come here, get more privacy.”
He inclines his head, frowning in surprise. “Is she going to be your roommate?”
“God, no. She is a cyclone inside a hurricane inside a typhoon. So much drama all the time. She found something a few blocks uptown.”
“You don’t seem like the same kind of people at all. It’s strange that you’re friends.”
Sometimes I think the same thing, but the fact is, we are. She’s the only person outside my family that I trust right now, which is bizarre, considering, but also true.
“I want to hear all about this,” Tyler says, “but come in first. Give me your coat.”
His hands are on my shoulders, warm but impersonal, taking it as I shrug out of it. He hangs both of our coats on hooks by what must be a bathroom. He’s not as thin as he was when I saw him last, still healing from a snowboarding accident that kept him out of the Olympics. His hair is way too long, as if he hasn’t cut it since then, straight and shiny bright, and it’s pulled back, giving him the air of an English rake from a historical romance novel. His clothes are the same as ever, jeans that fit his high round ass without being tight, a simple three-button Henley in a heathery blue that shapes his chest and very lean waist, and shows off his beautiful eyes.
“I have red wine or beer,” he says. “Water if you insist.”
“Is it New Zealand wine?”
A smile touches his lips and he grabs the bottle off the counter. “It is, mademoiselle. Pinot Noir, just for you.” He turns the label around to show me. Cloudy Bay.
For one long second, I’m transported to a day with Kaleb on the beach at Cloudy Bay. A sharp pain angles between my ribs into my lungs as my annoying memories throw out a picture of Kaleb on the sand at the edge of the bay when we first met, laughing in a way he never does anymore.
“Problem?” Tyler asks.
“No, it’s perfect,” I say. “It’s not far from my dad’s place, actually.”
“Have a seat. The couch is the most comfortable.”
Instead, I move a few more paces down the length of the long space, drawn toward the canvases I can’t see. There is little in the way of furnishings, only a single wall of books, floor to ceiling. The spines are many colors, blue and red and brown and green and white, big and small, some stacked sideways, others piled up in front of the shelves, as if they had been examined and not yet returned. I move toward those shelves. “Did you have this many books in Colorado Springs? I don’t remember seeing them.”
“They were mostly in boxes.” He brings me the wine, and in a gesture that gives away his nerves ever so slightly, tugs up the long sleeve of his t-shirt. A strand of wheat colored hair has escaped to brush that high, angled cheekbone. “I did some reading on the best wines in the Marlborough area. That’s your dad’s region, right?”
I smile, raise my glass. “Good job. I met the vintner last summer. Or last summer—there.” I touch a point between my eyebrows. “So much has happened in a year, and half in a different hemisphere.”
“I can see why that would be disorienting.” He raises his glass. “To fresh starts.”
So many layers to that phrase. Our careers, this new city, our lives…
He holds my gaze.
“To fresh starts,” I echo, and touch the rim lightly and take a sip, not looking away. And there in the deep mountain blue of his beautiful, soulful eyes, is everything I’ve always seen there—his brilliance, his yearnings, the slightly lost aspect of a boy who never had what he should have and longs for it still. The familiar response rises in me, too, the prickling of my cells wanting to plump themselves up on the taste of him, the shiver down my spine that wants his hands on me—
I feel the place where he was anchored to my heart burn with lost chances. Deliberately, I look away. “How’s your father?” I ask, looking at the shelves.
I force a smile, and give him a bright, sad look.
He sighs. “I don’t know. We don’t talk.”
“Oh, really. How do you afford this place then? On your earnings as an artist?”
His nostrils flare slightly. “Is that so impossible?”
I shrug, take a sip of wine, look around. It’s hardly luxurious, but I’ve been checking out spaces all over the city for the past week and even in its current condition, it must rent at a few thousand a month.
“We don’t talk.” He moves away, as I must have meant for him to. “And not that it’s any of your business, but I did pay the rent for this place for a year on my earnings from the show last spring.”
I feel a little bad, but Tyler’s father humiliated me last spring at his art show and Tyler did nothing to make it better and I’m not going to get over that with the snap of my fingers. “That’s great.” I say it in my cool voice, and look at the titles without seeing them.
Tyler pulls out his phone and keys something, and music comes out of speakers I don’t see. It’s not the kind of music I usually listen to, something sort of bluesy and raw. A man’s voice, rugged and poetic, fills the room, changing the dynamic. Easing the tension.
He comes up behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders. His palms are warm, and carry a force field with them that lights up my very bones. I let go of the breath I was holding. “Let’s start over, Jess.”
I turn, almost against my will. “Friends,” I say, and click his glass. It isn’t what he means, but I lift my chin, diffusing the intimacy threatening to overtake us. “Can you show me what you’re working on?”
For a moment, he stands there against the tall, multi-paned windows, his face slightly in shadow, his bright hair catching the light from the kitchen. A roiling energy pours form him, hungry and intense, and I wonder for the first time if I need to just walk away from him, from this, whatever it is. Maybe I can’t really control it the way I think I can.
“Maybe I should go,” I say, carefully setting my glass on the table. “Maybe it’s not possible for us to just be friends.”
“Jess. No.” In his fluid way, he crosses the distance between us and picks up my wine. “Please don’t. We have too much between us now to let it all go.” With effort, he rearranges his dark expression into a half-smile that almost looks authentic. “Let me show you what I’ve been doing.”
The studio fills half the loft. Tall shelves hold canvases on one side, clean and painted, and cabinets and shelves are packed with supplies. Three easels are set up, one with a painting in progress, still barely sketched in, maybe a boy of about eight, I think. Another easel holds a board pinned with photos and swatches of color swirling in a circle. The third is empty.
“You’ll be happy to know I am no longer painting only you,” he says half-ironically, pulling out a big canvas, much larger than he’s done before. He props it against the wall and grabs another, then another, until there are eight of them in a row. Still portraits but more biting than the others I’ve seen. There is one of his mother, and his father, and they’re allegorical—his mother with her cruel eyes as a duchess in a white ruff. His father in robes of gold and blue. “Is he dressed as a Greek?”
He says nothing as I look at them all carefully. His technique is elegant and distinct, with a slightly offbeat palette, tones of pale orange in the skin, or green, or blue. Three women over a witch’s pot have the graceful long limbs of his family, and I recognize the only sister I’ve met—Kate. Not my favorite person.
“Family portraits,” I comment.
“Yeah. Kaitlin said something when I was in the hospital that stuck with me. That everyone felt sorry for us.” He touches his thumb to his lip. “I guess I thought that it was invisible, the things that happened to us. But they weren’t.”
There’s a girl draped over a fainting couch, clearly dead, and beautiful. It reminds me of something. “This looks like a postcard.”
“Pre-Raphaelites,” he says, and points to a bulletin board with a poster of a girl in a flowing dress and flowing red hair. “Ophelia.”
“This is Ann? The one who died?”
He nods. Tucks that lock of escaping hair back behind his ear.
“So where is the one of you?”
“Maybe I’m not ready to show you that one.”
I try to quell my disappointment, only nod. I can’t have intimacy, revelation, and distance. Fair is fair.
The other paintings are all homeless people, young and old. The humanizing, slightly oversize eyes and the intriguing color choices combine to create a sense of immediacy. His brushstrokes are both larger and smaller, filled with confidence. I can’t look away from a woman squatting against a wall, her fingernails dirty all the way around, starry light in her crazy eyes. “God, Tyler, these are so good.”
“I haven’t quite pulled it all together, but I will. Not sure the family gallery has anything to do with my next show, but I had to get those done before I could move on.”
“You’re finding your voice.”
He inclines his head. “Yeah. How ’bout you?”
A clutch of nerves ripple over my gut. “Maybe. It’s hard to think about with everything roaring toward me this week.”
“Are you nervous?”
“I don’t know what I feel. It all still kind of feels like make believe.”
“One part of it is.”
I tilt my head in agreement.
“I saw the previews and the posters at the movies last week,” he says.
I gulp a swallow of wine, flashes of the artwork and the clips rushing over my vision. Nerves send jagged points through my gut and I touch it, as if to hold it steady. “What did you think?”
A flicker of something crosses his face, then he smiles. “Really good, Jess. It was awesome to see you up there on the screen. I wanted to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I know her.’”
The full clip has been playing at previews for nearly a month, but I’m still startled by it, still drawn to watch it over and over. It’s so intense, filled with so much hectic emotion and beauty. Neither of us mentions the long, fierce kiss on the balcony, the sleek skin, limbs tangling in a bed. I keep it all at arm’s length emotionally, the only thing I’ve been able to do to cope, but now the world is going to see it. My dad and his wife Katie are coming over for the premiere, and Kaleb will be here tomorrow. The first time I’ve seen him in months. Or talked to him at all.
“I’m so nervous.”
“You’re going to be brilliant, Jess.”
I laugh, kindly. “You say because you saw so much of it, right?” I wander away, trying to dislodge the anxiety in my lungs, and stand looking out the windows to the shimmer of light over the water. Quietly, I voice my worst fear. “What if I’m really, really terrible? What if the reviewers call me names and—” I drop my forehead to the glass. The cold steadies me. “Not to mention everybody in the universe is going to see me naked.”
He steps closer to me and puts a hand on my neck. “I’m not going to lie, Jess. People are going to say things that hurt. They’re going to say things that feel good, too. If you listen too much to one or the other, that’s when you’ll get in trouble. You have to just blow most of it off.”
I turn my head sideways to look up at him. His hand is warm and comforting on my upper back and I let it rest there. “Is that what you do?”
“More or less.” He lifts a shoulder. “One of my professors told me right at the start that if you make any kind of art, the only thing you can really listen to is your gut.” He brushes a lock of hair out of my eye. “What does your gut say?”
Taking a breath, I tell him the truth. “That it’s really a good movie. Mercedes wrote a great story, and the director made some great choices, and—”
“We’re good, Kaleb and I.” I pause. Despite everything that happened, all the tension that exploded between us at the end of filming, the chemistry on screen is molten. “Better than good,” I amend. “Better than either of us alone. Something works when we’re on screen.”
He drops his hand, but that half-mocking, half-twinkling expression I love so much blooms across his face. “Every girl in America is going to fling themselves at Kaleb.”
My stomach reacts to that, too, not happily. “It was getting crazy even at the end of filming last spring.”
“I remember. Three girls broke into his room or something?”
“Is that why you broke up?”
I look up at him. “No,” I say and take a breath. “I don’t want to talk about that.” The truth is, it’s all just so raw.
The whole middle of my chest aches, as if an invisible hand brushes over tiny shards of glass embedded in my heart, and I find myself confessing. “He slept with Mercedes.”
A frown pulls down his brows. “Not to defend the guy or anything, but that seems a bit out of character for him.”
I sip the wine. “That’s only because you don’t like Mercedes.”
He holds my gaze. A sharpness crosses the wild color of his irises. “You slept with me, right?”
My chin lifts. “He told me to get it out of my system.” I shake my head. “Sorry, that sounds totally offensive.”
He lifts one finger and draws a line down my arm. “Is that why you did it?” A smile lifts the edge of his mouth, as if he knows that wasn’t the reason at all.
“No.” I bow my head. “You know it isn’t.”
“I do know.” He drops his hand and takes a swig of wine, looking out of the windows. “It’s weird that you’re still friends with Mercedes after that.”
“That’s complicated, too. She thought she was doing me a favor.”
He laughs. “Is that what she called it?”
My lips twist in rueful acknowledgment. “I know. Crazy town. My whole life is crazy town.”
“I hear you. She doesn’t like me, though, not one bit.” For a minute, his eyes narrow and he looks toward the river, meditatively. “I’d love to paint her, actually.”
I roll my eyes, disappointed. “Of course you would.”
“Hey. Not like that.”
“Oh, you don’t want her to pose nude in all that splendiferous curviness?”
He laughs outright. “Splendiferous?”
I laugh, too.
When he stops laughing, he touches my shoulder. “She’s got a killer body, no question. But I don’t want to paint her tits. I want to get into her eyes.”
Instantly, I know what he means. Mercedes is one of the most tortured humans I’ve ever met, and she’s a master at hiding behind any number of masks. “I could ask her if she’d sit for you.”
One eyebrow raises and he drains the glass. “She’ll say no. Come on, my friend,” he says, taking my glass. “I have reservations in a great little bistro that’s run on the sly by a famous chef. You hungry?”
* * *
It really is a classic bistro, a tiny restaurant tucked away in a basement, with small tables crowded into the cool bricked area and candles flickering at the center of each, and a prix fixe menu for the day. Tonight it is steak au poivre with roasted potatoes, sautéed winter squash and shallots, and even looking at the menu makes my stomach growl. Tyler asks me to order the wine, which I appreciate, and I choose a Malbec I know well. “Argentinian wine goes with steak,” I say.
“You’ve grown so much in a year, Jess,” he says, sipping the wine and giving me a nod.
“No college still,” I say.
“More than one way to get an education. Travel, experiences, those count.”
“Thanks, but I wonder if I’m always going to feel insecure if I don’t get a degree.”
His fingers touch the back of my hand, then dance away. “That’s probably partly my fault, I’m afraid. Don’t let my asshattedness make you feel bad about yourself, Jess.”
“No, I think it’s my own stuff. But now I don’t know how I will find the time. We already have so many movie offers, it’s crazy.”
“We as in you and Kaleb?”
“Some of them are, yeah. But I really meant we as in me and my agent. He’s been looking out for me. I also listen to Mercedes. She’s so smart about all of this. She’s the one who told me I should do the mother-daughter thing with Gloria Telles.”
“It’s good to have advisors, but be sure you stay with that gut feeling.”
The waiter brings our salads, radishes and oranges arranged with some greens on a white plate drizzled with an orange-infused sauce. “How about Kaleb? Is he sticking with the acting?”
We don’t talk much, but I haven’t told Tyler that. In fact, I haven’t seen or spoken to him in over five months, since we both accidentally ended up in New Zealand at my father’s house before we started our new movies, each on different continents. I follow his Instagram. I see that he has a lot of women in his life. There are cheery photos every day, and he’s gained a reputation for being approachable and kind to fans. The television show he filmed before we did Torches has taken off in New Zealand, and farther afield via YouTube, so he’s a lot more recognizable than I am.
That three-day span in May was excruciating for both of us, and worse for my dad and Katie, who love us both. The fact that we’re going to have to be together practically every minute for a few weeks when the movie releases is hanging over me in a big way. I am so furious with him, and so crushed, and—
I twitch my shoulders to indicate that I don’t care. “He’s made another movie and he’s getting plenty of offers, too, so, I’m guessing he will. It’s a lot of money, after all.”
“Yeah.” He takes a breadstick from the basket. “It’s kind of crazy to see somebody you know on the cover of a gossip magazine.”
“The paparazzi do seem to love him.” And usually he’s got an arm draped over some sleek model or actress. Every week, somebody new. Darcy tells me it’s all made up, but some of it has to be sort of based in reality. Rumors about his partying are a little disturbing and strange. That hand brushes over my heart again. “Can we talk about you, Mr. Smith? Are you seeing anyone?”
“Not really.” He meets my eyes. “You?”
I shake my head. “Let’s not talk about all of this, okay? Tell me about the books you’re reading.”
* * *
After dinner, we stand outside the restaurant a little awkwardly, hands at our sides. “I can walk you to the train.”
I give him an alarmed look. “Not sure I’m brave enough for that yet. I get mixed up.”
“You won’t be riding the subway after the movie comes out.”
In my overly emotional mood, this strikes me as unbearably sad. Normal life has not really had much room in my vocabulary lately—I’ve lived out of a suitcase in one hotel after another for over a year—but this small, ordinary thing feels like a tragic loss. “Well, that sucks. I’ll get a disguise.”
He laughs softly, and leans into my arm with his. “Okay, Mata Hari.”
The smell of him is heady, as if he’s put on cologne and turned up the volume just for me. All the little pheromone fingers tiptoe over my skin, tease the back of my neck, the edges of my mouth, waking up little pulses below. The light dances on his mouth, and I find myself staring.
“Let’s go find you a cab. We’ll have to walk over to the main drag.”
A cold wind has picked up, sending leaves skittering along the curb, knocking a few more out of the trees. I’m glad of my warm wool coat and stick my hands deep into the pockets, remembering a lot of times I did not have a warm enough coat or gloves. Such a little thing. Such a big one. I tuck my chin into the wide collar. “I love this coat.”
He smiles. “Looks like you’ve been enjoying the shopping.”
I laugh. “Mercedes loves it. We shop all the time. She loves clothes and loves to dress me—and her. But then, neither of us had anything much as kids, so I guess it makes sense.”
“Most of the women I know love to shop.”
“But there is a special pleasure in it if you never could do it before.”
“I’m sure,” he says mildly. “What are you wearing for the premiere? Is there some protocol?”
“Designers sent me things to try on.” The idea cracks me up all over again. “We had a blast trying them all.”
I incline my head. “You’ll have to wait and see. It’s pretty sexy.”
He grins. “I will look forward to that. Checking out all the best dressed on the Internet and finding you there.”
We pass shops, most of them closed for the night, and on the floors above are apartments. Lights are on in some of them, showing a kitchen here, a painting there, a girl leaning on a wall, the light of a television flickering in another. “So what’s next for you, Jess?”
I take a breath. “Not quite sure. My agent has been looking for the right project, but I told him I need a little time. It’s been pretty hectic. Two films this year and the commercials.”
We slow to peer into the window of a shop full of home goods. A big paisley cloth is draped over a chair, and a book is open in the seat, as if the reader has just walked away. “This is reminding me of the night we walked around Nelson.”
He nods, silently. I look up at him and catch the sadness around his mouth before he can hide it. “Are you still mourning the Olympics?”
He swallows, gaze focused on the tableau behind the glass. “It happens,” he says roughly. “But, yeah. It felt like I might have a chance.”
“I thought you were going to go for the X-Games and stick with the sport?”
“I thought so, too.” He turns, hands in his pockets. Light from the shop illuminates one half of his face, and the other is hidden in dark shadow. “But I just started wanting to see what I might be able to do with the painting. The show went so well, and the reviews were good and I thought maybe it’s not a fluke.”
I smile up at him. “Pretty safe to say it’s not a fluke.”
“We’ll see. At least I won’t be a cripple from a thousand falls.” His mouth is wry. “Or at least not any more of a cripple than I was going to be already.”
Somewhere close by, someone is playing a haunting piece of music, full of sadness and things that have been lost. It fills the cavity of my lungs as I look up at Tyler, suddenly seeing all the pieces of our relationship, beautiful and rocky and important. His gaze, so blue, so intense, lasers into me, seeing me, as ever, and he takes a hand out of his pocket. He touches my jaw, the edge of my cheekbone. “I love looking at you.”
A burst of heat travels from his fingers across the surface of my skin. Desire, hot and red. I look at his mouth and, without thinking, I lean in, rise on my toes, and kiss him. I can tell it surprises him—for a moment, he only stands there, hand on my face, accepting my kiss but not exactly returning it. Then he curls his fingers around the back of my head and angles his lips and kisses me back. It’s a slow kiss, deep, his lips sliding and suckling, his tongue slow and easy, mine back into his mouth, then both of us going deeper, both of us taking one step closer so that his hands come around my back and mine slide around his waist.
It goes on and on and my body is soft and hot by the time he raises his head. “Why don’t we go back and have another glass of wine at my house?”
“It doesn’t mean I’m your girlfriend.”
“I don’t care.” He bends for another kiss and slowly, deliberately, sucks my lower lip into his mouth and slides his tongue over the vulnerable inner skin. My knees nearly buckle. “Just come back with me.”
He slides his hands up and down over my coat, looking down. “I’m afraid if I stop kissing you, you’ll change your mind.”
I meet his gaze. “I won’t.”
“Come on then.”