He crosses his arms over his chest, the move drawing my attention to his biceps straining against the short sleeves of his T-shirt. “You don’t need my help?”

“No.” I don’t, and he needs to learn that, but maybe now isn’t the best time for the lesson. Not when we could go back to kissing.

“So that means you can take your shirt off all on your own?” He punctuates the question with a dare-you smirk that makes my breath catch.

I didn’t think it was possible to want him more, but I do. A man who hears what I need and gives it to me is the sexiest thing in the world to me. All I want in that moment is to feel Nick’s hands on my bare skin, so I grab the hem of my filmy red tank top and slowly pull it over my head, then drop it to the floor.

“Guess you really didn’t need my help,” he says, his gaze sliding over me with an intensity that leaves every part of me burning.

He takes a step back and then, without a word—not a single word—he reaches behind his neck and tugs his T-shirt off over his head.

Holy. Fuck. Just holy. Fuck.

All those dreams about him mowing the lawn without his shirt were woefully inadequate. It isn’t just the abs or the hard wall of his chest or the dusting of dark hair that goes from his belly button and disappears behind the button of his jeans. It’s that I want this man. Badly. It hits me like a crosstown bus, the lust and desire. I. Want. Nick. Holloway.

And for one of the very few times in my adult sexual life, I am going to experience the satisfaction of getting exactly what I want. With that thought in mind and his abs firmly in my sights, I walk slowly and deliberately over to where he stands.

“Is there something I can help you with?” he teases, his eyes hot as I stop in front of him.

I don’t answer—at least not verbally. Instead, I glide my fingertips straight down the center of his abs, from the hollow of his throat to his belly button.

He shudders at my touch, his eyes blazing even hotter as I tangle my fingers in his belt loops and tug him close. He comes willingly—eagerly—and the moment his body meets mine, everything inside me shuts down but the want. The need. The have-to-have.

He’s big and strong and warm—so warm that I want to burrow into him and just breathe. So I do. For long seconds, I press my body tightly to his and relish the feel of him against me. More, I relish the feelings inside me—the fact that I can want like this after years of feeling nothing with Karl. Of feeling less than nothing, if I’m honest.

Eventually, Nick slides his hand up to cup my jaw and I turn into it. I press a kiss to the center of his broad palm. And then I tilt my head, raising my lips to his.

I expect him to slam his mouth down on mine, to repeat what happened earlier when he said that he wanted me. Instead, he’s gentle as he brushes his lips against mine. As he slides his tongue along my lips. As he tangles his hands in my hair and tugs my head back just a little to give him better access.

For several seconds—minutes—he devours me, his lips and tongue and teeth ravishing me in a way I didn’t know I wanted to be ravished. A way I didn’t know I could be ravished. I love every second of it. So much so that I ravish him right back, loving the way he responds to me—like he can’t get enough.

Eventually, though, he pulls back, and I would complain, except his hands are skimming along the sensitive skin of my lower back, and it feels good. So good.

It’s been too long since I’ve been touched like this. Not just since I asked Karl for a divorce but for months—maybe years—before that, when sex had become perfunctory, just a box to be checked off whenever Karl was in the mood instead of something hot and desperate and intimate.

As Nick’s fingers dance across my skin, it is all of those things. Hot and desperate and intimate—so intimate—as his mouth slides along my jaw and down the soft, exposed column of my throat.

“I’m going to take these off now,” he tells me as he takes hold of the button on my jeans. It’s a question as much as it’s a statement, and I appreciate the care, the concern, even in the middle of all this heat.

“Yes,” I answer, my hands clutching at his hair. “Please. Yes.”

Seconds later, my jeans are gone as I stand in front of him in nothing but my navy-blue satin bra and panties set. For a second, it doesn’t matter—nothing does but the way his hands feel sliding along my arms and over my back.

But then it hits me.

Nick is the first non–medical professional not named Karl to see me this naked in ten years. I’m not in my twenties anymore. There’s a definite pooch above the waistband of my panties. When my bra comes off, my boobs lower a few degrees. And there’s cellulite on my hips that just appeared one morning and never went away.

The heat starts to curdle in my stomach, discomfort turning all the sensations inside me to something else as Karl’s voice plays in my head, picking every single inch of me apart over the days and months and years of our marriage.

I start to turn away, to cover myself, but Nick is looking at me like a desperate man. And like he very much loves what he sees.

And that’s enough—more than enough—to bring me back to myself. To the moment. Karl has already taken so much away from me. No way is he going to take this moment, too.

So when Nick draws me closer and runs his lips over my shoulders with soft, sweet kisses, I don’t stop him. I don’t do anything but tilt my head back and enjoy every second of it.

His mouth never leaves my skin as he finishes stripping me—and himself. But then he’s kissing his way down my body, his mouth sliding lower and lower until my already shaky knees threaten to give way.

I clutch at his shoulders and he laughs, moving lower still, pulling one leg over his shoulder and kissing me more intimately, his tongue stroking against me as though I were his only sustenance. And just like that, my body breaks like the ocean against the shore. Pleasure rolls over me—through me—in waves that sweep me under…and away.

I’m vaguely aware of what happens next—of Nick reaching toward a side table and grabbing a condom out of his wallet before pulling off his pants and boxer briefs, then sinking down on the sofa and pulling me over him.

“You can still change your mind,” he whispers against the sensitive skin behind my ear.

“I’m not changing anything,” I answer. Not here, when Nick is pressed hot and hard against me and not now, when I finally feel good. When I finally feel more like myself than I have in a very long time.

“Good.” I feel the upward curve of his lips against my skin. And then his hands are on my hips—soft and urgent and desperate.

I lift onto my knees, then lower myself slowly, relishing the way the heat and strength and power of him fill up parts of me I didn’t even know were empty before tonight—before this moment.