My heart is going wild now, my whole body in sensory overload even before he soaps up his hands and strokes his way slowly, painstakingly from my ankle to my thigh.

And then he takes hold of my right ankle and does the exact same thing to that leg, too.

By the time he reaches my right thigh, all worries about whether my body is good enough for him, all plans for sowing my wild divorce oats, all thoughts of anything and everything but Nick, have disappeared from my head completely.

I’m drowning—in sensation, in Nick, in the overwhelming power of my own emotions—even before Nick presses his mouth to the very heart of me, taking me up and over so fast that my head spins out, right along with the rest of me.

I haven’t even caught my breath when he’s turning off the shower. Lifting me up. Carrying me out. Setting me down in front of the sink—and the mirror.

He dries me off slowly, carefully, his fingers skimming across my shoulder, my hip, the sensitive spot on the inside of my elbow. By the time he’s done, I want him again, even before he reaches into the nearest drawer, pulls out a condom, and puts it on.

And then he’s turning me so that my back is against his front.

“I need you, Mallory,” he whispers as he slides inside me.

I need him, too, but the words stick in my throat.

He leans forward, his body covering mine so that we can be as close as humanly possible, and as his wide, vulnerable eyes meet mine in the mirror, I can feel the words—and the emotions—rising inside me. Getting bigger and bigger and harder and harder to tamp down.

So that when I’m right there, my body drowning in a whirlpool of emotions and sensations, there really is only one choice. “I need you,” I whisper as pleasure pours through me, over me, dragging me further and further into the abyss. “I need you, Nick.”

It’s the most amazing—and the most devastating—feeling in the world, and for a second I’m caught in the whirlpool, every part of me spiraling wildly out of control.

Fear rises right along with the pleasure—what have I done, what have I done?—but Nick is there to catch me, to hold me, to shelter me through the storm.

And nothing has ever felt so right.

Chapter Forty-Nine

   If Nick doesn’t fall asleep soon—and I mean soon—I am going to go from panic attack to actual heart attack. And sadly, I’m pretty sure that isn’t even an exaggeration. The human heart is not meant to beat more than 130 beats per minute for extended periods of time, and mine has been pounding like an acid rock drummer for way too long.

Add in the fact that the room is spinning and I can’t catch my breath, and I would have thought I’m already having a heart attack if all of this wasn’t clearly a result of me absolutely, positively freaking out…and have been since Nick carried me out of the bathroom and laid me on this bed nearly an hour ago.

We talked for a little while before he turned out the light, but now we’re curled together under his thick down comforter—and by curled together I mean he is wrapped around me like he’s the tortilla and I’m the stuffing. Which also would probably be fine at any other time, considering normally I like being the little spoon.

But right now, after everything that happened in the bathroom, it feels like the room is closing in on me.

It isn’t Nick’s fault—none of this is his fault. It’s my fault for stepping outside my comfort zone and doing something I knew I wasn’t ready for just because I was strung out on desire. I can’t believe I told Nick I needed him. I can’t freaking believe it. I made it what, a month, after vowing to never need another man again? Way to stay strong and independent, Mallory.

And I can’t believe he said he needed me, too. We’ve known each other less time than it takes to grow a tomato, for God’s sake.

He can’t need me. I’m a freaking mess. Broke, in the middle of an existential crisis and a messy divorce, currently living with my mother and my sister…both of whom are also in the middle of messy relationship drama. What about this scenario makes me sound like a good relationship bet?

And I know, Nick hasn’t actually asked me to be in a relationship yet, but men don’t do what he did in that bathroom if they plan on keeping it casual. I may not be the world’s leading expert on relationships, but even I know that much. And earlier tonight, in the kitchen, I know we were taking friends with benefits to a new place. It just went from fun and games to overwhelming me in the span of a breath.

All of which has led to me lying here in his bed, freaking out, as I wait for him to fall asleep. Is it a coward’s move to sneak out while he’s unconscious? Absolutely. Am I going to do it anyway? Abso-fucking-lutely. Not because I don’t like Nick but because I do. More than I want to. Definitely more than I should. And after what he shared tonight about his wife and child, I know I have no choice. I can’t put him through more heartache.

“You okay?” he asks as he pulls me closer, nuzzling in.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I don’t know what else to say. Plus, there’s a part of me that wants it to be true, a part of me that wishes I was okay with all of this. Because this is definitely a case of it isn’t him, it’s me.

No matter how much I want to paint him with the asshole card because of our first meeting, the truth is, he’s a good guy. A very good guy. One who helps out his neighbors, serves in the community, rescues stray dogs, and gives divorcées who are in over their heads really good legal advice and representation.

And me? I’m a woman who still needs to work on her shit. I’ve gotten a lot of it together since I first told Karl I wanted a divorce, but there is more than a little left to go. And until I get that shit figured out, there’s no way I’ll be able to give Nick what he deserves…and what he apparently wants, as well.

Eventually, his breathing softens out a little bit, becomes more rhythmic, and the arm around me grows heavier and more lax. And still I wait a couple more minutes before rolling gently—oh so gently—away.

His arm flops on the bed between us and he startles a little—which also startles me. My heart begins beating even faster and it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to freak out and just run. But since I’m pretty sure that will just make Nick chase me, I stay where I am, facedown on the bed, and hyperventilate pillow fuzz for a while.

When nearly ten minutes go by and he doesn’t so much as move, I finally decide it’s safe to start inching toward the edge of the bed. As my fingers and toes eventually touch nothing but air on my side of the bed, I just go for it.

I roll straight out of bed and land on the floor with an oompf that knocks the air out of me—and settles out my hyperventilating at the same time. Nothing like a few bruises for the win.