“I’m standing right in front of you.” I pressed my body against his, feeling his impressive erection against my stomach.

His breath faltered, and he closed his eyes, the water pouring from his hair down to his face before falling from his nose and chin.

“But will you stay?” He looked down at me.

I frowned. “Thomas…”

“Will you stay?” he asked again, emphasizing the last word.

“Define stay.”

He took a step back, the spell gone. He reached over and pulled the lever down, and ice-cold water began to pour over us. Thomas flattened his palms against the wall under the spout, letting his head fall, and I squealed, clawing at the door to escape.

I pushed out and slipped, falling to the floor onto my knees.

Thomas burst out of the door, reaching for me. “Christ! Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my elbow and then my knee.

Thomas grabbed a towel that was folded over the top of the shower door and draped it over my shoulders, and then he ripped another off the rack and wrapped it around his waist.

He shook his head. “Are you hurt?”

“Just my pride.”

Thomas sighed and then lifted my arm to take a look. “Your knee?” he asked, leaning down.

I held out the one that had crashed against the floor, and he inspected it.

“I am a grade-A fuck-up,” he said, rubbing his wet hair.

“I’m not giving you much to work with.” I let my cheeks fill with air, and then I exhaled.

After several seconds of uncomfortable silence, I left him alone in the bathroom to retrieve my toothbrush, and then I returned. Thomas unscrewed the cap off of the tube of toothpaste. I held out my brush, and he squeezed out a short line onto the bristles and then did the same for his.

We held our brushes under the water and then stared into the mirror of his high school bathroom, wearing thin floral towels, while brushing our teeth together over the same sink. It felt like such a domestic thing to do, and at the same time, the past ten minutes had been so awkward that it was hard to enjoy it.

I leaned over to rinse and spit, and Thomas did the same. He chuckled and used his finger to wipe a speck of toothpaste from my chin, and then he gently cupped his hands on my cheeks. His smile faded.

“I admire your ability to scrutinize every detail, but why do you have to dissect this?” he asked, unhappy. “Why can’t we just try?”

“You’re not over Camille, Thomas. You made that clear tonight. And you just asked me to promise to stay with you in San Diego. That’s a promise we both know I can’t and won’t keep. It’s completely reasonable for you to want something stable after what happened to you, but I can’t promise that I won’t continue to work my way up the federal ladder.”

“What if I give you assurances?” he asked.

“Like what? And don’t tell me it’s love. We met last month.”

“We’re not like everyone else, Liis. We spend every day together—sometimes, all day and then evenings and even weekends. If we’re keeping track, we’ve put in the time.”

I thought about that for a moment.

“Stop overthinking it. You want assurances? This is not guesswork for me, Liis. I loved someone before, but the way I feel about you…it’s that feeling, a thousand times over.”

“I have feelings for you, too. But feelings aren’t always enough.” I chewed on my lip. “I’m worried that if we don’t work out, the job will be miserable. That’s impossible for me to accept, Thomas, because I love my job.”

“I love mine, too, but being with you is worth the risk.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know that it won’t be boring. I know that I’ll never begrudge you a promotion even if it’ll take you elsewhere. Maybe I’ll get tired of San Diego. I like DC.”

“You would come to DC,” I deadpanned.

“That’s a long time from now.”

“That is why I can’t promise that I’ll stay.”

“I don’t want you to promise to stay in San Diego. I just want you to stay with me.”

I swallowed. “Oh. Then…I could…probably do that,” I said, my eyes flitting around the tiny room.

“Pretending is over, Liis.” Thomas took a step toward me and gently pulled at my towel. It fell to the floor, and then he tugged at his own. “Say it,” he said, his voice low and controlled. He cupped each side of my face in his hands. He leaned down but stopped less than an inch from my lips.

“Okay,” I whispered.

“Okay what?”

He pressed his mouth against mine. His fingers tangled in my hair as he jerked me against his body. He took a step, guiding me backward, until my back collided with the wall. I gasped, and his tongue slid through my parted lips, brushing gently against mine as if he were searching for the answer. He pulled away, leaving me breathless and craving another taste.

“Okay,” I breathed, unashamed of the begging in my voice. “We can stop pretending.”

He lifted me, and I wrapped my legs around his backside. He held me just high enough that I could feel the tip of his hardness against the tender pink skin between my thighs.

I sank my fingers into his shoulders, bracing myself for the same overwhelming feeling he’d sent through my body the first night we met. Just lowering me another inch, he would satisfy every fantasy I’d had for the last three weeks.

But he didn’t move. He was waiting for something.

I touched my lips to his ear, biting my lip at the anticipation of what I was about to say and what it would lead to. “We can stop pretending, sir.”

Thomas relaxed, and then in a slow, controlled movement, he lowered my body down. I moaned the moment he entered me, letting the soft hum escape my lips until his length completely filled me. I pressed my cheek hard against his as my nails bit into the flesh of his thick shoulders. With little effort, he lifted me and then pulled me down again, groaning in reaction.

“Fuck,” he said simply, his eyes closed.

Each thrust became more rhythmic, sending flashes of the most wonderful, overwhelming pain through every nerve in my body. He struggled to keep quiet, his muffled grunts getting louder with each passing minute.

“We’ve gotta…damn it,” he breathed.