“Because I didn’t like seeing you in pain earlier today, and I have a feeling I was a part of that.”
She smirks and backs away from the doorjamb, allowing me inside. “That’s awfully presumptuous of you.”
“Am I wrong?”
She shrugs and leads me past a small, clean kitchen into her living area. Her unit faces the water, and the view is breathtaking.
“Have you taken anything for it?”
She sits on the couch and closes her eyes. “I forgot that I’m out of Advil, and I just didn’t have it in me to go out and buy some.”
“Where is your linen closet?”
She points to the hallway and I go in search of a washcloth. When I find one, I return to the kitchen and soak it in cold water, fill a glass, shake out the Advil I brought with me, just in case, and return to her. Her eyes are still closed. Her hair is still up.
My fingers have been itching to mess her hair up for months.
Instead, I sit next to her.
“Here, take these.”
“Do you have to yell at me?” she asks with a scowl.
“I’m whispering, cara.” I offer her a smile and the Advil, along with the water.
“Why are you holding leaves?”
“They’re lilac leaves.” I line the folded cloth with the leaves and take the glass from her. “Lean your head back on the cushion and close your eyes, please.”
“Why do you have lilac leaves?”
“It’s going to help. It’s an old Italian remedy for headaches.”
She does as I ask, leaning back against the soft cushions of her sofa and closes her eyes. I lay the cold cloth, leaves against her skin, over her forehead and eyes and press firmly.
“Ohhh,” she breathes. I can’t resist touching her, so I brush my knuckles down her cheek and murmur to her.
“This will help, cara.”
“My name isn’t Cara,” she whispers, making me chuckle.
“Cara is Italian for dear or darling,” I reply with a smile.
“Oh, that’s nice,” she says. “We have an appointment on Monday, right?”
“Yes. But don’t think about work right now. Just relax.”
We sit in silence for a long while as I continue to press the cloth against her head and skim my fingers along the skin of her face, her neck, tucking strands of hair that have dared to come loose behind her ear. She relaxes, the tension leaving her body visibly. When the cloth warms from her body heat, I return to the kitchen to run it under the cold water again and then sit with her once again, pressing it to her head.
“How do you feel?” I whisper. She shivers. “Are you cold?”
“No,” she replies softly. “I think the headache is going away.”
“There are more fresh leaves on the kitchen counter, along with more Advil and soup.”
“You have to eat, Alecia.”
Her lips tip up into a smile as she raises her hand and covers mine, pulling it and the cloth away from her head. “Thank you.”
“Prego,” I reply. “You’re welcome.”
She glances over at the kitchen counter and then returns her gaze to mine.
“I think you like pink.”
She blinks quickly and before she can back away, I skim my knuckles down her cheek one last time, push a strand of hair behind her hair, and lean in to kiss her cheek.
Merda, she smells like lilacs and her soap and simply amazing.
“Eat the soup, cara. Use the leaves if you need them.” I stand to leave and she moves to follow me. “Stay there, I can see my way out.”
I stop and look back at her, one brow raised.
“I do like pink. Very much.”
I grin and nod and leave while I still can.
Because every instinct in me is screaming for me to scoop her up and find her bedroom and stay there with her for the rest of the weekend.
He made me feel better.
And he brought me flowers. Pink tulips. Not the stereotypical red roses or whatever was available in the grocery store.
Tulips are out of season. He had to find them.
The sun is out this morning, but it’s not hot yet here on the Tacoma waterfront near my condo. I’m walking briskly—okay, I’m sauntering—just fast enough to feel my heart move.
Or maybe those are thoughts of Dominic Salvatore doing that to me.
And isn’t that just ridiculous? So, he was nice. I can’t believe that I let my Advil supply run dry, both at home and my emergency kit that I carry with me everywhere.
That’ll be the first order of business today after my walk: replenish the pain killer supply.
As I adjust my earbuds in my ears and switch to a Plain White T’s song, a bald eagle soars majestically over the quiet water of the sound. The tide is out, revealing all kinds of delicacies for the wildlife, and sure enough, within moments the eagle dives down and picks something up in its talons. Probably a crab.
The eagle flies off with his breakfast and my stomach growls as I reach the pier at a restaurant roughly two miles from the condo.
I turn around and head back and try not to think about Dom.
Not gonna think about the sexy Italian who can cure headaches and make me ache in other more interesting places instead.
Nope, not going there.
Shit. I always seem to go there these days. Even through the pain of a headache rated an eleven on a scale of one to ten, his fingers skimming over my skin and his whispered voice in my ear made my girlie parts sit up and take notice.
And then he had to go and put his lips on me, and it was all over.
I haven’t been this physically attracted to a man in…
I don’t remember the last time. Maybe never. And isn’t that just my luck? Because Dominic isn’t the kind of guy you have as a friend with benefits and not fall for him. It’s simply not possible.
And there’s no way in hell I’m going to fall for him.
I don’t fall. Love isn’t real. Affection. Lust. Those are real.
And in my line of business, I see how quickly they fade.
Fuck, I’ve lived it.
My neighbor from one floor down—Ray? Ralph? Rob?—drives past and waves out of the top of his flashy convertible. He’s made it perfectly clear that he’d like to give the friends with benefits thing a try. He’s good looking. But he’s not memorable, and it seems to me that if I can’t even remember the man’s name, I wouldn’t be terribly impressed with what he can do in the bedroom either.