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Or let him be with a floozy so I can just go back home and forget I ever wanted this. . . .

Or if this is a super-bad idea then just let the elevator get stuck until I get my brain back, and I will never come back from the scare I’ll get and the claustrophobia. . . .

When the elevators open straight into his apartment, I hear music. Oh no, fuck, I didn’t mean it.

I should probably back out, but I feel an unnatural jealousy take over me. I don’t back out. Instead, I force my legs to work, the minimalist yet palace-like luxury of his apartment enveloping me so that I almost feel I’m in another world.

His jacket is on the back of a long modern L-shaped couch. I try to place the song playing in the background. Classical, I’ve heard it before. Chopin, I think. A single wineglass sits on the coffee table, its contents drained. I wonder if he’s entertaining. Maybe God answered your prayers and he’s not alone, Rachel. Maybe he’s having a threesome, and the concierge thinks you’re going to be the fourth. For some reason that stings, and I really want to cry now. I’m wearing a lovely black dress but an awful cry face, and that’s not a good combo. Is it? Not a way to lure a womanizer. I’m seriously contemplating leaving when he steps out of the hall, buttoning a white shirt. Holy god. He is so beautiful. He appears distracted, his hair rumpled. He’s barefoot . . . and so hot. I see the open laptop on the coffee table finally—next to the wine. He was working?


“Something wrong, Rachel?” He scans me, head to toe.

I feel beyond vulnerable for being here, all of a sudden. I’m dressed to seduce a man, to seduce this man. This man who makes me achy and twisty and makes my heart work.

“Are you alone? Am I interrupting?” I’m dying from nerves. I’m dying to touch him. Kiss him.

His eyes narrow to slits. “What’s wrong?”

“One of my apartment-building neighbors died tonight.” I rub my hands over my arms, chilled to the bone. “She was divorced. She lived with a dog and a cat, and she was nice. You know? Lonely. Lonely and nice.”

He runs a hand through his hair in a sign of restlessness and drops it. “I’m sorry. Come here.”

God, I want those arms. One, two, three, four, five steps later, I slide into his arms and wrap mine around his waist as he pulls me close, pressing my cheek to his chest with a hand on the back of my head.

Oh god. Since when did I become this girl? This girl needing to be coddled by the guy she can’t stop thinking about? All the times I saw Wynn being hugged by her father, by her boyfriends, I really yearned for something like this. But I never knew how much until he moves his hands up and down my back in soothing motions. He held me like this the other day, at my place. But I had been too scared; I hadn’t really enjoyed it until now.

I press my nose into his chest, and it smells absolutely good.

“I am sorry,” he whispers gruffly in my ear.

He takes my face in his hands and looks truly sorry, his eyes tender and fierce. And something happens when he kisses the corner of my mouth. Almost a brotherly kiss. A feel-good, I’m sorry, I’m here kiss. One second my body is in sleep mode and the next it’s speeding in full-operation mode, recognizing these delicious ghost kisses only he gives me. My nerves tangle in my belly, and everything is gone save for this feeling of my heart pounding, my blood just gushing through my ears. This incredible, amazing feeling where one second everything is dull and the next it’s bright and fiery. One second I’m scared, the next I feel like I can do anything. Scream. Leap. Kiss him.

“Do you still want to have sex with me?” I whisper, tangling my fingers in a handful of his shirt.

His eyebrows pull low. “Right now? You’ve got to be kidding me,” he murmurs.

I grit my teeth, grab a fancy-looking suede pillow from the couch, and hit his arm as he steps back. “Do you?” I cry.

His jaw is absolute granite as he stalks to the corner of his apartment and presses some sort of alarm code at a receiver on the wall. Then he grabs a cordless phone, punches two numbers, and he whispers, “No visitors.”

He hangs up, and with purposeful strides heads back to me.

“I’m a bastard, Rachel, but I’m not the bastard who’s taking advantage of you tonight.”

“You’re not taking advantage. You are so not taking advantage.”

“Yes, I am. Look at you. Look at your face, Rachel. If you only saw yourself the way I see you right now, the last thing you need is a fuck.” He laughs at himself, curses under his breath, then gathers me in his arms and turns my face up to his. Our noses bump, and I gasp from the feel of his lips so close.

“Saint,” I whisper, grabbing his jaw. “Please.”

“Tell me why you came tonight.”

“You know why.”

“For sex?” he asks in a rough voice, rubbing his thumb along my cheek.

I swallow and press my face back to his chest. “Why don’t you do something?” I moan.

His arms feel amazing.

“You’re as close to a god as we have in this town,” I whisper. “So many people wake up one day to find their lives will forever be changed, that they’ll live trying to fill up this emptiness. . . . You have all this power—you can do something. Talk about it. Bring it to people’s attention?”

He’s quiet. Then he takes my hand.

“Come here.” We head down a hall past many doors, and then walk into a huge modern bedroom done mostly in dark woods and light fabrics. “Get comfortable.”

He hands me a men’s shirt from his closet and disappears into a spa-size bathroom, rolling an oversize mahogany pocket door closed behind him. My heart aches as I grip the shirt and impulsively smell it. I hear the shower water, and I wish I had the balls to just strip naked, walk in there, and join him.

Instead, after smelling his shirt to my heart’s content, I remove my dress and briefly wonder if I should remove my underwear. I keep it on, which I’m glad of seconds later, because nothing prepares me for the intimacy and panty-wetting sensation of slipping on his shirt.

I feel a strange tingling awareness when it envelops me. I hadn’t realized how much I missed his damn shirt. A part of me still hoping I can change his mind, I try to run my hands down my hair, wipe my tears, and slide prettily into his bed. His mattress is huge, the kind that feels like heaven beneath you.

When Malcolm steps out of the shower, my stomach’s gnarling with all kinds of warmth and need. He’s in slacks and bare-chested. His hair is wet, and he’s barefoot as he lowers himself and stretches out on the bed beside me. I press up to him, closer. The scent of his soap reaches me as he gathers me even more tightly to him. His skin has a scent and I’m addicted, pressing my nose to it. Suddenly I want to make him breathless and groan, feel his big body against me, feel him quiver for me.


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