Page 17

Heat fills my veins. I can feel her in my blood, her whispers overwhelming my senses. And for a sudden, desperate second I think I might be dreaming.

“Aaron,” she says.

I’m losing a battle. We have so much to do, so much to take care of. I know I should move, should snap out of this, but I can’t. I can’t think.

And then she climbs into my lap and I take a quick, desperate breath, fighting against a sudden rush of pleasure and pain. There’s no pretending anything when she’s this close to me; I know she can feel me, can feel how badly I want her.

I can feel her, too.

Her heat. Her desire. She makes no secret of what she wants from me. What she wants me to do to her. And knowing this makes my torment only more acute.

She kisses me once, softly, her hands slipping under my sweater, and wraps her arms around me. I pull her in and she shifts forward, adjusting herself in my lap, and I take another painful, anguished breath. My every muscle tightens. I try not to move.

“I know it’s late,” she says. “I know we have a bunch of things to do. But I miss you.” She reaches down, her fingers trailing along the zipper of my pants, and the movement sears through me. My vision goes white. For a moment I hear nothing but my heart, pounding in my head.

“You are trying to kill me,” I say.

“Aaron.” I can feel her smile as she whispers the word in my ear. She’s unbuttoning my pants. “Please.”

And I, I am gone.

My hand is suddenly behind her neck, the other wrapped around her waist, and I kiss her, melting into her, falling backward onto the bed and pulling her down with me. I used to dream about this—times like this—what it would be like to unzip her jeans, to run my fingers along her bare skin, to feel her, hot and soft against my body.

I stop, suddenly. Break away. I want to see her, to study her. To remind myself that she’s really here, really mine. That she wants me just as much I want her. And when I meet her eyes the feeling overwhelms me, threatens to drown me. And then she’s kissing me, even as I fight to catch my breath, and every thing, every thought and worry is wicked away, replaced by the feel of her mouth against my skin. Her hands, claiming my body.

God, it’s an impossible drug.

She’s kissing me like she knew. Like she knows—knows how desperately I need this, need her, need this comfort and release.

Like she needs it, too.

I wrap my arms around her, flip her over so quickly she actually squeaks in surprise. I kiss her nose, her cheeks, her lips. The lines of our bodies are welded together. I feel myself dissolving, becoming pure emotion as she parts her lips, tastes me, moans into my mouth.

“I love you,” I say, gasping the words. “I love you.”

It’s interesting, really, how quickly I’ve become the kind of person who takes late-afternoon naps. The person I used to be would never have wasted so much time sleeping. Then again, that person never knew how to relax. Sleep was brutal, elusive. But this—

I close my eyes, press my face to the back of her neck and breathe.

She stirs almost imperceptibly against me.

Her naked body is flush against the length of mine, my arms wrapped entirely around her. It’s six o’clock, I have a thousand things to do, and I never, ever want to move.

I kiss the top of her shoulder and she arches her back, exhales, and turns to face me. I pull her closer.

She smiles. Kisses me.

I shut my eyes, my skin still hot with the memory of her. My hands search the shape of her body, her warmth. I’m always stunned by how soft she is. Her curves are gentle and smooth. I feel my muscles tighten with longing and I surprise myself with how much I want her.


So soon.

“We’d better get dressed,” she says softly. “I still need to meet with Kenji to talk about tonight.”

All at once I recoil.

“Wow,” I whisper, turning away. “That was not at all what I was hoping you’d say.”

She laughs. Out loud. “Hmm. Kenji is a big turnoff for you. Got it.”

I frown, feeling petty.

She kisses my nose. “I really wish you two could be friends.”

“He’s a walking disaster,” I say. “Look what he did to my hair.”

“But he’s my best friend,” she says, still smiling. “And I don’t want to have to choose between the two of you all the time.”

I look at her out of the corner of my eye. She’s sitting up now, wearing nothing but the bedsheet. Her brown hair is long and tousled, her cheeks pinked, her eyes big and round and still a little sleepy.

I’m not sure I could ever say no to her.

“Please be nice to him,” she says, and crawls over to me, the bedsheet catching under her knee and undoing her composure. I yank the rest of the sheet away from her and she gasps, surprised by the sight of her own naked body, and I can’t help but take advantage of the moment, tucking her underneath me all over again.

“Why,” I say, kissing her neck, “are you always so attached to that bedsheet?”

She looks away and blushes, and I’m lost again, kissing her.

“Aaron,” she gasps, breathless, “I really—I have to go.”

“Don’t,” I whisper, leaving light kisses along her collarbone. “Don’t go.” Her face is flushed, her lips bright red. Her eyes are closed in pleasure.

“I don’t want to,” she says, her breath hitching as I catch her bottom lip between my teeth, “I really don’t, but Kenji—”

I groan and fall backward, pulling a pillow over my head.


“Where the hell have you been?”

“What? Nothing,” I say, heat flashing through my body. “I just—”

“What do you mean, nothing?” Kenji says, nearly stepping on my heels as I attempt to outpace him. “I’ve been waiting down here for almost two hours.”

“I know—I’m sorry—”

He grabs my shoulder. Spins me around. Takes one look at my face and—

“Oh, gross, J, what the hell—”

“What?” I widen my eyes, all innocence, even as my face inflames.

Kenji glares at me.

I clear my throat.

“I told you to ask him a question.”

“I did!”

“Jesus Christ.” Kenji rubs an agitated hand across his forehead. “Do time and place mean nothing to you?”


He narrows his eyes at me.

I smile.

“You guys are terrible.”

“Kenji,” I say, reaching out.

“Ew, don’t touch me—”

“Fine.” I frown, crossing my arms.

He shakes his head, looks away. Makes a face and says, “You know what? Whatever,” and sighs. “Did he at least tell you anything useful before you—uh, changed the subject?”

We’ve just walked back into the reception area where we first met with Haider.

“Yes he did,” I say, determined. “He knew exactly who I was talking about.”


We sit down on the couches—Kenji choosing to sit across from me this time—and I clear my throat. I wonder aloud if we should order more tea.

“No tea.” Kenji leans back, legs crossed, right ankle propped up on his left knee. “What did Warner say about Haider?”

Kenji’s gaze is so focused and unforgiving I’m not sure what to do with myself. I still feel weirdly embarrassed; I wish I’d remembered to tie my hair back again. I have to keep pushing it out of my face.

I sit up straighter. Pull myself together. “He said they were never really friends.”

Kenji snorts. “No surprise there.”

“But he remembered him,” I say, pointing at nothing in particular.

“And? What does he remember?”

“Oh. Um.” I scratch an imaginary itch behind my ear. “I don’t know.”

“You didn’t ask?”

“I . . . forgot?”

Kenji rolls his eyes. “Shit, man, I knew I should’ve gone myself.”

I sit on my hands and try to smile. “Do you want to order some tea?”