“Thanks for coming by,” I murmur softly, and sip my wine.
“Please don’t let your phone go dead again. I’ll worry.” He exhales deeply, watching me for my response.
“I’ll plug it in.” I lean my head against the couch. Ty refills my wineglass, earning a mock glare from me. “I guess I won’t be working any more tonight.”
“Something tells me you could use a good night’s sleep.” He fills his own glass before setting the bottle on the floor.
“Tell me something,” I begin, my confidence bolstered by the alcohol.
“Anything.” He smiles.
“What do you have up your sleeve?”
“What are you talking about?” He frowns.
I shrug and look down into my glass. “Why are you being so nice to me, Ty? People don’t do things like this just for the hell of it.”
He pauses as his narrowed gaze travels over my face, not even bothering to pretend that he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. He looks angry for a moment and rubs his fingers over his lips in agitation, and I can’t help but wonder what I did wrong.
“I didn’t mean to offend you. . . .”
“You didn’t offend me, Lo. Is it so unbelievable that I just wanted to make sure you’re okay and spend some time with you?”
“But why?” I ask again, confused. “What do you want from me?”
He stills, looking lost. “I don’t want anything.”
“Everyone wants something,” I reply dryly. “Trust me.”
He continues to watch me like I’m some kind of science experiment. “Lauren, the only thing I want from you is you.”
My jaw drops. “Excuse me?”
He shakes his head and chuckles before taking a sip of his wine. “I’ve been attracted to you for a while now, Lo.”
“So you want to fuck me,” I surmise with disgust. “We could have avoided this whole seduction scene, Ty. Thanks but no thanks.” I move to rise, but he catches my arm, pulling me back to my ass.
“What the fuck?” He’s pissed. “This wasn’t a fucking seduction scene, it was me doing something nice for someone I like. And I didn’t say I wanted to fuck you, although don’t get me wrong, I do. I want to get to know you, Lauren.”
“You want to date me?” I squeak.
“I believe that’s what I’ve been saying.” He’s completely exasperated, and I can’t help but smile at him.
“Why now? Is it because of the books?” My heart sinks at the prospect that he’s the first person in my life that I’ve confided in about the books and now he’s just interested because of my newfound success, but it makes sense.
I’ve never had anyone in my life that was here without wanting something from me.
He scowls again and replies coldly, “I came here before I had any idea about your books, and now you’re pissing me off. Don’t ever insult either of us like that again.”
I swallow hard and cringe. “Why now?” I whisper.
“It wouldn’t have been right to approach you before, Lo. You had lost your parents and your marriage. You were sad, and hitting on married women just isn’t my style.”
I hadn’t realized that I looked so sad on the outside, and that makes me just a little bit more self-conscious.
“To be honest, I just don’t want to stay away anymore.” My eyes find his again and he offers me a half grin. “I would very much enjoy getting to know you better, Lauren. If that’s okay with you?”
I bite my lip and watch his finger glide around the rim of his glass.
“Lauren,” he whispers.
“I’d like that,” I reply softly.
He watches me lazily, sipping his drink, his temper calming. Finally, he sets his wine aside and takes my hand in his once again.
“You hold my hand a lot.”
“You have beautiful hands. Does it bother you?”
“No, it doesn’t bother me.”
“Lo?” he whispers.
“I want to kiss you so bad it hurts.”
I gasp and watch him with wide eyes as he reaches out and tucks my hair behind my ear, then gently runs his finger down my cheek. The air between us is full of anticipation.
“What’s stopping you?”
I bite my lip, waiting for his response. He pulls my lip free with his thumb and brushes it along the tender flesh. Finally, he leans in, moving exquisitely slowly. He cups my cheek in his hand and lowers his face to mine. His lips nibble at the side of my mouth, making my eyes flutter closed as my hand glides tentatively up his arm, over his shoulder, and into his thick, black hair.
He’s tender, gentle, as his lips sweep over my own to the other corner to tease and tempt some more.
I sigh as he brushes his nose over the tip of my own, then he sinks into me, his lips moving over me in the sweetest dance I’ve ever experienced. His tongue brushes over my lips, then slips inside my mouth, not to plunder but to simply tease and slide across my own.
All too soon, he backs away. I open my eyes to find his gray ones on fire. We’re both breathing hard, and in this moment, I want nothing more than for him to strip me bare and take me right here on the couch.
But instead, he pulls me into his arms and holds me close, kissing my hair. “You taste better than I imagined.” His hand caresses my back as he supports me against him, and we sit here, watching the fire.
“So do you,” I reply softly.
His hand stills for a moment, then resumes its journey across my back.
“You’re not staying the night,” I inform him sternly.
“No, but I’ll stay until you fall asleep.”
I lean back to look at him, pulling my fingertips down his cheek. “You don’t have to do that.”
He pulls my fingers to his lips and kisses each one in turn. “It’s my pleasure, sweetheart.”
He tucks me under his chin, and we sit in silence. I don’t want to fall asleep. I want to stay here in his arms, fully aware of him holding me, for as long as possible.
I’m not convinced this isn’t a dream brought on by a caffeine crash and too much work.
Ty continues to caress my back and plant small kisses on my head until the warmth of the fire and wine lull me into a deep sleep.
I am not a morning person. Early-morning swim training during high school and college just about killed me. I’m a firm believer that nothing should ever happen before 9:00 a.m..