“The ones we eat more than others.”
I giggle. “I think you said something similar when we met.”
“Probably. That was a long time ago.” When I turn back to read the tags stuck in each pot, he adds, “The light’s better in here.”
Not letting me down, I find a misting bottle, exactly like the one he once gave me, the one I still have, tucked among the pots. “May I?”
“Of course.” While I spritz, finding deep satisfaction and calm come over me, he adds, “You were never that into plants from what I remember.”
Shrugging, I keep moving along the wall. I say, “I’ve gotten better over the years,” but I don’t tell him that Frankie and Hemsworth have done fine under my care. That feels like too much right now. “Have you named them?”
“That one in front of you is Basil Evans, but sometimes when I’m feeling punchy after a long shift, I call him Bah-zil just to push his buttons.”
The joke is funny, but that he still finds humor with plants cracks my smile wide open. It’s really cute. Playing along, I ask, “Does he ever get revenge?”
“No, Chloe, it’s a plant,” he deadpans. When I turn back, he’s quietly chuckling. “Just pulling your leg. I never call him Bah-zil. I’m not a psychopath.” He rests back on the bed and checks his watch. “Wow, it’s later than I thought.”
Shaking my head, I set the bottle down and check my watch. “It’s nine. Got somewhere better to be?”
The mattress bends to his will when he pushes off and comes to me. Cupping my face, he kisses me without warning. It takes a split second for me to close my eyes and take hold of his arms. As we deepen the kiss, this one feels different from the others. This kiss fills the voids of all the ones we’ve missed over the years, bordering on a desperation that it might be the last. I feel it. I feel all of him and everything that this is.
Practically ripping us apart, he looks down as some other emotion takes over his features. “I couldn’t waste another minute not kissing you. I’m sorry.”
He looks back up, questioning me with his eyes. “No?”
Passion consumes me—not only the sexual emotions he draws out, but a tinging anger that he won’t just take what he wants, take me in his arms or in bed, that he’s being sweet and kind to his own detriment. I need him here with me. I need him to push this confusion into understanding before I go crazy overthinking it.
I fist his shirt, not letting him run just like he wouldn’t let me and plead. “I don’t want you to be sorry for kissing me like it’s the last kiss you’ll ever get. Don’t apologize for us coming here or even for the mess you left behind because you had no plans on bringing someone home. Don’t be sorry about anything tonight because there’s nothing I’m sorry about.” This time, I kiss him, I kiss him with every bit of pain I’ve felt since I left that jail, the loneliness I denied, and the pent-up, raw desire he always brought out in me.
We move to the bed, but before we fall, he dips to kiss my shoulder. When he looks back up, his eyes penetrate the last of my walls left standing. He whispers, “You used to be my angel. Now you’re my reckoning.”
“Equal sinner and saint. You were the sides of me that others saw, and the one I saved for you.”
“I never dreamed I’d get to kiss you again.”
“You said no wasting time then.” I lift my shirt over my head and drop it to my side. His gaze dips, and I witness a restrained exhale before he pulls his off. We work our pants down, eyes on each other. Almost bare before him, I have no doubt I could turn back if I wanted. He’d let me, never wanting me to feel any pressure.
But stepping back enough to take him in, I admire his hard muscles, defined abs, and that damn sexy smirk. It’s not just my brain he’s stimulated or my curiosity in what his life is like now that brought me here. No, standing in front of this six-foot-two mountain of man, I crave him in deep-seated, carnal ways.
He’s just about to say something when I jump into his arms, kissing him while wrapped around him like a spider monkey. We fall onto the bed with him on top of me. I’d forgotten how the weight of his muscular frame used to keep me grounded, hope was found in his whiskey-colored eyes, and the way he touched me. I don’t let fear of the future hold me back from opening my legs to feel him settle between them again. The reminders have me closing my eyes and feeling . . . taking everything he’ll give me.