“Oh shit. No,” I rushed, coming to her side. “Liberty, don’t cry. Baby, please. I’ll take it back. It’s not like he or she’s going to play football or anything, I just thought it was cute—”
She silenced my ramble with a kiss. It was short—just the soft press of her lips, but I felt it shoot through my system like a drug.
“Ignore the tears.” She swiped at her cheeks. “My hormones are all over the freaking place. This is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.” She folded the little jersey into a tiny square. “Wait—” Her gaze swung my direction. “Why wouldn’t our baby play football? I mean, if she’s a girl, there’s definitely going to be some professional barriers there, but if he’s a boy…” She shook her head, not understanding.
“It’s not safe,” I said simply. “Our protective equipment isn’t nearly good enough, and I’m not taking any risks with our kid.” I’d already failed to protect Nick. I wasn’t failing our baby.
“I can’t decide if that’s incredibly sweet, or if you have a fever or something.” She looked at me like I’d grown two heads.
“How’s the dissertation coming?” I asked, completely deflecting the conversation. We’d just sweep it under the rug like we did everything else.
She arched an eyebrow, calling me out on my bullshit, but she let it slide. “Oh, you know, one day closer to bringing mental health care to those in need.”
I loved that about her. She had this vision—this drive—to help people.
She flinched, then rolled her head back along her shoulders. “Just wish it didn’t require sitting still for hours.”
I stepped behind her and stroked my thumbs along her spine, rubbing small circles from the bare skin of her neck to where the fabric of her tank top started.
She groaned and leaned into my touch. “You’re so hired.”
“You can’t afford me,” I joked.
“God, don’t I know it. But still, don’t stop. Your hands feel so good,” she moaned that last word.
My thoughts immediately jumped back to the way she’d moaned as I’d licked her to orgasm, and my dick went from hard to granite. Still, I kept my touch professional, locating her knots and working them softly. “I can go get some massage oil,” I offered, my voice coming out like it had been sent through a cheese grater.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I said quickly. “I just don’t like to see you in pain.”
“You…didn’t mean it like that,” she said slowly. “Right.” She slid off the stool and strode to the other side of the kitchen.
“Fuck,” I muttered as she glared at me. “I’m sorry. The lines between us are…blurred at best. I never meant to imply—”
“Of course, you didn’t.” She said it in a way that was understanding, yet still sounded alarmingly irritable.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” I took my chances and approached her slowly, leaning against the side of the counter about a foot away from her.
Her gaze raked down me hungrily, but she spun away, bracing her hands on the counter. “Nope.”
“Okay…” I was at a loss. The only woman I’d ever lived with was my mother, and she was unflinchingly direct. If something was on her mind, you knew it. “Do you want me to rub your shoulders? Your feet? Leave you alone? Is this where I’m supposed to run out and get ice cream and pickles? Because I can do that, too.”
“My neck, please?” Her entire posture softened, and she flashed me an embarrassed, tight-lipped smile.
I was so out of my depth. The last eight years had been full of willing women who made themselves annoyingly pleasing, which meant I was completely out of practice in the relationship department. I had no fucking clue how to read Liberty, or how to make her happy. She was a five-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, and I didn’t have a box to see the full picture.
“Come here.” I tugged her wrist lightly and drew her back toward me.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “It’s killing me right here,” her fingers pressed into the spot where her neck met her shoulders.
I definitely wasn’t about to offer massage oil again, so I worked the knot lightly.
“God, that’s good,” she praised, shifting her weight.
“Want to sit down?”
“I’m good right here.”
I fought the urge to trade my hands for my mouth. I wanted to taste every inch of her skin, to worship the lines of her body slowly until I knew exactly what made her tremble and sigh.
She shifted her weight again and leaned back.
I angled my hips away. The last thing we needed was to get into another elephant-in-the-room miscommunication about my intentions here. Besides, if she’d wanted me that way, wouldn’t she have said something—anything about our little locker room moment? I wasn’t insecure—I knew she’d orgasmed, but maybe that unspoken line was just that…unspoken and a line. A big, fat line.