“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Roth. I truly do. But I don’t want to talk about it now. I just… I just want to get through the night. I just want to get through the night,” she repeated.
Roth brought her hand to his lips and kissed the inside of her wrist. It was the most intimate and soul-stirring move he could have made. The energy delivered through the sensual and delicate act sent a shock wave of desire sparking through her system. Everything about being there with Roth felt so right and so wrong all at the same time.
When Tressa had volunteered to whip something up, it didn’t take long for Roth to discover that they had two totally different definitions of the term. While he’d suggested preparing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—to which she’d laughed hysterically—Tressa had taken the reins and created a spread that looked as if it belonged in a magazine for culinary professionals.
How in the hell had she managed to turn generic grocery items—a block of cheddar cheese, a can of Southern biscuits, beef hot dogs, thin-sliced pepperoni, club crackers, kettle chips and French onion dip—into a work of edible art? She truly was amazing in the kitchen.
“Wow. This looks scrumptious,” he said, his growling stomach loudly approving. “A nurse and a chef. How in the heck did that happen?”
“I grew up watching my family help others. My father was a policeman, my mother a teacher. I had aunts, uncles and cousins who were firemen, clergy, counselors, doctors, lawyers, you name it. If there is a position out there geared toward helping people, one of my family members held it. Now, my love for cooking…I got that from my Poppa. My grandfather,” she clarified and beamed with pride.
Roth envied her, envied anyone who’d grown up surrounded by family. As a youngster, he’d dreamed of growing up, getting married and having a thousand kids. Somewhere along the way, that vision had faded. Tressa’s voice snatched him out of his thoughts.
“Do you mind if we eat in front of the fireplace?” she said.
“Sounds good to me.”
After arranging everything on the brown shag rug, Roth returned to the kitchen for two hard black cherry lemonades. It’d actually been Tressa who’d introduced him to the drink. He usually went for the harder stuff—whiskey—or the occasional beer. With her feminine wiles, she’d convinced him to try the sweet beverage when they’d both been at Alonso and Vivian’s place at the beach. He’d got hooked. On Tressa and the drink.
Roth recalled that beach trip. Watching Tressa wade through the water in an ocean-blue bikini, her skin glistening under the rays of the sun, had been torture in its most pleasurable form. On several occasions he’d wanted to ignore the fact that she was seeing someone and seduce the hell out of her, but he’d resisted. Looking back, he wished he had taken a risk. Maybe it would have spared her some heartache.
“Earth to Roth.”
Tressa’s voice pulled him back to reality. “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”
“Yes. I asked if you could bring some napkins.”
Roth grabbed a stack of napkins off the counter and fanned them through the air. “Got it.” He passed her one of the bottles, then eased down next to her.
Tressa eyed him curiously. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah,” he repeated when she didn’t look convinced. “I drift sometimes. Growing up in foster care, I rarely got privacy. Sometimes escaping inside my own head was my only refuge.”
Damn. Why had he shared any of that? His past was typically something he kept to himself. Not because he was ashamed of it, but because the second people learned he’d been a foster kid, they showered him with unnecessary sympathy. He hated that with a passion.
“I was a foster mother to a six-year-old once. Jamison,” she said absently. “I’ll never do it again.”
“Wow. That bad, huh?”
Tressa grimaced. “God, I made that sound so harsh and insensitive. Let me clarify. I wouldn’t do it again because I grew so attached to him in the short time he was with me. Watching him leave was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. I cried like a baby for days.”