He nodded slowly. “So what made it stick for you?”
That was a hard question to answer. “I think it has to do with the fact that some of these patients don’t have anyone else. I mean, it’s not that their family doesn’t care or isn’t there, but a lot of people don’t know how to deal with someone who is that sick. So they need someone who understands—you know? Like even if someone can’t respond or communicate, that doesn’t mean they can’t hear you. That they’re not in there thinking—”
“Some of your patients couldn’t communicate but could hear you?”
“Yep. Different diseases. There are syndromes where people are locked in. Hell, there’s research supporting that people in certain types of comas can hear those around them,” she explained. “Others can’t, but either way, these people need those who . . . who just are just willing to care for them.” She flushed a little, feeling like a cornball.
“And that’s what you do? You care for them.”
Julia did. Sometimes more than she should. It was hard to turn off human nature. Losing patients still wasn’t something that was easy to deal with. “Yeah.”
He studied her for a moment and then a wide smile broke out across his face. It was breathtaking. Toothpaste commercials would be envious. “Well, got to be honest, there’s never been any nurses that looked like you whenever I had to see a doctor.” He winked, and damn if he didn’t look good doing it. “Probably a good thing, because I’d be coming up with all kinds of reasons to visit the doctor then.”
A surprised laugh burst out of her as she turned back to him. “Oh whatever.”
“No. I’m serious. I’d start with a stomachache and then probably escalate to stubbing a finger or two, but swearing it was broken.”
Laughing again, she shook her head. “You must have really good insurance then.”
“Something like that.” And somehow he was even closer, less than a foot separated them. “I’m about to say what’s on my mind. You ready for that?”
“I guess.” She held on tight to her drink, her heart kicking all over the place. What was he going to say?
He did what he’d done before, lowering his head so that his mouth was near her ear. Tiny bumps rose all over her skin as she now caught the scent of spicy cologne and clean soap, a surprisingly intoxicating mix. “The whole time we’ve been standing here talking, I’ve been wondering about how those beautiful lips of yours would taste.”
Her heart did a cartwheel while her brain tried to process that he really did say that.
“And I’ve also been thinking this whole time that your lips aren’t the only things I want to taste.”
All coherent thought belly-flopped out of the window.
He drew back only a few inches, lining up their mouths in a way that their breaths mingled. “Is that too forward?”
Julia shook her head no. She had no control over her head.
“Glad to hear that.” Taylor pulled back, his lips curved up on one side.
She jerked, startled as her phone vibrated against the side of her stomach. “Excuse me,” she murmured, flustered and more than welcoming of a distraction, because every part of her was way focused on the idea of him tasting her lips and so much more.
She fumbled, digging the slim phone out of the pouch. The screen was still lit from the text message. It was from Anna. She had to read it twice, because she didn’t think she had read it correctly.
Didn’t want to bother you two. I’m heading home to the hubs. Get hottie to give you a ride and then another ride. Love you!
“Damn it,” she muttered under her breath. She was going to kill Anna.
“That doesn’t sound good.”
She gave a little shake of her head, torn between laughing and cursing again. “It’s nothing.”
“Doesn’t sound that way.” He bumped his arm against hers. “What’s going on?”
Exhaling roughly, she slipped her phone back into her purse. “My friend—Anna? The one you were playing darts with? She kind of bailed on me.”
“Let me guess? She was your ride home?” he asked, dipping his chin as he leaned in again, pressing his arm against hers and staying there.
“Yep.” Julia didn’t move away.
The lopsided grin returned. “I can take you home. Only had this drink.”
Her gaze flicked to his as the muscles low in her stomach clenched. Him take her home? Would he plan on . . . tasting her? Okay. She really needed to stop thinking about all of that. “Thank you, but it’s okay. I can get a cab or—”
“Or you could let me take you home. After all, isn’t that what your clever friend wanted by leaving you here to fend for yourself?” Unfolding one arm, he reached over and tapped his finger off the top of her hand. “At least I hope so, because it’s what I want.”
Her lips parted as she stared at him.
“Actually, I’d love to take you home, Julia.” That finger slid up her over her wrist, up to the sleeve of her dress. “I’d love to spend a little more time with you.”
Julia’s heart was pounding all over the place as she stared into his eyes, getting a little lost all over again. She knew what he was offering wasn’t just a ride home, and that caused the pounding in her chest to move much, much lower. Her body flushed hot at the prospect.
“Say yes,” he said, trailing his finger back down her arm. Taylor traced the bone of her wrist.
Her mouth dried. Saying yes was the last thing she would normally do. Like dead last, but there was a little voice in the back of her head that was screaming yes, that was demanding that she not do what she’d normally do.
That instead, she’d do what Anna had ordered, spread her horny bird wings wide and fly a little. Could she really do it? Then her mouth and tongue were moving before she even realized what she was doing.
Julia said yes.
This was happening.
This was really happening.
And that was all she could think on the rather short, almost too-short drive to her apartment. Taylor had driven what was obviously a rental car. At least she hoped so, because it was way too clean for any human being with a soul to have owned it. He chattered the whole way, obviously at ease with what was about to go down.
Even so much so that halfway to her apartment complex, he reached over and placed his hand over hers, stopping her from fidgeting with the edge of her dress. He didn’t address it, but he curled his long, warm fingers around hers and he held on.
The hand-holding was nice, and it reminded her of first dates and that sweet anticipation for everything that was to come, but this wasn’t a date. It was a hookup—a hookup with a man who looked like he belonged on the silver screen.
As they walked across the parking lot and up the stairs, he did so in a way it was obvious that he slowed down his long-legged pace. He walked beside her with one hand on her lower back while her hands trembled.
They actually shook.
There had only been a handful of moments in her life when she had been this nervous, this excited. Her emotions were all tangled up in a knot that was clamping down on her chest.
At the door, she missed the slot for the key on the first try, jabbing the key into the metal.
“I got it,” Taylor offered, easily taking the key from her almost numb hands. She stared at his fingers as he slid the key in, but didn’t turn the lock. “Julia?”
Drawing in a shallow breath, she dragged her gaze to his. “Yes?”
His eyes searched her. “I don’t have to turn the key. You can. And we can say good-night. Or I can turn this key and you let me in. And we make it a really good night. It’s your choice.”
Of course it was.
And Julia wanted this—wanted whatever would happen beyond those doors, but she’d never done this before. Ever. There had only been her ex. They’d gotten married young, in college, and she’d never done the one-night stands or gotten a chance to explore casual sex. Not that she hadn’t wanted to since the divorce, but she hadn’t thought really long and hard about it, she hadn’t given herself the opportunity to do so.