Nick’s forehead wrinkled as he seemed to seriously mull my question over. He dropped his hands but didn’t step away. “I just . . . there’s been opportunity . . .”

“I’m sure there has been,” I replied wryly.

A quick grin flashed across his face, but it didn’t dampen the confusion etched into his features. “I just haven’t been interested, and I . . .” Trailing off, he closed his eyes. “Fuck it.”

My head jerked back as I blinked. Fuck it? That was not the response I was looking for, but before I could say anything, his hands had clasped my cheeks and he’d tilted my head back again. He lowered his mouth to mine.

And he kissed me.

Chapter 18

The first contact of his lips against mine was a shock to my system. It had been so long since I’d been kissed, really kissed, that I’d seriously forgotten how it felt, but even with the lack of memories, I knew this was going to blow every other kiss out of the water.

His lips glided over mine once and then twice, as if he were mapping out the layout, committing the feel to memory. When he tilted his head to the side, I felt his tongue sweep across the seam of my mouth. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation on my part.

I opened for him, and he took that kiss deep. My hands settled on his arms and my body sank into his. The kiss branded me, dug in below the skin and muscles, and wrapped around my bones. I didn’t think I’d ever been kissed like this. Not that I could remember.

Not that it even really mattered.

Clutching his arms, I kissed him back. I chased after him, staking my own claim. A soft groan rippled out of him, and I knew he was also branded. Our tongues tangled, and the touch of his mouth against mine increased. Raw. Fierce. Those were the two words that came to mind as he started to back me up. My hands slid down his taut sides, reaching the low hanging jeans. One of his hands slid around to the nape of my neck, tangling in my hair as—


The one minute warning went off in the oven, breaking us apart. Both of us were breathing heavy as we stared at one another. My lips were pleasantly swollen and I felt thoroughly kissed.

“That’s why,” Nick said thickly. “That right there is why I haven’t hooked up with anyone else.”

“A kiss?” My chest rose and fell sharply.

“Not just a kiss.” He shook his head as he dragged his thumb along my lower lip. “It’s the way you feel against me—the way your body just softens right into mine. It’s those tiny sounds you make when you’re liking what I’m doing. It’s the way I get as hard as a baseball bat if I even think your name. And it’s been that way since I saw you in those damn little shorts.”

My mind zoomed back to the day I was moving in. “Those were some little shorts.”

“No shit.” His voice dropped a level. “I’m going to be honest. After we hooked up, I wanted to get right back inside you, and it was real hard not to accidentally run into you again in those days afterward. I didn’t think it would happen again. That’s just my practice, but when you tore into my ass in the middle of the bar, you caught my attention, and it isn’t going anywhere.”

In my chest, my heart started jumping around.

“I know I said I wanted us to be friends, but obviously, I’m shitty at the boundaries that friends have,” he continued, his gaze never leaving mine. “Things are different now than they were then.”

Because of the baby.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen between us, but I know we can’t be just friends.” His forehead dipped to mine, and I sucked in an unsteady breath. “And I know—yeah, I know—you can’t just be friends with me. Friends don’t kiss like that and friends sure as fuck don’t come like you did around my cock and my fingers.”

Oh dear.

Those lips curved up at the corners. “So that’s why I haven’t been with anyone else, and I don’t plan on changing that. Not when you and I are going to try to make the best of this.”

Make the best of this? My thoughts spun those words around and around in my head. They weren’t the most romantic or the most promising, but they were the truth, and more than that, they were realistic expectations, and that was something I valued higher than pretty words.

Even though pretty words were nice to hear from time to time.

“Yeah.” I smiled up at him, feeling a bit shaken. “We’ll make the best of this.”

Making it work between us was immediately tested not even five minutes after we finished the yummy dinner. The in-home nurse had called.

Nick answered right away. “What’s happening, Kira?” Whatever she said on the phone wasn’t good, because his eyes closed and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “No—it’s okay. I’ll be right over. Yeah—no, it’s fine.”

When he hung up the phone, I spoke first. “You have to go. I understand.”

“I’m sorry. My grandfather is having another . . . thing.” He started to rise.

“Like I said, I totally understand.” I’d popped up. “Do you want me to go with you?”

The look on Nick’s face wasn’t something I’d forget in a long time. He looked horrified by the idea of me joining him. “No. That’s not necessary. Not at all.”

I didn’t take it personally, but I’d wanted to tell him that I could handle whatever was happening with his grandfather. However, I didn’t want to delay him further. Nick had started for the door, shrugging his jacket on. But before he left, he returned to where I stood and kissed me. Much like the first one, the sensations it evoked were shattering and devastating, with all the feelings it stirred to the surface.

I felt that kiss the whole time I was cleaning up.

The week leading up to Halloween ticked by with a weird feeling of things moving too slow and yet too fast at the same time. Being pregnant made me hyperaware of the passing of time, something I hadn’t really paid attention to before. Now everything in my head was catalogued by weeks.

Dan, one of the Lima brothers whom I’d met on my first day, had taken Rick and another salesperson on a business trip to the West Coast. I wanted to throw a little party at my desk. Maybe I’d get lucky and Rick would end up staying on the opposite coast. My heightened sensitivity to smell and to jackasses approved of such a move.

I was busy at work the entire week, helping Marcus prepare for his own business trip in November. He would be going to my hometown to help get all the approvals necessary for expanding the academy. I still wondered if Andrew’s daughter had an idea that her father was setting up shop there. I hadn’t seen her since the day Brock was hurt, and I hadn’t see him either.

On Thursday, Nick had surprised me with a text saying he was going to be in the city in an hour and asking if I wanted to get together for lunch. What shouldn’t have been a big deal had my stomach tumbled in knots. How crazy was it that it was the first time I’d ever done something like this with a guy I was interested in?

I had all this experience, but a lot was still unknown to me.

Grabbing my purse off the desk, I headed down to the gym level and immediately saw Nick crossing the street, heading toward the academy. I stepped outside and waited on the sidewalk.

His dark hair was growing, and I liked it that he was wearing it down. It was artfully messy and suited his striking face by softening the harder lines. Wearing his worn leather jacket, he hopped up on the sidewalk and stalked toward me. I couldn’t stop the smile from forming. I was such a goober.