Hot color flooded her cheeks. His lush lower lip curved upward, as if he knew her naughty thoughts. She squeezed her fingers into tight fists and fought for composure. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to congratulate you on your promotion. I ran into Jackson and he told me how well you were doing. Working full time now?”
The casual, polite conversation cut deep. She breathed around the pain, and ached to touch him. She dug her nails into her palms to keep still. “Thank you. Yes, I’m very excited about it.”
“Still in school?”
He paced the small office with deliberate steps, glancing around. Stacks of papers in folders were piled on the desk, all neatly labeled and categorized. Her space was tiny, with only a desk, a few pictures on the wall, filing cabinets and a water cooler. But it was comfortable and clean and she loved every inch of it.
She watched the tight swing of his ass as he moved then bit her lip hard to keep back a moan. “Um, yes. Taking classes online now, which gives me more time.”
“Sounds like a great plan. And the shelter?”
He walked to the water cooler and grabbed a paper cup. She swallowed hard and watched his lips close over the edge as he drank. An image of his lips sucking her nipple blasted her concentration. Heat coursed through her. “Huh? Oh, the shelter. I volunteer on weekends.”
He smiled. Her heart sputtered. “That’s good news. I’m glad you’re doing well.”
Irritation prickled her nerve endings. “Is that why you’re here? To check up on me? Make sure I haven’t fallen apart?”
“Nope. I knew you’d do fine. It’s just that time is finally up.”
She blinked. “What time?”
He grinned, a wicked, bad ass grin that curled her toes and promised all sorts of delights. “Your three months. I figured it would be long enough to convince you.”
“Convince me to do what?”
“To let me catch you, Tara.” He closed the distance between them and reached for her. The sizzling heat of his skin filled her up, made her dizzy, and she clung to him as he towered over her. His breath hit her lips and she moaned. “I wanted to give you time to realize you’re strong enough to handle me, or any man. I want to court you, make love to you, learn all your secrets. I want to know your favorite color and food, the shampoo you use, and what side of the bed you prefer to sleep on at night. I want to support you in every way, watch you graduate, and stand beside you while you fly. And then I’ll be right there to welcome you back. Do you get it now?”
Oh, yeah, she got it. Rick Steele had given her a gift more priceless than diamonds. Time. She choked on a sob and flung her arms around his neck. And kissed him.
His taste swamped her. She thrust her tongue against his, greedy for everything he had, and he held her tight as he gave it all back. “I missed you so much,” she murmured against his lips. She stroked his face, his brow, scattering kisses over him as her heart exploded.
“Missed you too, baby.”
“Thank you for giving me what I needed.”
“Welcome. Now let’s get out of here.” He grabbed her hand and dragged her to the door.
She laughed. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to do a little catching up. And I have some very wicked plans.”
She followed him out the door and realized he’d caught her heart the moment he’d laid eyes on her in the club. She gave a mental thank you to Madame Eve and went home with the man she loved.