They were both panting.
He expected Aria to be pissed at him.
She kissed him hard as he lowered her to the floor. “Let’s take this back to the bedroom. We’re so not done.”
He was more than happy with that.
Max looked at the table. He’d gone out of his way to make the perfect dinner as he wanted tonight to be wonderful. Yes, it wasn’t the first night they’d spent together and had sex, but this was the first time Aria had come to his apartment. She’d also accepted his invitation willingly.
He’d settled for a pair of jeans and a white shirt, which he’d spent some time ironing. He’d never used an iron in his life and could only guess the thing had belonged to Dale at some point. Max couldn’t remember purchasing one.
Dinner was a pasta casserole with lots of chicken, tomatoes, and cheese. It wasn’t anything special, but he tried in the short time he had to impress Aria.
The other night, being out with their friends, he’d watched the way Trey and June were together as well as Dale and Molly. How easy it was for them to touch each other, kiss, share their space, and he couldn’t do that with Aria. Not yet.
She didn’t want anyone to know, and he was happy to go along with that, at least in the beginning, but now he wanted more, so much more.
The knock at his door let him know Aria was here.
Lighting the last of the candles, he made his way to the front door and opened it. She stood on his doorstep with a bag in hand.
“Hey,” she said.
He’d asked her to pack a bag, and seeing that she had, he took it from her, placing it down on the floor. “Let me take your jacket.”
Hanging it up next to his own, he stared at it for a few seconds.
No woman had ever put her jacket next to his. He’d always avoided it so it would save against any woman thinking they had a chance with him.
Aria’s stayed right beside his, and he took her hand.
“Something smells really good,” she said.
“Chicken, tomatoes, pasta, and cheese.”
“I got it off one of those food blog thingies,” Max said, walking her into his small dining room opposite his kitchen.
“Oh, wow, this is so romantic, Max.”
Like the jacket, it was what he was going for.
Romance had never been his strong suit. He never had a need for it. When it came to Aria, he was having to show to her he was this kind of guy. She could trust him with her heart and he wouldn’t hurt her.
Holding out a chair for her, he waited for her to sit down, leaning forward and breathing in the scent of her perfume. He couldn’t resist a kiss to her neck before pulling away. “You’re stunning and beautiful,” he said.
“You’re full of compliments tonight.”
“It’s the way you make me feel.” And again, there was another point. Aria made him fucking feel. He couldn’t hide from his feelings because they were all about her.
He walked to the stove, opened the oven door, and, using the mitts, pulled out the casserole he’d spent most of the afternoon preparing.
Closing the door, he turned each part of the oven off that he’d used before carrying it to the table.
He’d used up all of his time on preparing dinner. He’d purchased dessert from the bakery. Aria probably made it, but he didn’t mind that and he was hoping she didn’t either.
Stop being nervous.
He wasn’t used to feeling like this around a woman. He wanted Aria to like what he’d created for her. Serving them both up a plate, he watched as Aria took a bite.
“It’s quite nice.”
He took a bite as well and was surprised to find it edible.
Aria laughed. “You should see your face. You look shocked that it’s good.”
“Would you believe me if I told you I am?”
“Not at all,” she said. “Do you like to cook?”
“Not often. I tend to order out. It makes life easier, and it’s a lot easier cleanup.”
“I imagine working on building sites all day can make you quite tired.”
“I don’t mind. I happen to enjoy doing stuff like that, so it’s not a huge deal. Working all day with food, do you get tired of it?”
“I don’t cook a whole lot. Baking is completely different. I rarely eat anything sweet, unless you count ice cream. I’m a sucker for some chocolate mint chip ice cream.”
“That’s my favorite,” he said.
“How about that, Max, we have something in common.”
“You better be careful now, Smith. You’re at risk of falling in love with me.” He winked at her.
“You could totally fall in love with me,” Aria said. “Look at how sweet this is. I bet you do this for all the women to make them feel special.”
“Yes, all of them.” He hadn’t done this for a single chick in his life. He didn’t care about anyone else, and the thing was, he wasn’t falling for Aria—he was in love with her.
He’d been trying to deny it for so long. Between his guilt and loving her company, he’d fallen hard for her.
When he saw her on those dating sites, it had hurt him. He’d felt physical pain at the thought of her being with anyone else, and his feelings for her also terrified him. How could he handle this part of himself? He didn’t understand, and the truth was, he didn’t know if he ever wanted to.
“Are you okay?” Aria asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You look a little pale. Do I need to take you to the emergency room?”
“No, we’re good.” He took a bite of his casserole and stared into her pretty eyes instead.
“I kind of find this shocking how I’m sitting in Max Carter’s apartment, eating a casserole he made, enjoying his company.”
“You are enjoying it?”
“Yeah, I am. Shocked?”
“One hundred percent astounded. The guy I was back in high school, Aria. He doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I’m starting to see that.”
They finished their food, and he grabbed the two muffins he’d purchased, with a can of whipped cream.
“You bought these today,” she said, giggling.
“I’m not a miracle worker.” He put the muffin down, cut off the top, and squirted a whole lot of cream on top of the muffin before putting the top back in place. “Dessert is served.”
“I know I shouldn’t, but I love that.”
He took a bite of his own, tipping his head back to fill his mouth with cream.
Aria laughed along with him. Cream had covered her nose, and he licked it off.
Putting some cream on her lips, he took possession of her mouth, licking it right off. At first, she started to laugh, but that changed to a gasp as he nipped at her lips before kissing her.
She dropped the muffin she was holding, as did he, and deepened the kiss. Aria stood up, and he moved her back, walking toward the bedroom where he intended to take their night anyway.