Footsteps sound behind me and Chris hurries down the steps and is in front of me in a snap. He is squatting in front of me, close, and he smells woodsy and fresh and to my complete surprise he is sliding a navy cotton robe about three sizes too big around my shoulders. There is a protective quality to his actions and I am not sure I have ever felt more delicately female than in this moment. Never safer than with a man who is virtually a complete stranger, never with a man I’d almost called my husband. The rightness of this man and of walking away from my past, resonates through me. That decision brought me here.

I’m still clutching the blanket and Chris glances down and back up, wordlessly urging me to let it fall. A low burn is expanding in my belly, sliding through my limbs. I want him. I want him in a way I barely recognize as within the realm of my capacity.

Our eyes lock and hold and I see the shadows in the depths of his stare, and I think…I think he’s letting me. My chest tightens with this realization, this certainty. I let the blanket slide into his hands, and I am naked, but I feel as if he is naked, too. I never bring women to my apartment. There is something happening between us and I pray I was wrong last night. I pray it’s not the beginning of two damaged people tearing each other apart. Some part of me needs Chris. Maybe we need each other.

Eternal seconds pass, and we don’t move, don’t speak. His gaze drops, sliding slowly, hotly over my br**sts. “God, you’re beautiful,” he murmurs, a husky tormented quality to his voice that says more than the compliment.

I am shaken by the rush of emotion his words send through me. Yes. Oh yes. There is definitely something happening between us, something rich with promise, and ripe with potential heartache, but I can’t seem to care. My hand goes to his hair, stroking it, urging him to come to me, to be with me.

“Put your arms in, baby,” he orders, and I sense his struggle, some internal battle that tells him not to touch me. I do as he commands and he pulls the robe shut and ties it.

He looks at me then, and he’s found a place to bank whatever he was feeling. His eyes are lighter, his mood seemingly cooler. “I make a mean omelet. Are you hungry?”

His shift in mood flits through me without much resistance on my part. I’ve seen this in Chris several times before, and I’m coming to expect it. Being able to make him smile holds growing appeal.

I smile. “You’re always feeding me.”

“And yet we never seem to finish a meal.” He rotates slightly to indicate the pizza boxes on the table behind him. “We didn’t do the pizza justice.”

“No and you were right. It was really good.”

His lips quirk. “In our defense we had other things on our minds.” He doesn’t give me time to blush and remarkably, considering what I’ve already done with this man, I would have. He pushes to his feet and pulls me with him, towering over me, and reminding me how big he is, and why the sleeves of his robe swallow my hands.

“I’ll cook if you make coffee,” he bargains.

“I’ll take that deal if I can find my hands.” I hold them up and they are lost in navy cotton cloth.

He laughs and starts rolling one of the sleeves up. “You’re melting away. Another reason to feed you. How’s your head this morning?”

“If you mean from the wine, apparently I’m fine.” I can’t resist teasing him. “And I guess you weren’t worried about taking advantage of me when I was intoxicated?”

He doesn’t laugh as I’d hoped. His hand freezes on my sleeve and his gaze lifts. “I’m no saint, Sara. I’ve told you that.”

“Yes,” I agree tartly. “You have. Repeatedly.”

“But you won’t listen.”

“I’ve heard every word you’ve said.”

“Maybe I haven’t said enough.”

Exactly, I think. “You haven’t said anything besides stay away and don’t go.”

His brows dip a moment before his lips curve into a smile. “You don’t mince words, do you?”

“Not with you it seems. Or…hmmm…when I’m drinking.” I cringe with the memory of the night before. “The wine got the best of me after you left last night. I marched up to Mark and told him that I didn’t want to be involved in whatever your…well…” I press my fingers to my forehead. “I can’t believe I said this.”

His brows lift. “Now you’ve got me curious.”

I drop my hand and dare to repeat the out-of-character words I’d spoken. “I told him I don’t want to get in between whatever the ‘cock-fight’ is you two have with each other.”

Chris barks out laugher. “I would have loved to have seen both of your faces when you blurted that one out.” He motions toward the kitchen. “Come. I need to feed you, woman.” He reaches for the pizza box, apparently without any plan to explain or deny the ‘cock-fight’. Why? What is it with these two?

“Bathroom,” I say, pointing the direction of the room I’d used the night before. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

He grabs me and pulls me close, his breath trickling warmth on mine, “Just so we’re clear, Sara. There is no in between.” The air crackles with electricity, and I am sure he will kiss me and I burn for a taste of him. My body quakes inside and out. Please. Now. Kiss me.

I am hanging on a thread when he turns me to the bathroom before smacking me on the ass. I yelp with the unexpected swat, and unbidden, with a rush of heat and memory of him doing the same thing the night before to my bare butt. His lips press near my ear. “Go now. It’s never a good idea to keep a starving man waiting, Sara. You’d be good to remember that.”