“So…about our conversation last night.”
When staring at him-overwhelmed by his heat-she could barely remember her own name. Much less any conversation. “Huh?”
“What do you say? Will you give me your number?”
Oh, what she wouldn’t have given to hear those words from him ten years ago. Or hell, even two months ago-if she’d happened to run into him in Times Square and he’d proposed a sexy one-night-stand for old time’s sake. One nobody in Chicago would ever have to know about. She would have leapt on the offer like a gambler on a free lottery ticket.
“I don’t think so.”
“Come on, you know you can trust me. I’m not some stranger stalking you. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
Well, he’d known her since she was a kid. From the time she’d met him, Izzie had only ever seen the glorious, hot, sexy man. Even if he had been no more than fourteen.
“Just a night out for old time’s sake?”
He was so tempting. Because the only old times she recalled were the heated ones of her fantasies. And the incident at the wedding. He’d ended up between her legs during both. “Well…”
He moved again, coming closer, as if realizing she was wavering. Dropping his hand onto the counter near hers, he murmured, “No pressure. We could just go grab a pizza.”
She stiffened, any potential wavering done with. The last thing she would consider doing is having a public meal with Nick Santori at his own family’s restaurant. Not when her sister would hear about it and tell their parents, who’d then get their hopes up about Izzie remaining safely in the nest, as they’d so desperately wanted her to do when she was eighteen.
Leaving home after high school had been a struggle. She’d been an adult, legally free, but she’d still had to practically run away in order to pursue her dream of dancing professionally. Especially because she was the only one of the Natale daughters who’d inherited their father’s gift in the kitchen.
Probably because she loved food so much. As evidenced by every one of her porky-faced school pictures from kindergarten through tenth grade.
Her father had been crushed that she didn’t want to work with him. But she had known she had to escape-had to take her shot while she could or risk regretting it the rest of her life.
So she’d gone. She’d hopped a train, determined to stay away until she’d given her dream of being a professional dancer everything she had to give.
Making it at Radio City hadn’t eased her parents fears of her being “out there all alone.” It had actually increased them once they’d realized she was unlikely now to ever come back.
If they knew just how wild her life had been for the first few years she’d been on her own, they’d have felt justified in their fears. Like any good girl kept on a tight leash, she’d taken great pleasure in breaking every rule in the book once she was free and able to make her own decisions. Especially once she had men surrounding her and money to do whatever she wanted.
It had been wild. It had also been reckless-so in the past couple of years, she’d settled down. Stopped partying, stopped hooking up, stopped blowing every dime. She now had a nice nest egg…which she hoped to use to re-establish her life in New York. She’d been approached about going back to work at Radio City, as a choreographer this time. And she knew she’d probably get the same offer from her other modern dance company.
Or she could teach. She could open her own school…she had the money to at least give it a shot. That was among the things she’d been considering doing when she got back to reality.
Her parents, however, would give anything for her to stay here and never go back to that other life, the one that didn’t include them beyond the weekly phone call and twice-yearly visit. Openly dating a local guy-a friend of the family-would raise their hopes unfairly and hurtfully. So she couldn’t do it.
Before she could say so, however, he stepped closer. Close enough to stop her heart. “You’re a mess,” he murmured. He lifted a hand, touching a strand of hair that had fallen across her cheek. Closing his fingers over it, he slowly pulled, wiping away flour or cream or whatever had happened to be there.
The brush of his fingertips against her cheekbone almost made her cry. Almost made her whimper. Almost made her lean forward to press her mouth onto his.
“A sweet, delectable mess,” he added, his fingers still tangled in her hair. He touched her face, rubbing her skin as if he’d never felt anything so smooth, so soft.
Every muscle in her body went warm and pliant, until Izzie wondered how she could still be standing upright. As if sensing her weakness, he moved closer, sliding one foot between her legs, slipping one hand into her tangled hair to cup her head.