Yes, exactly like that.

“We have to leave or we’ll be late,” she choked out and squirmed against his wicked fingers. “Rain check. You and me and a coat closet. Nine o’clock. We’ll pretend it’s the first time we’ve been able to connect in weeks.”

With his eyes blazing, he hooked the edge of her panties and drew them off to puddle on the floor. “How about we connect right now and I meet you in the coat closet? But only if you make it eight-thirty and leave your underwear at home.”

As if she could resist him. Within moments, he’d sheathed himself and they joined, beautifully and completely.

She clung to him, wrapped her legs around him and plunged into pleasure. Pleasure with an edge because her brain had left the building, and he’d ended up with a piece of her heart after all. She couldn’t find the courage to shut off what she was feeling.

When Lucas made love to her, she forgot all the reasons why the alternative wasn’t plausible. Lucas glided home slowly, watching her with a searing, heavy expression, and her heart asked, “What if it could be?”

The question echoed with no answer.

No answer, because Lucas was not presenting an alternative to divorce so they could continue having spectacular sex, no matter what he claimed.

Sex wasn’t the basis for a relationship. Sex wasn’t guaranteed to stay good, let alone spectacular. He hadn’t miraculously fallen in love with her. So why had he really brought up long-term?

And why was she so sad? Because his alternative hadn’t included a declaration from his heart or because it felt as though she didn’t know the whole truth?

It didn’t matter. This time she wouldn’t end up brokenhearted and disillusioned because she wasn’t giving Lucas the chance to do either.

They arrived at the benefit twenty minutes late, and it would have been thirty if Lucas hadn’t tipped the driver to speed. Regardless, heads swiveled as they entered the ballroom, and Cia struggled not to duck behind Lucas.

“What are they looking at?” she whispered. “I told you there was no such thing as fashionably late.”

“Maybe they know you’re not wearing any panties,” he said, a lot more loudly than she would have liked, and made her skin sizzle with a sinful leer.

She smacked his arm with her clutch. “Maybe they know you stuffed them in your pocket.”

The swish of fabric alerted her to someone else’s presence. Lucas’s mother. She stood right in front of them, and as far as Cia knew, still possessed working ears. Cia’s smile died as heat climbed across her face.

“Lovely to see you, Mrs. Wheeler,” Cia croaked. The fire in her face sparked higher. “I’m sorry, I mean Fran. You’d think it would be easy to remember. I don’t like being called Mrs. Wheeler, either. Makes me feel like an impostor.”

Where had that come from? She sealed her lips together before more stupid comments fell out, though dragging her son’s sex life into public had probably already killed any warm feelings her mother-in-law might have developed over afternoon tea.

The older woman’s cheeks were a little pink, but she cleared her throat and said, “No problem. I couldn’t answer to it for at least a year after Andy and I married. Such a big change in identity. Wait until you have kids and they start calling you ‘Mama.’ That one’s worse, yet so much more wonderful.”

Another couple joined them, and Cia was caught up in introductions instead of being forced to come up with a neutral response to Fran’s casually thrown out comment. It didn’t stop the notion from ricocheting through her head.

Kids. No, thank you.

Lucas’s warm hand settled at the small of her back as he talked shop to the couple who had asked Fran for an introduction. The wife needed larger office space for her CPA business. Cia smiled and nodded and pretended as though she wasn’t imagining how Lucas would approach fatherhood.

But she was.

He’d kiss her pregnant belly while peering up at her through those clear blue eyes. He’d treat her reverently, fetching her drinks and rubbing her feet.

When the baby cried at night, he’d smooth Cia’s hair back and tell her to stay in bed while he handled it. Later, he’d throw a ball for hours with a little dark-haired toddler. Lucas would label it fun and insist work could wait, even if it couldn’t.

As quickly as those wispy images materialized, they vanished in favor of much clearer images of flashing lights atop black-and-white squad cars and grim-faced policemen who knocked on the door in the middle of the night to utter the words, “I’m sorry. The accident was fatal. Your parents are gone.”