“I saw that. Thought I might walk with you, kitten.”

“You can’t call me that.” My eyes are on his shiny shoes, and for some reason my heart feels like it’s longing. Hearing him call me that sweet name makes me wish for something I can’t have. Something special and sweet that I’m incapable of being. But I can’t stop the want from stirring inside me.


“Why not?”

When he cups my chin with his other hand, I take a breath and look up at him. His dark greens are bright and soft. He’s looking at me like I’ve made his day by merely being alive, and it’s a shot to the heart. I take an involuntary step into his space, and his warmth welcomes me.

I’ve lost my voice trying to find an answer to a question I didn’t want him to ask. He puts me in this fog where I don’t remember why he can’t call me that, or why I can’t belong to him. I get too close and I forget everything but my need to be with him, and my desire to let him protect me.

A passing bus blows its horn next to us and I blink a few times, breaking the spell. I step away from his touch, dropping his hand and feeling his fingers on my chin slip away. The distraction is exactly what I needed, and I hate that I got it. I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself, so maybe I should send that bus driver a thank-you note. I’m cold without Captain’s touch, but I’m doing this to protect myself and it’s the right decision.

I walk in the direction of Osborne Corp and feel him at my side. This time I tuck my hands in the pockets of my dress slacks, grateful that I’ve got them. Pockets are usually in short supply in women’s clothing.

We walk in silence for two blocks, our steps in sync, and the rhythm is soothing. His silence and the click of my heels in time with the weight of his boots go a long way to calm my nerves. When we get to the coffee shop nearby, I look over and nod. He smiles at me, and my ovaries melt. Jesus, that man has a face Adonis would be jealous of.

“Red Bull, vanilla latte, blueberry muffin and a chocolate scone?” He asks the question, but he knows he’s right.

“Remembering my breakfast order is creepy, but I’ll give you points for being efficient,” I lie. It isn’t creepy at all. It’s sweet and makes me want to pull him to me for another one of those kisses. Stop it, Paige, I inwardly yell at myself. I have got to let this kiss stuff go. It’s taking up too much of my thought processes. It can’t be normal to think about a kiss this much.

I watch as he walks inside the shop and orders all that food. He’s going to get a large coffee and a bagel and cream cheese for himself. He never eats the bagel, always offers it to me. It’s annoying how much I like that.

I watch from outside as he gets his coffee and waits for the food. My eyes are trained on his full lips as he brings the cup up to his mouth, forms a little O and blows on the hot brew. Then he licks his lips, and I swear everything below my waist throbs as he puts his mouth on the lip of the cup and drinks. Watching him should not be turning me on, but I have to cross my arms because my nipples are now on high beams. I’m picturing all the things that man can do to me with his mouth when I hear someone say my name from behind me.

“Paige? Is that you?”

Turning around, I’m shocked when I see Patrick. He was one of the kids who lived near the restaurant I grew up in. We would play together in the back alleys when we were eight, and talk about running away. He came from a shitty home like I did, and when he disappeared when I was ten, I had assumed the worst.

“Patrick?”

Recognition dawns between us, and we both smile as we step forward for a hug. I wrap my arms around his neck and his wind around my waist. I could cry with relief. Patrick was the closest thing I’d ever had to a friend, but we were small kids. I have an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia seeing him, and a longing for a childhood I never had.

“What happened to you?”

“Where have you been?”

“This is crazy!”

We talk over each other, both asking the same questions at the same time. I stare at him. His big blue eyes and shaggy black hair give him that little-boy look still. He’s just a little taller than me, and just as skinny. He’s dressed in a Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirt and jeans, and I want to laugh.

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