My skin heated in an instant. I was sure I was burning up all over. “Show me,” I whispered, daring him on. He wedged a strong leg between my thighs, spreading my legs open. He lowered himself to me, grinding his pelvis against me in the most excruciatingly slow tease. My brain cells decamped, and rational thought fled the building. Here, on my couch, with music playing faintly in the background, the sounds of Los Angeles evening traffic from the nearby avenue filtering through the open windows, all I wanted was him. He hadn’t even kissed me, and I was desperate for more.
“Take it back,” he said again, his voice a hot whisper on my neck. My eyes fluttered closed with the scratch of his stubble against me, and the slow grind of his hard-on against the fabric of my jean skirt. I willed him to push it up, to gather my skirt at my waist and tug down my panties, but that was the hormones talking. I knew I wasn’t ready to be naked with him.
But even as lust clouded my brain, I managed to speak. “I’m just teasing. I like you, William,” I said, laying out the truth. I opened my eyes and looked into his, and they were filled with satisfaction, but happiness, too. “You know that, right?”
“I know. I just like hearing it,” he admitted.
“And I’m really glad you’re following them. Not only because I want to know what they’re up to but because I like that we’re working together,” I said, looking up at him. I was still pinned, my arms above my head, my wrists in his hands, and I loved every second of this position.
“Me, too,” he said softly.
“I feel like we’re partners, and it means a lot to me that you’re doing this and helping. I know you’re trying to get a job with your uncle’s firm, so the fact that you’re doing all this for me means so much.”
“I want to help, Jess. I want to help you,” he said, his voice sweet as he spoke in a bare whisper. Gone were our usual playful barbs and snark; in their place was only honesty and vulnerability. Those twin emotions scared the hell out of me, but they also felt good. I wasn’t accustomed to being vulnerable and letting down my guard, but I’d come to trust William. And I was starting to see—or to feel—the benefits of letting him in. This afternoon at the diner, he’d been so caring. Like he was now, too.
Which made me realize that was yet another trait he had in the positive column.
“I like it when you help me,” I whispered, and he let go of my wrists to bury his hands in my hair and kiss me. It was a tender kiss, one that made me tremble as he swept his tongue across my lips, taking his time before he deepened the kiss, all while running the pad of his thumb along my jawline. There was something so gentle, but possessive, too, about the way he touched my face as he kissed me. My heart leapt in my chest, like it was trying to get closer to him.
As soon as that thought touched down in my head, I tensed. Because I was falling for him. Big time. I had no clue what liking him this much would do to me. To my control. To my studies. To my quest to stay healthy. To my future. Especially when his future was so uncertain. I stopped the kiss. He pulled back.
“Are you okay?” he asked, brushing my hair away from my cheek.
“Yes,” I said, then swallowed. I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t reveal all that I was starting to feel.
“Are you sure?”
“You don’t look okay,” he said, moving off me to lie next to me. “What happened? I think you kind of checked out. I’m a terrible kisser, right?” he said, flashing me that trademark grin that melted me all the way to the ends of my hair and the tips of my toes. That feeling—like happiness flooding through my veins—was enough to make me talk. I didn’t want to lose this sensation, even for a moment. It was a feeling that wasn’t borne from doing well in school or nabbing a photo or checking off another item on my to-do list. It was from falling.
“You know I love kissing you. I was just thinking about what happens when…” I let my voice trail off.
He picked up the thread easily. “When I might have to go back to England?”
“Me, too,” he said in a soft voice, as if the question weighed on him.
“I mean, I like you. But what can this even be? It’s so hard to find a job.”
“I know,” he sighed heavily. “Trust me. I know.”