“Helen, this is my friend William,” I said, and William extended his hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Helen,” he said, sounding so proper, and it occurred to me how that was yet another side to him. Funny, smart, and polite. Manners ruled.
“I assure you, the pleasure is all mine,” she said with a wink, then said in a loud stage whisper. “He’s hot. Have double the fun for me, please.”
“Get out of here, Jess. You’re only young once,” she said, then tra-la-la-ed down the hall and away from me.
“I like your dog,” William said, as he petted Jennifer on the head, then turned his attention to the Great Dane–bullmastiff mix who was a gentle giant. “Well, hello, Jennifer. Aren’t you gorgeous?”
Her tail thumped against the floor.
“Don’t think you can work your little British magic on the dog, too,” I said. “She is immune to accents.”
“But you’re not,” he said, wiggling an eyebrow.
As we left, I shrugged an apology for Helen. “Sorry about Helen’s sauciness. She kind of has a thing for hot young guys.”
Once outside, he grabbed my waist and pulled me in close, his dark gray eyes fixed on me. The way he stared at me like he wanted me made me molten. My knees felt wobbly from his heady gaze. Those tingles racing through my body an hour ago? They had nothing on the handsprings my stomach was executing now. “What about your friend, Claire Tinsley? Does she have a thing for hot young guys? Especially the ones who speak many languages and catch volleyballs in their bare hands?”
“I thought we already made that clear,” I said, threading my free hand through his hair and planting a quick, hot kiss on his lips that soon became a deep, slow, intense kiss…the kind that melted me from the inside out and turned everything it touched into gold. His kisses made my head so hazy and my body so warm that I swore they could convince me of anything—the sky is purple, the sun rises in the west, and chocolate is calorie-free. All of that felt true in the way he kissed, turning my world inside out and upside down. All my ambitions, all my plans slinked away in the glide of his lips, the insistent explorations of his tongue, because all I wanted now was to spend the day in this cocoon of his sweet, sultry kisses under the sun.
I broke apart because my leg was wet. Jennifer was licking my calf, her way of saying time’s up, lady. She batted her big brown eyes at me and nudged my leg once more.
“I need to walk her back to my parents’ house before we head out,” I said, glancing at her jowly face.
“I’ll walk with you.” He reached for my hand. “I hope you know I adore kissing you.”
Kisses with him were spectacular. Add in his flirty, swoony words, chase them with a touch of naughtiness, and I was quickly sliding down the path to a frazzled brain. Like a marble rattling down a chute, he was poised to knock my carefully controlled life out of orbit.
The only saving grace was that his future was uncertain. He’d be leaving the country in two months if he didn’t land a job with a company that would sponsor his work visa. I held onto the possibility that we would never become more than a brief interlude our senior year of college. Neither one of us had the bandwidth for a relationship, or even for more regular dating. There were built-in barriers to protect me from falling.
I could erect more, though, just to keep my untamed heart and mind safe as safe could be.
“We should go,” I mumbled even though I wanted to sing, to shout, to tell everyone that I adored kissing him, too.
So. Very. Much.
* * *
William parked himself in a chair at the corner café next to J.P.’s office. “Back in five. I’ll tell your former short-lived employer you said hi,” I said as I opened the door to the building. I needed to get paid, and get the afternoon assignments.
“Yes. Please do that,” he said as he pulled out his iPad to work on homework while waiting for me.
“You liked my surprise pic?” I asked J.P. as I entered his dark and dimly lit confines.
“You made my day with it,” he said, swiveling the screen around to show me where the shot of Jenner at lunch had landed—the website On the Surface.
“Good. Now make my day, J.P. Why was Jenner Davies having lunch with a guy who runs a photo agency?”
“The guy in the photo,” I said, pointing to Keats on the computer screen on his desk. “The guy he’s having lunch with.”
J.P. stabbed his meaty finger against the other guy in the picture, the one who looked like a carbon copy of Keats.