He put his finger to my lips. “Don’t. Please. I don’t want an image of you with someone else in my head.”
“Why?” I couldn’t stop the question.
His lips tightened. “Because it makes me want to fucking beat the shit out of something—namely Geoff.” He seemed to gather himself and took a deep breath. “Do you still love him?”
“I do, but not in the way you think. At one time, I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with him, but people change. He’s part of my past—and I hope someday part of my future as a friend. There’s not a lot of people who knew my parents the way he did.”
A muscle in his jaw clenched, and I scrambled to explain how Geoff was part of my heart yet he didn’t own it. “Maybe it’s kinda like your sister-in-law Nora. You love her but it’s platonic.”
“Nope. I never dated her. We never even kissed. Not even close to the same.” He sighed as he stared back up at the sky. “I don’t want to talk about Geoff. Tell me some of the things your dad taught you about the stars.”
“Okay,” I said, letting it go. I showed him the constellation Leo the Lion. Raising my hands, I traced the triangle of eastern stars that made up the tail and hindquarters. I pointed out Regulus, the sparkling blue-white star. “Because Regulus is the brightest, it symbolizes the lion’s heart. Some of the ancient astronomers called it the King Star.”
He smiled. “If I’m a king, will you be my queen tonight?”
My stomach fluttered. “What happens tomorrow?”
He turned to look at me. “I don’t want to think about tomorrow right now. I just want to hold you while you tell me stories about stars and comets and whatever else you’ve got tucked up there.” He smoothed his fingers over my forehead. “I like hearing you talk about your parents because I don’t think you have in a long time. It—it makes me feel close to you—which is something I’ve never had with a girl. Shit, that’s stupid.” He shook his head.
“No, it’s beautiful. I feel the same. I’ve been barely breathing and now for the first time, I feel like I can take a deep breath. You do that to me.”
“Take all your deep breaths with me, V,” he whispered.
My stomach dipped. He spoke like a man in love, but perhaps he said that to all the girls.
We stared at each other, and I don’t know what he was thinking, but as for me…well, I was falling in love. Perhaps the emotion had been there for a while, but it had taken the shooting star to make me see the truth. The intensity between us became sharper, and I reached out to touch his face, wanting to open up to him—but he broke our gaze and looked hurriedly away. I sighed.
He snuggled me close and changed gears. “Okay, let’s hear more about how majestic this lion is. Was he as great as I am?”
I smiled and shook my head. “You are so full of shit, but as it happens, Hercules killed the lion and to commentate the victory, Zeus flung his body into the sky—hence the constellation.”
“Poor dude. At least everyone knows who he is.” He smiled. “Got anymore stories?”
“I’m not boring you?”
“You’re fascinating, V.” He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear. “This—this is the happiest I’ve been since I moved to LA.”
My heart stuttered at those words, but I pushed on, not commenting.
I nodded and went on to tell him about the other names of the stars I knew until finally I grew sleepy. He did too, his breathing in sync with mine as we held each other. Once he went to sleep, I gazed at him, my eyes tracing the lines of his face and memorizing them. I feared we’d never be this close again.
I sent one final glance up at the stars and rested my head on his shoulder.
We slept as the heavens watched.
HIS LONE FINGER traced a line from my shoulder blade down my spine, over the crest of my buttocks, and then back to my opposite shoulder blade. Slow and easy as if he had all the time in the world.
I kept the rise and fall of my chest steady and pretended to be asleep as he caressed me. He kissed the top of my shoulders, the puff of his warm breath followed by the gentleness of his nose as he inhaled my skin. Again, he outlined the shape, starting at the top, moving down the center of my back and then back up.
I shivered when I realized what he was writing. V.
His voice was gruff from sleep. Husky. Sexy. “You awake?”
My eyes blinked open just as the first peek of sunlight crested the trees on the hill in front of us. “It’s dawn,” I said, not masking the sadness in my voice.
He pulled on my shoulder, but I resisted, my heart still needing a minute to process that this had been a one-night thing.
“V, turn around.” His hand went to the curve of my hip and tugged. “Look at me.”
“No, I can’t. Not yet. I’m going to get up and find my clothes and go shower.” But I didn’t move.
A few beats of silence went by and then some rustling as he stood up. “If you won’t face me, then I’ll face you.” He walked around to my side and bent down to look at me.
I gasped. “Put some clothes on,” I hissed, darting a glance back at the cabin.
“It’s not even six. Spider is probably passed out, and Mila likes to sleep. We’re alone. Plus, you like looking at me.” He grinned and flexed a bicep.
There was that.
My eyes flared as he took my hand and pulled me up from the blanket. “What are you doing? I’m naked,” I said between my teeth chattering, and it wasn’t even that cold, but it was just him. Being this close to him. Loving him and now losing him.