“Mine is for show,” she said, opening the umbrella and stepping out into the steady rain. “Gramma’s is a cooking garden. She has about thirty varieties of herbs, a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and carrots, some garlic, cucumbers, bell peppers, lots of lettuce, and this year she’s even growing corn.”
There was also a small seating area, four chairs around a fire pit that doubled as a table. The chairs and cushions were drenched now, and there would be no way to keep a fire going in the pit even if they needed the heat, but on a cold winter night, it was a wonderful place to sit and be still.
“I had no idea this was up here.” Sam took a few steps, then sniffed. “I smell lemon.”
“That’s lemon basil. Gramma planted it around the path so it releases its flavor when you step on it.” She walked at his side, holding the umbrella high enough for him, too. “Quite a few of the buildings down here have rooftop gardens. You just have to be high enough to see them.”
They took the short tour—the only kind possible with a garden of that size—and wound up by the fire pit. He gave her a sly, good-natured grin. “This being the tallest building besides the courthouse and having the camouflage of the plants, you could do all kinds of things up here and no one would ever know.”
They were already standing close to stay dry, but when he said the words, he caught a handful of her T-shirt and snugged her even closer. Goose bumps raised all over her body, and her heart began pounding the way it had in the creek yesterday, though with a so very much more pleasant effect. She was torn between looking at him hungrily and suggesting he show her some of those things, and letting the familiar awkwardness take over and finding an excuse to go back inside. Instead, feeling a little shy, a little embarrassed and a whole lot unsure, she managed a smile and an uncomfortable admission. “I haven’t done all kinds of things anywhere. By the time I had the chance to meet other kids, I…didn’t know how.”
Meeting his gaze was one of the hardest things she’d done, but she forced herself. The look he gave her was tender, affectionate, sad, lustful, promising. A lot of things she’d never seen directed to her. Never imagined directed to her.
“It’s never too late to learn,” he murmured, sliding his arms around her, pulling her so close their bodies touched, his transferring heat to hers, and tingles, and butterflies, and fear of the good I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it kind.
Though mere inches separated their mouths, a lifetime passed, maybe two or three, before he kissed her, and all of them were good and happy and sweet. His lips were soft and warm, his body muscular and heated, his arms wrapping her in privacy and safety. Then he slid his tongue inside her mouth, and she was pretty sure her brain imploded. So much sensation, surprise, need, desire, weakness, curiosity, elation, shock, anticipation, greed. Oh, yes, greed. She’d never felt this way before, and she wanted more. She wanted it to never stop, wanted it to consume her, to make her a part of him. She wanted…oh, God, she didn’t know how to put it into words. She’d read about sex, of course. She’d read about incredible sex. But for a woman who had equated a man’s touch with pain her entire life, she thought maybe she hadn’t believed in it, or maybe it had been just one of those many things she wasn’t entitled to in her life.
Her lungs grew tight, her body started to tremble and tears burned her eyes. It was humbling, such need, such want. Was she worthy of it? After all she’d done, all the heartache she’d helped create, did she deserve this?
Sam stroked his tongue over hers, slid his hands beneath her T-shirt in back, caressed her skin. Lifting his head slightly, he nipped her lip, pressed his forehead to hers and laughed, but there was a strained quality to it. “We’re getting rained on.”
She looked blankly at him, aware of the damp on her cheeks, of the tears, then felt the heavy drops plopping on her head. The umbrella dangled upside down in her right hand, totally useless in the moment, but she didn’t care. “I—I—”
With the pad of his thumb, he dried a large drop from her cheek. “How long will Jessica stay at Mrs. Bushyhead’s?”