“Oh,” I breathe, hot moisture pressing behind my eyes. “Thank you.”

My voice wobbles on the you and Jason’s head snaps up. Tilts. There are a thousand things in the way he looks at me. He knows the wine is important, but he’s a little irritated that I still didn’t expect him to get it right yet—which is so this man’s personality. Or maybe he’s irritated that I have cause to get emotional over someone remembering what I like. What I choose. Or it could be he hates the fact that I’m crying at all. Mainly, the way he looks at me says he’s totally content trying to figure it all out. Just content to stand there with me and get to the bottom of everything in my universe. I’ve never felt more seen in my entire life.

I don’t realize my fingers have stopped working until the spatula drops on the floor. And then I’m kissing him. Initiating without hesitation. Jason’s eyes flare, then close, his arms opening to greet me. Hold me tight. It’s the full-on movie kiss I’ve always dreamed about. He turns a little to give us privacy, resting the back of my head on his bicep. His mouth slants over mine in a slow roaming of tongues, his thumb sliding along my cheek. Dropping away. I feel him grip the counter against my hip and register how hard he’s clinging to it. His mouth is casual, but the rest of him is not. There is nothing casual about the deafening rap of his heart against my ear.

Nothing about us is casual during an unplanned kiss in his kitchen. Or about how it makes me feel. Like I’m slipping into impossible territory.

That thought forces me to break the kiss and step back.

Dark eyes watch me go, that white-knuckled grip still on the counter.

Searching for a way to break the tension, I seek out Birdie and find her covering her eyes with both hands. “Is it over?” she asks. “I’ve learned my lesson. Swear.”

“Good. And yes, the threat has passed.” I clear the sex from my voice, highly aware of Jason moving behind me to take over dinner preparations, his energy snapping like a rubber band against my skin. “One lesson done, on to another.” A light bulb goes on over my head and I reach for my purse, taking out the flash cards tucked inside the inner pocket. “Only a week away from the pageant. Let’s do some question round prep.”

Birdie throws up her hands dramatically. “Haven’t I been punished enough?” She makes an air bubble in her cheek. “Fine, maybe a couple. Just don’t ask me where I see myself in five years. I hate that one.”

Relenting, I flip to the next card. “If you could wake up tomorrow and have gained one ability, what ability would you choose?”

“Flying is the only answer. Everyone else is lying.” She taps her fingers on the table and I decide to let her off the hook with that informal answer. “What about you, Jason?”

He only takes two seconds to respond. “The ability to be two places at once.” Silence passes while I read between the lines of that. “Naomi?”

Same answer, I want to say. But it would lead to what ifs we can’t afford. “I was asked this question once during a pageant and I said I wanted the ability to always know the correct course of action that would benefit the greater good.” I blow out a breath. “What I really meant was…flying.”

Our laughter fills the kitchen.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

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Fine, I’ll be serious, everyone. Calm down.

Seriously, though. Has anyone checked Runaway Girl’s web history?

I could really use some new porn suggestions.

Naomi

There is no way to get this kitchen any cleaner. I’ve scrubbed the counters and now I’m going to town on the small appliances. Dinner ended forty-five minutes ago, Birdie retreated to her room as soon as she ate her last bite, mumbling about homework. Jason cleared the table and helped me load the dishwasher. Then he vanished, too, leaving me alone in the kitchen. Does this mean he’s waiting for me to leave?

My heart drops and I set the sponge carefully on the sink ledge, trying not to make a noise. If he’s waiting for me to take off, that would be fine. Fine. Just because we slept together this afternoon doesn’t mean it’s assumed I’m going to spend the night in his bed.

Actually, sleeping in Jason’s bed is a terrible idea.

It’s bad enough that I’m spontaneously kissing him and staying for dinner. Getting accustomed to his arms around me in the dark could be that final factor that makes leaving impossible. I definitely don’t need that. I don’t need to be a willing victim to my tipping point.

What am I still doing here?

Laughing semi-hysterically to myself, I pick up my purse and leave, my chin lifting higher with every step toward the chalet. Look at me! Doing this casual thing! Maybe we’ll see each other tomorrow. Maybe we won’t. It’s an honest-to-goodness mystery!

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