“Lola?” My head jerks in response. “I’m not dating Lola.”
That seems to stun her. Her arm finally lowers, and her brows pinch together. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m not dating Lola.” I scoff from the thought. Not because she wouldn’t be great for someone, but she’s just not the someone for me. She’s not Chloe. “She’s the manager. Why would you think we’re dating?”
She looks away, the pain, the confusion, the anger dissipating. A light laugh escapes under her breath as she dabs the inner corners of her eyes. “Because the other night she came out . . . huh.” A harsh breath is sucked in, and her eyes go wide. She comes to me and taps the embroidered logo on my chef’s coat. “She works here? At Salvation?”
Her smile blooms like I’m sunshine after a storm. “And you work here, too?”
“I do.” I find myself much closer to her without realizing I’ve moved. It’s impossible to keep even the smallest of distances from her when my body yearns to feel her heat.
“But you weren’t wearing this jacket the last time I saw you?”
“I took it off for my break. I don’t like bringing the outside into my restaurant.”
“But you’re wearing it outside now?”
If I could touch her, feel the beat of her heart, I bet it would match mine. “Because I had to catch you.”
The invisible bars that have long divided us even after serving my sentence disappear. She asks, “Had to?”
“I had no choice. I never have with you.”
“You work here,” she says, now smiling as if it’s finally sinking in.
Shrugging, I feel the final belt of tension release into the air. “I’m the executive chef here.”
“That’s amazing.” Her voice is softer, her features gentler, as the rest of the world starts to invade our space once more. “Congratulations.” She fights against the infiltration, reaching for me. Her hand rests on my chest and I cover it, welcoming the connection, the tethers, the risk, the lust, and the red-hot desire to kiss her.
What am I doing?
So caught up in my head, I’m beginning to lose sight of what’s right in front of me. My mind spins through a million scenarios of how this will end badly, but for me, I’ve known all along that there can only be one outcome. I move in cupping her face. “I want to kiss you again, but I know it’s wrong—”
“It’s right, Joshua,” she says with full intention. How did I ever foolishly believe I could move on when everything we share feels the same as it did before?
This could never be wrong. “We will always be right.”
With hands caressing my face that would never let me fall, Joshua Evans kisses me like time, miles, and tragedy never separated us.
I kiss him again just to savor the feeling. My lips against his. To feed the craving and indulge in something that used to mean the world to me. Arms around his neck with my middle pressed to his, I lift up to relish the roughness of his chin scraping mine again, loving how we come together so easily.
We share a bond that has weathered emotional hurricanes. My fraying ends find his and we kiss. The pressure intensifying as my world is tilted on its axis, righted, after years of being off kilter. Our lips part, and our tongues embrace.
It’s been too long, so long, since I’ve been kissed like I’m someone’s everything. Since him. The universe whirls around us, stirring up the past but laying the first brick in the foundation of a possible future. We pull apart, lost for breath, and I open my eyes to find his already on me.
Staring at the man in front of me, my heart beating for the first time in years, I start to believe we might have a second chance. A tear slips down my cheek, and when he catches it on his fingertip, I start to cry in laughter. The rattle of my shoulders set free to shake as I delight in the feel of having emotions again.
He asks, “Are you all right?”
I nod like a fool because three things just made this the best night ever:
1. Joshua Evans is single.
2. Joshua Evans still makes me weak in the knees when he kisses me.
3. And I’ve never felt a kiss travel from my lips down to my toes except when I’m kissing Joshua Evans.
“I’m better than all right.” Throwing my arms around him, I kiss him again because of those three things. I feel the heavy warmth of what we were—what we are—in my veins. Because I feel alive in his kisses. Because I can. Maybe one kiss doesn’t mean anything, but one kiss with him always meant it all. And that just makes me feel a little less crazy.
Everything inside this act of passion comes complete with heart palpitations for this man. A horn from a passing cab startles us, bringing us back to the bustling Manhattan street. And we even receive a round of applause from a woman smoking nearby. Before we have time to take a bow, I hear, “Well, shit. I didn’t expect this.”