Page 120 of We Were Once

He turns, looking down the alley, and then back at me, pushing me out of my comfort zone. “A hole in the wall, a bar, a walk along 5th Avenue?”

I start to laugh. “I guess saying private can mean many things.”

“There are plenty of places to go where no one is in our business, but I have a feeling you’re thinking more lowkey than Times Square.”

Be direct, Chloe. Say what you want. It’s Joshua. The one thing I could always be with him was me. “Your place or mine?” Doesn’t matter that we’re in the city that never sleeps, my heart beats wildly in my chest, making me wonder if he can hear it. I close my eyes just long enough to take a deep breath.

His mouth caresses mine—more pressure, roaming hands in my hair and on my neck, and then he comes to rest his forehead to mine. “God, I was hoping you’d say that.” His breath slips across my skin, his whispered words an aphrodisiac of what’s to come.

Operating off an unspoken plan, we start for a cab, but I jerk him back when I spy Trevor pacing while texting in front of us. Not wanting to be the receiving end of his agitation, or to put Joshua in the middle of it, I pin myself to the wall, out of sight, again, and tug Joshua close. “Any suggestions to get out of here undetected?”

“It’s always good to have an escape route.”

“Do I want to know—”

“No.” We start down the alley as he calls for a rideshare. When our request is picked up, he says, “They’re close.” Joshua holds his hand out for me. When I slip mine in his, he says, “Come on.” We hurry to the other end and hop in the back of the waiting car. The door is closed, and the blue sedan pulls into traffic. Soft jazz fills the tight space as I sit back on the gray velour seat.

While Joshua talks to the driver, I take the time to look at him, really look at him. I got a good look in the restaurant when he came to the table, but that was before we kissed.

This is insane. Wild. Out of control. But I can’t stop looking at the man he’s become.

In the back of the car, his features aren’t harsh, but handsome, highlighted by a myriad of colors flashing by outside the window. Dealing with Trevor has his jaw ticking and anger stiffening his build. That jaw is still just as sharp around the edges as it was in the soft glow of Salvation, but the anger isn’t there. The black shadows are higher in contrast against his skin, a side effect of less days to freely spend. Instead of hanging out in the park, sunbathing by the pool, or swimming in the lake, I sleep most days so I can work nights. I imagine his schedule is similar as a chef.

Resting back, he holds my hand in his lap like we do this all the time. Like it’s natural and not building excitement in my chest. Like I’m his and he’s mine. As if I know what every scar on his fingers is from and every new bump. Traveling in New York City traffic is never a quick endeavor, but the quiet between us isn’t so bad when we’re connected. It also gives me time to process what I’m doing.

I walked out on a date with Trevor League. The gossip back home caused by this might have been a concern for me once, but I just can’t seem to care now when Joshua Evans is looking at me like I just saved him. Galaxies of stars and questions, answers, and emotions lives in the depths of his vivid universe. I could stare into his eyes forever and never see the same thing twice.

His grin is contagious enough to entice mine to the surface. I say, “Never in a million years—”

“Did I think I’d ever . . .?” Troubling his brows, he narrows his eyes as he stares at our hands.

My smile falls, my heart scooting a few inches lower just in case it needs to plummet altogether. I muster the question, “Ever what?”

“I was going to say I didn’t think I’d ever hold your hand again.”

I see the way he peers through the windshield ahead, a little anxious even in the comfort of my company, like I am with him. Or maybe it’s nerves because whether we go to his place or mine, the privacy will be about more than sex. It will also mean addressing the elephant in the room. All the hurt and pain and time between that night and tonight.

The car stops not too far from the restaurant, and the driver eyes us in the rearview mirror. “We’re here.”

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance