“Are you okay?”

He nodded. “I think so.” He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the wall. I took a washcloth from the basket near the sink and wet it with cold water. I wrung it out and knelt down near Cohen. I pressed the cool washcloth to his forehead.

He briefly opened his eyes. “Thanks,” he croaked.

“I feel terrible, Cohen. I didn’t mean...”

“You didn’t know. It’s okay. I should’ve asked, but I didn’t see any nuts.” He closed his eyes again and relaxed against the wall while I continued to dab the cool cloth against his flushed skin. He really was beautiful. I’d never recalled thinking of a man as beautiful before, but Cohen truly was.

He opened his eyes and studied me. I realized I’d stopped moving the cloth and was just staring at him. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing.” I moved the cloth to the back of his neck.

He dropped his head between his knees, giving me better access. “That feels nice.”

A pain sprang through my chest and I stood abruptly, suddenly needing some space away from this tender moment.

Cohen stood a minute later. “Sorry I ruined dinner.”

“Are you kidding? You do not need to apologize. I could have killed you.”

He chuckled. “I’m not deathly allergic. I just get really sick. Seriously, I’m fine now. And it tasted really good.”

“Before you threw it up?” I said wryly.

“Exactly.” He smiled.

I rolled my eyes. Boys. “Do you want to go lie down?”

“Ah, sure. If you’ll come with me.” He grinned. “We can watch a movie.”

“Sounds good.”

After we quickly cleaned up the kitchen, Cohen led the way back upstairs to his apartment where Bob was eagerly awaiting our return. Cohen kept him from mauling me, and I made a halfhearted attempt at petting him, but it was so obvious I wasn’t a dog person, Cohen just laughed and told Bob to go lie down. Bob flopped himself unceremoniously onto the wood floor and laid his head on his paws.

I looked around the living room for the first time noticing there was no TV. Before I could question how we were going to watch a movie, Cohen led the way to his bedroom.

There was a large flat screen television mounted on his wall across from the bed. “This okay?” Cohen held up the DVD case for a romantic comedy I hadn’t yet seen.

I stifled my surprise that he owned the movie, and nodded instead. “Sure.”

“Okay, pop it in. I’m going to go brush my teeth.”

He tossed me the case and I caught it easily. “I’m on it.”

I put the DVD in and settled on his bed and began watching the previews. I scooted over to my side, the side of the bed farthest from the door, remembering his notion that he’d protect me if anyone broke in. I scolded myself thinking a side of his bed was mine.

Just when I was starting to wonder what was taking him so long, I heard the sound of water running and a shower curtain being pulled back. Dirty thoughts flashed through my mind. Was that an open invitation to join him in the shower? Other than the odd lingering glance, Cohen hadn’t indicated he wanted to be anything more than friends. I had never really had a close guy friend, so this was sort of new territory for me, but I liked it.

A few minutes later, just as the previews were wrapping up, Cohen came back in the room, dressed in a pair of loose-fitting gym shorts and a white V-neck T-shirt. He settled onto the bed next to me, folding the pillow in half under his head and punching it into place. “Sorry, I decided to take a shower too.”

“No problem.” I looked over at him and smiled. His tan skin was delicious against the white cotton shirt. And he smelled like crisp, clean soap and a hint of spicy cologne.

I shifted closer and breathed him in.

“What?” He smirked.

“You smell good.”

“I do?”

I nodded. “Like soap…and…” I leaned in again to try and identify it.

He smiled. “Come here.” He held out his arm until I scooted against his side. He was warm and the firm muscles of his body felt amazing pressed against mine. It was times like this I couldn’t decipher his motivations.

The movie started but I was too distracted to concentrate on it, instead noticing Cohen’s bare feet which were long and tan, with fine light hair sprinkled on the top. Why had I never noticed before how sexy a man’s bare feet could be?

Cohen absently traced a slow pattern on the inside of my forearm, dragging his thumbnail down to my palm, and back up, over the inside of my wrist. I wondered if he could feel my pulse jump at the simple touches, if he realized the effect he was having on me. I snuck a glance up at his face, and he seemed to be oblivious, absorbed into the movie. Despite my body’s urgings I didn’t want to be the aggressor with Cohen. I may have had no problem in the past taking what I wanted, but I wanted him to choose me. And I wouldn’t do anything to interfere, as much as I might be tempted to.

I swallowed and lay completely immobile, waiting for his hand to make a more daring move, but he continued right on skimming his fingertips softly along my skin, seemingly unaware of the fact that he was turning me on. I decided upon conducting an experiment to see what kind of response I could provoke from him. I placed my hand flat on his stomach and waited for several minutes for him to get used to the contact. Then, I let my fingertips drift along his washboard abs, slowly gliding over his ribs, and then back down, stopping just above the waistband of his shorts. His hand stilled on my skin, resting at my pulse point and I knew he could feel its insistent thrumming.

He lifted up on his elbow to look down at me. I knew I was flushed and pink like I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. He placed a hand against my cheek, as if checking my temperature.

“You’re warm. Are you feeling okay?” His eyes met mine, narrowing with confusion and worry.

No I’m not okay, I’m horny as hell and you’re driving me crazy! “Fine, why?”

He shook his head, like he was clearing a thought. “Okay. I’ll just get you some water.” He stood from the bed and crossed the room.

I don’t want any damn water, I want some cock! I fell back onto the pillow with a huff. This boy was going to be the death of me.

When Cohen returned with the water, I dutifully swallowed the big gulp he insisted I have before he would join me on the bed again.

Once that was done, he nestled me in against his body and placed his arm around me, his fingertips absently skimming along my shoulder. My skin tingled all over. I was hyperaware of each tiny movement of his fingers, wanting him to touch me elsewhere, to explore more of my body. But this time when he picked up my hand once again and began rubbing my knuckles with his thumb, I tried not to read anything into it.

“Enjoying the movie?” he whispered.

“Mm-hmm.” I didn’t trust myself enough to form actual coherent words just then. The room around us had grown dark except for the faint glow of the TV, and the air buzzed with sexual attraction.

He turned my hand over and held it in his, continuing to massage my palms with the pad of his thumb. It was simple and innocent, yet completely fucking turning me on.

Cohen held my palm up and looked at it. “Your hands are tiny.”

My breathing turned shallow and I waited in anticipation for what was building between us, hoping it would advance beyond the just-friends stage.

“This is your life line.” He traced his thumb along the center of my palm, sending a ticklish rush through me. He brought my hand closer to inspect it in the dim light. “And your love line. But it stops abruptly right here.” He tapped near my thumb.

I let out the breath I’d been holding. “Yeah, I swore off the whole commitment thing years ago.”

“Bad experience?” He set my hand down between us.

“Something like that.”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Not really.” I never talked about him. Ever. Not even with Ashlyn. Cohen smiled at me sadly, like I was broken. I didn’t want him to feel pity for me. I didn’t want him to feel anything for me, except maybe desire. That wouldn’t be so bad. He picked up my hand again and laced his fingers with mine.

“I’m here if you want to talk.”

“Thanks.” I gave his hand a squeeze. Against my will, I found my mind wandering to my parents’ brutal divorce a few years ago, which was the other part of the story. The part I was more comfortable allowing myself to remember. “My parents had the catastrophe of all divorces during my freshman year of college. They don’t speak at all anymore.”

“Is that the reason you’re a commitment-phobe?”

“It’s part of the reason.” A small part. “What about you? Are your parents still married?”

“I never knew my dad. He took off on my mom when she was pregnant with me. She was only eighteen.”

“Wow. That must have been hard.”

“Yeah, but we managed.” His jaw flexed, and I backed off, sensing he didn’t want to answer questions about his past any more than I did.

Cohen continued to hold my hand throughout the movie and I rested my head on his chest, content with the silence between us.

When the movie ended, he turned it off while I stretched out on his bed.

He looked down at me and smiled. “Tired?”

I nodded.

“I’ve got to take Bob out. I can walk you home, or…”

“Or?” My eyebrow quirked up.

“You could sleep over again.”

I grinned up at him despite my best attempt to act cool and unaffected. “You like having me in your bed, rather than Bob?”

He laughed. “Hell yeah, Easy E. You smell a lot better too.” He leaned down and sniffed my hair. “Yep. Like flowers and sunshine.”

“Your bed is insanely comfortable. Let me just go down and get pajamas while you’re walking Bob.”

“Cool.” He smiled, seemingly happy.

We headed downstairs, and while Cohen took a stroll around the block, I dashed inside and brushed my teeth, set the dishwasher to run overnight and then picked out the perfect pajamas to tempt Cohen.

A teeny tiny pair of hot-pink shorts with the word SEXY written across the butt and a white tank top that had been washed so many times it had shrunk to fit snugly, the thin cotton hugging my breasts. Lastly, I stripped off my bra and hoisted the girls on display to show a little cleavage. There was no way Cohen wouldn’t notice these beauties. I giggled to myself and headed back outside.

Chapter 4

Cohen was waiting on my front porch to escort me back upstairs, Bob sitting by his side. Something tugged inside me. I liked that he’d waited rather than heading back upstairs without me. I’d started to feel slightly ridiculous about this slumber party, but when I saw him waiting patiently for me, all doubts were pushed from my mind. He wanted me to stay over just as much as I did. I couldn’t explain it, but maybe that was okay.

“Ready?” I locked my front door then turned to face him.

His eyes started at my face then travelled south, stopping at my chest. His lips parted just slightly and he inhaled a shaky breath. “Uh…yeah.” He ushered me against his side. “Cold?” He rubbed the length of my arm, unaware that my goose bumps had nothing to do with the chill in the air and everything to do with the desire I saw reflected in his eyes.

I was about to mutter something cute about him keeping me warm, when Bob chose that exact moment to stick his snout in the crotch of my shorts. Cohen chuckled and redirected the dogs face from between my legs.

Sheesh. Did I mention I hated dogs?

When we made it inside, Cohen got Bob settled for the night on the sofa, then directed me to his room. He waited for me to walk in ahead of him, and I couldn’t help giving my hips a little extra swing as I moved. Wearing those shorts out in public was probably illegal, considering the amount of leg—and even curve of butt cheek—that was peeking out from underneath.

I crawled onto the bed, my bottom hoisted up in the air on display. But when I got to my side of the mattress, and looked for Cohen’s reaction, he turned away quickly, and busied himself on the other side of his room, removing his jeans and folding them on top of the dresser.

I tugged the covers up around me.

We settled into bed, and Cohen rolled over to face me. “Is this weird—you staying here?”

I shook my head. “Not if we’re okay with it.”

He nodded.

Without realizing it, my hand had wandered onto his stomach. He shifted under my palm and inhaled sharply. I looked up and met his eyes. They were inquisitive and locked on mine. And even in the darkness of his bedroom, I could see his curiosity at what might happen next.

His hand came to rest at the base of my throat. It was heavy and warm. He lightly brushed his fingertips along my bare collarbone, tracing a lazy pattern on my skin. The roughness of his fingers against that soft, innocent patch of flesh set my heart racing. I wanted more.

I licked my lips, waiting. He bent his head down to mine, while at the same time burying his hand in my hair. He lightly kissed the corner of my jaw. “God you’re beautiful,” he murmured.

I swallowed roughly at his declaration. He was so open and honest. I didn’t want or need touching and romantic, but every caress, every gaze from Cohen felt like more. This was nothing like being with Stu and that scared the shit out of me.

I pressed my hand against his stomach, forcing him flat to the bed, then moved on top of him, one of my thighs on each side of his. He looked up at me, full of curiosity and desire. I leaned down and kissed his lips. His tongue found its way into my mouth and I pressed my hips into his while our tongues mingled and flirted. He was the perfect kisser. Not too timid, but not overeager either. His hand came up to cup my jaw and he tilted my head, finding the right angle to deepen the kiss. A wave of desire for him shot straight between my legs. I let out a ragged groan and Cohen placed his hands on my shoulders, applying pressure to break the kiss. I leaned back slightly and met his eyes. “Holy hell,” I muttered.

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