“That if I had known it would be the last time, I would have that I would’ve kept you up all night exploring every inch of you curves,” I admitted.

I had replayed that night in my head a hundred times or more. I wished I’d held her in my arms kissed her lips more, made sure she looked in my eyes as she came.

“Your big vindicating argument is you would’ve fucked me longer? Gotta say, you’re not impressing me here,” she had a warning note in her voice.

I decided to change tactics. “Talk to me. How are the kids? Is your staff staying on?”

“They’re job hunting and going to interviews. The kids don’t really get what’s going on, except a few of the four-year-olds. But they’re mostly excited because they think their parents will stay home all day to play with them,” she sighed, sounding tired.

“You’re exhausted, and you’re worried about everyone but yourself,” I observed.

“Oh, trust me, I’m worried about myself too,” she said, voice edgy. “Like the fact that there are no daycare centers in need of an administrator or lead teacher, and the jobs that are open don’t pay worth a crap. Unless I want to move two hours away from my family and friends, I’m going to have to change my career path. So, maybe as you say, changes are in order. Unwelcome changes.”

She took a drink of her coffee, grimaced, and I handed her a sugar packet. She emptied it into the cup and stirred it around.

I met her eyes, and it was a long look full of meaning. She was hurt, angry at me, but the want was still there. Lust, if not the something more I hoped for. I could work with lust. I reached over and took her hand in mine and lifted it to my mouth. I kissed the inside of her wrist, the sensitive skin there. I felt her pulse leap. She drew back, but I knew she’d felt the same sizzle I had.

“How’s life in the city? Closing factories and taking names?” she said wryly.

“More like working out, going to meetings, talking to my brother. He’s building homes for vets now with a nonprofit. It’s a temporary job. He hasn’t found his place yet,” I said.

“Who has?”

“I’ve been someplace a few times that I’d like to stay.”

“Oh yeah? Where?” she asked.

“Nothing in my life has ever felt the way I did when I was with you, Maggie,” I ventured.

“Just because it felt good doesn’t mean it was the right thing,” she said, “what I’m thinking now is you may have ruined me.”

“For other men, I hope,” I said archly, keeping it light enough to stay out of deep waters.

“No one has ever touched me the way you did. I’m not sure anyone can,” her voice was soft.

“It would be a shame to miss that for the rest of your life. When I’m right here.”

“Well, I guess I could just drift from man to man, trying out their skills, ranking them on, shall we say a spreadsheet? I’d need to assign an acceptable green value to one column,” she said sarcastically.

I was clenching my fists. Even though she was just trying to goad me, I had grown hot with jealousy. I wanted to vault across the table at her and start kissing her neck, unbutton her jeans and remind her whose she was. She enjoyed watching me squirm like that, unable to hide my primal urge to claim her, to end the conversation by blowing that scale away.

“Are you interested in what your score would be on that scale?” she asked.

“If you want to tell me,” I said noncommittally.

“Or do you think that some things go beyond simple numbers? That what’s on a spreadsheet can’t tell the whole story?”

“Clever girl, but I can’t hop in a time machine, go back and force Hadley to keep the plant open. You made your point, but it’s nothing more than a talking point,” I said, partly irritated, partly relieved we weren’t talking about her future sex partners.

“So would you say that it made you angry when I talked about quantifying something that you considered sacred?” she challenged.

“Yes,” I said readily. “It did.”

“Did you want to slap me?” she teased.

“That isn’t what I wanted to do to you, and you know it.”

I was hard for her. I had already wanted her but sparring with her this way turned me on so much.

“Oh really? So what did you want to do?” she purred.

“Several options,” I said through gritted teeth, “all of them involved you naked beneath me.”

“Do you remember asking me back to your room that first night?” she said.

“Of course I do. You refused.”

“Ask me again,” she said.

“If you’re setting me up just to turn me down, I’m probably going to flip a table,” I said, not entirely joking. I was so on edge.


Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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