My body prickled with lust, but something far deeper took hold of my heart.


I rose and followed her to the edge of the pool. She stood in the center of the water, her hair slicked back, her breasts barely covered by the shallow water. I itched to touch her, every splendid inch of her. I’d had her plenty, but somehow it was never enough to sate my daily hunger for her.

“Mind if I join you?” I could barely hide the tone suggesting that I wanted more than I was asking for.

She smiled. “Of course not.”

I stripped and stepped into the water, just cool enough to be refreshing. I walked toward her and stopped before we touched. We were inches away. I wanted her desperately. I wanted to haul her against me and show her exactly how much. But I waited, harnessing my patience.

After a long moment, she reached for me. Her fingertips trickled lightly up my torso. I caught her hand gently, holding it against my heart where it raced beneath my ribs. Every bittersweet ache, every rush of love felt there belonged to her.

Her lips parted and a single step closed the small distance between us. Unable to hold back any longer, I reached for her, gliding her against me. The water rippled around us. I brought her arm around my neck and she repeated the motion with the other, clasping her hands at my nape, holding us close. Her warmth radiated against me, and I released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

“Erica,” I murmured, capturing her lips in a slow kiss. My wife. The twenty-two-year-old beauty who’d taken over my life and made everything else fade into the background. I wanted to give her everything, and if I couldn’t, I had to give her enough to make up for what all the others had taken away.

I swore it, a silent vow made when I slid the ring onto her finger and made her mine forever. I wanted to give her the solace that I could only find when we made love.

Every time meant more than the last.

Thoughts circled around the crazy love I felt for her, channeled into the gentle melding of our mouths. She hummed, nibbling my lip, sending a surge of blood south. I pulled back a fraction, catching my breath, but she pulled me to her again. I groaned, pressing against her firmly. I wanted her now, here. But something stopped me.

I cupped her cheek, gazing into her eyes now clouded with desire. I searched for an answer to a question I hadn’t been able to ask her yet. I didn’t want to see the hurt there, in the pale blue depths that matched the ocean around us.

A small wince wrinkled her brow. “What’s wrong?”

My beautiful wife . . . I ran my thumb across her lips. “I want to ask you something, and I want you to tell me the truth.”

“Ask me.”

“Erica . . .” I paused, the words knotting in my throat for a moment. “Do you really want a baby?”

She stilled and tried to look down, but I wouldn’t let her. I tipped her chin, lifting her gaze to mine.

“Tell me,” I whispered. “I want to know if this is what you really want.”

She swallowed and slid her hands down to my chest. “I want to share every possible experience with you, Blake.”

“I want that too.”

“I don’t know if we’re ready, but . . .”

“But what?” I asked, keeping my voice steady, objective. I wouldn’t let on how my heart thundered in anticipation of her confession.

She drew in a deep breath. “I’m scared that if we wait . . . that we’ll never get a chance.” She pulled the edge of her lip between her teeth. “It’s so soon. Maybe too soon. I don’t know if it’s something you could possibly want right now. And, also . . . I don’t want to disappoint you.”

I grasped her hand in mine and squeezed gently. “That’s impossible. You know that, right?”

Her gaze flickered to mine, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.

Meanwhile a hundred disjointed thoughts whizzed through my mind. I’d narrowed my vision of the world to encompass only work for so many years. Then my relationship with Erica had changed how I saw everything. Widening that view further to accommodate the possibilities of parenthood was new. Not unwelcome, but unsettling in its own way. The question of having children was never one I’d had to answer until circumstances threatened the possibility altogether. Then suddenly, the resounding answer in my mind was yes. I wanted to give Erica a baby. I wanted to watch her grow round with our child. I wanted that experience, as thrilling and terrifying as it seemed.

Everything was uncertain now. When, how, if . . . Worst of all, so much of it was beyond my control.

I could hack my way into some of the most sophisticated systems in the world, but I had no control over the science of her body and the damage that had been sustained there, the consequences of which still remained to be seen.

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