Molly kept her foot on the brake, one hand on the steering wheel, and the other clutched around her cell phone. Even with the interior light, it was hard to read the numbers on the back of Nick’s card. With each ring, she became convinced she dialed the wrong number or that he’d taken a detour and hadn’t reached home yet. She was pretty sure she had the right building — a modern four story above an underground garage and fronted in redwood and expansive windows. A pair of glass doors scrolled with brass led to a compact lobby. It was the kind of place she envisioned Nick living in. Lights blazed from a first and third floor unit. She wondered if he hunkered down in one of those. If not, maybe he’d decided to indulge in a super-sized taco at his favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant out in the Mission.
The thought of food turned her stomach into a pit of tangled nerves. Her palm had sprouted so much sweat, it was a wonder the phone didn’t slide out of her hand. Four rings and still no answer. Two more and she’d put the Chevy to the test and find out if it could do zero to sixty in ten seconds. Every reason to come this far started to sound like psychotic babble. Maybe she was just plain crazy and not just crazy in love with Nick. She let an extra ring go by. Then it cut off, and he came on the line.
Her heart took a detour into her throat, muting her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them wide. “Hi, Nick. It’s me.”
“Molly.” Almost a whisper. “Where are you?” he said in a stronger tone.
“I’m double parked outside your building. I drove around the block twice and across the avenue and couldn’t find any place to park. Someone pulled a truck up onto the sidewalk in front of the building next door. If I do it, too, I’m afraid I’ll get a ticket or towed or whatever they do in this part of town.” She couldn’t stop babbling.
“Don’t go anywhere.”
By the time she reached the point of telling him she’d try the next block once more in case someone left to go on a late date or to work the night shift — babble, babble — he had charged out the front door of his building. Shirtless, his jeans were open at least a couple of inches below the waist. She sucked in her breath.
“Oh,” she exhaled into the phone. “You’re here.” She reached over and unlocked the door.
He slid into the seat beside her. A shock of dark hair fell across his forehead and curled close to his ear. Damp. Not from the rain. That had stopped while she’d sat in her car in SoMa for twenty minutes and debated whether or not to follow him home. Finally, the self that controlled her heart won over the measured one that programmed her head. He didn’t touch her. Maybe he feared he’d frighten her off, which was silly. Now he was so close, only the gear shift kept her from leaping into his lap. Her nerves had settled; she’d made the right decision.
“There’s no place to park.”
“The stall next to mine is empty. My neighbor drove down to LA and won’t be back for a few days. Back up and pull all the way into the driveway in front of the grate. I’ll raise it from inside the garage.” He slid halfway out of the car, then ducked his head back in. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Once outside, he sprinted back into his building. Anxious? A moment later, he reappeared in the underground parking area. He engaged something on the side wall, and the security gate rose. She pulled ahead, and he climbed back inside the car and guided her into an empty slot.
He didn’t touch her until he helped her out of the driver’s seat. As they walked toward an elevator, he held her hand. Then he put his arm around her while they ascended. She leaned against him. Neither spoke. She had no trouble figuring out his apartment when they reached his floor. It was the one with the wide open door.
“Someone was in a hurry.” She stepped inside.
He pulled the door closed, then took her in his arms and held her. His heart thumped against her chest. Now that she was calm, he seemed nervous.
“I’m glad you changed your mind.” Then he kissed her slowly, gently, as if she were made of fine porcelain and liable to shatter if he pressed too hard. Hmm. She liked that he hadn’t backed her up against a wall and started groping her private parts. He understood something she thought important about a sexual encounter, at least the first one. Don’t morph into Cro-Magnon Man.
When the kiss ended, Nick took her hand and led her into the living room. Although dim, furniture shapes stood out — sofa, club chair, coffee table. Only one picture hung on the wall — the Golden Gate Bridge lit at night. No clutter. Not even a beer bottle or program guide on the coffee table.
“You’re pretty neat.”
“I don’t spend much time here.”
Out on the prowl a lot? She stopped before she almost blurted it. Why remind him about other women in his life? Even if it turned out she wasn’t destined to be the one.
“Is that the kitchen?” A light burned behind a glass panel above the stove.
“Yeah. Are you hungry?”
“Hmm.” Now that her stomach had settled and her nerves were behaving like good little children, she could eat a twenty-ounce T-bone steak. Wasn’t a craving for food supposed to happen after sex? “Are you?”
“I guess so. I could order something in if you don’t mind waiting.” He sounded as enthusiastic as a man stuck out in the open in a lightning storm.
“Isn’t there anything in the refrigerator?”
“Well, yeah, but nothing fit to eat.”
She smiled and gave him a quick hug. “I could go for some junk.”
She headed for the kitchen before he could stop her. He followed a step behind. She dropped her purse on the table. He hung up the phone, grabbed his shirt off the counter, and threw it over the back of a chair.
“Let’s see.” She opened the refrigerator door and took a quick inventory. She gathered a few pieces of fruit and laid them on the counter. “Oh, good, I love kiwi.”
He frowned. “Stuff like that will make your hair fall out.”
“We’ll see.” She rinsed off a waxy red apple. “Do you have any knives?”
He opened a drawer and handed her one. She sliced up half the apple. “Here.” She offered him a couple of thin wedges.
“If that’s what it takes.” He pushed the apple slices into his mouth.
“How come all the healthy food?”
“My mother is on a crusade.”
“She worries about you.”
He shook his head.
Molly smiled. “Try this.” She held up a peach. He eyed it as if it might explode on contact with his mouth. “Come on. You survived the apple.” She brushed at the wayward lock on his forehead. “You still have your hair.”
He took the peach and bit into it. Then he handed the rest to her. She consumed everything, even the bits that clung to the core, which she dropped into the sink.
She skinned half of the kiwi, sliced off a section and put it in his hand.
“Is this the penalty phase?”
“Have you done anything to warrant a penalty?”
He brushed her cheek with his thumb. “Not yet.”
She bit down along the side edge of her bottom lip.
“I won’t play rough, Miss Molly.”
She almost cut her finger as she skimmed off another piece of kiwi.
He swallowed the fruit and grimaced.
“Do you want any more?”
Moist green particles clung to her fingers. “Do you have something I can put this in?”
“Yeah.” He took what was left of the kiwi and tossed it in the sink. The knife followed. Then he took her hand and sucked her fingers one at a time. He went about it with slow, erotic deliberation, as if enjoying the taste of the fruit this time. He kept his eyes on hers, eyes that had darkened with need and wanting.
That triggered a hot, tingly sensation that never made it to Molly’s toes. It pit-stopped right at her deepest core, and she got all twitchy. She’d been with men before, well, three, anyway, and this feeling had never hit so fast or so hard. She hadn’t been in love with any of those others. She was in love with Nick.
When he finished tasting her fingers, he kissed her palm. She wanted him to start on all her other body parts, but she didn’t want to rush him. He put his hand on the back of her neck and drew her in close. The fragrance of fresh fruit mingled in the air with the scent of manly soap that clung to him. She laid the back of her hand against his bare chest. Hair tickled her skin. The dark swirl trailed down his chest, over hard muscles, and into the partial opening of his jeans. She squashed the impulse to follow its path. Tonight, sex in his kitchen held no place on her menu.
His fingers threaded through her hair. His mouth came down on hers with a passion that stilled her breath. Whatever had pumped up his heartbeat earlier had apparently quieted, and he was back in full command. His mouth tasted like fruit salad, and Molly wanted to eat her way through every last speck of it. His tongue did a circuit inside her mouth, and he pulled her in so close she felt his ribs against the undersides of her arms.
Finally, he let her go. “I guess that’s one way to get your vitamins.”
She looked at him and grinned. “And I practically had to force you.”
He lifted her onto her toes. She pressed her fingertips into his broad shoulders and tried to climb onto his hips. Her skirt scotched the attempt.
She didn’t have to give him instructions. He released the button, opened the zipper and drew the skirt down her legs. She stepped out of it, and he tossed it in the direction of a chair and caught the seat.
“Well, you fixed that problem.”
He nipped the tip of her ear. “That’s me. Mr. Helpful. No job too big or too small.”
She was left wearing shoes, panties, her bra, and a blouse. He rubbed his hands up the backs of her thighs, and her muscles rippled.
“Want to try that last maneuver again?”
He put his hands on her butt and lifted her up onto his hips. She wrapped her legs around his waist and twined her arms around his neck. Her heart beat in quick-step time. She pressed close against his bare skin and the toned muscles beneath it. Her pulse ricocheted when he kissed her throat. His fingers slipped beneath her blouse. Goose bumps that must have equaled robin’s eggs popped up across her back.
“Another thing,” he said.
“Your bra is too tight.”
“I suppose Mr. Helpful can do something about that, too.”
“Quicker than you can say, ‘Open sesame.’”
He undid the buttons on her blouse as well. A minute later, she was down to shoes and panties. God, the slow pace drove her crazy. Maybe he waited for her to pick it up. She didn’t know his preference — did he like aggressive women or did he prefer to take the lead? When it came to sex, she’d never been a take-charge kind of woman. The anticipation of being with him changed that. Now she couldn’t wait for him to get right to it. Her body slid a few inches down his. He was rock hard. How long could he last?
“Let’s continue this in the bedroom.”
“Mind reader,” she whispered in his ear.
Seconds later, she was in a room where slanted blinds let in diffused light. The bed was king-sized and covered with a white top sheet. A large mirror hung above a double dresser. She watched herself and Nick in it as he set her down on the foot of the bed and knelt to take off her shoes.
“You’re not going to need these.”
That left her skimpy bikini panties.
She hoped this was another “open sesame” moment, because she was ready for him to get her naked and himself, too. She was really, really ready for that. The other times she’d touched him, he’d been dressed. In retrospect, she might have thought overly so. She thought exactly that now, even though she was certain he wasn’t wearing Calvin Klein briefs under those jeans. A man in a hurry. She wanted to see every part of him, not just the broad back she stared at in the mirror. She wanted to touch him all over.
When he stood, she reached for his zipper. “I can’t think of a single reason why you should need these.”
Noting the bulge behind his zipper, she took care not to emasculate him and slid it down slowly. He popped right out, in perfect proportion. Like all the other parts of his body. Did size matter? That was one problem she wouldn’t have to worry about. She had to remind herself not to come right then, but it was a struggle. She couldn’t look away, but she couldn’t seem to do anything but look.
He sunk his fingers into her hair and kissed the top of her head. “You’d better finish what you started.” His tone was ragged, and his breath came fast and rough.
She slipped her hands under the waistband of his jeans and slid them down over his buttocks and long muscular legs. He kicked off his Docksiders then his jeans. Her mouth opened as she pulled in her breath. A really aggressive woman would have put that mouth to better use. She decided to hold hers in reserve for another night, if he invited her back. Instead, she took him in her hand and lightly stroked the long rock-solid shaft with her thumb nail. A groan ripped from deep inside his throat. After a while, he took her hand away.
“Maybe we’d better save that for later.”
She looked up into his eyes. “I thought you could leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
He kissed her palm, the one that had been wrapped around his engorged penis. “I learned a lot on the way to becoming a man. One of the most important things I remember was never to come in a woman’s hand. I don’t want to come until I’m inside you. Then not for a long while, either.”
Her abdominal muscles bunched in anticipation.
He picked her up, carried her to the side of the bed, and dropped her right in the middle. He knelt back on his heels beside her, got his thumbs under the waistband of her panties and slipped them down and off. A delicious shiver followed their path down her legs then rebounded into her chest. They disappeared over the side of the bed. Now her clothes were in two different rooms, and she was in no hurry to collect them.
He gazed down at her sprawled naked on the sheet. “Gooooood golly … Miss … ” He half sang the intro then stopped. “How often must you have heard that one.”
“Pretty often, but never quite that way.” She grinned.
He leaned down and over her and started at her throat with wet, hot kisses, then moved slowly down to the soft ridge between her collarbones. She stroked one side of his face with the tips of her fingers. The skin felt almost emery board rough now. A shudder slid from her head to her feet and she imagined the feel of it against the rest of her body. He cupped one breast and took it in his mouth and licked and sucked the nipple. That sent a spasm into the V where her thighs converged: Could he have got her any hotter or wetter?
He cupped both her breasts in his hands and rubbed his chin lightly against her nipples, barely grazing them. She gave a little yelp as a streak of pleasure surged through her. She sank her hands in his hair and pulled his head up. He gave her a deep, hungry kiss that went on so long she wondered if she’d ever breathe again. When he slid his mouth away, she touched her lips with her fingers. No one had ever kissed her like that. She could still feel the residual buzz of current that spread across her mouth.
He kissed her throat and the cleft between her breasts, then worked his way down her abdomen with the tip of his tongue. He ended at her navel where he circled the indentation. His hand glided up the inside of her thigh, and she squirmed and opened her legs further. He stroked her with his thumb, unhurried, and touched the spot between her legs that made her gasp with pleasure. Was this good? Oh, yes, better than good. So much better she couldn’t find a fitting word for it. Hellaciously fantastic was as close as she could come. Come. God, don’t let her do that. Still, she felt herself edging closer.
“Nick.” A ragged sound rasped from her throat. She watched in the mirror as he touched and tormented her. She reached down and dug her hands through the hair at the sides of his head. “I think you should … you know … ”
He dragged his mouth up her body until it almost touched her parted lips. “Get down to more serious business?”
“Hmm, yes, more … ”
He leaned across the bed, opened a drawer in the nightstand and took out two foil packets. He left one on the stand, ripped the other open, and slid on the condom.
“Take fair warning. Once will not be enough tonight.”
She certainly hoped not.
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