Molly awoke from a sound sleep and gazed around the unfamiliar room. For a moment, she couldn’t figure out where she was or how she got there. Then her gaze settled on Nick. He lay on his back, one arm bent at the elbow and resting above his head on the pillow. He was naked and so was she. It didn’t take her aunt’s crystal ball to figure out why.
She sat up and glanced at the clock on the nightstand. The luminous dial showed 5:19. Yikes. She hadn’t been home in almost twenty-four hours.
Maybe she’d better not wake him. She slipped quietly from the bed. By last count, they’d made love three times. She remembered every moment, enough at least to plaster a smug, self-satisfied grin on her face. Was three times ever enough? Right now didn’t seem like the optimal moment to find out.
Her last recollection of her shoes and panties was they’d landed somewhere on the carpet at the foot of the bed. She began to hunt. Eventually, she found them and slipped them on. The rest of her clothing resided somewhere in the kitchen. Nick had left the stove light on, and she stumbled in that direction without a mishap.
She had her bra fastened and her skirt halfway zipped up when he appeared in the doorway. He raked his hands through his hair and walked into the kitchen. His jeans were on but only partially zipped. Serious stubble shadowed his face.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m getting dressed.” She reached for her blouse, which lay in a heap on the kitchen counter.
“I have to go home.”
He frowned. “What for?”
“I have to shower and change my clothes.”
“I have a bathroom with plenty of running water.”
She slipped on her blouse. “There are things in my bathroom I need.”
“Well, my toothbrush, for one.”
“Oh.” He frowned, then his expression brightened. “We can share mine.”
She smiled. At least he hadn’t offered her a brand new unopened one, like he kept a supply on hand in case of an unplanned sleepover.
“It’s a generous offer, but I have to decline.” This didn’t seem the right time to mention that after shampooing her hair, she’d require whole gobs of conditioner to tame it. He probably didn’t need any.
“I thought we’d have breakfast. I know a place that serves the best burrito within a hundred miles. I want to take you there.”
Did a quick bite in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint qualify as a real date? She liked to think so. The only other time they’d shared food, he’d won her in an auction. She glanced down at her skirt and blouse.
“I can’t go anywhere like this except home. My clothes are all wrinkled.” That would give the burrito crowd something to gossip about.
“I could probably round up an iron from somewhere.”
She almost laughed but swallowed it in case he’d take any levity as a sign she might weaken.
“Your neighbors might not appreciate being awakened at this hour.” She buttoned her blouse and tucked it into her skirt. Her mouth felt like it had sprouted cat fur and her body ached for a hot water-logging, skin-shriveling shower.
He held up his hands, palms facing her. Disappointment etched his facial muscles. “Okay, I suppose there are a bunch of girly things you have to do. I’ll drive you home.”
“My car is in your garage. I don’t need a ride.”
“It’s five thirty in the morning. I’m not going to let you drive home alone.”
She glanced at the wall clock. “It’s almost twenty of six. By the time I hit the street, it will start to become light.”
He came over to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Did I remember to tell you you’re one of the most stubborn people I know?”
She almost said, “Yes, along with your tenants,” but decided it best to stay away from the T word. Not after she’d had the most mind-blowing night of her life and wanted another.
“I’m a grownup. I can handle the streets at dawn. Lots of people will be on their way to work. I won’t be the only one out there.” Pale light had started to filter into the apartment through the balcony doors.
“Okay, I’ll concede round one. Round two is mine. I’m taking you down to the garage.” He fished his shirt off a chair and jammed his arms into the sleeves. While he worked on the buttons with one hand, he placed the other on her shoulder. She grabbed her purse. He led her to the front door.
He put his arm around her in the elevator. When they reached her car, she fished out her keys and pushed them into the lock. Nick opened the door, and she slid onto the seat.
“Promise me one thing,” he said.
“Next time, you’ll stay the night and have breakfast with me.”
Next time. “Sure.”
He closed the car door, and she pulled out of the slot. She headed up the ramp that led to the street and watched for traffic but mostly watched him. He stood in the opening of the garage, his hands on his hips. Her heart squeezed in her chest. Maybe it wasn’t hopeless after all. He’d said “next time.” He knew she wouldn’t turn traitor on his tenants. So maybe he had a plan. After all, he’d admitted he’d thought about her ever since that first day. He’d had almost two weeks to come up with a solution.
Maybe he felt more for her than he showed on the surface. Tonight must have told him something about her strong attraction to him. Would he equate that for love and return it? She smiled as she drove toward home, confident she was heading toward something good with him.
• • •
When her taillights disappeared, Nick closed the security gate and rode the elevator back up to his apartment. He usually never paid attention to the emptiness, but now that he’d admitted to it, without Molly there, it hit him even harder.
He shucked his shirt and pants and went into the bathroom and ran the shower. As he stepped under the spray, his mind turned into a movie factory that produced flickering images of him and Molly making love. It went on long enough for the bathroom to fill with steam and the water to turn cool. He remembered all the places he’d touched her and it turned him on, setting off fireworks in his head. No woman had ever excited him like that before. From that first day in her office, he’d thought about getting her naked. When it finally happened, he’d just let his body do all the thinking for him.
He toweled off and headed for the bedroom. He wondered if this thing he had going with her would turn into a documentary short or a full-length feature. There were a couple of Olympic-sized hurdles he still had to jump over — no, not jump, vault. Whether their movie lasted for ten minutes or two hours, he’d thread the first reel tonight after he took her someplace special for dinner. He’d walk over to her office later and set up the date.
He dressed in slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie, and was about to head for his favorite Mexican restaurant when his phone rang. His first thought was of Molly. He couldn’t think of anyone else who’d call him at six thirty on that particular morning. He took the call in the kitchen and almost said, “Good morning, sweetheart.” Good thing he held back. It wasn’t Molly on the other end of the line but a man who introduced himself as Detective Larsen.
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