His words swirled in her head as she waited for Tucker to finish his phone call. “I’ll take whatever I can get of you for as long as I can.” She enjoyed being in such close proximity to him; his calm contentedness resonated in her soul and calmed her spirit. And the fact that he wanted whatever he could get of her, and for as long as he could, well that just made her heart want to sing.
It freed her in a way she didn’t know she was previously held captive.
Her head said to take it slow, her body wanted to throw herself in his arms. Every time she took a single look at him her body warmed up. She craved his touch, the way he always held her hand as they walked, or took her arm, or the way he opened doors for her and placed his hand on the small of her back and she went through. Each touch magnetizing herself to him, despite her brain fighting to remain distant and objective.
She hated leaving him at the door when he walked her home. She wanted to let him in and share herself with him, but she knew he would be appalled; she certainly didn’t want to explain herself. She also didn’t want to fall asleep with him. Not that she didn’t want to be wrapped in his arms infinitely, but she didn’t want to humiliate herself by screaming like a school girl during one of her nightmares. They had reared back up, and she felt utterly out of control as to when they would appear or when they would give her reprieve.
She watched as he returned up the stairs and guided her out the door. Just his hand on the small of her back, escorting her to the sidewalk sent a shiver of anticipation through her body. She couldn’t imagine getting through an entire meal without wanting to rip his clothes off and drag him back to his cave to have her way with him.
Hand in hand they walked the few short blocks to his house. Her ankle was much better, and it was much easier to navigate the dips of the sidewalk at this slower pace. She wasn’t sure what he had in mind, but when they reached his house, he set the water to boil, placed the meatballs in the oven, and gathered the ingredients for the pasta sauce. She sent him off to the shower, wishing she could join him, but instead dutifully attended to the intricacies of perfecting her pasta sauce.
When it was ready, she set it on the stove to simmer and started to boil the noodles. She remembered a favorite childhood Disney movie where the main characters shared a bowl of noodles, only to find they were both sharing the same noodle, and it ended in an adorable little kiss. She wished her pot of noodles was just one long noodle. That would be fun to try in real life.
She took a teaspoon full of the sauce and was just about to taste it when a tall man came around the corner unexpectedly. She had been so caught up in her fantasy that it scared the shit out of her, her lungs let out a howl and she dropped the spoon, which bounced off the cupboard and splattered red sauce everywhere from the counter to the floor. A millisecond too late she recognized the male figure as her dinner guest, the owner of the kitchen she was currently cooking in, and she felt her face redden to match the sauce.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t hear you come in” she sputtered out as she looked for a towel to tackle the mess with, her hands suddenly shaking as the adrenaline coursed through her veins at breakneck speed.
He beat her to the paper towel roll attached to the wall, and he started cleaning the mess himself. She felt so little and vulnerable, yet so relieved that he wasn’t mad at her for making such a mess. “I’m sorry I scared you” he said with a voice as gentle as an angel.
She didn’t want to see his face, didn’t want to see his pity, and she definitely wanted to run. She eyed the door. Twenty short feet and she could bolt right out of here and never deal with this again. Less than six steps and she would never have to see his reaction to her idiocy. As she contemplated this option, she vaguely realized he was speaking to her. “Ann, it’s ok. Seriously, no worries. Look, it’s all cleaned up. No harm done.” His voice still gentle and kind, as if beckoning a spooked horse.
She realized she had overreacted. However, that acknowledgement didn’t make the situation disappear. The timer on the oven beeped, and she went back to work, momentarily deciding against running but still not yet ready to make eye contact.
She pulled out the meatballs, thankful to have something to do with her hands. She drained the noodles, and stirred the sauce, deciding it must be pretty close to done, though not daring another spoonful.
He watched her from a careful distance, and she felt the need to break the tension. “Would you please check the sauce to see if it’s done?” she asked him, handing him a clean spoon. Anything would be better than feeling watched and under the microscope.
He grabbed the spoon, took a taste and deemed it perfect. She felt herself guffaw, as if anything she did these days was perfect, and his face set in determination to get her to believe him. He took another spoonful, cooled it, and then offered her a taste. She took his peace offering, and agreed with him. It was pretty good if she said so herself.
Not mentioning the event again, their evening went on as normal. He poured her a glass of wine and served up the meal. The time flew, and it seemed as soon as she blinked the stars were out in the sky full force. She knew she should start making her way home. Never alone, though. He always walked her to her apartment; she loved that, but she always left him at the door.
She knew that spending this evening with Tucker would leave her feeling the loneliness intimately when she returned to her apartment. And not just the loneliness, but feeling as if she left part of herself at the door too. He was so humble and kind; he held doors, held her hand, filled her plate, and listened to really listen, not necessarily to respond or fix anything. She was captivated by him and felt stronger in his presence.
She found herself pouring her soul out to him over spaghetti and meatballs, sharing her dreams, ambitions, and wonders of this world, desperate to stretch the night longer. She would look into his eyes and get lost in them while he shared stories of his childhood and early military career.
His gorgeous hazel eyes had specks of brown mixed with green that mesmerized her, a sharp contrast to her baby blues. His wide masculine shoulders were so opposite of her thin, petite frame. His sun tanned face contrasted her fair skin, speckled with freckles, and his sandy brown hair was opposite of her naturally bleach blonde hair. It was these differences that lulled her to sleep lately, and the dreams had turned carnal. Instead of running from a Monster, she was running to Tucker. In the dreams he returned her heat and she had a bravery she didn’t always feel in reality.
“Would you like dessert?” he asked. The question surprised her. She hadn’t had dessert in a very long time. She felt the wine emboldening her, and she wanted to request to eat it off his body. She felt a smile reach her lips as she nodded yes. He pulled a slice of cheesecake out of the freezer and set it out to thaw.
Good God, cheesecake. She couldn’t remember the last time she had any. She wasn’t sure she would last until it was thawed. It would no doubt be the longest twenty minutes of her life. She felt her eyes drifting back to the delicacy, and she needed a diversion. Something to help her keep her wits about her. Tucker was lifting the wrap off the single slice, and she watched as every muscle in his corded back worked to complete the task. His ass muscles even got in on the job. She noticed how strong his thighs looked, even under his jeans, and wanted to touch.
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