“I’m happy to see you, too.” Josh leans forward—he’s a little breathless—and presses a kiss to my cheek. I’ve brushed my teeth but God I hope I don’t still smell like barf. “I’ve been thinking about you all day.”
He has? A crack of lightning bolts through my chest.
He laughs at this like I might be kidding, and stands, moving to the kitchen to find a vase for the flowers.
“In the oven,” I tell him … which could mean so, so many things right now.
Sound falls away—no doubt Josh has frozen and is silently taking this in—but then the creak of the oven door breaks through the quiet, and I hear a soft “Huh.”
“If I put them on top of the fridge,” I explain, “Vodka lands on the rims and knocks them over.”
He turns on the tap, and I hear water filling the vase. “Makes sense.”
But does it? Does it make sense that I put my vases in the oven when it’s not in use, so that my parrot doesn’t knock them over? These are the things other people might question—but not Josh.
He has never, not once, asked me to be someone I’m not.
When he returns, his hands are free, and he resumes his spot next to me on the couch, pulling my legs into his lap. For the first time in our friendship, as his hands come over my legs, I am intensely conscious of how not-sexy I appear.
I blurt, “I didn’t shave today.”
His hand runs up my shin anyway. “I don’t care.”
“I showered, but then …” I point to my head, and the hat perched there. “Sort of let it go to seed.”
“I don’t care what you look like.” His hands drift back down, and strong thumbs dig into the arch of my foot. My eyes cross a little in pleasure.
This is new. This kind of touching, and the tentative awkward smiles. I know why I’m being a bumbling idiot—I’m pregnant and in love—but why is he?
“What’s up with you?” I ask quietly. “Why are you massaging me and bringing me flowers and looking particularly adorable?”
Clearing his throat, he stares down at where his hands work on my feet. “Yeah, about that.” He looks up at me. “Are you going out with Tyler again?”
I bark out a laugh. “Negatory.”
He nods, and nods, and keeps nodding as his gaze slowly moves back to my legs, up to my hips, torso, chest, and face. “Well, then would you go out with me sometime?”
All my life I assumed I had one heart inside my chest. But the force slamming me from the inside can’t be only a single organ. I knew he was sufficiently attracted to me to have sex—twice—but to want to go out with me?
“Like a date?”
“Like a date.” His hand moves up my shin, over my knee, around to the inside of my thigh, where he strokes maddening circles with his thumb. “But only me and you this time.”
And just like that, I’m liquid heat. My heart has vaulted into my throat. “Do you want to stay over tonight?”
Without hesitation, he answers, “Yes.”
“I mean, like a naked sleepover.”
He leans in until his breath mixes with mine, and he gently pulls off my baseball cap, tossing it to the floor. “I knew what you meant.”
His fingers work my hair free from the bun, and he meets my eyes for just a breath before he leans the rest of the way and kisses the wide-eyed shock right off my face.
It’s not our first kiss, but in a way it feels like it is. Yes, I know his mouth, but I’ve never known this emotion before, the careful press, the way his hands come up to my face so he can tilt me how he wants, so he can lean forward while I lean back until he’s hovering over me on the couch, his dress pants smooth against the insides of my thighs.
“I need to tell you some things,” I say against his lips.
“Big things,” I emphasize.
He nods. “Let’s say all our big things afterward, okay? There’s no rush.”
I have a pulse of anxiety—I really need to tell him—but the I’m carrying your baby talk is a fairly intense conversation and his body seems to agree with the lower half of mine that sex can come first, no problem. Besides, it’s not like I can get more pregnant.
My clothes seem to dissolve away as soon as he touches them. I don’t actually remember taking my shirt off. My shorts are dragged down my legs.
Our eyes meet and I’m sure he can see the mania in mine because he smiles and then it turns into a laugh when my mouth falls open as he unbuttons his shirt—too slowly. I start from the bottom, meeting his hands in the middle, and together we push it off his shoulders. They’re warm and hard under my hands when I try to tug him back down over me, but he resists, sliding his pants off and kicking them into a puddle on the floor.
He bends, kissing my neck, humming. “Hazel?”
“Is this a ‘Ha ha, we’ll just do it three times’ sort of thing?”
“Not for me,” he says, and when his mouth finds my collarbone he scrapes his teeth across it. “For me it’s a ‘We’ll do this again and again’ sort of thing.” He kisses me once, lightly on the mouth. “I want us to be together. Not just friends. Okay?”
Inside me, there is a fist curling around my heart, squeezing. “Yes.”
“But I don’t want to do it on the couch.”
He presses small kisses to my jaw, my neck, my ear. “Sure, over time we’ll christen each piece of furniture, but right now—” He pulls back, lifting his chin toward the bedroom.
I imagine a cartoon dust cloud behind me as I practically sprint there. Josh, of course, takes a calmer approach, and strolls in a few seconds after I’ve launched myself onto the center of the mattress. My energy level has miraculously recovered.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m dragging you here,” he jokes.
But my smile is only a flash, because it all turns very intense as soon as he puts a knee on the mattress and climbs up my bed, between my legs.
Josh Im is in my bed, about to get naked, and—from the looks of things—about to fuck me very, very thoroughly.
“I’m worried I might make a lot of noise tonight,” I babble, breathless.
“That wouldn’t be a bad thing.” His hands reduce my focus down to just this: The feel of his fingers dragging my underwear down my legs. The way he stares at me. The warm slide of his palms up over my knees, spreading them as he kneels.
The knotted rope inside begins unfurling, loosening as I wonder whether this pregnancy isn’t even a little bit bad. It might be the best thing. I imagine tomorrow morning, how he might shuffle out of my bed, still naked, hair standing straight up like a silken forest. I imagine kissing him, getting distracted and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing before I remember again.
The rest of the thought is cut off as his hands slide up and down my legs, tormenting me, pulling that heavy weight low in my belly, making me so hungry for him to touch me that I ache. I push up on an elbow, wanting to retaliate the teasing, and he laughs in a tight, incredulous breath when my fingers come over him, above his boxers. He is hot in my hand, pulsing steel.
“You’re so hard.” I am a master at stating the obvious.
He watches my hands as I coax the elastic down, but he doesn’t do what I expect after he kicks the boxers off. He doesn’t rise over me and settle between my legs. He ducks lower, kissing the inside of each knee, up my thigh and then down the other. His breath is hot when he comes up again—only inches away now from where my heartbeat has settled—and he stares up at my face from between my legs.
“What? Yeah. Of course. Yes.” Frankly it’s a struggle to not grab his hair and pull him down.
He smiles, but it’s not a smile I’ve ever seen before. It’s a dangerous smile; he’s a movie villain, the seductive one, the one who robs you but fucks you real good first.
And then he ducks, and kisses me between my legs, and my body becomes a bomb.
He places tiny kisses—from lower, where I am wet and aching, up to the fuse that lights under the sweet press of his mouth. I can feel when it opens, feel the heat of his exhale across that most sensitive place when he moans. His tongue swipes away my sanity but misses the place where I need it—intentionally—sliding around and around, dipping inside me and then arcing high, teasing, narrowing in on his target. Slowly, seductively circling.