Shock ripped through her, but she had no time to answer.
Zoe stirred in the back seat and gave a tiny whine. “Mama?”
She twisted around to see her blinking sleepily, looking around in the car. “Yes, baby, we’re home. Let’s get you inside and to bed.”
They went inside, and she got her daughter settled. When she came back down, Gabe was waiting in the living room. “She okay?”
“Went straight to sleep.”
He slowly walked over to her, stopping an inch away. He wore jeans and a green fleece shirt that made his shoulders seem even broader. Hips cocked, feet braced apart, his gaze raked over her body with a hunger that lashed out at her and made every nerve in her body stretch and tighten. The spicy masculine smell of him wrapped around her in pure seduction. Her nipples tightened, and she grew wet between her thighs. In that moment, she realized he held a sensual power over her that made her crave him—his touch, taste, scent. It was as if her body was starved for contact.
“How do you feel about me staying tonight?”
She trembled and took a step forward so they were pressed chest to chest, in full body contact. “I’d like that.”
His gaze darkened. His thumb traced the line of her lips, stretching out the delicious anticipation, until she was crazed to feel his mouth over hers. “Do you know I want you all the time? I’ve never been addicted to a drug before, but now I know how it feels. I go to sleep with your taste lingering on my tongue.” His lips drifted over her cheek.
She grasped his shoulders and hung on.
“I remember the sting of your nails in my back when you come. The way your eyes go wide and heavy when you’re aroused, like right now.” His erection notched between her thighs, and he slid his hands down to cup her buttocks, lifting up and grinding against her.
Her head spun.
“But most of all, it’s your laugh—that husky, sexy sound you make when I amuse you. I could spend the rest of my life trying to make you smile and laugh, sweetheart. But I’ll take whatever you give me—that’s how badly I crave you. If it’s only sex, I’ll make damn sure I keep you begging for more, until I convince you we can be so much more.” His lips nipped at her jaw, and then his mouth was on hers.
He kissed her hard and deep, his tongue thrusting inside and taking full control. She clung to him and gave it all back, desperate to be skin to skin. He lifted her high, and she wrapped her legs tightly around him. He took her straight to the bedroom, closed and locked the door, then undressed her slowly.
“You can’t make a sound,” he whispered in her ear, his hands all over her body, tugging at her nipples, stroking her belly, thrusting inside her channel until she writhed and moaned and begged.
Greedy for all of him, she hooked her ankle around his and flipped him, sprawling over his naked body with pure satisfaction. “That’s right,” she said in a low, teasing voice. “Be very quiet.”
She slid down and took him in her mouth. She sucked him deep, then ran the edge of her teeth down his pulsing length until his hands fisted in her hair and he cursed, shaking beneath her with a helplessness and need that made her feel like a queen. Finally, she rolled on the condom and lowered herself over him, inch by slow inch, until he was buried deep, and her entire body throbbed and shuddered.
His hands cupped her breasts. His gaze devoured her, lit with lust and a deeper emotion that filled her heart. “Ride me,” he murmured, tweaking her nipples. “Take all you want.”
She did. And when the orgasm hit, he covered her mouth with his in a fierce kiss, swallowing every throaty cry. His hips jerked, and then he followed her over the edge, never breaking the contact. When they finally fell back in a tangle of sheets and naked limbs, she knew the connection between them was so much more than physical.
“You’re wrong,” she whispered to him in the dark, her hand on his damp chest, thigh tucked under his.
She pressed her face to his shoulder and told the truth. “It’ll never be just about sex. And I’m telling Zoe and my sisters tomorrow. Because you’re important.”
He smoothed back her hair and dropped a kiss on her head. “Thank you, Bella. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell you how I really feel about you.”
She stiffened, her heart thundering against her rib cage, waiting for him to finish. But he was asleep, and she knew she wasn’t ready to hear it.
“Gabe and I are dating.”
Taylor coughed on her bagel and began choking. Bella calmly got up from her chair, stood behind her, and gave her one hard thump on the back.
The bagel piece dislodged, and her sister sucked in a breath.
Avery jumped up and stabbed her finger in the air with triumph. “I knew it!” she screeched. “Oh my God, this is fantastic! I saw the way you guys were together, and something was just off. I’m so glad I insisted you both work on Adele’s wedding—I was a true matchmaker!”
Taylor swiveled her head around and glared. She shoved the plate away from her in disgust. “Does that make me the stupid sister? You’re telling me this has been going on behind my back for how long—and I didn’t know?”
Bella smiled at her sisters, a bit relieved by Avery’s enthusiasm and Taylor’s normal temper. It meant they were happy about her big announcement. “Sorry, but it took me by surprise. Until we began working on Adele’s wedding, I only thought I had a crush.”
Avery laughed. “Knew it. Then again, it’s hard not to have a crush on Gabe. He’s kind of perfect.”
Taylor blew out an annoyed breath. “Okay, just stop congratulating yourself over there. If Gabe was so perfect, why didn’t you fall for him all that time you both worked together?”
“Because we had no chemistry. And looking back on things now, I realize he’s been crushing on Bella for a while. How come you didn’t go for him?” she asked Taylor curiously.
Taylor rolled her eyes. “I adore Gabe, but he’s much too sweet. When he started working here, I got the brother vibe—not the hot-lover one.”
“Well, now that you both declared the reasons you didn’t sleep with Gabe, we can move on with other stuff,” Bella said.
“Hell no,” Taylor said, getting up to refill her flute glass. “We are so going to analyze every part of this hot lust journey. How often do we get to have breakfast together without terming it a business meeting? Let’s take advantage.”
Bella had called her sisters to a special morning get-together with a promise of carbs and mimosas and an announcement. They’d come immediately, eating up all the food and drinks, and allowing her to take her time with her declaration. She settled into the inquisition, knowing it was best for them both to get all their nosy questions answered.
“When did you first sleep together?” Taylor demanded.
God, why was she blushing? This was ridiculous; she was a grown-up. “After Adele’s wedding.”
Avery gave a whoop. “Nothing like a Dr. Seuss wedding to get you all steamed up.”
Bella gave her a suffering glance. “Are you really having this much fun torturing me?”
“Yes,” Taylor said firmly. “So you’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks now without telling us?”
“I needed some time to process. You know how I am. I went from not dating to sleeping with him and being in a relationship. It’s not my comfort zone.”
Avery’s face softened. “I know, sweetie. I’m so damn proud of you, though. You could have easily walked away from Gabe because it was messy and you had enough excuses.”
“I did at first,” she said with a sigh. “And I still worry about Zoe and how we’ll work together, and even if I’m ready to dive into all these feelings. Especially after Matt. So I told Gabe I wanted to move really slowly, and he’s been good with it.”
“Did you tell Zoe yet?” Taylor asked.
“No, but I will today.”
“I’m sure she’ll be happy,” Avery said. “She’s crazy about Gabe.”
“I just want to make sure she feels good about us. I’ve never had to discuss the ins and outs of dating before.”
“It’ll be good for both of you,” Avery said. “I’m glad you listened to Carter and realized Gabe wasn’t the player you believed. I can see how that would have held you back.”
She hesitated, tapping her finger against her lip. “Yeah, but there’s still gossip. Even Daisy was surprised I’d want to get involved with him due to his reputation. I don’t know, I have to admit it’s a bit weird. Another reason I’m going slow.”
Taylor gave her a sharp glance. “Do you, babe. I get judgments all the time. I happen to like sex, but it doesn’t mean I’m some type of man-eater. And if I want to settle down one day in the far, far future, that shouldn’t affect my relationship, right?”
“Yeah, you’re right. It’s this small-town thing, I guess. But I’ll work it out.”
“Of course you will. Just enjoy yourself. You’re having sex again!” Avery said.