Jess’s voice broke. “I know.”
“And if you could do anything tonight when Juno goes to bed, what would it be?”
She expected the word Sleep to drop out of her mouth. But instead: “I’d go to his place.”
Fizzy’s dark eyes flashed with smug victory. “Then go. I’ll stay here with the kid as long as you need me to.”
“Fizz, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know I don’t.” She kissed Jess’s hand again. “That’s the whole point. You do things for me because you love me. I do things for you because I love you. Duh.”
Jess scrounged around for the last remaining excuse. Luckily, it was a good one: “I don’t know where he lives.”
“Well, you could text him. Or …” Fizzy reached across the table for a piece of paper and handed it to her. On it, in small, cramped handwriting, was the name River Nicolas Peña and an address in North Park.
“Wait,” Jess said, laughing incredulously, “how did this end up on my table?”
“I asked the same thing when I found it in Juno’s backpack,” Fizzy said with mock bewilderment. “And Juno explained that she wanted to mail him some drawings of Pigeon. How kind of him to give this to her.”
RIVER OPENED THE door and his mouth went slack.
“Jess.” He reached for her shoulder, concerned. “What are you—? Are you okay?”
All at once, she had no idea what to say. He was standing in front of her in lounge pants that hung low on his hips and a threadbare Stanford T-shirt. He was barefoot and freshly showered. His hair was wet and finger-brushed back off his face; his lips were smooth and perfect. Unraveled and bare, Jess knew in her bones that he was her ninety-eight.
“I wanted to see you.”
Realization altered his expression, and his eyes darted behind her and then quickly back. He licked his lips. “Is Ju—”
He stared, breaths coming out in shorter and shorter gusts. Maybe three seconds later, Jess didn’t know who was moving first, whether he pulled her inside or she stepped in out of the cool, humid night, but she was in his entryway only a moment before the door slammed and she was pushed back against it. River braced his hands beside her head, staring with wild disbelief. And then he bent, pressing a groaning kiss to her mouth.
The feel of it, the perfect pressure and angle, transformed her longing into a staggering hunger. Jess’s hands shook as they made fists in the soft fabric of his shirt, and when he tasted her—lips parted, tongue teasing—she was hit with a desire so intense it felt like taking a breath too big to hold. She had to pull away, gasping for air.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” he growled, scraping his teeth down her jaw, sucking, biting at her neck. “Did you come here for this?”
Jess nodded, and greedy hands bunched her sweater as they moved up her torso, seeking skin. The loss of contact while he pulled away to yank it up and over her head was torture, and Jess jerked him back, wedging her hands between them to get his T-shirt off as quickly as her frantic fingers would let her. Beneath her touch he was hard and smooth, candy for her feverish hands.
Jess laughed an apology into his mouth as she managed to get his elbow briefly tangled in one of his sleeves. “It’s okay,” he breathed, tossing the shirt away. His eyes met hers for an electric beat before his hair fell forward and he bent to kiss her.
While his mouth moved down her jaw and neck, over her shoulder and along the sensitive inside of her wrist, she watched her fingers memorize each perfect inch of his torso. River’s shoulders were broad but not massive, defined but not bulky. His chest, too, and lower, where his stomach clenched under her touch. Jess wanted to dig in, bite, consume. And when her nails scratched up his back, over the curves of his shoulders, tracing his perfect collarbones, his breath caught in his throat.
With his gaze on her face, River reached back, releasing the clasp of her bra. His hands were rough and warm, and Jess wanted to catch every tiny shift in his expression, every reaction to the feel of her. The way he looked at her—the sweet devastation pinching his brow—made Jess feel like she’d been plugged directly into the sun. Urging him back, she fell to her knees, drugged and nearly delirious with need.
He let out a whispered “Oh, God” as she worked his pants and boxers down; River turned her into Medusa with his fingers in her hair, and with a voice that had grown hoarse, he quietly begged for more than the heat of her breath. She looked up, and when their eyes met, hunger speared painfully through her. Jess hadn’t ever felt this desired or this powerful. Having never craved anything in excess like this before, she wanted to pull him into every bit of her body at once, wanted to break off pieces too big to consume.
River’s voice went from whispered pleas into broken, growling warnings, and with a cry, he pulled his hips away, wrapping a hand around her arm and guiding her to her feet. Jerking her close, he tucked her head beneath his chin while he caught his breath. With the pause in the frenzy, Jess grew aware of how fast her own breaths were coming, how it felt like their hearts were hammering on opposite sides of the same door.
I want to never get used to this, she thought, holding him. If tonight is about being selfish, then here’s my selfish wish: I hope we never get used to this.
He pulled away, sending his hands over her body—hungrily touching chest, and ribs, and the curved small of her back—and Jess closed her eyes, tilting her head as his mouth slid up her throat. Teasing, his fingers toyed with the button on her jeans.
“Can I take these off?”
At her nod, River worked the button loose, smiling and kicking his own clothing free as he peeled hers down her legs. Leaning away, he grabbed and threw something to the floor, and when he carefully lowered her down, Jess realized he’d pulled a plush blanket from the couch.
Her back met the blanket, and his hips slid between her thighs. She got one gentle kiss before the heat of his mouth moved down her neck, sucking and kissing at her breasts, fingers digging into hips and navel and then gently feeling, stroking, before his kiss was there, too. The relief of it was like being uncapped and poured across his floor, and her fingers made fists in his hair as Jess closed her eyes against the overload of sensation.
She felt blindly for the purse she must have dropped as soon as her back hit the door, and fumbled through the fog of lust, pulling the square of foil free.
River heard the tear, lifting his head and dragging his mouth up her body. He tasted like her, but sounded like a man on the verge of breaking when she gripped him, rolling on the condom.
But he went still over her, and she paused, too, moving her hands to rest them on his hips. “Too fast?”
He shook his head and smiled down at her. “Just making sure.”
Jess reached up to push the hair out of his eyes and nodded, unable to get the words out.
“Say it,” he said, bending to kiss her. “I’m sure. Are you?”
She couldn’t spread her hands out wide enough; even with his body aligned all along hers, she needed to get closer. “I want to,” she said. “Please.”
River dropped his forehead to her temple, letting her be the one to take him in. They both went still for a breathless pause, and in that time Jess existed only on the razor-sharp edge of bliss and discomfort. Carefully, holding still, he kissed her—so sweet and searching—and she could finally exhale.