“You okay?” River kissed her mouth again, and Jess felt him pull back and take in her expression. “We can stop.”
Was he serious? They absolutely could not. Her drama-queen body was certain they’d die if they tried.
“No. Don’t go.”
“Okay.” His lips dragged across her jaw and she could feel his smile. “I won’t.”
He kissed her again, pulling away with a gentle bite. When he whispered through a laugh, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m shaking,” and she felt the truth of it under her hands, she could exhale some more because it made her think maybe she wasn’t alone in this feeling—so desperate for him that she might cry.
River moved over her—slow, then building in tempo, pressing into her again and again, releasing a quiet grunt with every forward pitch and—
—and suddenly she felt the weight rolling down her spine like a steel boulder in a trap ready to spring.
Jess got only one word out—“I’m”—before it hit her like an explosion, the inside-out splitting of heat and relief spreading through her entire body. She was still too tangled up to appreciate River’s abandon, but it imprinted in the back of her mind how he groaned her name against her neck, going tightly still over her.
After a pause filled only with the sounds of their short, stuttering breaths, River pushed up on his arms and stared down at her. His hair was a mess of dark curls falling into his eyes, but Jess had the weird sense of looking into a mirror anyway; his gaze was brimming with the same shock and amazement she felt vibrating in her blood. It hit her in a sharp, startling truth: her whole life she had been put together wrong in one tiny, invisible, and critical way. And having that piece altered just enough for it to slide into place suddenly changed everything.
“Can you stay?” he asked, catching his breath. “Stay here tonight?”
Her heart pinched painfully and Jess ran a hand down his sweaty chest, over his stomach. “I don’t think so.”
Nodding, he pulled back with a wince, and she immediately ached for him. River sat back on his heels and ran a warm palm along her leg, from hip to knee.
She marveled at this man who, a month ago, she’d known only as “Americano,” as surly and quiet and selfish. This shy, brilliant man kneeling in front of her who showed up without having to be asked, who put the ball in her court, who asked her if she was sure and told her they could stop. She felt her control slipping out of her grip, and the two syllables of his name tattooed a permanent echo inside her.
River’s shoulders rose and fell with his still-labored breathing, and he closed his eyes, sliding his hands up over her hips again, across her navel. “I don’t have to say it, do I?”
“Maybe not,” Jess said, gazing up at him. “I still want you to.”
Somehow she’d known exactly what he would look like without a stitch of clothing on, but she took a leisurely visual perusal anyway.
“That was unreal, wasn’t it?” he finally said. “I don’t feel like the same person I was an hour ago.”
“I was just thinking the exact same thing.”
He laughed quietly. “I can’t believe we did it on the floor. In all the times I imagined it, I did not imagine the floor.”
“I probably wouldn’t have let you get much farther than the entryway.”
“I like a woman on a mission.”
With hungry, curious eyes, Jess watched him stand and stride unselfconsciously naked across the foyer to his sleek, austere kitchen. She hadn’t even taken a moment to look around his place, but it was exactly what she expected: open floor plan, clean lines, simple furniture, understated wall decor. There were, for example, no crayon drawings of hippos taped to his refrigerator or unpaired socks strewn on the floor.
He returned a moment later, coming over her like a shadowed, predatory animal. “I’m going to think about this constantly now.”
Jess laughed, admitting, “I already do.”
“Like when?” he whispered.
She rolled her eyes away, thinking. “Um. Shelter Island—”
Her eyes met his again. “And the kiss at the party—”
“The parking lot at the hospital.”
“I almost asked to follow you home.”
She reached up, sliding her thumb over his bottom lip. “I’m glad you didn’t. I would have said yes, but I wasn’t ready yesterday.”
He opened his mouth, gently biting the tip of her finger. “I know. I hope you were tonight.”
She nodded, mesmerized by the sight of his teeth around her finger. “I was. It lived up to the mental hype. It exceeded the mental hype.”
“I wanted you before Shelter Island,” he said quietly.
Jess pulled back a little, surprised. “When?”
“The night we found out about the match, when we were outside. I wondered what it would feel like to kiss you.” He bent, giving her a tiny peck. “And at dinner, with Dave and Brandon.” He kissed her again. “In the lab when I took your blood. Our first date. Pretty much every time I thought about you.”
“Do you think it’s because the number told you to want me?”
He shook his head. “I believe in the algorithm, but not that much. I fought it. Just like you did.”
Jess stared up at him, running her palm up his chest. A faint echo of discomfort registered in her back, and he must have felt her wince because he pushed up, reaching for and helping her stand.
River bent, pulling on his boxers before draping the throw blanket around her shoulders. Taking her hand, he led them to the couch, gesturing for her to sit first, but Jess stepped forward, gently pushing him until he sat, and then placed a knee on either side of his hips, straddling him. Bringing the blanket around her shoulders, she sealed them in together below their necks.
Beneath the blanket, River ran his hands up her bare thighs and let out a long, slow breath. “You’re going to kill me.”
Suddenly it all felt very surreal. “I honestly can’t believe that I’m here and we just had sex on your floor.”
River went in for a kiss and laughed against her mouth. “Does Juno know you’re here?”
He lifted a brow. “Does she know we’re … ?”
“She’s asked me a couple times if you were my boyfriend, but …” Jess shook her head. “I’m not really talking about it with her yet.”
He gave a little That’s fair frown and pushed the blanket off her shoulders, drawing lazy spirals over her collarbones. “But I assume Fizzy knows.”
“She practically shoved me out the door with your address in my hand.”
He looked up at her face, realization dawning. “Shit. I forgot to tell you about the cat drawings and giving her my address. I didn’t mean to overstep, but that kid is persuasive.”
With a laugh, Jess waved this off. “Trust me, I know how she operates. It’s why we joke that she’s half Fizzy’s.”
“Still. I’m sorry I didn’t mention it.”
“Are you kidding?” She kissed him again. “I’m sorry because no doubt she made you feel incredibly guilty, questioning everything about yourself, before you finally relented.”