The Soulmate Equation

Page 69

The next question Jess had rose shakily to the surface. “Did you ever run our samples together?”

“I did.” Reaching into his blazer pocket, he pulled out a small sealed envelope. “For you.”

A potent mixture of dread and excitement streaked through her. “Do you know what the answer is?”

He shrugged, smiling.

“Is that a yes or a no?”

Nodding once, River admitted, “I do. I didn’t trust anyone else to run it, but I worried someone would, eventually, out of curiosity.”

Chewing on her lip, she fought the internal battle. Should she look? Should she not? Voice tight, Jess told him, “I don’t care what our score is. I never have.”

He laughed. “So don’t look.”

“Do you care what our score is?”

River slowly shook his head. “No.”

“It’s easy for you to say that because you’ve seen it.” She paused. “Does that mean it’s bad?”

Again he shook his head. “No.”

“Is it something wild? Like the ninety-eight was actually right?” He paused, chewed his lip, and then slowly shook his head a third time. Jess blew out a frustrated breath. “Do you feel better about it now?”

“Jess,” he said gently, “all you have to do is open the envelope to know.”

She squeezed her eyes closed. “I don’t want to. I understand that you needed to see the data, but I hate that you needed to see it to choose me.”

He quickly reacted, shooting an arm around her waist. “I don’t. I’m telling you; this score doesn’t matter to me. I love you because I love you, whether or not I’m supposed to.”

Jess squinted up at him, picking these words apart. “Okay, I’m going to assume that we’re a Base Match.”

He nodded, satisfied, and put the envelope away. “Sounds good.”

“Are we?”

River grinned, saying, “No,” and she growled.

His expression softened, and he glanced at her mouth and then back up to her eyes. “Do you want me to tell you or not?”

“Not. You know what we statisticians say: all models are wrong, but some are useful.” He laughed. “I don’t want to know the score, River.”

“I won’t ever offer again.” He stepped forward and wrapped his other arm around her waist. “Can I do this?”

Jess nodded, looking up at him through her lashes. It felt so good to have him this close. When she closed her eyes, she was able to focus on the desire thrumming through her blood like a drug. They had hours before Juno came home.

She reached forward and ran her hand up his chest, along his neck, and traced his lower lip with her thumb. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

“I missed you.”

“I’ve been here the whole time.” She gently pinched his chin.

“I’m feeling incredibly clingy.” River bent and rested his lips over hers. “I love you.”

Emotion welled up in her throat, and Jess wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love you, too.”

“FYI,” a disembodied voice said from the iPad, “if you think I haven’t written down every word of this, you’re both high.”

WITH A SMIRK, River turned and walked over to the iPad, ending the Zoom meeting with a quick tap of a finger. When he looked back at Jess, his smile immediately took on a ravenous edge. “Guess I wasn’t the only one who forgot she was there.”

Jess’s “Sorry” dissolved between them as River stalked over to her, gaze darkening; adrenaline poured warm and insistent into her bloodstream. Sliding his arms around her waist, he leaned in to kiss her neck. “What is it with us and audiences?”

“I don’t know, but I sure am glad we don’t have one now.” She closed her eyes, focused on the sweet, tiny kisses he dropped on her skin, from her collarbone up to her jaw.

Bending and reaching around to the back of her thighs, River lifted her, wrapping her legs around his waist to carry her down the hall. “This okay?”

“If by ‘this’ you mean makeup sex with no child in the house, then yes. It is very okay.”

As he walked, their kisses took on the kind of aching, bruised-lip intensity that told Jess, even more than his words had, how much he missed her. But when he set her down on the bed, and braced over her in that hungry way of his, he lifted a gentle hand to coax a few strands of her hair out of her face and said, “We never really talked about it—it was so unimportant at the time—but I haven’t really been in a relationship since we founded GeneticAlly.”

Jess pushed back into the pillow, staring up at him. “Seriously?”

River nodded. “Work was everything,” he said carefully. “I just wasn’t emotionally engaged anywhere else. Until you. So, I know it isn’t an excuse, but now I know to be aware of it if we have another work crisis.” He paused, reconsidering. “When we have another work crisis. I slipped back into that mode so fast, everything else fell away. Until this morning, I thought it had only been two or three days since we spoke.”

Jess had to take a beat to absorb this. “Why didn’t you tell me that the second you walked in the door?”

“I wanted your forgiveness before I defended myself.”

She reached up, bringing a hand around his neck and drawing him down to her. His kiss started slow, his lips absorbing her relieved exhale, but then he opened to taste her.

The flirtatious tease reminded Jess so much of what it had felt like to make love to him, how he could be commanding and sweet in an almost impossible balance. Her hands turned greedy, moving up under his clothes, pushing them off. She wanted his skin right up against hers, smooth and warm with friction. They got there quickly, bare together in a stretch of afternoon sunlight streaking across her bed. River reached with a long arm for her bedside table, and then kneeled in front of her, tearing the condom wrapper with his teeth.

Jess trailed her fingers up over her own stomach, biting her lip as she looked. “I really enjoy watching you do that.”

He grinned down at his hands. “Yeah?” And then he shifted, bracing a palm near her head, and bent, kissing her. “I think I prefer watching you do it.”

His smile lingered—playful and seductive—and that familiar, charged pulse echoed in her like a second heartbeat. With enduring focus, River moved, teasing at first, staring transfixed at the look of bliss on her face. He watched her fall and then, exhaling a breath of disbelief, turned his face to the ceiling and followed her into pleasure.

He stayed over her for a long time, arms caging her protectively, his face pressed to her neck. Once they’d both caught their breath, he dealt with the condom and then returned exactly where he’d been. Jess had never had this before: someone who was, without question, hers. She held him with her arms banded around his waist and legs draped lazily around his thighs, wordlessly falling back in love.

WHICH MEANT THAT they woke up like this a good while later, stiff and hot and groaning. River rolled away, falling onto his back and reaching up to cup the back of his stiff neck. Beside him, Jess attempted to straighten her legs, whimpering.

“I don’t want to sound paranoid,” she said, “but I swear someone must’ve hit us with a Benadryl dart from my doorway. We literally just passed out.”

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