After our emotionally charged last meeting, I was eager to smooth over the rough edges from our conversation. We’d both hurled some rough words at each other. He’d hurt me, and I’d landed a few too. Maybe we were saying things we’d wanted to say for a long time. Now they were out there. He still wanted me, despite all my faults. I still wanted him, despite our painful history. Just as I was ready to start over, the deal at work had taken over every spare minute of my life.
Seeing him now was a reward in a class of its own. I smiled at the new feeling of him being mine. He stood when I approached. I pressed up on my toes and kissed him. My stomach growled on cue.
“Tell me you brought me dinner.”
“I did.” He held up a brown paper bag, suspiciously void of fast food branding or grease saturation.
I wrinkled my nose, suspicious. “Come on. We can eat in Jia’s office.”
He frowned slightly. “Jia?”
I ignored the embarrassing remembrance of our indiscretion and hooked my arm in his, leading him through the office and into Jia’s smaller one. I shut the door and locked it behind us.
“What did you bring me? Something good, I hope.”
“A sandwich that will change your life. All organic.”
I rolled my eyes and groaned. “Oh my God. You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?”
“You’re going to like it. Stop complaining.” He sat on the small couch in the corner of the office and I joined him.
No sandwich had come close to changing my life, and nothing organic had ever tasted as good as the processed full fat version. My stomach growled again as he pulled out two foil packages. Too hungry to argue, I unwrapped mine without any further assessment and took a big bite.
“Wow, this is actually really good.” The sound was muffled through my chews, and I quickly covered my mouth with my hand. Chicken, avocado, some kind of sauce that was blowing my mind. I couldn’t place it. I’d never been much of a culinary connoisseur.
“Told you.” He smiled. He loved being right, I could tell. “How’s work going?”
“We’re getting close. We’re going to wrap up early tomorrow anyway because of the party, so that’ll be a good break. Are you still coming?”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
I smiled. “Yes. I need reinforcements, anyway.”
“I don’t need to rough anyone up, do I?”
I laughed, swallowing the last bite of my sandwich and washing it down with one of the fruit juices he’d brought. “I hope not. Shouldn’t be quite that bad. Although if Reilly lays into Vanessa in front of me one more time, I swear I’m going to deck that guy.”
“Scary, but I can see you following through on that. You’re so feisty now.”
My face heated. The way he looked at me reminded me of a different person, someone innocent and still pretty scared of the world. I sat back on the couch. I closed my eyes and let my head roll back, a new wave of fatigue hitting me.
“Where’d you go?”
I lifted my gaze.
“I was joking, but you got all quiet on me. Did I say something awful again and not realize it?”
“No.” I caught his hand. “I don’t know. Sometimes when I’m around you, I get glimpses of how my life used to be. People change. It’s inevitable. Sometimes it makes me sad, though.”
“What makes you sad about it?”
“I was kind of naïve back then, in a lot of ways, but there were possibilities. I felt like the whole world was open to us, you know? Life wasn’t always perfect, but in some ways it was.”
“I feel that way too.”
“What if we can’t get that back?” I drew faint circles in his hands, over the rough calluses on his palms. “ What if I’m not what you really want, because I’m so far from the person I used to be?”
He hooked an arm around my hips and scooted me onto his lap.
“You’re everything I want, okay?” He toyed with a strand of my hair. “You surprise me, and I like that. Just because we’ve changed doesn’t mean we’re any less good for each other. We’ve both lived a lot since then. Give us time to figure it out before you go thinking the worst, okay?”
I feathered my hands over his chest, over the broad curves of his muscular body. He mesmerized me all over again. I’d lived enough and seen enough these past few years to believe no one could really get under my skin anymore. I’d never been so wrong.
CAMERON. Her hand curved behind my neck and her tongue breached my lips. Her need passed into me with every soft touch. Every tiny lick and nibble was met with more wanting, a flame aglow that had grown in heat and intensity since we’d been together last.