"Did you stop kissing me because you werenâ€™t enjoying
it? You see, Iâ€™ve dealt with the first time you rejected
me, when you left all those years ago. Thereâ€™s no need to
rehash the past. But I donâ€™t think I could bear you
rejecting me a second time. So I have to knowâ€”did you not
take me to bed the other night because I didnâ€™t turn you
on, or was it because I somehow wasnâ€™t good enough at it?"
The world stood still while she waited for his answer.
Zoe focused on the squawk of sea gulls and the muted slap
of the surf at the base of the wall. The lyrical lilt of
Spanish from the group of teenagers passing by. A low buzz
which must be some exotic insect in the shrubbery along the
path. Every sound in her immediate vicinity rang with
absurd clarityâ€”except the sound she waited on with bated
"If you still donâ€™t want me, just say so, damn it!" she
Was it anger that hardened the lines of his body?
Disinterest? Annoyance? Zoe couldnâ€™t get a read on him.
Nate advanced slowly. She backed into the turret, the space
tight and cramped even for her stature. Built for the far
shorter men of an earlier century, Nate had to duck his
head as he edged ever closer. His sheer presence commanded
as much area as his physical body. Something, some emotion
rolled off him in waves, shimmering like heat above asphalt
on a summer day. Why couldnâ€™t she tell what was going on in
"The sky is blue," said Nate, his face separated from
hers by only a breath.
Huh? "Is that a military thing? Are you talking in code?"
"The sun rises in the east. Play with fire and youâ€™ll
get burned. These are all absolute truths. Indisputable
facts. Well, thereâ€™s one more absolute you need to file
away in your mental card catalog."
Nate brought the lower half of his body so close Zoe
felt the heat radiating from his legs. Despite the heat,
her goose bumps had goose bumps. The anticipation of his
touch brought her every sense to high alert. He raised his
arms up, planted his hands on either side of her head to
cage her in place. Then he tilted so his forehead bumped
hers. Her field of vision narrowed to the indigo sea of his
eyes, pupils flooding black in the shaded darkness of the
narrow turret they shared.
"I want you, Zoe." He forced the words out in a heavy
rasp. "I wanted you the day we met. You wore a red ribbon
in your hair, dropped a stack of books on my foot, and
apologized adorably for ten minutes. All I could think of
was wrapping the ribbon around my hand to pull you in for a
kiss. I wanted you the first time we kissed, on the bridge
in a storm. One by one, I licked off every raindrop that
clung to your skin. I wanted you when I saw you covered in
mud last Friday. Wanted you badly enough to crawl right
into the mud to be with you. I want you now, and I will
always want you."
Zoe let her eyes flutter shut in preparation for a kiss.
Such a heartfelt, utterly romantic speech could only end
one way. Just as whipped cream hungered for a cherry, his
words demanded to be topped off by a kiss. She didnâ€™t care
about the past. With a handful of sentences heâ€™d put her
insecurities to rest. Nate dazzled her, and she was ready
What was taking him so long? From beneath her lashes she
snuck a peek. No Nate. Hoping the knees heâ€™d melted to
jelly would hold her, Zoe scrambled out onto the dirt
path.Twenty strides ahead, Nate bellowed at her over his
shoulder. "Hurry up. We donâ€™t want to miss the reading of
From confusion to relief with paper hearts dancing
overhead...right back to confusion, all in less than five
minutes. Zoe trudged after him with one thought uppermost
in her mindâ€”now what?"