Fit to be Chai-ed
Chapter 14 (Final)
When his hand slid lightly over her ribs, a slight twinge of pain should have warned her. Then he pulled her close, and the sharp burning shock that racketed through her rib cage was enough to tell her two things: she was definitely not dreaming, and no matter how badly she wanted it, she wouldn’t be sleeping with anyone tonight. No matter how good looking he was.
It wasn’t fair. After everything she’d been through, she deserved this, dammit. Deserved him.
“Broken rib,” she said, noting the concern on his face as she blinked back tears and braced herself on the door jamb. He’d backed off as soon as she cried out and despite the dull ache that remained, she missed his heat.
“I’m sorry. I’m not…I mean, it wasn’t–”
He held up a hand and smiled patiently. “You’ve got nothing to apologize for – I should have remembered. Are you okay now? Do you need to sit down? Painkillers? What can I do?”
She shook her head. “I think I’m okay, but thanks. I’ll just need to be careful tonight, is all. Are you sure you still want to go? I may not be the best company, I’m afraid.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he said, holding up his arm. “Shall we?”
Anna nodded, brushing the moisture from her cheeks and then locking the door before taking his arm. He helped her into his truck and she was surprised at how easy he was to talk to while they drove to the convention center.
The dinner went by far more quickly than Anna expected. Erik was charming and witty even as he nursed a beer bottle rather than a champagne glass, and by the end of the evening Anna was the envy of every woman he’d come in contact with, and maybe even a few of the men.
As he drove her back home, she felt an all-too-familiar longing welling up in her soul. Would he want to see her again? Past experience said no, but this felt different. She felt…hopeful.
“You’re quiet,” he said as he pulled his truck into her driveway and cut the engine. “Tired? How do your ribs feel?”
She smiled. “A little tired, I guess. My ribs are fine, thanks. I was just…thinking, is all.”
“Dangerous pastime,” he commented, sliding off the seat. He opened her door and held out a hand, helping her onto the pavement. “Anything you care to share in those thoughts of yours?”
She shrugged. “Just how much fun I had tonight, is all. You’re very good with people.”
He walked her to the door, taking the keys from her to fit them in the lock.
“Part of my job description,” he said, pushing the door open and handing her keys back. “Working undercover means having to get along with anyone I need to. So I guess you could call it a survival skill.”
She nodded. “I can see where that would be handy.” Stepping over the threshold, she swallowed the lump in her throat and prayed her voice wouldn’t break. “Would you…um…like to come in for a bit?”
She tried not to hold her breath, thankful when he didn’t make her wait long.
“Sure,” he said, following her into the entryway and closing the door behind him. “I was hoping you’d ask.”
“Really?” The question popped out before Anna could stop it, and earned a cocky grin from her guest. “I mean–”
He held up a hand and she shut her mouth as he closed the gap between them.
“Really.” Reaching out, he cupped the side of her face in one hand. “Dinner was fun, but I’ve been wanting to do this again all night.” He kissed her, his lips soft and enticing as he explored her mouth. She opened for him, tasting, nibbling in return. It was a heady experience, and she wanted to weep when he gently pulled away.
“I should go,” he said, though his eyes told her he’d rather stay. “But just for tonight.” He paused to think for a moment. “Would you like to go to breakfast with me tomorrow? Or I could just bring it here. I don’t know what you like, but–”
Anna laughed, her heart soaring at the thought that he wanted to see her again so soon.
“Anything is fine, really,” she finally answered. Then a thought occurred to her and she fidgeted for a few moments trying to decide what to do about it. There was no way around looking desperate if she asked for what she wanted, but maybe, just maybe he wanted the same thing.
“You’re going to think this is crazy, but would you want to…I mean, I know my ribs are sore, and you’re in pain too, I just had this idea that maybe you’d stay anyways and we could just watch a movie. Or something. I have a cozy couch…”
Her cheeks burned and she knew they were fire-engine red once she finally spit it out.
Erik nodded, his expression serious. “Yeah. I think I’d like that. A lot, actually.” He turned away and threw the deadbolt on her front door. When he turned back, he kissed her again and while her face remained hot, the stress slipped off her shoulders.
She took his hand and pulled him toward the living room. “Let me show you the couch, and we can pick out something to watch.”
“Okay,” he said, squeezing her fingers with a chuckle. “But I have to warn you, I’ve never been on a couch more comfortable than mine. I’m picky when it comes to sofas.”
“Is that so?” She gave him a teasing look over her shoulder. “Are you going to storm out if my couch doesn’t pass muster?”
He thought for a second before shaking his head. “Nope. But I might insist you try mine tomorrow night.”
She sat on the royal blue brushed suede cushions, tugging him down beside her.
“I think you’re going to like this one just fine,” she said with a grin, moving in to place a gentle kiss on the side of his neck.
He laughed, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and carefully pulling her close. “You know, I think you’re right?”
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