meandering detour through the aisles, drawing imaginary lines between ingredients, usually cleared his head of trouble and replaced it with culinary possibility. But what had lodged itself in his mind two days ago wasn’t giving up the prime real estate so handily.
Years ago he’d used kissing as a means to an end. Women loved it; he never really understood why. Now he knew.
Sleep had never come easily to him, but these past two nights, since that kiss on the cold stairwell, it had become an impossibility. Every time he closed his eyes he relived the raw desire on Cat’s face. Heard her high, yielding sighs. Felt the firmness of her thighs under his fingers and the heat where she’d ground against his cock.
All that control, gone.
The second he’d taken her mouth, he’d flown high. The sensation of their lips together, the hot glide of their tongues—the instruments they’d used to talk and laugh—leveled him. He’d never known desire that powerful. At first he’d thought it was only because he’d finally given in after three years ofabstinence. But then, as Cat had clung to him and
, he knew it was because of her.
Her passion ignited him. Her confidence floored him. Her responsiveness terrified him.
His mind knew this and welcomed it. But his body…the moment it had thought release was within its grasp, he’d retreated into that slave space. Automatic. Single-minded and selfish. Horrible.
The Burned Man had laughed in one ear and made awful suggestions in the other.
So Xavier had run, because he realized that Cat was worth so much more.
He’d wandered down every aisle in the market and couldn’t remember a single dish he’d come up with along the way. Rosemary, that’s what he’d come for. He should get some yellow pepper, too. He turned out of the condiment aisle, rounded the small display of winter grapefruit, and froze.
There she stood, pondering the plastic display case of pastries and doughnuts. The red pompom stuck out from where she’d stuffed the hat into her coat pocket. She pulled the loose waves of her hair over one shoulder and stretched for a chocolate éclair.
She hadn’t seen him. He could walk out of the store right now and she’d never know he was there…except that in the short time they’d spent together, she’d shown him glimpses of the kind of person he could be, and he wanted to know that man better.
“They don’t actually make those here.” His mouth was dry as flour.
She stiffened. Straightened. Turned toward him. “Xavier.”
He had no idea how to read her face, but hoped what he saw there wasn’t pity. He was embarrassed as all hell, but he wanted to make it right. He didn’t want her to think it had been her fault he’d freaked out. And he needed to prove to himself that it wasn’t just physical with her, that sex wasn’t all he needed. He remembered those moments of peace when they’d just talked, and he used them as a dangling carrot.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“The breads and things,” he stuttered. “They try to make it look like they’re baked on site, but they’re not.”
Idiot. He was talking about
“Oh.” She looked longingly at that chocolate éclair. “I don’t really care. I’m starving.”
“You’re up early.”
“Can’t kick the jet lag.” She avoided his eyes, and really, could he blame her? “And I haven’t been sleeping well.”
Something skittered through his gut, and it wasn’t hunger.
“I have biscuits in the oven at home,” he said. “And I’m making omelets.” He held up the little plastic bag of rosemary and the pepper.
She blinked up at him and didn’t say anything.
“Never mind,” he mumbled, and started to turn away.
“No, wait. Sorry. I’m just thinking about my schedule, if I have time.”
He toyed with the rosemary in the bag, counting the leaves on a single stalk. Then he blurted out, “I’m sorry about the other day.”