My expression is one of innocence. ‘What’s wrong?’
He straddles me quickly, surprising me, and holds the last piece of peach to my mouth. I bite around it, but he pulls his fingers away this time, disposing of the stone and then reaching for the remote. He silences Poldark as he crushes his lips to mine. I taste peach and imagine he does too.
‘Nothing’s wrong.’ He drags my lower lip between his teeth. ‘I just don’t want to share you with Poldark.’
I grin against his mouth even as a warning bell bleats in my brain. He’s just joking. Being silly. Distracting me from a show he doesn’t like. And I’m more than willing to be distracted.
* * *
‘Stay the night.’
I’m on the brink of sleep.
Time has ceased to have meaning. We have been in his bed for hours. Talking. Dozing. Kissing. My body is an odd mix of weightlessness and heaviness. I am satiated and needy.
‘What day is it?’
I’m only half joking. The week has passed so quickly that I can barely remember where I’m at.
‘Saturday. Tomorrow’s Sunday.’
He traces a finger down my nose, following the curve, lifting it over the small jump at its tip and then pressing it to my lips. I kiss it and he smiles beside me, then runs his finger onwards, over my chin to the cleft between my breasts.
Goosebumps scatter across my flesh.
‘Mmm?’ I rouse myself to pay better attention.
‘No sleepovers, remember?’
‘Mmm... But you feel so good.’
He roves his hand over my naked breast, finding my nipple and circling it until I suck in a shuddering breath.
There is danger in spending the night. I know I must go. And I will. Soon.
I am no longer capable of thought, speech or staving off exhaustion. My eyes sweep shut.
I fall asleep with his hand on my breast and memories of him in my mind.
Where are you?
I PUSH MY phone back into my bag without answering, determinedly turning my attention to the flowers before me.
Stalls line the footpath, but I have my favourite, and I am nothing if not faithful. I select two bunches of tulips—yellow and pink—and hand over some cash from my back pocket. I cradle them against my chest as I weave through the markets, pausing to buy a pretzel and a coffee which I must juggle in one hand.
It’s worth it. The pretzel is warm and soft, the dough salty on the outside and almost sweet within. The pretzel is a perfect metaphor for New York, this city that I found so impenetrable at first and which I now adore.
I have been wandering the streets for over an hour, wondering that same thing. I feel my phone buzz, but have no choice but to ignore it. My hands are now full.
It will wait.
No romance, no commitment.
No potential for heartbreak.
I smile resolutely and weave my way through people and stalls, puppies and children, and turn into my own street. Familiarity makes my heart skip a beat or two. I tell myself I am happy to be here, that I want to be in my own home rather than in his hotel room.
Yesterday was fun, but staying there again today would be habit-forming, and I’m not prepared to do that. I tell myself it was smart to sneak out while he was asleep, without so much as kissing his cheek for fear that it would wake him, and he would kiss me back, and then all my good intentions would be scarpered.
I reach the front door at the same time as Kelvin Monteith from the upstairs apartment is leaving; he holds it open and offers to carry the flowers up for me. I shake my head and climb the stairs, jiggling my key into the slot and pushing the door inwards.
Eliza’s still asleep, but Cassie is in the kitchen, fixing breakfast. I can smell the bacon the second I step inside.
‘Morning!’ I call cheerfully, waving the tulips in her face. ‘Aren’t these beautiful?’
She arches a brow and taps her foot pointedly.
‘Have you been with him again?’
I shake my head. And then I shrug. ‘Yeah.’
‘That’s three times this week?’
Heat suffuses my cheeks. ‘Who’s counting?’