One Night In Chicago (excerpt)

“I know this is for the best.” He had his reasonable, communicator voice on, the one he used when he wanted to be taken seriously. “We need to grow in directions we can’t grow together. I understand you have to leave and find your way in the world, too. We’ve had our claws in each other for a while, but we don’t have to part on bad terms. We’ve been mature about it so far, haven’t we? I know I’ll never regret the last four years, and I’ll never forget you.” He paused, then spoke again, softer, more strained, “You made me a better person, whether you believe it or not.”

She closed her eyes and ducked her head, struggling to push down the wave of emotion that threatened to crash over her.

“You helped me be a better person too.” Her voice came out tight. “And a smarter one. More realistic. Thank you for that.” Realism hurt, but dreams and fantasy kept her shielded in an unrealistic box, and it was a necessary transition. She wasn’t as optimistic as she once was, but she’d gotten a lot smarter.

He slid his hand up her arm, onto her shoulder, then skimmed his fingers up the back of her neck and stroked them through her ponytail. She gripped the windowsill.

“You’re still the most beautiful woman in the world to me,” he said. “I’ll never find a prettier one.”

She lifted her head and opened her eyes. “I’m sure you will. Women flock around you. I’ve seen it at your band’s gigs.”

He wrapped his arm around her waist and jerked her back against him. She gasped.

“I’ve never touched another woman.” He spoke fiercely in her ear. “Not since I met you. I never cheated on you.”

She gripped his arm across her stomach. “I know.” She swallowed. “I wasn’t implying—”

“You were always enough for me. Replacing you isn’t going to be easy.”

“But you will replace me.”

He huffed out a laugh. “Do you expect me to spend the rest of my life celibate? You can move on, but I can’t?”

She gripped his arm tighter, digging her nails in, not hard, but enough to make a point. Why was she jealous? Why did she care?

“I don’t doubt you will. But good luck finding anyone as good as me in bed.” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them.

He pulled her tighter against the solid wall of his body. “Same to you. You’ll never find anyone who turns you on like I do. No one who knows you like I do, knows your body.”

The challenge in his voice, the confidence, the pompousness: those things irritated her, but they also ignited her lust. “Prove it,” she spat.

He gripped a handful of the long floral skirt she wore. Her fall wardrobe had already come out, much of it financed by him. She would miss that, too.

“You said you didn’t want to reenact everything.” He dragged the skirt up her legs. “I’m getting mixed signals here.”

“You’re right. What will one more time hurt? We haven’t had sex in weeks. We might as well enjoy ourselves one last time.” She pressed a hand against the glass. “Unless you’re not up for it?”

“Not up for it? Do you even know who I am?”

“I know who you are, jerk.”

She relaxed against him. She delighted in his electric presence, in his vitality, in his engulfing masculinity. Those things she enjoyed.

“You smell good.” His voice rumbled over her skin as he nuzzled her neck, pushing her ponytail aside. “And I like you in skirts.”

“I know. Because they’re easier to get under, right?”

He yanked her skirt the rest of the way up. She whimpered as he skimmed his fingertips across her bare thigh. He wanted her, still had some need to exert his claim on her. In the past few days, he hadn’t turned cold, though it would have been easier if he had.