Shane curses under his breath and pulls me closer, enveloping me in his contradictory scents of smoky and fresh. “Ah, love. I’m sorry.”
I nod, but he’s pressed so close it seems like I’m nuzzling him. “That’s just one time out of a thousand I owe her for. I don’t know anything about babies, but I was going to help. This was my chance to pay her back for saving me.”
Shane pushes my hair back from my face. “Willa, I understand guilt. More than you know,” he adds quietly, giving me the feeling that I’m not the only one hurting here. His voice sounds rusty, as if he hasn’t flexed his compassion muscle in a while, making it all the more meaningful. “I don’t know your sister, but I do know you’re not the type who needs rescuing. I reckon she’d say you rescued her, in return.”
“Huh…thanks,” I say on an exhale. Even if I don’t entirely believe him, I appreciate him saying so. From what I’ve learned about Shane, warmth and understanding don’t come easy to him. Being that he doesn’t especially like me, I’m sure saying the words were twice as difficult. When neither one of us speaks for a stretch of time, the darkness starts to feel closer. I become aware of every tingling point of my body that connects to his. My knees, my arm, my cheek are all warmer than the rest of my body. Our breaths sound like waves rushing between us, and the longer we go without speaking, the deeper those breaths become. Something he said before comes back to me, though, and I need to voice my curiosity. “Why are you guilty, Shane?”
Shane’s hand curls into a fist at the outside of my thigh. “Too many things, Willa.” His head turns just slightly, and I shiver when his lips brush my earlobe. “I’m not a nice guy. Not like—”
I kiss him. I don’t know what compels me to do it. If it’s the fear of hearing Evan’s name right now, allowing his ghost to intrude on this oddly endearing moment in the pitch-dark. Or if it’s just Shane and I’ve finally reached my limit on resisting him. As he sinks into the kiss with a groan and my head goes light, I know it’s the latter. It’s all Shane.
Just as I’m about to pull him closer to deepen the kiss, he breaks away. “I shouldn’t kiss you when you’ve been crying.”
“Yes, you should.”
“Yes, I should.”
His lips seal hard over mine, the force of it tipping my head back. We breathe shakily into one another’s mouths at the initial contact. We’ve barely started and I can’t draw air into my constricted lungs. I quickly decide air is overrated when his tongue nudges my mouth open and he starts to take. My sanity, logic, and reservations become indistinct as his fingers burrow in my hair and my mouth is mastered.
Shane Claymore kisses me like the world is ending. I’ve never experienced anything like it. He doesn’t rest in one pattern, but keeps me guessing which part of me he’ll explore next. The kiss is at once fast and slow. Determined and savoring. My thoughts bleed together until all I can do is melt against the body molding into mine, trapping me between it and the desk.
With an irritated groan, he takes one final, provocative pull of my mouth, then gives into the human weakness of oxygen requirement. We’re dragging in air, the office suddenly stifling. I can’t see his face so I have no way to judge what he’s thinking. Then I feel the grip of his strong hands on my backside, yanking me to the edge of the desk. His hips wedge between my legs, hard, and I gasp at the unexpectedness of it. It’s an aggressive move, but it doesn’t scare me. No, instead it sends a thrill of heat coursing through my system.
“When you walked in tonight, I could see it on your face. You’re thinking about it.”
“Thinking about what?” I run my hands up his muscular chest, licking my swollen lips. Why isn’t he still kissing me? Before I can voice my second question out loud, his body propels mine backward onto the desk, so my legs have no choice but to curl around his waist.
“This, babe.” Shane’s mouth skates up the side of my neck as his hips begin to roll suggestively against mine. The rhythmic movement causes the seam of my jeans to push and drag over a spot I’ve been sorely neglecting of late, and I moan. “This. Us. Me moving inside you. You’re thinking about it.”
“Jesus. I am now.”
Shane grabs both of my thighs and props them on his hips. “People like us, we keep too much inside already. We can’t bottle up everything, or we go crazy.” His mouth collides with mine, the kiss beginning almost lazily, but by the time we break for air again, we’re in a frenzy. “Come to me, soon, Willa. Knowing you’re asleep upstairs in that big bed alone is keeping me up at night. I want to be between your legs without these goddamn jeans in my way.”
“Yes. Okay,” I pant. “I’m th-thinking about it.”
With a low curse, he releases me. I slump back onto the desk, listening to his footsteps make their way toward the exit. As he opens the door, allowing dim light to intrude, I prop myself up on my elbows to watch him. He pauses and looks back at me, hair disheveled, mouth still damp from kissing me.
“Think faster, girl.”
“Ah, come on, Willa. Shane gave me the day off. Have you even looked out your window?” Bouncing up and down on one leg, Faith gestures dramatically toward the window of my room. “There’s enough sun that I might get burned. I haven’t been burned in ages.”
“Why would you want to get burned?”
She pinches her arm. “I have Irish skin. My options are white or red.”
“Ah.” I hide my smile and turn back to the mirror. Biting my lip, I glance at the laundry-day outfit I’ve thrown together. Emergency jeans that sit way too low on my hips, and a sleeveless fuchsia blouse I’d bought yesterday on a whim. Because I liked the color, not because I thought someone else might like me in the color, that’s for damn sure.
I tug down the sheer material of my top, but a sliver of my belly is still showing. Hiding in the Laundromat with my navel exposed is one thing, but spending an entire day in this outfit, so unlike my usual black T-shirt and jeans, is decidedly unappealing. Today was supposed to be about laundry and buying a gift for Dolly, which for some reason feels like a pressing errand even though I won’t meet her for weeks. Ginger still hasn’t called, making me twice as restless. I feel like I need to do something for the baby, to make up for my not being there.
Still, Faith’s reflection behind me in the mirror is so hopeful, and she’s already straightened her hair. I’m going soft, I realize glumly. “I might be able to swing a couple hours. What did you have in mind?”
“Just a bit of shopping,” she says it too quickly, like she’d already had the answered chambered long before entering my room. When I narrow my eyes at her suspiciously, she spins toward the door. “Come on then, before the sun remembers what country it’s shining on.”
Bracing myself for whatever Faith is about to spring on me, I sling my messenger bag over my shoulder and follow her out. I catch the last of her white dress fluttering, then disappearing at the base of the stairs as I start to descend. “Slow down, crazy pants. If you break your neck, we’ll—” I come to a halt as I see Faith and Shane standing toe to toe in the hallway. Ever since their argument the night of our O’Kelly’s excursion, I’ve wondered if they’ve been talking to one another. Apparently not, if their body language is any indication. Faith has her arms crossed over her chest, chin up in the air. Shane simply looks weary.