“Christian, I’ve long held the belief that you never really had an adolescence—emotionally speaking. I think you’re experiencing it now. I can see how agitated you are,” he continues, “and since you won’t let me prescribe you any anti-anxiety medication, I’d like you to try the relaxation techniques we discussed.”
Oh, not that shit. I roll my eyes, but I know I’m behaving like a sulky teenager. He just said as much.
“Christian, it’s your blood pressure. Not mine.”
“Okay.” I hold my hands up in surrender. “I’ll try my happy place.” I sound sarcastic, but it will appease John, who’s looking at the clock.
Where is my happy place?
My childhood in the orchard.
Sailing or soaring. Always.
It used to be with Elena.
But now my happy place is with Ana.
Flynn stifles a smile. “Time’s up,” he says.
FROM THE BACK OF the Audi, I call Ana.
“Hi,” she says, her voice quiet and breathy.
“Hi. When will you be finished?”
“By seven thirty, I think.”
“I’ll meet you outside.”
Thank God—I thought she might say she wanted to go back to her own apartment.
“I’m still mad at you, but that’s all,” she whispers. “We have a lot to talk about.”
“I know. See you at seven thirty.”
“I have to go. See you later.” She hangs up.
“Let’s sit here and wait for her,” I say to Taylor, and glance at the front door of SIP.
And I sit and listen to the rain as it drums an uneven tattoo on the roof of the car, drowning out my thoughts. Drowning out my happy place.
AN HOUR LATER, the door to SIP opens and there she is. Taylor climbs out of the car and opens the door as Ana hurries toward us, head down to avoid the rain.
I have no idea what she’s going to do or say as she shuffles in beside me, but she’s shaking her head and scattering droplets of water over me and the backseat.
I want to hold her.
“Hi,” she says, and her anxious eyes meet mine.
“Hi,” I respond and, reaching over, I grasp her hand and squeeze it.
“Are you still mad?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says.
I bring her hand to my lips and kiss each knuckle in turn. “It’s been a shitty day.”
“Yes, it has.” Her shoulders slump and she seems to relax into the car seat as she lets out a deep breath.
“It’s better now that you’re here.” I run my thumb across her knuckles, craving the contact. As Taylor drives us home, the day’s woes seem to dissipate and at last I start to relax.
She’s here. She’s safe.
She’s with me.
Taylor stops outside Escala and I’m not sure why. But Ana is already opening the door, so I jump out after her and we run into the building and out of the rain. I grasp her hand as we wait for the elevator, surveying the street through the plate glass. Just in case.
“I take it you haven’t found Leila yet,” Ana says.
“No. Welch is still looking for her.”
We step into the elevator and the doors close. Ana looks up at me, elfin-faced, and wide-eyed—I can’t look away. Our gaze holds my longing and her need. She licks her lips. A come-on.
And suddenly our attraction is in the air between us, like static, surrounding us.
“Do you feel it?” I whisper.
“Oh, Ana.” I cannot bear the distance between us. I reach for her so she’s in my arms and angle her head. My lips seek and find hers. She groans into my mouth, her fingers in my hair as I push her against the elevator wall. “I hate arguing with you.” I want every inch of her. Right here. Right now. To know that we’re okay.
Ana’s response is immediate. Her hunger and passion are unleashed in our kiss, her tongue demanding and urgent. Her body rises and presses against mine, seeking relief as I lift up her skirt, my fingertips skimming her thigh and feeling lace and warm, warm flesh. “Sweet Jesus, you’re wearing stockings.” My voice is hoarse as I slide my thumb across her stocking line. “I want to see this.” And I pull her skirt right up so I can see the tops of her thighs.
I step back to enjoy the view and press the elevator’s emergency stop button. I’m panting. I’m wanting, and she stands there like the fucking goddess she is, staring me down, her eyes dark, carnal, her breasts rising and falling as she drags air into her lungs.
“Take your hair down.”
Ana yanks at her hair tie and her hair spills down over her shoulders and curls at her breasts. “Undo the top two buttons of your shirt,” I whisper, growing harder and harder. Her lips parted, she reaches up and slowly, too slowly, undoes the first one. Pausing for a beat, she lowers her fingers to the second button and undoes it. Unhurried. Tantalizing me further and finally revealing the soft swell of her breasts.