Matt could tell she’d keep filling the silence with rambling unless he stopped her. Did he make her nervous? Or was she just second-guessing one of the nicest freaking things that anyone had ever done for him?
He put a hand on her upper arm. Tried with all his might to keep it more of a casual tap, and not let it turn into a squeeze or caress. “Sorry. You caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to say. ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough. This is all way beyond thoughtful.”
Her cheeks pinked up. The flush was adorable.
It made him wonder what else could make her flush like that. And then Matt cursed his one-track mind.
“Oh, it was no big deal.” Everleigh shrugged both shoulders.
No. He couldn’t let her dismiss such a meaningful gesture. Or not understand what an impact it’d made on him.
So Matt stroked his hand up to her shoulder. Did the same on the other side, as well, to prevent her from another shrug. And if his thumbs made contact with creamy skin due to the wide neck of her tee, well, he didn’t regret it.
“Stop. It was unnecessary. Took time and effort from your packed day. It was considerate. And I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate it. You made me feel like this really is a place I belong. That’s exactly what I need right now. Somewhere I can feel anchored.”
“Well, good. I’m relieved. I just wish there was more I could do.” Everleigh licked her lips. “To make you comfortable.”
Matt was a lot of things. A police officer. Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard Reserve. Son. Boss. Friend.
But he wasn’t a saint.
It had been a hell of a rough week. And it was only Wednesday. A drop-dead gorgeous woman was at 11 out of 10 on the flirt scale. If Everleigh wanted to make him feel better, what kind of a chump would he be to resist?
“Oh, I’m plenty comfortable.” Matt moved his hands up the sides of her neck until they framed her heart-shaped face. “Let’s see if the two of us can move that needle up to something way better than comfortable. For both of us.”
It wasn’t as far down to her lips as expected, because Everleigh stood on tiptoe to meet him halfway. This was no tentative first peck. No cautious easing into things.
Matt knew what he wanted. And Everleigh seemed just as eager.
They skipped over all the first kiss slowness. They skipped about five minutes ahead. Matt took her mouth like it was already his. Because she offered it so willingly. Because she molded her tight, lithe body against his.
Everleigh tasted faintly of…strawberry ice cream. And an inherent sweetness that was all her. There was warmth. Pliable softness, yet also a firmness as she returned his kiss. Equal want, equal giving. Which made it the perfect kiss.
They were swaying in tandem, almost like an unheard melody played. Or maybe it was just their pulses syncing up.
Matt tilted her head to the side a bit more. Then he unleashed the desire he’d been working so hard to ignore since their first meeting.
His tongue swept into her mouth. Immediately, hers danced and twined around his. Teasing, just like Everleigh herself. Fun, sweet, but with a backdraft of heat. Like one of those jalapeño margaritas with a kick that made you crave more.
Matt wanted so much more.
USA TODAY bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.
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