Commitment. That’s what I really want from Colin. Ever since my brother, Danny, died in Iraq, Colin’s done so much to help me, including giving me a job at his popular restaurant so I can leave my crappy waitressing job at the strip joint. But lying in bed with him every night to comfort him from his horrible nightmares isn’t enough anymore. I know he feels guilty about Danny’s death, about not going to Iraq, but I can’t keep living this double life.
I love him desperately, but he’s got so many demons, and if he can’t open up to me now, then he’ll never be the real partner I need him to be. I gave him a month, and now I’m out of here. If he truly loves me like he says, he knows where to find me.
Unable to hold myself back, I rush toward her, angry that she would insult herself. Panicked that she really is going to walk away and I’m going to lose my chance. Thinking too much sucks. I need to just let it happen. Take this opportunity that she’s presenting me.
And let her go when our time is up.
“You’re not a moron,” I murmur, reaching for her. I cup her face in my hands and position her so she has no choice but to meet my gaze. I skim my thumbs across her cheeks, feel her shudder at my touch. “You make an offer like that and a man needs to process it first.”
The unshed tears still glimmer in her eyes and one escapes, leaving a damp trail across her skin. Leaning in, I stop its descent with my lips, tasting the salt, hearing the catch in her breath. “We do this and it’s not going to be some half-assed thing, you know,” I whisper.
She closes her eyes, her tears tangled in her long, thick lashes. “What’s it going to be, then?”
“A discovery.” I nuzzle her nose with my own, breathing in her scent, her very essence. God, I could devour her! It’s taking everything within me to keep calm and not unleash all over her. “An exploration.”
“That sounds like . . . research.” Her breath hitches in her throat when I drop a tender kiss on the tip of her nose.
Chuckling, I shake my head. “It’s the farthest thing from research.” I drift my lips across her cheek, blazing a hot path on her petal-soft skin. “You’re right when you said I don’t do commitment. The closest thing I’ve ever been to commitment is . . . what I share with you.”
She tentatively places her hands on my hips, her fingers curling into the waistband of my jeans. Having her hands on me sends little darts of fire throughout my insides, making me harden in an instant. She has no idea what sort of effect she has on me. How much restraint I’m using at this very moment not to throw her over my shoulder like an oversexed caveman and cart her off to my bedroom.
“But it can be no more than friendship with added . . . benefits.” I lift my head so I can look into her troubled gaze. She doesn’t like what I have to say and I don’t like it either, but I have to be honest. Stringing her along and making her believe this is something more is a mistake.
The two of us together would never work. I’m too damn selfish. I’d disappoint her. I’d hold her back when she needs her freedom. I’m not worthy of her. She’s everything sweet and good in my life, where there’s little sweet and good remaining.
I’ve kept her—and our relationship—as pure as possible even after all of these years. With the realization that she’s leaving me, that we’ll never be together again, I need to take my opportunities where I can.
Jen bites her lip and drops her gaze. “I can handle that.”
Her body language is more than telling me she doesn’t really want to handle that, but I can’t worry about it now.
I want her too damn much.