“You live near here, right?”
“Go a block west and then up three more blocks. Tiny rental. Okay, maybe not tiny, and it’s about to get bigger. Did I tell you that Jamie’s moving out?”
She looked at him askance as they crossed the street. “No, you didn’t. Is that a good thing?”
“Yes. I prefer to live alone.”
She mock gasped and widened her eyes. “Me too.”
He grinned at her, enjoying her company so much. “Shocker.”
She laughed softly, the sound cascading over him like a cozy blanket. “Where’s he moving to?”
“Brooke’s old loft. He just managed to snag it right after she gave notice.”
Luke stopped on the sidewalk. “What’s wrong?”
“She told me that she was moving and asked if I was interested in taking her loft. Stupidly, I said no.”
She was the person Jamie had mentioned. That sucked. She looked so disappointed.
Maybe he could ask Jamie not to take it. Which, of course, meant that Luke would still have a roommate.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t you dare talk to Jamie. It’s his fair and square. Anyway, my initial response was to pass, and sometimes your gut just knows what to do. I’m going to trust that.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded vigorously. “Absolutely. Jamie deserves it—and you deserve to have your own place. I can see how much it means to you.”
She was quite simply the best woman he’d ever met. “Can I kiss you?”
She stared at him, her lips parting slightly. He heard the small but distinctive intake of her breath.
He leaned forward.
She jerked away but didn’t let go of his hand. “Ask me again when we get to my place. Sorry, I need to…process.”
He forced himself to take a deep breath. His pulse was working overtime, and points south of his waistband were getting ahead of themselves.
“So your parents seem nice.”
Now he knew she was the best woman. His mother ought to have scared her off. “My mom didn’t make you cringe with the waitress comment? You have a freaking master’s degree, for crying out loud.”
She laughed. “I’m used to that. You should see how some customers treat waitstaff. It’s disgusting.”
He hated that she had to put up with that. They turned the corner and headed back toward The Arch and Vine. “But she’s my mother.”
“And I’m sure she’s lovely. I told you a bit about my mother, right? She would’ve asked how many dates we’d gone on and whether we planned to go out again. And our answers would’ve just spurred more questions. It’s always an interrogation with her.”
They crossed the street again, and he was torn between walking faster to see if he’d get to kiss her and slowing to a crawl because he didn’t want the evening to end. Although, if he kissed her and things progressed…maybe the evening wouldn’t end at all.
Whoa there, pal. Settle.
They got to her door, and she turned toward him. “And here we are.” She looked up at him, and her eyes were pale and gorgeous in the lamplight.
“About that kiss…”
She slid her hands up his shirtfront and clasped the sides of his jaw. Coming up on her toes, she pressed her lips against his. Her touch raced through him like electricity—hot and blinding. He grasped her waist and pulled her close until her hips grazed his.
She pulled her lips from his but didn’t retreat. Her eyes opened, and the vulnerability in their depths stole his breath. “I haven’t done that in years. I don’t…” She shook her head.
He lifted his hands and cupped her face. “Thank you.” He kissed her again, softly moving his mouth over hers, wanting more but afraid to take anything she didn’t want to offer.
Her hands slipped down his neck and clutched at his collar. She pulled him closer and twined her hands around his nape. Then she angled her head and opened her mouth. That was the invitation he’d been waiting for. The fantasy he’d been dreaming of.