I’m like a feather being pitched up, down and sideways in the wind.
I hear his words, I hear him telling me things about myself I’ve never even taken the time to acknowledge and I have no doubt, zero doubt, that Ryan does love me. My God, the way he’s looking at me with his ocean blue eyes is glorious and honest. For a good ten seconds, I ache to throw my arms around his neck and beg him to be with me forever. To take that risk. To tell him all the things I know about him that no one else does.
But my fight-or-flight instinct creeps up, preparing to kick in. I’m vulnerable, like a control panel of exposed nerves. “I…I…”
“It’s okay.” He sets me down on my feet and kisses my forehead. “You just let that sink in for now, Jessie. There’s no rush, because I’m not going anywhere.”
I nod dumbly.
“In the meantime, we’re going to burn these clothes to be safe.”
And then Ryan strips off his shirt to reveal the physique of a god.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I whisper.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jessie whispers.
Just like I knew she would, she starts to back away from me so quickly, she almost trips over an ottoman.
“You’ve just looked like that this whole time?” She’s behind the couch now, using it like a shield. “But how? But why?”
“How? I train before and after work in the precinct gym.” I let her see it, my obsession. Let it bleed into my expression, to see how she reacts. Or if I have a chance at salvaging my unplanned confession. “And why? I’m your protector, Jessie. I’m prepared for anything at all times. I have the resources through work and this body as a weapon. It’s all for you. Every hour of my day. Every fucking inch of me.”
“Oh my God.”
Rein it in. You’re going to scare her. “I know it’s a lot to take in at once.”
“You’ve been pretending to be a-a messy nerdy guy on purpose?”
I laugh. “Messy is a little harsh, but okay. Yes, I have.”
“Says the girl hiding behind the couch right now.” I shake my head. “I’m the same man, I just look different than you expected.” Unable to help myself from getting closer to her, I move to join her on the other side of the couch, approaching her with caution. “The question is: do you like it?”
Jessie’s eyes track down the front of my body, over my pecs, abdomen. My dick, where it remains trapped inside my sweatpants. It’s only started to stiffen and her cheeks are turning a rosy shade of pink. “It doesn’t matter if I like it. We’re best friends.” She licks her lips and backs herself into a wall. “Friends don’t…”
“Whatever it is you’re thinking of doing.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Which is?”
“I’m not going to say it out loud.” Jessie is trembling when I reach her, but not from fear and not from the cold. I confirm by pushing the coat off her shoulders and finding her nipples in tight, little peaks against the front of her red flannel shirt.
A broken groan leaves me.
It’s almost more bliss than I can stand, finding proof twice in one day that I turn her on. And one of those times was before she saw the physique I’ve built in her honor at the gym. More than anything, I want to exploit that attraction, but I have to remember she’s been caught off guard. While she’s been my world, my infatuation, my reason for breathing for over a decade, it’s not the same for her. Yet.
I’ve been waiting for this day forever. Fantasized about it while following her down quiet Philadelphia streets, watched her from the coffee shop that looks into the hair salon where she works, watched her sleep. Photographed her unaware. Yes, I’ve been dreaming of this moment, so I won’t fuck it up. I refuse.
“Listen to me,” I say near her temple. “I’ve thought of nothing but fucking you silly since middle school. Thirteen years, Jessie. I can wait until you get used to the idea of me loving you. Just don’t run from me. Don’t be scared of me. I couldn’t stand it.”
Backing away from her is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I do it.
I’m shocked as hell when she stops me, her fingers sliding into my waistband and twisting, halting my progress in the opposite direction. Fucking Christ, just the feel of her smooth fingers sliding on my abdomen makes my cock jerk, spurting semen into the leg of my sweatpants. “Jessie,” I groan. “Don’t tease me.”
“I was thinking…maybe a kiss?”
She seems to have surprised herself.
Hell, she surprised me, too. I know I have to tread lightly, but I’m not letting the opportunity to kiss her pass me by when I have no idea if I’ll ever get it again.