“Medium-rare,” she said. “And let me guess, you’re the kind of guy who likes your meat to moo at you.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “Not me, I like my steaks medium-rare, too.”
They ate out on his deck, overlooking the lake, and he couldn’t remember ever enjoying a meal more. When the sun set over the horizon and the mosquitoes came out, they reluctantly went inside. Since Larissa was on crutches, he brought all the dirty dishes in and set them on the counter. She tried to start the dishes, but he shooed her away. “I have a dishwashing machine, there’s no reason for you to do them.”
“All right,” she agreed. “It’s time for me to head home, anyway. Thanks for dinner, Gabe.”
“You’re very welcome,” he said huskily. As much as he didn’t want her to leave, he knew that it would be best for him if she did. He was already far too aware of her. And far too comfortable around her. “Do you need help getting out to the car?”
“Hey, I’m a pro with these things by now,” she said, propping the crutches beneath her arms. “Although you were right about the fact that crutch walking isn’t as easy as it looks. My arms are already tired and sore from one measly day.”
He knew exactly what she meant. “You’ll get used to it after a few days.”
“I hope so.”
He held the door open for her so she could make her way outside. The ride back to her apartment didn’t take long, another novelty of living in Crystal Lake compared to Madison. All the streets in Madison led to the capitol, which made traffic a total nightmare every day.
“Are you working tomorrow?” Larissa asked, breaking into his thoughts.
“Yes, are you?”
“No, I’m off one more day.” Was that a flash of disappointment in her features? It was difficult to tell in the dim light. For a moment, he considered asking one of his colleagues to cover for him so they could spend another day together.
Bad idea, he told himself. Really bad idea. Besides, he’d see her the following night.
He tried to find a neutral topic. “If your ankle isn’t better, get in to see your doctor. I still think you might need that MRI.”
“I will,” she promised.
He pulled into the parking lot of her apartment building and shut off the car so he could help her out. Of course, being Larissa, she was already trying to get out on her own.
Trying not to roll his eyes, he hurried around to assist. She attempted to pivot on one foot and teetered to the side.
“I’ve got you,” he said, catching her before she could fall against the door. Her small frame fit into his arms perfectly, and suddenly, he didn’t want to let her go.
“Thanks,” she said breathlessly, her face buried against his chest.
He stood, fighting against the desire to wrap his arms around her, drawing her even closer. But then she pulled back a bit and tipped her head to look up at him. And he couldn’t seem to help himself.
He lowered his mouth to capture hers in a tender kiss.
Larissa melted against Gabe, lost in his kiss. It wasn’t until there was a loud bang from someone slamming a car door nearby that she finally regained her senses.
She pulled away, struggling to catch her breath. Why had he kissed her?
Why had she kissed him back?
“Larissa,” he began, and she immediately knew he was about to apologize.
“It’s okay,” she said quickly, cutting him off. “I really need to get going. Thanks again for everything,” she said, desperately wishing she could just walk away.
But of course, she couldn’t walk anywhere, not without the crutches.
“Can you get the crutches out for me?” she asked when he didn’t say anything.
“Sure.” He stepped back, opened the door, and pulled them out. “I’ll walk you inside,” he said.
“No!” The word came out much harsher than she’d intended. Couldn’t he see she was hanging on by a thread? “Goodnight, Gabe.”
She tucked the crutches beneath her already-sore armpits and made her way up the sidewalk. Of course, Gabe didn’t just let her go inside by herself; in fact, he rushed ahead to open the door for her.