“Why are you here, Charlie?”
“I came in for a drink—”
“No, in Oak Creek as a tutor. You never mentioned wanting to help kids when we were together.”
That was because she thought she’d have half a dozen kids of her own. It had never occurred to her that she might want a job helping someone else’s children.
Yet another thing she was never going to tell him. She crossed her arms over her chest. “We haven’t seen each other in almost a decade. I think we can agree that people change in that time. I got a master’s degree, found something I was good at. Is that a sin?”
He took that final step so all the ways he hadn’t been touching her, he now was. He was pressed against her from thigh to shoulder. Again, she should move away.
Again, she didn’t.
She had the strength to survive what would bring others to their knees, but not to move away from Finn Bollinger. She’d done it once, and it had nearly killed her.
“Sin,” he whispered, his mouth so close to hers. “You mentioned that last time I saw you. This is the only sin I think about when I’m anywhere near you.”
His hands started at her elbows and slid all the way up to her shoulders. She shuddered inside her thin jacket even though the night was mild. His fingers kept trailing up, along her collarbone, then to her throat. He tilted her chin higher as he bent toward her.
And then his lips were on hers, like they belonged there. And maybe they did. She gripped his wrists and held on as the heat surrounding them crackled in the air.
The kiss was lush, open, and hot, the way it always had been between them. It had been a long time, so damn long, since she had kissed anyone. Since she had been this close to anyone at all. Her body was starved for it.
But it hungered for Finn most of all. Only he had ever been able to ignite a fire in her with just a kiss. And this one went on and on like it had when they were in high school, when kissing was all they’d known how to do. When they’d been young and hadn’t figured out there was so much better.
She would’ve expected his lips to be hard and punishing, vengeful. But they weren’t. They coaxed, slid, nibbled against hers, as if he could sense how alone she had been, how close to the edge she’d been walking these last few months. How close she’d been to breaking.
They both emitted low sounds of hunger as their tongues met and dueled. His thumbs rubbed gentle circles on her throat, the sensation more arousing than anything she’d experienced in years. The feel of his big body pressing her hard against the door of her car should probably have made her wary. Concerned.
But it didn’t. This was Finn. They might tear each other apart, but he would never hurt her. She just wanted to stay here and kiss him forever and forget about everything else that waited, ready to pounce, beyond the two of them.
But it wasn’t long before people were coming out, laughing, talking, and very definitely coming within visible range. Finn eased his body back from hers, then took a step away, completing the distance.
She wanted to cry at the loss.
“I’ve got to go back inside,” he said. “We’re celebrating and it’s important I be there.”
She looked down at their feet, his so much larger than hers. “Yeah, no problem. I need to get going.” To absolutely nowhere.
“You can come in if you want. Hang out with us.”
She swallowed. God, was that possible? Could she actually start over? Reclaim some of what she’d lost here when she’d turned away all those years ago? Friends. Finn. The slightest bit of hope bubbled up inside her. Possibly she could find her way back.
It wasn’t definite, she understood that. But she didn’t need it to be definite. Just the possibility was enough.
She tried to keep it casual. “Sure. I guess I could. . .”
She looked up at his face, and the hope that had been building inside her was wiped away in an instant. He was just being polite. The tension in his features was concrete evidence he didn’t honestly want her inside with them. She made him uncomfortable.
And who could blame him?
She almost wished she didn’t know him so well. But she’d spent so many years studying that face, that body. Most people wouldn’t have been able to tell that he was feigning politeness.
She gave him her best smile, hoping it would hold up for just a few more seconds. “Actually, what am I saying? I can’t stay. I’ve got somewhere I have to be.”
It sounded like the most pathetic excuse in the history of pathetic excuses.
Evidently to him, too. His features softened. “Charlie. . .”
Oh God, she couldn’t stand any kindness right now. She would shatter all over the ground. “We both know I don’t belong in there, Finn.” Her voice was low, husky.
He rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand. “Yeah, probably not.”
And there it was. The truth, stated as gently as possible. But the jagged edge of it ripped across her heart all the same.
She slipped away from him—what she should’ve done as soon as he’d followed her—opened the door of her car and got inside.
He didn’t try to stop her.
Because what else was there to say?
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