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Her lips tingled and her head buzzed.
Van pulled back and stared.
Tessa licked her lips, tasting him, lingering on the sensation of his lips against hers.
Van groaned, wrapped an arm around her and crushed her against his chest. Fighting him didn’t even enter her mind. She circled her arms around his neck and offered her lips. His descended with slow agonizing purpose. His supple flesh touched hers and a thousand stars blinked behind her eyes.
She’d kissed few boys and even less men. The sensation of his pliant lips on hers made her gasp. Mercy! His tongue slipped between her lips and sent her reeling once more. She couldn’t get close enough, taste enough.
Van drew back and she whimpered. The pathetic sound ricocheted in her head and slapped her back to the present. What was she doing? She pushed out of his arms and stood.
“I’m sorry.” He held his hands up like a victim in a robbery.
She almost laughed. It was she who had been robbed. Robbed of her senses once his lips touched hers.
“No, I should never have sat on the bed. I know better.” She moved to the table and fiddled with the utensils, avoiding his gaze.
His scent told her he stood only inches away. He placed his hands on her shoulders and made her face him. She refused to gaze into his eyes. When she did her body did things without thinking.
“You didn’t do anything wrong by sitting on the bed. I couldn’t stand sleeping on the floor one night, but I’ll do it again and allow you to sleep in the bed.”
She tipped her head back and stared at him. “No. I couldn’t take your bed. It’s not right.”
“It’s not right allowing you to sleep on the floor when there is a perfectly good bed right here. After we eat, I want you to go get your things. You’ll sleep in here, and I’ll sleep in the back room until I figure out a way to sneak another bed in here.” He moved away, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. “I should have thought of this sooner. The floor is no place for a woman to sleep.”
“But it’s your building, your bed. I can’t—”
He placed a finger on her lips stopping her argument. “It is my building, my bed, and my say. You will sleep here.”
She tried to argue, but he gathered her close and kissed her, sweeping all thoughts away once more. When he gradually drew away, she swayed and slithered onto the closest chair with Van’s help.
When she’d collected her thoughts, she glared at him sitting across from her and smiling as he dished food onto her plate.
“That’s sneaky. Kissing me to keep me quiet.” She picked up a fork and swirled it in her mashed potatoes.
“It works and I enjoyed it.” He raised a brow and stopped her heart with a crooked smile.
“You’re my boss. We can’t…”
“Can’t what?” He took a bite of the roast. “Enjoy working together.”
She shoved her food around on the plate. “No. I mean, you can’t keep kissing me. It’s not proper.” She blushed as her blood surged remembering the feel of his lips on hers.
“What if I refrain during business hours?” He put the fork down and took hold of her left hand. “I don’t want to chase you away.” He waved a finger between them. “I think we’re good for one another. Don’t shut out the possibility.”
She swallowed the lump creeping up her throat. The sincerity glistening in his eyes and warming his voice squeezed her chest and heated her blood. “W-what possibilities,” she whispered.
“Us. A future. I know we’ve only known each other a couple of days, not counting as children, and I don’t want you to think I’d hold you back from your plans.” He rubbed a thumb across her knuckles, dropped his gaze to their joined hands. “When you get your teaching certificate and head out to teach, I’ll be here when you get back.” His gaze rested on her face. “If that’s what you want.”
She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t speak. He was proposing. She shook her head. A couple of kisses, really good kisses, and he thought she’d just jump into his arms and marry him? She witnessed what her mother went through mourning her father. She wouldn’t go through that torture, wouldn’t put children through that torture.
Tessa pushed to her feet, tearing her hand from his and knocking the chair over. “I-I. I have to leave.” She blindly rushed to the door.
“No!” His hand shot out holding the door shut. “Where are you going? What scares you about marrying me?” He grasped her shoulders and shook her. “Do you still blame me for your father’s death?” The agony in his voice riveted her gaze to his face.
“No.” She placed a hand on his cheek. “No. I’ve never blamed you for his death. I can’t—You’d never understand. You had to have lived through what I did to understand.” She pried at his fingers holding her tight but not hurting.
“Help me understand.”
“No, just let me go.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know… somewhere to think. To get away from you and think.”
He let her go, grabbed a coat from a peg by the door and his hat. “You get your things and sleep up here. I’ll be back later and will sleep downstairs. If you’re in your pallet, I’ll sleep with you.”
The threat and gleam in his eyes told her he would, too.
He left without glancing back. She sat on the bed and hugged her ribs. What was she to do? She needed the job, wanted to remain with him, but could she and not become her mother?