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“Get over here,” he says faintly. I take his hand when he holds it out.

What a way to start the day. Showering with my colleague and nemesis.

As soon as the thought materializes, I know it’s so outdated I can’t keep lying to myself. He tugs me away from the freezing tile and faces me toward the spray, rechecking the temperature before he pushes me under. Then he puts his arms around me from behind and gives me what can only be described as a cuddle. I press back firmer against his arousal to feel him groan.

“How You Doing? Not weird? Freaking out?” He smoothes lather under my breasts, down my ribs. He lifts my arm to inspect it, and we compare hand sizes.

“No, I’m fine. How come we don’t have to worry about you getting weird? Most girls have to worry about guys making up an early-morning training session so they can escape. And in this case it’s not implausible.”

“I’ve been ready for this for a lot longer than you have,” he says. He seems to know I don’t want to get my hair wet, and turns us a little. His slippery hands coast along my hips.



“How long?”

“A very long time.”

“I never guessed.”

“I’m very secretive.” He is gently amused.

I capture the soap, which is fast on its way to becoming a translucent sliver. I stick it to my palm, and it gives me a good excuse to stroke over his body, while his tongue licks at the water droplets on my jaw.

We look at each other, nose to nose, eyes half shut, and everything spirals out. The edges are nothing but cold air, but underneath this spray we get hotter and hotter, until I’m sure I’m nearly sweating. It’s this kiss.

The minutes and hours fade away when I’m kissing Josh Templeman. There’s no arc of the sun rising into the sky, no emptying hot water tank, no checkout time. He takes his time with me. He’s a rare man; achieving the almost impossible. He kisses me into the present moment.

It’s something I’ve always had difficulty with in past relationships: turning off my brain. But here, it’s only us. Our lips find a rhythm; the gentle upswing of a pendulum, dropping away to the lightest curve, again and again, until there’s nothing left for me in this world but his body, mine, and the water spilling over us, destined to refill a cloud.

He makes words like intimacy seem inadequate. Maybe it’s the way he uses his thumb to tilt my face, the other fingers splayed behind my ear, into my hair. When I try to gasp a mouthful of air, he breathes it into me. My head rolls to the side, dreamy and heavy, and he cups my jaw. I look up at him, and a starburst of emotion expands inside me. I think he sees it in my eyes, because he smiles.

Nothing reminds me of how big his hands are like having them on my body. He cups my ribs in his palms, then slides up to show me how perfectly I fill his hands. When I can’t handle much more, he turns me to the wall and his fingers splay wings across my shoulder blades.

Nails scratch down smoothly and he’s whispering against my neck.

He’s telling me I’m beautiful. The most delicious strawberry shortcake. I’m the taste he’ll never get out of his mouth. And that he wants me to be sure, completely sure, before I make a decision about us.

He’s licking the water from my shoulders as he eases one broad palm in between my thighs. I feel my foot slide across the tiles an inch. Two. I shiver and he puts an arm across my collarbones.

At the first touch of his fingertip, I hear the sound I make echo around us. He begins to wind me tighter with each gentle circle he draws, and I reach behind me, capturing him in return. Our joint moan creates a cavernous buzz against the tiles.

“Give everything to me,” he says into my ear. I repeat it back to him. I’ve got nothing but wet, hot muscle against me, all around me, his mouth nipping at my earlobe and his strong thrust into my inadequately small hand. He doesn’t seem to mind; in fact, he’s starting to groan.

I’ve got problems of my own. Like trying to not make so much noise people outside our room can hear me. It’s surprisingly difficult, given the heavenly amount of friction he is giving me. Shush, Josh half laughs. I begin to teeter, and his teeth scrape the nape of my neck. I tighten my grip on him. We both stretch taut and snap at virtually the same moment.

This one is an unfurling bloom. His cheek is resting on the tile above me, and we wordlessly look at each other as we shake. It’s a strange thing, watching each other come apart. I have a feeling I could get used to this.

There’s no possible way to adequately end a moment like this. How does one transition back to reality? This hotel room needs a commemorative plaque.

“Oh shit! Breakfast is soon. We gotta hurry. I need to pack my bag.”

“Let’s skip it.” His hands toy with the curve of my waist and hips. Up, down. In, out.

“Your mom’ll be waiting. Come on.”

“No,” he yowls unhappily, and his hands slide up my shoulders.

“No,” I tell him in return and get out of the shower, evading his hands. I wrap myself in a towel and check the time beside the bed.

“Come on, fifteen minutes. Hurry, hurry.”

“I’ll book the room for another day. We can stay for hours. We could live here.”

“Josh. I like your mom. And I don’t know if I’m lame for wanting to make her happy, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again after today. I know she misses you. Maybe that’s my role in this whole weekend. To force you to be with your family again.”

“How sweet. Forcing me to do things I don’t want to. And of course you’ll see her again.”

“Fine. Put it this way. I was invited to breakfast and I’m going. I’m starving. You sexed all of my energy out. You do what you want.”

I manage to get some mascara on and half of my top lip done in Flamethrower. Then he eases up behind me and I look at us in the mirror.

The differences between us have never been more stark, or more erotic. The contrast of me against his large, muscled glory almost breaks my resolve. He gathers my hair away from the side of my neck and drops his mouth in a kiss. We make eye contact in the mirror and I let out a broken breath.

I want to tell him, yes, rent this room for the rest of our lives. If I had more time, I could make you love me. The realization has me by the throat.

I’d have to be blind to not see the light of affection in his eyes as he wraps his arms tighter and begins kissing the side of my neck. I’d have to be a thousand years old to forget the way he kisses me. It’s the fresh new bud of something that could one day be something remarkable, but I have severe doubts that it could survive in the real world. This bubble we’re in? It’s not reality. I wish it was, and I wish we lived here. All of this, I should say out loud to him, but I don’t have the courage.

I close my eyes. “We can have breakfast and then drive back to your apartment at warp speed.”

“Fine. Nice lipstick, by the way.”

I manage to get the rest done and I blot once. He takes the tissue before I can scrunch it up. He holds it up to admire it.

“Like a heart.”

“How about you buy a little white canvas and I’ll kiss it for you. Something to remember me by.”

I give him a cute wink to keep the tone light. The sarcastic rejoinder that I am expecting never eventuates, and instead he turns and walks out of the bathroom. When I come out a few minutes later with my makeup bag under my arm he’s dressed in jeans and a red T-shirt.

“I’ve never seen you in red. How come every color in the flippin’ rainbow suits you?”

He puts my cell phone near my purse, and the white rose he saved from his lapel.

“You just think they do.” He zips his bag and stands at the window, looking out at the water.

I dig in my bag for my own jeans and the black cashmere sweater I’m glad I packed. The air down here is colder, fresher than I’m used to. I’m getting dressed and he’s not watching. I hop slightly to get the jeans zipped up and he doesn’t turn. I loudly squirt perfume into my cleavage and he doesn’t even flare a nostril.

“Breakfast is going to be fine.”

“Yeah, sure,” he says faintly.

I stick my feet into some flats and decide to leave my hair in its big messy damp bun. I walk up behind him and hug his waist, resting my cheekbone against the lower curve of his shoulder blade.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m a one-night stand. This is everything I’ve been trying to avoid. I’ve been trying to build something, not give you some sense of closure.”

“No! Hey. How have I made you feel this way?” I tug on his elbow until he faces me.

“You’re constantly talking like it’s already over. A lipstick kiss to remember you by? Why am I going to need reminding, exactly?”

“We’re not working together much longer.”

“I haven’t wanted you this long, and gone through so much, and given up so much, to have you for one night. It’s not enough.”

He’s right, of course. The interview result hangs over us like a scythe. A flash of impatience hits me.

“Can I stay at your place tonight?” It’s all I can think of to say. “Can I sleep in your bed?”

“I guess,” he says sulkily, and I tug him by the loops on his jeans over to his suitcase.

I look back at the bed. How so much could have changed in one space? Maybe he’s thinking the same thing. He kisses my eyebrow so gently I feel tears begin to prick behind my eyes.

I catch a glimpse of the receipt when we check out. It was roughly a week’s rent for this magical hotel room. He slashes his signature like Zorro onto it, and hugs me close. My cheek presses against his perfect pectoral.

“And did you have a nice stay?”

The elegantly groomed receptionist is smiling a little too widely at Josh as she processes the checkout. She seems to be willfully ignoring my presence, or maybe she’s just dazzled. I look at her slicked-back blond-coil hairdo. Her chalky pink lipstick is too bright against her tan. Hotel Barbie.