By C.A. Szarek
Joanne stared for a second, then looked down at her dress. “I don’t ice skate,” she blurted, then averted her gaze from his beautiful dark eyes when awkwardness hit her smack in the chest, making her bob in her silver Louboutins.
Then she cursed at herself. Where was the comfort, the normal ease of the way he’d made her feel the other night? Get over yourself and get it together. You’re fine…with him.
Shawn laughed and the warmth of it washed over her, helped her to breathe. And relax.
“There’s more there than ice skating.” He extended a hand.
“Who’s at the door?” Someone called. Either Yana or Novia, from the young tone, but Joanne’s brain was too fried to distinguish it.
Crap. She hadn’t even invited him in, but didn’t want to either. Like a hundred of her meddling family was holed up at her place. Okay, so she was exaggerating, but still. They always poked their noses where it didn’t belong, and this…thing…with Shawn was too new.
“Umm, lemme grab my coat,” Joanne muttered, ignoring her little cousin. As if they didn’t know, anyway. Both girls had spent the previous several hours lounging on her bed as she’d gotten ready, yammering on about hot guys and basically planning their weddings—amongst the occasional dressing or dating tip. And, oh, her wedding, too. With Shawn, who’d been dubbed, “the hot guy from ice skating.”
To Shawn’s credit, he only nodded. Didn’t bat an eye at her lack of manners. He helped her into her puffy jacket that didn’t really go with her outfit, and was therefore against her fashion sense, but it was warm, and if he wanted to go to Rockefeller Center, she’d need to be warm first.
Joanne pulled the apartment door closed. “Sorry.” She winced. “My family is…overbearing.”
His smile made her heart beat faster. “It’s okay. I get it. It’s only our second date. Third if you count Starbucks.” Shawn winked.
She stilled. Date? It is, isn’t it?
Glancing up at him resulted in their gazes colliding and locking.
Shawn hadn’t told her he loved her again, but it was there, in those lovely maple eyes, every time he looked at her.
Am I okay with that?
Joanne had been thinking about those words—okay, obsessing—since he’d told her that day in the park. She’d examined the feelings she’d had for him five years ago. Were they still there? Was her crush just a crush or more?
More, of course. She’d always been a glutton for punishment. But in this case, did it have to go that way? The guy had said he loved her. If she didn’t actually love him—attaching the actual word made her want to fidget in her Louies—it was damn close to that.
Always had been.
She gulped. Sucked in a breath when he released her gaze only to entwine their fingers and lean down.
Shawn brushed his mouth against hers. He’d pulled away before she could process the much-too-short kiss.
“I’ve been wanting to do that since you opened the door.”
Joanne swallowed. “I’m okay with that.” And she was. But, she wanted more than just the surface lip-lock. Like he’d kissed her in the park.
She’d been obsessing about that, too.
He flashed those dimples. “I’m glad.”
“Do you want to do it again?”
Shawn paused, cocking his head to one side. Like he didn’t believe he’d heard her right. “Well, yes. Jojo, I thought I made it clear, I want you. I love you.”
There it was again. Those words that made her whole form flush hot.
She gathered all the courage she could and held it tight.
Joanne grinned and grabbed the collar of his tailored coat. At least her old friend-turned-new man had impeccable taste. “Then kiss me.” She didn’t care that she was in the hallway right outside her apartment. She should, because she did have a peephole, but if her family was that nosy, they’d just get a show.
He didn’t hesitate to pull her to him, and she went, wrapping her arms around him and meeting his mouth when Shawn dipped down to her again.
She opened for him, and desire—not fear at his closeness—spread slowly downward, warming her belly, her sex, her whole body. Shawn delved deeper and she met his seeking tongue with her own.
The kiss went on forever, their tongues dancing, dueling, fighting for the lead, but Joanne wasn’t bothered when Shawn won the battle.
Their bodies were melded, hips to hips, breasts to chest, but their stupid coats were in the way. They panted against each other, and she was overheated. Overdressed, too.
Joanne hadn’t been with a man since before the attack, but she wasn’t scared to take the next step—as long as Shawn was on board. As long as it was with him. Only him.
He broke the seal of mouths and rested his forehead against hers. “I don’t want to go to Rockefeller Center.”
“Oh?” Joanne whispered, but a thrill raced over her body. Through his dress pants, she could feel his erection; it was tucked neatly against her. A tremor shot down her spine, but it wasn’t dread—it was desire.
“I want to take you to my place. We can grab some champagne and watch the ball drop. On TV, instead of out in the cold. Would you be up for that?” The look in his brown eyes was a mix of hope and desire.
And love. So much love.
Her pulse pounded in her temples, but anticipation dominated her body.
Joanne would have to tell him what had happened last year before they went to bed. She didn’t think she’d freeze in his arms, but maybe the heads up would help them both.
“I mean, I don’t expect…I just want you. I mean, to spend the evening with you.” His cheeks went pink and for a second he was that hot, but geeky, guy from high school again. Shawn shifted in his shoes, staring her down.
“I do. Expect more of what we just started. A lot more. As long as we go slow.” She’d tell him why when they got to his place.
His gorgeous eyes went wide, but he nodded. Shawn got down on one knee and grabbed her hand.
He grinned, his composure obviously back. Shawn was still adorable though. “Relax, I’m not proposing.” His dimples made her return his grin.
“Jojo, would you do me the honor of ringing in the New Year with me at my home? And maybe, we can make plans for the year. Significant plans. For us. Together.”
She beamed and squeezed his fingers. “I think I’d like that.”
Shawn shot to his feet and tugged her to him again. He kissed her as if the ball had already dropped.