Derek nervously polished off yet another glass of wine and sat beside the chestnut-haired woman.
“I shouldn’t tell you this, but I’ve kept this a secret for so long it’s killing me.” The desperation in his voice startled her. He swallowed and looked straight at her with his penetrating silver-blue eyes. “I love you, Bobbie. You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. I love you so much. I’ll die if I can’t have you.” He put his hand on her thigh.
Uh-oh. That second bottle was definitely a mistake. She removed his hand.
“Come on, Derek,” she laughed. You’re drunk and horny. That’s all.”
The shine in his eyes dimmed. He was hurt. “It may have taken an expensive pinot for me to get up the courage to tell you, but I’m serious. I love you. I’ve been in love with you since the first day we met. But you were so much out of my league—so beautiful, so confident—I was afraid to tell you. We may never get another opportunity. I finally want to confess my feelings.”
She studied his face. She saw both love and pain. Oh my God! He means it! Her heart danced and her stomach clenched at the same time. It was everything she’d once dreamed of hearing from him. But it was the last thing she wanted now.
“We can’t, Derek. We’re friends. Good friends. But this would be wrong.” Her tone was unconvincing, however.
It was bad enough she’d fallen in love with him the day they’d met at work. He was illegally handsome—tall, wavy dark brown hair, square-jawed, hypnotic eyes the same color of the most beautiful sky she’d ever seen and large hands that instinctively sparked fantasies. Surely beneath his stylish clothes was a hard body just as glorious. For someone who could have any woman he wanted, he was surprisingly shy, sweet and unassuming. Worst of all—or was it best of all?—she occasionally saw a glint in his eye that said he would be anything but hesitant in bed. She found intoxicating the idea of his wanting her so much that he simply took her—roughly and selfishly using her body to pleasure himself. He was exactly the kind of guy she’d dreamed about falling in love with. And the British accent was frosting on the cake.
What made things even more tortuous was that ever since Derek’s wife had confided to Bobbie that he was amazing in bed, she absolutely burned for him. She regularly fantasized about him in the middle of the night—their hot, sweaty flesh wrapped in darkness, possessed by lust, her body spent from the number of orgasms he’d commanded out of it.
She nervously pulled her slightly revealing wrap dress against her and tightened the belt. She slid down the couch—as far away as she could get.
“Wrong?” he objected. “I’m not talking about a meaningless fuck. I want to make love to you. What could be wrong with that?” His tone was earnest and tempting. He moved in her direction.
“Maybe the fact that you’re married”—she glared—“and the ease with which you forget that.” She ground her teeth. You couldn’t have told me this before you got married? We met a month before you met Phylicia. And you wait until now to tell me you love me?
She didn’t know if she was angrier at him or his wife. Derek had been a reserved co-worker she’d fallen hard for. When it had become clear he was too shy to make a move, she’d invited him for drinks to tell him she was interested. Her roommate had known her plan, but ‘coincidentally’ showed up at the bar at the same time. When the emergency call had come in from one of Bobbie’s patients, causing her to leave for the hospital, Phylicia had said she’d ‘take care of him’. And she did that in spades. She and Derek had spent the weekend in bed and married a few months later.
“I never forget I’m married. I love Phylicia. She’s such a sweet person. I’d never do anything to hurt her,” he defended himself solemnly. “But I’ve always regretted not telling you how I felt. And I wouldn’t have said anything now if fate hadn’t put us together in this hotel room a thousand miles from home when the storm diverted our flight. The airline assigned us to the same room because they assumed ‘Bobbie’ was a man. By the time we figured out what happened, the hotel was full. It’s the universe’s way of giving us permission. I love you. You’re beautiful. You’re so remarkable. I can’t help myself.” He took her face in his two warm hands. “Please. Just this once. Let me make love to you. I love you more than words can say.”
His look of pure devotion made her melt. His full lips were irresistible. Her breathing deepened. They inched their faces toward each other.
No. I can’t.
She pulled back and looked away. She wrung her hands. Derek wasn’t the kind of guy to casually say he loved someone. He was a deeply emotional and sensitive man—something else that fueled her feelings for him. She was thrilled he felt so much for her—and crushed. It didn’t change anything.
“It’s just wrong. You know that.”
He took her hand and looked at her sincerely. “Don’t you think it’s possible to love two people at the same time? How can love be wrong? Shouldn’t we be able to express that love?” He smiled at her warmly. “There’s only one question, Bobbie. Do you want to make love to me as much as I do to you? If you say you don’t, I can accept that. Tell me you have no feelings for me, and I won’t say another word.”
Feelings? Sure. Just the wrong kind.
Answering was pointless. The tension in her face signaled her yearning.
“Come on,” he prodded. “At least tell me the truth. If you can honestly say you don’t want to, I’ll drop it.”
His refusal to pressure her made her want him even more. Crap. He’s doing the decent thing. Why can’t he be a jerk and force himself on me? I’ll pretend I’m too drunk to resist, and we can fuck like bunnies. Afterward, he’ll blame it on the alcohol and apologize. I’ll forgive him and swear never to tell a soul. At least we can have one hot night together.
She looked directly into his eyes. The passion she saw there mirrored her own.
Her face was warm. Her breath was short. Her hunger for him was undeniable. She might not be able to have him, but she wanted him at least to know the truth. “I never said I didn’t want to. But that doesn’t change anything.”
He reached over and touched her cheek. He smiled and relaxed. “You love me too. I knew it.”
She wanted to deny it, but she was tired of hiding her feelings. She was indeed in love with him. There wasn’t a moment they were together that she didn’t ache for their bodies to be fused and exploding in rapture—and that she didn’t feel heartbroken it would never happen.
She was also tired of pretending she’d forgiven Phylicia. Watching the courtship unfold had been agonizing. She was supposed to be the one at the altar. A better person would have taken the high road and let things go. A truly decent person would have accepted Phylicia’s explanation that it actually had been coincidental she’d showed up at the bar. But Bobbie didn’t want to be that decent a person. And she was exhausted at having pretended to be one.
She knew that sometimes Phylicia laid on the ‘sweet and innocent’ persona to get what she wanted. What she imagined had taken place between Derek and her roommate—a scene that regularly tortured her—popped into her head.