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“Aren't you going to ask me inside?” Esme asked.
“No, I'm not,” Hank replied.
“Why not?” The stricken look on her face almost undid him.
“Because I got a contract job and need to make an early start tomorrow.”
“Oh, that's nice.” She smiled. “I'm happy for you. But I thought work was secondary and money was no object.” She trailed her fingertips along his jawline.
He kissed the palm of her hand. “It is, but I do have to live.” Then he grinned and admitted, “And it's for a friend and he's given me a rather aggressive deadline.”
“How aggressive?” She settled her hands on his shoulders and massaged them with her fingers.
He tilted his head to one side and said, “Mmmm, that feels good. Don't stop.”
“Can I come in and give you a more private massage?” Her dark brown eyes glittered in the half-light thrown from his porch lamp.
He grinned. “I wish. I've got a two-day deadline. I'll probably start tonight, not even wait until tomorrow.”
“Okay.” She stopped massaging his shoulders and let her hands stray down his chest. “I understand, especially if it's for a friend.”
“Good, but when it's done, I want to see you again.” And he did.
He hated being without her, hated missing her, trying to fill up his lonely days. Esme was a force of nature, a quiet and unassuming force of nature, but for him, she was special. After what Melanie had done to him; he hadn't known if he was capable of caring again. And two failed marriages to boot. You'd think he'd learn and give up.
But Esme was like no other woman, not even his first wife, who'd also been innocent and naïve when they'd started dating. He couldn't say what was so special about Esme, but he knew how he felt. As if he could see himself spending the rest of his days, making her happy.
Good Lord, was he falling in love with her?
“I want to see you again, too. When would be convenient?” she asked.
He frowned and tried to get his bearings. What had he said and what was she answering? Then he remembered. But the thought that he was falling in love with a woman he'd never been intimate with had blanked out his thoughts, stolen his reason.
“Uh, yeah, I think I need to work the weekend, but then I should be free. I'll give you a call.”
She grabbed the lapels of his shirt and stroked down, smoothing them. “Uh, Hank, I had an idea.” She smiled. “But I don't want you to think I'm being pushy or trying to get you to work more. I, uh, after today, I—”
“Spit it out.” He grinned back at her. “I'll take what you say with a grain of salt.”
She shook her head and her pink tongue snaked out between her teeth. Seeing it, he almost groaned. He leaned closer, wanting to kiss her again.
“My father used to say that but in Spanish.”
He pulled back. “I'm not certain I want to remind you of your father. I know I told you how old I am today, but still…”
She giggled and covered her mouth with her hand.
“Okay, spill it.” He shook his head. “I've gotten over your subtle innuendo about my age.”
“Oh, Hank, you know that's not what I meant. I like you just as you are.”
His groin tightened, and a warm feeling rushed through him. “You mean that, don't you?”
She nodded. “Yes, yes, I do.”
Well, that was a first. With all his other relationships, the women he'd loved had wanted to change him.