When we got to Between the Lines, he took me inside and showed me around. He showed me the children’s section in the back corner. It held the promise of spectacular attractions designed to fuel the desire to read. He showed me where each genre would be shelved. The magazine room, if you could call it a room, would hold more titles than anyone in Centerville or Church Hill had ever seen in one place.
The last place he showed me was his office. It was an impressive space, beautifully furnished with a stately mahogany U-shaped desk. The desk had shelving filled with manuals that wrapped around the back corner. A computer was in the corner facing the door, and a big, comfy-looking leather chair sat behind it. On the side wall, on either side of the window, was a pair of book shelves that matched the desk. They were also full, but with books that looked to be of personal interest topics. That, and novels.
At the sound of the door clicking closed, I turned. Dominic was standing by the door looking at me with smoldering eyes. He approached slowly, taking each step with calculated timing.
“Dominic,” I said as he stopped in from of me.
“Yes, beautiful?” Gently, he slid his index finger along my jaw line, lifting my chin so I had to look into those lethal weapons.
I couldn’t speak. He had me now. I was his prisoner without being chained.
He smiled as he lowered his head. “I know I promised I wouldn’t do this. But I can’t help myself,” he said in a smooth half-whisper.
Then his mouth was on mine. It was tender at first. Almost like testing the waters. When I didn’t pull away, he went a little deeper. He pulled my body into his, and I went willingly.
I wrapped my arms around him, letting myself drown in his kiss. Kissing him back.
Our lips parted, and as the kiss deepened our tongues danced a dance long forgotten.
From the very core of my being a flame burst forth and engulfed me. Every inch of my body tingled. I buried my hand in his hair as he did the same to me. My other arm wrapped tight around his body. I couldn’t get close enough.
Dominic was the one to pull away first. He leaned back and asked, “Are you sure, Ella?”
That stopped me. What was I doing? What had I been willing to do in the intense heat of that moment?
I closed my eyes, and gave a slight shake of my head. When that didn’t clear the haze, I shook it a little harder. Then I looked back at Dominic.
“Yes. And no,” I said with a sigh. “Yes, I want you. Yes, I needed that kiss. But I can’t, Dominic. I can’t.”
It hurt so badly. I hadn’t kissed a man in so long. It had been even longer since I’d slept with a man. It was so hard to stop once it had been started. Tears stung my eyes.
Dominic hugged me tight. “I’m sorry, Ella. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m so sorry.”
I let him hold me, and I held him. I started crying. It came freely, and it felt good. So much tension, building up since the accident, was being released in those tears. It was a cleansing I had needed for a very long time.
I don’t know how long we stood there like that. It didn’t really matter, not then.
The ringing of my phone broke the spell. It was Cassie. I fumbled the phone open on the fourth ring. “Hi, Cassie.”
“Ella? Where are you? Robert keeps asking when you’re coming back. I don’t know what to tell him. When are you coming back? Or aren’t you?”
“What time is it?”
“It’s two o’clock. Where are you?”
“Two o’clock? Oh my God. I’m at the book store.” I looked at Dominic who mouthed sorry and grimaced.
“What are you doing at the book store?”
“Getting a tour. Look, tell Robert that I won’t be back in. Tell him I just called and something came up with Allison at school, or something. He never asks for details, but if he does, just make something up. OK?”
“OK. Is everything all right?”
“Yeah. I just lost track of the time.”
“You sound upset. Have you been crying?”
“A little. I’ll talk to you later, Cassie. I gotta go.”
“OK, but I’ll be calling if you don’t.”
“I know. Bye.” I closed the phone before I heard her goodbye.
Dominic rubbed my arm. “You OK?”
I sighed. This day was just full of twists and turns, ups and downs. I was on a true emotional roller coaster. “I’m OK. Just overflowing right now.” I sighed again. “I probably look like a raccoon.”
“Actually, you don’t. You look beautiful.”
I started to protest that he was bias or just saying that to make me feel better, but he held up his hand and shook his head.
“Don’t. I’m not bias or just saying that.” I looked up at him. How was he able to read my mind like that? “You are beautiful. Your eyes are red, but that just makes their blue even brighter. Your cheeks are flushed.” He took a step back, taking my hands in his. “You’re beautiful.”
I chuckled and shook my head. “Whatever you say. But I’m still gonna check for myself.” I pulled my compact out of my purse. He was right on a couple things. I didn’t have raccoon eyes, my eyes were red, and my cheeks were flushed. I wasn’t beautiful. I looked like I’d been crying. I decided that was all right because I wasn’t going back to work, so I had all afternoon—well, half of it anyway—to look normal again.
“You probably have to get back to work,” I said, looking out the window.
“Well. I don’t think they really need me this afternoon. The day’s almost over anyway.” He squeezed my hand. “Besides, I’d rather spend the rest of my day with you.”
I looked up at him. That was all I really wanted right then, too. But that was putting it mildly. I almost wished he hadn’t stopped kissing me. I was so far gone at that point that he could have thrown me on the desk, and I’d have gone willingly.
I almost wanted him to do that now. I was in a deep state of sexual need, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. The desire was almost foreign to me, and I wanted it satisfied.
He must have seen something in my eyes that told him just how keyed up I was because he leaned in over me, stopping only inches away. I could see the need and desire swimming in his eyes. From this close it was enthralling, as if his eyes wove a spell, holding me there. “I am sorry, Ella,” he almost whispered. “But at the same time, I’m not sorry at all. I needed to taste you again. And now that I have, I want more.”
My breathing was becoming shallow. My heart was beginning to race. My body was starting to melt from the heat of the fire he had sparked deep inside. I took a tiny step backward, and bumped into the desk. I was trapped between the unyielding mahogany behind me and the unrelenting heat emanating from the man in front of me. I couldn’t move.
Dominic leaned into me so his cheek brushed mine, the fine stubble sending shockwaves through my body. He took a slow, deep breath through his nose, his chest pressing against me as it rose. His lips brushed my ear as he whispered, “You smell so good.” He took another deep breath and exhaled a sigh of pleasure, his breath thrilling my senses. “I could just eat you up.” He nipped my ear before pulling back just enough to trail his tongue along my jaw.
My chin lifted of its own accord, my head tilting slightly away from him, giving him access to my bare throat. He took what I offered, kissing his way from just under my chin down my throat to my collar with moist, tantalizing kisses. I closed my eyes as his mouth caressed my skin, and his hands caressed my back.
He continued to kiss my throat to the side, then back up to my jaw. He kissed along my jaw, curving the line so when he reached my mouth, he was at the corner.
He ran his hand up my back to cradle my head. Then his lips were on mine again, but he didn’t kiss me. He danced his lips lightly over mine, making my lips tingle and my mouth water. He was teasing me.
“Dominic.” His name was a weak plea on my lips, breathed out on a sigh of pleasure. But I backed it up with my hands on his chest, pushing him back. “We can’t.”
A groan escaped him as he pulled away, his eyes rolling to the ceiling. “God, Ella. This is torture. Maybe we should get out of here. Go for a drive?” The corner of his mouth curled up in a devilish grin. “I’ll let you drive.”
I snatched my purse off the desk. Any reason to get out of his office was good, but driving the Mustang was great. “Let’s go,” I said with a maybe a bit too much enthusiasm.