Ryan was there, as she’d suspected, as she’d hoped he would be. Propped against the opposite wall, he could have been a dad waiting for the mom to finish reading a bedtime story to their children. The image was all too inviting, too real, too much of what Laurel secretly dreamed of but never allowed herself to hope for.
Easing the door closed, Laurel leaned back and sighed. She hadn’t meant to vocalize her thoughts, with words or sound. The sigh had escaped involuntarily, and it hung in the air. Should she explain?
“Everything okay?” Ryan asked.
“She never woke up.”
“I think I wore her out. How’s her mom?” Ryan pushed off the wall and took a step toward her. A force, some sort of gravitational pull, radiated from Laurel’s core and willed her to inch closer to him. She strained against the invitation, plastering herself tightly to the doorframe.
“I’m great, and Gracie’s had the vacation of a lifetime, that’s for sure.”
“I’m glad, on both counts.”
He closed the distance between them once again. Moving became essential. If Ryan got any closer, she’d want to touch him. Who was she kidding? She wanted to rest her hand on his plaid shirt and feel the beat of his heart beneath her fingertips. To be safe, she brought her right foot up and rested it flat on the wall, allowing her bent leg to become a barrier to his approach.
Bumping into her knee with his thigh, Ryan seemed unimpressed by her attempt to keep a healthy distance between them. Full, kissable lips drew together into a man-pout that was more compelling than any of his on-screen expressions. Laurel sucked in a breath and willed herself to remain motionless.
A finger traced the outline of her jaw. Laurel heard someone moan, realizing too late that it was her. She was losing control, her willpower fading under the pressure of his touch. A strong finger tilted her chin up, bringing her mouth in direct alignment with his. Lord help her, she wanted him to kiss her.
Laurel pressed the palms of her hands against the wall for support. She needed to ground herself, to hold something solid that wasn’t Ryan. If his mouth touched hers, she was gone. Gone into a world she could only imagine. Gone into a dream she might never return from.
Ryan’s thumb brushed over her bottom lip. Her stomach flipped. Nothing could have prepared her for the power of his gentleness.
“Laurel, open your eyes.”
His lips were inches from hers. When had he gotten this close? When had she closed her eyes?
Her lashes fluttered. She remembered the moment she’d closed her eyes. When Ryan had raised her chin, drawing her mouth upward, nearer to that which would change her life, that’s when.
“I want to kiss you. You need to say yes or no.”
Yes! Her body screamed.
No! Her mind yelled.
His eyes searched hers. Could he see the battle waging within her? Would he understand if he did? Could she even form the word no if she tried?
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