More Than Crave You(7)

By: Shayla Black

Her question makes me freeze. I’m sure I look somewhere between lost and ashamed. The truth is, Becca changed them two days before she died, and I’ve never had the gumption to take them off. I thought about it, but every time I tried, I felt like I was ripping another reminder of her out of my life. Even months after her death, Becca can still inspire guilt in my technically geared heart.

“Don’t ask,” I admit finally.

“Do you know how?”

Vaguely. “Yes.”

Nia cocks her head as if she’s reading me. After three years as my “work wife,” I have a terrible feeling she actually can. “Do you want me to do it?”

I swallow, then nod. Becca is gone and she isn’t coming back. Keeping her sheets on the bed won’t change that. “Please. I’ll find a clean set.”

“All right.” She follows me down the hall. “I’ll stick the dirty ones in the washer before I go.”

“Trash them.” I don’t want to see them again. And I won’t be taking them to Hawaii.

Everything there will be new, never touched by Becca.

“If you’re sure… What about the rest of your laundry?”

I’m surprisingly embarrassed to admit that I’ve been ordering new pairs of underwear and socks every week. Most everything else goes to the dry cleaners. “If you’ll show me how to work the washer and dryer, I’ll do it.”

“I’ll get you started,” she assures softly as we reach the bedroom I once shared with my wife and flip on the light. “Whoa.”

Yeah, spread across the room is a jungle of shoes, neckties, socks, and T-shirts. “It’s a disaster. I know.”

This used to be my haven, my favorite spot to read one last report before bed or watch TV on the weekends. Now, I hate to come in here. Every time I do, Becca haunts me. Tonight, the sensation is strong. I feel guilty for being so eager to leave this place behind.

“Well, the good news is, it’s fixable.”

“Thank you. Really,” I murmur, feeling an odd urge to…I don’t know. Hug her? No, something more, but physical contact is not an appropriate way to express my appreciation to my assistant. Besides, what’s rolling through my head now is muddier. My urge to be closer to her isn’t strictly professional, and I don’t understand. “I’ll leave you to it and do the dishes.”

Nia nods as I go. After I rinse off tonight’s bowls, I tuck away the last of the pans we washed by hand earlier. Then I empty the dishwasher, only to fill it up again. I’m not really sure where any of the clean stuff belongs, so I shove everything somewhere and hope I can find it again.

In that thirty minutes, she’s organized my room, remade my bed, and started my laundry. As I begin down the hall, I can hear her muttering to herself. It’s nice to have someone else in the house. She’s been good company. I’ll hate to see her leave. But soon she’ll have to head home. She’s already gone above and beyond. I can’t insist on her company until exhaustion finally takes me somewhere around two a.m. And as questionable as my thoughts about her tonight have been, I don’t know what would happen. It’s better if I let her go.

Even as I tell myself that, I walk into the bedroom for more of her company. And I stop short when I get an eyeful of Nia.

She’s on her elbows and knees, obviously searching for something. All I can see is her bent over. Her soft, round ass fills my vision. In that instant, I want to sink my hands—my teeth—into that.

Holy shit.

I stop breathing. I stop blinking. A lightning bolt of lust jolts me. I can hear my jagged heartbeat suddenly thudding in my ears.

It’s been nearly two hundred days since I’ve had sex. I see beautiful women all the time. Seattle is full of them. Hell, Stratus Solutions is, too. Since Becca’s death, some of her lithe, lanky yoga friends have even hinted they’d be interested in comforting me with more than a homemade casserole and a hug. I haven’t truly been tempted.

Until now.

With a huff, Nia tosses her hair back and sits on her heels. Her thin gray sweatshirt rides up, the band at the bottom circling her tiny waist, accentuating her curves. Her hair, which she usually has pinned up in some complicated twist at the office, falls in ebony waves halfway down her back.

Suddenly, she whirls around. I should look away…but I can’t. She’s flushed. Her eyes are bright. And a goddamn strip of her smooth, bare abdomen shows below the hem of her shirt, flirting with my overloaded senses. I gulp and hope she can’t see how hard my cock is. For her.

I need to think of something to say—fast.