“I rest my case.”
“But just because we had one hot night together doesn’t mean I should start dating him. I don’t even know that he’s still single.” And if he’s taken, he should be ashamed of himself for the way he looked at me yesterday.
“We don’t know that he’s not,” she reminds me. “God, you’re cynical when it comes to men.”
“I’m not cynical. I had reasons for my trust issues.”
I cover Kate’s hand with mine, already sorry for my remark. “I know. And I have my reasons for being cynical.”
“A deadbeat dad and an absent mom are not the best reasons to be cynical.”
I bust out laughing at the ridiculousness of that statement. “I think those are two very good reasons, actually.”
“You aren’t your parents.”
“You’re right. I’m not an alcoholic pothead or an irresponsible woman without a maternal bone in her body.”
“No, you’re neither of those things. You’re so much better than that.” She takes another bite. “Look, you can’t stay celibate your whole life.”
I frown at that thought.
“It’s been so long since I had sex, I don’t even know if my vagina still works,” I admit in a whisper, making Kate laugh.
“Trust me, it works.”
“How do you know?”
She simply continues to laugh.
“Good morning, ladies.”
Our heads both whip up at the deep, sexy voice, and I’m suddenly staring at a very sweaty, very half-naked, Asher.
“Good morning,” Kate says beside me, but I’m not paying attention to the words they’re saying. My mouth goes dry at the sight of Asher’s naked torso. He’s wearing running shorts, with his shirt tucked into the waist at his hip. He has earbuds in his ears, leading to his phone in his pocket.
He’s panting from his run, and sweat is running down his forehead, his cheek.
His fucking amazing chest.
One drop of sweat slowly makes its way down his sternum to his chiseled abs, and it takes everything in me to not lean over and lick it off.
Asher’s eyes are laughing as he props his hands on his hips, watching me. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine.”
Kate snickers beside me, earning a kick to the shin from me.
“You look amazing,” he replies and offers me that half-smile. The one that promises all kinds of amazing naughtiness and has kept me up many a night over the past nine months.
“Thank you,” I murmur. Why am I so shy with him now? That night at the bar, I was confident. I knew exactly what I wanted, and that was him. I wasn’t shy. I didn’t hesitate.
And now I feel tongue-tied and hot.
Probably because now I know what he’s capable of.
“I’m coming to your study group tonight,” he says as he pops the earbuds out of his ears.
“Why?” I ask with surprise.
“I’m going to escort you home.”
“Oh, that’s so nice,” Kate says with a dreamy sigh, and I roll my eyes at her.
“That’s not necessary,” I reply. “I’ll be fine.”
“In case you missed it, there’s a killer out there, Lila,” Asher says, his handsome face perfectly serious now. His jaw is square and strong, and covered in just a little black stubble. His hair is a complete sweaty mess. He’s half naked.
He’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, and yet just those few words out of his mouth have my blood running cold.
“I’ll be there,” he repeats before I can say anything. He smiles again and winks at Kate, then pins me in his hot stare once more. “I need to get some beignets home to Casey.”
“Who’s Casey?” Kate asks before I can.
“My daughter.” He backs away, watching me, and I’m struck dumb. “I’ll see you tonight.” And with that, he saunters away.
“He has a daughter,” I say when he’s out of earshot.
“Sounds like it,” Kate replies with a nod.
“Holy fuck,” I whisper, suddenly mortified. “He’s married!”
“We don’t know that,” Kate says with a frown.
“Hello? He has a daughter.”
“So he said.”
“I had sex with a married man.” I swallow, mortified. “I’m a home wrecker.”
“Okay, stop.” Kate waves her hands in front of her, getting my attention. “He said he was taking beignets home to Casey. Not his family, or his wife, or to them. Just to her.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.”
“Lila.” Kate pushes her fingers on her eyebrows, as if I’m giving her a headache. “He could be divorced. Widowed. Maybe he never married the mother. Maybe she left as soon as the baby was born.”
“Oh God.” I frown and immediately feel sorry for the little girl. I can see her in my head, a sweet brunette girl who looks just like her daddy, crying and pining for her mother who abandoned her as a baby. “Wait. I’m getting very dramatic here.”
“Yes.” Kate nods. “Stop it. He’s probably divorced.”
“And he’s clearly still interested in you,” she adds and sips the last of her coffee.
I shrug one shoulder, as if it doesn’t matter. “He has a kid.”
“I don’t do kids,” I remind her. “I don’t want kids, and I certainly don’t get involved with men with kids.”
Because as much as that little voice in the back of my head tells me that having a child of my own would be the most amazing thing in the world, I just can’t take the chance that I would be as big a failure as my own parents were.
“Get over yourself,” Kate says as she rolls her eyes. “Stop focusing on what you won’t do. Because maybe you will.”
“Such a Debbie Downer. Nobody wants to fuck a Debbie Downer.”
“I’m just being realistic. I’m responsible, remember?”
“You’re kind of a pain in the ass. He’s nice. He’s hot. Maybe you can just do the friends with benefits thing. No harm, no foul.”
“Oh. You could be onto something.”
Kate smiles smugly. “I’m a smart one.”
* * * *
He’s been wandering through the library for the past thirty minutes, waiting for me to finish with my group, and making it very hard to focus on my students.
And that kind of pisses me off.
If these kids are taking the time to be here, I need to be here.
“Okay guys, you’re doing great,” I say as they begin to filter out of the small study room that I have on reserve for us twice a week. “I’ll see you in class on Monday. And remember what I said! Be safe out there.”
“I so appreciate your help, Lila,” Colin says. This is the second semester in a row that he’s had to take this class. I hated having to fail him last semester, and I’m so happy that he’s doing better now. He’s a good kid. Friendly with the other students, happy-go-lucky. He’s small in stature, with a shaved head, smiling eyes, and always quick to make a joke.
We all enjoy him.
“You’re welcome,” I reply with a smile. “You’re doing so much better, Colin.”
“Well, as much as I like you, I’d rather not take the same class again.”
“Thanks Lila.” Cheyenne, a pretty girl with short, bleach blonde hair says as she walks out. “See you Monday.”
“Travel in groups! It’s dangerous out there!”
“I’ll walk her to her car,” Colin offers with a wink and drapes his arm around Cheyenne’s shoulders. “You’re safe with me, cupcake.”
The students are all gone as I close my computer and put it in my bag, along with a pen and the scarf I had on earlier but had to take off when it got too warm. I flip off the light and close the door behind me as Asher approaches from across the library.
God, the way he moves should come with a warning label.
Warning: May cause brain loss during movement.
He moves effortlessly, as though he’s completely comfortable in his own skin. And he should be.
His skin is pretty damn impressive.
His dark hair is messy, as usual, as though he’s been shoving his fingers through it. He shaved the stubble off his chin, probably when he showered after his run.
He’s dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, and I want to rip them off of him. Right here, right now.
What the hell is up with my hormones?
He has a daughter!
And probably a wife.
“Hey,” he says with a smile.
“You really don’t have to walk me home,” I reply. “It’s not far.”
“It’s not here in the library, is it?”
I smirk. “Of course not.”
“Then I need to walk you home,” he replies and places his hand on the small of my back as he leads me out of the library. He takes my computer bag from me and carries it for me.