Clarice hugged John and closed her eyes.
He isn’t Gerry, but he is solid.
He is real.
“You feel so good in my arms.”
He hugged her. “Clarice, where have you been all of these years? In a city of this size, how did we not bump into each other? How did I never see you, never notice you?”
She inhaled the warm, combined scent of his cologne and his fabric softener. “Sometimes it’s hard to see what is right in front of you. Especially when a memory stands always in the way.”
“Clarice.” He kissed the top of her head. “Clarice.”
“Say it again.”
She smiled. “John.”
Why does something as simple as her saying my name affect me like this? I feel like I could go anywhere and accomplish anything. I could be a knight. I could be a king. I could run a marathon in record time. I could find the cure for cancer.
John smiled at her.
I could live forever if she’d just keep me in her arms and say my name.
“Clarice, I never thought that this could happen to me. I never thought, never really believed that I’d be able to find love again. I thought, ‘Well. I’ve hit this age milestone and that age milestone. Who’ll ever look at me and want me?’ I never expected any woman would want me to hold them in my arms. Especially a woman as attractive and wonderful as you.”
“John.” She laid her head on his chest. “If you were anyone else, I’d say you’re just trying to win me over to get me into your bedroom. Or mine. Whatever the case may be.”
“I could be.”
“No. You’re not. What you’re saying is the truth.” She nuzzled his neck.
His heart raced like it hadn’t in years.
“We haven’t known each other that long, but I think I can safely say that I know what kind of person you are. I know who you are, John Addleston.”
“Do you?” The words came out in a husky tremble.
“I do.” She released him and took a step back.
And he felt like he’d been kicked out of an airplane without a parachute: cold, disoriented, and falling too fast to breathe.
“You are a very good man. Almost unreasonably good. You will never hurt me. You’ll never try to take advantage of me. You would never even consider it. Even now.” She spread her hands on his chest. “If you tried to have your way with me, I wonder how much I would actually resist.”
“I would never do that to you.”
“I know. That’s why I love you.” She ducked her head and smiled. “Listen to me, talking all naughty at you when that is not the reason why you even came here.” She looked up at him. “Unless I’m wrong?”
“No, I.” He huffed out a breath. “Can I sit down and have something to drink? Like I said, I need your advice.”
“You know I’ll listen. So, come on, you magnificent honey smoked ham of love. Let’s go into the kitchen and I’ll make you the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had in your life.”
He took her hand. “I love you. I do love you.”
“I love you too. Come on.”