One of the singers awkwardly asked, “Should we sing it again or just go?”
Jeisa smiled through her tears and reached into her purse, handed one of them a generous tip and said, “No, thank you. You were great, though.”
The blonde grad student lingered after the others had left. Jeisa struggled to remember her name and hated that she’d wasted so much time mourning what she’d lost instead of appreciating the good that had entered her life.
The woman said, “You must miss your old friends very much.”
And the name came to her finally. “I do, Geneva. I do.”
The woman appeared to waver between retreating without saying more, as she normally did, and continuing the conversation. “We all left something behind to be here, but it’s an important project.”
Her words touched Jeisa even more because of how uncomfortable the woman looked as she voiced them. Geneva was putting her own discomfort aside in an attempt to cheer Jeisa. And it worked. “It is, isn’t it? The water project could impact a third of the world’s population.”
“And you’re part of this now. You’re part of the solution,” Geneva said with quiet sincerity.
Jeisa raised her chin as the words filled her with pride. “I am, aren’t I? I will make a difference here.” Deciding to share more of herself, Jeisa added, “I’ll be returning to Boston soon, but I’ll be back just after the holidays. I’d love to go out for coffee with you when I return.”
The woman smiled. “I’d like that. Are you going back to Boston to celebrate Christmas with your family?”
Jeisa turned and looked out the window again. “No, I’m going back to do something I should have done weeks ago. I had the perfect man and I let my fear come between us. He was kind. Smart. Funny. Hot as hell, but didn’t know it . . .” She stopped when she realized how her description had teetered on too personal.
“Hot as hell, huh? I like that.”
Jeisa whipped around when she heard Jeremy’s voice behind her. “What are you doing here?” She looked around and noted that the others had left and they were alone.
He closed the door behind him and crossed the room slowly toward her. “I am far from perfect, though. And not nearly as smart as I thought I was, because I hurt you and I never meant to.” He ran his hands down her arms and took both of her hands in his.
Sheer surprise held Jeisa immobile.
Jeremy pulled her closer, bringing her body flush against his and tucking her hands behind her back. His warm breath fanned her cheek, sending a tingle of awareness through her. “I was wrong,” he said as his held her against him, his eyes burning with a mix of desire and emotion. “Wrong not to see what we had. Wrong to allow you to believe I was choosing between two women, because from the moment you kissed me, it was all about you—just you.” He released her hands and raised one of his to caress her cheek. “I had to help Alethea that night at the Andrades’, but if I had known what she’d said to you, I would have brought you with us. I thought I was protecting you.”
With a shudder, Jeisa said, “I should have given you a chance to explain. I should have trusted you.”
Jeremy’s eyes darkened with pain. “I didn’t give you a reason to. It’s a good thing you didn’t answer my phone calls, Jeisa, because you gave me time to process what I’d done. These past few months were all about me. What I wanted. What I needed. I didn’t stop to ask you what you wanted.”
“I’m not sure I could have told you if you had. I’m only now sorting it out.”
“Let’s figure it out together then.” Her heart soared at his suggestion. Could he really forgive her this easily?
Even as Jeisa’s heart began to speed up with excitement, she attempted to tamp down her emotions long enough to ask, “What are you saying?”
“I’ve enrolled at WIT as a full-time student.”
Did that mean . . . ?
She didn’t dare allow herself to believe he was saying what she hoped he was saying. “Why?”
“I want to be with you.” He pulled her gently against him again, this time resting his hands lightly on her hips. His head bent and his lips explained what he struggled to find the words to express. She hesitated for only the slightest second before her arms wound around his neck and she lost herself in his kiss. When he broke off, they were both flushed, and their ragged breathing was the only sound in the otherwise quiet office. “We don’t have to rush. We can start over and date if you’d like.”
Her body was alive and yearning for him. She rubbed herself against him and loved how instantly he was hard and ready for her.
With eyes ablaze with hunger for her, he amended huskily, “Or we can take up where we left off.”
Even as she began to drown in the delight of his nearness, she asked, “Did you really enroll here just to be with me?”
He reached around to unbutton the top of her blouse and said, “Yes and no.” His hand stilled. “In my rush to make money, I made some bad choices. The night I left you, it was because I had gotten myself involved in a situation that promised to be profitable because it was so dangerous. Before you, I didn’t care if anything happened to me. I felt like I had nothing to lose. But you changed all of that. I couldn’t let you and your father pay the price for a mistake I had made. I see now that I have a lot to learn.”
“Oh, Jeremy. I didn’t know.”
“I should have explained it to you.”
Jeisa remembered the state she’d been in that night and admitted, “All I could see that night was that my greatest fear was coming true.”
He reached down and took both of her hands in his. “I had no idea you were waiting for me in the kitchen. If I had known that, nothing could have stopped me from going to you.”
“I believe you,” she whispered. “I had just decided today to come find you and apologize.”
“You did nothing wrong,” Jeremy said passionately, but Jeisa disagreed.
“I did everything wrong. You never lied to me, Jeremy. You were honest every step of the way, and I should have believed you when you said that you loved me. I was scared. I’m not scared anymore.”
“Good,” he whispered against her lips. “But you can stay angry with me a bit longer if you’d like. I’ve heard that makeup sex is fantastic.” The twinkle in his eyes was irresistible. Their lips met in a hungry expression of what they could no longer deny.
He swung her up into his arms and crossed the room to the couch, a sexy smile on his face. Returning her to her feet, he made quick haste of her skirt’s button and zipper. It slid to the floor at her feet. She stepped out of her shoes and kicked the clothing aside. Without taking his eyes off her, he loosened and removed his tie. They continued to strip off their clothes, one by one, until they were both nude and his need for her was erect and pulsing between them.
He kissed his way across her cheek, down her neck, and cupped both of her breasts in his hands, taking a moment to appreciate them before circling one of her puckered nipples with his hot tongue. He stopped briefly to blow on it before shifting his attention to the other one. When Jeisa was gasping with pleasure at the creative ways his finger and tongue were working together to increase her excitement, Jeremy paused and said, “I’ve been reading about how to do this better. Information drives ingenuity,” he said and bent to kiss her neck again.
Jeisa’s head fell back and she moaned with elation, “I’m not complaining.”
The door of her office opened and a flash of a female head poked in, quickly followed by a familiar squeak of a voice that said, “Oh, my God, I’m sorry! I wanted to make sure you were okay.” The door slammed shut. Before either Jeisa or Jeremy could react, the door opened again slightly, a hand came around to the handle, locked it, then slammed the door again.
“I like the people you work with,” Jeremy remarked with some humor.
Laughing half out of mortification and half out of the sheer joy of being in Jeremy’s arms, Jeisa replied, “I do, too.”
Now, where were we?
Later, wrapped in Jeremy’s jacket and tucked against his side, Jeisa was jerked back from near sleep when Jeremy exclaimed, “Shit, I forgot to ask you to marry me.”
Jeisa smiled against his chest. “You scripted this?” She knew he only did that now when he was nervous, and that made her love him even more.
He smiled a bit ruefully. “I didn’t want to forget anything, but you were so beautiful that I forgot everything.”
You could forgive a man anything with that excuse. She propped herself up on her elbow and kissed him lightly. “Not everything.”
A slight flush spread across his cheeks. He reached behind her and felt around the pockets of his jacket until he found what he was looking for. He laid it on his chest in front of her and said, “Jeisa Borreto, I love you and I intend to marry you. Today, tomorrow, or however long it takes for you to be ready.” He tapped the ring box with one of his fingers. “You don’t have to open this right now. You can think about it if you—”
She stopped his words with a kiss, one that held all the heat of their prior union but also something much more significant: her answer. She whispered it against his lips as she broke off the kiss. “Yes, Jeremy. Yes. Yes. Yes.”
His grin could not have been broader as he smiled up at her. “It’ll be good, Jeisa. You’ll see. You’ll be the big director of grants and production and I’ll get the degree my mother always told me I should.”
She paused and cocked her head to one side. “That’s not my title. I’m really a glorified intern supporting the fundraising department.”
“Not since the Borreto/Kater donation moved up the production timetable and opened a new position. Or was it the Kater/Borreto donation? I suppose it doesn’t matter.”
Jeisa stilled his hand with hers. “You made a donation to the university?”
“Yes, and your father matched it.”
Because when it’s right, you don’t have to choose.
“When did you speak to my father?”
“Every day. He didn’t like me at first, but I wanted him to know how serious I was about you. I told him how much this project means to you and he believed me. I hope I was right because he might have used your inheritance. You may be poor now, so it looks like you’re stuck with me.” Suddenly serious, he put a hand under her chin and raised her face to look into his. “I want forever with you. I’ve seen the kind of love that endures even when intimacy is no longer possible, and I want that.” When she couldn’t think of what to say, he blushed and quickly added, “I want this, too. I just mean . . .” He looked down as he searched for how else to say it.
With tears in her eyes, Jeisa raised a hand to caress his cheek as she spoke. “I know exactly what you mean, and I want that, too.”
With a little maneuvering, he opened the small box and slid the ring on her left hand. She held her hand out in front of her and admired the unusual stone.
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