Ryle: Are you at home or still at work?
Me: Work. Should be done in about an hour. Ryle: Can I come see you?
Me: You know how people say there is no such thing as a stupid question? They’re wrong. That was a stupid question.
Half an hour later, he’s knocking at the front door of the ﬂoral shop. I closed the shop almost three hours ago, but I’m still here, trying to get caught up on the chaos that was the ﬁrst month. The store is still too new to get an accurate projection of how well or how bad it’s doing. Some days are great and some are so slow I send Allysa home. But overall, I’m happy with how it’s gone so far.
And happy with how things are going with Ryle.
I unlock the door to let him in. He’s in light blue scrubs again, and he still has a stethoscope around his neck. Fresh from work. Very nice touch. I swear, every time I see him straight off a shift, I have to hide the stupid grin on my face. I give him a quick kiss and then turn back toward my ofﬁce. “I have a few things to ﬁnish up and then we can go back to my place.”
He follows me into my ofﬁce and closes the door. “You got a couch?” he asks, looking around my ofﬁce.
I’ve spent some of this week putting the ﬁnishing touches on it. I bought a couple of lamps so I don’t have to turn on the overpowering ﬂuorescent lights. The lamps give the room a soft glow. I also bought a few plants to keep here permanently. It’s no garden, but it’s as close as it gets. It’s come a long way since this room was being used as storage for vegetable crates.
Ryle walks over to the couch and falls down onto it, face-ﬁrst. “Take your time,” he mumbles into the pillow. “I’ll just nap until you’re ﬁnished.”
I sometimes worry about how hard he pushes himself with work, but I don’t say anything. I’ve been sitting in my ofﬁce going on twelve hours now, so I don’t have much room to talk when it comes to being too ambitious.
I spend the next ﬁfteen or so minutes ﬁnalizing orders. When I’m ﬁnished, I close my laptop and look over at Ryle.
I thought he’d be asleep, but instead he’s on his side with his head propped up on his hand. He’s been watching me this whole time, and seeing the smile on his face makes me blush. I push my chair back and stand up.
“Lily, I think I like you too much,” he says as I make my way over to him.
I scrunch up my nose as he sits up on the couch and pulls me onto his lap. “Too much? That doesn’t sound like a compliment.”
“That’s because I don’t know if it is,” he says. He adjusts my legs on either side of him and then wraps his arms around my waist. “This is my ﬁrst real relationship. I don’t know if I’m supposed to like you this much yet. I don’t want to scare you away.”
I laugh. “Like that could ever happen. You work way too much to smother me.”
He rubs his hands up my back. “Does it bother you that I work too much?”
I shake my head. “No. I worry about you sometimes because I don’t want you to burn yourself out. But I don’t mind that I have to share you with your passion. I actually really like how ambitious you are. It’s kind of sexy. It might even be my favorite thing about you.”
“You know what I like the most about you?”
“I already know this answer,” I say, smiling. “My mouth.”
He leans his head back against the couch. “Oh yeah. That does come ﬁrst. But do you know what my second favorite thing about you is?”
I shake my head.
“You don’t put pressure on me to be something I’m incapable of being. You accept me exactly how I am.”
I smile. “Well, in all fairness, you’re a little different from when I ﬁrst met you. You aren’t so anti-girlfriend anymore.”
“That’s because you make it easy,” he says, sliding a hand inside the back of my shirt. “It’s easy being with you. I can still have the
career I’ve always wanted, but you make it ten times better with the way you support me. When I’m with you, I feel like I get to have my cake and eat it, too.”
Now both of his hands are beneath my shirt, pressed against my back. He pulls me toward him and kisses me. I grin against his mouth and whisper, “Is it the best cake you’ve ever tasted?”
One of his hands moves to the back of my bra and he unfastens it with ease. “I’m pretty sure, but maybe I need another taste of it to be positive.” He pulls my shirt and bra over my head. I begin to push myself off of him so I can pull off my jeans, but he pulls me back onto his lap. He grabs his stethoscope and puts it in his ears, then presses the diaphragm against my chest, right over my heart.
“What’s got your heart so worked up, Lily?”
I shrug innocently. “It might have a little to do with you, Dr.
He drops the end of the stethoscope and then lifts me off of him, pushing me back onto the couch. He spreads my legs and kneels down on the couch between them, placing the stethoscope against my chest again. He uses his other hand to hold himself up as he continues listening to my heart.
“I’d say you’re at about ninety beats per minute,” he says. “Is that good or bad?”
He grins and lowers himself on top of me. “I’ll be satisﬁed when it reaches one forty.”
Yeah. If it reaches 140, I’m thinking I’ll be satisﬁed, too.
He lowers his mouth to my chest and my eyes fall shut when I feel his tongue slide across my breast. He takes me in his mouth, keeping the stethoscope pressed against my chest the entire time. “You’re at about one hundred now,” he says. He wraps the stethoscope around his neck again and then pulls back, unbuttoning my jeans. Once he slides them off of me, he turns me over until I’m on my stomach, my arms draped over the arm of the couch.
“Get on your knees,” he says.
I do what he says and before I’m even adjusted, I feel the cold metal of the stethoscope meet my chest again, this time with his arm snaked around me from behind. I remain still as he listens to my heartbeat. His other hand slowly begins to ﬁnd its way between
my legs and then inside my panties and then inside of me. I grip the couch but try to keep the noises to a minimum while he listens to my heart.
“One hundred and ten,” he says, still unsatisﬁed.
He pulls my hips back to meet him and then I can feel him freeing himself from his scrubs. He grips my hip with one hand while shoving my panties aside with the other. Then he pushes forward until he’s all the way inside of me.
I’m grasping the couch with two desperate ﬁsts when he pauses to listen to my heart again. “Lily,” he says with mock disappointment. “One twenty. Not quite where I want you.”
The stethoscope disappears again and his arm curls around my waist. His hand slides down my stomach and settles between my legs. I can no longer keep up with his rhythm. I can barely even stay on my knees. He’s somehow holding me up with one hand and destroying me in the best possible way with his other hand. Right when I start to tremble, he pulls me upright until my back meets his chest. He’s still inside me, but now he’s focused on my heart again as he moves his stethoscope around to the front of my chest.
I let out a moan and he presses his lips to my ear. “Shh. No noises.”
I have no idea how I make it through the next thirty seconds without making another sound. One of his arms is wrapped around me with the stethoscope pressed to my chest. His other arm is tight against my stomach as his hand continues its magic between my legs. He’s still somehow deep inside me and I’m trying to move against him, but he’s rock solid as the tremors begin to rush through me. My legs are shaking and my hands are at my sides, gripping the tops of his thighs as it takes every ounce of my strength not to scream out his name.
I’m still shaking when he lifts my hand and places the diaphragm against my wrist. After several seconds, he pulls the stethoscope away and tosses it to the ﬂoor. “One ﬁfty,” he says with satisfaction. He pulls out of me and ﬂips me onto my back and then his mouth is on mine and he’s inside me again.
My body is too weak to move and I can’t even open my eyes and watch him. He thrusts against me several times and then holds still,
groaning into my mouth. He drops on top of me, tense, yet shaking.
He kisses my neck and then his lips meet the tattoo of the heart on my collarbone. He ﬁnally settles against my neck and sighs.
“Have I already mentioned tonight how much I like you?” he asks.
I laugh. “Once or twice.”
“Consider this the third time,” he says. “I like you. Everything about you, Lily. Being inside of you. Being outside of you. Being near you. I like it all.”
I smile, loving how his words feel against my skin. Inside my heart. I open my mouth to tell him I like him, too, but my voice is cut off by the sound of his phone.
He groans against my neck and then pulls out of me and reaches for his phone. He pulls his scrubs back into place and laughs as he looks at his caller ID.
“It’s my mother,” he says, leaning over and kissing the top of my knee that’s resting against the back of the couch. He tosses the phone aside and then stands and walks over to my desk, grabbing a box of tissues.
This is always awkward, having to clean up after sex. But I can’t say it’s ever been this awkward before, knowing his mother is on the other end of that ring.
Once all my clothes are back in place, he pulls me against him on the couch and I lie down on top of him, resting my head on his chest.
It’s after ten now and I’m so comfortable I debate just sleeping here for the night. Ryle’s phone makes another noise, alerting him to a new voice mail. The thought of seeing him interact with his mother makes me smile. Allysa talks about their parents some, but I’ve never really talked to Ryle about them before.
“Do you get along with your parents?”
His arm is stroking mine gently. “Yeah, I do. They’re good people. We hit a rough patch when I was a teenager, but we worked through it. I talk to my mother almost daily now.”
I fold my arms over his chest and rest my chin on them, looking up at him. “Will you tell me more about your mother? Allysa told
me they moved to England a few years ago. And that they were in Australia on vacation, but that was like a month ago.”
He laughs. “My mother? Well . . . my mother is very overbearing. Very judgmental, especially of the people she loves the most. She’s never missed a single church service. And I have never heard her refer to my father as anything other than Dr. Kincaid.”
Despite the warnings, he smiles the whole time he talks about her.
“Your father is a doctor, too?”
He nods. “Psychiatrist. He chose a ﬁeld that also allowed him to have a normal life. Smart man.”
“Do they ever visit you in Boston?”
“Not really. My mother hates ﬂying, so Allysa and I ﬂy to England a couple of times a year. She does want to meet you, though, so you might be going with us on the next trip.”
I grin. “You’ve told your mother about me?”
“Of course,” he says. “This is kind of a monumental thing, you know. Me having a girlfriend. She calls me every day to make sure I haven’t screwed it up somehow.”
I laugh, which makes him reach for his phone. “You think I’m kidding? I guarantee she somehow brought you up in the voice mail she just left.” He presses a few keys and then begins to play the voice mail.
“Hey, sweetheart! It’s your mom. Haven’t spoken to you since yesterday. Miss you. Give Lily a hug for me. You do still see her, right? Allysa says you can’t stop talking about her. She is still your girlfriend, right? Okay. Gretchen’s here, we’re having high tea. Love you. Kiss kiss.”
I press my face against his chest and laugh. “We’ve only been dating a few months. How much do you talk about me?”
He pulls my hand up between us and kisses it. “Too much, Lily.
Way too much.”
I smile. “I can’t wait to meet them. Not only did they raise an incredible daughter, but they made you. That’s pretty impressive.”
His arms tighten around me and he kisses the top of my head. “What was your brother’s name?” I ask him.
I can feel a slight stiffness in him after I ask that. I regret bringing it up, but it’s too late to take it back.
I can tell by his voice that it’s not something he wants to talk about right now. Instead of pressing it further, I lift my head and scoot forward, pressing my mouth to his.
I should know better. Kisses can’t seem to stop at just kisses when it comes to me and Ryle. In a matter of minutes, he’s inside of me again, but this time it’s everything the other time wasn’t.
This time we make love.