Page 38 of Eight Dates

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Ben wasa shaky mess by the time he got home. Driving in snow was at least distracting enough that he didn’t get lost in his memory of Nova’s warm skin against his own and the taste of him on his tongue. But that only lasted until he pulled up in front of his house and stepped inside.

The shock of heat was intense, and his head swam a bit as he shed his coat and began to work the buttons on his shirt. He made his way to his bedroom with his phone heavy in his pocket, and he stared at his empty bed.

He wondered for only a second what life would look like next year. Would there be a warm body curled around his own instead of the vast canyon that stood between him and the outside world?

Would the wordsI love youdance across his tongue as he whispered them against Nova’s lush mouth?

Or maybe their connection would burn bright, then turn to ash just like everything did in Ben’s life.

That wasn’t what he wanted to think about when Nova was waiting on him, so he peeled away his shirt, then tossed his slacks into the corner of the room before turning off the rest of the lights and crawling beneath his covers. He hadn’t eaten, but he was only hungry for one thing, and the feeling got worse as he pressed his phone to his ear and listened to it ring.

“I was afraid you were going to chicken out,” Nova said instead of hello.

Ben laughed and turned his face halfway into his pillow. “I’ve never done anything like this.”

“Not even with your ex?”

“We were never this adventurous,” Ben admitted. “And I never liked him enough to try.”

Part of that was his fault—he knew that. It was one of Taylor’s biggest complaints, but Taylor had never inspired passion in Ben. He was comfortable. He was safe. But Ben had never really loved him. And with the way he felt about Nova, he was no longer sure he’d ever wanted him either.

“You’re awfully quiet, gorgeous. Did I say something wrong? I didn’t mean to bring up your ex?”

Ben shook his head, then remembered Nova couldn’t see him. “It’s not that. He hurt my pride more than my heart, but I realized a lot of that was on me.”

“You can’t possibly be blaming yourself for him cheating.”

Ben laughed, covering his eyes with one hand. “No. He made his choice, and he did it specifically to hurt me, I think. That’s on him. But I never really loved him, and that wasn’t fair to him as much as it wasn’t fair for me.”

Nova hummed softly. “I’m sorry I can’t relate.”

“I don’t want you to,” Ben told him. “It was terrible and exhausting, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

Nova was quiet for a long time, and then he said, “I tend to drive partners off. I’m a lot—if you can’t tell. And the ones who could probably stand me for longer than ten minutes tend to run when they realize I’ve never had a serious relationship. They think it means there’s something wrong with me.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Ben said.

Nova laughed. “You don’t know that. You can’t know that.”

“I can know that as much as you can know the same thing about me,” Ben countered.

“You play dirty, gorgeous,” Nova said with a scoff. “That’s not fair.”

Ben licked his lips, and that wild feeling was back in his bones. He dragged a hand down his naked sternum, then cupped his dick and gasped. “I thought we were going for dirty.”

“Fuck, baby,” Nova said. “I wish I could see you right now. Touch you.”

Ben wanted to tell him that he could. That all he had to do was give in, then get in his car and drive over. But Nova had made his position clear, and Ben wasn’t going to push him any further, no matter how badly they both wanted it.

“How would you touch me?”

“Your neck first,” Nova said. “I noticed you’re sensitive there. Right under your ear.”

Ben moaned as he scraped a nail in that tender spot. “Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that.”

“I know you would. You wouldn’t be able to keep still, would you?”