Warm arms came around his stomach as Alyssa embraced him from behind. Her head settled between his shoulder blades and, without telling his hand to move, he found himself clutching her hands to his chest.
He gave in to the comfort of her touch and absorbed everything he could from her. The magic of her music still swirled in the air, and in his mind’s eye, he saw himself turning in her arms, bending down, clutching her face in his hands, and drawing their mouths together. He’d walk her backward through the house as their hands tugged at shirts and bared skin. They’d end up on the bed and she’d be all splayed out, warm and his for the taking.
Alyssa nuzzled into his back and pressed a kiss against his shoulder.
He sucked in a breath, his erection punching against the fly of his jeans again. But it wouldn’t just be sex. Not with her. The ache in his chest and the constriction in his throat, that was about the part of him that wanted to comfort her and be comforted in return, that wanted companionship and a place to belong. It would be about lo—
He shook his head, clamping down on the tail end of that thought. Without question, Alyssa would give him everything he wanted and more, but what he wanted was just a bunch of fantasy bullshit for someone like him.
It killed him to do so, but he twisted free of her arms and forced himself to face her. Frustration and regret weighed on his shoulders like an anvil. “This”—he waved his finger back and forth between them and swallowed down a river of sadness—“this right here. This can’t happen.”
Alyssa’s expression morphed from surprise into hurt, and the tinge of pink on her cheeks revealed a healthy dose of embarrassment mixed in.
Wasn’t that the sour cherry on his shit sundae? Hurting her was the last thing he wanted to do, but better to hurt her a little now than a lot later.