Anna came awake suddenly, as if she’d been hurtled out of the dream world where she was happy into sudden reality. Turning to her side, she ran her arms around the warm bed. She opened sleep-smudged eyes when her arms came up empty.
Dawn was peeking through the navy blue curtains that kept the room crisply cold.
During some part of their wild, marathon night, he’d carried her from the studio to his bedroom. Again and again during the night he’d reached for her, insatiable in his need.
While her body groaned now with a multitude of aches, Anna had no complaints. Nine months was a long time to go without the raw, physical connection that had always been one of the cornerstones of their relationship.
She pushed herself to a seated position and was checking the time on her cell phone when AJ walked into the bedroom, his hair still wet. He was dressed in jeans and a blue dress shirt, his jaw freshly shaven. It seemed like a strange mixture of a casual and formal, as if he hadn’t been able to decide on one thing.
“Did I miss the call for a session?” she mumbled softly.
He looked up and smiled. But there was a strange implacability to his gaze that shut her out. That sent a wave of fear rocking through her.
“Is everything okay, AJ?”
“Of course,” he said. Coming around the bed, he bent his broad frame and kissed her cheek in a formal gesture that tied her stomach up into knots. She felt him inhale deeply, his nose buried in her hair.
Anna brought his hand to her face and nuzzled into it. She loved that his palm encompassed her entire face. That he had always made her feel safe and protected.
“I canceled all our sessions for today and most of tomorrow. You should sleep in. I know I was a bit of a needy bastard last night.”
She jerked up her head. “What? Why?” She smacked him, faking a playfulness she didn’t feel. He was definitely acting strange. “And I was there, every inch of the way, egging you on.” She pulled out his neatly tucked-in shirt and the undershirt to reveal the marks her nails had left on his side.
This time, his smile definitely reached his eyes. It spread through her like a beacon of light on a dark night. “Why are you canceling the session?”
“I have a few things to take care of. I’ll be gone for a few days. I’ve already informed Virat and Vikram. You should take the day easy. Maybe go shopping. Or not,” he added hurriedly.
“I’m not going to be traumatized by the idea of shopping, AJ,” she added.
He took a deep breath. “I do know Zara got into town last night. Vikram met her for dinner. So maybe meet up with her for lunch or dinner?”
“Yeah, sure,” Anna said, blinking. “Are you going to see Papa or Seema didi? Because I think it’s a really bad idea to confront them when you’re so—”
“No. Seema didi will be scandalized if I show up before dawn. And, no, I’m not going over there, Anna. I’m going to maintain some distance for a while.”
She nodded. “I never wanted to drive a wedge between you and your family,” she added, knowing that his family meant a lot to him.
“You didn’t, sweetheart. You’ve done nothing wrong. Now, I have to leave or I’ll miss my flight.”
Anna’s heart thumped painfully in her chest. “AJ, wait,” she called out as he reached the door.
“Do you want me to be still here when you come back?”
He stared at her for so long that Anna swallowed the fear bubbling in her throat. “Remember our last fight?”
She nodded. “Yes. I…yelled at you that you were rushing me. That I didn’t want a family with you. That I…” Tears rolled down her cheeks. She had been cruel that night.
“Don’t cry, sweetheart,” he whispered in an anguished tone. “Think of the answer to that question, will you? And, yes, I want you here, Anna. I’ve never stopped wanting you in my life.”
And before Anna could reply, he was gone.
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