Satisfied that the bartender wouldn’t go telling tales, he made his way back to where Carrigan had picked a booth. Ignoring the empty side, he slid in next to her. “What’s going on?”
She didn’t look up. “What makes you think something’s going on?”
“How about because you won’t meet my eyes for the first time since we met? Or this…I don’t even know what to call this getup.” He tugged on the white fabric pooled on the booth seat between them.
Her green eyes flashed, a welcome show of anger. “There’s nothing wrong with the way I dress.”
“You’re right. This isn’t you. This is some scared virgin who’s looking for her white knight. If I’ve learned anything from our time together, it’s that you’d have no problem slaying dragons on your own.”
Her mouth formed a little O of surprise, but she recovered quickly enough. “You don’t know me.”
“Not nearly as well as I want to, no. But you don’t grow up the way we did without learning to read a person.” The bartender appeared with their drinks, and James waited for him to scurry away before he spoke again. “Talk to me. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“No one can help me.” She didn’t say it like it upset her—more like it was a truth of her life that she’d come to terms with years ago. It made his chest ache. Carrigan took a long drink of her martini. “I’m almost thirty.”
He blinked. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Biology, my dear Watson. How in God’s name can I pop out half a dozen kids if I’m past the age of safely being able to do so.”
There was so much wrong with what she just said that he didn’t know where to start. So James just went with the first thing he thought of. “Do you want kids?”
She froze with her drink halfway to her mouth and slowly set it back down. “You know, I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that before.”
The raw pain in her voice made him want to comfort her, but that was one skill James had never learned. Maybe if his mother had lived…but there was no room in this world for what if and maybe. So he did the one thing that he knew how to do. The single thing guaranteed to distract her.
He kissed her.
Carrigan went rigid for half a second, but he waited, his lips on hers, and let her choose. That hesitation was all it took for her to melt, turning to fire in his arms. He wanted to haul her against him, to let this feeling consume him until none of the bullshit mattered anymore. Right now, in this moment, there was only her. They could be the last two people in the world for all he gave a fuck. Hell, part of him hoped they were. As her tongue stroked his, a small, treacherous thought wormed into his brain and took root.
With this woman by my side, I’d be content to let the rest of the world burn.