Slow Burn
Chapter One
Not So Shining Moments
Patrick
     
    I must have set some sort of record for quickly going from feeling pretty damn good to feeling like the world’s biggest asshole. I wasn’t sorry that Chloe and I had kissed, and I was certain that kissing had nothing to do with having too much wine. I kissed her because she was beautiful. I kissed her because I’d just had one of the most relaxing and comforting nights I’d ever spent with a woman and I wanted to feel her. I kissed her because we were both hurting and she looked like she needed it. I know I did. I wanted to tell her all of that, but her eyes had darkened and she was looking at me as if I was insane.
     
    “What do you mean you’re not done?”
     
    Realizing what she meant, I tried to clear it up. “No, no, not that. If you want to stop this, whatever this is, then of course we’ll stop. I just meant…”
     
    I was at a loss for words. I knew what I felt. I didn’t want the night to end. I could have stayed up all night talking to Chloe, touching her, laughing with her, just being with her if she’d let me but, from the expression on her face, it seemed that was quite possibly the last thing she wanted. Even if I could manage to put how I was feeling into words, Chloe looked as if she didn’t want to hear it.
     
    “You’re right. We just had too much to drink and… we’re both kind of needy right now.”
     
    “Yeah. Exactly. I’m sorry. I… I’m going to bed.”
     
    Chloe turned and left the kitchen. I watched her go. I didn’t want to, but I did.
    ***
    The next few weeks passed without a single word between us—at least not verbally. The morning after the hottest time I’d ever spent in a kitchen, I awoke to find Chloe already gone and a note on the fridge.
     
    Patrick, I know you’re probably tired of me saying this, but I’m really sorry about last night. You were right. We were both needy and hurting, and this whole living arrangement is still new to both of us. I hope what happened won’t make it uncomfortable for us to continue living together. I’m happy you’re here. C.
     
    She was right about one thing. I was tired of hearing how sorry she was that we kissed. I also didn’t like how she kept referring to it. It was kissing. Okay, so it was a bit more than kissing. Any time I allowed myself to remember what it felt like to have Chloe’s body pressed against mine, I had to admit that things were definitely headed in the exact opposite direction of innocent kissing. How far it would have gone will forever be a mystery, but I know how far I wanted it to go. And I knew enough about women to know Chloe wanted it too.
     
    She avoided me for the next few weeks. Her new project at work kept her working late most evenings, but even on the weekends she managed to find reasons to be out of the apartment. The few times we were home at the same time I was tempted to confront her, force her to talk to me, acknowledge me, anything. We didn’t have to talk about what happened between us, but did we each have to pretend that the other didn’t exist?
     
    Then I became angry. We’d done nothing wrong and if she wanted to act like she lived alone then I definitely wasn’t going to force her to pay attention to me. We were both too old to play games, but my ego refused to let me be the first one to break. I was doing a good job at living in my own little fantasy world where I didn’t miss the company of a woman I could not stop thinking about, when just the mention of her name was like a kick in the gut.
     
    “So I met Chloe yesterday.”
     
    I glanced over at Kelly Kennedy. I slowed my pace on the treadmill a bit but Kelly, running on an identical machine next to me, didn’t miss a step. There was really no reason for me to be so surprised. I had mentioned to Kelly a few weeks ago that Chloe’s company would be contacting her representation with an offer from Raven Cosmetics . Due to a combination of a great offer and my

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