“Oh my!” Zoe peered at her stomach in surprise. She grabbed the railing and cupped her belly with the other hand.
“What is it?” Jake sounded alarmed.
Molly kicked again, then squirmed. “It’s Molly. She kicked me.”
Jake bent at the waist and spoke to Zoe’s belly. “Hey, Miss Molly. Be nice to your mother.” Then he glanced up at Zoe. “Kind of amazing, isn’t it? There’s this little person in there. And you made her, all by yourself. Well, almost all by yourself.”
Zoe stared down into Jake’s warm gray eyes and felt like she was falling. How had she ever thought gray was cold and hard? His eyes. His smile. Everything about him was warm and comforting. She felt as if nothing bad could ever happen to her so long as Jake was there to catch her.
Molly turned and Zoe’s belly bulged alarmingly. Jake reached out, then hesitated. “May I?”
Zoe nodded, bemused to be sharing this oddly intimate moment with Jake.
Jake gently rested his hand over the bulge. Molly obligingly moved again and then was still. This time, when Jake looked up at Zoe there was something else in his eyes that hadn’t been there a moment before. Slowly he straightened, his hand still curved warmly over her belly. Then he bent his head and covered her mouth with his.
Zoe swayed toward Jake’s broad chest, and he caught her against him with his free arm, pulling her close. Very quickly the tender moment of wonder was eclipsed by a wave of fiery desire. Jake’s kiss deepened, and he shifted to hold Zoe with both arms. She ached for the swimming, swirling feelings of sexual awareness to intensify and blossom. She so wanted Jake to be in love with her.
Jake wasn’t sure how he’d gotten from marveling over the movement of Zoe’s baby to the realization that he was sexually aroused. It didn’t matter that Zoe was enormously pregnant, he hadn’t been so turned on in years. Or maybe ever. This shouldn’t be happening. What was wrong with him? Zoe was his friend.
He dragged his mouth away from hers and sucked in a ragged breath.
Zoe’s eyes were dark with desire. Her breathing as uneven as his own.
He wanted this woman. He wanted all of her. He wanted— God! What did he want? As he’d kissed her, and she’d melted into him, an image of them naked in bed, with her spooned into the curve of his body while he covered her swollen belly with his hands had filled him with such a sharp stab of longing that it hurt.
But he couldn’t lose her friendship. It was too precious. He couldn’t give in to this. Whatever this was. He wasn’t going to mess around with her. He couldn’t.
Jake dropped his arms and stepped back. “We can’t do this.”
“Why not?” she whispered in a husky voice. She swayed toward him again.
“I can’t.” Jake planted both hands on her shoulders held her away. “I can’t take advantage of you. Not like this.”
“I’m an adult, Jake. You’re not taking advantage. What’s wrong with wanting each other?”
Jake released her and ran an agitated hand through his hair. “It wouldn’t stop at wanting. We let this go any further, and we both know where we’d end up. And it’d be great.” It would be better than great. But it would be the worst thing he could do to her. “But it would be wrong. You’re not that kind of woman.”
“What kind of woman am I then?” Zoe’s eyes flared with something different. The desire he’d seen in them just a moment before had been quenched and replaced with uncertainty.
“The Cinderella kind,” he spit out in frustration, and immediately regretted it. He hadn’t meant to sound so rude or hurtful.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Her question stabbed at his heart.
“You believe in fairy tales.” He softened his voice, trying to take the sting out of his words. “You want happy-ever-after. But this isn’t love. This is— I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a fairy tale. We’re just friends.”
“Friends can be lovers, too.” Zoe sounded more confused than hurt. “I know I’m as big as a whale and not very desirable right now, but I –”
“You are more desirable than any woman I’ve ever known. If you weren’t, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But there’s Molly to consider.”
“What about Molly?” Zoe’s voice had taken on a hint of desperation.
“She’s not my kid. I’m just . . . not . . . I can’t . . . I— I’m sorry.”
He turned and fled.