His eyes focused back in on Nora as she wiped a single tear slipping down her cheek. The woman had always been so strong, so proud, heaven forbid people see her as human.
“I wondered.” She looked down at their clasped hands. “I was so embarrassed when I got them. That sounds selfish and cruel, but I couldn’t believe it. I was still in shock over his death, but then to have those come, I just…I never thought he’d actually leave me. Especially without talking to me about it.”
Yeah, that was something Eli couldn’t believe, either. But there was nothing he could do about Todd’s choices now, nothing he could do to ease her pain. Sometimes life experiences sucked and only time could heal them.
Eli cupped her chin, raising her gaze to meet his. “You were an amazing wife. Todd was lucky to have you. Maybe he felt you shouldn’t have to put up with a husband who was always gone or maybe he was dealing with so much… Hell, I don’t know. I just know I don’t want you blaming yourself.”
“Who else would be to blame?” she asked.
Stroking his thumb along her jawline, Eli stared into her damp eyes and knew he couldn’t tell her the real reason she wasn’t to blame. She was already hurting, why add to it? Why tell her Todd was sleeping around? That time had come and gone and Nora was trying to rebuild her life, her future, with her baby.
He wished he could give her everything she’d ever wanted. Nora should have the world handed to her because she’d been through an insane amount of heartache in her life. And yet she kept fighting.
“You’re going to be an amazing mother,” he told her.
A slight smile formed across her lips. “I hope so.”
As her eyes continued to hold his, sadness and worry slowly turned into something else…something more heated and curious. Those baby blues darted to his mouth, then back up to his eyes.
She could tempt the strongest of saints. Unfortunately, where Nora was concerned, he wasn’t strong at all and he sure as hell had never been a saint.
With his hand still cupped beneath her chin, Eli eased forward, closing the gap between them and claiming her lips. She parted for him, slowly sliding her tongue across his, slowly torturing him with her softness, her sweetness.
Over the past several years he’d been hardened from all he’d seen and taken part in. But right now, with Nora’s delicate touch, he knew she deserved someone who could be gentle, patient. The hurt in her would take time to heal, and while he may want to be that man, in reality that was impossible. Even though she had moved on from her failed marriage with Todd, Eli didn’t deserve her, either.
Yet he didn’t back away.
Placing both hands on the sides of her face, he shifted his body and eased her down onto his bed. Nora’s hands slid over his bare shoulders and into his hair.
Those delicate fingertips left gooseflesh in their path. The swell of her breasts, the slight bump in her abdomen, felt perfectly right tucked against him. Everything about Nora in his bed felt perfectly right.
Except the fact she shouldn’t settle and he wasn’t staying.
Allowing himself another second of bliss, Eli finally eased back, then rested his forehead against hers.
“Nora, we can’t do this.”
Her hands came to curl around his shoulders. “I know.”
“It’s so hard to resist you. So hard when I want you more than my next breath.”
Eli doubted it, but he sat up, trying to keep his eyes off her swollen lips, her tousled hair and how damn good she looked spread out on his sheets.
“We need to get out of here before I totally forget I’m trying to be a gentleman.”
“I’ll just head on home.” She eased her legs around him and stood. “I’m really glad you’re feeling better, Eli.”
He watched as she headed to the door to get on her shoes. When she reached up for her coat, Eli crossed the room in two strides and gripped her arm, turning her to face him.