Maribel turns to embrace him. Drea falls in step behind her taking her opportunity to hug Tyler, before virtually every single person in the room lines up to do the same thing.
"Do you want to come by for dinner, Chef?" Maribel adjusts the strap of her purse over her forearm. "I'm cooking my famous fried chicken tonight. My husband says it's the best he's ever tasted."
"I appreciate the invitation." Tyler pats her on the upper back. "Can I get a rain check?"
"Have you eaten yet today?" She cocks her head to the side. "I know you're dealing with a boatload of stuff right now. Let me take care of you tonight. My family would love to see you."
He turns toward where I'm standing a few feet from him. I haven't crowded him because I know that my chance to thank him for keeping me on staff will come later when we're alone. I'm itching for everyone to leave. Thankfully, only Maribel and a few others are still here.
"I'm actually cooking for Cadence tonight." His eyes linger on my face even though he's still talking to Maribel.
"You mean the luckiest girl in the world?" She takes a step forward, her attention shifting from Tyler to me. "You do know how lucky you are, don't you, Den?"
My gaze darts between her and Tyler, before I settle on his eyes. "I do know how lucky I am."
"I'm the lucky one." Tyler's voice lowers. "I'm the luckiest man in Manhattan."
"You're not hungry, are you?" he asks in a rasp.
Maribel had convinced the last three employees who were still here to leave with her. With her promise of a home-cooked meal and a board game with her family, they eagerly followed her out the door.
The trio of women that's going to spend the evening at her apartment are all single. I know because they've invited me to join them a few times when they were planning their infamous 'girls' night of fun'.
I've never tagged along with them, although I've been tempted. I don't have a lot of female friends and if I'm going to change that, I need to make the effort.
"You said you were cooking dinner for me." I rest my hands on my hips. "You lied to Maribel?"
His hand drops from the door handle. "I did what I needed to do to get her to leave. Did it feel like she was gearing up to spend the night on my sofa?"
"She does like hanging around you," I say, laughing. "You passed on her famous fried chicken for me?"
"I'd pass on food for a month for you." He blows out his breath. "I'd do it for a year if it wouldn’t kill me."
I smile, thinking about what an integral part of his life food is. It's a compliment that means more than any other he's ever given me. "I'm sorry for everything that's happened this week. I wish there was more that I could do for you."
He moves closer to me, gripping my hips in his hands. "Promise me something, Cadence."
"Anything," I whisper without thinking.
"Don't let me work too hard on rebuilding Nova."
I arch my brows in confusion. "What do you mean? We're all going to work hard to rebuild Nova."
That brings a soft smile to his lips. "We will. I don't want to lose this because of that."
"Lose this?" I nod my chin. "Us?"
"I need you, Cadence." His voice is a low growl. "I don't want the fire to fuck up what's going on between us."
"That's not going to happen." I smooth the pad of my thumb over his bottom lip.
"I need to see you as often as I can. I feel off center. You bring me balance." He tugs my hips closer until I'm resting against him. "The other night when you didn't show up, I was pissed. I was aching to be inside you."
I catch a moan in my throat. I've felt greedy for wanting him that way. I keep telling myself that it's wrong to think about fucking him when he's dealing with such a monumental trauma. Knowing that he's been thinking about it too changes everything.
"I'm sorry," I say weakly. "I fell asleep."
He moves his hand to my hair, tangling his fingers in the strands. "I almost called you to ask where you were but then I realized you must have dozed off. I thought about showing up at your place so I could crawl in bed with you."
"You should have." I arch my neck as he pulls softly on my hair, leveling my mouth with his. "You can crawl in bed with me whenever you want."
"I want it now," he says gruffly as he slides his mouth over mine.
He rubs the tip of his nose along my hip bone, his breath coursing a hot path over my exposed skin.
"I hate the way you tease me." I fist the sheet below me in both hands. "I can get myself off."
"What fun would that be?" His tongue flicks over my clit so softly that I barely register the sensation.
"It's a lot of fun." I half-moan. "I did it last night. It was pretty good."
"You touched this pretty cunt with your fingers last night?" He licks the seam of my pussy before he pulls back. "You were thinking about me, weren't you?"
"Is it that obvious?" I exhale audibly. "You're really good in bed, Chef."