Shiloh nearly leapt off the sill as his hand touched her knee. It took every ounce of willpower she possessed to remain seated and appear undaunted by the gesture. “I am…much better now…thank you,” she said, becoming more unnerved by the presence of his hand by the minute. Oh, this was not good, not good at all. The longer it remained there, the stronger her impulse to bolt became. Oh, no…
What was it about this man that rattled her so and with so little effort on his part? Sharing the same air with him was enough to send her pulses to the moon—and her mind somewhere else, something new for her. Being this attracted to a man was beyond her realm of experience. She didn’t know what to do with it—or about it. Should she do anything? Should she pretend indifference? And why wasn’t he so deeply affected? It wasn’t fair.
Still confused, she gave him a weak smile, intent on backing up her previous claim with the gesture. She feared it failed miserably. When Micah returned her smile and lifted his hand from her knee, she felt precisely one second of relief before he shook her world again by caressing her face in parting. She stumbled back against the frame of the window, her lips parting on a startled breath as a lightning bolt shot through her at his touch. Something flickered in his eyes at her reaction—pain, perhaps—and he retracted his hand, balling it into a fist as he turned away from her, preparing to depart.
In an instant, she realized her mistake. Along with it came the knowledge she couldn’t let him go away angry or upset. After everything he and his family had done for her, she owed him that much. She grabbed him by the shirtfront to stop him, and a shock of awareness shot from her hand directly into his heart, just beneath it. She could see it in the gaze he leveled on her then, could hear it in his breath trapped within his lungs, feel it in the missed beat of his heart. But then, all sense abandoned her, and her heart skipped a beat as he held her hand firmly to his chest with one of his own and lifted the other to her head, anchoring it against the window frame. Slowly, his eyes never straying from hers, he leaned across the space separating them. His lips brushed hers, like a whisper, before he withdrew, tilted his head to the side, and advanced again. This time the kiss was fuller, penetrating her every defense, both physical and emotional, but still not long enough for her. He retreated once again after a fraction of time and hovered before her, scarcely an inch away. Watching her. Waiting.
Her heart beating a frantic tempo now, Shiloh abandoned all of her reservations and her good sense to swoop in for a more vigorous kiss. So vigorous, in fact, she knocked him off his perch through the open window. Only quick reflexes honed to perfection at the Institute prevented her from tumbling after him.
Bracing herself against the sill, she leaned out the window as far as she was able and watched his descent from the slanted roof to the ground below. She lost sight of him the moment he slid beyond the reach of the light from her window. But then she heard him land with a thud —and a howl—on the ground in front of the back porch when he failed to catch himself on the roof edge. She clasped a hand over her mouth to silence her reaction and waited. When he didn’t rouse right away, panic shot through her and she leaned out another few inches.
“Micah? Are you okay?”
“Fine,” he answered after a few moments, appearing beyond the overhang of the roof as if to prove it to her. “Nothing hurt but what’s left of my pride.”
Relief coursed through her at his statement, and she allowed herself the laugh she’d literally held back before. Her mirth was cut short, however, by his next words.
“Hey, Shiloh! We’ve got to stop falling for each other like this.”
His laughter followed her as she ducked back into the room. She could still hear it even after she closed the window, though not as well. Oh, Lord. She rested against the cool pane of glass and touched her still-tingling lips with shaky fingers. Was she? Falling for him? Was that what this crazy-mad feeling inside of her was?
The question plagued her long into the night.