Alexander pointed to a picture hanging on the wall. “Is this your mother?”

“She was my mother. She died in a car accident.” A depressing silence filled the room.

He took her hand, his eyes warm and empathetic. “She was beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Her heart thundered so loudly she worried he could hear it. The way he looked at her made everything painful in the world disappear.

But too quickly, he pulled away. Standing up, he shoved his hands in his short’s pockets. “I guess you’ve heard that a million times, but I truly mean it.”

“Actually, I haven’t. So, thank you.” How could she explain that there was no one around to give condolences when her mother died? A quick burial and they were gone the next morning and in another state by lunch.

“My mom was a great artist,” she said, fiddling with the hem of the blanket. “I hope to be half as good as her someday. She was teaching me drawing and painting before she died.” Gabby took a sip of water then placed the bottle on the coffee table.

When she straightened, he was in front of her. Could he feel her body tremble as he took her hand?

A musky scent invited her closer. She stood up and inched toward him, hating the feel of humidity on her legs, the way her damp clothes clung to her body. She wiped the sweat from her brow, embarrassed as she realized Alexander didn’t have a bead of sweat on him.

“I’m really sorry that you’re alone,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I know what it’s like.”

He seemed so vulnerable and sweet. As if he had reached out and pulled her closer to him, her body leaned into his hard chest. Her palms slid over planes of firm muscle.

“What was her name?” he whispered against her lips.

“Elaina.” She closed her eyes, and leaned a little closer.

A moment passed and nothing.

“I have to go.” He released her and stepped away.

Choking down a lump in her throat, she opened her eyes, staring down at the food untouched on the blanket.

She turned to face him but he was gone. Only a small burst of air and empty space remained where he just stood.