For some reason my quick response seems to be the wrong one when he pushes himself up to stare down at me. “Do you?”
This time it was a question. Direct and insistent.
My throat goes dry. I’m not good at this. The bedroom talk. Before or after. Now this insanely hot man is putting me on the spot, and I don’t know what he wants to hear. “Why else would I be here?” I meant the words to be strong, undeniable, but they sounded uncertain even to my own ringing ears.
His eyes flash, a slash of steel visible in the darkness. “That’s what I’m asking you.”
“I don’t understand.” I stare up at him, wondering what I did wrong. “Are you upset?”
Long fingers rake at his hair, taking his time to respond. “Are you here because of Maddy?”
Shocked, my eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. “What?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” he bites out with a coldness I’ve not heard from him before. “Jealous ‘friends’ of my sister’s trying to find ways to hurt her by sleeping with her brother.”
It takes me a long, dragged out second to fully comprehend what he was implying. Or maybe I didn’t want to comprehend it. When it finally does, it’s not embarrassment or disbelief but anger that boils through my bloodstream.
So carefully it aches, I slip out of the bed, seizing the wrinkled top he so hastily and negligently tossed aside not too long ago and pop it back on. He watches me the whole time without a word, even as I quietly, furiously scan the floor for my jeans.
In less than a minute I’m fully clothed. Never mind my bra is missing, because I’m so ready to obliterate Step Three.
At some point in my haste to get dressed, he climbed out of bed. He’s standing near the bedroom door, still gloriously and comfortably naked, yet I’m the one fighting the urge to run and hide. I open my mouth for some remarkable parting words that would leave him feeling half as stupid as I feel right now, but nothing comes out.
With oppressed air, I brush past him, calling myself all kinds of a fool for thinking I can pretend to be with a man like Jonathan Volt, if only for a few lost hours. He’s too fast. Too cool. Too detached. And I’m none of those things.
I don’t turn around but bound down the stairs. “Go to hell.”
The hardwood is cold under my bare feet as I hit the landing. On autopilot, I go straight through the expansive living room. All I want is to be out of this place. Out of this disaster of a night and away from him. Because when the anger slows and the blood cools, humiliation will inevitably make its home, and I want – need – to be alone when that happens.
This time the voice is right behind me. I hadn’t even heard him come down the steps. Determined fingers wrap around my arm just above my elbow. I try to shrug them off, but they’re like forceful shackles that chain me to the spot.
“Where are you going?”
I whirl on him and jam a finger within an inch of his startled face. “You’re an asshole.”
“That may be, but I’m not about to let a woman walk home in the middle of the night.”
There’s pride. Despite the last ill-fated minutes, despite the fact I want to crawl into my own bed and disappear under the covers for a month, I still have mine. “It’s called rideshare, so no need
to play at gallantry. We both know that doesn’t suit you. And for the record?” I bite down on my lip, feeling it tremble. “I prefer you don’t say anything to Maddy about us. I wouldn’t want her to hear how ridiculous I was to be one of countless women that end up in your bed.”
His hand drops. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what was said. God, this is so typical.” My head rolls back, shaking at my own idiocy, because he’s standing there naked as he pleases in the middle of the living room. “Just forget it. Forget this happened. I just wanted to enjoy myself for a night. I thought you’d be the perfect person to share that with, but clearly I was wrong.”
Gray eyes narrowed, suspicious and incredulous. “You were looking for a hookup? At a gay bar?”
A laugh escapes my throat, not a hint of humor. We lock gazes in the semi-darkness. “Not at first. But then you came along, and my plan changed.”
“Then what were you hoping to find tonight at the club?”
I take a step back. A retreat, I won’t deny it. “That’s none of your business.”
He only closes the distance. “When you involve my sister, it’s my business.”
The gorgeous eyes gauging me without reserve has me looking away, one hundred percent out of my element. “I’m not doing this. I can’t…” I gesture at him. All of him. “Are you aware you don’t have any clothes on?”
A shrug. “That’s not my concern right now.”
When a man looks like him, I suppose there’s no need for shyness or modesty. “I already told you my being here has nothing to do with Maddy. Or anyone else, for that matter, other than for myself.”
The rolling splash of surfs are the only sounds in the house as he seems to digest that. His hand comes up, brushing my hair back behind a shoulder. The gesture is almost tender, reserved for
someone he’s been intimate with, and my heart stutters just a little from the natural affection. I’m pretty sure I look a mess right now, having leapt out of his bed in a dazed hurry, and only find minor comfort in the hidden shadows of the night.
“Stay the night.”
I find I can’t meet the deep, searching gaze penetrating me, stripping me bare without moving a muscle. “Why?”
“It’s late.” When I open my mouth to protest that I’m a big girl and can take care of myself, he pointedly adds, “And because I want you to.”