“No. I’d never ask that of someone or put such a burden on you. You’ve been very good to me, which is why I hate to ask such a big thing. Again.”
Helpless to say no, Sky said, “Okay. I’ll inform Annie since she fields most of the phone calls. But you have to promise me one thing, Nadia.”
“If anything changes, if you decide to return home, or if he threatens you, you have to tell me right away. I can’t be flying blind in this situation when I have a business to run and other employees—including children—to consider.”
“I promise. But this time it’s for real.”
Sky wanted to ask what’d happened to force the change. She wanted to know if Nadia had enough money. If Anton had his favorite toys. If Nadia was scared. However, Sky did none of that. It’d make Nadia even more self-conscious and might make her reconsider her plan if Sky questioned it.
She pretended to squint at the clock when she was trying to hold it together and follow Nadia’s lead, remaining brusque and businesslike. “Ten minutes until quitting time. Maybe you’d better fill in your coworkers on what’s going on before you take off.”
Just as Skylar took a breath and dropped the mask of hard-ass boss lady, Nadia stopped at the door and turned around.
“That man who was here earlier? Is he Eliza’s father?”
“Why wasn’t he around before, when you were pregnant?”
Wow. That was an intensely personal question from mind-your-own-business Nadia.
“That’s a long story and one I’d rather not get into. Why do you ask?”
“Because he reminds me of my husband. A stubborn cowboy. A big man who’ll use his fists to prove himself.”
“Kade is not like that.”
“Don’t kid yourself. They’re all like that,” Nadia said, and slipped out the door, leaving Skylar in stunned silence.
An hour later, Skylar entered the quiet house. No sign of Eliza or Kade in the living room. Maybe they were napping upstairs.
She rooted around in the freezer and threw a boxed casserole in the microwave. She set the plates and silverware on the ruffled placemats and poured two glasses of tea.
The stairs creaked and a freshly showered Kade entered the kitchen with an empty bottle. “She’s scrubbed, fed and sleepin’. I ain’t gonna claim sleepin’ like a baby, ’cause I’ve learned that sayin’ is a total lie. But she’s out.”
“Great timing. Dinner’s done.”
“Good. That looks mighty tasty. Thanks for cookin’.”
“You’re welcome.” Weren’t they civilized and polite? What happened to the heated looks and his suggestion of taking her to bed? Why didn’t he suggest they skip supper and head straight for dessert?
Why don’t you take a chance and tell him what’s really on your mind?
Kade shoveled in a forkful of rice and chewed. “This is good. What’s the spice?”
“I added fresh savory.”
“Mmm. That it is.”
He ate. She ate. They finished the meal in uncomfortable silence.
She started to clean up the dishes and declined his offer to help.
Finally, he said, “You gonna tell me what’s wrong?”
She slammed the cupboard door. “I don’t know.”
“Could you at least give me the courtesy of lookin’ at me when we’re talkin’, sweetheart?”
Skylar wheeled around. “We aren’t talking, Kade.”
“Is that the problem?”
“Only one way to rectify that, Skylar. If you have some to say to me, spit it out.”
“Fine. For lack of a better term, we’ve been playing house for over two weeks.”
“Playin’ house? Is that what you think we’re doin’?”
“Isn’t it? And despite the fact you’re living with me, you’re in my bed, today you came into my plant and tried to charm the pants off me in front of my employees.”
Kade lifted both brows. “Does that make you mad?”
“Yes, it does. I sound like a total idiot, but yeah, it makes me wonder why you don’t use that silver tongue on me when we’re alone.”
“Where exactly do you want me to use my tongue on you, darlin’?”
Everywhere. “You know that’s not what I meant. And it doesn’t help my self-image when I realize we’ve been sleeping in the same damn bed for almost three weeks and…”
Just say it. Calmly. Confidently. With dignity. She blurted out, “And why haven’t you so much as laid a single hand on me?”
He blinked several times. “Come again?”
“You heard me. You asked for honesty, there it is.”
“Yeah? Well, I asked you to marry me, remember?”
“And I said no. That doesn’t answer my question.”
Kade wiped a cloth napkin across his mouth with deliberate slowness. “The reason I haven’t done anything more than sleep next to you in that bed is because I’m followin’ your lead, Sky. You never indicated that’s what you wanted.”
“You haven’t acted like you’re interested, McKay.”
“Wrong. I would’ve f**ked you on the couch the first night I moved in. I would’ve spread you out on every goddamn surface in this kitchen morning, noon and night. I would’ve banged you on the concrete floor of your herb room until my knees bled the second I saw you today, in another one of them sexy-assed dresses you always wear.
“I want you like crazy. It don’t matter to me where, but it sure as hell matters when, because I ain’t gonna start nothin’ with you until you’re ready to get into an intensely physical relationship with me.”
Skylar’s belly flipped at the words intensely physical relationship. “Being a true cowboy gentleman, are you?”
“I’m sure as hell tryin’, because that’s what you told me you wanted from the get-go.
It ain’t easy as I thought it’d be.”
Rather than admit she was wrong for demanding his stupid gentlemanly behavior, she taunted, “So is that why I caught you jacking off in the shower this morning?”
His eyes glittered. “Me jackin’ off was in direct response to the show you were puttin’ on in the middle of the damn bed about five minutes before that.”