He shrugged. “Bad dream.”
“Want to tell me about it?” I ran my fingers through his hair.
“Okay, well, why don’t you tell me about your day. Did you have fun at Gavin’s house?”
He scratched his chin. “Yeah. I told him about the zoo. He was really jealous!”
“Yeah! And I drew a picture of the ostrich we saw.”
“Well, I’m so glad you had fun, buddy. We’ll have to do that again real soon.”
He snuggled deeper in his bed. “What did you do today, Kate?”
“Well, while you were at Gavin’s, I helped your mom set up the house and worked on my thesis a little bit. Then I had to shower and get ready…”
His eyelids started to drift and fall. It was way past his bedtime and I wasn’t surprised he was out so quickly. Some nights, when story time didn’t work, I recounted my day in painstaking detail and that usually conked him out. A six-year-old’s attention span could be a brilliant thing.
“I love you, buddy,” I whispered, and kissed his forehead. I quietly rose, tucked the blankets in around him, and turned for the door.
There was a shadow in the doorway. A sharp scream burned my throat, but I managed to stifle it. Before terror gripped me completely, Adam stepped into the dim light. My lungs struggled briefly, but after a few deep breaths, I pushed the fear away. A shadowy figure coming toward me was an instant anxiety spike.
I walked toward him, out into the hallway, and closed Simon’s door behind me.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he rasped.
“It’s okay. I’m glad it’s you.” My lips trembled slightly. “I didn’t mean to be gone that long.”
“You weren’t.” Adam’s voice was deep and laced with intent. He cupped my face in his hands. Before I could react, he kissed me. He parted my lips with his tongue and took a long, deep taste. It was quick, hard. Intense. If his goal was to steal all the oxygen from my lungs in one earth-shattering pull of his mouth, he had succeeded.
“W-what was that for?” I gasped, wishing I had more breath, but the sinful mogul had just kissed it all out of me.
He shook his head and tucked a lock of hair behind my ear. I untucked it, letting it fall back over my jaw and neck.
He frowned, but didn’t push the matter. “Are you ready to get back to the party?”
“Not really, but yeah, we’d better.”
He guided me down the hallway, his hand resting on the small of my back as he slowly led me downstairs to the crowd of people.
“I can always find something far better to occupy your time with, you know.”
“Don’t tempt me. I just may take you up on your offer.”
“About time, woman.”
Oh my God! He smiled! Bigger than I had ever seen. It reached his eyes and gave him a boyish charm. I liked this side of him. The human side. The power and dominance was still there, but there was something deeper. Many children who grew up being bounced around in the system had issues with control and a warped sense of stability. It wasn’t a mystery that being a foster child played a part in his demeanor. But there was something more. Something almost broken that seemed to be buried deep inside him. Something that called to me. I wanted to dig into that side of Adam and latch on tight.
“There you are,” Eddie Stout slurred as he ambled toward me. The party had been in full swing for a little while and the handsy, middle-aged tax attorney had already had his share of Stoli.
“You look f**king hot, Katelyn!” He raised his hand to my face. I flinched and instinctively squeezed my eyes shut.
Though Eddie would only attempt to touch me, it was an instant reaction. But his hand didn’t meet my skin. I peeked and saw Adam’s fingers wrapped around Eddie’s wrist.
“Don’t touch her. Ever.” Adam’s voice was so calm and threatening it sent shivers down my spine. Eddie bared his teeth and made a weird noise before taking another swig of his drink and walking away, mumbling several choice words.
“What was that?” Adam barked, as though he was mad at me for Eddie’s approach.
“What was what?”
He slowly raised his hand, his eyes on mine. It looked like he was about to perform magic or something. He stood there for a moment, his finger hovering from my nose to my cheekbone.
I laughed. “Are you trying to hypnotize me?”
“I’d call it a light giggle.”
“You laugh at me, yet when your uncle approached you earlier, you tensed up. And then just now, when that man came near you, you flinched.”
My heart stopped and my attention turned toward the floor.
“But now…” He traced his finger from my ear to my neck. “And when I kissed you in the hallway, and before at the restaurant—my office—you didn’t feel threatened.” His eyes blazed with so much ferocity it scared me. “Did that ass**le hurt you in the past? Has he touched you?”
My brows rose nearly into my hairline. I didn’t know which ass**le he was referring to, but either way, I didn’t want to go into it. Eddie was a drunk and technically, Tim had never hurt me. I had shut him down before it got that far. He was just inappropriate and unnerving. Yes, he added to my anxiety issues, but my reaction to hands coming at my face was due to my mom. Another subject I didn’t want to get into.
I grabbed both of Adam’s hands in mine. “It’s nothing like that. It’s just a reaction I have sometimes.”
“Well, a lot of the time. Except with you.”
“You trust me.” Once again, he wasn’t asking, he was affirming. But it was also impossible. I didn’t even let Brian or Megan near my face—not that they regularly attempted it. I had been thinking about this a lot, and the only thing I could come up with was that my sense dissolved when I was near Adam. Logical or not, the simple truth was that I reacted to Adam differently than I did to the rest of the world.
Why was that?
I didn’t have an answer.
“Someone has hurt you, Katelyn. Who is it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Especially not with him.
His eyes took in the crowded room and he lowered his voice. “Maybe not here and not tonight, but we will talk, Katelyn. Because this—” He motioned between our bodies. “—is hitting me hard. And you feel it, too. Of course, you fight me more than I’d like,” he growled with amusement. Playful Adam was back and I was relieved.