After a roofied night, having no money and standing in a desecrated apartment, I felt like I was back at square one. Which meant that I needed to start thinking like Street Emma.
“Everybody wants something, Rhys.” I looked at him, because as long as I was being truthful, it was his turn to dish. “You want to help me? What are you charging?”
“Nothing. I just want you to be safe.”
“Bullshit, nothing is free.”
“Adam helped you,” he countered.
“Yeah, and Adam wanted something in return.”
I had to go to school, clean up, behave, and yes, he did care, but he was overbearing and in my business all the time. It came from a good place, I knew that. Knew he loved me. And I loved him, which was why I was trying to stay away from him and the life he’s built. He’s finally happy, an honest kind of happy, and he’s letting go of his past, which was more brutal than mine in some ways. I didn’t want him to have to deal with me anymore.
“Like I said, I want your trust and compliance.”
“You ask all this of me, what is your plan, big guy?”
“You want to make it to the trial and keep yourself safe, I think that’s smart. But I also think that Mase won’t stop and needs to be caught. Drawing him out so the police can obtain him is a strategy we should consider. In the mean time, I’ll keep your secrets, but you’ll have to stay with me. I’m going upstate today, there’re some family issues I need to deal with. It’s a good place to lie low for a few weeks.”
“And I just come with you?”
He shrugged. “It’s either that or I can call Adam and you can talk with him about your next step.”
I wanted to argue that I could take care of myself. But presently I didn’t have the means to do that. Rhys was my best option. I still wasn’t convinced he didn’t have an angle, though.
“What about sex?”
“What about it?”
“Will we be having any?”
That didn’t even get a grin from him. “This isn’t a trade, Emma. I’m offering my help, that is it. Under these circumstances, it’s probably best to remain platonic.”
“Wow.” I crossed my arms. “You’re sexy when you’re all doom and gloom.”
“And you’re mouthy.” That time there was just a hint of a grin.
I wanted to push for more. To ask if he liked the time we were together. Seeing as how we hadn’t talked about it — mostly because I took off before we could. But I didn’t ask. Because right then, it didn’t matter.
That one night was amazing, but it was over. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe there could ever be more between us than a couple nights with no strings. So long as I kept my brain and remembered that no one, not even Captain America over there, did things out of the goodness of their heart without some kind of agenda, there was no reason sex couldn’t be a part of this deal.
He was talking about being together for three weeks.
Three platonic weeks. Yeah, I didn’t see that happening. There were two things men caved for: sex and money. Since I didn’t have money and Rhys already had plenty of it, looked like the second option was best. And it was the fastest way to find out his agenda. His real reason behind this “save the street-girl” endeavor.
“I’m still not buying your noble intentions,” I informed him.
If Rhys had been the kind of man to roll his eyes, he probably would have right then. “Fine. You want me to gain something from this? I’ll tell you what, in exchange for me helping you, you can help me settle some real estate issues up north.”
“What does that entail?”
He glanced down the front of me. “Nothing you can’t handle.”
For some reason, the fact that it felt like an exchange and not a handout made me feel better and worse at the same time.
“Great,” he said sarcastically.
Rhys picked up the bag I had attempting to re-pack and put the last few strewn-around things that had been thrown from it back in.
“I’ll take care of reporting this break-in once we’re on the road.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off. “And no, it will have nothing to do with you. I was checking in on my friend’s apartment and found it like this. You were already out of town. Right?”
I smiled and nodded. “Right.”
He gave a curt nod. “I don’t know how much technology this Mase guy has, but to be on the safe side, we need to dump your cell. You’re electronically off the grid as of now.”
“Okay.” I pulled my cell out of my back pocket and handed it to him. Though I wasn’t crazy about giving up my phone or access to Candy Crush, Rhys was right, it was a good idea.
“Anything else you want to bring?” he asked, holding the bag.
I bent down and picked up a pair of slinky black panties that had been tossed from the bag and stuffed them back in.
“I think that’s it.”
Rhys’s eyes lingered on the garment I’d just added, then he cleared his throat and zipped up the bag.
“Let’s get out of here, then.”
I followed him, a small smile creeping over my face.
Platonic my ass.
“I thought you said I was going to help with real estate?” I asked as Rhys opened a screeching wooden door to a small cabin in the middle of butt-ass-nowhere.
I had dozed off on the drive up and when he pulled in front of this gem, I realized there was nothing around but trees and lapping water from the nearby lake.
“Yes. You’re going to help me fix this up and make it ready to sell.”
“Manual labor? Awesome.”
It was cute. Rustic, even. An authentic-looking cabin made of logs. It had an open floor plan — a small table sat near the kitchenette while the far back wall had a floor-to-ceiling stone hearth complete with a fireplace. A plush leather couch and area rug faced it. There were two doors off to the right, which I assumed led to a bedroom and bathroom.
He walked to one of the doors, opened it, and set my bag down inside. Yep, bedroom. He turned around and put his pack next to the couch.
“Where are we, anyway?”
“Saranac Lake. This is my father’s old hunting lodge.”
“Won’t he be upset you’re trying to sell it?”
“He died a few years ago.”
Rhys walked to the kitchenette — a wall of cabinets beside a sink, stove and small fridge — and put some water in the kettle.