“Yes,” Rhys said, shutting the front door. “Emma, this is Gwendolyn Striker.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, having no idea what to do because the woman was still holding me. She was nice and smelled like fresh basil and clay and her smile reached all the way to her eyes.
“You too, dear. And please call me Gwen.”
“Would you like some coffee, Mom?” Rhys said and poured a cup.
“Oh, no thank you, honey, I’m going to get going. I was just dropping by. I don’t want to interrupt.” She shimmied her shoulders a little and gave me another wide smile. She had to be the most bubbly, happy person I had ever met.
She opened her mouth to say something, but then looked at Rhys and closed it. Clapping my shoulders once, she released me and walked to the front door. Rhys was right behind her, making sure to reach the knob before she did and opening the door for his mother.
Ah, now it was coming together. He loved his mother and respected women. Great . . . just great. Another mental tally for the “Why Rhys Is Awesome” column.
“You will come by,” Gwen stated.
“Of course, Mom. I just wanted to get a few things squared away with this place first, but I’ll come by tonight.”
She reached up and patted his cheek. “I’ll make a brisket. And of course you’re coming too, dear.”
She looked at me. Again, not with a question. I nodded, because saying no to this woman didn’t seem like an option.
“Oh, I’m so excited! I’m going to run to the market. Emma, do you like mushrooms?”
“Yes, thank you.”
She nodded and got her keys out of her pocket. “Excellent!”
“Thanks for coming by. See you soon.” Rhys kissed her cheek and she scuttled off, bubbling excitement the entire way. Rhys closed the door behind her and turned to face me.
“She’s so nice,” I said.
Rhys nodded. “Yeah, she is. I didn’t know she was stopping by, I hope we didn’t wake you. I was trying to keep it quiet.”
A small grin slipped past my lips. Considerate man. “No, you didn’t wake me. I’m actually surprised. She looked like she wanted to chat more, but just took off.”
Rhys snorted. “Oh, she’s dying to pry. But she’ll do it tonight over dinner.” Before I could respond to that, or let the nervousness about what was to come sink in, Rhys switched the subject. “Did you sleep okay?” he asked, grabbing a cup of coffee and offering it to me. All these pleasantries and manners were almost like living in a different realm.
“Yeah, thanks,” I muttered and took a sip.
I didn’t know if I was thanking him for his manners or thanking him for cuddling last night. Either way, I was in a bit of shock, not knowing how to handle the Cleaver family this early in the morning.
“You’re welcome. If you sit, I’ll get you some breakfast. Bacon and eggs all right?”
I did as he asked and nodded. “Smells great.” I took in his hard back and muscles as he moved to fill a plate from the skillet. “Did you leave this morning?”
He turned, noticing me glance at his T-shirt. “I usually go for a run in the morning.”
“How early were you up?”
He set the plate down in front of me. “Five.”
“Good Lord. I’m never up that early unless I never fell asleep.” I picked up my fork and took a bite of scrambled eggs, which were cooked in bacon grease and fricking amazing.
Guy could cook. Another tally.
“Did you sleep okay?” I asked as casually as I could, trying to find out if he had stayed the whole night next to me or ended up leaving for the couch once I fell asleep. There was a folded blanket and pillow at the end of the couch and with Rhys being so neat, I didn’t know when he would have done that.
“I slept very well.” He grabbed his coffee and sat across the table from me.
“So you slept the whole night, then woke up at five to run?” God I sounded like a moron.
“Is there something you are trying to ask me, Emma?”
I shrugged and became overly interested in the food before me and took another bite. “Just curious about your schedule is all. Since we’re staying here for a few weeks, figured it would be good to know.”
“Okay, let’s see here.” He placed his forearm on the table, keeping his coffee mug in his hand, and glanced at the sky. “Well, I found you coming out of the shower around midnight. Got into bed with you, slept, and awoke to these sexy little moans.” His eyes landed on me. “That was about four-thirty. I spent the next half hour trying to figure out what you could be dreaming of that caused you to purr and hoped it was me.”
He paused to take a sip of coffee but never took his gaze from my face. “Then I got up and went for a run around the property.”
I swallowed hard and adjusted in my seat, trying to tamp down the instant surge of achy heat spreading throughout my entire body. He had stayed all night with me. And that made the giggly girl in me take notice.
But the fact remained that I wasn’t that girl and needed to stop being so affected by Rhys. Maybe if we could just get naked and wild, I could show him, show myself, that my issues were coming more from being sexually frustrated than being head over ass for the guy. Or maybe I was looking for any excuse to touch him.
“I have a question,” I asked. “You said you wanted this to stay platonic between us, yet you say things like that.”
“Like . . .” I waved my hand in his direction, “about the dreaming moans I made.”
“Ah, yes.” He smiled at the ceiling, knowing full well what I was talking about but wanting me to just say it out loud.
“You’re sending mixed messages.”
“Am I?” He took another sip. “I think I’ve been pretty clear. I like you, I’ve admitted to that and to why.”
“But you don’t want to have sex with me,” I shot back, my body feeling like a pressure cooker.
“I never said that. In fact, I’d very much like to.”
“Then what the hell? You’re being more cryptic than a damn girl.” I didn’t know what exactly I was arguing about; I mostly just wanted some clarity because it felt like I was having withdrawal from Rhys.
He had been so close last night, and nothing. The thought of experiencing the intensity we shared that night at his hotel was starting to consume my brain. And the fact that I didn’t know how to make that happen or how to stay away from him, was maddening.