He delivered a little wink that made my knees weak and my cheeks heat. But I kept it together. I grabbed my coffee and sat across the table from him.
“You seem in good spirits today,” I started carefully.
He met my eyes. “Sex can do that to a man.”
Again that stupid blush crept up, but I batted it back. “Why did you . . . I mean, why didn’t we do that sooner?” I sounded like a moron. “I mean, you were avoiding me in that way for the past eight days.”
“You were counting, huh?” Again with the wink. He leaned in a little and said, “You know what? So was I.”
“So why didn’t you put the moves on? After the shower, you never attempted to touch me until last night.”
“I just reasoned that my initial thought was correct. Keeping things platonic between us was best.”
“But I admitted that I wanted you. Gave you what you wanted. You’re welcome,” I threw in for my own pride, which made him grin.
“I know. I just didn’t want to be that guy who couldn’t say what this thing was between us. And it made sense that if I couldn’t figure it out, I shouldn’t do it.”
“You mean, you shouldn’t do me.”
He looked at me with an exasperated expression. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. There were lots of confusing aspects I had to consider.”
That made sense. Hell, I had no idea how to classify our “relationship” — or if it even had a title — so that I could describe it to myself, let along others. But wait, if he stayed away from me before because he didn’t know what to call this liaison we had going, but he gave in last night, did that mean he had finally figured it out?
“So, since we hooked up last night, now you know what this is?” I motioned between us.
He set his fork down. “First off, we did a hell of a lot more than ‘hook up’ last night. Secondly, I knew from the beginning what this was, it’s intense. I just didn’t know how to approach the situation so I backed off until I had a better idea.”
“I suppose this grand theory and realization of what we are comes with an exit strategy?”
He got serious real quick. “We’re together, Emma. Unless you tell me otherwise, and have good reasons to back up why we shouldn’t be, I have no intentions of going anywhere, now or after the trial.”
My eye brows shot into my hairline. “That sounds heavy. Like . . . serious.”
“I am serious.”
My pulse pounded in my temples and I felt suddenly too hot, then too cold. “I think that we should see what happens and go from there.”
“See what happens when?”
“Well, after the hearing. I don’t know what will become of Mase. I’ll probably move back to Chicago and find a job and you live in New York and — ”
“I will find Mase and he will be put behind bars. The guy has a rap sheet and a warrant. He just hasn’t been caught. Once he is, he’ll be put away with his brother and yes, you can go back to your life.” He glanced at his food, then at me. “We can figure out the details later, I’m just hoping you’d consider having me be a part of it when that happens.”
That stupid ping in my chest was back. I was losing it for Rhys Striker.
“Do you want to talk about something else?” I offered, because I had no idea what to say. Rhys was a possibility. He seemed to want me and that was a good feeling. But first things first. I had to get through the hearing. Then deal with Mase, then the future. At least Rhys might be in it, which made me happy.
“Are you okay? With today being your dad’s anniversary and all?” I said carefully.
“Yeah, I’m okay. He died a long time ago. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let certain things go, but today, I feel less weighed down by the guilt. I’ve woken up to fifteen different days like today, and never once did I feel hopeful, except for today.” He ran his finger down my hand and finished with, “And it’s because of you, Emma.”
Rhys looked more peaceful than he had since I met him. And if I’d helped, if I’d had anything to do with that, I was beyond thrilled.
“Your mother doesn’t want you to sell the place,” I said and took a sip of coffee.
“Oh, I know. She’s made her opinion very clear over the years.”
“Yeah, well, now she has me on her team and I think that if this place makes you happy, you should keep it.”
He looked at me for a long, long moment, then finally gave a curt nod. “I just may keep it, then.”
We enjoyed the rising sun and coffee, and I didn’t bring up the woman, Mysha, again. Something deep down told me I knew more than anyone else and I wasn’t about to ruin this good moment for Rhys. It was a tricky enough day and I was tired of the pain. For him, for us, I just wanted to let it go.
I looked at Rhys’s hand, reaching out from across the table and holding mine.
Reaching . . .
Feeling content and, yes, hopeful for the first time in a long time, I reached back.
Rhys crawled into bed and pulled the covers over both of us. The last several days had been wonderful. The sound of the wind lightly blowing outside the open window was soothing and I had learned quickly that Rhys was always warm. A comfort I had grown accustomed to.
“We leave in the morning,” I said, and turned to face him. Each of us on our sides lying in bed, we looked at each other.
“Everything will be okay. I called your brother and he’ll meet us at the courthouse tomorrow.”
It was Rhys’s idea to go straight to the hearing. He’d also called Adam to tell him what was going on. It was an early morning flight back to Chicago and we’d be there in plenty of time.
I didn’t know exactly what Rhys said to Adam. They had met briefly at Megan’s wedding a while back and were familiar with each other. Rhys told him that I had been on a mini vacation, which was kind of true, and a few basic details of my situation. Still, it was enough to make Adam want to meet us at the courthouse. At the end of the day, my brother was supportive. I just wanted to keep him and his family out of this.
“Adam was really okay with everything?” I asked Rhys for the millionth time.
Rhys nodded. “I didn’t go into a lot of details, but he seemed to be happy that he’d be seeing you and glad that you’re okay and enjoying life.”
“It’s just weird. I know Adam and I can go a couple weeks without talking, especially since I moved to New York, but he really didn’t seem worried or surprised that we were ‘vacationing’ together?”