“Talk about what?”
“About what you’re running from.”
“I’m not — ”
“Don’t lie to me. I know something is going on with you. I recognize fear, and it’s written all over your face.”
That kind of stung. Mostly because I couldn’t allow myself to be afraid, much less show it. If that was the vibe I was giving off, that was a problem. I was handling things myself, I was just in a bit of a bind at the moment, nothing I couldn’t squeak my way out of. However Rhys wasn’t letting this go.
Did I want to talk? No. But I wasn’t ready to give up Rhys’s presence yet.
“We can go inside,” I said. Because the only times I had felt wanted, felt safe, in the past couple months were when Rhys was near.
“After you.” He held out his hand and pulled the keycard from his back pocket. And yes, I noticed the grin plastered to his face when he used it while he mumbled something along the lines of, “Works better than a hairpin.”
As soon as we got into his room, he shrugged off his jacket, giving a primo view of those bulging biceps and how the tight black cotton molded perfectly around them.
“So how have you been?” He stood in the doorway, taking up most of the space, and stared me down.
How have I been? I had been fantasizing about Rhys for a month and he was the only thing that felt . . .
The thought stuck to the inside of my skull and I didn’t like it. The feeling of weakness never sat well. Weakness, or reliance.
“I’m fine,” I said, not knowing how to attack this obvious awkward small talk, so I just walked straight toward the nearest open door. He followed right behind me.
I sat down on the bed and took a deep breath, needing a moment to gather my thoughts, but I was instantly enveloped by his scent. Feeling the soft comforter beneath my palms, I wasn’t gathering anything, instead, my mind turned to the one thing I’d been dreaming about since I met Rhys.
What would a night with him be like?
There was no doubt it would be incredible, but knowing him, it’d also come with a date and chatting. Still, if I had the chance to experience what I should have shown up for all those weeks ago, would I take it?
I looked up at him, those smoky eyes burning me up, and knew the answer right away:
But what I wanted and what was smart were two very different things. The best option was to keep things between us as surface as possible. Though I had a good suspicion I was kidding myself. Everything about Rhys screamed intense.
His gaze was still fastened to my face and he had yet to say anything in response to my latest lie.
“What are you doing?” I finally asked.
“I’m looking at you,” he replied easily.
“No, you’re staring.”
“Observing,” he said. Same thing in my book.
“Because you’re beautiful,” he said with that same ease as before, as if merely stating a fact. Something in my chest skipped a little. “And I’m trying to figure you out.”
Damn. I thought maybe he was going to try to finish where he’d left off with that kiss a few weeks back.
“If you’re in some kind of trouble, you can tell me and I can help.”
I wanted to roll my eyes. Great, we were still on this topic.
“What makes you so sure I need help?”
He took a step toward me. “Aside from the fact that I found you on your knees and frantically tugging at my door handle?”
He looked me over, his eyes pausing on certain parts of me, like my lips and br**sts. But not in the way most men did. He wasn’t ogling, he was observing.
“I can tell you’re afraid by the way you breathe. Your mouth parts a little and your chest struggles, like you’re choking back on something.”
That time when I swallowed I did feel my throat close and damn the man for noticing. This was supposed to be simple. But it wasn’t. Not since the day I met him had anything been simple. Simple would be to forget about him. To not crave his stupid strength or the way he kissed me. To not have a month long stomachache of regret from standing him up.
No, not simple. Because staying away from him, like everybody else, was the best thing I could do. I was tainted by my past. Put those I loved in danger by association. Yet every night I thought of Rhys.
It was without thinking that I ran here tonight. Looking for him. Needing him.
Taking a page from his book, I tried to observe. His eyes were fiery. His whole body seemed relaxed, but there was a tension rolling off of him, his hands barely clenching into fists, as if trying to hold back from . . .
“You want me, don’t you?”
He frowned. “What? Where did that come from?”
“I was just noticing you, the way you seem to notice me. You think I’m breathing with fear? I think you’re breathing with lust.”
“Emma . . .” The way he said my name was a half warning, half dare. I heard it as clearly as the thumping pulse in my neck, speeding up with desire for this man.
“I don’t want to talk anymore, Rhys.” I just needed him. Needed to feel his skin against mine. Feel his lips again. “Like you said, I didn’t show up last time, but I’m here now.”
Rhys walked straight at me. Finally! No dating, no questions, just the closeness I was craving. A craving only he could satisfy. I scooted to the middle of the bed and leaned back on my forearms behind me. He bent at the waist, hovering over me, his mouth brushed my earlobe.
“Emma,” he whispered, “get some rest.”
With that, he pulled away, taking a pillow from the bed with him, grabbed his pack from beside the nightstand and marched out of the bedroom.
“Wait, what?” I shot up and scooted off the bed, following after him. “Are you kidding me?”
Rounding the corner, I entered the living area as Rhys dropped his pack, pulled a throw off the back of the couch and tossed the pillow down. “You can have the bed. Good night.”
“Yes,” he snapped and faced me. “I’m not going to play this game. You distracted me the first time, but I know better now. Know that this is just a routine you pull.”
“I don’t pull any routine. You can’t assume — ”
“I can’t assume? That’s all I’ve been able to do when it comes to you. You think you can manipulate me with sex? I may be hard up since I met you, but I’m not stupid. You don’t want to tell me what’s going on, fine. You can stay here as long as you need, but I’m done trying to help you.”