I studied him as he spoke, my heart melting a bit at his assessment of me. The time we’d spent together had definitely allowed him to get a deeper understanding of who I was and what I stood for, but there was still so much he kept hidden. Some long-buried scar tissue I could feel but couldn’t reach.
“Not everyone is like that,” he said. “Or has the patience for it.”
I tilted my chin up, the conversation weighing heavy on my heart. He’d just complimented me on my ability to not push when that is exactly what I wanted to do. But, his words struck something in me, and I leaned forward over the table a bit. “You’re referring to your ex?”
Nixon sat up straighter in his chair, his hand sliding off of mine. Pulling away at just the mention of her. God, I hated her for the damage she’d done to him, and I didn’t use the word hate lightly. There were very few people I couldn’t stand, but anyone who would willingly destroy someone for the mere concept of fame and fortune…
I clenched my jaw to keep from screaming.
“Maybe,” he said, a slight smirk shaping his lips as his eyes met mine. “Is this where we talk about our past relationships?”
I cringed. “I’m not sure if I want to know your number.”
“Ouch,” he said. “It’s not as high as you might think.”
I arched a brow at him. “Oh yeah?” I teased. “And here I thought you flew girls out to Vegas all the time.”
That smirk deepened as he leaned closer toward me. “If I recall correctly, it was you who purchased me for the weekend.”
I chuckled, shaking my head. “Actually, my roommates did,” I said, and I still knew I’d never be able to repay Heather for the way she’d inadvertently changed the course of my life.
“Who does that?” he teased.
“Girls who love one another. And who understood the depths of my little crush on you.”
His tongue darted out to wet his lips, and the breath in my lungs tightened. “It’s funny,” he said, his voice low. “I didn’t peg you for a Raptors fan when we first met.”
I shook my head. “Appearances aren’t everything,” I said. “Not every fan drapes themselves in colors every day.”
“I’m quite fond of your appearance,” he said.
I smiled, the blood heating in my veins. “It was a bit of a relief,” I said, a tease in my tone.
“When I found out you looked just as good without your pads on.”
Nixon laughed, the full, rich sound dancing over my skin. “So,” he said. “What about you?”
“Oh, I’m certain I wouldn’t look good with the pads on.”
Nixon chuckled but narrowed his gaze at me. “Come on,” he said. “You already know the only ex I’ve had worth mentioning. The rest?” He shrugged. “Just mutually accepted as fun. Nothing more.
I sighed, waiting until the waiter had finished refiling our drinks before answering.
“I’ve had two real boyfriends,” I explained. “As you know, I’ve spent a great deal of my life traveling. Kind of hard to maintain anything when you’re always jetting off somewhere new for a few months.”
Nixon nodded. “Okay, so I don’t have to worry about crazy exes coming out of the woodwork?”
“No, definitely not.” I shook my head. “They were mutually understood splits. Besides, last I heard Dan was in Bosnia removing landmines, and Bill is in Antarctica protesting whale poaching.”
Nixon cleared his throat, shifting in his seat enough to make those broad chest muscles of his ripple. He quickly scooped up the small cardstock menu on his right, his eyes scanning it but not truly seeing. “Do you want dessert?” His tone was strained.
I tilted my head, watching that muscle in his jaw tick but not really sure of the why behind it. But I knew one thing with absolute clarity, whatever bothered him, whatever had him emotionally backing away…I wanted to soothe it. Explore it. Heal it. I wanted to be there for him, wanted to be the one he came to when he decided he wanted to talk. I wanted to be trusted, and for me to be able to trust him.
Basically, I just fucking wanted him.
On more levels than the heat pulsing through my blood demanding I get my hands on his skin again.
I dipped my fingers over the menu, drawing his attention. “Oh, I definitely want a treat,” I whispered, leaning over the table to brush my lips over his. I sighed at the contact, at the way the tautness of his jaw relaxed under my touch. “But it isn’t here,” I said, my eyes on his, a silent conversation weighing between us.
His gaze sparked, and my entire body warmed from the mere promise in those dark eyes.
A flash flickered over us, and I jolted from the shock of it, effectively knocking over both our water glasses and soaking Nixon’s pants.