I couldn't help but smile up at him as I reached him. "Hey there yourself, Hollywood," I fired back, but it didn't hold the sass it normally did. Dammit, I was off. I did not feel well.
“Figured I’d return the favor from when you showed up at my rowing session,” he said, smiling before he studied me a bit harder. He furrowed his brow, and his fingers flew up to push back some hair that had escaped from my braid. "Are you feeling all right?"
I bit my bottom lip, contemplating telling him I felt fine. I definitely didn't want to miss out on a chance to see him. This past month had been a been a wildfire of smoking hot kisses, secret lunch dates where I couldn’t stop laughing, and that contented sort of intimacy that only happened between coming down from a wave of pure bliss right before starting up again.
But I also knew what my body was telling me, what Drew was telling me, and I needed to slow the fuck down.
"I haven't slept much this week," I finally admitted. "I'm racing towards finals, and I have a study load that's enough to kill me." I tried to joke, but Hendrix wasn't laughing.
My heart sank as he nodded and motioned his head to the side. I had really wanted to spend time with him tonight but I didn't have the energy for what our wild, all-night sex marathons usually required of us.
"Passenger seat," he said, and I tilted my head.
"What?" I shook my keys at him. “I drove here.”
He took the keys from my hand, and motioned to the other side of my car again. "I'll drive you home."
"What about your car?" I asked, arching a brow at him.
Hendrix smirked. "You can bring me back tomorrow. "
"Oh, Hendrix," I said, once again wondering if I should bite my tongue. We only had so much time left in our little arrangement, and I seriously didn’t want to waste a second of it. "I really appreciate the gesture. But I'm totally capable of driving myself. And I just…I really don't have the energy tonight. I want to hang out with you, I swear, I just don't want you to be disappointed because I’m not feeling well —"
"Savannah," Hendrix cut me off mid-ramble. He smoothed a hand over my cheek. "I just want to be with you."
The words were said in such a casual way that I wondered why my heart hiccupped at their meaning. Because what was between us…was just sex, right? We'd always agreed it was just sex, despite how many addendums we’d added to our time-limit contract. And if we went back to my house now and didn't have sex…
I shook my head, forcing the thoughts from my mind.
We were friends.
We might fight and banter like the best of them, but we were friends. Friends who had wild, insanely awesome sex. But that didn't mean we couldn't hang out together in a nonsexual way. I was over analyzing things. Just another sign of me being totally exhausted. So, instead of voicing any of the racing thoughts in my head, I rounded my car and sank into my own passenger seat.
Hendrix drove to my apartment, and while I showered, he ran to the corner market and snagged soup and snacks and everything we needed for a proper Netflix binge session. When I came out with my hair dried and my softest PJs on, I couldn't help that my heart was in my throat just a little bit.
Hendrix Malone wasn't known for his Netflix and chill nights. But then again, I had learned a lot about Hendrix over the last few weeks that I hadn’t—nor the media hadn’t—ever known. The trip to his hometown, watching who he was around his family, had been so revealing it was like finding the last piece to a five-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. I would never have guessed Hendrix had grown up struggling. Somehow I’d assumed he’d always had money. Now I knew better. Knew how important his career was to him, beyond the dream. His family. He had this ingrained sense of responsibility when it came to taking care of them.
Something tugged at the center of my chest, but I locked it down.
I scarfed down the soup, the calories burned from my class enough to make me look like a starving, wild animal. But afterward, when we cleaned up and settled into my bed with the TV on, I felt slightly human again.
Once the movie started, Hendrix shifted beside me, tucking me into his chest like it was the most natural thing in the world. His touch wasn’t to seduce or revv me up—though the innocent gesture kicked up my heart rate—but more to comfort me. Hold me. Soothe me.
A prickle of fear sliced through the settled contentment in my heart, my mind racing with accusations. How could I enjoy this? How could I want this? How could I get more of this? The questions plagued me throughout the movie, so much that I felt like I was spiraling down a dark tunnel I’d never claw my way out of.