The cowboy kept yapping about something, but Tressa didn’t seem to be paying a great deal of attention to him. Still, she hadn’t sent him packing and that bothered him. Roth’s hands tightened into fists when the cowboy stole a glance at Tressa’s backside.
As if Tressa could sense his anguish, she turned toward him, the smile on her face melting into a frown. She shot him a worried glance, and he shot her a look right back—one of displeasure.
What in the hell was Tressa doing to him? He’d always prided himself on his ability to remain in control and be levelheaded, even during the direst of situations. Now here he was, acting like a rabid dog.
Composing himself, he held Tressa’s probing gaze as he approached. The closer he got to her, the longer their eyes held, the less rage he felt.
“Hey, baby,” she said, placing her hand on his back and ironing it up and down. “This is…”
“Frank,” the man said, extending his hand to Roth.
Roth didn’t really give a damn who he was, but he shook Frank’s hand anyway, applying a hint more pressure than necessary. It’d been a warning—man code for get the hell away from my woman. One he was sure Frank got, because he pretended to see someone he knew, then hurried away.
Roth set his stone gaze on Tressa, but didn’t speak.
“I think Frank’s a zombie. He died when I told him I had a boyfriend, but he came right back to life,” Tressa said and laughed. “He’s awfully talkative for a zombie.”
Roth knew she was trying to lighten the mood, but it didn’t work. “Really? Well, at what point did you decide to tell him you had a boyfriend? When your head was cocked back in laughter or when he was whispering in your ear?” He instantly regretted his words and his pointed tone. What the hell was wrong with him?
Then it hit him. It hadn’t been wholly about the cowboy. But the incident had triggered something already nagging him. It was seeing Cyrus’s packed box still sitting in Tressa’s closet when he’d gone to pick her up that morning. Why was she still holding on to the items? It was like she couldn’t bear to rid herself of them.
Tressa’s head jerked in what Roth took to be shock. Her jaw dropped and she stared at him as if he’d grown a second head. Recovering, she said, “I’ll meet you at the car,” and then stalked off.
Back at their hotel room, Roth tossed the door key, wallet and car fob on the dresser. The drive back had given him plenty of time to cool off, not to mention Tressa’s cold shoulder. In that time he realized he’d acted like a jackass. Now he needed to make things right.
Tressa stood in front of the dresser, removing her jewelry. When he walked up behind her and rested his hands on either side of her waist, she flinched. He kissed the back of her head. “I’m sorry.”
Her tired eyes met his through the mirror. “Okay.” She pushed his hands away and escaped to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her with so much force the abstract painting hanging over the bed rattled.
Roth trailed her as far as the bathroom door but didn’t enter. He started to move away until he heard her sniffles. Scrubbing a hand over his head, he pinched his lids together tightly, hating himself for bringing her to tears. “Baby, please don’t cry.”
Tressa didn’t respond.
Blowing out hard, he rested his hands on either side of the door frame. “I saw red when I saw you with Frank. When I saw the way he was looking at you, checking you out…I felt threatened. I’ve never been an insecure or jealous man, Tressa. Never.” He paused. “But when it comes to you… I don’t know. I’m different.” He refrained from adding Cyrus’s box to the mix. He knew that would only make things worse.
Tressa sniffled several more times, and he thought his heart would explode from regret. All he wanted to do was burst into that room, pull her into his arms, kiss every tear away and make her forget he’d ever hurt her. Which, clearly, he had.
“I’m sorry, baby.”
On a whim, he tried the door. Surprisingly, it was unlocked. When he stepped inside, Tressa was sitting on top of the closed toilet seat, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. It ripped chunks from his heart. He guided her to stand, then wrapped her in his arms. “I’ll never make you cry again.”