I shake my head, but Ty catches my chin in his fingers and makes me meet his gaze. “Answer the question, Lauren.”
I bite my lip and hate myself for letting my eyes fill with tears when I whisper, “He just threatened more of the usual. He’s an ass.” I refuse to tell these people that my ex-husband threatened to freaking rape me! How humiliating.
“Motherfucker,” Josh bites out.
Ty’s eyes narrow on my face for a long moment, and then without looking away he addresses the other two. “I’m taking Lo home.”
“Drive safe,” Cara says. “Lo, please call me if you need anything. I have two good ears.” She folds me into a hug and it’s almost my undoing.
“Thank you,” I murmur.
Ty grips my hand again and leads me out to the valet. He doesn’t speak as we wait for the car. He doesn’t even look me in the eye.
His body is humming with tension. He swears under his breath and pushes his free hand through his hair, and when the valet returns with his car, he doesn’t wait to help me inside before he stalks around to his side, slips in, and drives toward my house.
Why is he so mad?
I don’t know what to say. He’s so damn angry, and I’m not sure what I did to earn it. Not telling him about Jack’s threat? Jesus, I can’t even think about it without losing my lunch.
He pulls up to my house and leads me to my porch, waits for me to unlock the door and disarm the alarm system.
“Thank you for joining me this evening.” His voice is stiff and formal.
“Would you like to come inside?”
“I shouldn’t.” He begins to back away, but I stop him.
“Ty, what did I do?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you so mad at me?”
He watches me for a moment and then deflates like a balloon, exhaling and letting his shoulders and head fall.
When he looks up at me, his eyes are sad and worried, confusing me even more.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what made you so angry, but I really don’t want to be alone tonight.” The last few words are whispered and I’m embarrassed again. “It’s okay.” I back into the house, ready to make a hasty retreat. “I’m being silly. I’ll see you around.”
I’m suddenly swept up in his embrace. He pulls me against him, tucks my face against his neck, and rocks me back and forth soothingly.
“Ah, sweetheart, I’m not mad at you, I’m mad for you.”
“Okay,” I whisper.
“Are you sure you want me to stay?” he whispers back.
I nod and he lifts me effortlessly into his arms. He locks the door behind us and moves up the stairs, raising his brow at me in silent question.
“Over there.” I point to my room.
Ty sets me on my feet by the bed and cradles my face in his hands. He kisses my lips softly and then backs away. “Go get ready for bed, and I’ll meet you back here.”
I admit that I’m thrown. He’s not going to tear this dress off me and make love to me?
Silently, I grab an old T-shirt and march to the bathroom to wash my face and brush out my hair.
When I return in just my shirt and panties, my face clean and hair down, Ty is already in the bed, his torso bare, sheet and blanket gathered at his waist.
I comply and climb in bed next to him. He pulls me into his arms, my head on his chest, and tucks us down into the bed.
He’s not going to attack me? I know he’s as attracted to me as I am to him. I can feel it against my hip right now, for the love of Christmas.
He laughs and pushes his fingers through my hair, slowly pulling until it falls onto my back, and repeats the motion. “Your gorgeous brain is working a mile a minute.”
My head comes up in surprise. “What do you think I’m thinking?”
“I think you’re wondering why we’re settling in to go to sleep rather than making love.” His finger slips down my jawline. “I’m desperate to have you, Lo, but we have time. For now I’m happy to hold you.”
He turns us both onto our sides so he can see my face, but continues to touch me. “I would love it if you’d tell me about the gorgeous ink on your back.”
I smile softly and turn my gaze to his own tattoos on his arm. I begin tracing the lines with my fingertips and softly tell him the story.
“My dad was crazy about my mom.” My finger traces a skull as I swallow over the lump forming in my throat. “They loved me very much, but they loved each other fiercely. Watching them together was like watching a fairy tale. I know that sounds trite, but there’s no other way to explain them.” I smile up at Ty. “When I was young, my dad planted lines and lines of rose of Sharon bushes along the property. He planted them himself,” I stress. “He didn’t have a gardener do it for him.”
My finger follows the circle of a yin-and-yang symbol as I remember the look on my mother’s face when the flowers would bloom in late summer.
“The flowers are colorful and delicate, just like her, he used to say. So when they died, it made sense to get the flowers for both of them.”
“Thank you,” he whispers. My eyes meet his. “For telling me about them. It makes the tattoo even more beautiful.”
“I miss them,” I whisper.
“I know. I’m sorry, baby.” He pulls me back into his arms and holds on tight. “Now, about Jack.”
I tense and try to pull away, but Ty keeps me in his grasp. “There’s really nothing more to talk about.”
“Yes, there is. I want you to file for an order of protection with the court.”
I stare up at him in surprise and then shake my head. “I can’t prove anything. All he does is threaten.”
“That’s what an order of protection is for. It’s to protect you from abuse, and that includes harassment and intimidation.”
“Ty,” I sigh loudly. “I appreciate that you want to protect me, but honestly . . .”
“I don’t know your whole history yet, Lo, but I can feel that he’s put his hands on you before.” I bite my lip, unable to answer him. “I want a legal document in place stating that he can’t come near you.”
“I don’t think it’ll make any difference. But if it’ll make you feel better, okay.”
He kisses my forehead and relaxes under me. “Thank you. Let’s sleep, baby.”