She stared at him. “Are you talking about sex? Because you should know, I’m so not going there with you, not ever again. The thought makes me sick.”
Her nipples were hard even though it was still eighty degrees out. Her face was flushed, but he’d bet the last beer in his fridge that it wasn’t from heat. “That’s a big fib,” he said.
“No, see, that’s my point,” she grated out. “You’re the fibber.” She shoved her hair from her face, where it’d fallen into her eyes. “You let me think that I was going to get in trouble by parking here. More than once. You acted all…authoritative, and I believed you. You sucked me into your force field and I nearly lost—” She bit back the rest of that sentence.
“Lost what?” he asked.
He’d have laid another bet down that she’d nearly said herself. Which cut him like a knife.
“You know what?” she said. “Forget it. Forget all of it—including that morning last week, where for one teeny-tiny second I thought maybe your entire gender didn’t totally suck!”
“It was more than a teeny-tiny second,” he said.
She glared at him.
Okay, so she couldn’t be charmed out of this. But he had absolutely zero idea what exactly was happening. “I’m going to need a hint here, Soph. I don’t remember ever telling you that I was lake patrol.”
He knew better than to tell her what assuming made her. “How? I told you I was on leave.”
“Yes, but you always seemed to be there when I was…illegally parking, pointing it out. And you have that whole authority presence down. I just—” She bit her lower lip. “Assumed,” she whispered.
“I promise you,” he said, “I had no idea you thought I was lake patrol.”
“But…” She tossed up her hands, looking genuinely upset and miserable, and he felt bad about that. Really bad. He stepped toward her, but she pointed at him to stay. Clearly going for a dramatic escape, she stormed the beach, heading to the next property over, which was North Beach and the campgrounds. She stomped her way down the dock, with him right behind her. Ignoring him, she boarded the boat and slammed the door behind her as she headed belowdecks.
And caught the hem of her dress between the jamb and the door.
“Dammit,” he heard her mutter from the other side of the door before whipping it open. She yanked her dress in and slammed the door for the second time, clearly making a statement that she was still mad.
As if he couldn’t tell by the energy crackling off her, enough that he could have popped corn off her skin. He blew out a breath and stepped on board as well. “Sophie—”
“No,” she said through the door. “You wielded around your power like…like you’re some male alpha dog whipping it out to pee all over everything and mark your territory!”
“I rarely ever whip it out to mark my territory,” he said, hoping to make her smile.
What he got was silence. “Soph.”
“Listen,” he said. “Did you ever think that I kept seeking you out because…well, because I wanted to talk to you?”
He waited while she processed that, waited as she hopefully remembered three truths and a lie. Or more accurately just the terrifying real truths over a bottle of Scotch. Their kiss.
The time they’d spent in his bed…something that hadn’t been far from his mind. How she’d felt in his arms, the way she’d looked at him, like he really did it for her, like he was enough, just as he was, screwed up and all.
She opened the door and looked at him. Color tinted her cheeks. Yeah, she remembered everything. But there was something else going on here, something far deeper that was upsetting her. And he didn’t buy that it was simply because she’d misunderstood him being lake patrol. No, she was upset because she thought he’d lied to her.
Her past was rearing up and lifting its ugly head, and he got that. He did. But he wasn’t going to let her make him the bad guy here. “I’ve never lied to you,” he said.
He could feel her doubt and wished he could eradicate it, but only she could do that.
“I need to think,” she said.
“Can you think over dinner? I’ll cook so you won’t have to.”
She looked at him doubtfully.
“No, really, I’ll surprise you.” And himself…
But she shook her head. “I can’t think in your presence.”