Ignoring my worry over what he must think about me, I take Louise out to the table and introduce her to everyone, saving Nigel for last. He’s a little drunk, wavering on his feet, but the spark of interest in his gaze upon first meeting Louise tells me I did the right thing.
Even better? She didn’t salivate over Hugh like I thought she might.
Leaving Louise with our little group—and neglecting to acknowledge the pointed stare Violet is shooting in my direction—I go back to the restroom area, hoping to catch Caden so I can talk to him privately.
He’s already there, waiting for me in the depths of the dark, short hall, leaning one shoulder against the wall, his arms folded defensively across his chest. Whereas the rest of us are in work attire, he’s dressed casually in jeans that mold perfectly to his strong legs and a white polo shirt that offsets his tan skin. He stands out with his longish hair and the stubble covering his cheeks. Not that he looks unkempt. More like he looks … amazing.
My heart trips over itself just staring at him.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” he asks snidely, sounding like a jealous idiot.
That shouldn’t please me, should it? That he’s jealous? Well, it does. And if that makes me petty and foolish, then so be it.
“I thought I was looking at him.”
He huffs out a sarcastic laugh. “Please. You’ve been up-front about what we’re doing from the start. Vacation sex, pure and simple.”
“If this is a vacation then why did I go in to work today?” This isn’t how I wanted our conversation to go. Not at all.
“Guilt? You’ve been fucking around with the useless guy and now you’re finally realizing you need to straighten up and fly right.” He pushes away from the wall and takes a few predatory steps toward me. “When are you going back to New York? Or are you sticking around here for a few more days so Hugh can show you around town?”
So he definitely heard Hugh’s offer. Great. “I turned him down,” I say softly.
“Because I’m with you.” I lift my chin, hoping I don’t regret that statement.
“With me? How? Don’t tell me you’re starting to take this—thing between us seriously?”
Yep. Guess I regret my statement. “I thought maybe we both were,” I murmur.
He looks down at the floor, his hands on his hips, his hair falling over his forehead and hiding his face from my view. “I’m not good enough for you, Rose.”
His words cut like a knife but I say nothing, silently urging him to go on. I want to hear the exact reasons why he believes he’s not good enough for me. I need to hear them.
“I can offer you nothing,” he says after a few minutes of silence. “That other guy … Hugh. He’s probably the better man for you.”
He sees it. Everyone sees it. But I don’t care. “I don’t want him. I want you.”
Caden lifts his head, his dark gaze meeting mine. “I don’t get why.”
I want to slap him. Really. “I don’t want to fight, Caden. Please.”
He stares at me for long, agonizing minutes. “Let’s get out of here.” His hands drop to his sides and before I can say a word, he’s rushing toward me, grabbing me, pulling me into his arms, his mouth fusing with mine. I’m helpless in his arms, returning his kiss, crying out against his lips when he pushes me to the wall, pinning me there, his hips keeping me still.
I bury my hands in his hair and he tilts his head, deepening the kiss. We’re right back where we started. In a hidden spot at the White Swan, losing all control, too wrapped up in each other to worry about anyone else.
The obvious throat clearing comes seconds, maybe minutes, later and Caden lifts his head away from mine, the both of us turning to see Hugh standing there watching us, appearing uncomfortable.
“We were worried when you didn’t come back to the table,” is his only explanation, his gaze locked on me. “I told Violet I would go look for you.”
Did Violet want Hugh to discover Caden and me together like this? Doubtful, but what else could she think the two of us were doing? “I’m fine,” I tell him, sounding breathless. That’s because I am breathless. My heart is racing and my body is vibrating from Caden’s all-consuming kiss.
Caden says nothing, just glares at Hugh, his hands resting possessively on my hips, his body pressed intimately to mine. He’s sending a message and I can see Hugh gets it, loud and clear.
“Well, glad to hear it. I’ll let everyone know the two of you are otherwise engaged.” He offers a little wave and walks away.
“I hate that guy,” Caden mutters under his breath.
I tug on his hair, making him yelp. “You’re jealous of that guy.”
He looks at me, really looks at me, and it feels as if he can see every little thing inside of me. I return his stare, leaving myself open, practically bleeding for him. Whereas he’s always hiding from me, I want him to see me. See all that I have to give, that I want to give. “You’re right,” he admits. “I was jealous.”
“Was? As in you’re not anymore?” I relax my grip on his hair, moving my hand so I can brush those wayward strands away from his forehead. I could touch him like this for hours. I have touched him like this for hours.
“Not when I have you in my arms like this.” He kisses my temple, his hands squeezing my hips. “I want to get you alone.”