“No, he didn’t call me a waste, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he does feel that way sometimes. He’s referring to what I do. He always tells me I’m wasting my life when I should be doing something with purpose. But I tell him hey, at least I’m living.”
“Are you, though? Are you really?”
Those pretty, sad eyes meet mine once more. “I was, for a brief moment. When we were together in Maui. That was the first time since I don’t know when that I felt … real. I may have kept things from you, Max, and you definitely kept things from me. But that was the real me when we were together. That girl you were alone with was me.”
Her confession stirs something deep, makes me remember all that we shared, the struggles and the frustration and the triumph. She is a woman who was made to submit yet is scared to give up control.
I see the struggle right now, playing out before me. Her expression, her words, everything about her is so raw and open, especially after the day she just had. I’m filled with the need to coax the real Lily to make an appearance once more. She needs me.
And I need her.
It was liberating, our time together on Maui, for both of us. I needed that and so did she. She challenged me and I challenged her and together, we have the potential to make a good team.
Does she see it? Does she realize what we can have?
I move closer to her and slip my arm around the back of the couch, reaching for her with my other hand. I touch her cheek, drift my fingers across her skin, and she licks her lips, blinking up at me with wide, scared eyes.
Fuck. She is my every weakness, and the realization both exhilarates and scares the shit out of me.
“I want you,” I whisper, keeping my voice even, not wanting to startle her and make her run. “I know I’ve fucked things up and I’m so sorry, you don’t even know. I have a lot to make up to you and I will, but I want you so bad, baby.”
She blows out a harsh breath. “I just … I don’t know, Max.”
“I understand. But I swear to God, I won’t fuck this up.”
“I’m scared,” she admits, licking her lips again. She keeps doing that and I’m going to kiss her whether she likes it or not, I’m that desperate to taste her.
“Why?” I lean into her, my mouth at her ear, my nose close to her fragrant hair. I breathe deep, then whisper, “Tell me how I can make this right. Tell me what I need to say to convince you to willingly come to bed with me.”
It’s not just about taking her to my bed, either. I want her, I can’t deny that, but I also care about her. I want to take care of her and learn what makes her happy. And then I want to keep making her happy for as long as she’ll let me.
Fuck, just thinking that makes me realize I’m scared, too. Scared of Lily, scared of what we could have between us. But my need for Lily overrides the fear. I don’t want to be apart from her, ever. I’ve been contemplating asking her to work with me, work for my company. Her tech skills could come in handy. She would be an incredible asset. But would she want to?
I haven’t a clue. And right now isn’t the time to ask her. I’m already asking for too much.
She studies me, her expression solemn. “I want to trust you.”
“I want to earn your trust,” I agree readily.
“I don’t like being nervous around you. Feeling unsure.” She bites her lip and I finally give in, swooping toward her and pressing my mouth to hers in a too short kiss. The brief taste of her plump lips isn’t close to being enough.
“What was that for?” she asks when I pull away.
“Because I can’t resist you.” I shake my head, praying I don’t mess this up. “I’ve tried. I told myself we wouldn’t work. I half convinced myself you were just a job, but really, I never believed it. I liked you too damn much. I swear it’s like I’m fucking addicted to you.”
Her eyes flare with arousal but she says nothing.
“Fate’s thrown us together,” I continue. “There’s a reason for that, princess.”
She cracks a smile. “I didn’t take you for a believer in fate, cowboy.”
I chuckle, pleased that she used her nickname for me. “I’m usually not, but when it comes to you, I can change my ways.”
Her smile fades and her eyes light with heat. “Take me to bed, Max.”
MAYBE I SHOULDN’T have asked Max to take me to bed, but I couldn’t help myself. Especially when he said I was worth changing his ways for. Everything within me melted at his words, at the look in his eyes, at the quick kiss he stole while we sat on his couch, as though he couldn’t resist me.
And he said he couldn’t resist me. I can relate. I feel the same way. Having him in front of me, looking good enough to eat, saying all the right things, his expression open and honest, I realized I’d rather enjoy the fall than worry about the risk.
That’s my usual mode of operation, but not when it comes to love. I’ll fling myself off a cliff for just about anything but a relationship with a man. My heart is fragile. My spirit … broken.
But with Max, I want to fly and damn the consequences of where I land. After what he did for me today, for the last few days, he’s all I want.
All I need.
He stands, offers me his hand, and I take it, neither of us saying a word. We leave the living room, start to walk down the short hallway toward his bedroom, but then he’s yanking me into his arms, his mouth at my neck, his hand sliding over my ass and pulling me into him. I can feel his arousal, thick and insistent beneath the zipper of his pants, and I want to touch him there, but I don’t. With a sigh I sink against him, looping my arms around his neck, my hands buried in his hair as he licks and nips at my throat. I lean against the wall and toss my head back with a moan, enjoying the way his mouth travels all over my skin, his breath hot, his hands insistent.