She wet her lips. “What?”
Lucian slid his hand over her hip and curled his arm around her waist. He drew her back against him. “Do you know what is happening here?”
Julia was here because she wanted to be. She was letting this man touch her, because that was what she wanted, and the truth of that was frightening.
“I think you do.” His breath now danced over her ear. “I don’t know why you’re resisting this. I know you want me just as badly as I want you.”
She did. Oh God, she did.
Her eyes closed.
It was official.
Julia was already in over her head when it came to Lucian de Vincent and she wasn’t coming up for air anytime soon.
“But,” he said, folding his other arm around her. He held her close. “I’m not going to come for you again.”
Julia’s eyes flew open.
“You’re going to come to me.”
When Julia got dressed Sunday morning, she wanted to don that beautiful red dress again, just to get as much wear out of it as possible. Because when would she ever get a chance to wear such a pretty thing when she went home?
That word felt weird even though she hadn’t been here that long, but she would leave eventually. Her job would end, sooner rather than later, and probably on the soon side. With Madeline painting and hopefully with the visit with Daniel this afternoon, she was getting better. Either Madeline would become more independent or the brothers may move her into a more long-term assisted living facility.
She couldn’t imagine Lucian ever agreeing to the latter, but the only other option was to have a live-in caregiver indefinitely. That wasn’t unheard of but difficult.
Her filling that kind of more permanent position wasn’t something she could even let herself think of, because when she did . . . she thought of things that had nothing to do with caring for Madeline and everything to do with her brother.
That was wildly inappropriate.
Then again, she pretty much should just give up on the whole appropriate thing. Especially after last night. Nothing had happened. Not really, but it felt like . . . like everything had happened.
Dressed in jeans and a loose blouse, she carried her cup of coffee out onto the porch. Even though she’d be working with Madeline today, she couldn’t make herself wear scrubs.
She placed her cup on one of the small stands and then walked over to the railing. The grounds below were quiet, no movement except from the breeze. She didn’t touch the vines, mainly because they kind of freaked her out. About to turn back to her chair, she heard something in the wind—something that sent a shiver down her spine.
The sound . . . it sounded like a woman’s laugh.
Julia turned around and looked up. All she could see was the floor of the balcony above her.
Before she even knew what she was doing, she was walking to the right and climbing the exterior stairs that led up to the fourth floor. When she reached that landing, she stopped. The stairs continued, going all the way to the roof. She’d never been up there. Had no reason to.
Biting on her lip, she glanced down the porch that led to Madeline’s room and all the other empty ones, then she looked up. She knew it hadn’t been Madeline laughing and she also knew it was probably just some weird bird that she heard, but curiosity was an annoying little hussy.
Julia climbed the rest of the steps, shielding her eyes as the morning sun broke free from the clouds. Tiny beads of sweat dotted her forehead as she reached the rooftop.
She could tell that this had once been a usable space. Tall trellises lined one side, covered by the out or control vines. There were large empty urns she imagined had once been filled with sun-loving flowers. Something white billowed out, catching her attention. She walked across the flat surface, glancing at the arches and peaks that rose on either side of her.
Like at the restaurant the night before, there was a canopy on the roof, covering a large, deep couch that appeared to be bolted down. It was so quiet up here that she imagined this used to be someone’s peaceful sanctuary.
Twisting at the waist, she saw that sunlight glinted off something silver. She walked to the right, her steps slowing as she reached the edge of the roof. There was no guardrail. Nothing but a steep drop off the end, but on the floor of the roof was a silver urn bolted down.
Julia knelt down as she stared at the fresh flowers tucked into the urn. She didn’t know what the pale pink-and-white blossoms were. Irises? Lilies? Julia wasn’t a flower person, but it was obvious with the sun beating down on the spot, these flowers had recently been placed here.
She rose and then stepped around the urn, getting as close as she could to the edge before she sucked in a sharp breath, unbalanced by the height. Julia caught a glimpse of barren land below. A patch of dead grass. No stone. No vines. Nothing.
Was this . . . ?
Julia stepped back from the edge, her gaze following to the urn. Was this where their mother jumped? Was this where she had stood and decided to end her life?
Stomach knotting with unease, Julia folded her arms around her waist. Feeling like she was suddenly on hallowed ground, she backed away from the urn of flowers and then quickly turned. She hurried back down the stairs and to the porch outside her rooms, unable to shake the idea that she’d just invaded the family’s privacy.
Sitting in one of the wide wicker chairs, she picked up the warm cup and cradled it in her hands as she stared at the vine-covered railing. Tiny buds were poking free of the leaves. If roses bloomed all over the vines, the house would have to look magical, like something out of a fairy tale instead of how it appeared now, like half the house was always in the shadows.
A warm breeze lifted the strands of hair, tossing them around her shoulder as she sipped the coffee.
You’re going to come to me.
Despite the warmth, she shivered as she squirmed in the chair. Julia had barely gotten any sleep last night. Lucian’s words had haunted her—tempted her. She’d tossed and turned, wanting nothing more than to do just that.
She knew what he was about. From the first moment they met and up until last night, he was always the seducer; the one taking her hand and guiding her into all the things she shouldn’t be doing. But not anymore. He was going to make her come to him, because if she did, there was no way she could play off in her head that it hadn’t been a conscious choice.
That if she did come to him, it would be all on her.
And if she did, what would happen? They would have sex—most likely great, mind-blowing sex, but then what? Did they go about their lives like nothing happened, her caring for his sister and when the job was over, they were over? A friends-with-benefits type of situation? Obviously she’d never done that before. She wasn’t even sure she had it in her to do that—to have sex without catching feelings. And based on everything she knew about Lucian, which wasn’t very much, that was all that he’d want.
No strings attached.
Footsteps drew her out of her thoughts. Looking up, she half expected to see Lucian, but it was Gabe.
“Hey,” she said, smiling as she felt her cheeks warm. Nothing more awkward than thinking about having sex with someone and having his brother creep up on you.
That brother who apparently may’ve been down with a threesome.
She really did not need to think about that.
“Mind if I join you?” he asked. When she shook her head, he dropped into the chair next to her. “So, I hear our esteemed cousin is going to be coming over today.”
“Yep.” She glanced over at him. “I’m anticipating it will be . . . interesting.”
He chuckled. “That’s one of way of saying it.” There was a pause. “Daniel isn’t too bad. He’s just incredibly reckless and immature. He’s someone always going to need an adult present.”
“You going to join us for lunch?”
Gabe was staring out over the land as he shook his head. “I’m leaving in an hour or so. Heading to Baton Rouge.”
“Oh. That sounds fun.”
“Yeah.” He lifted a hand, tucking several strands of hair back. “I’m actually going to see an old . . . friend. Well, the family of an old friend that I hadn’t seen in, hell, like seven or so years. It’s kind of weird, actually. I have no idea why they’d want to see me.”