“You answered.” He sounded surprised. “Thank God. I’ve been worried—”
“Stop,” she cut in as she walked toward the doors. “You need to stop right there. You don’t have any right to be worried. That day has long since passed.”
“No.” Her hand tightened on the phone as she lowered her voice. “You need to stop calling me, Adam. Our marriage is over—has been over for years. You need to stop.”
“Just because we’re not married, doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to know what the hell is going on with you.” And there it was. The surprise was gone from his tone. “You up and left the damn state and no one will tell me where you went.”
“You don’t have any right to know what I’m doing, Adam. How do you not understand that?” she shot back. “Wait. Don’t understand that. You obviously don’t. This is the last time I want to hear from you.”
“You don’t mean that.” He softened his tone. “Come on, Julia. I still care about you and I still worry.”
Turning from the doors, she drew in a deep, calming breath so she didn’t start cursing at the top of her lungs. “I wish you the best, Adam, always have, but I don’t worry about you and I don’t think about you. Our lives are completely separate now. I do not want to hear from you again and I mean that.”
Adam fell silent.
Her heart started pounding in her chest. “If you keep calling me, that’s . . . that’s harassment and I will file charges.”
His inhale was audible. “You’d do that to me? Knowing what that could mean for my job?”
“Yes, because you’d be the one doing that to yourself.” Her shoulders squared. “Call me one more time and not only will I file charges, I’ll call your wife. I will. We are done with this.”
Julia hung up the phone then, cutting off whatever he was saying, because the words weren’t important. Her heart was still slamming against her ribs as she waited for the phone to ring again.
But it didn’t.
The phone remained silent.
Much, much later, Julia lay in bed, the sheet and blanket twisted around her legs as she stared at the churning ceiling fan.
She couldn’t sleep.
Her brain wouldn’t shut down. The thing was she wasn’t even thinking about what she should be. Madeline and the lunch with Daniel as well as the phone call with Adam were the furthest things from her mind. She managed to not think about the dinner last night, what Lucian had said to her most of the day, but now?
Her priorities were totally messed up, because as she shifted onto her side and then rolled onto her back a few moments later, she was thinking about him.
When his hand had brushed over her ass this afternoon, she should’ve been offended. Hell, she should be in a constant state of offended around Lucian. Except she hadn’t been. Her body had immediately responded, flushing hotly. She was in a constant state of heated arousal.
And she was still so freaking hot.
Julia was burning up, like she had a fever that couldn’t be treated with aspirin and rest. Restlessness consumed her and she sat up, throwing her legs off the bed.
Truth was, Julia wasn’t just thinking about him. She was . . . she was trying to work up the nerve to do it.
To make that choice.
“Oh God,” she whispered, smoothing a hand over her face. Her hand was actually shaking as her heart thundered in her chest. This shouldn’t be such a huge thing. Either she went to him or she didn’t. And if she did, she knew what it would be. Sex. Nothing else but mind-blowing sex. She could deal with that.
At least she thought she could.
You will come to me.
She swallowed hard as she stared at her bedroom door. Her heart rate kicked up as she stood. Her legs trembled as she folded her arms over her chest. She could feel her nipples pressing through the thin camisole. She bit down on her lip and just for a moment she let herself imagine walking out the door, going the handful of steps that led to Lucian. She let herself imagine what would happen if she knocked on the door and he answered.
She thought about what he’d do to her.
And she knew what she would allow.
Never in her life had she been this nervous. Ever. Was that a good or bad thing? She didn’t know, but she was going to drive herself insane stressing over this. Was she going to spend every night wide awake and wishing she had the courage—
Julia exhaled roughly. Wishing she had the courage. Earlier today, she felt like she wasn’t that old Julia anymore. She stood up to Adam. Took charge. The old Julia would stay right where she was, spending a fitful night wishing.
How about she stop wishing? Stop fantasizing? And instead, starting living?
The soft rapping on Lucian’s door drew him away from the canvas. Tossing the charcoal aside, he grabbed a nearby rag and rose, wiping his hands cleans.
For some damn reason, his heart was pounding in his chest as he walked past the couch. Instinct told him who it was or maybe it was wishful thinking.
God, he wanted it to be her.
After that lunch with Daniel, knowing he was going to have to go through his mother’s shit, he wanted it to be her on the other side of the door. Because if it was her, he just knew he wouldn’t be thinking about his sister or what he would have to do. Everything about him would be focused on her. Everything else would be quiet.
He needed that quiet.
Lucian shoved the rag into the back pocket of his jeans and opened the door, resting his hand on the frame.
Julia had come to him.
He almost dropped to his knees right there and thanked her. He stopped himself, because yeah, that would be weird as shit.
She was wearing a pretty little frilly top that played peekaboo from behind a long open-front sweater. Those legs were covered in tight, black pants. Pants he wanted nothing more than to peel off her.
It took everything in him not to grab her and immediately take her to the floor. He had to pull it back, because one look at her told him that she was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Her face was flushed and she was twisting her fingers together as her gaze dropped from his face to the charcoal-smudged white shirt he was wearing.
“Why are you so dirty-looking?” she blurted out.
He fought a grin. “Well, good evening to you, too, Ms. Hughes.”
The flush in her cheeks deepened to a rosy red, the kind of color that would be hard to replicate. “I’m sorry. It’s just you have smudges all over your shirt.” She pointed in the general vicinity of his chest.
“I was sketching with charcoal. It’s messy.”
“Oh.” Her gaze flickered from his face to his chest and back. “So you sketch too?”
“Among many things.” He slid his off the frame of the door. “Do you want to come in, Ms. Hughes?”
Her lips moved, but there was no sound for several moments. “I’m sorry. I know it’s late. I couldn’t sleep.”
“So you came to me?”
Julia closed her eyes and nodded. “If you’re busy—”
“I’m never too busy for you. I was about to make myself a drink,” he offered, stepping back. “I can make you one, if you like.”
Lucian didn’t think she was going answer or come in. She hesitated for several seconds and then stepped through the door. He closed his eyes, throwing up a prayer of thanks to whatever God was listening. Shutting the door, he found her standing next to the couch.
“Have a seat.”
Thinking that was the first time she ever immediately did anything he asked, he almost laughed. He watched her as he walked over to the bar. God, she really was anxious, and he didn’t like that. He wanted—no, needed—her to be comfortable.
Her gaze flew around the room. “Wow. I didn’t know you had so much space—private space.”
“You’ve never been in here before, have you?”
She shook her head as he grabbed the bottle of whiskey and two glasses. “It’s like an apartment.”
“Pretty much. It’s a good place to chill without worrying about my brothers.” Pouring himself straight whiskey, he went soft on her drink, adding only a shot of liquor to her Coke. He wanted her relaxed, not drunk. “I have this room, one I use for a studio, and a bedroom with a bathroom.”