A young woman behind the desk looked up when Dez and I approached. She blinked twice at Dez and then smoothed a hand over her already neatly coiffed hair. Her gaze moved to me once and then centered back on Dez as if I didn’t even exist.
I folded my arms.
“How can I help you?” she asked, smiling as though Dez was her own personal sun.
Dez leaned against the counter, one side of his mouth curled up. I rolled my eyes. “We have a reservation.”
We did? As Dez took care of our check-in, I noticed that he mentioned only one room, but I was too fascinated by everything around me to make an issue of it. As lame as it sounded, I’d never been inside a hotel before, and especially not one as trendy as this.
The lighting was dark and mysterious. Rock music wafted from unseen speakers. Black and red couches lined the walls, low to the ground and level with the tables. A bar separated the lounge area from the dining section. All the staff, male and female, wore black and looked as if they’d just stepped off a runway.
I glanced down at my jeans and T-shirt and raised my brows. I really didn’t fit in.
“Ready?” Dez asked.
Nodding, I turned and discovered the clerk watching him wistfully. Who could blame her? It wasn’t until we stopped at the elevator that I thought to ask, “Where’s our luggage?”
“They’re taking it up to the room for us.” He placed a hand on my lower back, guiding me into the mirrored elevator. Once inside, he waved a card in the air as he grinned. “Your eyes are so big, they’re about to pop out of your face.”
I flushed. “I’m sorry. I probably look like an idiot, but I’ve—”
“You don’t look like an idiot.” He reached up, tucking my hair back behind my ear.
The elevator moved smoothly, clicking away at the floors. “I know I look like I’ve never been anywhere.”
“It’s cute.” He draped his arm over my shoulders, causing me to stumble into his side. “And stop worrying about it. This is for you. Have fun.”
Reassured that I didn’t look like a total loser, I was bursting at the seams by the time the elevator stopped on the twentieth floor and the doors slid open. We hung a right and followed the curving hallway until Dez stopped in front of our room.
A knot formed in my belly. Our room. I doubted Dez had gotten one with two beds.
Dez opened the door after the handle showed a little green dot. How high-tech. Cool air greeted us as we stepped in. He moved out of the way, letting me investigate. In the small hallway, I found a closet and a door leading into the bathroom. A separate shower, wide enough to fit two people, was on one side, and a large circular tub on the other.
Clasping my hands together, I inched past a wet bar and a desk and into the main part of the room. A large TV was attached to the red wall...and across from it was a bed big enough for four people. My cheeks heated as I glanced away. Aside from a small chair under the TV, there was no other place for anyone to sleep. We’d be sharing a bed tonight. I wasn’t going to think about that right now.
I hurried toward the curtains and threw them open. Holy crap. Leaning forward, I pressed my forehead against the pane of glass as I stared down at the busy street below.
“Do you like the room?” asked Dez.
“Yes,” I whispered, and then louder, “Yes, I do.”
“This is supposedly one of the nicest hotels in the city, or so I’ve been told.” His voice was closer. “I figured we could stay for two nights and then leave Thursday morning. That should give you time to really see Manhattan and also give us enough time to get down to DC. You’ll only have a day there before our seven days are up, but I guess we can stay longer, if that’s what you want.”
As I stared out the window, my throat worked hard to swallow the sudden emotion clogging it. I knew that most males wouldn’t have gone to this amount of trouble. Sure, they would’ve attempted to woo me, but to meet all my demands and not fight me on my desire to enjoy the simplest of freedoms? Not likely. But Dez was doing all of these things. There was something to be said for that, but I wasn’t sure words would do justice to the feelings working through me. I had a feeling that if I attempted to tell him I’d mess it up somehow.
“Jas?” Uncertainty threaded through his tone.
Dropping the curtains, I spun around and launched myself at him. Dez caught me around the waist, stumbling back a step as I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing tight.
“What?” He laughed.
My face was buried in his chest, so I lifted my head and repeated, “Thank you.”
He looked at me. “You’re welcome.”
I didn’t think he understood the depth of my gratitude. Stretching up, I placed a kiss against his cheek. I knew it wasn’t much, but it was something, wasn’t it? When I pulled away, he was staring at me as if I was insane.
Then he lifted me off my feet and turned. “I would’ve brought you here the moment I returned if I knew it would make you this happy.”
A laugh caught in my throat as a different look seeped into his eyes. The hue brightened and then his lids became heavy as his lips parted. Slowly, he let me slide down so that I was on my feet, but he still held me to him with one arm. He cupped my cheek, smoothing his thumb along the curve of my bottom lip. Every nerve in my body zeroed in on that touch of his. His chin lowered, and I thought he would kiss me. My eyes fluttered shut and anticipation rose sweetly.
But the kiss never came.
He let me go, stepping back. “Well, we better get going if you want to see as much as you can.”
The pang of disappointment surprised me, but I nodded. It was probably better this way, though. Because I had wanted him to kiss me, and it didn’t have a thing to do with any of our conditions.
The first thing I learned about New York City was that people were everywhere—in elevators, on the sidewalks, in the streets and inside all the shops. I’d never been around so many at once, and while they knew that Wardens existed, none of them seemed to notice that we were any different—at least those who didn’t look too closely at our eyes. The color was too pale to be human, and in my small town, everyone noticed.
But not here.
Everyone was too busy trying to get to wherever it was they were going, or they were enthralled with the sights, much as I was.
I couldn’t stop staring up and I knew everything about me screamed tourist, but the heights of the buildings, and the sheer number of them, was truly astonishing. And then there were all the flashing signs and bright lights.
“Hungry?” Dez asked.
“Yes.” I placed a hand on my belly. We’d walked so many blocks I’d lost count. “You?”
“Always. How about some authentic New York pizza?”
A grin split my lips. Another block down, he spied a pizza shop right in the middle of Times Square. Pictures of all the famous patrons lined their walls, from athletes to politicians. We waited in line and ordered, then found an empty table in the back.
Dez watched me as I bit into the pizza and moaned. The taste—it was nothing like the pizza back home; the cheese, spices and crust.
His dark auburn brows lifted. “Don’t ever stop eating if you’re going to make sounds like that.”