My fingers curl on his cheek, the soft rasp of his newly formed whispers teasing my skin, the tension of moments before fading into the seduction promise of his words. “I’m trying. This is…” My voice trails off, and I am uncertain what I was going to say, uncertain what I really feel.
“I’ll help you.” He drags a finger down my cheek. “The only reason I wanted to go next door was that I want this to be good for you. And I think you need to be pampered tonight.”
“I can’t,” I whisper, and the two words, so telling, so honest, are out before I can stop them.
He leans back and I am na**d beyond my blouse, exposed beneath his too-keen inspection. And I think he can see what I heard in my voice. My desire to escape into his world and run from mine, if only for a little while. My fear for him if I were to do so. My fear now that I have let him see too much.
Steeling myself for whatever questions he will ask, I wait for him to break the silence, hating that my passionate escape with this man will now be washed in the lies the rest of my life is drowning in. But there is only silence, and in that silence, understanding. He seems to know where he can push me and where he cannot, and I do not understand how a man who was a complete stranger yesterday knows me this well today.
Holding my stare, he reaches behind him and tugs his shirt over his head, and the anticipation of seeing him naked, of being na**d with him, drums wildly through my body, but that moment doesn’t come. Immediately, he puts his shirt over my head, the spicy scent of his cologne teasing my nostrils, mingling with my confusion. “What are you doing?” I ask, reluctantly shoving my arms through the sleeves.
“Making sure you know I’m here to stay. I’ll be here with you tonight. I’ll be here with you in the morning. And you’ll still be wearing my shirt because we both know you have no clothes in your suitcase.”
I shove away from Liam and push to my feet. “I told you, my things are being delivered.”
He’s already standing in front of me, towering over me, distractingly bare-chested except for the perfect sprinkle of dark hair over his pecs. “I’m not asking for answers,” he assures me.
“Explain it to me when you’re ready.”
It? Explain it? “When I’m ready?” Does he not understand I will never be ready?
“When you’re ready,” he repeats, removing his cell phone from his pocket. “I’m going to have the hotel deliver sheets and pillows.”
“No. I didn’t invite you to stay. You were only helping me in the door.”
“Are you saying you don’t want me to stay?”
“You were supposed to help me in the door,” I repeat.
“As I remember it, I did.”
“You want me to stay.”
Honest. I wish he would stop using that word. “You can’t stay.”
“Do you want me to stay?”
Now it’s a question. And yes. Yes. I want him to stay. I should say “no”. The word won’t leave my mouth. “It’s not that simple.”
He reaches for my hand and pulls me close, and I tell myself to push away but I don’t even try. “Let me make it simple, Amy. You want me to stay. I want to stay. I’m staying.” He strokes my hair. “And you need help. I’m going to help you, baby. You aren’t alone.”
A tornado of emotions rolls through me, and the debris of my past is like glass cutting me inside out. Becoming his charity case is so far from being Cinderella it’s like a horror show, not a fairy tale. I’ll take alone any day. “No.” I hiss out the word, and this time it comes from my mouth. “I don’t want your help.”
“You need my help.”
I’m emboldened in my mix of anger and mortification. “How did we go from you f**king me properly to me being the needy girl you met on the plane you want to help?”
“Correction. The gorgeous woman I met on a plane and still plan to f**k properly many times over if I have my way. And there’s someone who needs help in my path every day, and yes, I help where I can, but Amy, I’m here, with you, because you are you.”
“Stop saying that,” I blurt. “You don’t even know who I am.”
“But I want to.”
And that’s the problem. I want him to and he can’t. “One night. We were making this one night.”
“Were we, now?” He arches a brow and looks amused. “I don’t remember that agreement, so I’d better start making my case for two. Starting with making tonight good for you.”
Good for me? Does he not think a world-shattering orgasm was good for me? Surprising me, he pulls out his cell phone and starts to dial. “Who are you calling at this hour?” I ask, suddenly worried. Has a Wiki page given me a façade of safety with Liam I shouldn’t trust? I don’t know this man and he knows too much about me.
“This is Liam Stone,” he informs the person on the other end of the line, amusement lingering in his eyes. “I checked into the presidential suite about thirty minutes ago. Yes. Right. Everything is fine, but I’m at a friend’s apartment across the street and one of her moving boxes is missing. She needs queen-sized sheets, pillows, a blanket, towels, and toiletries. I’ll pay double whatever your listed price is to have them brought across the street to me, and whoever delivers the items will be well rewarded.”