“That started a couple of years ago when a particular reporter hounded me about an interview. When I wouldn’t give it, she wrote a scathing piece about me.”
His thumb begins stroking my palm and heat is radiating up my arm and seems to have set my vocal cords on fire. “Scathing?” I choke out.
“It read pretty much like ‘he’s rich, talented, and good-looking, but the man is a recluse with the social skills of an ant.”
I gape. “An ant? No, she didn’t?”
“I assure you, she did.”
My lips curve and I fight my laughter, and lose. He leans in and brushes his lips over mine. “You think that’s funny, huh?”
I curl my hand on his jaw and I am charmed at how easily he shares his story, how wonderful it is to talk to someone, to touch someone. To touch him. “I don’t mean to laugh.”
“It just happened.”
I nod. “Yes, but not at you. That description is so over the top it’s comical. And it’s not you.”
“Not me,” he repeats, his hand sliding to my hip. “Are you sure about that?”
I’ve spent my whole adult life reading people, sizing them up, weighing them by degree of potential threat, and I’ve trusted him from the moment I first found myself captured by his presence in the terminal. “Yes,” I confirm without hesitation. “Yes. I’m sure.” The air shifts around us, crackling with electricity, and I am empowered by how comfortable I feel with him despite my situation and the disparity of my experience to his. “You are rich, talented, and good-looking, but I forgive you all of those things because you’re charming and funny.”
His eyes shadow, turbulence waving through the heat. “You were right earlier,” he says, and he pulls me close, molding our bodies together, his hands spread wide on my back.
My hand lands on the hard wall of his chest and his heart thunders beneath my palm, telling me he is calm and cool on the outside, but I’ve hit a nerve and I don’t know why. “Right about what?”
“When you said that I let you see—but Amy, I see more than you want me to see.”
But not more than I wish he could see. “Then stop trying.”
“That’s not going to happen.” He brushes his lips over mine, his tongue licking into my mouth in a slow, seductive caress. “We’ve already gone too far to turn back.”
My hand is on his cheek, my legs intimately entwined with his, neither of which I remember doing. “Yes,” I whisper. “We’ve gone too far, Liam.”
“And yet not far enough,” he replies, stroking the hair from my eyes, his voice rough sandpaper and masculine heat.
The intensity of what I feel in this moment and for this man hits me like an earthquake exploding from somewhere deep inside, a deep, dark crevice of my soul. My emotions are all over the place. I do not know where this man is taking me, and I am as desperate to find out as I am to stop him. The need to run and hide or stay and fight is equally intense. He must read this in me because he softly orders, “Turn out the light, Amy.”
Turn out the light. I do not question his command. I act on my need for self-preservation, and I turn over and flip out the lamp on the nightstand, relieved at the sanctuary that is the darkness. Even more so in the sanctuary that is Liam’s arms as he pulls my back against his chest, his hand splaying possessively on my stomach. My lashes lower and I relax into him. I do not know how this man is both the refuge I run to and the reality I am running from, but in this moment that is exactly what he is to me.
His hot breath fans my neck and his lips brush my ear, the delicate touch sending a shiver down my spine. I expect him to kiss me again. To touch me and to f**k me, as he’s vowed. I want him. I even need him tonight and I inhale, savoring the now-familiar spicy male scent of him, and this time there is no memory splintering through my mind. There is just the darkness I hide inside, the soft bed, and the hard man holding me.
I blink into the light and don’t move, trying to process where I am and what is happening.
An unfamiliar closet door becomes the first focal point I manage to identify and my brain processes where I am. New apartment. Denver. Liam. I jerk to a sitting position, searching the room to find he is nowhere to be seen. My heart twists in several painful knots. He’s gone. I glance at the digital bedside clock the hotel brought me last night and note the time of eleven o’clock. Of course he’s gone. I was one of his many flings and he has work to do. How have I slept this late? How did I sleep at all in my state of mind, and without any nightmares?
I’ll keep Godzilla at bay, Liam had said on the plane . It had been the truth. He had.
Somehow, some way, this stranger had given me enough peace to get through the night. And while I should be freaked out that I didn’t hear him leave, I’m pretty sure my mind used Liam as we had used each other for sex. For an escape. He had given me something else to focus on instead of my situation, and clearly allowed me to shut down mentally and hold myself together.
Liam had been an unexpected gift. Who was gone.
Standing up, I ignore the gut-wrenching feeling of being alone. I’ve done this for years.
There’s no reason I can’t do it now. Besides, I was never alone or my handler wouldn’t have known when I was in trouble, but where the idea of his existence has comforted me in the past, it doesn’t work this time. I can’t go through this again. I have to have an exit strategy of my own.