Stopping inside the doorway, I spot the sign to the restaurant/bar directly ahead. Even here, a good twenty feet away, I can already hear the rumble of voices over the sound of music coming from inside the archway entry. I might not know Liam well, but my instincts say he will not like my choice of meeting location.
As if he’s heard me, Liam exits the bar, irritation etched on his handsome face, and his eyes collide with mine.
His expression softens and warms, and I watch the frustrations of moments before melt away, as if seeing me makes everything all right. I do not move to meet him, frozen in the bittersweet knowledge that seeing me has pleased him. He walks toward me, his jacket gone, his lean masculinity accented by the dark dress pants and a fitted blue shirt; he is power and grace, the epitome of dark good looks.
The instant he is before me, I am captivated by his deep, blue stare, lost in a sea of warm, drugging waters, and I do not speak. I want to swim just a little longer, but too quickly, his gaze lowers to the box I am holding and my gut twists with the knowledge that my time is up. I hold it out to him. “I can’t take this.” And while I am proud of how strong my voice sounds, my hand shakes, practically drawing a storyboard of my emotions that Liam is too smart to miss. Anger fills me at how the past has made me weak. I should never have taken the job at the museum and let it back into my life. But then, I would never have met Liam and I’m not sure I can wish him away, even if I have to walk away.
“Let’s talk about it over dinner.”
I shake my head, more at my desire to agree than at his words. “I can’t go to dinner. I can’t see you anymore.” I sound like I mean it. Almost.
Those piercing blue eyes sharpen, and the dark edginess he wears like a second skin ramps up about a hundred notches. Seconds tick by and I try to think of some appropriate thing to say when I of all people know less is better. Should I turn and leave? Yes. I should leave.
Actually, I’m still holding the phone. He needs to take the phone. He takes the phone but he doesn’t stop there. He laces the fingers of his free hand with mine. “Come with me.”
My eyes go wide and I don’t have time to argue. He’s already tugging me along with him and not toward his hotel room, and I don’t have time to consider why that disappoints me. Not when he’s headed toward the exit, which most likely means he intends to go to my apartment, where he will discover the delivery of my things has not taken place.
Desperation kicks in and I rush forward, putting myself in front of him, flattening the hand he isn’t holding on his chest and digging in my heels. “Take me to your room.” I can’t even believe I’ve just said that, but the warm spot in my belly won’t let me take it back.
Liam’s jaw flexes. “You can’t see me anymore but you want me to take you to my room?”
His voice is tight, a band of steel wrapping each word. He’s angry. I don’t know why, though the possibilities are many. I’ll figure it out when we are effectively detoured from my apartment and what will surely lead him to dig where it is dangerous to dig. “Yes. Yes. I want to go to your room. I need to, ah…lick your tattoo goodbye.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
My cheeks heat at the edge I’ve heard in his voice but I will myself past my discomfort and recover. “Liam—”
He takes a small step and I dig in my heels and wrap my fingers around his shirt, wrinkling the fine material. Direct is all I have left. “I don’t want to go to my apartment.”
“We aren’t.” This time he firmly sets me aside, and before I can so much as yelp, he has my hand in his, and we are in pursuit of the exit.
I follow eagerly, trying not to look around me, and spot attentive observers of our exchange. For a supposed recluse and a woman on the run, I’m pretty sure we’ve made our second scene of the day together and I’m not looking for a third. We pass the sliding glass doors and I avoid the gaze of the doorman.
Liam cuts us away from my apartment to the sidewalk on our right, where people stroll here and there, and thankfully the wind is milder and my skirt stays at my knees. I cast Liam a sideways look. “Where are we going?”
He stops abruptly and faces me. “The phone’s in your name. You have to talk to them about the service.”
“Oh.” Disappointment hits me hard and fast. I’ve become complicated. He’s ready to cut all ties. His "not going anywhere" vow sure didn’t last. But…he’s holding my hand. Why would he hold my hand if he was cutting all ties? It’s not like he’d worry I’d bolt and he loses the phone. He’s a freaking billionaire.
“Oh?” he prods.
“Oh,” I repeat to keep myself from saying something like "can we go back to the hotel and start this night over?" when I need to stick to my plan. Saying goodbye is the right thing to do. “I’m not phone savvy,” I finally manage. “If you need me to go with you I will.” My gaze manages to flicker to our connected hands and the quick pinch in my chest that has me jerking my eyes back to Liam’s. “Where is it?”
“Two blocks.” This time, his gaze drops and not to our hands, but to my feet, where it lingers and then rakes hotly up my body. Jared’s inspection this morning had been a bit too familiar. Liam’s is downright wicked. And oh my, I am hot all over and tingling in places I shouldn’t be tingling in public. He knows, too. I see it in the quirk of his lips, the gleam in his eyes as he asks, “Can you walk that far in those shoes?”