If I’d expected his laughter, he doesn’t give it to me. “Godzilla?” he prods, angling his body to block out anyone passing by us, his back to them, his body almost caging mine. The impact of this man’s full attention is overwhelming. My breath turns shallow, and to my utter disbelief, my ni**les are tight and achy. I do not respond to men like this. I just…don’t.
“Everyone has a proverbial monster under the bed,” I manage, and thankfully my voice sounds far more steady than I feel. “Godzilla is mine,” I continue. “And hey—at least there weren’t any hippos crossing the road in this nightmare. I’ve had that one a time or two, as well.
Actually, I don’t think the hippos felt like nightmares. Just strange dreams.” Shut up, Amy. Shut up. Why are you telling him anything more than you have to? You never, ever tell more than you have to.
“I won’t try to analyze what the hippos mean,” he comments, and the slight curve to his lips on the words fades away as he adds, “but your monster under the bed sounds more like a skeleton in the closet to me.”
“Fear and a secret are two different things,” I remind him, pointing out the difference in the two phrases.
“Often they come together. A secret that leads to fear in one way, shape, or form.”
Suddenly, my joke feels like an open window to my soul that I desperately want to slam shut. Tension coils in my muscles and I quickly pull my guard into place, turning the tables.
“Sounds like a man who speaks from experience.”
“Yes, well,” he says, a cynical tinge to his voice, “experience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, now is it?”
I search his eyes and look for the meaning behind his words, but I find nothing. He is unreadable, as guarded as I am on my best day, and I sense that I’ve now glimpsed a little piece of his soul. “What makes you have nightmares, Liam?”
“Nothing.” His answer is short and fast, his tone as unreadable as his face remains.
“Everyone has something that scares them.”
“I own my fear. It doesn’t own me.”
A sound of disbelief slips from my throat. “You make it sound so easy to control fear.” I regret the words that admit my fear the instant I speak them. It’s a mistake I never make, but I’ve made it with him. Liam truly is dangerous.
His gaze lowers to my mouth, lingering there and sending a tingling sensation down my neck and over my br**sts, before slowly lifting. “Maybe you haven’t had the right teacher, Amy.”
What did that even mean, and why did it create an acute throb between my legs? I’m spiraling out of control and my defenses bristle. “I didn’t say I needed a teacher.”
“You didn’t say you didn’t, either.”
“Dinner is served,” the flight attendant announces, and neither of us looks at her.
“I don’t,” I say, and now I’m the one who isn’t sure if I’m trying to convince him or me.
My heart is racing. Why is my heart racing?
His lips quirk. “If you say so.”
“Dinner is served,” the flight attendant repeats, sounding a little anxious.
“I do say so,” I assure him, cutting my gaze and lowering my tray to have my chicken dinner immediately placed on top of it.
The flight attendant leaves us alone and I don’t look at Liam. I have this sense that if I do, he’ll see more of me than I see myself. As it is, I’m letting him see things I shouldn’t have. This banter between us has to stop. It will stop. No more. I’m done playing friendly seatmate. There is a reason I stay away from men like Liam, men with experience and confidence. Men who make a girl who already can’t remember her name forget her name. They do see too much. And they make everyone else see too little.
I snatch a roll from my plate that I don’t want and tear it apart, then set it back down.
Teacher. What does that even mean? And why am I making myself crazy wondering, anyway? It doesn’t matter. He’ll be out of my life in a few short, or not so short, hours. And true to that assessment, the next few minutes feel like an eternity. I tell myself the silence is good. We are slipping into a typical passenger-to-passenger travel arrangement. We don’t have to talk. It’s better this way. Talking means giving away facts I need to suppress. It’s logical. It’s right, and yet, I am so ultra-aware of Liam beside me that I can barely taste the few bites of food I force down. Any woman—heck, any human being—would be. There’s nothing more to it. He’s gorgeously carved, like a fine work of art. That’s all it is. Isn’t it?
“You didn’t tell me why you’re going to Denver.”
The question surprises me and my fork freezes in the rice I’d been pushing around. In sixty seconds flat, I go from relieved that he has broken the silence to panicked at the idea of sharing my new lies. I’m not ready. I don’t ever want to be ready.
I cut him a sideways look and my pulse leaps when I find him watching me. I’m rattled at how easily he draws a reaction from me, and I’m almost snappy as I counter with, “Why are you headed to Denver?” And darn it, there is a tiny quaver to my voice I hope he doesn’t hear.
“So that’s how it is, is it?”
My brow furrows and I set my fork down. “What does that mean?”
“You give what you get,” he replies, and there is no mistaking the challenge etching his words.