No, I think. That’s not how it is. That’s not ever how it has been. Not in my world.
“Wouldn’t life be better if that’s how it truly was?” Another quaver ripples in the depths of my question. I really need to stop talking.
This time he sets his fork down, turning to face me more fully. “You do know that for a ‘give what you get’ philosophy to work, that someone still has to give first, right?” And there is something as intimately inappropriate to the way he looks at me, and how he says the words, as there has been when he’s touched me.
“And you want that to be me,” I state, intentionally leaving off the question mark. I try to leave out the breathless quality of my voice, too, and I fail. I don’t like that I fail. It’s another sign I have no control over myself. Worse. I think I might like it if this virtual stranger had control over me, which tells me how emotionally on edge I really am.
“I’m in discussions to be part of a downtown Denver building project,” he surprises me by saying. Giving before he “gets”.
“What kind of building project?”
He just looks at me. So much for being done with friendly banter, I think as I cave to his silent demand I “give” a part of me. “I was laid off and my old boss got me a new job in Denver.
And before you ask, it’s nothing exciting. It’s administrative.”
He tilts his head slightly. “So you’ll be staying in Denver.”
“For a while,” I say, and the satisfaction I see in his eyes surprises and pleases me far more than it should. I ask the obvious question, telling myself it’s simply because it’s expected.
“How long will you be in Denver?”
“It all depends on whether I take on the project.” The flight attendant proves she has brilliant timing again by picking right then to take away our plates, leaving me with an incomplete answer I want completely. By the time we’ve been offered coffee and dessert that we both decline, I have no idea if he would have said more, or how to get things back on topic without seeming too interested. And I am too interested. He’s a risk. He could be a mere stranger or he could be an enemy. Worse. I’m too risky for anyone to befriend. I put them at risk, and with that blistering thought, I know there is nothing more to ask him. Nothing more to say but “have a nice life”. I cannot ever be close to anyone. No one. Ever.
I snuggle under a blanket the flight attendant has left me, and surprising me, Liam reaches into the seat pocket in front of mine and removes what looks like a sketchpad, which I hadn’t noticed until now. He pauses halfway between my seat and his own, glancing at me, and he is close, his mouth within leaning distance. It’s a great mouth, sensual and full, and I wonder what it would feel like on mine.
“If you want to sleep,” he says, “I promise to keep Godzilla at bay for you.”
He couldn’t have said anything more perfect and I know right then what it is about Liam that makes him so irresistible. Men have been scarce in my life, namely because of my fear of getting close to anyone. The few times I’ve broken that rule have not turned out well, and I admit that in a few lonely, weak moments, I’ve indulged in my share of Cinderella fantasies where my Prince Charming swoops in and makes life better. Liam is good looking, confident—he radiates control in a way my fantasy Prince Charming would. But more so, I believe Liam would fight Godzilla if he had to. Maybe not for me, but for someone he cares about.
“I’ll hold you to that,” I finally say, unable to find even a thread of jest to lace the words.
I watch his eyes flicker, the color diluting to a soft blue then darkening again, and I am not sure how to read the meaning when he is otherwise guarded, as much a mystery as who I am running from. “Good,” he replies simply before he leans back fully into his seat.
I let my head drop to the cushion, and for a few minutes I indulge in a fantasy about Liam to keep the monsters of my past at bay. But as the hum of the engine starts working me over again, flickering images of the past begin to slip inside my head, and I start to unravel. I’m not going to be able to sit here without getting lost in my own head and going crazy. A flash of flames has me jerking to a sitting position and my hands go to my face, my elbows to my knees.
I can feel the heaviness of Liam’s attention. He’s looking at me but I don’t want to look at him. If I do, I will talk to him. I will ask him questions. He will ask me questions.
His voice slides through me, and somehow it manages to be soothing, warm comfort and sensual fire at the same time. Not for the first time, I’m baffled by the way a man I barely know manages to be silk on my raw nerves, but I’m not going to overanalyze it. I have to hold myself together until I’m someplace safe enough to cave to a little temporary weakness, and he feels like the answer. He’s what will get me through this flight. I sit back to look at him, and though I’m perfectly aware that he is a heavy dose of delicious man, my heart still races as I blink his dark good looks and his piercing blue eyes into view.
He sets his pencil down on his tray and abandons his work for me, giving me a concerned assessment. “Everything okay?” he asks, and I think of him as a gentle lion in that moment, only it is me who is purring under his powerful male attention.
“Fine,” I reply, because “fine” is nothing but a word. There is no agreement on my end, no lie. I tilt my head back. Liam closes his tray and does the same, sticking his pad beside his seat.