"He was a selfish, arrogant fool." The man had this beautiful, intelligent woman in love with him and he'd discarded her! A first-class jackass, Richard thought.
"I like to think so." He grasped her upper arms, and she gasped, anticipation she didn't want rocketing through her. "Don't, Richard. I can't get involved with you like that again."
He scoffed. "I think we are well past that. You're living in my house, caring for my daughter … driving me insane." His head descended. "Try again."
He neared, and she inhaled his scent, the heat of his body blocking the wind and warming her skin. Laura couldn't lie to herself. Despite how dangerous this was, that she would get her heart broken again because he chose isolation over coming into the light for his daughter, for her. Despite the fact that she craved his touch as he craved hers. She wanted him to kiss her again, an almost desperate need to know if those moments in the stairwell were genuine, if his touch still held the power to turn her inside out. Or was it all just the mystery of his face and body, his detachment from life, the pain he locked in darkness and turned into himself and let eat at his soul.
Or was it only the erotic lure of a whiskey-roughened voice cloaked in the shadows that was seducing her into this madness?
* * *
Richard tasted her sweetness even before he brushed his mouth over hers. A fractured sound snagged in the back of her throat, a cry for more, a denial of the crackling heat between them. He almost couldn't stand not touching her. His hands flexed on her arms, and she swayed against him.
Then his mouth devoured hers, and heat spiraled through him, around him, sinking into his bones and tearing him in two. "Laura," he murmured, and she whimpered, her fingers digging into his chest, clawing.
"We shouldn't," she gasped, sliding her tongue over his lips, making him groan darkly.
"We are." Her hands crept up his chest, and he caught her wrists, pulling them from him and to the small of her back.
"No," she cried softly, and when he gripped them at the small of her back, Laura's desire spun into anger. "I can't do this," she gasped, tearing her mouth from his. "I can't live like this. I won't. We have nothing if you won't trust me."
She struggled, and he instantly released her. Laura didn't look back as she ran toward the house, her body screaming for his and her heart breaking for them both.
Richard watched her go, trying to draw an even breath. It wasn't happening, his chest tight, his blood singing with desire and his groin throbbing for her. And in that instant, he saw himself as a pathetic parody of who he once was. And he hated it.
* * *
After a run that tested his torn muscles, Richard returned to the house, grabbing a glass of water before he went upstairs. Passing through the living room, he found one of Laura's drawings lying on the coffee table. It was a sketch of Kelly sleeping in a big chair with her kitten. Another of his house, another of his daughter on the slide smiling beautifully. What shocked him was that they were not only incredibly good, but that love showed in every line and shadow. And it was done on a child's tablet with a regular pencil. Richard took one of Kelly and headed to his rooms, almost uncaring if he were discovered roaming the halls. And yet knowing Laura would do her best to avoid him.
* * *
The next two days proved him right.
Laura left his meals by his suite door with a simple knock and no more than a word or two. She knew if she spoke to him she'd remember too much, want too much. She knew it wouldn't help, but she needed some distance to get her head and heart on the right track. But every time she thought of him, she simply felt confused.
She focused on playing with Kelly, who seemed wonderfully happy today. They'd walked on the beach collecting shells. They washed and dried the shells and glued them to an old mirror she'd found in a box in a garage when she was looking for another pail. The garage was a mess on one side and neat on the other, and Laura realized that quite a few things in those boxes must have belonged to Richard's wife and were reminders of his marriage. She pushed that thought aside.
"Shall we paint it to match your room?" Laura asked, and Kelly shook her head.
"I want to give it to Daddy."
Laura blinked, then smiled. "I bet he will love it."
"I'm going to take it to him."
"Honey, I don't think that would be a good idea." But Kelly was already running into the house, her treasure clutched to her chest. Laura followed her, catching her before she made for the stairs. "Kelly, stop. It still has to dry. Why don't you put it in your room for now."
"No, I want to give it to him!"