Page 49 of Arrogant Devil

Characters I’m not invested in are suddenly ripping their clothes off on screen. They’ve been avoiding each other for the whole movie, building toward this sexy scene. They’re really going at it—stumbling into things, bumping against walls, making picture frames crash to the floor.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if sex was actually like that?” Meredith laughs. “Like if you kept having to run to IKEA to replace all your broken lamps and shattered vases because you were so turned on that you lost all spatial awareness?”

I can’t help but smile. “That’s actually happened to me before.”

“You broke a lamp?”

She makes it sound like it’s completely absurd.

“Didn’t shatter the base, just the bulb.”

“You’re kidding.”

I sip my beer, anxious for the next subject.

“How?” she asks, amazed.

“I needed to use the side table for…well…” I clear my throat, aware that there’s no way of continuing without getting graphic. “Leverage, and I accidentally knocked the lamp to the ground. The light bulb shattered, but you’re right, it wasn’t as dramatic as this.”

“Oh.”

She sounds like she’s in a daze. I stare intently at the TV.

“So you were on top of the girl.”

Her voice sounds shaky.

“Woman,” I correct. “Yes.”

“And just how much…leverage…do you usually need?”

This question, asked with her innocent lilt, is made worse by the fact that the characters on screen are going all out, scene after scene of rhythmic gyrations overlaid with moaning and groaning. Time seems to slow to a crawl.

I push to stand, finish off my beer, and deposit the empty bottle on the coffee table.

I know when I’ve reached my limit, and talking about having sex, while listening to people have sex, while Meredith is just sitting there, perfectly…well, perfect, is…fuck.

“Anyway, I’m going for a run,” I announce, tugging on the sneakers I left by the door.

Then I just turn and walk out.

Running is not something I do. I don’t need to; working around the ranch is enough of a workout on its own. Lately, though, I’ve been running a lot—all the time, in fact. I run after I catch sight of a sliver of Meredith’s stomach when she reaches for a glass on the higher shelf in the cabinets. I run after she makes a joke at dinner and brushes my arm gently. I run after she walks into my office with some afternoon coffee and a freshly baked muffin. She sets it down on my desk and winks then just strolls right back out, hips swaying. I run because it’s the only damn thing I can do that helps me blow off steam without feeling like a predator.

Hell, maybe I should just train for an Ironman triathlon at this point. If Meredith continues living here, I could probably win the damn thing.

When I make it back to the farmhouse thirty minutes later, I’m sweaty and breathing hard, but no less worked up than I was before my run. Shit. My coping mechanisms are starting to lose effectiveness. I’ll have to get creative, maybe consider a cold bath or—

My thoughts freeze when I pull open the door and find Meredith in my living room, pacing. I figured she’d have gone to sleep by now. The movie probably ended a few minutes after I left.

She whips her attention to me and wrings out her hands.

“You’re still here,” I say, deciding that’s the safest thing that could possibly come out of my mouth at this moment.

She steps toward me, drops her hands, turns, fidgets with her ponytail, and then turns back to me.

“Okay, I’ve been thinking…”

Her eyes are wide with worry. Her teeth nibble on her bottom lip. I’ve never seen her look so nervous, not even back when she used to be scared of Alfred.

“About what?” I ask this while standing very still, hand propped up on the doorframe.

“You find me attractive, right? Like as a woman?”

I blink. Blink, blink, blink.

Is this a trick? A trap?

I’m her employer, her confidant.

“Umm…sure?”

She frowns, and a deep crease settles between her eyebrows. “Women usually hope for a little more enthusiasm.”

“Were you?” The fewer words, the better, I think to myself. I’ll use one more. “Hoping?”

“Well yeah, because I find you…”—she waves her hand up and down my body and then clears her throat—“very good-looking.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And we’re both available.”

“I’m aware.”

“And I think we should kiss.”

Gulp.

“And break lamps.”

Her euphemism makes me smile, but then reality catches up with me.

“Believe me, I want to break thousands of lamps with you, but you just got out of a bad relationship.”

“Right. So did you.”

“I don’t want to take advantage of you.”

“Noble, but unnecessary.”

“Also, you work for me.”

“True, but irrelevant.”

“It could make our relationship really complicated.”

“Indeed, but it’s worth the risk.”

“And…well…”

I’m at the end of the line. I’ve run right out of excuses. She was supposed to agree with one of those and call this whole conversation off. She was supposed to nod and say, Oh, you know what? I hadn’t thought of that. Well see ya! Then we’d shake hands and she’d get the hell out of my house.

Instead she’s staring up at me with those big, hopeful blue eyes and she might as well be saying, Let’s find the biggest, most breakable lamp in Texas.

“Fuck.” I turn and wrench the front door open and step outside.

Don’t. Do. This.

I have to be better than this. I have to set the boundaries and hold to them. She doesn’t know what she’s asking for—she’s under the influence of heartbreak. I drag my hands down my face and clasp them behind my neck. I count to ten. I do some deep breathing. I try to listen to the angel sitting on my shoulder. He should be there somewhere…ah, there he is, getting strangled by the devil from my other shoulder. Welp, there’s my answer, folks. I yank the door back open and slam it closed behind me.

Our eyes lock and the fuse burns away, counting down the last few milliseconds before she and I collide. I have one thought before I reach for her: if there have to be consequences, make them all worth it.

Meredith runs straight for me and I meet her halfway. Her body crashes into mine as I lift her up and wrap her legs around my waist. I turn and haul her against the front door then hoist her a little higher. We’re a fucking mess, like sex-crazed teenagers, moving too fast, disjointed and wild. I kiss her cheek and the side of her mouth. She threads her hands through my hair and tugs. My lips finally find hers and I am a dying man who’s found his salvation. Her hot mouth, her full lips, her kiss—the second our mouths connect, I know there’s no going back now that I have her.

I show her how well we fit. Her breath is my breath. Her taste is my taste. I tilt my head and take the kiss even deeper, skimming my tongue over hers. Our hips roll together. She’s so eager and receptive, wrapping her legs tighter so that even if I pulled us off the door, she wouldn’t fall.

It’s not hard to decide what to do with her when I’ve done nothing but play out scenarios in my head for a week. I lose track of time as we kiss. Days pass as I learn every inch of her impatient mouth. For so long, I keep her right there, careful not to press my luck. I want to rip her clothes off and fill her up, but my wants don’t matter.

She’s the first one to initiate more. Her hand skims down my neck and chest. She tugs my shirt up and then her hand is covering my bare abs. My stomach squeezes as she skims lower.

Her hands find my shorts.

She tugs on the drawstring.

I growl into her mouth.

It’s not my proudest moment.

Her pajama shorts ride up and her smooth thighs are completely exposed. Her fingers are still skimming back and forth along my shorts. She’s turned on, just as alive with the tension exploding between us as I am.

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