The thoughts run wild in my head as I wait for her to let me in.
The foyer is just how I remembered it. A classic ‘50s house with a mix of modern and antique furniture that give it a comfortable feel. She’s eclectic. Or at least her belongings are.
The chill of the winter air moves with me as I take a long stride inside, forcing Bethany to take a step back. Her stride is shorter though and she bumps her ass into the hall table, turning around as she startles, and I take the moment to close the door.
“I didn’t say you could come in.” She breathes out her words and stumbles at finding her anger and her strength to keep me away. I almost feel bad catching her off guard. But then again, that’s how she caught me yesterday.
“We got off on the wrong foot.” I ignore her statement, taking a step toward her but making sure to be as nonthreatening as I can. With my hands slipping into my front pockets I meet her questioning gaze, and each passing moment it heats with an anger she’s barely concealing.
“I apologize,” I offer, seeing that fight come and go inside of her. She has no idea what to do, and my apology gives her whiplash.
Her lips part, but no words come out. Her hands move behind her, gripping the small table and I swear I can hear her heartbeat loud and clear. As if it’s pounding inside of her just for me.
Still no words have come but her lips stay parted, and her gaze remains questioning.
“I shouldn’t have come in here like I did, making demands. I think we can come to terms in a civilized manner.”
A crease mars her forehead as Bethany brushes the hair from her cheek and tucks it behind her ear.
“You’re a criminal,” she speaks lowly to the floor, but her eyes rise to mine as she adds, “You think you can force your way into getting what you want and if that doesn’t work, charm will?” Although she poses the statement as a question, I know she believes what she said wholeheartedly.
She’s not wrong, but I won’t give her that satisfaction.
“I’ve never been called charming, Bethany,” I tell her, playing with the way I say her name. Softening it, letting it fall from my lips gently, as if simply whispering it allows it to hang in the air, hinting at all the things we’re leaving unspoken.
It takes her a moment to say anything at all. The force in her words is absent, and she doesn’t look me in the eyes.
“Apology accepted, please leave.”
“We have unfinished business.” My response is immediate.
I watch as she swallows, hating me but knowing I push more boundaries than just anger.
“I stand by what I said, you owe a debt.” Her gaze snaps to mine and her exhale is forceful. I continue before she can object. “I wrote up a contract I think you’ll find agreeable.”
She’s silent as I pull out the folded paper from my back pocket, along with the pen I lifted from her purse.
Her gaze narrows as she recognizes it. “You’ll need to sit down for this. Standing in the hallway isn’t how I conduct business.”
I fucking love it. I relish standing here while she makes me wait, as if she could actually control what happens next. Our story is already written, and she knows it. She’ll give in. She knows that too.
Without saying a word, she stalks to her living room, her arms crossed over her chest until she sits.
Although I haven’t been in the living room, I’ve already seen it. And the kitchen and dining room. I’m prepared for what’s in every drawer. Seth took care of that for me.
There’s a heavily poured glass of wine on the table, and she pours it back into the bottle rather than downing it like I thought she was going to do when she grabbed it.
“You can sit wherever you want, intruder.”
“Intruder?” I question her and the only acknowledgement I get is a firm, singular nod in time with the glass being placed gently on the coffee table.
“All right then, attempted murderer,” I quip back and take a seat on the armchair beside the sofa.
Her mouth drops open and then slams shut, her jaw tense as she stares back at me as if I’ve said something offensive. “Just calling a spade a spade,” I say and hold her gaze as I raise my hands, palms toward her in defense.
She hesitates to respond and I know I see remorse in her eyes. I know what it looks like; I see it every fucking day.
“I would have done the same, just so you know,” I confide in her and her tense shoulders ease a bit. Only a fraction though. “I don’t blame you.”