Angling the small fork to ease the oyster from its hold on the shell, I struggle for an excuse and the only one I can offer him. Thinking eating will appease him, I lift the oyster up so he knows I’ll do just that but first I tell him, “I’d like to stay with my friend for the time being.”
With a salty bite left in my mouth, I swallow the heavenly oyster and set the empty shell back down on the bed of ice. The tension doesn’t wane, not even when I eat another, refusing to look Jase in the eyes.
“Don’t do this,” he warns me.
My gaze flicks to his. “Do what?”
“Don’t make this harder. I don’t understand what’s gotten into you. But you should consider your options carefully.”
“Is that a threat, Mr. Cross?”
Exasperation grows in his expression as he tells me his patience is wearing thin.
“What changed?” he finally asks. “You treat me like I’m an enemy and I’m starting to think I am to you now.”
Thump. My heart is a treacherous bastard, begging me to tell him about the book. Begging me not to lie. Telling me he’ll understand.
He pushes the issue, asking, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“You wanted me, and I wanted you. I thought that’s where we were.”
“Did you forget the other night?” I ask meekly, remembering crying in the bedroom, remembering him walking away because I couldn’t admit it out loud like he has just now. Raising my eyes to him and staring back with nothing but sincerity I remind him, “It’s not like the two of us should be together.”
“Do you want me?” he asks, not letting anything change in his expression.
With a single hard swallow, I answer him with raw truth, “Yes. More than anything else.”
“Nothing else matters then.”
“Not the debt? Not the fact that someone’s after me?” I feel my expression fall, the kind of crumpling that comes with an ugly cry, but I don’t give a shit, I let it out, I let it all out. “Not the fact that a part of me hates you because I hate what you do and that the life you lead is why my sister’s dead?” I’ll never be able to say those words without tears flooding my eyes. I don’t blink and a few tears fall, but I won’t cry after that. Crying does nothing.
As I’m angrily wiping my tears away, I note his lack of a response and continue the onslaught. I ask him, “How much is it that I owe you again?”
“I’m fucking tired of you asking me that. It’ll be months before you’ve paid the debt.”
“The debt…” I whisper, sniffling and looking away thinking about how it’s her debt, not mine. But the thoughts vanish as I note how the restaurant is slowly thinning in attendance. It’s sobering, the sight around us.
It’s not just thinning, everyone is leaving. There are only two couples left. And both are preparing to exit. The young woman glances at me as she pushes her chair in, her eyes wide with worry.
“Jase.” I can only whisper his name as my pulse races with concern.
“I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”
Thump. Thump. Thump. It’s like a war drum. I whisper the question, “What did you do?”
Leaning forward, he places his forearms on the table. His eyes darken as they sear into me. “I’ve let you get away with too much.”
I can’t breathe, and I can’t move; even when I hear the door click loudly behind me and bringing with it utter silence, I don’t dare to do anything but stare into his eyes.
They contain a mix of hunger and depravity. His hard jawline tightens as he clenches his teeth and lets his eyes roam down the front of me then back to my apprehensive gaze.
“They couldn’t stay here any longer, because I need to punish you. You’ve known this was coming. I should have done it sooner.” Frustration and regret ring clear in his voice and guilt overrides my other emotions. “I take responsibility. You wouldn’t behave this way if I’d punished you like I should have.”
The way he says punish evokes a mix of reactions from me. I heat with desire and longing, wanting him to take control so I can stop thinking, stop doing, and just obey and receive what he’s willing to give. The other reaction though comes from the knowledge of who this man is and how it will never change. Fear is ever present when he takes control.
“There are consequences. And like I’ve said, you’ve gotten away with too much.”
With the door securely locked, I check to make sure the blinds have been lowered, and they have. Although the front door window is visible from this table, meaning someone could see if they dared to peek, but Seth is waiting outside and he’d take care of that problem before any prick would have the chance to see a damn thing.