“It’s late,” I said, the words dragging out of me. I wanted to, but it was too much, too soon.
He exhaled heavily. “Yeah, stupid idea. I didn’t think it through. Forget it.”
Through the open patio door, my phone rang as it sat on my nightstand. I glanced back over my shoulder, the sound jarring the silence. Wilson maybe, but he wouldn’t call this late unless he had an emergency.
“Hang on a sec,” I said to him and dashed inside to get my phone. By the time I picked it up, they’d hung up, but I recognized the New York number, the digits burned into my brain, into my past.
Feeling shocked that I’d mentioned him and then he called, my feet carried me back out to the balcony where I gingerly sat the phone down.
Had it been fate intervening?
Should I call him back?
What would I say?
How’s life without me? I hear you’ve moved on.
“Who was that?”
I startled. I’d almost forgotten he was there.
“My ex.” I stopped there, unsure how to explain that one.
“The perfect and wonderful boyfriend?” His voice had cooled. “I see. You still have a thing for him.”
“No, I don’t. I said ex. I’m not sure why he called.”
“I am,” he said, and muttered something about rich girls and lies and how he should have known better.
Why was he angry?
He picked up the towel he’d used and hung it over a chair to dry. “I get it. Pretty girl like you. Makes total sense for you to have a guy.” He scooped up Monster, who’d been curled up in a ball sleeping.
I crossed my arms. “A guy and a girl can be friends and not sleep together.”
His eyes went to half-mast. “V, I have a hard time buying that. Any guy would want you.”
He froze, but his eyes blazed with heat. “No.”
“Then why is your chest heaving?”
My own was as well.
“Come down here, V,” he said, a steely tone in his voice.
Need raced through my body, on fire to be closer to him. “Why? You could be a serial killer. And you never said you loved cheese puffs. I don’t trust a man who doesn’t like junk food. Plus, you’re mad. Not sure I like that.”
He grimaced. “I’m sorry for being an ass. I blame it on my shitty experiences with girls. Just—I don’t know—come down here and look me in my eyes.”
“Maybe I want to kiss you,” he said softly.
“You’re kinda bossy. And I might have whiplash from the way you go from hot to cold.”
He said, “I quoted Shakespeare to you. I’ve never done that for a chick before. And you turned me down for coffee. First time ever. My ego took a hit and needs some stroking.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Thank you for the soliloquy. Next time try to remember all your lines.”
He shook his head, all teasing gone. “Thank me down here. Please.”
Okay, first he was all flirty, then pissy because of the phone call, and now I had no idea what was going on. But I was drawn to him with a recklessness that seemed to throw all caution to the wind.
“Give me a sec.”
I turned and bolted straight to my bathroom where I flung open the cabinet, swallowed down some mouthwash, yanked the ponytail out of my hair, and put on lip gloss. Obvious much?
I zipped down the stairs, making myself slow down as I opened the downstairs patio door and stepped outside. Breathless, I took a few big gulps. Be cool.
I marched up to him, stopping just shy of his bare chest. I tilted my head up to gaze into his eyes. “Hi.”
He blinked down at me, as if trying to clear his head. “Hi.”
I smiled at the shyness in his voice. “I’m here,” I said.
“You let down your hair.” He sounded dazed. Winded.
“Yeah.” I touched it self-consciously, twisting a strand around my fingers. I felt fourteen all over again and Bobby Malone was about to kiss me in a game of spin the bottle. “I swallowed some mouthwash too.”
His eyes went low. “Because you thought I might kiss you?”
He thought about it, his hand coming up to cup my cheek, the heat of it making me sway into him. He smelled like the sea, like the summer vacations my parents and I used to take at our weekend house in the Hamptons, where I’d wade my feet in the surf while my parents walked on either side of me, watching the sunset over the Atlantic.
I hadn’t even known it then, but those were the happiest moments of my life.
He smelled like that. Happiness. Fairy Dust.
And with that thought, part of me wanted to retreat. To run back into the house far away from his magic.
But I couldn’t. Something about him had me transfixed.
He leaned his head down, his lips close to mine. The heat from his body seared me, and I inched toward it. And just when I thought he was going to take my mouth, he stopped. “I can’t kiss you until you tell me who Geoff is.”
“He’s not here, I know that.”
He studied me. “You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?”
“Not even close.”
His other hand cupped my cheek, his voice gentle as falling rain. “I don’t like this dude very much. Can I kick his ass for you?”
Oh. He was being protective. He thought I was hurting because of a guy.
“Geoff didn’t hurt me, okay? If anything, I hurt him.”