“Um.” Danica suddenly couldn’t meet his gaze. “Everything I’m taking is in these boxes.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, you’re moving in with me today.”
“What do you think you loaded into the truck?”
“A partial load.”
Her eyes darkened. “We agreed I would live with you as your wife. I’m doing that. The sooner we get to your place, the sooner I can unpack.”
Logically, she was right. He didn’t care. It smacked of the false reassurances his parents would give him whenever a stepparent moved in or out. Oh, they’re just moving some unwanted things elsewhere, don’t worry. Or, You can leave a few toys here, but maybe take the rest to your mom’s house. What do you say? Just for now. It was never “just for now.” It was always forever.
“Where’s your bedroom?”
“Down the left hallway. Why?”
He picked up an empty box and strode off.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Danica caught up to him just as he reached what had to be her room. Here the heavy curtains were tied back to let in golden sunshine that accentuated the cheerful profusion of bright colors and floral prints. Artwork decorated the walls, and photos were crowded next to books on the shelves.
He thrust the box at her. “Get packing.”
She rolled her eyes. “Stop being ridiculous. I’m keeping some of my things here, that’s all.”
Her gaze wouldn’t meet his. “I honestly didn’t think you would mind.”
He did. More than he thought possible. “Not answering my question. Why—”
Then realization dropped on his head like an anvil. “Do you think I will throw you out of my house when the contract is over?”
Red flooded her averted cheek.
It matched the shade filling his vision. “How could you—you don’t trust me?”
Her gaze continued to fix on a point far to his right. “It’s not that. But—”
“But you don’t.” The ground shifted under his feet, throwing everything he thought was solid and sure into question.
She sighed. “Our agreement is only until the Ruby Hawk deal is signed. That’s less than a month away. So I asked Mai if I could continue to rent the room.”
“I’ve been honest with you at every step—”
“Yes, but the steps keep changing! I was supposed to find you a bride. Not be the bride. Who knows what your next strategy will be?”
The room turned dark and muddled, the color running together in a muddy mess. “I wasn’t aware you disliked being married to me,” he managed to say.
Her eyes widened. “No! That’s not what I mean! I love—” She stopped, and then pressed her lips together. “I am more than happy with our arrangement. But it has an end date. You don’t expect me to hang around after it is over.” She met his gaze straight on. “Do you?”
He hadn’t thought much past the completion of the deal with Nestor. By now, he should have gathered up all the data points and run a regression analysis to determine the natural course forward. But he had no plans past signing the paperwork with Nestor.
He and Danica could make a plan. Together.
He opened his mouth but was cut off by a shake of her head. “No, of course you don’t. And I didn’t expect you to.”
Her dismissal stung. Like an entire colony of fire ants. “You won’t be tossed aside.” He used his CEO voice. “That would be a waste of invested time and resources.”
She flinched, just a millimeter, before she recovered with a smirk that didn’t reach her eyes. “Spoken like someone who values heartlessness.”
That stung even more. “A heartless person would walk away. Not my intention.”
“A heartless person is someone who views others as objects only. No emotion. No love,” she finished in a rush. “Let’s get the boxes over to your house. Then Operation Living Together can commence.” She moved to walk toward the front room.
She would not distract him by changing the subject. “You say I’m heartless. So be it. But you’re refusing to trust. That’s worse.”