“Only one person fits in a kayak,” I mutter. “Are they reporting my moves to you?”
“If they consider a move to be unorthodox or dangerous, yes. They’ve been asked to call me. Does that bother you?”
Honesty floats out of me like a balloon. “No. In a weird way, it’s kind of…hot.”
“Really.” He pauses. “Would you still feel that way if you knew they’ve been following you for a while? Those morning runs you took alone, especially before you moved to my place, sugar…they made me nervous.” His voice is right up against my ear, just like it would be if he were home. Gruff. Deep. “Then reporters started showing up at the market and putting you on television. I couldn’t take the risk of something happening to you. I was worried you’d forbid the protection and turn my damn hair gray way before its time.”
My blood has morphed into champagne, lust and admiration and pleasure tickling my insides. “I’m mostly disappointed in myself for not realizing I was being followed.” I fall back against the stairs and tilt my head back toward the ceiling. “But it’s kind of nice. Having someone…worry about me.”
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t worry about you.” His low chuckle turns into a sigh. “I can’t get home tonight, Addison. I’m sorry.”
Despite his warmth and affection, the house expands around me, making me feel tiny. Or maybe it’s the stupid conclusion I jump to. He’s going to see her. He’s going to see her. “Oh, okay,” I manage, pushing shaky fingers through my hair. “Raincheck, then.”
He’s quiet for a beat. “You know, you have the right to ask me for an explanation.”
“Do you want to give me one?”
“Of course I do.”
Does Elijah know Naomi is back in town? He must. I only braved the reporters once today, but he’s probably done it countless times while traveling between engagements. So if he knows, why doesn’t he mention it to me? If he would just say, right here and now, that he’s aware of Naomi’s return to Charleston and doesn’t give two shits one way or the other, my heartbeat could go back to normal. Or maybe he does give two shits. Maybe he gives ten. At least then, I’ll know where I stand. “Well?” I say, holding my breath.
“I’m a last-minute replacement on Fastball tonight at nine.” I can hear the amusement in his pause. “If you have dinner in front of the television, it’ll be kind of like we’re eating together.”
“Oh.” I fall back on the stairs, my eyes fluttering shut. “I’ll have to put the politics on mute if I want to keep my appetite.” I cover the receiver so I can sigh over his laugh. “Good luck tonight. I might consider saving you a plate.”
“Might?” His hum carries down the line. “I think we can do better than that. Have you been upstairs?”
“What?” I tilt my head backwards to look up the stairs, making everything seem upside down. “Not yet.”
“Go look in the bedroom. Tell me when you get there.”
My smile is so big it hurts as I stand and jog up the stairs. “Did you finally install that sex swing you always wanted?”
“Sex swing.” He snorts. A couple ticks go by. “Why? Is that something that interests you?”
My laughter bounces around the empty upstairs hallway. “We cannot afford to scandalize the media any further. They’re still up in arms over Mattressgate.”
“I can’t believe you let me do that.”
“Let you? You were carrying an axe.”
I’m almost to the bedroom, my feet sinking into the rich, blue carpet runner.
“The reporters…” Elijah stops to clear his throat. “Are they bothering you too much?”
Here’s my chance to tell him yes. Yes. But only because they’re asking me if you still want Naomi. Put my mind to rest, Elijah.
But I say nothing of the kind. Because I’m too afraid he won’t.
“They’re harmless,” I murmur, stepping into the bedroom and turning on the light. “Oh,” I say, staring at what’s in front of me. “Oh wow.”
It’s a new bed. Where the sleigh bed was rustic and old-fashioned, this one is modern. Swanky, even. There’s an upholstered headboard that runs almost to the ceiling. It’s gray with a tufted grid and the frame matches. It’s huge and tasteful and gorgeous. Even the silver and midnight-blue bedclothes are different. Not a single throw pillow in sight, either. Hallelujah.
“Elijah,” I whisper, going to the bed and running my fingertips across the silky comforter. “How did you do this so fast?”
“Don’t worry about that. Do you like it?”
I shake my head even though he can’t see me. “The things I’m going to let you do to me in this bed…”
His groan is agonized. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Unable to resist, I hop up on the mattress and lie down, sighing at the perfect degree of firmness, the fluff of the comforter. It might as well be custom made to my tastes.