“Pretty much,” I shrug and slowly pull my hand out from under his. He notices, but doesn’t say anything and I sip my soda in relief. We spend the next hour chatting about our hometown and mutual friends, enjoying our meal.
“Wow, Ty and Lauren Cunningham,” Max comments as he polishes off his chocolate soufflé.
“They’re really great together.” I sip my coffee. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ty so happy.”
“That’s awesome. I’ll call him while I’m in town.” He reaches for my hand again, but I lean back out of his reach.
“Max, it’s been so great to see you again . . .”
“But you’re not interested in doing it again,” he finishes correctly.
“I’m sorry,” I sigh and hang my head. “You’re great and I like you.”
“It’s cool. Friends can have dinner together.” He smiles and I can see that there are no hard feelings.
“Thank you,” I murmur. Nice guy. Totally sweet. Hot as hell. Successful. And I can’t even stand to hold his hand.
I want to bury my face in my palm, but manage to smile as he settles the check and walks me outside. “I’m parked over there,” I tell him, pointing to the right.
“I’m that way.” He points in the other direction. “It’s been great catching up, Jill. Drive safely home.”
“I’ll email you a list of houses in the next few days,” I reply and tilt my head when he moves in to kiss my cheek.
“Perfect, thank you.” He pats my shoulder, winks, and walks off toward his Mercedes.
I watch him walk away, then sigh and kick at the snow before walking toward my car.
When I get close, I see Zack sitting in his truck, parked right next to mine.
Why is Zack here?
As I approach, Zack gets out of his truck, his handsome face pulled tight.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. “Has something happened to Cara? Or Josh?”
“No.” He shakes his head and comes to a stop a few feet away from me. “Everyone’s fine.”
“Then why are you here?” I ask, confused.
He sighs and scrubs his fingers through his hair, then props his hands on his hips and hangs his head. “I just needed to make sure you’re okay.”
“Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
He doesn’t answer, and it all starts to make sense.
“Zack, why wouldn’t I be okay?” I ask again and cross my arms over my chest.
“I told you, Max has a history of being a womanizer.”
“Max has always been a friend of yours,” I remind him. “He’s a good guy.”
He rubs his fingers over his mouth the way he does when he’s agitated and shrugs again. “I’m just making sure you’re okay.”
“Let me get this straight. You drove all the way into town and sat in your truck, waiting for me to finish dinner, just to make sure I’m okay? Do you know how ridiculous you sound?”
“I’m ridiculous because I want to make sure you’re safe?”
“Zack, what do you care who I date? You don’t want me, remember?”
His mouth drops and his face pales before his eyes narrow. He steps forward and pushes his nose close to mine and I can smell the earthy, clean scent of him.
“I wasn’t the one who got on a plane and left the fucking state the next day, Jillian. I never said I didn’t want you.”
“I woke up and you were gone!”
“I had to check on my son!” he yells back.
“Well, you should have woke me up or left me a note! I’m not a fucking mind reader.” I shake my head and back away. I can’t believe this. He wants me? “You’ve avoided me like the plague!”
“When a woman flees the fucking state after I’ve had the best sex of my life with her, I take that to mean she’s not interested.”
I’m struck dumb.
Best sex of his life?
“You wanted to see me again?” I ask in a small voice. “I thought it was a one-night stand.”
He grips my shoulders in his hands and yanks me against his hard chest and covers my lips with his. This is no soft, seductive kiss. It’s hard and possessive. Hungry. He growls as his arms loop around me and pulls me closer to him. I open up to him, allowing him inside my mouth to dance and plunder, to take control.
God, I missed the way this man kisses.
I lose all sense of place and time. I don’t give a shit that every person in the restaurant is watching us right now. Or that we’re out in the cold in the middle of winter. All I care about is having his arms around me, his mouth on me, and hearing the moans of pleasure coming from his throat.
Finally, he breaks the kiss and pulls away. We’re both panting, our breath coming in clouds in the cool winter night, watching each other with hungry eyes.
He blinks and turns to open my car door for me, waits for me to climb inside, and then, without another word, walks around to his own truck. He follows me all the way to my driveway, and I’m sure he’s going to come inside and finish what he started with that hot-as-hell kiss.
But when I climb out of my car, he doesn’t make a move to follow. I walk back to his truck and wait for him to roll down his window.
“Are you coming in?” I ask.
His jaw ticks and his lips are pulled into a thin line. Finally, he shakes his head stiffly and mutters, “No. I just wanted to make sure you got home okay.”
I frown and back away from his door, embarrassment coloring my cheeks.
“Well, I’m home. See you.” Without another word, I turn my back on him and stomp up to my door, unlock it, and push inside, closing the door behind me.
What in the name of all that’s holy just happened?
I would have invited him in without another thought to finish what he started in the parking lot. God, is this what I’ve been reduced to? Taking any scraps Zack decides to throw my way?
When did I become this woman?
I scrub the tears from my cheeks and march back to my bedroom to change, wash my face, and pull my hair back in a ponytail.
Who the hell does Zack King think he is anyway?
Just as I sit on the couch with my laptop to start researching houses for Max, my phone pings with a text from Zack.
I delete it without reading it.
Screw him and his hot kisses and his sexy body. I don’t need a man who thinks it’s fun to play with my emotions.
I don’t need a man, period.
Oh God, I’ve become a man-hater.