“I couldn’t give you a relationship even if I wanted to,” said Blake.
“I don’t know what that means, and I’m not asking. Here’s what I do know: if it will be that easy for you to walk away after one fuck, it will be pretty easy for you to walk away without having one at all.”
“Theoretically. But what’s between us has nothing to do with logic—it’s purely elemental.” His head tilted slightly. “Why do you run from me, Kensey?”
I bristled. “I don’t run from you.”
“Sure you do. You did it when you first saw me. You did it outside the bar during your break. And you’re ready to do it again now. Why?”
He made me sound like a skittish horse or something. I was nothing if not cool and self-possessed. And I hadn’t run from him. I’d just walked fast. “You wouldn’t be good for me.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” he agreed easily, unoffended. “So, you’re saying you run from me out of self-preservation?”
“It’s not running. It’s being smart.”
“Keeping a distance from me is smart,” he allowed. “But is it what you want?”
No. What I wanted involved him, a bed, and a pack of condoms. But that would mean going back to the old me, and I’d sworn I was done with that way of life. So I lied, “Yes, it is.” I stood slowly, not wanting to look like I was fleeing. “I have to go.”
Rising, he grabbed his phone and slipped into my path. He said nothing. Just stared down at me through brooding eyes. As the seconds ticked by, the air snapped taut with a tension that almost made me squirm. “Give me one night, Kensey.” It was a rough, rumbly whisper that promised all sorts of dirty things, and it weaved a spell of temptation around me. “Don’t you want to know what it would be like? Don’t you want to know how good it would be?”
I had a pretty good idea of exactly how it would be. An unparalleled, unforgettable, mind-blowing encounter. And then he’d toss me aside. “Thanks for the coffee.” I shouldered past him and crossed to the door. Outside, I gave the area a once-over, finding the streets fairly empty.
“Looking for someone?”
I half-turned at Blake’s question. And then I wished I hadn’t, because the intensity in those eyes could bring me to a standstill.
His hand curved around my jaw. “You’re right to run from me, Kensey.”
“I’m not running,” I ground out.
“Running, walking.” He shrugged, as if the distinction was insignificant. “But I meant what I said: I never stop until I have what I want.” His thumb swept across my lower lip. “I will have you. It’ll be good, Kensey. Insanely fucking good.”
“No, it really won’t. I’m shit in bed.”
That got me a full-blown, sexy-as-hell smile that hit me right in my core. “Hmm. Somehow, I doubt that.” His hand dropped. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Kensey.” With that, he stalked off. I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until it stuttered out of me.
I crossed to my car. With a shaky hand, I fumbled to unlock my door and then climbed in, totally exasperated with both him and myself. Him because he just wouldn’t back off, and me because I liked that he wouldn’t so easily back off. Really, I was my own worst enemy at times.
I was just clicking on my seat belt when my phone started ringing. Seeing that it was Sarah, I answered, “Hey.”
“Just wanted to check you got home safely and all is good.”
I smiled, warmed by that. “I’m not home yet. I stopped off at the store. Bill was there.” Smile fading, I rubbed at my nape. “According to him, someone who looks a lot like Ricky Tate went to his bakery, claiming to know me.”
Sarah gasped. “That little fucker.”
Yeah, he was a little fucker. He’d been nineteen when he confronted me outside school. For some fucked up reason, the guy was utterly convinced that he was Michael Bale’s biological son. Convinced. He despised me for taking his place in Michael’s affections, and he believed everyone should know that I was a fraud. It was a totally messed up situation. Who wanted their dad to be a serial killer? Apparently, Ricky did.
I told Michael about him, and he’d said that Ricky had sent him letters, claiming the same thing. As Michael was infertile, there wasn’t even the slightest chance that Ricky was his son. Ricky had allegedly been shocked and outraged that Michael didn’t accept him as his child. Maybe he’d figured that since Michael had so easily accepted me as his child, he’d quite freely do the same for others.
Well, he hadn’t.
And that had pissed Ricky off enough that he’d sent me a few very graphic letters. In some, he’d bitched at me for ‘stealing’ his father. In others, he’d spoken as if we were siblings and I was hogging all the parental attention. It had been weird, to say the least.
Then he’d abruptly backed off. No more letters, no more confrontations, no more contacting Michael. Ricky hadn’t bothered his ass with me again … until now.
“Well, it’s got to be him,” said Sarah. “He has to be Smith.”
“It would make sense. Smith doesn’t include the Buchanan-angle to my background. In the story, the sociopath is my father. Ricky’s mind is a strange place where I’m sometimes his sister and at other times I’m a total imposter.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I’ll talk with Michael about it tomorrow.” Working part-time meant I had the weekends to myself.
“I finish work tomorrow at six. I’ll come straight to you, and you can tell me what he said.”
“Take a different route home—I’ve heard you should change your patterns when you have a stalker.”
I sighed. “I’m not being stalked.”
“It’s close enough to count. See you tomorrow.”
The line went dead, so I shoved my phone back in my purse. I sincerely doubted that sleep would come easy to me tonight. It wasn’t Smith playing on my mind, though. It was Blake.
You want exactly what I want, Kensey; you want me to take you home right now and fuck you so raw you’ll feel me for days.
I did want that. Scrubbing a hand down my face, I groaned. My stomach still felt fluttery, my breasts ached, and I was embarrassingly damp. If he could do that to me with just a few words and sexually charged looks …
Biting out a curse, I shoved the key in the ignition, wishing I’d never laid eyes on the good-looking bastard.
Saturday morning was a busy one. I followed the same schedule as I always did when I went with Clear to visit Michael: Woke at six in the morning. Ate breakfast. Showered. Got dressed. Left the house at seven to go and collect my mother, who was always prompt. Then we headed straight for the prison.
Typically, Clear’s eyes were bright as she chattered on and on, delighted that she’d soon see Michael. She visited him as often as possible. If it wasn’t for her desperate need to believe that we were a happy—albeit abnormal—family, I probably wouldn’t visit him at all.
Unlike with Clear, I’d succeeded at my attempts to despise Michael. Not just because of the things he’d done, but because he’d once made me love him.
As a kid, I’d adored the “daddy” who sent me letters and poems, who drew me pictures and made me feel loved. But I’d soon learned that he only showed me what he wanted me to see—or maybe who he wanted to be.