“Wait, what?” But he was already pulling me through the crowds, his hand cuffing my wrist. I was about to wrestle out of his grip, but Sarah elbowed me and then slashed a hand against her neck. She didn’t want me pushing him, worried for Edilio. So, with a resigned sigh, I let Blake guide me out of the Clubhouse and over to a black Lexus that was parked in the circular driveway. A tall, burly guy leaned against it, smoking a cigarette.
“Rossi will take you both home,” said Blake. The driver flicked him a look of surprise and then inclined his head at us.
Sarah smiled. “Cool.” She happily climbed into the car, but I wasn’t so keen. I didn’t know either guy, and I didn’t like accepting favors.
I turned to Blake. “Look, you don’t have to—”
He put a finger against my mouth. “Get in the fucking car, baby,” he whispered softly. “I want the peace of mind that you got home safely. Where’s the harm in giving me that?”
“Come on, Kenz, let’s go,” urged Sarah.
With yet another resigned sigh, I held up my hands in a gesture of surrender. Blake rested his hand on my head as I hopped inside, protecting it from the roof of the car. He shut the door and then spoke quietly to the driver, but I couldn’t make out the words.
“That guy is a menace,” I muttered.
Sarah’s eyes widened. “I think he’s fabulous.”
“Hey, he let Edilio keep his job, he didn’t throw us out on our asses, he saved us from paying an outrageous cab price, and he’s allowing us to come back here—the guy is fucking awesome. Especially since he’s offered to help you. That’s the kind of person I’d want on my side if I had a stalker.”
I clenched my teeth. “I don’t have a stalker.”
“Like I’ve said before, it’s close enough to count.”
Rossi slid into the driver’s seat. “Right, girls, where am I taking you?”
As Sarah rattled off our addresses, I looked out of the window at Blake. He was staring at me, expression unreadable. God, he was annoying. Stubborn. Determined. And I wanted him with a ferocious intensity that spooked the shit out of me.
Almost as if he knew what I was thinking, Blake gave me a wolfish smile and backed away from the car. Rossi then put the car in gear and drove off.
As my place was closer to the Clubhouse than Sarah’s apartment was, Rossi took me home first. He didn’t pull away from the curb until I was safely inside the building—I wondered if Blake had asked him to wait or if Rossi was just being courteous.
Considering it was the early hours of the morning, the place should have been quiet. No, as I wandered up the stairwell, I could hear muffled voices, the cry of a baby, and a TV blaring. I could also smell pot coming from the floor beneath mine. Hopefully that smell wouldn’t find its way into my apartment.
Reaching my floor, I dug my keys out of my purse, wondering if I should go straight to bed or—
My front door was ajar.
I froze, switching from tired to alert in a single instant. The hairs on my nape and arms stood on end. I’d locked the door before leaving. Definitely locked the door. Fuck, was Ricky in there, the little bastard? Maybe.
Even as I told myself that I should just hang back and call the police, I found myself taking a step forward. As quietly as any woman could move on high heels, I slowly and cautiously crossed to the door, but I didn’t open it. I stayed completely still, listening hard for any noises coming from inside the apartment. And I heard … snoring. It was a snore I knew well.
Exhaling heavily in both relief and exasperation, I shoved open my door and walked inside. As I flicked on the light, Cade bolted upright on the sofa, shielding his eyes like I was holding a damn solar flare. I could smell his brand of beer, as if it were seeping fast out of his pores.
I slammed the door shut. “Dammit, Cade, I thought—” I scrubbed a hand down my face.
“Thought what?” he mumbled, collapsing back onto the pillows he’d clearly gotten out of the closet, along with the blanket he’d draped over himself. He’d stayed over enough times to know where I kept them.
“That someone had broken in,” I replied.
He grunted. “I need to crash here.”
“Fine.” I turned off the light and locked the door. “Just don’t vomit on the sofa again.”
His brows drew together. “Hey, I replaced the sofa.”
“Yeah, and I’d like to keep this one.” Leaving him to sleep, I headed to my own bed.
It was the snoring that woke me the next morning.
Cade, you are such a pain in my ass.
Rolling onto my back, I rubbed at my eyes … and the events of the previous night flashed through my brain. Squeezing my eyes shut, I cursed myself. I was an idiot—that much was without question. Why else would I make out with a guy I was intent on pushing away?
I couldn’t even say I just got swept up in that kiss he blindsided me with. No, I’d been as into that kiss as he had. The feel of his mouth on mine had been like a blowtorch. I’d wanted nothing more than to be closer to him. As close as it was possible for two people to be.
Then I’d hated myself, because who the hell kissed a guy like that when said guy thought they were a suicidal, attention-seeking, crackhead?
I did, apparently.
With another harsh curse, I edged out of bed and headed for the bathroom. After brushing my teeth and doing my business, I went to the kitchen and switched on the coffeemaker. I was only wearing a tank top and shorts, but they weren’t indecent, and it wasn’t like Cade hadn’t already seen all there was to see.
He wasn’t lying on the sofa, to my surprise. He was sprawled on the floor. From the small kitchen, I threw a balled-up dishtowel at him. It landed on his face, and he jerked.
“Wake up,” I called tiredly. His only response was a throaty groan. “Come on, Cade, I can’t deal with the snoring anymore. You have to be at work in an hour.”
A tanned hand lazily dragged the dishtowel from his face. “I shouldn’t have to work on a Saturday.”
“And yet, you do.”
“Coffee,” he slurred.
“I’m making it as we speak, but you need to get off the floor and come get it.”
He lifted his head, seeming surprised to realize he wasn’t on the sofa. With a groan, he let his head fall back down. “Coffee.”
“You can have it when you get up.”
With an indignant huff worthy of a rebellious teenager, he awkwardly struggled to his feet. “God, you’re mean.”
“And you’re going to be late for work if you don’t get your ass in gear.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He stumbled his way to the kitchen, kissed me on the cheek, and took the mug I set on the counter. He took a quick sip. “Damn, I needed that. Thanks for letting me crash here.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” I pointed out with a smile. “You were already settled on the couch when I got home. Want to tell me why you crashed here?”
“Had a fight with Kerri. Her apartment’s close to yours, so my drunken mind figured it made more sense to come here than go home.”
“A fight, huh? Was it a bad one?”
“Don’t remember. Just remember her yelling at me and shoving me out the door.”
I winced. “Sorry to hear that.”