I frowned. “He does not look at me that way.”
“He does. He just doesn’t do it when you’re looking at him. Even Bastien said that Blake’s different with you than he was with other women he … well, not dated.”
She sighed. “I think you should talk to him. Give him a chance to explain. And, of course, give him a ration of shit for lying to you. If nothing else, you’ll feel better afterwards.”
I nodded but, really, I wouldn’t feel better at all. I didn’t want to confront him. What would be the point of demanding answers when I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to believe those answers? Personally, I didn’t see any point at all in it. So when Blake called me the next afternoon just as I arrived at work, I let it go to voicemail. Maybe it was cowardly, but I preferred to think of it as avoiding an unpleasant conversation. There would be nothing constructive about arguing with him, would there?
On my break, I took my phone from my locker to find that I had four missed calls from Blake. There was also a text message, but I didn’t read it. Just returned the phone to my locker. I slammed the door a little too loud, which made Sarah jump.
“What did the fucker do now?” she asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that I was hoping Blake would give up after a couple of calls if I ignored him.”
Sarah snorted. “One of two things will happen. He’ll turn up at your place later and demand to know what your problem is, or he’ll leave a ‘fuck you’ voicemail to soothe his ego. I’m leaning toward the first.”
But she was wrong. He didn’t turn up at my place. He didn’t leave a voicemail either. No, he turned up at the bar only an hour after Sarah had made her prediction. I was in the middle of taking an order from a group of bikers. I felt him before I saw him. Felt the way the air charged. I was just about to turn when a hand curved around my nape. The hold was firm, possessive, and tight enough to be a little punishing.
“Hey, baby,” he said, voice cold and hard as ice. When I looked into his eyes, I saw that they were just as hard. His brow slowly lifted. “Something wrong with your phone?”
“Hi, Blake,” greeted Sarah, sidling up to me. Her chirpy tone didn’t match the cool look she gave him. “Kensey, I’ll take care of this order for you.”
I gave her a nod of thanks and turned back to Blake. “We’ll talk outside.”
He swept a hand toward the open doors that led to the outdoor seating area, mockingly gallant. “Lead the way.”
“Everything all right, Kensey?” Sherry called out from behind the bar.
I shot her what I hoped was a reassuring smile and said, “Fine.” With that, I walked through the open doors, glad to see that no one was out there.
As I faced Blake, he folded his arms across his chest and watched me. Waiting. Expecting an explanation. And then I got pissed, because the lying bastard owed me an explanation. The anger hadn’t been there at first. I’d felt hurt, betrayed, and even sad. I hadn’t been able to find my mad, too caught up in my panic at just how hurt I felt.
“You going to tell me why you’ve been giving me the cold shoulder?” he clipped.
I narrowed my eyes. “You said you were in Chicago the weekend that you didn’t call me. Said you left on the Friday. Is that true?” If I hadn’t been watching him so carefully, I might not have noticed the way he imperceptibly stiffened. “Is it?” I repeated—it was a challenge; a dare for him to deny it.
A muscle in his cheek ticked. “No.”
I clenched my fists. “Why lie? Why come up with some bullshit story about a trip?”
“There was a trip to Chicago. I just wasn’t there that weekend.”
“Because you had a date at a carnival with a blonde.”
Shock flashed in his eyes, and his arms slipped to his sides. “What the fuck?”
“You said we’d be exclusive.”
“We are,” he gritted out.
“Really?” I gave a derisive snort. “What else have you lied to me about?” He didn’t respond, just looked at me, as if expecting me to drop it. Exasperated, I waved a hand. “Just fucking go, Blake.” I headed for the bar, cheeks flaming with hurt and—
“She’s my stepsister. The blonde. Her name is Emma.”
I slowly turned back to face him. “Why not just say you were with your stepsister, if it’s all so innocent?”
“I don’t like talking about my family.”
“That’s a piss-poor excuse, Blake. And let’s be honest, you don’t like talking about anything personal.”
“There are things I can’t tell you.” He covered the space between us in two long strides. “How did you find out that I wasn’t in Chicago?”
“There are things I can’t tell you.”
He swore under his breath. “Kensey.”
I raised my hands. “Look, I think we should just end this now.”
His eyes blazed. “What?”
“I’m tired, Blake.” I sounded it, too. “Tired of sleeping with a guy who holds me at such a distance that I feel like I could be anyone to him. Tired of having to guess what you’re thinking when your gaze goes inward. Tired of wondering what I said that made you switch from hot to cold. Tired of being mentally drained from all that guessing and thinking and my imagination running wild. And that’s not your fault. You are who you are, and you were clear what our arrangement would and wouldn’t be. But I can only be who I am. And this … I’m tired.”
He heaved a sigh. “Kensey, baby, you of all people know what it’s like to have something dark in your life that you can never escape. I don’t want my shit touching you.”
That took me off-guard. “And you don’t want to share it.”
“Just like you wouldn’t want to share the ins and outs of your relationship with Bale. I respect that.”
Oh, that pissed me off. “You don’t avoid the subject out of respect for me. You avoid it purely because it doesn’t interest you. I don’t interest you. Not as a person. And you have no desire to know me. Hey, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend differently.”
His nostrils flared, and I could almost feel his anger. “Everything you do interests me. And fuck if that doesn’t annoy the shit out of me. I don’t like not knowing where you are or who you’re with. I don’t like how close you are to Cade or that the outside world doesn’t know that you belong to me. It all drives me fucking insane. As for me having no desire to know you? I do know you.”
“I know you’re highly self-sufficient, slow to trust, and despise attention. I know you’re curious as a cat, a total neat freak, and you don’t draw energy from being around other people; that energy comes from inside you. I know you’ve got shit time management skills—don’t even deny it—and you don’t need the approval of others to feel good about yourself. I might not know every little detail about your past and personal life, Kensey, but I know you.” He put his face close to mine. “And you know me.”
I understood what he was getting at. Even though he was terribly evasive and had built a wall around his deeper emotions, I knew him in some ways just from the interactions we’d had. Knew he was a study in control. Knew he could be side tracked but never distracted. Knew he was the kind of person who acknowledged his weaknesses while playing to his strengths. Blake was self-focused but not selfish. He moved at his own pace and to the beat of his own drum. He knew exactly what he wanted and took control of his own destiny. But that was really just a profile, wasn’t it? Just his social persona. I still didn’t know him.