As our eyes locked, one side of his mouth curled. I pasted on a half-smile as I stepped out of the elevator. He glided toward me, moving slowly and deliberately, and let his gaze—heated and possessive—sweep over every inch of me. I cursed the flush that crept up my neck and face.
Without hesitation, he stepped right into my personal space. And, shockingly, my system seemed to … steady. Calm. As if soothed by him. I had to admit—even if only to myself—that although I was pissed at him, I didn’t want to be anywhere else at that moment.
He softly brushed his mouth over mine. “Beautiful, as always. I wasn’t sure if you’d come, but you did.” There was no missing the note of satisfaction in his tone.
“I did.” But he needn’t count his chickens yet. If I didn’t like his answers, I’d walk right on out of here.
His eyes gleamed briefly as he thumbed one of my dangly earrings. “Red.”
I told myself I’d worn the red diamond hoops because I didn’t want to be approached by others, but that was a lie. I cast a glance at his tie. “Red.” Well, it was more of a deep, dark burgundy. I seriously liked it.
He slid his hand down my arm and took my hand. “Come.” He kept me close as he led me away, exchanging nods with the people seated around the lounge. He moved at an easy, unhurried pace, like no tension existed between us.
He stopped when we reached a booth where a waiter hovered. I didn’t have much of an appetite, thanks to the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I ordered the steak. Blake ordered the lobster and a bottle of a wine I’d never heard of, but I was pretty sure it would be good. He’d proven he had good taste in wine.
The waiter then disappeared, and I turned my attention to Blake. Opposite me, he hooked his arm over the back of his booth and just stared at me. His posture was surprisingly relaxed. He looked … pleased. Mellow. I was strung tighter than a bow. I clasped my fingers in my lap to stop myself from fidgeting.
“How was your day?” he asked.
I blinked. “Since when do you engage in small talk?”
Lips curling, he lifted his brows. “It was a genuine question. I want to know how your day was.”
Impatient, I shrugged. “I’ve had better ones.” Also had worse ones.
Tipping his head to the side, he asked, “How’ve you been?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
Humor danced in his eyes. “I genuinely want to know.”
I sighed, exasperated. “I’ve been fine. You?”
Just like that, the humor left him. “As I said earlier, it was a shitty week.”
The waiter reappeared, poured us each a glass of red wine, and then left.
Blake straightened and took a sip of his wine—a movement so slow and controlled I almost growled, envying how relaxed and at ease he could be even in a situation like this. Setting down the glass, he tapped his fingers on the cloth covered table. “Okay, let’s get to the point. This arrangement isn’t working for either of us anymore, is it?”
My chest tightened. “No.”
He gave a curt nod. “You want more.”
“I don’t want to want more. I don’t even have ‘more’ to give right now. Not to you. Not to anyone.”
He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Well, you will give it to me, Kensey. I won’t ever settle for anything less than all you have to give me.”
I mentally fumbled, rocked by his words. “You’re saying you want more?” I didn’t hide my disbelief.
“Yes,” he answered simply.
I shook my head, feeling off-balance. “You were very clear that you couldn’t give me a relationship. Where has this come from?”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about during the past week. I wasn’t sure where your head was at, so I thought I’d broach the subject this weekend. Seeing you hurt earlier was fucking hard, but it made me think that just maybe you want more as well, or you wouldn’t have cared so much.”
Still dubious, I eyed him carefully. “Why do you want more?”
“I’m selfish when it comes to you, Kensey. I don’t like that you have a life separate from me; it makes me … nervous. I want to be part of that life. I want to see you whenever I want, wherever I want. I want it to be common knowledge that you’re mine.”
“You sound … well, a little pissed off.”
“I am.” He rubbed at his jaw, face hardening. “I don’t miss women, Kensey. I don’t wonder how they are, where they are, or who they’re with. I don’t give a rat’s ass if they had a good day or not, I don’t worry about them being shitfaced while I’m not there to be sure they’re safe, and I definitely don’t get jealous if they have male friends.”
I shook my head again, unable to fully believe what I was hearing. “But … you don’t call. You don’t text. Not unless you want to meet up, anyway. You put considerable effort into maintaining a nice big distance between us.” My eyes narrowed as something occurred to me. “Or was that you trying to re-establish a sense of control?”
He interlaced his fingers with mine and brought my wrist to his mouth. He pressed a soft, lingering kiss there. “This won’t be easy, Kensey. I won’t be easy. But do you really want to walk away? Wouldn’t you like to see where this can go?” He pressed another kiss to my fluttering pulse. The flick of his tongue made me remember just how it felt in much more interesting places.
I squirmed a little. My dress felt too tight, too restrictive. But even as my hormones took off, my mind didn’t lose sight of the super important thing here. “I won’t be in a relationship with someone who I can’t trust to be honest with me.” I tilted my head. “Why did you feed me the Chicago story? I didn’t ask where you were that weekend.”
“Your eyes did. I could see that you wanted badly to hear a valid excuse for why I didn’t call or meet with you. The truth wasn’t something I could share—”
“Wait, you couldn’t share that you were with your stepsister?”
“That’s not what I mean. I didn’t stay long at the carnival, I still could have met with you that night if it weren’t for something else—something I can’t share with you. So, I stretched the truth a little. There was a business trip, but I didn’t leave for Chicago until the Monday after I met with Emma at the carnival. I landed back in Redwater shortly before I sent you that text when you were at the mall.” He dabbed yet another kiss on my inner wrist; there was something apologetic about it. “I lied because I didn’t like that you were hurting, and I wanted to make it stop. And now, because of that lie, you’re hurting again. I fucked up, baby.”
I smelled the food moments before the waiter set our plates down in front of us. Steam rushed from my plate, carrying with it the mouth-watering smell of meat, onion, and peppers. Blake reluctantly released my hand, and we both dug into our food. But everything seemed tasteless while my thoughts were scattered—even the wine.
I peeked up at Blake. Once again, he looked relaxed. There was no tension in the set of his shoulders, no expectation of an answer in his eyes. And I realized something. “You’re not asking me if I want a relationship. You’re telling me that we’re now in one.”