Page 70 of The F List

She looked at me, and her eyes wet with tears. “Please don’t keep me from seeing him. He—”

“Please, stop.” I moved to the recliner and sat down, needing to process this. To be honest, I had been expecting her to woo me back—not to beg for visitation rights to my brother. And now, with everything she’d just said… I didn’t know what to think. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to tell you the truth.”

“Okay, and?” I looked up at her. “Any other confessions you have for me?”

She walked around the sectional and sat down in the same spot Frank had been. Perching on the edge of the cushion, she pinned her hands to her knees and glanced out the windows.

“Well.” She cleared her throat. “I was going to tell you about the party, but apparently you already know about that.”

“And?” I snapped.

“That’s it. At least as far as the confessions go.”

There was something more she wanted to say. I could feel her hesitating, her tongue on the roof of her mouth as she held back something. She pulled her glasses off her head and folded them together.

“Spit it out.” I hunched forward on the recliner, my forearms on my knees and stared at the floor to keep from standing up and walking over to her.

“I’m getting hammered online, and I haven’t said anything. My team is pushing me to make a statement.”

I’d wondered about that. A quiet Emma was unsettling and had made me even more suspicious over her motives and intentions. “So?” I stared at a knot in the wood as my inners waged war over kicking her out or carrying her to my bedroom.

“So, I wanted to see what you wanted me to do.”

That caused me to look up. “What?”

“Do you want me to make a statement and respond to the allegations?”

“Which allegations? The ones about you molesting Wesley?”

“Well, yeah. I mean—” she paused. “There are a lot. But that’s one of them, yes.”

“Why would I care if you defended yourself?”

She frowned. “I don’t know. You’ve gotten really upset in the past about me talking to the press about you or your family.”

I stared at her. “Emma. You aren’t this stupid.”

Her cheeks tinted pink, and a hint of her attitude flared back into her eyes. “I’m not stupid. I just—”

I poked the bear harder. “If you don’t know the difference between embellishing stories or defending yourself against criminal actions, then you are stupid.”

“I’m trying not to piss you off!” She stood, her hands balling into fists at her side.

“Too late,” I snarled, matching her action.

“So, I can talk to the press?” She countered. “You won’t accuse me of trying to use you for the publicity?”

“Talk away,” I gestured in the direction of the front door and hoped she would walk toward it. “Blab to them until you’re blue in the face.”

I don’t know what I said, but then her face crumpled. It was a minor break, a wobble of her mouth, a widening of her eyes, a pinch of her features, but it was there, and it ripped a gash in my emotions and drained all of my anger out.

“Come here,” I said gruffly.

She looked to one side and tightly shook her head. “Please, don’t,” she whispered.

I stepped forward, closing the gap between us and wrapped her in my arms. She sank against my chest, her head tucked against my neck and let out a jagged breath, the huff of it warm and comforting. I kissed the top of her head, and she whimpered.

“I’m sorry.” The apology was muffled, her voice clogged with tears, and I smoothed back her hair and pulled a half foot away, focusing on her face.

“Don’t be.” I studied her light brown eyes, wet with tears. The almost invisible dots of freckles across the bridge of her nose. The pink tremble of her lips. God, I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to pull her into bed and hold her to my chest and confess every thought I’d ever had about her since the day I met her. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to strip her down and touch her everywhere and be the first and only man she would ever be with. I wanted to get her pregnant and share the news with Wesley, and adopt more ugly dogs and smear her face with wedding cake and watch her get old and cranky and scream at loud teenagers who don’t understand good music.

“Why are you smiling?” She searched my expression, and I couldn’t tell her it all, not now and maybe not ever. So I told her just a piece.

“I want to kiss you.” I didn’t wait for a response or for permission. I brushed my mouth against hers, and the moment her lips parted, the anger and frustration seeped out of me. I gathered her to me and felt… calm. Peace. For the first time in a week, it felt like I wasn’t alone.