Page 29 of Hot Mess

“Not even the slightest,” I replied. “I’m a bit of a hot mess, to be honest.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“Shut up.”

He laughed, and we walked past his house to mine. “I’ll walk you to the door. Make sure you don’t trip over your feet on the steps.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” I replied dryly. I slipped my arm out of his at the top and fumbled inside my purse for my key to unlock the door. After twisting it in the lock, I pushed open the door, then turned to Theo. “Thank you. For tonight. It’s the first time in a long time I felt… normal.”

Slowly, his lips pulled into a smile that lit up his entire face. “It was fun. Sorry about Blaire. She doesn’t always think before she speaks.”

“Neither do I,” I muttered.

He laughed gently. “Try not to fall over yourself on your way inside.”

“I think I can make it past the doorste—” I tripped on the frame, stumbling into the house.

Theo was lightning fast as he grabbed me, first by my wrist, and then by my waist, righting me before I really fell over.

“Yep. Looks like it,” he drawled.

“Shut up,” I murmured, turning around.

His hands were still on my waist.

And mine were now on his chest.

I peered up at him, trying to ignore the thundering of my heart against my ribs. This was the closest I’d ever been to him, and I was sure it was only because of the wine, but a part of me really wanted to reach up and kiss him.

Just once.

A tiny peck.

But I didn’t.

I took a step back, releasing myself from his hold, and cleared my throat. “Thank you.”

“Anytime.” Theo stepped back, too. “Try not to fall going up the stairs.”

“I think I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“Probably a good idea. Night, Elle.”

I swallowed. “Night, Theo.”

He stepped outside and closed the door behind him. I sighed, following his footsteps, and leaned against the door.

Damn it.

I should have just kissed him. I would probably regret it in the morning, but still. I could have blamed the wine.

Double damn it.

Two knocks rattled the door, and I opened it with a frown. Theo was standing on the other side, and before I could ask him what he wanted, he stepped inside again, pushing me back, and cupped my face.

Then, he kissed me.

It was firm and hot, quickly moving from just a peck to something deeper. He slid one hand to the back of my neck, and I put my hands on his waist, fisting his shirt. Shivers cascaded all over my body, and my heart thundered once again.

I couldn’t believe he was kissing me.

I couldn’t believe he was kissing me like this.

His tongue stroked along the seam of my lips, and he kissed me one more, deeply, before he slowly pulled back and rested his forehead against mine.

“That was a surprise,” I whispered.

“Sorry,” he murmured. “We’ll probably regret that in the morning.”

“Probably.”

He stepped back, his fingers trailing away from my body softly. “Goodnight. For real this time.”

I flattened my hand against my chest. “Goodnight.”

Theo left again, and this time, he didn’t knock.

I locked the door and, after swinging by the fridge to get a bottle of water, went upstairs to bed.

I would think about this in the morning.

***

I groaned as the bright light from the sun glared through the window. My head felt like I’d headbutted a cliffside fifty times, and my mouth was all gummy and dry.

I forced myself out of bed to close the drapes, then dragged myself into the bathroom to brush my teeth. When the gumminess had been replaced with minty freshness and I’d downed the bottle of water I’d brought to bed last night, I sat on the edge of the bed and cradled my head in my hands.

I blamed Theo for this hangover.

Theo.

Shit.

He’d kissed me last night.

I dropped back on the bed and then winced when my head throbbed. How was I supposed to look Theo in the eye now? How was I supposed to talk to him?

Why on Earth had he kissed me?

It had to have been the wine. Or the beer. Whatever. There were no two ways about it. It was purely alcohol-fueled after a fun, boozy night, and an accidental trip over the doorframe.

Circumstance.

That was it.

Nothing more.

Jesus Lord, I was in trouble.

My phone chirped from the nightstand, and I dragged myself up the bed to check it. It was a text from Noelle, the P.I.

NOELLE: Can you talk on the phone right now?

I could, but my hangover said I probably shouldn’t. Still, I had to.

ME: Sure.

She must have had my number pulled up, ready and waiting, because the call came through three seconds after I hit send.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Hi! Elle?” she said in a voice with a deep Texan twang. “Good morning!”

I blinked hard. “Morning. You’re up early.”

“It’s eleven o’clock here in Texas. Did you just wake up?”

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