We spend time together¸ but I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of who the man really is. That’s why I asked him to share something with me. Something personal. I know I was asking for trouble, opening myself up to him and posing the same sort of questions that I don’t want to answer, but the fact that I was willing to give it a shot said a lot about how I feel about this man.

And my feelings for him are conflicted. Confusing. One minute, I can’t stand him. More and more, though, I find myself drawn to him beyond the sex stuff, though the sex stuff gives us a deeper connection that I can’t deny.

I want more. I know he’s from Texas, I know he served in the military and lost friends over there. Comrades. That he’s sad about it but doesn’t want to talk about the experience, either.

Does he have deep, dark secrets? Demons that chase him? Is that why he doesn’t offer up any personal details freely? I know what that’s like. I have plenty of secrets. Like who I really am and why I’m here. I couldn’t even give him a firm answer if he asked; my vague I’m from New York answer was about as detailed as I can get. If he’d dug any further, I probably would have made up some lame lie, and knowing that makes me feel ashamed.

Shame. An emotion I don’t like to think about. An emotion I’m utterly too familiar with.

Seriously, though. It’s not like I can tell him I’m on the run from my father’s evil girlfriend who’s out to take me down no matter what the cost. And she could if she really wanted to. Convince Daddy to freeze me out. He’s done that to me before and he knows how desperate I am for his approval. For his … love.

She has it instead. All of it. He is a man who can’t give his love freely. Forrest Fowler doesn’t know how to spread it around. He’s tight with his emotions. It seems he can only focus on one person at a time; otherwise, he doesn’t know how to show affection. So right now, he can only give it to Pilar. Forget his three children. The only one getting his love is a conniving, two-faced, cutthroat bitch.

My God, just thinking about her and my father together makes me want to punch something. Or rip Pilar’s hair out of her head. Take your pick. My life is straight out of a soap opera. Who would want to deal with that? I don’t want to and it’s my life. How can I expect such a seemingly … normal, overly private man to put up with my bullshit when I’m constantly running away from it?

I’m so zoned out, so inside my head, I don’t even notice the sound at first. And then when realization hits, I know it’s not my phone that’s ringing. It’s Max’s. I look at him, my curiosity piqued, since this is the first contact I’ve seen from the real world. His world. He shoots me a guarded look, his gaze skittering away when he realizes I’m watching him, and uneasiness shoots down my spine. I sit up straighter in my seat, peering at him as he fumbles with the phone, staring at the screen like he wants to scream at it.

He’s acting weird. Almost like he’s … guilty. And he’s letting the phone continue to ring, as if he has zero plans to answer it.

My guilt radar is on high alert.

“Aren’t you going to answer it?” I ask, my voice deceptively soft. I really want to yell at him. Demand he get that call so I can hear who it is. Not that it’s any of my business.

Answer it, asshole!

I clamp my lips shut so I don’t blurt that out.

The ringing stops and he appears relieved, which only makes me more suspicious. He dumps his phone in the center console, where it sits between us, dividing us. Guilt on one side and suspicion on the other. “I’m sure it’s nothing important. They’ll leave a voicemail.”

They will. No definitive he or she. I’m over-the-top suspicious now. Especially when that phone of his starts ringing again. He’s grimacing as he glares at the center console for the briefest moment, his eyes immediately going back to the road. He grips the steering wheel, heaves out a harsh breath, and then with a muttered curse, he reaches down and answers it, bringing the phone up so he’s holding it tightly to his ear.

I’m holding my breath, anticipation rolling through me—and not the good kind—as I wait to listen to his side of the conversation. I try my best to appear nonchalant, but I’m tense. He’s tense.

This isn’t going to end well.

I hear a voice. Most definitely a woman’s voice, from the high-pitched, almost screechy sound of it. She’s angry. I can’t make out what she’s saying, but I can decipher the fury in her tone and it almost sounds familiar. But I can’t quite place it.

“I’m on it,” Max says, his voice tight, his jaw clenched. He looks furious and he won’t even glance in my direction, keeping his gaze firmly on the road. I should be thankful for that. I don’t want to get in a wreck.

But I also want him to look in my direction and mouth an apology. I want him to slip his hand over my knee and offer a reassuring squeeze. Something, anything that indicates he isn’t up to no good. Because I have the sense he is. That he’s hiding something, doing something that I won’t like.

It scares me.

“I told you I would call you—” He’s cut off; I can hear her yelling at him as he silently fumes, his nostrils flaring, his mouth drawn into a thin line. He says nothing, just takes the verbal beating, and I’m dying to know exactly who this woman is that he allows to talk to him in such a horrible manner.

I may not know much about him, but from what I’ve learned so far, he’s not the sort to take this type of treatment. He’s always in charge, always in command. And even when he’s not giving direction, he has this ease about him, this quiet confidence that tells everyone he knows who he is, what he wants.

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