With the next circle, the sleeve of his shirt brushed my nipple as I sucked in a sharp breath. It happened again, on the other side, and I had no idea if he was doing it on purpose.
I gripped the edge of the counter until my knuckles hurt. My pulse pounded as he shifted so that he was standing between my legs. His hand shook as he gently swept the cloth over my right breast, and then the left. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to think of something gross, but all I could think about was him touching me and how his fingers had felt.
So not good.
I’m sure I was beyond clean by the time he tossed the washcloth aside and the peroxide burn came next. Might have made me a complete and utter freak, but the little stings somehow heightened my arousal.
“Perfect,” Kyler murmured.
I looked at him and a fevered anticipation swelled like it was my own personal Christmas morning. “Perfect?”
He was staring at my chest, and then he dragged his eyes up. “Everything’s perfect.”
He set the bottle aside and then pulled the towel around my shoulders, covering me. “You’re going to be fine.”
The bubble of yearning burst in a shower of epic failure.
Kyler started to back away, his movements jerky. “I’m going to…check the garage for one of those weather radios. I think mom had one up here. And I need a tarp. Yeah, a tarp for the window.”
I stared at him.
He made it to the doorway, stopped and rubbed his palm along his jaw. “You can get a sweater now. Please put a sweater on.”
I don’t know what made the next words come out of my mouth. Maybe it was the leftover adrenaline from the window exploding, mixed in with raging hormones that had had a taste of what it would be like to be with Kyler. I honestly don’t know, but I was pissed and confused.
And God knows that’s a terrible combination, but I got my lady balls back.
“Why do you want me to put my sweater back on when you’re the one who took it off?”
Kyler lowered his arm slowly, his hand forming a loose fist. “Syd, I…I really don’t know what to say.”
Sitting on the countertop like a kid had me at a disadvantage. I hopped down, keeping the towel clenched close. “What do you mean, you don’t know what to say? I think we pretty much covered the bases earlier.”
He took a measured step forward, his shoulders tensing. “Look. This isn’t the time for this right now. I need to get the tarp. I need to figure out if someone really did shoot out the damn—”
“How are you going to figure that out? Been majoring in CSI without me knowing?”
He arched a brow. “No need to be a smart-ass.”
“And there’s no reason why we can’t talk about this now. I want—”
“I know what you want, Syd.” Anger flashed across his striking face once more. “Trust me, I totally understand. You want me to fuck you like a drunken one-night stand.”
I flinched back. That was so not what I really wanted.
“What? You don’t like the way that sounds? Well, I don’t like the way it sounds, either.” Yeah, he really was pissed. A muscle throbbed in his jaw and his eyes were a dangerous black. “I shouldn’t have let it get as far as it did, because that’s not going to happen. That’s not what we’re about. And we’re never going to be about that.”
Lady balls were so freaking overrated.
So was snow.
I used to love the snow, but right now I hated it, because it had me trapped right here. And this was officially the last place on this planet I wanted to be.
The temps had dropped even more once evening crept in on us. I paced the length of the living room, arms folded across my chest in spite of the heat from the fire. Three more days with Kyler. I couldn’t make it.
I heard his footsteps coming up the stairwell from the basement, and I froze in front of the fireplace. My heart thumped as loudly as the wind outside. He appeared, carrying a bundle of blue tarp. Our eyes met for the briefest second, and then he headed for the door at the opposite end of the room, toward the sunroom.
“Can I help?” I asked, wincing as my voice cracked in the middle.
Surprise flickered across his stony face, and I wasn’t sure why. Sure, I was embarrassed and pissed, and “confused” should be my middle name at this point, but what had Kyler really done? I’d thrown myself at him—more than once. Asked him to fuck me like a cheap date, and he was a guy—a guy who was probably used to having sex just about every other day. Of course he was going to act on it in the heat of the moment. He hadn’t done anything wrong. If anything, he was the only one in this situation trying to do the right thing. Apparently he valued our friendship more than I did.
It was all on me.
Kyler looked away, shaking his head. “I got this. Just stay in here and keep warm.”
I watched him close the door behind him, my chest squeezing. As soon as I heard it latch, I smacked myself on the forehead. “God. I suck.”
Turning from the door, I tugged my hands through my hair and winced at the slickness. There was a good chance that his head had cleared once he’d realized I hadn’t showered this morning. The whole conserving hot water thing sucked. He’d taken a cold one this morning, and I figured I could probably take a quick one that would get the grime off.
And it would also serve as the perfect distraction.
Hurrying upstairs, I ignored the chill in the air and stripped off my clothes in the bedroom. Before I went into the bathroom, I laid out a pair of sweats and the cream-colored sweater I’d fallen in love with. I’d wanted to wear it out here, with tight jeans and boots. In the store, I had hoped that when I wore it, it would somehow trigger something in Kyler that flipped the friendship switch to “let’s get it on.”
What had my mom always said? If wishes were fishes…
Sighing, I went into the bathroom, ignoring the way my entire throat burned. I wanted to rewind the last couple of days, start all over. I couldn’t change the way I felt about Kyler. That was a lost cause, but I could’ve stayed away from the liquor at the lodge, and I could’ve kept my mouth shut afterward.
Too bad there wasn’t a rewind button on life. I’d be pressing the hell out of that.
Adjusting the water so that it was lukewarm, I stepped into the shower, wincing at the coolness under my feet. I figured keeping the water temp down would help. Without wasting time, I grabbed my shampoo and lathered up. The little cuts on my chest and stomach stung, serving as a reminder of what had happened.
Did someone really shoot out the window? Had someone been aiming for us? I shuddered as I grabbed the conditioner. I slathered it through my hair and immediately started washing it out as I grabbed the body wash and loofah. Suds were everywhere, sliding down my stomach and thighs, pooling in the basin of the tub.
I wanted to go home.
Tears filled my eyes and I squeezed them shut. I wanted to go home so bad and forget these days, but I knew how pointless that was. I would never forget those moments with Kyler.
Fuck you like a one-night stand.
That’s not what I wanted, but I would’ve accepted that. I wasn’t sure what that said about me—that I could love someone so much I’d accept whatever scrap they tossed my way. It wasn’t right. It was the epitome of weak. I knew that, but it didn’t change the fact that, if Kyler climbed into the shower right now, I’d let him do whatever he wanted. My chest hurt in a way I was slowly growing accustomed to.
Icy water sprayed me suddenly, forcing out a surprised shriek as I jumped a good foot in the air. I scrambled to the back of the tub, my feet slipping out from underneath me.
I lost my balance. Arms flailing, I grabbed the first thing my fingers came into contact with. The shower curtain caught my weight and for a second relief washed over me, then the tiny hooks snapped. The curtain tore and my legs went out from underneath me. I hit the slippery, soapy tub on my ass. Brittle pain spread across my tailbone as I sucked in a breath. The curtain fluttered around me, creating a weak shield against the frigid water.
The small vent in the bathroom wall stopped rattling and whatever little heat had been coming out, keeping the pipes unfrozen, disappeared.
The bathroom door swung open, slamming into the wall, and I had a wicked sense of déjà vu as Kyler burst into the room. “Sydney, what…?”
I smacked at the faucets, turning them off as I tried to keep the plastic curtain around me. Of course, it was practically see-through, because why would I expect anything else? I was going strong on humiliation.
The water trickled to a stop as I lifted my head, peering through wet, cold hair at Kyler. He was crouched by the tub, his eyes wide. “Are you okay?”
I clenched the curtain to my chest. “I think…I broke my butt.”
His lips mashed together as he looked to the side, grabbing a towel from the stack across from the toilet. “Here,” he said. “Let me help you.”
Little bumps spreads across my skin as I knocked his arm away. “I’m okay.”
I shot him a withering look. “I fell.”
“I got that part.” He held up the big, dry towel.
“The water went ice cold, and I wasn’t even in the shower that long. Not even a minute,” I grumbled, trying to figure out how to get the towel without exposing everything.
Brows knitted, he reached over to the vent and put his hand in front of it. I took that moment to snatch the towel and scoot out from under the curtain. Wrapping it around my chest, I stood on shaky legs. My backside really did hurt.
“Shit,” Kyler said, standing. “I think the damn backup generator is out. Fucking great.”
I didn’t need to ask what that meant. Pipes would freeze. Food might spoil, but with the freezing temps creeping inside that part was doubtful. At least the stuff in the fridge might stay good. The only heat would come from the fireplace.
Kyler grabbed my arm and helped me out, like he expected me to fall again and break my neck. At that point, anything was possible. What little heat that had been running upstairs had completely vanished that quickly. Goosebumps spread over me as we entered the bedroom.
He ran his hand through his hair. “I’ve got to go outside and check it out. Stay in here, okay?”
“Wait.” I started to follow him around the bed. “Is that smart? What if someone really did shoot out that window, Kyler? I don’t want you going outside.”
“I’ll be okay.” He headed for the door.
“Someone has to check it out, Syd. I’ll be okay. Just wait for me downstairs where it’s…sort of warm.” He paused, and his expression lost most of the hard edge. “Seriously. I’ll be fine.”
I didn’t like this at all, but he was out the door. If someone was going all hillbilly psycho outside, I didn’t want him out there.
Aaand I was freezing my unmentionables off.
Quickly changing into the sweats and the sweater, I hurried downstairs and pulled on my snow boots. If Kyler was out there with potential bad stuff going down, I could be out there too, at least keeping an eye out for him while he put some gas in the generator.