Her thoughts flickered in random, crazy patterns as she tried to process the truth of Pierce’s statement. Somehow, he knew. Knew about the dark, awful secret she kept locked deep inside and swore to never share with anyone.
Not even him.
With a trembling hand, she righted the glass and opened her mouth to ask Winona to refill the last shot because he’d won fair and square.
Pierce’s hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. His thumb pressed at the base of her palm, and her pulse rocketed under his touch, the familiar feel of his warm, rough skin settling all her jagged edges.
“I withdraw my statement. You win.” Regret glimmered in his sea-green eyes. He was giving her the out.
She shook her head hard. “No. You’re right. I need to drink.”
He motioned to Winona for the bill. “I don’t know what I’m saying, Taylz. The tequila is kicking my ass, so let’s call it a draw. Okay?”
She wanted to protest, but her tongue couldn’t seem to form the words. “’Kay. A tie, then. Need water.”
Winona slid over the bill along with two giant glasses of water with ice. They gulped both down greedily. When Taylor eased off the stool, the world tilted a bit.
“Wow. Tequila costs a lot of money,” Pierce said with a slight slur.
“We had lots.”
“Glad you’re footing the bill for this one. You agreed to buy the drinks, remember?”
“Bastard.” She glared. “You tricked me.”
“Just pay. And leave her a good tip.”
It took her a while to get out her credit card, sign her name, and get it back in her purse. Funny, everything was in a beautiful hue of soft colors and light. When was the last time she’d gotten this tipsy? Not in a long time.
“Come on,” Pierce said, grabbing her hand. “My place is closer. Let’s crash there.”
“You guys okay to get home?” Winona asked. “Do I need to get you an Uber?”
“Gonna walk,” Pierce mumbled. “Thanks.”
Taylor gave Winona a thumbs-up. “Good for you for checking. We’re walking.”
“I said that already,” Pierce said, leading her out the door.
“I did, too. Oh, it’s nice out! Look at the stars! They’re so shiny!”
He laughed, and they began walking home, trying to navigate crooked sidewalks in the darkness as they ventured away from Beach Avenue. She babbled on about the crescent moon, which was a cool yellow orange, and pondered the reasons why each time they walked another block, the moon didn’t seem to move. This made Pierce crack up, and they needed to take breaks for him to stop laughing before they could continue their journey.
Finally, they reached his house and stumbled through the door. “Gotta pee!” she announced.
“I’ll get more water.”
She relieved her bladder, washed her hands, and squinted at her blurry reflection in the mirror. Ugh, her makeup had smudged, her hair stuck up on one side, and her work clothes were all wrinkly. She quickly splashed her face with cold water, scrubbed at her racoon eyes, and smeared off the lingering red lipstick.
Already feeling better, Taylor wandered into the bedroom, pulled off her clothes, kicked them to the side, and grabbed shorts and a T-shirt from his dresser drawer. Thank God she didn’t feel sick.
“Taylz! Come get your water!”
She headed to the kitchen, where Pierce was leaning against the counter and had just chugged another full glass. As she took in his appearance, she began to giggle.
He frowned. “What?”
“You look as bad as I do. Why is your right eye twitching?”
He rubbed at his face self-consciously. “When I drink too much, I get this weird tic.”
She drank her water, then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “You never got it before.”
“I’m getting older, and more shit is happening to my body.” His gaze narrowed at her outfit. “That’s my favorite shirt. I was gonna wear it tomorrow.”
She shrugged. “Wear another shirt.”
“Did you leave your stuff on the floor again?”
She gave a long-suffering sigh and bent over with drama. “Why are you always so anal? Live a little. Make a mess. Wear a shirt not on your daily calendar. Eat expired yogurt.”
“I just don’t like dirty clothes on the floor when there’s a hamper a foot away. And anything with sour milk will not enter this body. Stop moving.”
“I’m not. We need Advil now, or we’ll be in trouble tomorrow,” she said.
They began laughing, both seeming to find the statement hysterical.
After tracking down the bottle of meds and popping two pills each, she crawled into bed while he went to the bathroom. Taylor gave a sigh of deep contentment as she lay upon the down comforter with navy-blue and white stripes. She loved his bedroom. It was masculine and cozy, with clean, bold lines and mahogany furniture.
Snuggling into the pillow, she slowly closed her eyes. Then shot up. “Pierce!”
He stumbled from the bathroom in his black boxers. “What?”
“I got the spins.” She hiccupped, cursing under her breath. “Dammit, you know I freak out when the world becomes a teacup. Help me.”
“Okay, give me a minute.”
He finished in the bathroom, then went to his dresser and pulled on a pair of sweats. Her focus wasn’t too good, but she did catch a glimpse of his fine ass as he bent over.
Pierce’s body was something to behold in a bathing suit or in boxers. She remembered when they’d met how he’d been all awkward, with braces, gangly limbs, and a chest without any muscles. Now? His pecs were well defined, and he owned washboard abs. He was nicely built, without overkill.
“You got hot,” she said as he climbed into bed beside her.
He laughed. “You’re drunk.”
“I am, but I tell the truth.” She moaned and held her head when she tried shutting her eyes again. “Oh, I hate this. Make it go away.”
“Best thing to do is focus on something else.” He used the remote to click on the TV and found an old episode of Friends.
“You’re staying up with me, right?”
“Of course.” He plumped the pillows against the headboard and propped himself up. “Concentrate on your breathing and relax. Slow and steady.”