“I didn’t get the sense that he scares lightly.”
I glanced over. “What do you mean?”
Nova decided to run out of our corner, but Ricci grabbed her. When she protested and started to squirm out of her hold, Ricci took her hands and began moving them around in a tiny cheer motion. She did it absentmindedly, saying to me, “Your baby daddy hasn’t once wavered. Once he found out about Nova, he was all fight and all fierce the entire time. He didn’t ease up until you moved in. Did you notice that?”
I had. Oh boy, had I. Or my body had but definitely not going there.
So not going there. That’d be bad.
“What about it?”
She kept on, “And the night you moved in, remember how at ease he was? Him, his friend, and his sister? The cops showed up, and nothing happened. They handled it. Normal people would get nervous when the police arrive. Not your guy, not his team. They didn’t bat an eye. I’ve started wondering if you’re the one new to this world, and it’s the one he lives in?”
“What do you mean by that?”
She shrugged, releasing Nova when her attention went back to the ball pit. “I think you should ask Nate what he thinks. Has he said anything to you about what Duke might do next?”
I confessed, “I haven’t been able to bring myself to ask him.”
I’d been too scared he’d realize what he was up against and kick me out.
“Ask him.” She flashed me a smile. “Ask him tonight, with wine. Make sure there’s lots of wine.”
“He gets Nova in the evenings.”
She pffted at that, rolling her eyes. “I have a feeling he’d be just fine if you ‘crashed’ an evening with him and Nova. I think you know that, too.”
But I didn’t.
I didn’t really know anything, except that my father hadn’t once reached out.
And I didn’t know if I was hurt or relieved, or if I should feel any of those emotions?
But maybe she was right. Nate said he’d help against Duke, so it was time to have that conversation with him.
“Oh. She’s going to squawk.”
Ricci was right. Nova’s face was getting red, and she pushed out her butt as she did right before she let loose with a wail. It was time to head back.
He was shirtless.
My body was reacting, almost quivering, and I was embarrassed as I came down to the kitchen that night.
Who was this person? I didn’t recognize myself.
Relationships were a struggle as a dancer. At least for me. I found it challenging to be the partner the other person wanted. I didn’t have a lot of time and had even less time when I became a principal dancer. We danced for hours every day, and that wasn’t counting the shows. Sometimes we did two shows a day.
Because of that, I had a few lovers over the years. We’d meet or call, and then we’d go about our lives. It was probably much the same as what Valerie had with Nate. But maybe because of dance, or maybe it was just how I worked, but I’d never been one for relationships.
I wasn’t one for romance either.
Despite the romantic, sensual magic that I tried to convey through dance, it had never made sense to me.
Sex had been an urge or a need that I took care of, like eating. Or needing water.
The whole heart palpitations, fluttering stomach, weak in the knees experiences were alien to me.
Nate had turned and saw me, and so like him, he wasn’t ruffled one bit.
I moved farther into the kitchen, seeing Nova in the corner. She was taking a bunch of plastic cups and bottles from one corner of the room to the other. I paused, watching her. Always so busy and with such an unknown purpose.
Nate chuckled. “She’s very intense when she’s working.”
Something eased inside me. My chest felt looser, and not wanting to second-guess that, I moved forward. I slid onto one of the barstools. I was also trying hard not to only watch his chest.
Or his back.
Or how his muscles seemed to be endless and smooth, and how he moved so lithely through the kitchen.
Nope. That wasn’t drool at the corner of my mouth.
Still, I pressed my lips together, brushing my mouth with the back of my hand.
He caught the motion, his eyebrows dipping together. He paused, his eyes going back to my mouth, lingering. Darkening.
I was pulling myself out of this lust-filled spell, but he yanked me back down, with just that one look.
Then, as if he couldn’t help himself, he yanked his gaze away and turned to the fridge.
Reaching in, he pulled out some salad. “Are you joining us for dinner?”
His voice was hoarse.
I needed a second, because that look from him unearthed a wash of yearning in me—yearning that I hated feeling. A slight gurgle left me, and I looked to him and he had stopped, once more. That sound seemed to ripple through him as well.
The lust was still there for him. I saw it waving like wind slowly moving through a bonfire. The flame swaying back and forth. He didn’t bank it.
I couldn’t bank mine either.
Then, abruptly he put the salad on the counter before me.
He said, cutting in, “Because that’d be nice since we do all live together.”
The back of my neck got all hot. Why was I reacting to that, too?
I crossed my arms in front of me but hugged the counter. “I can do that.”
“Good. We gotta get to know one another, whether you want that or not.”
He turned back for a bowl, and I almost sagged back in my chair.
Get to know each other. What did he mean by that?
Not what I was thinking, that’s for sure. Ricci was in my mind. Hell. Ricci was in my body because my stomach was doing those same damn somersaults right now.
I groaned internally because I couldn’t blame Ricci.
This was all on me.
Nate was gorgeous, and wealthy, and young. He was Nova’s father, and I was living with him. I was single. He was single—was he single? He hadn’t said anything about a girlfriend, and as far as I knew, he hadn’t been meeting up with anyone. Hell, maybe he had a similar relationship with another woman like he’d had with Valerie.