“You gave me the bulletproof version. The stuff that’s in the past and not affecting you.” I eyed his hand, but he switched his grip on the wheel, his left hand going to his leg now. “What’s affecting you now?” I murmured.
“Charlie.” He gentled his voice. “I don’t want to be a dick, but I spent all fucking evening on the phone with people about Roman. You’re here.” His hand covered mine again, squeezing. “And I didn’t kiss you at the airport.” He glanced over, his eyes darting to my mouth. “I’m more pissed about the camera guy now.”
He was lying.
I recognized the signs. Distraction. Smoothing things over. A more cheerful tone. Bullshitology 101, and I’d become damned good at it.
Feeling a pang in my chest, I said, “Look, full transparency? You’re full of shit.”
His head whipped back to mine, just for a second before returning to the road.
I didn’t touch his hand, and he didn’t move it away.
“You pushed through my walls. You dug inside when I didn’t want to talk, and then you poured out your baggage. We chose to be more than friends. That means real conversations like this.”
My chest tightened as I flashed back to Damian’s temper. My teeth began to grind together. “I won’t be anything with a guy unless he gives as much as I do. That’s my rule. And yeah, that’s friendship too, I guess, but most definitely a guy I’m fucking. You open up, at least a little, and we’re good. I opened up last time. Remember?”
Damian would’ve turned the tables, made me the bad guy for pushing. He’d be the victim… I felt like a rock, entirely on edge as I waited for Reese to blast me. My eyes were closed, my nails digging in my jeans when he let out a soft curse.
His hand took mine, tugging it to his lap. “Fuck. Is that what he did to you?”
“What?” My voice had gone hoarse.
“I was a dick, and a second later your entire body froze up. You said your piece, and now it’s like you’re expecting me to start beating you or something.”
He was right.
I knew he was right. I had thought it too, prepared for it, but hearing it come out of someone else, that was different. The impact was smack in the middle of my chest.
“Did he?” His question was biting.
“Hey.” His hand squeezed mine, let go, squeezed again. Over and over. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it came out. Just…” He was fighting for control. “You’re right. You’re completely right, and I was being an asshole. You called me out on it, and I like that you did that. But…fuck. Did he hurt you because you did that to him?”
Tears dripped down my cheeks.
I was really sick of feeling this way.
“He didn’t physically hurt me, but yes. I’d call him on things, and he’d twist it. I was always the wrong one, until I just stopped talking.”
He wore me down. That was the truth, and that gaping hole was back inside of me.
I tugged my hand away, turned to the window, and pulled my feet up on the seat—folding in on myself, my go-to. If I could’ve gone into a fetal position, I would’ve.
“Hey. Hey.” Reese reached over, taking an exit. His hand touched my leg, softly rubbing back and forth. “I’m sorry, okay? My brother shit? It’s just that: a shit show. I’m sorry for being short.”
“I don’t care if you’re short. Honestly. Just…”
We were back here. I was pushing, or prompting, and scared to do that. But that’s what was normal, right? Or was I wrong?
I started laughing, wiping away the tears. “I don’t know how to do this, whatever this is.” I motioned between us. “I went from a seven-year relationship to a three-month regret. Now I’m here, and…” It wasn’t the same, so not the same. “Is this healthy?”
Reese slowed at the intersection, taking a right. We were pulling away from the city, moving onto a road that wound along the shoreline. It was gorgeous. Trees. Long stems of grass sticking up in the air. White tree limbs on the ground. Rocks.
I thought Minnesota was pretty, but this was different. It has a more majestic, grander feel to it. Larger.
“My house isn’t too far ahead,” Reese said. “Traffic normally sucks here, but we got lucky today.”
We’d been on the interstate for most of the trip, but now on the smaller roads, I felt a calm settling into my bones. It didn’t make sense, though I wasn’t going to fight it or try to explain. Watching the ocean, the waves rippling over the surface, I was struck by the vastness.
“We have lakes where I live. They’re pretty and calming, but they’re small.”
“Yeah.” I wasn’t at all sure what I was saying. “You know there are boundaries. Your danger is more from drowning, not being pulled away by an undercurrent and taken out to sea.”
But despite the danger, there was something freeing about driving along the shore. And just like that, I knew I wasn’t talking about the different bodies of water.
Damian was a lake. He had made me feel trapped. Caged in.
Reese was this shoreline, the edge of something new, something freeing.
“You okay?” He slowed the truck, turning onto another road.
We moved away from the shoreline to drive past houses now.
“Yeah.” The word caught in my throat. “So. Roman…” My voice squeaked, and I smoothed my one hand down my leg. “You share now.”
He grinned, glancing over. “Need a subject change?”
“Fair enough.” He inclined his head. “But we’re almost to my place, and you’ll see for yourself.”
“What?” Did he mean…?
“No!” He must’ve read my thoughts. “No, no. I’d never let my brother into my place, but I have to warn you that once we get to the house, you’ll have a front-row seat to the Roman Show. One of my lawyers is coming over, my agent, my manager, a rep from the team. We have a game today, so they’re all coming over for a powwow on how to handle everything. Roman’s supposedly trying to come to the game tonight.”
Another jaw clench. “Yes.”
Then we were slowing. He reached over, touched a button, and a wrought-iron gate started to open.
I was dumbstruck—fitting, because I’d forgotten who exactly Reese was. I knew, but I didn’t know. And him being rich was one thing I’d definitely forgotten.
I was looking at a three-building lot. Five-stall garage to one side. The main house was a giant square with arched posts around the door. Another building sat to the other side, a smaller one, and I could see the bright blue of a pool just beyond, nestled among lush green lawns.
Reese pulled up in front of the main house, saw me, and snorted. “Come on. And you’ve got drool coming down the side of your mouth.”
Drooling. He wasn’t exaggerating.
And I think I really was, which was awkward. I walked to the door, my legs pressed together, a grimace on my face.
? ? ?
Once inside, Reese hauled me up, his mouth on mine. And—oh! Oh.
Lust and pleasure trailed down my spine, making me shiver, and he wasted no time. Carrying me straight through his house, he took me to his bedroom, and we were writhing naked in no time. He entered me—a hurried, desperate edge to him that I hadn’t felt at my place or at camp—and then it was lights out. My mind stopped working.
“God.” He dropped a kiss to my bare shoulder after we’d both climaxed. “I really love being in you.” He thrust one last time before sliding back out and collapsing to his back.
I… Yep. No words.
A speeding horse had come along, plucked me up, and taken me on a twisted pathway over a mountain’s edge. Exhilarated and worked over completely—that’s how I was feeling.
“Reese.” I was blind. The orgasm had taken my sight. I threw my arm out, patting for his hand until he chuckled and took it. “You broke the he-girl. My spine. I can’t see. I’m wrecked.”
There was a buzzing in the house, and he groaned as he sat up. “Hey.” He tapped my chin.
I opened my eyes—that’s why I couldn’t see. And I grinned up at him, knowing my smile was akin to a wasted sailor’s. “Hey there.”
He gave a short chuckle before he grew serious. The buzzer sounded again. He looked over his shoulder, but turned back to me. “I’ll bring your carry-on up here, but take your time coming down. These guys are…” He sighed.
He ran a hand through his hair, scooting to the edge of his bed. The sheet pooled over his waist, but I appreciated the corded muscles in his back.
He stood and looked back down at me.
His jaw was back to clenching, and my heart sank.