Ordinarily people take the oh-so-subtle hint of a door being slammed in their face as a sign that they aren’t wanted or welcome.
Kade was not one of those people.
I stood on the other side of the door, horrified beyond all belief and trying to think of a dozen ways I could escape the confines of my apartment and disappear forever so I would never have to look him in the face again. Unfortunately, every one of those half dozen exit routes somehow ended with me maiming myself.
The light chuckle on the other side of the door alerted to me to the fact he was still standing there, and I was pretty damn certain he wasn’t going anywhere.
Wrenching the door back open, I went into full pissed-off-chick mode with the whole hand on hip action while bracing the door with my other hand in a silent threat of repeating my earlier action.
Apparently I didn’t pull it off too well because he pushed off of the door frame, shaking his head with a laugh as he pushed right past me and waltzed into my living room.
“Come on in,” I grumbled, slamming the door shut.
Needless to say, it was all an act and not likely a good one. The very idea of Kade being in my apartment this late at night, after I had flashed him no less, had my stomach doing somersaults. And not in an overly bad way either.
Kade wandered over to the couch that sat on the opposite wall from my front door and sat back comfortably with both arms stretched out along the back. I should have hated the fact he seemed so damn comfortable in my place while I was jumble of nerves. What I really hated was how much I enjoyed that fact that he felt so comfortable in my place.
Straightening my shirt, and making sure the girls hadn’t made any surprises re-visits, I walked over to the side table by the couch and flipped on the lamp. The room was bathed in a soft light and I prayed to every deity I could think of that I didn’t have bed head or dried drool all over my face.
I flopped down on the adjacent love seat, tucking my legs underneath me and grabbing the blanket I had discarded earlier and draping it around my shoulders.
I should have been uneasy with Kade being in my apartment in the middle of night, but I wasn’t. Truthfully everything I knew about him I had heard through the rumor mill, and all of those rumors came with the same heavy warning: avoid him at all costs. And yet I felt safe with him around. Unfortunately, I also felt uncomfortable being around him, and had even in the hospital, but I doubted that any length of time spent together would ever change that.
To say I was uncomfortable was probably a poor choice of words. Truth was, I was really comfortable around him and didn’t feel any threat or discomfort by his presence, but that same presence also made me very aware of my body and its reaction to him, which was enticing, exciting, sexy as hell, and extremely dangerous. My life lacked all excitement by comparison to the way he made me feel when we were in close proximity, and frankly that scared the hell out of me.
I quickly glimpsed at him, hoping he wouldn’t notice me checking him out, but as usual, luck was not on my side.
His penetrating gaze didn’t seem to miss anything. And what was worse was that he wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that he was studying me. The scrutiny he was putting me under had me shifting uncomfortably in my seat.
“Did I wake you?” he asked, finally breaking the silence.
I shrugged causally. Well, as casual as one can without risking another nipple exposure.
“I think I fell asleep during a movie or something,” I replied quietly.
He nodded in understanding. “I take it you and Sean haven’t kissed and made up.”
My mouth dropped open for just a brief second before I managed to pick it up off the floor.
“Oh my God, how in the hell could you possibly know that,” I all but shrieked. “Let me guess. My mother decided to advertise it on every available billboard from here to Timbuktu?”
He smiled. “I never divulge my sources.”
I gave him a narrowed eye look as I bit my lip before asking, “Is this an ‘if-I-told-you-I’d-have-to-kill-you’ type of source?”
He gave me a wicked smile. “I wouldn’t kill you per say, but you would have to be pretty damn…persuasive.”
I almost swallowed my tongue.
Convincing myself that it was the combination of lights and shadows that made his eyes appear to darken, I tried to act unaffected by his well implied comment. Of course, I’m not that good of an actress so pretending I wasn’t seriously considering taking him up on that challenge right now required a level of acting I would never achieve in a thousand years. And since my brain was barely firing on two cylinders right now, I couldn’t think of any sexy or witty comebacks, so instead I bit my lip in self-preservation because in all likelihood I would end up saying something completely embarrassing or self-incriminating.
“Have you talked to him?” Kade asked.
I gave him a suspicious look. “Why?”
He shrugged. “Curious.”
I gave him another squinty eyed looked before responding.
“No,” I said, “I haven’t seen or spoken to him since the hospital.”
There was a brief flutter of something on his face, but it was gone faster than it appeared so I couldn’t determine what that very brief moment of unguardedness meant.
“I hope he’s not staying away of because of me,” he said with a forced grin.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
The topic of Sean was still a very sore subject, and not just for me but for the whole Walker clan who was in utter disbelief that I could be such a moron and break up with him. I was still getting angry calls and texts about it.
Kade must have picked up on my unease of the subject because he suddenly ventured into safer territory.
“Your place looks good,” he said as he looked around. “Hardly any indication of what happened here two weeks ago.”
I was still battling some of the demons from that morning. It was still unsettling to think about someone going through my things for reasons unknown. Since nothing had been taken, I was leaning toward some sort of hidden agenda that I apparently didn’t understand. Either way, the situation had been made worse by the mere fact I was attacked as well. As much as I hated to admit it, Sean had been right. I had been damned fortunate that whoever decided cracking open my skull was the best course of action hadn’t done a hell of a lot worse.
I shuddered at the thought.
“You’re safe Princess,” Kade said quietly, reading my thoughts.
I swallowed past the lump in my throat and nodded softly.
“Hey,” he said, grabbing my attention.
I looked up at him, wrapping myself tighter in the blanket.
“I always mean what I say. You’re safe. Trust me.”
His words gave me some measure of comfort, more than they should have, but reality was that my little bubble had been burst and I now knew that the bogeyman really existed.
In the little time we had spent together, I realized without even knowing why, I could trust Kade. The why of it was beyond me and maybe it was something I would never understand. I mean really, why did I trust him? Maybe because he took care of me when I needed help? Maybe because he had kept watch over me in the lobby and the hospital? Maybe it was because strangely I had just witnessed him protecting someone, even when doing so required him to harm another’s physical wellbeing?
Danger flowed off of Kade even when he was settled back and relaxed. It didn’t take a genius to see that he was someone you wanted fighting for you, not against you. He wasn’t the type to be crossed, and if he was, it wasn’t likely people would ever make that mistake again. But even so, he wasn’t a fortunate teller so he really couldn’t guarantee me that the bogeyman wouldn’t darken my doorstep again.
“How can you be so sure that whoever did this isn’t coming back? Is that complete speculation or did your crystal ball tell you?” I asked.
He shrugged, as a small smile pulled on the corner of his mouth. “I don’t need a crystal ball to know that whoever was responsible isn’t stupid enough to try again. Most of the damage was superficial so it wasn’t a simple smash and grab. They were looking for something specific.”
How in the hell did he know what my apartment looked like after the break in? There wasn’t any feasible excuse I could come up with as to how he would know how bad the damage had or hadn’t been. Only the people who had actually been inside my apartment after the attack could have known the extent of what was done. Did that mean that Kade had been in my apartment after I was attacked? Possibly before?
Of course, as was typical with me, my silent thoughts managed to verbalize themselves before my brain caught up with my mouth.
“When were you in my apartment?” I asked in disbelief.
There was a brief pause as he watched my reaction to his comment. I couldn’t tell if what I said was amusing to him or offensive. I hadn’t meant to just blurt it out. To my own ears it sounded accusing, especially after everything Sean said that day in the hospital when I had adamantly defended Kade against his accusations.
“I didn’t mean...I wasn’t trying to imply…I just…,” I said before clamping my lips shut and face palming. Self-preservation said I needed to keep my mouth shut because nothing good ever came out of me speaking.
There was a brief moment of silence as I willed myself to disappear.
The low rumble of his laugh finally caused me to look up.
I had expected to see anger, annoyance, hurt, or all of the above after what I so rudely asked, so I was more than mildly surprised when he responded by laughing.
He sat forward, bracing his elbows on his knees.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, though I had a deep suspicion the answer was me.
“You,” he said simply.
Told you so.
“What about me?” I asked stupidly.
He gave me another casual shrug as he looked around the room slowly. The calculating look in his eye showed that he was methodically taking in the details of my apartment.
“A shrug doesn’t exactly answer my question,” I retorted after a moment of silence.
His dark eyes locked onto my face and I stilled under the scrutiny. There was something about him that always radiated danger, probably because his eyes were dark, piercing and strangely hypnotic. It was also erotic and dangerous all at once and left me utterly confused.
But considering my personality and just how randomly my brain works anyways, I wasn’t going to let something as simple as eyes the color of chocolate sin derail me.
“I’m still waiting,” I said after he still didn’t reply.
He flashed me another seductive smile. “I have to admit, I think that’s what I like best about you, Princess,” he replied cryptically.
“And what would that be exactly?”
“The fact that you’re unfiltered.”
Unfiltered? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I asked out loud.
Ugh. If only I could get my mouth and my brain on the same wave length at times. Think it! Don’t speak it!
He stood up suddenly, and freakishly graceful I may add, and walked over to the living room window that looked down over the parking lot. He moved the curtain back slightly and stood off to the side. He remained quiet and perfectly still as he watched below.
After two minutes of this, I began to worry that he had checked out on me.
“Hello? Earth to Kade. I believe you were in the process of insulting me. Care to finish the thought?” I asked slightly annoyed.
Seriously? The guy shows up at my door at two in the morning, says he likes the fact that I’m ‘unfiltered’, and then stares off into Narnia, completely forgetting that I’m even in the room. I will fully admit that the man was an unbelievable and dangerous sight to behold, and if I had half a brain, I would be enjoying the scenery instead of focusing on the fact that my ego had taken enough bruising over the past year without his assistance.
He didn’t respond, ignoring me again as he continued to silently watch through the window. The muscles under his dark t-shirt were coiled as if ready to spring. Something below had clearly captured his attention.
After a short time, he finally turned back to me, taking in my confused expression as he gave me another slow head to toe perusal that had my toes curling.
If I wasn’t insulted by the fact that he found me entertaining and ‘unfiltered’, I would be so turned on right now.
“It wasn’t an insult,” he said finally, picking up on the conversation as though there had not been this random five minute lull.
He didn’t move from where he stood, but instead leaned back against the wall casually, tucking his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.
How I wanted to be those jeans.
“Really,” I said, shaking myself out of my latest dirty fantasy. “Since when is calling someone ‘unfiltered’,” (yup, I busted out the air quotes), “considered a compliment?”
He studied my face for a brief second before pushing off from the wall and heading towards the kitchen that was off to the right. The floor plan was open so I could see him past the countertop that separated the two rooms.
He opened the fridge and started rifling through it as though he had done it a thousand times before, and grabbed two bottles of water.
At this point, I was downright curious about Kade Last Name Unknown. We had met only once before, under the worse of circumstances (at least for me), he had apparently seen the wreck in my apartment when I wasn’t around, and now he walked around as though he lived here. He seemed completely comfortable being here with me and it boggled my mind.
He set one of the water bottles down, pushing it toward the other side of the counter, then opened the other bottle and downed half in a just a few sips. Clearly the offering was an invite, but I found it all too weird that he wouldn’t bring it to me. It was as if he was luring me away from where I was sitting.
I mentally debated the pros and cons of squaring off with this guy. For one, I didn’t know anything about him other than he was sexy, but considering the amount of danger that oozed off him, I could be walking into some serious trouble, sex appeal notwithstanding; but on the flip side of that same coin, he did seem like a good guy considering the circumstances we had met under. For two, he knew my apartment as if he had been here before, which I honestly found a little unsettling since I had never once invited him in before tonight (and not even really tonight), but never having been in his apartment before, it could simply be because our layouts were similar or the same by architectural design. Three, his random visit in the middle of the night was out the realm of normal for the rest of the world, but for him it seemed perfectly natural, which added a whole new level of curiosity for me. And then of course was number four, which was the biggest reason to be leery: the confrontation I had just witnessed a few hours before where he broke a man’s wrist and got the girl. That should have been enough to tell me to steer clear, but yet he was here with me and not her.
Deciding to give in to curiosity (cause let’s face it, there really wasn’t any chance I wasn’t going to), I got up and walked over to the counter, grabbing the bottle of water and fidgeting with the cap.
“It was a compliment,” he replied matter of fact. “And not one that I can give many people.”
I took a sip of water, careful to avoid the hole in my lip that would eventually have water running down my chin and soaking into my shirt. I had already called enough attention to myself without adding wet t-shirt contestant to the list…again.
“Care to elaborate?” I asked, pulling out the barstool that had been pushed under the counter and plopping a seat.
He leaned forward, bracing both hands on the counter. He studied my face for a moment before finally replying.
“Nowadays people are so caught up in being politically correct that they tend to strategically and methodically script everything they’re going to say, even think, all in some misguided effort to avoid the potential for inadvertently offending someone. Personally I don’t have that problem, but then again, I’m not most people.” He shrugged and took a sip of water. “It’s nice to meet someone else who actually speaks their mind.”
“Oh,” I said, taking another sip of water.
He said nothing, but smiled at my obvious embarrassment.
“So, does speaking honestly mean the same as telling the truth?” I asked after a moment.
He raised a brow at my question. “Guess that depends on the questions being asked.”
Deciding to bite the bullet, I asked, “How did you know about Sean?”
He stood straight, taking another sip of water as he leaned his hip against the counter. “Depends. Do you want me to be unfiltered, or do you find that too insulting?”
I rolled my eyes, which earned me another laugh.
“Your friend Sam told me.”
Now that was an unexpected response.
When the hell had they spoken? I squelched down the flare of jealousy that suddenly bubbled up.
“I wasn’t aware the two knew each other,” I said bitterly.
He shrugged. “We don’t.”
“If you two don’t know each other, then why would she tell you about me and Sean?”
Another shrug. “Idle conversation I guess.”
“Really? Idle conversation? So the two of you just decided to hang out one night, and what? Ran out of things to talk about so you decided to chat it up about my personal business?”
His brow quirked at my tone, but I think he only did that because rolling his eyes would have been against his nature.
“Mostly,” he said. “But I also think she was hoping that something would happen between us once I knew you were available.”
“Geez,” I said in embarrassment. “Talk about overstepping the bounds of our friendship,” I mumbled as I took a drink of water.
Kade smiled as he watched me. “If you were anyone else, I would be offended by that.”
I rolled my eyes and smiled.
“How do you know I wasn’t trying to offend you?” I asked innocently, propping my chin in my hand. “After all Sam did miss one important little fact in her abysmal match making skills.”
“And what would that be?” he asked.
“You’re not my type.”
“Not your type?” He eyes seemed to light up at the challenge of my statement. “I happen to know for a fact that that isn’t true.”
“Really?” I asked nervously. I hoped he didn’t notice the uncertain quiver in my voice. “And how is that you magically seem to know the type of guys I’m attracted to?”
He leaned over the counter again, bracing himself on his forearms so that our faces were only inches apart.
“You don’t really want me to answer that do you?” he asked quietly.
We were close enough that his breath whispered over my face, and I inadvertently licked my lips. His eyes immediately darted to my lips and darkened.
“I…,” I started to say.
“Before you answer that, just remember I don’t believe in saying things to spare people’s feelings. And I’m sure as hell not the type to ignore the elephant in the room.”
Oh sweet mother of God…
I cleared my throat and downed some water, choking in the process.
“No need to talk about any elephants, real or otherwise,” I said between wheezes.
He smiled smugly. “That’s what I thought you’d say.”
I fidgeted with the water bottle, tearing at the paper label as I tried to think of way to get pass this completely uncomfortable and embarrassingly awkward moment. I mean really? Seriously? This guy was actually going to bring up the obvious fact I was attracted to him when I wasn’t really ready to admit it to myself?! Who does that? But wait…did that mean that there was a mutual elephant in the room? Was he attracted to me? The obvious signs pointed to yes, but I couldn’t be certain. I had just flashed the guy so what if he was just expecting a mutually beneficial roll in the hay with no commitments or expectations? Would I be willing to be a one night stand?
My traitorous body was screaming yes, while my common sense agreed.
“So…,” I replied as I cleared my throat, completely at a loss of what to say which was sadly not the first time since meeting him. Time to find a safer topic. “If you and Sam aren’t friends, what were you doing hanging out together?”
He pushed off the counter and stood, leaning against the counter behind him as he crossed both his arms and legs. He didn’t even try to mask the look of triumph on his face so clearly he had been trying to goad me into being honest about the sexual tension I was practically radiating. He expected I would chicken out.
“Not much to tell. It wasn’t anything special. We ran into each other when she showed up to clean your place, so I volunteered to help. Your door and locks were shit. Any idiot with a lock pick could get in here so I replaced them while she straightened up. She pretty much talked the entire time to fill the silence. You just happened to be her main topic of discussion.”
Great. Just what I needed. Sam spilling all of my embarrassing secrets to the hottest guy alive. And knowing Sam, she had let almost everything slip. The girl couldn’t deal with any kind of silence. Yes, I will admit I have my moments when I am actually tongue tied, but Sam took it to a whole new level.
“When are you going to ask,” Kade said suddenly.
I looked up at him in surprise. “Ask what?”
“Come on, Princess. There has been one burning question sitting on the tip of your tongue since I got here. Now my question is, when you are going to ask?”
He stood there watching me, that same smug look on his face that said he didn’t think I had it in me to ask him.
At this moment, I wanted nothing more than to be able to wipe that smug look right off his face.
“Okay. Fine,” I said with more confidence then I felt. “What happened downstairs?”
He shook his head slowly.
Did I get the question wrong?
“That’s not my business to tell,” he said quietly.
Not his business to tell? I just watched him break a man’s arm as if it were no big deal. That kind of had “his business” written all over it.
“You told me to ask. Why do I feel like I just failed some test?”
“It’s not a test. That just wasn’t the actual question you’ve been wanting to ask.”
I looked at him in disbelief. “So suddenly you know what I’m thinking?”
He cocked his head to the side in a silent challenge. His smugness about being right was really starting to irk me.
“Out of curiosity?” I asked “is this how most of your conversations tend to go? With you being three steps ahead?”
He shrugged. “Usually.”
I rolled my eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. Clearly he was finding me amusing, and amusing isn’t how you want to be perceived by a dangerously sexy guy.
“I’m so glad I can be of amusement to you,” I said with an exaggerated smile.
He didn’t say anything, but it wasn’t hard to tell he was waiting for me to put on my big girl panties and finally address the elephant in the room.
“Fine,” I said, throwing my hands up in defeat.
I bit my lip for a moment, really debating the merits of asking the question I had been most curious about since opening my door to him a few minutes ago. Maybe it was the way he was pushing me, or maybe it was the way he was watching me, but something about him had me hesitating.
“What is it that you want?” I asked. “I mean, I haven’t seen you since the hospital two weeks ago and suddenly you show up here in the middle of the night after two weeks of complete radio silence. Naturally I’m wondering what you’re doing here.”
And just like that, that proverbial light bulb finally went off over my head. Better late than never, I guess.
I shook my head and laughed bitterly.
“But I guess the answer to that should be pretty obvious, shouldn’t it? You want to know if I’m going to report what I saw. I assume assaulting a man is the type of conversation you would rather not have with the police.”
Wow. I am an idiot. Of course that was why he was here. I hadn’t seen him in weeks and the one time we see each other is under very intense circumstances and then suddenly he’s here being all questionable and dangerous. (And sexy, but I think that’s always implied at this point.)
I chewed my lip for a second, hoping he would jump in and tell me my train of thought was all wrong. When he didn’t, I did everything I could to stop myself from crying like some love stricken high school girl.
I cleared my throat. “I’m not going to tell anyone about what I saw, if that’s what you’re worried about. Whatever your little love triangle issue was about is none of my business. Based on what I saw, the jerk deserved it anyways.”
“Good to know,” he said quietly. “It isn’t your business and I’m not a fan of people sticking their noses where they don’t belong.”
Ouch. Slapping me would have been less painful then his reprimand.
“But, no,” he continued quietly, “that’s not why I’m here.”
Bullshit! I am not a firm believer of coincidences so Kade suddenly showing up just hours after his little drama in the lobby was way more than he was trying to let on. He hadn’t tried to talk to me in weeks, so I really wasn’t buying the whole I-just-happened-to-be-in-the-neighborhood-after-you-witnessed-me-breaking-a-guys-arm excuse.
“Okay, fine. Then what are you doing here? And please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me it’s because you were suddenly concerned about my wellbeing or that suddenly you had the urgent need to borrow a cup of sugar.”
He didn’t answer right away, but watched me with a guarded, almost blank, expression.
Since I’ve never been one to do well with awkward silence, I kept talking, hoping that at some point he would jump in just to shut me up. I had a lot of pent up feelings and reactions to him that were starting to get the better of me, and he had picked the wrong night to suddenly decide to make his grand entrance again.
“You know,” I continued, “I didn’t even think you remembered me.”
“And truthfully,” I said, taking a deep breath, “I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t witnessed what I did, you wouldn’t be here right now. I’m not a total moron you know. I know you didn’t just suddenly have an overwhelming urge to chit chat in the middle of the night.”
I sighed heavily. “It’s late. I’m tired. And honestly, I’m not in the mood for bullshit. If you came here to find out how much I saw or to see whether or not I’m going to report it, I already told you, I’m not.”
He studied me a moment longer before shaking his head slowly.
“That’s not why,” he said.
“Then why?” I asked quietly.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet?”
“My brain barely functions at full capacity after eight hours of sleep. You can’t really have that same expectation in the middle of the night.”
He shook his head, and stood straight as he came back over to the counter where I was practically sprawled across it and braced his hands on the countertop.
“I like you Addison,” he said simply.
Color me dumbstruck. Had I hoped he would say something like this? Hell yes! Did I think he actually would? Big fat not-a-chance.
Butterflies were suddenly fluttering around in my stomach.
I tried to speak, but the words were stuck in my throat. For the first time in my life, I was rendered speechless.
Fortunate, or unfortunately as it turned out, Kade was not suffering such a loss.
“But nothing can ever come of it,” he said, as his eyes locked onto mine. “I’m not the type of person you should be around.”
The butterflies suddenly crashed landed
“You saw what happened earlier,” he continued. “That was just a very small extension of who I am. Of who I’m capable of being.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked in a quiet, and shamefully hurt little voice.
“I want to make sure you don’t have the wrong impression of who I am.”
“And what impression is that?” I asked sadly.
“The mistaken impression that I’m one of the good guys.”