“I’m up here.” Somehow she’d composed herself and was able to look up at him without breaking down again. She suspected that she still looked like she’d been crying, but couldn’t muster the energy to care.
“Waiting for me?” Paul opened the door and leaned against the frame, studying her with an all too-familiar expression.
Oh God, not tonight. “I’m glad you’re home early,” she lied, forcing a smile and sinking deeper into the water. “I just finished and was about to go to bed.”
Instantly, Paul was before her with a towel. “Let me help you.”
“Thank you,” Rory stepped out of the tub and submitted to his touch, allowing him to towel-dry her, forcing herself not to cringe. She kept her eyes averted, unwilling to find out whether or not he’d removed the stray blonde hairs on his collar this time. “They found Julie’s body today.”
“Yeah, I saw all your stuff in the dining room. You know, that’s not exactly a room for paperwork. You do have an office, remember. You’re cleaning that all up tonight so it’s not in my way for breakfast tomorrow, right?”
“A good plastic surgeon could get rid of that scar for good.”
“You’re just about perfect otherwise, you know that?”
She ignored his statement; the last thing she wanted to talk about was how her leg was ruining his life. “Can I have my robe, please? I want to go get those papers organized for you.”
As he handed her the robe, he caught sight of her bra. “You ought to wear your red one, baby, it’s so much sexier than this old thing,” Paul was holding it now, examining it. “Don’t you want me to like what I see?” He tossed it onto the sink and circled her, studying her body critically.
As Rory pulled on her robe and knotted the sash tightly, she considered telling him that she didn’t want him to see her at all, but instead changed the subject. “I’m leaving early tomorrow morning, about seven, to do an interview for the magazine. It’s going to be my biggest interview to date. Something to be proud of.” He liked to brag. Perhaps this would get a positive reaction – and distract him from her body.
“You should’ve scheduled it for later, Aurora. You’ll miss breakfast.” He picked up her bra again, studying it. Then, as soon as it looked as if he were going to hand it to her, unharmed, he folded it. Twice. She kept silent as the underwire bent beyond repair. Only then did he give it to her, his expression daring her to react.
She didn’t. She knew better.
“I’m lucky he’s meeting with me at all,” she said, tucking it into her robe’s pocket, refusing to show the least amount of emotion over his deliberate act.
“Who is this guy?” He was blocking the doorway now; his arms crossed.
Swallowing sudden panic, Rory looked down and tugged at the knot of her robe, tightening it. “Her old boyfriend, Alexander Webster. You know, the lawyer.”
“Didn’t your mother want you to date him?” He watched her twisting the sash in her fingers, her eyes not quite meeting his as she weighed her answer. “Stop that and look at me,” he ordered.
She obeyed silently. Her face free of emotion and her hands still. He stood before her, only a few inches taller but still seeming to tower, his eyes drilling into her. “We agreed to make it a point to have breakfast together every morning. It’s a nice opportunity to spend time together before the day starts. Apparently, though, you aren’t that interested in that.” But he’d moved from the doorway, allowing her to pass. Expensive floral perfume assaulted her senses as she walked by him.
“You might be right, Paul.”
Audacity such as that had a price, however. Paul grabbed her arm and turned her to him. “Come on, baby, I didn’t mean it. Really. Look, do your interview. I’ll take you out to dinner when tax season ends. We’ll talk then about things when you have a chance to calm down.”
“Yes, of course,” she replied, lowering her eyes. His fingers tightened for a moment, then he released her. A light shove sent her stumbling backwards a step.
“Careful, honey. Don’t want to break anything.”
Hurrying down to the dining room, Rory rubbed her arm where Paul had held her, hoping that it hadn’t left another mark. Just get through this article before it kills you, too.