She was an idiot. The evidence was clear and undisputable. This was bad. She needed to get out of here. Home was where she should be, not here, not with him, and not under these circumstances. She had to leave before she embarrassed herself any more.
Why did she do that? Alright, so she was a little envious of Belinda, and how that giant of a man clearly idolised her, but that didn’t justify this. It didn’t excuse her behaviour. This was worse than bad. She’d ignored all her own warnings and had fornicated like a desperate wild woman with an intoxicated man. This wasn’t her. She didn’t do one-night stands, or seduce men, or poach from another woman, and yet last night she’d become someone else. She’d not only had sex with the man, she’d done it so shamelessly, so many times, with him. Nine times? She hadn’t been counting but she didn’t think it had been nine.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. She didn’t want to admit it, but she knew why she’d ended up here, like this, with him. She knew that she had a problem the moment he’d showed up on her doorstep with Belinda’s man. She’d bluffed her way through that visit, but that didn’t mean that she could ignore him when he was sitting right next to her. She should have resisted him. She should have made an excuse to leave and escaped. But he’d spoken her name and that was enough, she was hooked and everything that followed was inevitable.
He was just like chocolate, and not just because his skin was the same colour as Belgian truffles, rich, brown and smooth. Before she’d even touched him, she knew that she’d never be able to stop at one small bite. Her willpower dissolved with his intense eyes, her resistance vanished with his velvet touch and her resolve was gone with his decadent kisses. She’d tasted him, breathed him in, and consumed all of him. There was no holding back. He was pure indulgence. She gorged herself on him repetitively and he’d encouraged her. Addictive, consuming, and, like fine chocolate, he’d filled her with endorphins. Even now, she still craved him.
She needed to leave. She had to go home before she gave into that man once more. The bath had done its job and, although she still felt tender, she didn’t hurt enough not to want him. It didn’t help that he looked at her like he did, offered to give her what she wanted and seemed to be allergic to any form of clothing. If she didn’t leave here, she might forget why she shouldn’t again. She needed to make it to the safety of her house, he wouldn’t follow, their one-night stand would be over, and he wouldn’t tempt her further. She could go back to being herself.
She knew that he’d asked her to wait, that he’d promised to drive her home, but she couldn’t do that. While he was showering, she found her jeans in the dryer, they were only a little damp, then she rummaged through his cupboard. In it she found an old jacket that was blue denim, came down below her hips and she could wrap around herself so that it was double thickness at the front. She scribbled a note and picked up her wallet while she pulled on her work boots.
She closed the front door as silently as she could then took the elevator. She had a good idea where she was, after all, she wasn’t drunk last night. She didn’t drink. She couldn’t afford it, so the drinks were offered she’d refused, knowing that she’d not be able to shout a round when it was her turn. She’d only had one cocktail that Belinda gave her, but that was enough to make her a little tipsy.
She knew that he’d assumed that she was as drunk as he was. She didn’t want to correct that misconception and had done her best to act like someone who couldn’t remember every intimate detail of what they’d done. Being sober implied that she’d purposely seduced him, bashed him over the head with her metaphoric frypan, dragged him home, and taken advantage of him. This might be true, but she didn’t want him knowing that.
Luckily, the doorman was busy and didn’t notice her as she completed her walk of shame out of the building. There was a taxi about to leave so she jumped in the back and gave the driver her address as he merged with traffic. He baulked, of course, no taxi wanted to drive all the way to Trenton. But when she pulled the wad of bills that Belinda had given her out of her wallet, the driver had reluctantly agreed to the amount she’d offered. He should of, it was almost double the one-way trip, but she was desperate and didn’t need to be kicked out of the taxi in this cold.
Pretty Boy’s words haunted her. Despite having the coat and her arms wrapped around her, she could feel her breasts move every time the car went over a bump. She hunched herself over as she watched the rear-view mirror and wondered if the driver was hitting the potholes on purpose. If she’d waited for him, then she wouldn’t have had this humiliation. But that wasn’t the only discomfort she’d caused by running away. Her damp jeans were alright in his warm apartment, but out in the freezing winter air, the wet fabric was working on chilling her to the bone. She could feel their cold weight seeping through to her kidneys. His car would have been warm, and her jeans would have finished their cycle in the dyer.
She felt a wash of relief when the cab turned into her street. She busied herself readying the payment, so she was out of the cab as soon as it stopped outside her house. She pulled the jacket tight, but her jaw was jittering, and she was shivering with the chill. All she needed was to get her heating working while she had a hot shower to warm up.
She kept her head down as she pushed herself up the front steps and collided with a wall. Who had put a solid wall at the top of the steps? She was unbalanced and moving in the wrong direction. Her arms were still securing her jacket. In that moment, she knew she was falling and that she would hit the sidewalk before her arms could unwrap themselves from her waist. Her head was going to collide with the concrete pavement and there was nothing she could do about it. She couldn’t stop this. She couldn’t save herself. This was going to hurt.
The small scream had only just left her lips when the steel bands snaked around her waist and pulled her in the opposite direction. She opened her eyes and blinked at the wall that she’d hit, that had saved her, and that was holding her with a tight grip. That wall was a man and that man looked angry.
“Do you hate me that much?” Drew growled at her but didn’t let her go.
“I need,” she couldn’t form a full sentence, her teeth were chattering, “Inside. Warm.”
“And I needed you to wait for me,” his jaw was clenched, “You told me that you wouldn’t leave.”
“Inside,” her jaw couldn’t cope with saying more than one word.
“Even if you can’t stand me,” he growled, “Jay and Belinda are people I care about. Do you have any idea what they would have done to me if anything had happened to you? Belinda would have had my balls and Jay would have happily held me down.”
“Sorry,” she closed her eyes. She hoped he didn’t let go of her, she wasn’t sure she could stand on her feet.
“But that wouldn’t even matter, because I’d be completely messed up,” his breathing was laboured like he’d been running, “I’d have to hunt the bastard down, cut his junk from his body, and make him choke on it. I can’t believe you got into a taxi wearing this? Did you not listen to me? Did you think I was joking?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
“You are never to do that again, do you understand?” he growled but then he stopped and there was a second of silence, “Sorry? Did you just say sorry?”
“Sorry,” she repeated herself because she wasn’t sure what he was asking.
“What?” his arms and hands moved so that he was holding her at arm’s length.
“Sorry,” she couldn’t stop saying the word.
“Hell, you’re blue,” he pulled her close, “How did you get so cold?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she held out the house keys, her hand shaking.
He swore again, but this time didn’t waste time asking questions. He grabbed the keys off her and, while holding her upright, opened the door and swung her inside. Then he dragged her to the tiny bathroom, turned on the hot water and started undressing her.
“Don’t fight me Jen,” he growled when she tried to swat away his hands, “I can either throw you in the shower or I’m taking you to bed and using my body heat to warm you. I figure that we’ll try the shower first.”
She let him pull off her clothing and, when she was naked, he helped her into the shower. He didn’t leave the bathroom but waited while the hot water rained down on her. She could tell he was still angry, but she didn’t care, not while the heat was seeping into her muscles. He made the bathroom look tiny, his shoulders matched the width and she doubted that he’d be able to turn around without knock something over. She suspected that the only reason he hadn’t joined her in the shower was the fact that doing so would be physically impossible.
He had the towels ready for her when the water went cold. He wrapped her up, drying her as he took her to her bed.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he climbed in after her and held her to him.
“I’m angry as hell with you,” he held her against his chest, “If you’d waited and let me drive you home then, when you slammed the front door in my face, there wouldn’t be much I could do about it. But you didn’t, so now there’s nothing you can do about this.”
She wanted to tell him that if he’d driven her home, she probably wouldn’t have shut the door on him, but she buried her face in his chest instead. He was still dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved thick cotton shirt. She closed her eyes as she wondered why he’d left his clothes on. His body radiated heat and she couldn’t help but wrap herself around him.
“Jen?” his voice was pained like something was hurting him.
She wanted to ask what was wrong, but the lack of sleep was catching up on her. Her eyelids felt heavy and she drifted to sleep in his arms.
It was first light when she woke. It took her several minutes to work out where she was. It looked like her room but the body that was all over her like an octopus wasn’t part of her furniture. She was about to untangle herself when the alarm went off. The brown body with the long limbs, sprang aside, almost falling off the bed, to the sound of the chiming siren that too loud to ignore.
“What the hell?” he asked in a sleep laden voice, “I didn’t touch her, I swear.”
“Morning, Pretty Boy,” she looked at him, the covers skewed to show him shirt-less but still in his jeans, hands up, balancing on the edge of the mattress.
“Not fair, I was dreaming,” his body wasn’t fully awake but the thing in his pants was alert. He groaned as the lights came on in his eyes and he shuffled back under the covers and tried to recapture her in his arms.
“Dreaming?” she laughed as she avoided him by getting up, the blankets wrapped around her, and leaving him sprawled and spread eagle on the empty bed, “I can guess what you were dreaming about. Was she blonde?”
“Hmm,” he smiled with his eyes closed, “Blonde, five-foot-nothing, and hot as hell. Come back here and I’ll show you my dream.”
“Yeah, right, like I’m going to believe that.”
“The evidence is right here,” he smirked his eyes still closed, “I’d be happy to show it to you.”
“Why are you still here?” she frowned as she tried to ignore his innuendo, “Why didn’t you go home?”
“Have you forgotten?” he lifted an eyebrow his eyes opened, and he looked at her sleepily, “I’m still angry, by the way. You acted irresponsibly and I’m furious with you.”
“Angry? Is that what you call it?” she jutted her head towards the rod in his jeans, then she cringed, she wasn’t supposed to be flirting.
“I’ll call it anything you want,” he looked her up and down, “But just because my body wants to sink itself into you, that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgiven you for ditching me.”
“I didn’t,” she stopped herself. How could she explain that she had to leave because she wanted him, if she admitted that to him, he’d know that she was dying to pounce on him now and forget everything but the feel of his skin against hers.
“You didn’t, what?” he looked lazily at her, “You didn’t lie to me? You didn’t drive me insane with worry? You didn’t cause me to run down the street in a panic? You didn’t make me drive like a lunatic looking for you? You didn’t have me imagining every possible nightmare scenario? What didn’t you do?”
“I didn’t think,” she whispered.
“I wasn’t fooling around when I said that I take my responsibilities seriously,” he said in a soft serious voice, “I was very worried.”
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
“I won’t forgive you that easily,” his lips curled into a cheeky grin, “Although if you peel these jeans off me and let me show you what I was dreaming about, then I might think about pardoning you.”
“That’s generous of you,” she rolled her eyes, “But seriously, why are you still here?”
“Because you are my responsibility,” he stretched and rotated his shoulders, “And you needed me last night. You were sick. I wasn’t going to leave you.”
“I’m not your responsibility,” she frowned, “I’m home safely. You don’t need to worry about me. A one-night-stand implies only one night.”
“I don’t do one-night-stands,” he shrugged and lifted himself up on his elbows, “I’m more the hot-steamy-relationship type. How about you?”
“What do you mean?” she glared at him, “Of course, you do one-night-stands! I mean, look at you, it’s what hot guys do.”
“You think I’m hot,” he smirked, “Thanks, but I’m not that type of guy. I like to know the women I sleep with.”
“You don’t know me,” the words slipped out of her mouth.
“That’s not entirely true,” he looked at her seriously, “But you are right, I don’t know you as well as I want to know you. And that is something I’m planning on fixing. If you’re willing to let me.”
“This wasn’t meant,” she stuttered, “I’m not in a position. I thought. This wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“Slow down,” he smiled, “I’m guessing that you don’t do one-night-stands either.”
“I don’t do, full-stop,” she turned away from him.
“What does that mean?” he swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat there looking at her.
“It means that I don’t do any of this,” she fumbled with a drawer as she pulled out some clothing, “I don’t know what you expect from me. But I don’t date or do anything ‘else’.”
“Else? Are you trying to tell me that you don’t have sex?” he didn’t take his eyes off her. He reminded her of a cat with its prey lined up, “When was the last time you slept with a man?”
“Last night,” she whispered.
“When was the last time you had sex with a man who wasn’t me?” he corrected without apology.
“Oh,” she lifted her head and looked into the distance before answering, “It was six years ago, more or less. But calling Troy Wright a ‘man’ might be an exaggeration.”
“You haven’t had sex in six years?” he sounded horrified then he cursed under his breath, “Troy Wright? Why? What was wrong with him?”
“I have to go,” she muttered at the pile of clothing in her hands.
“Don’t go,” he was off the bed and he reached out and balanced a hand on her shoulder, “I didn’t mean to interrogate you. I was just surprised.”
“Can we not talk about this,” she didn’t look at him. “I’ve got to go to work.”
“Work? Are you well enough?” he was standing behind her but wasn’t touching her, “You were blue yesterday, I think you had hypothermia. You should stay home in bed today.”
“I can’t stay home,” she said the words too quickly. She took a breath, calmed herself before turning to him and adding, “I’m fine this morning. Thanks for helping me, I do appreciate it, but you don’t need to be here. I don’t mind if you leave.”
“Jen,” he sighed a long breath, “I know that I’m not your most favourite person in the world, but I don’t want this to end. I want to see you again. Will you give me a chance to prove that we work together? I don’t want to leave.”
“I’m going to be late for work,” she stuttered the words. She pulled herself free of him and disappeared into the bathroom.
Why? What? Really? Her thoughts were in a tumble dryer. What was he asking for? See her again, what did that mean? Did he want to date? Did he just want to sleep with her? She didn’t know.
“I’m taking that as a ‘yes’,” he said through the bathroom door.
With the door locked, she stood on the other side staring at it. How was she supposed to respond to that? He was hot and could have any woman he wanted. There was no way he wanted her. That didn’t make sense.
Closing her eyes, she counted to ten as she pushed away the panic. He was joking. There was no way he was serious. It was just his warped sense of humour. She didn’t have time for this. She was going to be late.
Opening her eyes, she decided that ignoring him was the best method of dealing with this. She threw on her clothing and got ready for work. He was sitting on the bed dressed waiting for her. His eyes followed her movements, but he didn’t say anything more on the subject.
“I have to go,” she rubbed her palms on her heavy canvas trousers and dropped her eyes from him.
He looked so good with the first light on his skin. His hair was clipped so short that it was no more than a hint of black, his face was masculine with strong defined features, from the ridged cheek bones, deep dimples, wide mouth, and square jawline. Although his eyes looked black in this light, she knew that when the sun hit them, they were a rich brown that complemented his skin tone. He was Drew Miller. He dated models and pop-stars. He wasn’t the type of guy who would be interested in Jennifer Palmer.