WELL ISN’T THAT just the question of the hour, the day...the century. He turns from me, and reaches into his cupboard. Even though I can’t see his face, I can still feel those dark brown eyes drilling into me like a fine-tuned laser. Disappointment radiates from his every pore, and I can’t say I blame him. But he’s not as innocent in all this as he might think. Back in the day, he said some pretty hateful things about me. I thought there was more between us. I thought he used to believe in me. He didn’t. Regardless, I should have been the bigger person and never should have let my father run with Cason’s original clothing app idea—although I’m not sure I ever could have stopped him. Anger and hurt made me act out and do something rash and reprehensible, something we can never come back from. I’m older now, wiser, but there is no undoing the damage that has been done. From here we can only go forward, and that direction does not include a future for us.
My stomach coils and I take a huge sip of wine. Cason spins back around, his fingers wrapped around the neck of the wine bottle, and I try hard not to think about the way those strong hands used to care for me. Back in college, he always walked me home, accompanied me to fundraising events, and would stay the night in my dorm room, holding me until I fell asleep. I’m still a terrible sleeper—especially in strange places. I used to think Cason was my knight in shining armor and thought someday we’d ride off into the sunset together. But that stupid romantic image isn’t helping this situation, so I bury it as he grips the wine bottle and arches a questioning brow.
I give a resigned nod. “Yes, thank you.”
“You’re staying, then,” he says, a statement, not a question.
Of course I’m staying. If I left now, I’d lose all that money.
Is staying really about the money, Londyn?
If only it were. An unguarded groan catches in my throat.
“Is there a problem?” he asks as he refills our glasses and I hate him right now. How the hell can he be so damn unfazed by this situation when my insides are bouncing off
my abdomen like a wrestler bounces off the ropes in a prizewinning match.
Honest to God, I never in a million years thought I’d end up in his villa tonight. Yet here I sit, every goddamn emotion I had for him back in the day rising to the occasion and begging to be noticed. Back at the club, it’s no wonder his voice—muffled or not—elicited tingles in my body.
“No, no problem at all,” I lie and fiddle with my wineglass. I look past his shoulders, check out the ingredients on the counter. “Is there anything I can do?”
“You could get started on pressing my pants,” he says, and I’m about to toss my glass at him until I catch the twitch in his lips. Okay, so maybe he’s not as calm and collected as he’s pretending to be, and maybe he’s using humor to hide the insanity of all this.
“If you don’t need them ironed this very moment, perhaps I can do them later.” I hold up my glass. “Wine and ironing don’t mix.”
“Toss in your dislike of me, and I don’t want to be anywhere near that fiasco waiting to happen.”
A humorless laugh catches in my throat. “You probably don’t,” I say, even though I don’t dislike him. Quite the opposite, really.
He laughs at that, and the sound skitters down my spine, and settles deep between my legs. My God, no man, and I mean no man ever stirred my body from a simple laugh.
Imagine what his touch would do.
Another sound crawls out of my throat and Cason arches a brow. Okay, I seriously need to get myself together, and contrary to what Jennie and I talked about at the club, no way am I going to sleep with my host, no matter how young and hot he is. Despite our fun and easy banter, I’m sure the only thing Cason wants from me is vengeance.
“I thought I could help cut the onions,” I say, wanting his focus off my face before I reveal what I’m feeling. He does not need to know what his mere presence is doing to my body.
“You cook now, do you?” he asks and drops pasta into a boiling pot.
I shrug and push off the counter. “Not as good as you, but I try.”
He pulls a big knife out of the drawer. “Have at it, then.”
My hand touches his as I take the knife into my palm and a needy little gasp catches in my throat as his warmth penetrates my skin.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I weigh the knife, “This is just big in my hand.”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, my gaze drops to his zipper, seeking out something else that might be big in my hand. His chuckle curls around me, and I throw up a silent prayer. Dear ground, please open up and swallow me whole. I didn’t mean for those words to come out sounding so sexual, and why the hell did I look at his crotch? Tonight is just getting better and better.
“I just mean—”
“Here,” he says, handing me a smaller knife and wood cutting board. “This might work better in your small hand.”