Broken flirt new adult r.., p.15

Broken: Flirt New Adult Romance, page 15

 

Broken: Flirt New Adult Romance
 


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  Those damned tight yoga pants girls like to wear are tempting enough when they’re not actually doing yoga. But when her butt’s in the air all tight and cute?

  Shit. By the time she contorts herself into something that’s basically her grabbing her ankles, I’m fucking sweating.

  Is there a yoga position that involves her beneath me, hands pinned above her head, clothing optional? Because then I might rethink her yoga offer. By the time she’s finished, I’m hard, even though I’ve been pretending to be adjusting the weights on one of the machines. She carefully ignores me. I ignore her right back as I move to refill my water bottle.

  She tucks her yoga mat under her arm and we move toward the door together.

  “So . . . ,” she says, her voice easy and sweet. Too sweet. I instantly go on guard as I hold the gym door open for her. Here it comes. Whatever she’s been working up to is finally coming to light.

  “Any nightmares lately?” she asks.

  I tense even further. “Nope.”

  That’s a lie, and I can tell immediately that she knows it. Her lips flatten a little in disappointment that I don’t confide further, but what the hell does she expect? That she just has to wiggle her butt around and badger me into exercising and I’ll suddenly go all “Dear Diary” on her?

  She recovers quickly. “Okay. Next question. Why’d you say that thing about Ethan when your dad was here?”

  I almost choke on my water. Talk about a subject change.

  “I’m an ass,” I say, glancing briefly at her profile.

  “Finally, a true statement,” she says as we get closer to the house.

  She’s probably waiting for an apology, but I’m not really in the mood.

  Olivia doesn’t ask anything more, but I’m still tense, certain that I’m missing something. Two unrelated questions delivered back to back, but with no push for a real answer? It’s all very un-female—very un-Olivia. What the hell is she up to this time?

  Once inside the main house, she immediately starts up the stairs. Still lost in thought, I start to follow her up, my eyes still sort of checking out her ass, because, you know, yoga pants. That and more than two years of celibacy. My dad knew exactly what he was doing, sending a twentysomething in here for my “recovery.”

  Olivia turns around abruptly, and I’m caught staring, but I don’t really care. She’s a step in front of me, so I’m looking up at her, and I lift my eyebrows in question, bracing.

  Here it comes. Her trump card.

  “Hey, I just realized something,” she says.

  I roll my eyes. Sure you did. “Okay?”

  Her eyes sparkle in triumph. “Your cane. You left it in the gym.”

  Her casual observation has me taking a full step backward on the stairs. She’s right. What. The. Hell.

  I stand there long after she’s skipped up the steps. I’m unable to move. Almost unable to breathe.

  She’s right. I walked the entire way, not only without my cane but without even realizing I didn’t have my cane.

  The thought should elate me, but I can’t shake the dark sense of foreboding. No matter where I look, my walls are crumbling, and this damned girl keeps presenting me the most dangerous element of all.

  Hope.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  Olivia

  On some level, I guess I must be bracing for his nightmares. My bedroom is on the same floor as Paul’s but not exactly next door, so I’m not sure I’d hear his shouts through two closed doors if I wasn’t listening for them.

  But I am listening for them.

  I’ve heard them the past couple of nights too, but things have been so weird between us that I knew my presence was the last thing that would be of comfort to him.

  Tonight, however, instinct leads me in a different direction. It leads me straight to Paul.

  My feet are on the floor the second I hear his first cry. Knowing that he sleeps almost naked, this time I grab my robe and pull it over my boxers and tank top, knotting the belt as I move down the hall.

  I hesitate outside his door, torn between wanting to allow him privacy and give him comfort. God knows that the last time I went barging in there in the middle of the night, it didn’t exactly end well for my pride.

  I hear a low moan.

  Then “Alex. Alex, no . . .”

  Screw it. He needs me.

  The sheets are down around his waist, and there’s just enough light to make out that he’s definitely shirtless. Oh boy.

  I take a deep breath and move toward the bed. One arm is flung up over his head, the other fisted at his side as his fingers flex against the bedding.

  Moving slowly, I reach for his hand, taking it in mine as I sit beside the bed. I feel a little silly. The whole thing is very Florence Nightingale, but the need to comfort is almost overwhelming.

  He makes another moaning noise.

  Do I wake him? I did that last time, and he flipped his shit. But letting him stay in whatever hell his sleeping mind’s taken him seems cruel.

  “Paul.”

  He twitches.

  “Paul.” Louder this time.

  He stills, but his body’s still rigid.

  Gently I put a hand against his shoulder, trying to shut out the shock waves that go through me at the contact of skin on skin. It’s just a shoulder, Olivia.

  “Wake up,” I say softly.

  He’s stopped crying out, but his breathing is harsh and ragged.

  “Paul!” I shake him now.

  His eyes fly open, and he lies perfectly still.

  I stay still too, letting him get his bearings. I wait for the tension to ease and his breathing to become more regular, but it’s almost as though the air becomes electric as he realizes my presence.

  His eyes meet mine, and the mood goes from tense to intoxicating.

  “This better still be part of my dream,” he says, his voice raspy.

  I shake my head, afraid that if I talk, I’ll break the moment. That he’ll go ballistic like he did last time, drinking booze like it’s going out of style and doling out bruising kisses like they’re punishments.

  If he kisses me tonight, I don’t want it to be about pushing me away. I want it to be about bringing me closer.

  I don’t know who moves first. One second I’m trying so hard not to look at his mouth, working up the courage to ask him about his dream, and the next second I’m beneath him.

  I should be shocked, but I’m not. I think I knew as soon as I left the safety of my bedroom that I would somehow end up here, on Paul Langdon’s rumpled bed with him braced above me.

  His weight on his left arm, he uses his right hand to trace a line from my temple down around my ear. His finger continues its slow downward movement, skimming across my collarbone. He pauses when he reaches the edge of my robe.

  “You shouldn’t have come,” he whispers, his eyes following the slow motion of his finger.

  I swallow. “I heard you. You sounded . . .” Like you need me.

  He shakes his head once, as though to tell both of us that he doesn’t need anyone, but we both know better.

  I lie there, silent, wondering whether I dare to ask outright. Ever since that conversation with Lindy about how nobody had ever asked actually asked him point blank about what happened overseas, I’ve known that the time will come when I have to be the one to ask. He needs to talk about it; he’s just never been given the chance. Not really.

  But I have to move slowly. It’s been buried inside him for so long that prying will only result in him pushing me away. Just like he has with his father and anyone else who’s ever cared about him.

  Maybe now isn’t the time.

  Because tonight . . . tonight he doesn’t look like he wants to talk. And when he’s staring at me with hot, burning eyes, I don’t really want to talk either.

  Blue eyes ask the words that he won’t voice out loud. Do you want me?

  My answer is also wordless.

  But I make sure I’m very, very
clear about what I want.

  I slip my hand around the back of his neck, relishing the crispness of his ruthlessly short haircut against my palm.

  I tug his face downward. He’s already in motion.

  There’s no teasing this time as his lips quickly nudge mine open, his tongue sliding in to claim mine. I let out a tiny moan, wrapping both arms around his neck as he rolls more firmly on top of me, pressing me against the softness of the mattress.

  Our mouths move frantically, restlessly, as we struggle to get closer. One or both of us kicks the tangled sheet out of the way, and we both groan as his hips settle between my thighs.

  My robe is pointless now. It’s barely on my shoulders and the haphazardly tied knot is no match for the way our bodies seem determined to get as close as possible. The robe falls open.

  His hand finds my waist, caressing me slowly over the thin fabric of my shirt, and it’s harder to breathe. Paul shows a restraint I wouldn’t have expected, never touching where I need to be touched, only torturing me with lingering strokes on my hip, my waist.

  My own hands roam restlessly over his shoulders and the lines of his back, loving the way his muscles bunch and release as he moves over me.

  When his fingers finally slip beneath my shirt at the waist, my back arches in want, and his hand slides around so his palm is against the small of my back. His fingers are warm, and the simple touch feels anything but tame.

  “Jesus,” he mutters, his mouth sliding down to my neck. “Why do you feel so good?”

  I try to tell him that he feels good too—more than good—but his mouth is on mine again, and he kisses me in long, drugging kisses until I can barely think, much less speak.

  He moves his lower body, and my eyes fly open as I fully register what I’ve only been dimly aware of. Paul Langdon is hard and ready, and we are exactly two very thin layers away from crossing an earth-shattering line.

  And I want to cross it. I really, really want to sleep with Paul, even though it’s all kinds of screwed up given the fact that his father is paying me to be here in this house. I’m pretty sure that despite Paul’s crass words to his father that afternoon, Harry Langdon does not, in fact, want me to screw his son.

  But that’s not why my hands find his shoulders and push. I push him back for his own good. Not mine. “Paul.”

  “Olivia,” he whispers back, reverently, his lips skimming my cheekbone. My heart clenches. God, why do I have to be so fucked up?

  “Paul.” My voice is firmer, as are my hands on his shoulders. “We have to stop.”

  “Why?” His tongue flicks my collarbone and I nearly lose all resolve.

  “You know why,” I say.

  He rotates his hips just slightly and we both groan. “Actually, for the life of me, I can’t think of why I’d want to be anywhere else.”

  Because I’m not meant to be with anyone. Not like this. The last thing I want is to hurt this fragile soul the way I hurt Ethan. And unlike with Ethan, there will be no Stephanie to mend Paul’s heart.

  Paul lifts his head slightly, and the expression on his face veers so close to tender that I have to close my eyes to block it out.

  But closing my eyes is a mistake too, because now the only thing I can see is Ethan’s face when he walks into my room, the way he’s done a million times in the past. In this vision, though, I’m not alone. This time Michael is with me. This time Ethan doesn’t see the perfect girlfriend. He sees the cheating lover.

  Oh God.

  “Stop!” I dig my nails into Paul now. “Stop!”

  He pulls back immediately. Concern flickers across his face, and I see him reach for me.

  I jerk up into a sitting position and scoot away from him, and my heart sinks as I see him misinterpret my movement.

  His smile evaporates, and in its place is a cynical sneer. He thinks I’m rejecting him.

  “No,” I say, reaching out a hand. This time it’s Paul who backs away, and for a crazy second I almost want to laugh at how messed up we are. Two completely shattered souls doing a weird approach-and-recoil dance around each other.

  “Paul,” I say, grabbing his hand and waiting until he meets my eyes. “Whatever it is you’re thinking, you’re wrong.”

  “Sure.” He keeps his face averted, as though to hide his scars from me.

  Crap. This is why I shouldn’t let my hormones take hold of me. Every time I do, I do more damage than good.

  “It’s me, okay?” I say, releasing his hand and smoothing my tangled hair. “I’m the mess, not you.”

  He’s silent for several seconds, his gaze studying my face. I see the exact moment he realizes I’m telling the truth. The second he realizes that he’s not the only one with issues. That he’s not the only one in need of healing.

  “Well,” he says, his voice gentle, almost teasing, “that is true. You are a mess. Your hair looks like a nest, and I’m pretty sure your tank top is on inside out.”

  I give him an incredulous look, then glance down at my tank top. It looks fine to me, but it’s dark, and I didn’t have my hands all over it the way he did.

  “You also don’t look great in red,” he says, getting really into it now as he gestures to my robe. “Stick with pink.”

  I let out a horrified laugh. “Seriously?”

  He shrugs, although I think I see a hint of a smile.

  I lift my eyebrows. “Next time I decide to come save you from nightmare-land, I’ll be sure to wiggle into a cocktail dress and fix my hair.”

  He ignores this. “You know what doesn’t look good on me?” he says as he stretches out on his side.

  My eyes skim his bare torso. Clothes?

  He winks, as though to say he knows exactly what I’m thinking. I blush.

  “Blue balls. Blue balls don’t look good on me,” he responds.

  I can’t help it. I laugh a little. “Yeah. Sorry about that. Things got, um . . .”

  “Hot,” he finishes for me. “Things got hot as hell.”

  I meet his eyes. “Yes. They did.”

  “And we stopped because . . . ?”

  “Paul—”

  “Don’t,” he says on a groan. “I can already tell you’re not going to give me the real story about why you got scared, so just forget it.”

  I take a deep breath. “I’ll tell you my issues if you tell me what your dream is about.”

  His smile fades. “Don’t. Don’t act like our secrets are the same thing, or a fair trade.”

  I press past this. “Have you ever told anyone?”

  In answer he flops back onto his back, and I sigh, recognizing the signs of him shutting down.

  But he surprises me. “No.” His voice is quiet. “I’ve never told anyone.”

  “You’ll feel better if you talk about it.”

  He turns his head toward me. “So I’ll feel better if I talk about my bullshit, but you get to keep your issues locked in the vault?”

  I open my mouth to argue, but he has a point. “My issues are fresher,” I respond finally.

  He snorts. “Well, take it from someone whose issues have been left on the shelf too long. The longer they rot, the more important it becomes that you keep the lid on.”

  I feel a little burst of gratification. He’s not exactly opening up, but neither is he tensing up when I get close to touchy topics. And although I’m desperate to keep pressing, I figure it’s better to quit while I’m ahead. I need to draw him out slowly.

  So instead of going all shrink-mode on him like I want to, I give him a little smile and start to move toward the edge of the bed. I need to get out of this room before we make a mistake.

  His hand touches my knee and I freeze, because the touch is gentle and pleading.

  I raise my eyebrows questioningly, but he looks away, pulling back before he can say whatever he’s trying to. I take a guess.

  “You don’t want to go back to sleep?” I ask, knowing that asking a twenty-four-year-old guy if he’s afraid of bad dreams is likely to earn m
e the middle finger.

  Paul doesn’t answer. Not with words. But when his eyes meet mine, I know. He doesn’t want to be alone. I let him have his manly pride, though, and don’t force him to say it out loud. Neither can I leave him. Not now. I move again, reaching toward the foot of the bed to grab for the sheets, which are all tangled at his feet.

  “First things first.” I keep my voice matter-of-fact. “You should know that I’m a terrible cuddler.”

  “There’s no such thing,” he says.

  “No, there is. I thrash and stuff,” I say, tapping my fingers against his knee to get him to lift his leg so I can pull the blanket all the way up.

  He tenses a little, and I belatedly realize what I just did. I touched his leg—his bad leg. I was so busy trying not to stare at his junk that I completely forgot.

  My eyes fly to his face, but his expression is unreadable. Typical. But at least he’s not flipping out.

  I snatch my hand back, but I let my eyes return to his leg. I don’t know what I was expecting. Bones sticking out every which way and covered with alien skin, or something.

  But it just looks . . . different. Like the skin is a different texture on one side of his thigh. Skin graft, maybe?

  “You should have seen the other guy,” he says softly.

  I let out a little laugh, even though it’s not funny. He’s talking about it. And he’s letting me look.

  As a reward for his baby steps, I change the subject again. “Listen, soldier, if you start wailing in your sleep again, this cuddle deal is off the table.”

  “I don’t remember making a cuddle deal.”

  “You did,” I say confidently. “With your eyes.”

  “A girlish delusion, clearly,” he says. But he lifts his arm to make room for me anyway, and I hunker down before he can change his mind.

  As far as crossing the line goes, cuddling’s almost as bad as making out with him, but there’s nothing in the world that could make me leave this bed.

  I hesitate only a second before resting my head against his shoulder. I shouldn’t touch him. After what happened—almost happened—I really shouldn’t touch him. But I can’t seem to stop my hand from skimming over his shoulder and then along to his biceps. I start to trace my fingers down his forearm to his wrist when he jerks and tenses.

 
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