And he didn’t even know it.
I waited a good five minutes, deciding that Reece would’ve gotten a drink from Nick by then. Pushing off the door, I tucked the strand of hair behind my ear and opened it.
“Criminy!” I shrieked, stumbling back into the stockroom.
Reece stood there, hands braced against the door frame, his chin dipped low and jaw hard. He did not look happy. “Are you done hiding?”
“I . . . I wasn’t hiding. N-not at all.” Heat flooded my cheeks. “I was doing stock.”
He arched a brow.
“Whatever. I need to get back out there, so can you kindly remove—”
My mouth dropped open. “No?”
He straightened, but instead of backing off, he stalked forward, catching the door on the way in. The bicep in his right arm flexed as he slammed it shut. “You and I need to talk.”
Oh dear. “Buddy, there’s nothing we need to talk about.”
Reece kept coming toward me, and I was moving backward before I even knew what I was doing. I bumped into a shelf. Bottles rattled behind me, and then he was right in front of me, so close that when I inhaled, I could practically taste the crisp, fresh scent of his cologne.
Two hands landed on the shelf on each side of my shoulders and then he managed to lean in even further. His warm breath danced across my cheek. A fine shiver curled its way down my spine. Whoa. Girlie parts engaged, locked, and ready for takeoff.
I was so going to hit myself later.
“I’ve let this go on between us for far too long,” he said, and his stare snared my wide-eyed gaze. The blue . . . dang, it was cobalt—a blue that was hard to mix and capture with watercolors.
My tongue felt heavy. He hadn’t been this close since that night with all that whiskey. “Nothing is going on between us.”
“Bullshit, Roxy. You’ve been avoiding me for months.”
“Nuh-uh,” I said, and yeah, that was lame-sounding, but his mouth was right there, and I remembered clearly what his mouth felt like against mine. A wonderful combination of firm and soft, and I also recalled how strong he was. How he’d lifted me right off the floor and . . .
And I really needed to stop thinking about that right now.
“Eleven months,” he said, voice deeper. “Eleven months, two weeks and three days. That’s exactly how long you’ve been avoiding me.”
Holy crap, did he just count that out to me? Because he was totally right. That was exactly how long I’d been steering clear of him, in between the moments I’d told him to screw off.
“We’re going to talk about the last time you and I had a decent conversation.”
Oh no, we were so not going to talk about that.
He dipped his head, and his voice was right in my ear. When he spoke, my fingers tightened on the edge of the shelf I was hanging onto. “Yeah, babe, we’re going to talk about the night you drove me back to my place.”
I swallowed hard, unnerved. “You . . . you mean the night you were drunk off your ass, and I had to drive you home?”
Reece lifted his head and those eyes bored into mine. Neither of us spoke for a long moment, and I was thrust back eleven months, two weeks and three days ago. He’d been at the bar, and we’d been flirting with each other like we’d been doing every time we saw each other since he returned from overseas. But when he came back, it was like those years he’d been gone had washed away. Visions of marriage and making babies had danced in my head despite the fact I’d ordered myself not to read into the harmless flirting. But I’d been infatuated and I’d also been an idiot. That night, he’d asked me to drive him home, and I’d thought he was finally making a move—a really weird way to make a move, but I hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. I’d been crushing on this guy forever and I had been greedy with his attention, so I did it. When we’d gotten to his place, I’d followed him inside and I . . . I had been the one to really make the move.
Gathering up all the courage I had in me, I had kissed him, right inside his apartment, the moment he’d closed the door. Things had escalated quickly. Clothes had come off, body parts were most definitely touching, and I . . .
“I’d give anything to remember that night,” Reece continued, looking me straight on, and that voice got richer. “Anything to remember what it felt like being inside of you.”
Several things happened to me all at once. Muscles low in my belly tightened at the same moment disappointment swelled like a tide, washing away the anger flushing my system. I closed my eyes as I bit down on my lip.
Reece believed that eleven months, two weeks, and three days ago, we’d had sex—wild, animalistic against-the-wall sex, but he’d been too drunk to remember it. Too shitfaced to remember anything past the moment we’d gotten naked in the hallway.
I just hadn’t realized he’d been that far into his cups, which was stupid, because I bartended and knew when people were plastered and needed to be cut off. Hell, he’d asked me to drive him home, for crying out loud, but I had been so . . . so caught up in him. So damn hopeful and so beyond crushing, because it was more than that. I had fallen in love with him when I was fifteen and that hadn’t changed in all those years.
I’d stayed the night with him, and when he’d woken up the next morning, hungover and so damn apologetic, regretful and seconds from chewing his arm off to get away from me, my heart had cracked. And in the immediate weeks following that night, when he’d avoided me like I was infested with the plague, my heart had shattered.
The sad thing was Reece had it all wrong.
We hadn’t even gotten to the point where slot A fit into slot B. We hadn’t had sex that night. He’d barely made it to the bedroom before passing out, and I had stayed with him because I’d been worried and I thought . . . it didn’t matter what I thought, because we hadn’t had sex.
What was worse than Reece thinking we had sex and regretting what never happened? And seriously, what could be more messed up than that? Reece Anders despised lies of any kind. White lies. Little lies. Necessary lies. Forgiving lies. Any lies.
Mine was kind of a white lie since I never said we had sex, I just never said we didn’t. Even though he’d known me since I was fifteen, he’d been there during the aftermath of what happened to Charlie, and the first night back from being in the Marines for four years, he’d shown up at my parents’ house. To this day, Mom swore he’d been looking for me, but our families had grown close, so I doubted that was the case. I’d moved out at eighteen and I wasn’t there, but when my parents called and demanded that I come home, I’d been expecting something terrible, because Mom sounded like she’d been seconds from stroking out. I had no idea Reece was home, and he gave me . . . oh wow, the best hug ever. And in spite of the friendship we’d built since he became a deputy in the county, he would be so pissed.