“There’s a minibar in the room.”
“Doesn’t have what I want.”
“Fine. Hang tight for a sec while I get my bag out of the fitness room and I’ll come with you.”
“I said no. The reason I’m goin’ to the bar is to be alone. So go back to grappling or to the room, but you’re not comin’ with me.”
Liberty got right in his face. “Wrong. Where you go, I go. Remember?”
“Don’t push me on this. I need some time to sort some shit out.” His gaze zoomed over her. “Apparently, you needed time alone too. At least I’m givin’ you the courtesy of telling you, unlike you just leavin’ me in the middle of the goddamn night.”
“Totally different situations, Devin.”
“Oh yeah? So if you’d awoken to find me gone?”
She would’ve gone out of her f**king mind. “It’s not the same,” she said stubbornly.
Devin’s eyes searched hers, and whatever he saw—or didn’t see—caused him to take another step back. “You’re right. But that doesn’t change anything. I’m still goin’.”
She shook her head.
“Here’s how this plays out. I head downstairs for a drink. You leave me be and know I’m safe in the hotel. Or I head downstairs for a drink, you follow me and I’ll get in a taxi. I’ll be out of touch completely until sound check tomorrow afternoon. Your choice.”
He was threatening her? “You’re bluffing.”
“I don’t bluff.” His voice dropped. “Ever. So go ahead and push me on this, Liberty. I’ll show you how uncooperative I can be when I set my mind to it.”
“Why are you doing this?”
The elevator dinged and the door slid open.
Devin stepped inside and immediately slumped against the wall, focusing on the digital panel rather than looking at her. Or answering her.
Then the doors closed in her face.
Immediately, she had a deep sense of loss.
This had gone beyond Devin being upset with her. But what had tipped him over the edge from concern to fury? Her retreat into professional mode once she’d learned of the bus being shot up? Her refusal to take solace for herself or offer it to him by having sex with him? Waking to find her gone? Walking in on her grappling with Paxton Wright?
Paxton. Dammit, she’d just run off and left him with her stun gun.
When she stood in front of the glass door, she wondered how long Devin had watched her and Paxton before he’d barged in. She realized she’d forgotten her room key in her duffel bag, and she’d have to interrupt Paxton’s tai chi workout to get back in.
Right after he’d opened the door, she said, “Sorry. I’ve gotta go . . .” Where? Chase after Devin and watch him seize the opportunity to elude you?
“Maybe you oughta take a breather before you race off.”
“God. This is so f**ked up. I never meant . . .”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but I do recognize when a guy has been pushed past his limits. I saw that in Devin just now.”
“When you’ve reached that point, what do you do?”
“Tell everyone to f**k off and find a bar.”
She sighed. “So that response is a gender thing?”
Paxton’s eyes turned shrewd. “Devin went looking for a bar?”
“I don’t think he’ll go out of the hotel. Unless he sees me, and then all bets are off.” She released a frustrated burst of air instead of yelling, Fuck! “Even if the bar is closed, he’s Devin McClain. They’ll open it up for him.”
“True. So are you headed down there?”
Liberty shook her head and reached for her duffel bag. “I’ll hole up in the room and hope like hell he comes back.”
“He will. Might be a few hours. He might be drunker than hell, but he won’t be able to stay away from you.”
She paused before she opened the door, wanting to ask him how he could be so sure of that, but she said, “Night,” instead and fled back to the room.
Devin bribed the night concierge to let him sit in a booth in the corner of the bar.
Although the bar was closed, the concierge brought Devin five little bottles of Jack Daniel’s, two cans of Coke and a large water glass filled with ice.
As soon as he had the booze and the solitude he thought he needed, he didn’t want either. He cracked open the Coke and watched the thick brown bubbles forming over the ice before settling into fizzy liquid.
What a totally f**ked-up night.
He heard footsteps and looked up. Paxton Wright scooted into the bench seat across from him. Devin sighed. “Hope you didn’t pay the dude at the desk more than a hundred bucks, because he’s lousy at keeping secrets.”
Paxton cocked his head. “Tickets to tonight’s sold-out show are worth more and don’t cost me a thing.”
Paxton pointed to the minibar-sized bottles. “Having a pity party?”
“Yep. Hitting the hard stuff.” Devin rattled the glass. “Coca-Cola. Straight up. So why’d you track me down? To try to convince me nothin’ happened between you and Liberty?”
“You know nothing happened. You trust her. You trust me. Finding her grappling with me wasn’t why you were pissed off at her.”
He sipped his soda and waited for Paxton to elaborate.