The door opened as far as the safety chain allowed. “What do you want?”
“To talk like reasonable adults.”
“Says the brattishly behaving man-child who’s beating on my door at eleven thirty at night, demanding an audience.”
Man-child? “I’m not havin’ this conversation through the crack in the door. Let. Me. In.”
The door shut. The chain rattled. As soon as she opened the door, he snagged her hand, quickly tying her wrists together with his guitar strap, and towed her out of the room.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Takin’ you back where you belong. In my goddamn room and in my goddamn bed.”
“Let me go, you f**king psycho!”
“Not a chance.”
Liberty tried to jerk away from him, but he held fast.
When the security guards started toward him, he said, “She’s fine. Me’n her are havin’ a private chat in my room.”
When his bandmates started to open their doors to check out the action, Devin yelled, “Go back in your rooms. This doesn’t concern any of you, so butt the f**k out.”
“You are such an ass,” she hissed.
“Yep. And, sweetheart, I’m just getting started.” He unlocked the suite and didn’t break his stride until he’d brought her into his bedroom and kicked the door shut. He crowded her against the post on the four-poster bed. “Remember our deal?”
Her eyes said she remembered, but her mouth remained closed.
“Determined to show me that stubborn side, are you? Fine. I’ll remind you of our deal. In public, you’re in charge. In private, I am. So we’ll put aside the professional issues and talk about why you’re shutting me out and running away.”
“I’m doing neither of those things.”
“Requesting a separate room for tonight wasn’t shutting me out?”
Her eyes shot daggers at him, and no doubt she’d be thumping him in the chest with her fists if she had use of her hands. “So it’s all right for you to sleep elsewhere, but it’s not okay for me to do the same? That’s utter bullshit, Devin. I spent last night and most of the morning in this suite pacing. Tonight I was f**king exhausted and I just wanted to sleep.”
“Meaning you didn’t want to sleep with me.”
“Meaning it is best if we just let it go.”
“No.” He framed her face in his hands and repeated, “No. You’re not doin’ this. I’m not letting you. And I’ll stop bein’ a man-child and tell you straight up: You hurt me last night. I opened up to you. I told you things about my sister that I’ve never told anyone—including my family. On the way to the hotel last night after you got done with the cops, you acted like the date with me was the worst thing that had ever happened to you. How the hell was I supposed to take that?”
Understanding dawned in her eyes. “That’s not what I meant.”
“But that’s how it came across. I know last night was a big ordeal for you. I understand why, yet at the same time, I don’t. Baby, you did your job keeping me safe.”
“Do you know what the cops did after they separated us and took me onto the bus? They tested me for gunpowder residue.”
“Because they suspected I’d shot up the bus for publicity purposes. Because, evidently, my job as ‘personal assistant cum bodyguard’ means I’m your publicity whore.”
Goddammit. He remembered how pissed off he’d been when the cops in Kansas City had accused him of the same thing after the attack on JT. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I was more worried about your safety than my feelings. God, Devin. Someone pierced the f**king wall where we sleep with bullets. The only person who recognized the danger to you was Crash. By the time we arrived, he’d already dealt with getting you to a secure place. While the end goal—ensuring your safety—was the same, it still made me feel useless, okay? Useless and weak, and why the f**k am I f**king crying?”
Devin undid the strap around her wrists and pulled her into his arms. “You’re not useless. And you’re not weak, Liberty. You’re the strongest woman I know.”
“You shut me out too,” she said, her words muffled against his chest. “When I tried to talk to you, you went to the bar.”
“Didn’t I warn you that we’d f**k up at some point? I guess last night was that point.”
“Me too, baby.” He stroked her back. “Me too.”
“I’m glad you opened up to me on the beach. If we ignore the cops and bullets and my crisis of faith in doing my job . . . that was the best date I’ve ever had.”
“I’d argue the karaoke ran a close second.”
Liberty didn’t try to extricate herself like she normally did.
“Are you okay?”
“Just exhausted. I didn’t sleep at all. Well, I dozed off for ten minutes until the bad dream woke me.”
Of course she’d internalize everything and end up having a nightmare. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.” During the months they’d shared a bed, Liberty had had a couple more flashbacks. He’d been there for her with every one, holding her in the aftermath, listening as she shared more of the horrors of war with him. It humbled him, how this strong woman would let him see that vulnerable part of her and that she trusted him to help her through the demons that still dogged her. “Was it Sean again?”