“What do you care?” The words slip out before I have a clue I’m going to say them. “As long as you get laid, as long as you win that stupid bet, why the hell do you care what’s going on in my head anyway?”
He stumbles back on his heels, his face blank with shock—and something else I just can’t place. “You know about the bet?”
“Damn right I do.”
“And you were going to sleep with me anyway?”
I try to look away, but he’s still got a firm grip on my chin. It kind of pisses me off, the way he thinks he has the right to touch me so proprietarily, and part of me wants to lash out. To knock him on his ass. But the more reasonable part acknowledges that I did just have his c**k in my mouth, so he probably thinks that gives him some rights over me.
“Ophelia?” he prompts when I don’t say anything.
“Yeah, I was. So what?” This time I shove at his hand until he lets me go. I can’t handle being this close to him, can’t handle looking into those eyes that have gone so dark that I can barely distinguish the pupil from the iris.
Standing up, I grab my jeans and yank them up my legs. Having this discussion is bad enough. Having it when I’m nearly naked somehow makes it a million times worse.
After I find my turtleneck—hanging from the top of one of my lamps, for God’s sake—and slip it on, I turn to see that Z pulling up his own pants. I grab his shirt from where I took it off in the kitchen, fire it at him. Now that things have turned ugly, I can’t get him out of here fast enough.
Except Z seems in no hurry to leave, even after he yanks his shirt over his head. Instead, he walks over to where I’m standing and leans against the tiny bit of counter space I actually have in this place. I try not to look at him. The last thing I need to remember is Z kicking back in my kitchen, his arms and legs crossed in a pose that screams, Yes, I’m king of the f**king mountain, and I know I’m sexy as hell, too.
For long seconds he doesn’t say anything and neither do I. Then again, there’s not much to say, is there? He bet he could f**k me and I was prepared to let him win that bet because I knew it wouldn’t mean anything. It doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot good about either of us, does it?
When he finally does speak, it’s just one word. And though I should have been expecting it, I’m not, and I don’t have an answer—at least not one I want to share with him.
I don’t answer.
I shrug, still refusing to look at him. I figure eventually he’ll let it go and just walk away. It’s what he’s known for, after all. It’s sure as hell what I’d do if I was in his place.
But it turns out Z’s got more sticking power than most people give him credit for, because he’s not budging. In fact, when I look at him out of the corner of my eye, he’s practically grown roots.
“I don’t know, okay?” I finally tell him. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Bullshit.” He spits the word out.
“Excuse me?” Now I do turn to look at him.
“That’s bullshit. You’re a smart, savvy woman, Ophelia. I’ve only known you a little over twenty-four hours and already I’ve figured out that you don’t do anything without a reason.”
“Maybe I just wanted to sleep with you.”
“Yeah. Because we both saw how well that worked out,” he says with a snort. “Why don’t you just tell me the truth?”
“Why don’t you just let it go?”
“Because I never let anything go.” He pushes off from the counter, slowly closes the distance between us. “And because I can see that whatever’s going on in your head is eating at you.”
I start to laugh it off, to tell him how ridiculous he’s being, except he chooses that moment to skim his fingers gently down my face.
I jerk at the caress, pull back. He follows me, his eyes filled with a compassion I never thought to see from him. It hits me like a blow, sends me into a tailspin of emotion and agitation that I don’t know how to recover from. I can deal with derision. With hate. With anger. Even with indifference. But with compassion? From someone as broken as Z? I don’t have a clue how to deal with that.
So I do the only thing I can do. I lash out, using the truth like a club. “You really want to know why I was going to sleep with you?” I ask him, my voice a particularly nasty blend of bitch-meets-asshole.
To Z’s credit, he doesn’t back down, doesn’t turn away, even though it’s obvious now that he won’t like the answer. “Yeah. I do.”
“Fine. Whatever. The truth is, I invited you in, I decided to sleep with you because I knew you wouldn’t give up. I knew you’d keep coming around, bugging me, for the next week, and I just couldn’t deal with your shit. So I decided, screw it. The best way to make sure I never have to see you again is to f**k you. Once you get what you want you’ll be out the door so fast you’ll leave skid marks on the linoleum.”
For long seconds he doesn’t move, doesn’t blink. I don’t even think he breathes. Then, just when I don’t think I can take it anymore—when the silence stretches between us like a piece of barbed wire pulled past its limit—he says, “You were going to have sex with me to get rid of me.”
I toss my hair, look him straight in the eye. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“Yeah. I guess it does, doesn’t it.”
He doesn’t say anything else. Instead, he bends down, picks up his boots from where he’d kicked them earlier during our mad rush to nakedness, and walks straight out the door without another word. No Fuck you. No Go to hell. No Have a nice life. Nothing but the sound of the door closing behind him as he heads for the stairwell.
It’s exactly what I wanted him to do, exactly what I needed him to do. Which is why it makes no sense when I sink to the floor and cry for the first time in eleven long, hell-filled months.
“You planning on getting up sometime soon?” The question is delivered with a kick to my bed hard enough to move the thing half a foot across the floor.
I ignore both, choosing to operate under the assumption that if I play dead long enough, Luc will just go away. It worked with both Cam and Ash yesterday, so I see no reason to change things up now.
Except Luc’s the stubborn one—he always has been. It’s why he’s a ranked snowboarder when his riding has always been more about not giving up than it’s ever been about natural talent. It’s also why I’m not surprised when he reaches a hand out and shakes me roughly. Once, twice, then a third time, so hard that my teeth actually rattle together.
Pain explodes behind my eyes, and I want to tell him to get the f**k away from me. But interaction of any kind will just encourage him—we’ve been down this road enough for me to know the rules—so I grit my teeth and imagine what I’ll do to him if I ever manage to drag myself out of this bed. Which I’m not planning on doing anytime soon, but still. It passes the time.
After what feels like an eternity, I hear footsteps walking away from the bed, and I finally let myself relax, just a little. Three down, zero to go. It should be at least a day before any of them comes back and tries to drag me out of bed again. Which means I have all day to drink myself into an alcohol-induced coma.
Figuring I should probably get started, I crack my eyes open—just in time to see Luc throw the drapes open on the wall across from my bed. Light floods the huge room, blinding me and kicking the pain in my head up about a million degrees.
“Luc, you f**king asshole. Close the damn curtains!” I grab a pillow and fire it across the room at him, then immediately regret it because now I’ve got nothing to hide my head under.
“So you are alive. We were beginning to wonder.”
Desperate now, I burrow deeper into the covers so that I can pull the comforter over my head. But not before I flip him off.
“Nice,” he says, right before he starts beating on the glass door like it’s a f**king drum set.
I throw the covers back, start to climb out of bed. The pain’s worth it if I actually get to strangle the motherfucker—
“Stop, stop. Please!”
Luc and I both freeze at the unexpected sound of a female voice coming from my bed. Before I can do more than sink back into bed, a head covered in long red curls peeks out from under the covers.
“You son of a bitch!” Luc launches himself at me, and I’m so horrified I don’t even bother to try to defend myself.
Don’t let me have slept with Cam last night.
Don’t let me have slept with Cam last night.
Please, please, please, by all that is holy, please don’t let me have slept with Cam last night.
“God, you guys are loud. Isn’t anyone allowed to sleep in around here?” As her whole face finally manages to make its way out from under the covers—making her voice a lot less muffled than it had been—I nearly collapse in relief.
Not Cam. Some girl whose name I don’t know and whom I don’t remember at all. But not Cam. At the moment I’m inclined to be thankful for small blessings.
Luc must figure it out at the same time I do, because he comes to a screeching halt a couple of feet from my bed.
“Who’s this?” he asks as he looks down at the redhead, who I have to admit would be pretty cute if she didn’t have enough mascara smeared under her eyes to make her resemble a raccoon.
“I have no idea.”
“Nice,” he says again, rolling. “How much f**king weed did you smoke last night, anyway?”
“A lot,” says the girl next to me, shoving her hair out of her eyes as she sits up. What she doesn’t do is keep the sheet tucked around herself, and since she’s naked, Luc and I get treated to a view of a pretty spectacular peacock tattoo—not to mention a fairly nice pair of breasts. “I’m Stacy. Z and I met at Brewer’s last night. He taught me how to do body shots.”
“I bet he did.”
I close my eyes and fight the urge to bury my head in my hands. I have no idea who this girl is or how she got into my bed, though it sounds like a shitload of tequila shots might be responsible for both.
“Hey,” she says, squinting up at Luc. “Aren’t you Lucas Bradford?”
“I am.” He eyes her warily.
“Awesome! I get to meet Z Michaels and Lucas Bradford all in the same twenty-four hours. How cool is that?”
“Pretty cool,” Luc mutters.
“I know, right?”
Okay, so this girl is either still drunk or incredibly stupid, because she’s not catching any of the shade Luc is throwing her way. Which is kind of amusing considering he’s not exactly being subtle. It’d probably be completely hilarious if my head didn’t feel like it was being slowly, torturously ripped off my body.
“Do you think we can close the damn drapes?” I ask for the second time.
“That depends,” Luc answers.
“Do you want to climb in?” Stacy asks, pushing the covers aside and scooting closer to me so that Luc could climb in next to her. “I’ve always wanted to have a threesome.”
“All right, then.” I roll out of bed on the other side. “Sorry, Stacy, but I think it’s probably time for you to get going.”
“Already?” She pouts in what I’m sure she thinks is an attractive manner.
“Yeah, already.” I grab my jeans and search through the pockets for my wallet. When I find it, I pull out forty bucks and hand it to her. “Call a cab to come get you.”
“But we haven’t even done it yet! After we got back here last night you just weren’t into it, so you promised we could do it this morning.”