“I guess we do.”
He catches my eye, holds my gaze for long seconds. “We going to do anything about that?”
Just the thought has my breath hitching in my throat. “I don’t know. I don’t … think so.”
He nods, like that’s exactly what he expected me to say. Then again, I’m pretty sure it’s what he would say if I asked about his secrets, so why wouldn’t he expect the same from me?
“Tell me something else, then.”
I gaze at him warily. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. Tell me something, anything, about you.”
“Why should I?”
“Because if you do it, so will I.”
I can’t help smiling. “A little I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours?”
It’s only when he grins that I realize what I said—and what it sounds like. He doesn’t call me on it, though. Instead he smiles innocently and says, “I’m all for quid pro quo.”
But I can see his eyes, can see the way his pupils have dilated and his irises have turned a deep midnight blue. This is a bad idea.
Yet I can’t stop myself from smiling back. Any more than I can stop the words tumbling out of my mouth.
“I hate Brussels sprouts, cold weather, and guys who think they can have whatever they want.”
She’s playing with me. Ophelia’s playing with me, and I don’t know why it matters so much—it’s not like I’ve ever been very big on playing—but it does. It really f**king does.
I pick up my cup of coffee, take a long sip as I contemplate how I’m going to respond to what she said. Then, just as the smile on her face starts to fall—like she thinks I didn’t get what she was doing or something—I say, “I like peaches, fresh powder, and girls who don’t take shit from anybody.”
She laughs. “I like peaches, too.”
“How?” She stops in the middle of brewing herself a cup of coffee to look at me in surprise.
“Because you smell like them. Taste like them.” I hold the blanket out a little in front of me so she can’t see that just the thought of kissing her makes me hard. “When I first met you, I thought you were from Georgia.”
For long seconds she doesn’t answer. When she finally does, her voice is low. Husky. Like she just tumbled out of bed and into conversation with me. I like the sound of it. “Where are you from?”
“Park City, born and bred.”
“Really? I didn’t think any of the boarders were actually from here. I thought you guys moved here to train.”
“Most do. But Ash, Cam, Luc, and I were all raised here. We were boarding practically before we could stand.”
“Really?” She looks fascinated, so I continue.
“Yeah, though my dad put me on skis first. So much classier than snowboarding.”
“Still, he must be proud of you, right? You’re one of the top-ranked snowboarders in the country, about to take a shot at the Olympics.”
Shit. I should have known better than to bring up my dad. I never do, except with my friends, so the fact that he came up so easily with Ophelia kind of shocks me. Because it does, and because I feel like I need a little time to regroup, I take my coffee and head back over to the couch/bed.
Ophelia follows me, and though she sits next to me with no hesitation, there’s an awareness that sparks between us, one that only makes my dick harder—as well as my resolve to keep my hands off her.
“It’s my turn to ask a question,” I tell her, after pulling my attention away from her pink lips and pinker cheeks.
“Go for it.”
“If you hate the cold, what are you doing here? Because it’s obvious you didn’t come for the slopes.”
“I needed a job, and since my aunt and uncle manage Lost Canyon, they—”
“Alex and Penny are your aunt and uncle?”
“Yeah. You look shocked.”
“No, not shocked, just … Why aren’t you living with them instead of over here in the employee lodge?”
“They offered, but I chose to live here. They’re my family, but we’re not close.”
“You do realize that you’ve asked three questions, right? Not just one?”
“Yes, but you only answered one of the questions, so I don’t think the fact that I asked three counts.”
She narrows her eyes at me. “I think it does.”
“Fine. You ask me three questions and I’ll pick one to answer.”
“Technically, I answered two.”
“Yes, but you didn’t finish answering the first one—”
“Because you interrupted me!”
I shrug, try to look as innocent as possible. “Rules are rules, you know.”
“What rules?” she demands. “We never set any rules.”
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I’m making them up as we go along.”
“Oh, really? And why do you get to make up the rules?”
I pretend to be shocked she even has to ask. “Because it’s my game.”
She frowns at me for a minute, then says, “You’re a real jerk, you know that?”
“I do. Absolutely. Never pretended otherwise.”
She rolls her eyes, then reaches out to fake-punch me, but I grab her fist in my hand, gently pry her fingers open. Then, because I can’t stop myself even though I know it’s a bad idea, I press a kiss to the center of her palm.
Her eyes jump to mine, and for a second I think she might kick me out, blanket and all. God knows after what happened the last time I was here, I wouldn’t blame her if she did. But then she reaches her hand up to my face, traces my upper lip and then my bottom one with her index finger. And I know I’m not going anywhere.
“How come your room is so bare?” I ask. “There’s nothing personal in here at all.”
“That’s four questions and I never even got my one!”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Because you don’t deserve an answer.”
She starts to move away, but I grab her wrist, hold her in place. Then I open my mouth and suck her finger gently inside. Her breathing turns erratic and her eyes go forest green on me. Thank God. Though it’s only been a few minutes, it feels like I’ve been sitting here—aroused—for hours, while she just continued on, blissfully unaware. It’s not a predicament I’m used to.
Before I can do—or ask—anything else, her other hand comes up, cups my cheek, and for long seconds we just sit there, our eyes locked on each other’s. It’s strange and exhilarating and a little terrifying all at once, and there’s a part of my brain screaming at me to look away. To just back away.
I threw myself off the side of a mountain today, boarded terrain no one’s ever boarded before, and I swear it was a million times easier than this. And yet I don’t move. I barely breathe. I can’t. Because what I see in her eyes, what I see of her, is so fascinating, so heartbreaking, that for the first time in my life, I’m more interested in knowing about her than I am in my own self-preservation. It’s a strange feeling, and a confusing one.
I’m not sure how long we sit there just watching each other.
Long enough for twilight to turn to full dark outside her window.
Long enough for the wind to kick up and snow flurries to turn the air a bright white.
More than long enough for me to ask myself what the hell I’m doing … and to tell myself to get the hell out of Dodge.
In the end, I don’t go anywhere, though. I can’t, not when she’s looking at me like that, all trembling lips and wide, wild eyes.
“What are we doing?” she finally asks softly.
“I have no idea.”
And then she’s leaning forward, her lips brushing tentatively against my own.
There’s a part of me that wants to grab her. That wants to plunge my hands into her hair and just hold her in place as I explore every inch of her mouth. Every inch of her body.
But the other night is a specter in my head. and I know—I know—if she does that to me again, if she tunes out right in the middle of being with me, that it will bring me to my knees.
So I pull back gently, and this time I cup her face. Stroke my fingers over her jaw. Drop soft kisses over her eyes and cheeks and across the bridge of her nose.
“I should probably get going,” I tell her, though every instinct I have is screaming at me to stay. “Do you think my clothes are done?”
“What?” She looks at me with dazed, aroused eyes. “You want to leave?”
My laugh comes out strained. “I don’t want to leave, but I probably should.”
I shrug, not sure how to vocalize what I’m thinking without hurting her or sounding like an asshole. Dropping another kiss on her cheek, I start to stand up.
“Don’t go.” Ophelia throws her arms around my waist, and it’s such an unexpected move that it knocks me off balance. I end up tumbling back onto the bed.
She scrambles over me, straddles me as her hands fumble her sweater up and over her head. She’s wearing a worn, long-sleeved white T-shirt underneath that clings to her every curve, and I’m pretty sure I can see the shadow of her ni**les through her bra.
Everything inside me goes tight—with desire, with need, with longing—and I know if I don’t get out of here soon I won’t be able to walk away. I want her too much.
“Baby, please.” I put my hands over hers, stop her from stripping away my self-control along with her T-shirt. “You don’t have to do this.”
“You don’t get it.” This time, when her eyes meet mine, they’re big and mossy green and shimmering with tears. “I want to feel. Something, anything. I’ve spent so long trying to be numb that I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be anything but. Please.” She pulls at the blanket, drops kisses on my shoulders, my neck, my chest. Runs her tongue along the unstructured lines of my tattoo. “Please, Z. Make me feel something. Make me feel anything.”
The words crash into me with the force of a tsunami, and they drag me under her spell. Because I know what she means. Fuck, I live with it every day and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Especially not this smart, funny, gorgeous girl who is finding a way to shake my world off its very axis.
Still, as she licks her way down my stomach, I manage to muster the strength to pull away—even as every cell in my body urges me to just take her. To just plunge inside her and let the consequences sort themselves out in the morning.
But that’s how I handle everything. Act first, think later. Because nothing’s ever mattered enough for me to worry about what comes after. About what comes next. And though I’ve only known Ophelia a few days, and even though they were strange and rocky days, there’s a part of me that thinks—that knows—that she might be important enough. This might be important enough, for me to take my time and think things through.
Which is why I ignore my throbbing c**k and the need coursing through me like a runaway train and focus on her. Just her.
“If we do this, you have to be with me,” I tell her. “Every step of the way. You can’t check out on me like you did last time. I don’t think I can handle that again.”
Z’s words seem to echo in the room even as they echo inside me, filling up all the empty space I’ve been rattling around in for so long. I look into his eyes and there’s that vulnerability again, the same as I witnessed the other night. I don’t think he lets anyone else close enough to see it.