Sliding my bag over my shoulder, my head tilts to the side. “What’s that?”
“I’m in a bind. A big one with school starting next week and my parents leaving town. Would you consider staying home if I offered you a five thousand dollar bonus?”
“If I had another option, I wouldn’t ask. I feel like a dick. This isn’t a finer moment for me, but I’m imploring you to stay. Take the money and use it for another trip when I’m not in such a desperate predicament.”
“Nate, I …”
“I know I said it’s not your problem. And if you say no, then I’ll have to … I don’t know … figure something out. This isn’t an attempt to make it your problem. I’m just offering you a lot of money—on top of your regular salary—to stay. Think of it as a business offer.”
Five grand. That’s a lot of money considering the inheritance from my father has dwindled since paying Dr. Greyson, paying off my car, and the new computer I purchased six months ago. Five grand in savings. Five grand to help do some more renovations around Griffin’s house. Maybe a new sofa. His is an old hand-me-down like mine.
Griffin. I don’t know how he would feel about this. He’s been looking forward to this trip all summer. But … five grand.
“I’d have to talk with Griffin. We’re supposed to leave tomorrow. Five thousand dollars isn’t worth my relationship. If I talk to him and he’s not on board, I just …”
Nate shakes his head. “I understand. I’m not asking you to ruin your relationship to bail me out of this mess. Call me after you talk to him.”
“I will.” I rock forward onto my toes and press a kiss to Morgan’s rosy cheek. “Feel better, baby.” My eyes shift upward, meeting his gaze. Fuck. This is the look. He’s giving me the same look that’s on his face in the photo. My spine prickles, turning to ice. “I looked at the photos,” I mutter, my mouth just inches from his, separated by Morgan’s tiny head.
He blinks several times. The depth to his eyes go on forever. It engulfs me. I can barely breathe.
“I know.” He wets his lips while his gaze drops a mere inch, settling on my mouth.
I step back with such a jerk, my feet stumble to keep me upright. Nate can’t look at my mouth. It’s not his to look at like that.
“You okay?” A smile curls his lips.
I misread that. He wasn’t looking at my mouth. He wasn’t thinking of kissing me. Gah! I’m an idiot. “Yeah. I’m good. I’ll uh … call you.” My hand comes up in a nervous wave. Who waves to someone standing two feet in front of them?
“Okay.” His eyes narrow but his grin remains.
Griffin looks up from his motorcycle, giving it a final wipe down. The chrome shines like it’s brand new. But nothing shines quite like his smile.
“You should be home packing.” He flips the rag over his shoulder and gives me his sexy once-over.
“About that …”
“Yes?” He prowls toward me, backing me into his workbench.
The look in his eyes says take off your clothes. I’ve seen it many times. I usually like that look. But the garage door is open, and he’s right, I should be home packing. Maybe I’m off today. I misread Nate’s look, perhaps I’m misreading Griffin’s.
Taking off my clothes might be the right idea. Soften him up with sex. He used it to make me agreeable this morning; maybe I can work my own manipulative magic.
“Shut the garage door.” I give him my sexiest expression while my right hand teases his denim just below the button to his jeans.
He peaks a single brow then glances down at my hand. “You hungry, Swayz?”
I bite my bottom lip and nod.
“You want me to shut the garage door?” His eyes pull into a slight squint.
I nod, rubbing him more.
“Are you going to get on your knees for me?”
I nod, tugging on the button to his jeans.
Griffin steps back, fastening the button I just undid. “Spill.”
“You have never seduced me in my garage … in the daylight. We’re leaving for a week where I’ll spend every night buried inside of you. Clean clothes wait for you to pack them. Your mom’s expecting you to stop by her house to say goodbye before you go to bed tonight. I’m not questioning you craving my cock.” He smirks. “I’m just calling you out. This isn’t how you go about it.”
“Maybe it is.” I make a last ditch effort to make my lion purr before dropping the news. Stepping toward him, I reach for his jeans again.
With a headshake, he steps back, denying me. “You like to tease, but you’re not the girl who does this without me telling you to do it. Control is not your thing. So just cut the fake seduction crap and tell me.”
I blow out a long breath and step back to lean against the workbench. “Fine. But let me finish before you lose your shit.”
His posture stiffens.
“Nate didn’t realize we had this trip. I told Rachael, but she must have forgotten to tell him, assuming she would still be here to cover in my absence. His parents leave for vacation Monday and his mom’s not in the best health anyway. And classes start Monday for Nate. He’s the professor, he can’t miss the first week of school. He has no one else.”
“Let me finish.” I’m breathless. Anticipating his reaction has my heart in an arrhythmia. “I told him earlier this week, I couldn’t stay. He knows it’s not my problem to solve. I’m not going to lose my job if I go with you. But …” Dang! I’m sweating.
Griffin plants his hands on his hips and leans toward me with a scowl that could freeze the sun. “But what?”
“He’s desperate. Today he offered me a five grand bonus if I stay home to watch Morgan.” I hold up a flat hand. “I didn’t say yes.”
“So you said no?”
“I said I needed to talk to you first.”
“Well, then let’s talk.”
I wring my hands together, chewing on the inside of my cheek. “If you want me to go—”
He barks out a laugh. “I invited you. That means I want you to go. But here we are talking about you not going, so the real question is do you want to go?”
“You know I do.”
“Then what’s there to talk about?”
“Did you hear me say he offered me five thousand dollars to stay?”
Griffin rubs his hand over his face, keeping the other one planted on his hip. “So I need to come in with a better offer for you to go?”
“No! Jeez …” My fingers thread through my hair, tugging at it while I take a deep breath. “It’s a lot of money. We could buy some new furniture for your—our place. We could take another trip. Go to Hawaii or something.”
“I can’t believe this has come down to money.” He looks up at the ceiling, shaking his head.
“It’s not just the money. Nate has no one else. And Morgan’s running a temperature. And—”
“Just stay.” Griffin turns and continues polishing his bike.
“If you want me to go—”
“For the love of God, woman!” He wads up the rag and tosses it aside. “What do you want from me?”
I flinch. “If I stay, will you be mad?”
He huffs out a sigh. “I’ll be bummed.”
“Is that mad?”
“Don’t do this shit to me, Swayz.”
“I don’t want to lose you over this.”
“It’s not an ultimatum. In fact, you’re uninvited. There. Happy? Now you don’t have to make the choice.”
“Yes.” He stalks toward the house.
“So if I decide to go, you’re no longer going to take me?”
“You can’t be serious.” I catch the screen door before it shuts behind him.
“Dead serious.” Griffin grabs a bottle of green juice out of the fridge and tosses the cap in the garbage can.
Watching Morgan gives me a sense of maturity. When I’m with her I feel ten years older. I become who I need to be for her, like I sucked it up and channeled the mature Swayze to give Nate support last night at the pediatrician’s office. But right now, I don’t feel a day over my actual age. The urge to stomp my feet and argue just for the sake of arguing is almost too strong to deny.
“Speak. Don’t just stand there digging your nails into your palms.” Griffin taunts me with his aloof but arrogant attitude.
I relax my hands. “I know it’s unfair and immature, but I want you to want me to stay. I wish you knew Nate and Morgan like I do. If you did, I think you would see how much they need me right now. You’re a compassionate guy.”
“Well, I don’t know them. But I do want you to stay. Lord knows you’d be a fucked-up case of doom and gloom the whole trip worrying about them.”
“I don’t want you to be mad at me.”