I was done then. Just done. I couldn’t remain standing another moment. I slumped forward, my face pressing against the cold glass of the mirror. Roth slipped out of me, and he wrapped an arm around my waist, pulled me back against him. I gratefully rested against the hard wall of his chest, turned in place clumsily and murmured some noise of pleasure when his arm curled around me. He bent at the knees and lifted me. I hooked my heels around his waist and held on as he carried me back to the bed and set me down, cradling me tenderly.
My ear rested directly over his heartbeat, and I heard it, felt it: thumpthump—thumpthump, crazy fast and slowing as we rested together.
I felt an insane need in that moment to admit how I felt. Yet I didn’t.
“Holy shit, Valentine.” That was what I said instead. Lame, but all I could summon.
I was scared of my feelings. Naturally. I knew he cared for me, and I knew we had universe-shattering chemistry together, making for sincerely unbelievable sex. But I’d only known him for a matter of weeks. That time had felt like a lifetime, yes, but it was still only a blip in the grand scheme of things. And yet…I knew what I felt. Nothing else but love could explain this hellishly intense mix of emotions I felt. The fear, the need, the tenderness, the eagerness to please him, the willingness to obey despite my nature demanding the opposite. I wanted him. I wanted this life. I wanted to go with him to Turks and Caicos and England and France and Italy. I wanted to be the only woman in his life. I wanted to go everywhere with him. I wanted to meet his scary-sounding father and find out what Roth did for a living, how he made his money. I wanted to know every secret about him, no matter what it was.
This had all been building up and intensified to manic levels by what we’d shared last night and this morning.
Maybe it would fade. Maybe I was mistaking fantastic sex for something it wasn’t.
“Stay here,” Roth said, slipping out from beneath me and leaving the bed.
“As if I could move,” I mumbled.
I was grateful for his absence. It let me examine myself, search my heart and mind without the dizzying power of his presence to distract me.
I didn’t think I was deluding myself. I wasn’t mistaking my feelings or misunderstanding my emotions. I did love him. Or rather, I was sliding inexorably toward that. Falling in love. A strange phrase, so common as to be nearly useless, a kind of semantic saturation on a cultural level. It was only when you felt yourself falling in love and thought about how that felt and what it meant that the phrase took on meaning, letting you really comprehend the accuracy of the description.
Face down in the bed, naked, sore all over, still shaking now and then with aftershocks, I knew I’d have to tell him how I felt, and soon. I didn’t want to. I wanted to hold onto the feeling and see if I could figure out what he felt first. But that was cowardly. He deserved the truth from me.
I’d tell him after breakfast.
At that moment, Roth returned, still naked, carrying yet another tray of food. Toasted bagels slathered with a thick layer of cream cheese, a thermal carafe of coffee and a tea service set of mugs, creamer, sugar, and spoons. He set the tray on the bed, arranged himself near me, poured me my coffee the way I liked it, light sugar, heavy cream. I wondered, idly, how he knew the way I liked my coffee.
We ate in complete silence. I watched Roth carefully, hunting for some hint of his feelings, but all I got was conflict.
I didn’t like conflict. Not after what we’d just shared, not after finally accepting my feelings for Roth.
When the bagels were gone and we’d both poured a second cup—coffee for me, tea for him—Roth vanished into the closet and returned wearing a pair of red gym shorts with two white stripes down the side. He had a woman’s dressing gown in his hand, a tag still hanging from the sleeve.
He ripped the tag off and handed me the robe. “Put that on.”
“Okay,” I said, standing up and tying the robe around me, leaving it a bit loose at my chest to give him some cle**age.
He looked me up and down. “God, Kyrie. So f**king sexy. So beautiful. So perfect. Mine.” He sighed. “For now.”
“For now?” I felt my heart plummet. “What’s that mean?”
He tapped at a panel in the wall near the doorway, and the glass walls turned transparent once more, revealing a clear blue sky and brilliant sunshine. Catching up his mug of tea, he strode across the room and opened the doors to his balcony, gesturing for me to follow. As Roth’s house took up the entire uppermost floor of the high-rise, the corner balcony meant the whole corner of the building was cut away at the very top. The sky was open above us, the building rising behind us, Manhattan spread out beneath us, cars like toys and people like dots.
“God,” I said, leaning against the railing, “what a view.”
“Yes,” Roth agreed, his voice a soft murmur. “What a view.”
I turned, and his roiling blue gaze told me he wasn’t talking about New York. In the far corner of the balcony was a small bistro table and two wrought-iron and thickly cushioned chairs; Roth sat in one chair and I took the other. I sipped my coffee and waited for him to speak.
After several long minutes, he let out a shaky breath and met my eyes. “It’s time you knew the truth.”
Carefully, fearful of letting my shaking hands spill my coffee, I set my mug down. “The truth. About what?”
Despite his outward calm, I saw a torrent of emotion hiding in his gaze. He looked away, gazing out over the city, sipping his tea, looking casually majestic in his muscular, regal beauty. “You remember what I said to you?”
I swallowed hard. I’d nearly forgotten. “You have a secret that concerns me.” I sat up straight, prim and proper, a vain effort to keep myself contained. “You said—when you tell me, it would change things.”
He nodded, finally setting his cup down and looking at me. He rested his calf on his knee, leaning back. “And when you knew, what did I say you would likely do?”
“Walk away.” It was a whisper.
Guess I won’t be telling him how I feel just yet.
“Yes.” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. I’d never seen him looking so nervous before. “Before I begin, know this: You are mine. You will always be mine. And I take care of what is mine. So if you do walk away…you will have no worries. Never again, no matter what. Do you understand?”
His gaze demanded an answer, so I nodded. “Yes. I understand. But I don’t get what you could possibly tell me that would change—”