He winks at me while climbing into the car. He knows I’m watching.
Great. What am I going to do?
I have to get out of here, don’t I?
Unfortunately, I have no cell or car keys, thanks to my best friend.
Once Ryan has pulled away and disappeared down the mountain road, I’m really able to pull myself together and ruminate. Obviously, I can’t give Ryan what he thinks he wants. A healthy, loving partner who does things like weekend getaways to celebrate the existence of romance. The very idea of it shoots my stomach through with cold spikes. I’d ruin our friendship if I let him think I was capable of a trusting, caring relationship. Because I’m not.
My trust bone is permanently broken. Trust is too risky.
I rub at my aching throat and walk through the cabin. Needing to keep my hands busy, I change the sheets on the bed. Then I catalogue the dead flowers and deflated balloons. I try to imagine what they looked like when they were new, fresh, and my throat aches all the harder. With Ryan at my side, would balloons and flowers be so bad? He’s my best friend. Steady, dependable, solid as a rock.
Ryan is right. Deep down, I think I knew he loved me.
Why else would he put up with me this long? Catering to my moods and allowing me to keep him right where I want him? Not close, not far. In limbo.
He deserves better, but I can’t give it to him.
What I can give him is…my body.
At the memory of our kiss, a wicked ribbon ripples in my belly. On top of being secretly sexy as a mofo, the man’s mouth is also a secret weapon. Ryan was my first kiss—and what a kiss it was. I’ve imagined kissing on occasion, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn me into a needy bundle of buzzing nerve endings. I went from curious to needing sex in three point five seconds, my body aching to be held down and used.
Something occurs to me. I must trust Ryan a lot more than I realized. Because I would give him free rein with my body. I would lie beneath him and open my thighs and know he’d make everything right and good.
When I snap back to reality, I realize I’m brushing my fingertips up and down my ribcage and my nipples are distended. Painfully, so.
Yes, I can give Ryan my body.
I want to.
Will he be happy with that alone?
A friends-with-benefits-style situation?
What guy wouldn’t be into that, right?
It seems tonight will be my first seduction.
Half an hour later, I’ve cleared the cabin of all Valentine’s Day paraphernalia by stuffing it into a black garage bag I found under the kitchen sink. I finish just in time for Ryan to pull up outside in my rental car and my body reacts like flower petals opening in spring. Holding my breath, I wait for him to walk through the door, my butt pressed to the dining room table. I’m very aware of my nearly naked state, especially when he enters the cabin fully clothed, his eyes pinning me down immediately.
“Fuck,” he grates, blue eyes flaring. “Like I need a reminder why I drove ninety miles an hour to get back here. You’re a goddamn angel, Jessie.”
My heart does an unfamiliar dance. Or is it so unfamiliar? Maybe it’s danced like this before, but I didn’t know…what it meant?
Attraction to Ryan.
It must be attraction.
“Good news,” Ryan says. “I called the station. The surveillance camera wasn’t running at the convenience store. No witnesses. They’ve already put the robbery on the backburner since no actual money was taken. I think you’re in the clear, but I’m keeping an eye on it.”
“Thank you,” I whisper, tension I wasn’t aware of draining from my shoulders. Ryan is so in charge like this. So capable. Of course, I knew he was a great detective, but seeing him in action, on my behalf, makes me oddly tingly. “Um. What did you bring me?” I manage, though my mouth is parched. “Clothes, I hope.”
I’m lying. The way he’s looking at my panty-clad body makes me feel breathlessly alive.
“Yeah,” he says, striding closer, his boots creaking the floorboards. “I brought you some clothes.” He sets down one of two bags on the table beside me and I only manage to catch the aroma of Italian food before he’s opening the second bag. Hard pressed to break his intense eye contact, I reach into the bag and take out the tiniest red dress in history. My core flexes just anticipating wearing it in front of Ryan.
“Where is the rest of it?”
“Dinner is your Valentine’s Day present.” He grins. “The dress is mine.”
Why am I smiling back? Why is my heart racing? “Oh, is that right?”