Frayed Page 38

She turned toward me. ’’Ben . . . ,’’ she whispered.

’’Yeah.’’ Her face was so close to my lips and I couldn\ resist lowering them slightly and brushing my mouth over hers. Heat filled the air between us, but I hesitated a little too long about deepening the kiss. I didn\ want to make a move until I was sure she wanted me to.

’’It\s over,’’ she said, jumping to her feet. She stood there visibly trembling.

I stayed where I was, motionless, as lust flooded me and I cursed myself for hesitating.

A gust of wind blows sand in my face and I snap out of it. What the f**k am I doing ignoring her? I know she feels what I feel. I said I\d give her time. I can do that. I continue scrolling through more of the old text messages between us, and stop on another one from her.

Do you think we\ll be climbing a lot of stairs at Hearst Castle?

I had typed back a question mark.

She responded with what I\ve labeled a Bellism.

Heels look better with the outfit I\m wearing, but I\m not sure they\ e all right for climbing stairs.

I answered with the following.

I don\ think you have to worry about stairs. It\s not a tower. Wear your heels and if I have to, I\ll f**king carry you.

I didn\ carry her, but I did stare at her ass as we climbed the stairs of the castle. I scroll down and stop on the one that reads:

What should I wear to the rock climbing gym?

I have to laugh out loud. I had responded:

Surprise me.

And she did. She showed up in jeans and high heels claiming she thought she\d just take her shoes off. We bought her a pair of appropriate shoes in the lobby. After I tortured myself not only ogling her ass but also pushing it upward for an hour, I had to stop. The blood kept rushing to my c**k and I was so uncomfortable after a while there was no way I could climb. I called it a night early.

I spend another five minutes going through messages just like those and think about the places we\ve gone and the connection we\ve shared. I feel the grin building on my lips with each passing one. And I know what to do. I dial her number.

’’Hello,’’ she answers on the first ring.

’’Hey, how are you?’’

’’Good. How are you?’’

I look out over the ocean. ’’Better now that I hear your voice.’’

’’Is everything okay?’’

’’Yes. Just had a lot of shit going on.’’

’’I missed talking to you.’’

Now I wish I could pull her through the phone. ’’What are you doing right now?’’

’’Nothing. I just got home from helping Tate set up for a wedding.’’

’’What, the prick can\ lift the silverware himself?’’

She giggles. ’’No, just some coordination issues that needed to be worked out.’’

I bite back what I want to say about her boss. ’’I\m coming to get you. I have something I want to show you.’’

She starts to argue.

’’I\ll pick you up at five. I don\ want to hear another word about it. I\m not taking no for an answer this time.’’

’’Okay.’’

I\m surprised she gives in that easy. ’’See you in a bit, Red.’’

’’Bye, Ben,’’ she says, and her tone is quiet. I can picture her face, all innocent and beautiful, and my stomach does that thumping that I can\ figure out. I don\ know what it is about her that affects me so much.

I take off for home, shower, get dressed, and make a stop along the way before heading to her place. As soon as my hand reaches out to lift the bar to the gate, I spot her. She\s sitting at one of the tables and quickly hangs up her phone. She\s wearing jeans, a tight sweater with a scarf wrapped around her neck, and high-heel boots.

’’What are you doing down here alone, beautiful?’’ I ask as I open the gate.

’’I\m waiting for you.’’ Her green eyes gleam and her mouth lifts up into a smile that I can\ resist returning.

But she seems a little shaken.

’’Everything okay?’’

She nods. ’’Of course.’’ But she\s not in the least bit convincing.

I move closer, close enough to smell her lemony scent, even though normally I keep a small distance between us. But I have this overwhelming need to feel her warmth, so I hug her nothing se*ual, just a friendly hello. She\s receptive to it and hugs me back. I disengage from her quickly. I don\ want to trigger her alarm. The one where she backs away when she thinks I\m too close.

I stare into her mesmerizing eyes. ’’Have you ever seen the view from Carl\s Curve at night?’’

’’Up on Mulholland Drive?’’

’’That\s the place.’’

’’No, I haven\ .’’

I extend my hand. ’’Well, come on. We should be able to make it before sunset.’’

Her fingers entangle with mine and they fit perfectly in my hand. When I open the gate I cover her eyes.

’’What are you doing?’’ she asks.

’’You\ll see.’’ I lead her to my bike and grab the helmet off the seat before I remove my other hand.

’’We\ e not riding on your bike up there. I told you . . .’’

I pull my hand from my behind my back and hand her the green helmet I stopped and picked up on my way over. She jumps up and down and the excitement she exudes over the smallest things the way she clasps her hands together and bounces when something makes her happy it gets me every time. I wish I knew how to get that reaction all the time.


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