Frayed Page 56

I did. And I think you\ e trying to kill me.

No, I\m not. And I really do want to know what changed your mind.

Because whenever you get over this sunburn, I have a few ILLUSTRATED ways in mind that you can say thank you. Do you get my drift?

I capitalized illustrated so she might pick up my hint. When she doesn\ respond right away, I put the car in DRIVE and head back to her place, assuming she didn\ get it.

When I get back to her apartment, I pull the chain lock across the door and yell out, ’’Red.’’

’’I\m in my bedroom.’’

’’Can I come in?’’

’’Yes!’’ I can hear her laughing from here.

Setting the bags on the counter, I glance around again. I see a few personal things but not much, not even pictures.

’’Are you coming?’’ she calls.

’’I\ll be right there.’’ I throw the cold things into the fridge and freezer, grab a few water bottles from the pack I bought, the bottle of aspirin, the aloe, and walk down the hall. I know which room is hers immediately because there\s a candle glow from the doorway. Her bedroom is much like the living room plain with very little in terms of décor. She\s lying on the bed with practically nothing on as I said, she\s trying to kill me. She\s in a loose-fitting pair of lightweight sleep shorts and a thin-strapped tank top. Both are white. Both see-through.

’’Hey, I got some stuff that should make you feel better.’’

She glances up at me and I can tell there\s something bothering her. I take her phone from her clutched hand and when I do it chirps a text from Tate Wyatt. I set it on the night table. ’’Wyatt? At this time of night?’’

She shrugs. ’’He must have a question.’’

’’Well, it\s after hours, so you can contact him tomorrow, right?’’

She stares at me as if contemplating what I just said but doesn\ move to grab her phone.

’’Everything all right?’’ I ask as I set the things in my hands down on the nightstand.

’’Yes.’’

When I sit beside her, my stomach jolts. I want to hold her, to kiss her, to f**k her. But when I pull her chin toward me and stare into her eyes, I see tears.

’’Why are you crying?’’

’’I\m being stupid.’’

’’About?’’

’’I\m just surprised you ever gave me a second thought.’’

I gently kiss her lips and whisper to her, ’’You\ e the f**king se*iest thing I\ve ever seen. Yes, I gave you a second thought.’’ Then I add, ’’Many second thoughts.’’

Silence overtakes us as we both seem to get lost in our memories. When my lips graze hers again, she flinches. I pull back and take the aspirin bottle, pop the cap off, and pour out two. Then I twist the top of the water bottle off and hand her both. She swallows the pills. After I kick my sneakers off, I crawl up next to her so we\ e face-to-face. I run my fingers through her strands of red hair and notice the blotchiness on the skin of her shoulders.

’’Bell,’’ I say, caressing her cheek. ’’I remember the first time I saw you in the library. I remember every single detail about the night we spent together. And if you want to talk about it, I will. But there are some things that I think are better left in the past. I have this need to have you in my life. I don\ understand what it is, but I know I haven\ felt more whole or more alive in a very long time than I have with you these last six weeks.’’

A few stray tears trickle down her face. ’’You called me Bell.’’

’’That\s your name.’’

’’I know but you\ve never called me that.’’

I shrug and carefully wipe her tears away. I pull myself up on the bed and lean against the headboard. Patting my stomach, I say, ’’Come here.’’

She moves over to me.

I understand where her sadness is coming from. Where we started is complicated, confusing even. I was with Dahl then and there\s nothing I could say to make what we did right, no, what I did, right. I try to calm her by combing my fingers through her hair. I would hold her, hug her, if I could. When her sobbing eases I lean over and kiss her head. After a few long silent minutes I say, ’’Sit up. Let\s put this aloe on you.’’

She slides across the sheets before settling with her back to me and I lean over to whisper softly in her ear, ’’Lift your hair.’’

I take a moment to collect myself, trying to control the impact she\s having on me. She\s barely dressed and it\s hard to control my desire. I open the bottle and rub the cool liquid in my hands. ’’This is going to tingle at first, but you\ll feel much better, I promise.’’ I carefully pat it on her shoulders and just feeling her smooth skin makes me want to do so much more.

She screams, ’’Ouch,’’ and I can hear a sob and with that any se*ual thoughts I had disappear. F*k, I hate this. I don\ want her to cry. ’’I\m sorry, baby. Almost done.’’ I pat her shoulders, her back, her chest. She\s beyond sunburned everywhere. When I\m done I stand up. ’’I\ll be right back.’’

She nods, taking another sip of water.

I leave the bathroom with a washcloth soaked in cold water. I place it on her forehead and she grabs it. Her fingers touch mine and an electrical current exchanges between us. Emptying my pockets, I lie down next to her and she moves to my chest. She fits perfectly there. She rubs her fingers over the buttons of my shirt and I resist the urge to touch her. I settle for running my fingers through her silky-smooth strands of hair and breathing in her lemon scent.


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