Beneath These Lies (Page 21)

The muscle in Rix’s jaw tightened and he dropped his arms, taking one step forward and leaning down. “Don’t.” The word came out on a growl, and yet I still felt no fear.

“I—” Whatever I was going to say died when Rix’s head dipped toward me.

“I’m taking my shot, not asking for it,” he murmured before his lips took mine. There was no warm-up, no coaxing. Just . . . conquering.

I went with it, opening my mouth to his tongue and letting him in. My hands had their own agenda, gripping his shoulders, pulling him closer, wanting more. How long had it been since I’d felt that wanting? That absolute need to feel someone’s skin on mine?

Rix’s fingers buried in my hair, tilting my head one way and then the other, changing angles, going deeper. I wanted more, needed more.

But he pulled back.

“Gotta stop or I won’t. Got shit to do. I need to go.” He pushed away from the wall and headed for the door.

“You have shit to do? You have to go? That’s how you’re going to leave it?” I asked, my tone incredulous.

The man had just kissed me like I’d never been kissed before, and he pulled away like I was a leper. Did I forget how to kiss? I knew it had been a while, but was I that bad? Hell.

“You get that you’re mine?” he asked.

“I don’t—”

“Yes or no, Valentina. It’s not a hard question.”

“I don’t know,” I yelled, pushing up off the bed and striding toward him. “You confuse the hell out of me, and even though you should scare me, you don’t. And you make me think about wanting things I shouldn’t—” I cut my rant off short as soon as I realized my filter had slipped, and I was so freaking confused, brutal honesty win out.

Rix inhaled sharply, alerting me to the fact that my hand was pressed against his chest and I’d backed him into a corner. Before I could move it, his wide palm covered mine and held it in place. My gaze clashed with his, and neither of us moved.

“You’ve got good instincts, duchess. I should scare the hell out of you, and you absolutely shouldn’t want a goddamned thing to do with me. And you should definitely never trust me.”

I choked out a surprised laugh. “That’s your pitch? After telling me you want me, you tell me I should be scared and shouldn’t want you or trust you?”

“Tell me to go right now.”

My brain struggled to keep up with him. “You want me to tell you to go?”

“No, but you should. Because if you don’t, I’m gonna be inside you tonight, and you’re not ready for that.”

Was he right? My body was dying for his touch, but he was absolutely not the guy I should be wanting. And as much as the devil on my shoulder urged me to take a risk and tell him to stay, I couldn’t do it.

Why were the words so hard to say?

“Then go.”

He nodded and turned away without another word. My staircase creaked as he hit certain steps. I listened for more sounds of his departure but heard nothing. The alarm didn’t go off, but the house was silent.

What the hell was I going to do about him?

Just like the last night he’d left me at my house, the urge to paint flooded me. I should have been falling flat on my face in bed because I hadn’t slept in a day, but instead I was hypercharged by the desire that Rix had ignited within me.

I stripped off the robe in favor of leggings and a T-shirt, and checked every room in the house to see if he was really gone. He was. I told myself I wasn’t disappointed as I headed to my studio.

As soon as I flipped on the light, my stomach fell to the drop cloths covering the floor.

My easel was empty.

He didn’t.

But who else?

The piece I’d done that I hadn’t been willing to admit was Rix, except maybe in the deepest part of my mind, was gone.

But how?

And why?

My stomach churned as I looked around my studio at the remaining canvases. Part of my secret was I usually painted nudes. My fascination was with the human figure. The beauty of it, the differences, the imperfections. And the figure I usually painted because it was the one I saw naked most often? My own.

Did he take anything else?

Frantically, I sorted through them, mentally ticking off all the finished pieces as I saw them. It seemed that nothing else was missing, but that didn’t calm my racing heart.

Rix took it. He frigging took it. My painting of him.

I wanted to whack my head against the wall for being so careless as to just leave it out. But this was my space, my home, and no one came in my studio but me. Ever. My cleaning lady knew to steer clear, and even then, I locked the door just to be safe. Martha didn’t need to see my nudes spread out all over a room. No one did. Which was why I never showed anyone. Never told anyone. Never would.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow Rix and I would have words, and I would get it back and demand he stop screwing around and get Trinity back right the hell now.

I WOULDN’T LET THIS CASE go. There was too much at stake, including my reputation—what was left of it—and maybe my career.

Tossing the file down on my desk in frustration, I shoved my hand through my hair. It was strange not to have it buzzed short, but everyone needed a change now and then. Or so my last girlfriend had told me. That hadn’t lasted long. She’d had a lot of things to say, and almost all of them involved changing me.

I was the last guy to claim to be perfect, and she was definitely searching for her version of happily-ever-after with the perfect guy who never wanted to watch the Saints, drink a beer, or fuck her in any position but missionary. Like I said, she hadn’t lasted long.