Beneath These Scars (Page 62)

Lucas’s Aston wasn’t in the garage when Jerome parked, and it was on the tip of my tongue to ask when he’d return, but I didn’t. It wasn’t any of my business. Was it?

Jerome offered to fix me a cocktail, but I declined and headed upstairs with my clothes. I slowed in front of the guest room and eyed the door to Lucas’s room beyond it.

Where did I go? Where did I belong? That was the question.

I remembered my first night in the house, how I’d thought I probably wasn’t even good enough to clean the place, and yet I’d spent last night in the master’s bed. I was living in a weird sort of limbo, and it seemed I belonged nowhere.

The stairs creaked behind me and I swung around. Lucas was on the top step, his expression unreadable. His gaze dropped to the dress bag in my hands.

“You can hang them in the closet with the rest.”

The rest? I was still trying to figure out how to ask for an explanation when Lucas strode toward me, plucked the bag out of my arms, and pushed open the door to his room.

I followed him inside, waiting for an explanation. I didn’t get one until I ventured into the closet behind him.

It was laughable to call it a closet—it was another room, and not a tiny one. One half was filled with suits, dress shirts, and slacks, all evenly spaced and neatly organized. The other half was mostly empty, except for one hanging bar that was filled with dresses, skirts, shirts, and pants. Familiar ones. Most of the missing inventory from Dirty Dog.

“What the hell?” I said, breathless.

“You thought I’d have Jerome get you one dress?” he asked.

“I-I don’t know what to say.” About the clothes or the fact that they were hanging in his closet.

I reached out and touched a shimmering blue dress—the Cinderella dress. A myriad of emotions spun through me.

“Why?”

Lucas stepped behind me, both hands cupping my shoulders. “As much as I might prefer you naked, you needed clothing. You obviously liked these things enough to purchase them for the store, so it made sense to have Jerome make his selections there.”

Yes, it made logical sense, but it didn’t make actual sense.

Old feelings of shame crept over me. I didn’t turn, couldn’t face him to get this out. The words felt wrong but I said them anyway.

“I’m not your mistress. You realize that, don’t you? You realize that it is not your job to make sure I have clothes on my back and a roof over my head? You realize that I’m not someone you can just buy and keep in your bed because you feel like it.”

Anger and dirty feelings followed the shame, even stronger than before. Because for some crazy reason, I thought things had changed. But they hadn’t. He still thought he could buy me.

Lucas spun me around. “You’re homeless and you own nothing. This is a helping hand, not a paycheck for fucking me. I expect you to do that for free.”

His eyes were hard, serious. He released me and crossed his arms, as if waiting for me to blow up. I would not disappoint him.

I pushed back on his shoulders, putting some space between us. “Yes, goddamn it, I’m doing that for free! Because I like you. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. And when you do stuff like this, it confuses the hell out of me because I don’t know what we’re doing here. I’m sleeping in your bed. Living in your house. Wearing clothes that you provided. Everything I swore I’d never do.”

Lucas’s jaw muscle ticked. “You swore you’d never do any of that with me?”

I shoved a hand into my hair. “Not you—anyone. Did you have me investigated? Check my background?”

His jaw relaxed only enough for him to bite out, “No, I already told you that.”

I laughed humorlessly. I couldn’t believe I was going to tell him this, but . . . what the hell. “If you had, then you’d know I come from a long line of very accomplished women who expect certain things when they fuck a man. Like a paycheck.”

His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Santos women—we’ve had that last name for over a hundred years because none of them ever marry—are excellent mistresses. It’s how we’re raised. I think I’m the first daughter in all that time to actually take vows—other than to the church, which is kind of ironic that out of a family of whores we’ve actually produced a few nuns.”

Lucas tensed. “So you’re telling me . . . your mother is a mistress?”

“And my grandmother, aunt, great-grandmother. Call it a family tradition.”

“And you didn’t . . .”

I huffed out another forced laugh. “I probably should have. Would’ve been a better choice than marrying the man I did who got his pussy for free and then beat on me because he felt like it. But no, I had to be different. Had to go against the grain. I swore that I’d never get involved with another man with money again. And then you came along.”

He moved closer to me, lifting a hand from my shoulder to cradle my chin in his palm. “You’re finally getting with the program. Because we are involved.”

“Out of all that, that’s what you picked up on?” I asked, shock coloring my tone.

“It’s what matters most to me.”

Something squeezed in my chest. “I don’t know what we’re doing,” I whispered, leaning into his touch.

“Does it matter?” Lucas asked.

“Not as much as it should.”

“Good, because whatever this is, it’s not anywhere close to over.”

I lifted my eyes to his. “So you don’t know what we’re doing either?”