Free Me (Page 40)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(40)
Author: Laurelin Paige

If I’d known that we could have been catching up together instead of me going home to sleep alone…

Could have been. But not should have been. Sleeping apart was best in a non-committed relationship. Also, not spending entire days with each other outside of the bedroom.

He opened another drawer now and pulled out a pair of jeans. “But since I slept all night with you, I’m now free.”

Huh. I bit the inside of my lip as I digested his sudden interest in outside-the-hotel-room-togetherness. Would it really be that bad? Marcus and I had been friends beyond our sexual relationship. We’d gone to movies, hung out. And then he’d fallen in love with me.

JC, though…he wasn’t the falling in love type. He barely let me in past the outer grounds of his fortress. Which was why it was weird that he wanted to be with me today. Maybe he simply wanted company. Was I overthinking it?

“Would you rather I not go?”

I looked up at JC from the random spot I’d been focusing on while I dazed. That was the real question—did I want him to go with me? The answer was not what I expected. “I’d love to have you. Otherwise, as you said, boring.”

“Awesome.” His grin alone was worth the decision I’d made. It made my belly flutter, but also higher, my chest warmed.

I smiled back, and for once, it wasn’t merely a grin of seduction. Though, I was feeling that too.

“Why don’t you jump in the shower? I bet breakfast will be here by the time you’re out. I’ll grab a shower after.”

“O…kay.” I’d half-expected to shower together. We hadn’t done that yet, but it sure sounded more fun.

JC met me at the side of the bed with the robe. I stood and slipped into it. When I turned around, he tugged me to him.

“I’d suggest we wait for the food then take a shower together,” he whispered at my ear, “but you and I both know that if we did that, we’d never get out of here.” He nipped my lobe. “So get in there before I tell you not to even bother.”

This was more like the JC I knew. Seductive, naughty. Except that normally he’d not care about leaving the room. He wouldn’t have even cared if I’d made it to the shower—he’d have pounced on me before I made it two feet toward the bathroom door.

So what was this?

I took the time alone in the shower to regroup. I had only a few choices—I could ask him point blank what was up and probably get brushed off. I could tell him I’d changed my mind and decided to go home after all. Or I could go with the flow and stop questioning it.

In the end, I chose the latter. JC had been teaching me to let loose, after all. Maybe this was just another one of his lessons. If he wasn’t going to worry about our rules, then I couldn’t think of a single valid reason I should let them bother me.

***

My errands had us trekking across town to the Meatpacking District. Considering Norma’s newfound love of lingerie, I decided to buy her a gift certificate at La Perla, one of my favorite splurge stores. The trip was a quick in and out, but even that was enough time for JC to get his kicks.

“How about this one?” he asked, holding up a barely-there red bra and panty set.

“I don’t really think it’s your color.”

The sales clerk chuckled at my response.

“But you look amazing in red. Almost as amazing as you look out of red.”

Speaking of red, I was now blushing at the forwardness of this conversation. “JC, there are people present.”

“So there are. I can ask their opinion too.” He brought the item up to the woman who was helping me. “Don’t you think this would be perfect for Gwen, here?”

“That is a favorite piece, sir. Lots of women like to pair it with garters.” She batted her lashes at JC, which I suspected was less about making a sale and more about how irresistible he was.

Admittedly, it boosted my ego that he was with me. Not with me with me, but with me for the day.

“Now we’re talking. I’ll take it all.” When I started to protest, he said, “Where I come from, it’s customary to give the sister of the birthday girl a present too.”

I didn’t know if I should argue or not. It was an expensive gift, but I knew he was the type who liked to pay for things. And I wanted to wear the outfit for him. It made me wet just imagining him stripping me of the garters.

So I played back. “Where exactly is it you come from?”

“Shh. I’m not allowed to say. Remember?”

“Fine. It’s your money.” I placed the gift card for Norma in my purse and started toward the door, careful not to be around to see the last name on his credit card.

“You’ll wear it, though?” he called after me.

I peered over my shoulder, my finger to my lips in a shh. “I’m not allowed to say.” I smiled the rest of the way out of the store, proud of my flirty banter. It wasn’t like me to be so playful. It felt good. It felt liberating. It didn’t even feel all that unnatural.

“Where to next?” he asked when he joined me outside with his bags.

“The closest Greenmarket open on Thursdays is in Port Authority.” I’d looked it up while he was still inside.

JC glanced at his watch before stepping toward the curb to hail a taxi. “And is that the last stop for the day?”

“Why? Do you need to be somewhere?” It was our last stop, but I’d sort of thought we’d spend the afternoon together as well. I suddenly worried he’d changed his mind about hanging out. Did he decide it wasn’t a good idea after all?

At the same time, I realized I was a mess of expectations and wants. First, I thought the idea was too intimate. Then I accepted it. Now I was having fun, and part of me wanted it to never end. It was exactly the reason I’d frowned at the plan in the first place. It was too hard to keep things casual outside of the bedroom.

“Only place I need to be is back in the hotel room.” He held up the La Perla bag. “And not because I’m tired.”

I swallowed, grateful for the cab that pulled over so I didn’t have to respond.

The driver was chatty, and JC entertained him the entire way to the market. I admired the way he could joke so easily. How he could make friends with a total stranger. Yet, except for what I knew of him physically, I really wasn’t much more of a stranger to him than the cabbie. He had that appearance, I realized, of being an open book while really he held more secrets than I did.