Free Me (Page 58)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(58)
Author: Laurelin Paige

“Why what?” I should have prepared myself for this conversation. I’d been stupid to think I would never have to have it, and I didn’t have believable answers at the ready.

“Why do you want to end things? Did I hurt you? Were things not working out? Have you found someone else?”

“No!” I had to pick a lie, but none of those were fair. “No, to all of that.”

“Then what?” He exhaled as he asked, his relief evident. “Come on. We’re good together, Gwen. You can’t say that we don’t have chemistry.”

“It’s a lot of things.” I went back to the chairs, using my movement around the table to distance myself from him.

He followed. “Like?”

“Like work. It’s been busy.”

“You still have Wednesdays off. Don’t say you don’t. I stopped by last night looking.”

He looked for me. It hit me in the gut. While I’d sat at home convinced he didn’t care in the least about our end, he’d come to the club to find me. Had he wanted to see me that badly? Was he giving himself away too? Was this proof that he was also emotionally involved?

I couldn’t let myself think that way. It was a slippery slope, and I was already close to saying fuck it all and that I’d be there next week. “Yes, I still have Wednesdays off. But I have other things to do with my free time.”

“Like what?”

He stayed at my heels. I could feel him like a wall of warmth. If I leaned back, let my body fall into him, would he put his arms around me? Would he help me feel secure? Would it make up for the other things he couldn’t give me?

“I don’t know…th-things,” I said, stumbling over my words. “Family things. My sister needs me. And my brother. My father is being released from jail in a few weeks and that had a big impact on—”

JC cut me off. “So you’re a little stressed. So what?”

I swung toward him, unable to decide if I was more peeved at his disinterest or his condescension. “If you’d let me actually tell you something about myself, maybe you’d see why I’m more than a little stressed.”

“That’s not us. That’s not who we are to each other.”

In his straight inflection, I heard the truth. I heard him convincing himself as much as me, and again I saw the potential relationship we might have if I only had patience. If I only had the grit to stick it out and wait for him, one day possibly we could be that to each other.

But I was gutless.

“That’s not us,” I said. “You’re right. We have an arrangement to be carefree and fun. And now we’re arguing. Over our commitment-free relationship. Over sex. That’s not what I signed up for.”

My throat tightened, and I had to clear it before I went on. “Anyway, my point is I don’t have time for this right now. I have other things going on.”

Back to the chairs. Focus on the chairs.

JC hesitated, and I thought I’d finally gotten to him.

But then he was at my side again, his demeanor light and yet tenacious. “And that’s exactly why you need what we have right now. You need the release.”

You need, you need, you need. It struck me as a strange argument. You should because you need. Why did he care what I needed? What did he need?

I spun toward him. “Why are you even here, JC? Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane?”

“I moved my flight.”

“Until when?”

“Tomorrow night.” He slipped his hands into his pockets, and while I liked that pose on him, I recognized it was one of his less confident stances.

It was my turn to take advantage. “Why?” I could play the same game he had with me. The push, push, push. It wasn’t that hard when I was motivated. “Why did you change your flight?”

He shrugged. “I wasn’t ready to leave town.”

“Because of me?”

He ran a hand through his hair, unable to look at me. Unable to answer.

I had him on the edge, and it thrilled me. Because I could only get to him this way if I already got to him in other ways. I pressed on, sidestepping a chair so there was nothing between us. “Why can’t you say it? Because of me, right?”

Abruptly, he grabbed my upper arms and pulled me to him roughly. “Yes, because of you. Of course, because of you. I need…” His lips hovered above mine—tempting, taunting—and I couldn’t decide if I wanted him to kiss me or to finish his thought.

He exhaled, his breath dancing across my mouth, his body relaxing as he pressed into me, hot and inviting. “I need a distraction. I have things on my mind. I want my mind on you. I want my hands on you.” He brushed my arms with long strokes. “I want my mouth on you.”

I was the addict again, on the brink of giving in to the sweet pull of his temptation, not caring if there was anything real behind his drug. Eyes half-closed, my skin burning up from his touch, I gave a last-ditch effort to save myself. “There are a hundred girls out there who could be your distraction.”

“No, there’s not. There’s only you.”

My breath caught. I would have sunk to my knees if he weren’t still holding me up. And yet, he still wasn’t kissing me, his lips still flitting only inches above mine.

I lifted my eyes to his. He regretted saying it. I saw it plain as day, his face having fallen with the slip. Or the wrong choice of words. I didn’t know which. Only saw that he wished he could erase it.

It gutted me.

He shut his eyes tightly, and in those next few seconds, all I could think was why doesn’t he let me go? When he opened them, I expected he’d take it back. I waited for it. I prayed for it because while I cherished his admission, whatever it was he meant by it, I couldn’t bear it. It didn’t make it better. It only made it worse.

When he spoke again, it was carefully. Controlled. “I don’t want to push you,” he said. “You’re right that we agreed this was going to be casual. It still is, for the most part. But you’ve come a long way. You seem happier. And I…I like spending time with you. I’d hate to see our arrangement ending just when I think you need me most.”

Every other word he said made me melt. The words in between pissed me off. And he needn’t worry about losing the ability to surprise me because none of what he’d spoken had been expected.

He trailed his hands down the length of my arms. “I know you have to work. I’ll let you get back to it.” He laced his fingers through mine. “But I’ll be at the hotel tonight. I’d love it if you came by after your shift. Think about it.” He let me go, and after one last lingering look, he headed toward the door.