Fueled (Page 49)
“Hey,” I murmur softly as his hands press into my back. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” He breathes. “Now I am.”
His murmured confession rocks me. Hits those parts deep within in me, unjaded and still full of hope and possibility.
He finally releases me when he hears sounds in the hallway. I gaze up at his face and look beyond the handsome features that still make my breath catch in my throat. I notice darkened smudges under his tired, wary eyes. He’s not sleeping. More nightmares? I don’t know and I don’t want to ask. He’ll tell me if he wants to. When he’s able to.
I stare at him for a beat and try to figure out what’s different about him. It’s only when he angles his head to question my silent appraisal that it hits me. He’s clean-shaven. I reach up and run my hand across his jaw, his face leaning into my touch. And it’s something about that little gesture mixed with his earlier confession that causes my heart to swell.
“What’s this?” I ask, averting my eyes to prevent him from seeing my emotional transparency. “So smooth and clean-shaven.”
“It doesn’t bode too well doing a razor commercial with a five o’clock shadow,” he smirks, running his palms up and down the sides of my torso. Licks of desire flicker low in my belly at his touch.
I laugh out loud. “Understandably. I like it though,” I tell him, running my fingers over it again when he frowns. “It’s okay, Ace, you still ooze bad boy without the stubble. Besides, I’ll get to sleep with someone different than this scruffy-jawed man I’ve been wasting my time on.”
He flashes a wicked smile. “Wasting your time, huh?” He takes a step toward me, lust clearly edging the humor out of his eyes.
Every part of my body tightens at the predatory way his body moves toward mine. My God. Take me, I want to tell him. Take every part of me that you already haven’t stolen, taken, or claimed.
“Oh, most definitely. He’s a rebel…” I scrunch my nose up, playing along “…and I definitely don’t do the bad boy type.”
“No?” He wets his lips with a quick dart of his tongue. “What type exactly, do you do?” A devilish grin snakes up the corner of his lips as he reaches out to touch my face, and in an instant it disappears. His eyes narrow upon noticing the bruise from Zander on my cheek. My cover-up has obviously worn off. “Who did this to you?” he demands, his hands cupping my neck, angling my head to the side so he can see the severity of the bruise. “Is this from Zander last night?”
I startle at his words. “Yeah, it goes with the territory.” I shrug. “How’d you know about it?”
“Poor fucking kid.” He shakes his head. “I called you this morning. You were still asleep after being up with Zander all night. I hadn’t heard from you and got worried.” He pauses and those words—his admission that he cares for me coming on the heels of him telling me in so many words that he needs me—ignites my soul and makes my lips curl automatically. “So I called the house and Jackson answered. He told me what happened.” He angles my chin up to look at my cheek again. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah.” I shake my head, his concern endearing.
“So, I figured the kids might need a break to shake off last night.” He leans in and brushes his lips against mine again. “And I really wanted to see you,” he murmurs breathlessly, his words shooting straight into my heart and embedding themselves into my every fiber.
How can he say he doesn’t subscribe to romance when he says things so casually when they’re least expected?
“I have a work function tonight, so I don’t have much time, but I wanted to go have some fun and release some stress.” He subtly shakes his head, and I can see a hint of sadness creep back into his eyes. “Besides, it’s been a rough day and I needed to get away. Do something to relax.”
“Nothing for you to worry about.” He forces a tight smile, leans in, and kisses the tip of my nose. “Besides, I thought the boys might enjoy it too.”
“I’m sure they will,” I tell him. “I’ve gotta go get my purse.” I start to head toward the staff’s room when I hear Zander call my name from the opposite side of the house. I pause, a wide smile spreading across my face over hearing him call my name like all the other kids in the house do. It makes my heart happy. “What’s wrong, Zand?” I ask.
“Shoe.” It’s only one word. But it’s a word. And he’s actually communicating so that makes it even better. I smile broadly and Colton follows suit in understanding.
“Go get your purse,” he tells me. “I’ll go help him.”
“You sure?” I ask, but he’s already turning the corner to the hall.
I gather my stuff, lock up the back door, and get ready to leave. When I near the hall, I hear the murmur of voices. I take a few steps and then stop when I realize that Colton and Zander are talking about last night.
I know I shouldn’t eavesdrop—that I should walk away and leave them some privacy—but my curiosity is piqued. And when I hear Colton say, “You know, I used to have really bad dreams too, Zander,” I know that I won’t be going anywhere.
I can’t see them but I have a feeling that Zander acknowledges Colton somehow because he continues. “When I was little, I had some really bad things happen to me too. And I used to get scared. So scared.” I can hear Colton sigh and some shuffling. “And when I’d get that scared, do you know what I’d say to try and make me not so scared? I’d repeat in my head, ‘Spiderman. Batman. Superman. Ironman.’ I’d say it over and over. And you know what? If I squeezed my eyes really, really tight—just like this—it would help.”