Not everything was some damn love story like Marissa thought. Not everyone got their happy endings. He knew that first hand — look at his parents, or go open any of the case files on his desk at work.
He still couldn’t help his mind from replaying a thousand scenarios though — each one with him unable to reach Savannah in time and witnessing her dying breath, like he had eight months ago with the other girl. After her death, he’d researched everything he could about the girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only seventeen, she was downtown because she had a fight with her parents. He closed his eyes and pulled Savannah close, burying his face in her neck, breathing in her scent and trying t to escape the vision of the girl from his mind.
Cole met Marissa at Liam’s after work for a quick beer. She’d been bugging him ever since she met Savannah, and he suspected their visit wasn’t a friendly sibling get-together. More like a chance get the scoop from him uninterrupted. Liam automatically brought him a beer and Marissa a glass of white wine.
“Thanks man.” He raised his bottle to Liam before bringing it to his lips.
“Sooo,” Marissa drew out the word, smiling at him. “What’s new?”
She pouted. He knew his one-word answers weren’t going to fly, but he didn’t care. He didn’t even understand what was going on between him and Savannah, let alone trying to explain it to someone else.
“How was your date with Sali?”
“Fine.” The only thing he remembered about his date with Sali was what happened afterwards with Savannah. Her dark smoldering eyes watching him f**k another woman was probably the most erotic experience of his life. A flush of heat crawled up his neck at the memory.
“Do you think you’ll see her again?”
Marissa rolled her eyes. “Cole. Talk to me. What’s going on with you and Savannah? Are you just planning to support her, or is she going to get a job? Don’t take this the wrong way because I really like Savannah, but you’re my brother. It’s my job to look out for you.”
Cole nearly laughed at the absurdity of her question. “Savannah’s not like that. She’s not after my money — not that I have much of it anyway—and yes I do plan to support her for as long as she needs it.” He took another sip of his beer, growing agitated at where the conversation was headed. He expected Marissa to probe into his love life like she usually did, not warn him away from Savannah.
“That’s a lot to ask of you, Cole.”
“She’s not a burden, Rissa.” Quite the opposite, in fact. “I like having her there.”
A knowing smile stretched across her lips. “What’s really going on between you two?”
“She was completely broken when I found her. I won’t take advantage of her. Let it go.”
Marissa laughed. “You’re as blind as a damn bat. I’ve seen the way she looks at you, Cole. I don’t think you can take advantage of the willing.”
What did that mean? How did Savannah look at him? “She doesn’t look at me any such way.” Did she?
Marissa chuckled again, then took another sip of her wine. “She looks at you like she wants a taste. And don’t get me started on how she cooks and cleans for you and basically waits on you hand and foot.”
“You’re reading too much into this.” Savannah did those things because they gave her something to do, allowed her to feel useful. That had nothing to do with him, did it?
“You called me in a panic when she had cramps. You don’t find that …odd?”
He shrugged, refusing to answer and focused on his beer. He hadn’t thought it was odd at the time, but he could see how it probably seemed like something a concerned boyfriend would do.
“Dammit Cole, she’s not the one who’s broken—you are. I swear you could be in love with her and not even know it with that thick head of yours.”
Not likely. Cole intended to laugh and brush her comment off, but his mouth had gone bone dry. He pulled down another sip of his beer, praying the icy liquid would clear his brain of all the impossible thoughts.
“What would you think about me getting my driver’s license?” Savannah asked over breakfast the following morning.
Hot coffee slid painfully down the wrong pipe. Cole struggled to clear his airway, unable to speak for nearly a minute.
Savannah set the spatula beside the skillet of eggs, anchored a hand on her hip, and launched into a speech. “I’ve driven before. Plenty of times. I learned on the old pickup truck we had on the compound.”
Setting his mug down and clearing his throat, Cole nodded. “That’s fine, Savannah. I’ll set up the appointment for a driver’s ed course.”
With Marissa’s words from the night before urging him on, and the topic of her future already broached, Cole considered how to bring up the idea of Savannah getting a job. He didn’t know what the right thing was, hell, he could pay her for cooking and cleaning his house, but he knew that wasn’t why she did those things and didn’t want to insult her. He knew she was good with animals, baking and cooking. Certainly there were things she could do, and perhaps even go to school if she was interested. “Once you get your license, you’ll be able to get out when I’m at work.” He poked at the second slice of banana bread Savannah had set in front of him. “Have you thought about what you might want to do?” He dared a glance up at her.
“I’d like to work with children. Perhaps babysitting, or maybe at a daycare center.”
“That’s a great idea.” Cole was surprised how easily the conversation had gone. Maybe Savannah was ready for more, stronger than he had given her credit for. He headed into his bedroom to continue getting ready for work, feeling somehow uneasy about the conversation they just had.
As much as Savannah wanted to admit she was just as unaffected by Cole as he seemed by her, she couldn’t. Especially since watching him with that other woman had shattered her heart into a million tiny pieces. She had stupidly started to fall for him, his gentle affections, his caring nature, his strong work ethic, all of him And ever since she watched him make love to the other girl, her body had joined forces with her heart, the ache now all-encompassing, possessing her from the inside out.
She missed him when he was at work. Missed his scent, his warmth and just having someone else to share little things with. Like when Cuddles jumped up on the couch for the first time—confused at how she’d gotten up there—or when she finally mastered the recipe for her favorite pie that her friend Melody used to make for her.
She practically mauled him when he got home from work, desperate for contact and attention. And he always allowed it, but never encouraged anything further between them. Savannah knew it was time for her to find a job — to have something to devote her time and attention to that would be worthwhile, rather than mothering Cole to death. Though he never complained.
But even as she planned the future, she couldn’t keep her thoughts from wandering to Cole. The way his dark intense eyes felt on her skin, his casual brushes of contact…she doubted he had any idea how insane they made her. The way he smiled when he took the first bite of a meal she’d cooked, the way he looked with his shirt sleeves rolled up when he got home from work. She found just about everything he did sexy. And don’t get her started on his scent when he arrived home from the gym, skin glistening, and gym shorts hanging loose on his hips. It took every ounce of strength she possessed not to jump him.
She’d never had feelings like this before—not about anyone—and had finally mustered up to the courage to talk to her therapist about it last week. He’d assured her that her feelings for the opposite sex were entirely normal and to be expected, living in close quarters with someone she was attracted to. But he’d cautioned her about getting involved with Cole, saying that if he didn’t return her feelings, Savannah would get hurt.
Savannah had laid herself bare for Cole and little good it had done. Sure he had been tempted enough to kiss her in all the right spots until she dissolved into pleasure, but then he’d pulled her panties into place and left like nothing had happened between them. It seemed like nothing she did made him see her like a woman. He still saw that scared, life-weary girl he’d rescued. When he’d finally kissed her—a full, sensuous open-mouthed kiss—she could tell it affected him, yet he wouldn’t let himself go there with her. She’d briefly wondered if perhaps he was gay, but she knew he took simple pleasures from their contact, even if that was all it was — the warmth of another body. So she’d gone on the date with Levi, and then this morning she’d talked to Cole about getting a driver’s license and her own job. It was time to think about her future, as scary as that might be. And not just because it meant relying only on herself, but because the thought of being away from Cole felt like a loss she couldn’t handle. She’d been falling for him since that first moment she’d seen him—weapon drawn, and his dark, intelligent eyes swept the room where she hid.
When Cole left for work that morning, she cleaned the kitchen, polished the black granite countertops, and then positioned herself at the dining room table with his laptop. She began looking for jobs and researching the cost of apartments. It was time to make a plan for herself. She couldn’t rely on Cole’s generosity forever.
Cole thought yoga was supposed to relax you, which was why he couldn’t understand why Savannah had come home madder than a hornet’s nest.
She tossed her yoga mat in the front closet, and then retreated to the kitchen. Cole had figured she would have joined him in the living room to tell him all about it, talking in her excited way whenever she had a new experience. He glanced at his watch. Dinnertime…maybe she was anxious to begin cooking. But it didn’t sound like she was cooking so much as punishing the dishes.
“Savannah?” Cole rounded the corner to the kitchen, where the sound of clattering pots and pans was starting to alarm him.
“What?” she turned briskly, holding a large chef’s knife in her hand.
“Whoa.” He held up his hands. “I just wanted to see how yoga went.”
She narrowed her eyes, refusing to lower the knife. “Fine,” she bit out in a clipped tone.
He took a step back. “Did, ah, something happen?” His brows knitted together in concern.
“Nope.” She slashed through a ripe tomato with such force, a spray of seeds and juice misted the countertop.
“You sure?” He dared a step closer. “Did you have…fun?”
She was still dressed for a work out, a pair of skin tight black pants hugging her ass in the most distracting way. God bless whoever invented yoga pants. Her little white tank was riding up, exposing a strip of her narrow waist and lower back. Visions of caressing that ass in his palms, along with memories of the way her skin tasted, danced through his subconscious.
Dear God he wanted her.
He’d been trying to avoid being alone with her ever since he’d surrendered and brought her pleasure. As much as he wanted a repeat, he hadn’t dared give in. All this past week, he worked late, hit the gym after work, went to Liam’s pub for a drink, then came home and slipped into bed while she was sleeping. Of course, that hadn’t stopped her from curling her body around his, releasing a happy little sigh against his chest, or pulling his arm around her so they could spoon. She certainly wasn’t shy about taking what she needed in terms of physical affection, but neither had actually communicated about their relationship, or whatever this thing was between them.
She dropped the knife, letting it clatter against the cutting board, her task momentarily forgotten. “Fun? Hmm, let’s see. Was it fun to see the girl you brought home twisting her body into impossible poses for ninety minutes? No. I don’t suppose it was.”
“Savannah.” His tone was sharp and she met his eyes.
“What Cole? What?”
He swallowed and tested the ground between them by taking another step closer. “First, give me the knife.” His grip closed around her wrist and with his free hand, he slid the knife further away from her, just in case. He’d never seen her so worked up. They were standing just inches apart and Cole could feel the heat of her skin radiating off her. He could smell the sweet floral notes of her shampoo assaulting his resolve. He imagined leaning in and possessing her mouth in a kiss. He wanted to feel her full lips part for him, accept him, and remembering the way her little soft tongue rubbed against his made his balls ache. But even as he processed all this, in just two-heartbeat’s time, he knew he wouldn’t kiss her. Instead he squeezed his eyes closed, willing his hard-on to relent. “Tell me what’s really bothering you.”
Savannah looked down, at war with herself over what to say next. What could she say to the man who made her feel so cared for one minute and so furious the next. She didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but something had to give between them. She needed to understand what was running through his head. She’d struggled through that night’s yoga lesson, hating that she had to watch the instructor he’d slept with move her lithe body in all sorts of positions. Why did he bring her home, bring her here to live with him in the first place? Why go through all this trouble if he didn’t really want her? “If you don’t want me— why didn’t you just leave me where I was?” She looked down, unable to meet his eyes, yet desperately seeking a reaction.
“Left you there? Are you crazy? That a**hole Jacob was a whackjob. You should be thanking me for getting you out of there.”