But now it seemed less likely, since he hadn’t yet tried to touch her, hadn’t laid a single finger on her. And she didn’t know what to make of it. Her head felt dizzy with the waiting. At this point she just wanted him to make his move, to get on with it. The waiting and not knowing when he’d strike was exhausting. And so was not knowing how she’d respond.
Being around Cole heightened her senses and left her reeling. She’d never felt this way about Dillon, despite his obvious advances, and found it interesting that even in the presence of Cole’s relative distance, her curiosity was piqued and her body at full attention.
She looked down at the pink bottle of shampoo in her hands. She opened the cap and inhaled. Floral notes and the mouth-watering scent of ripe peaches met her senses, and she smiled. She’d used Cole’s shampoo that smelled like spearmint and made her scalp tingle, which she liked just fine, but it was nice to have something of her own. Her mouth curved into a slow grin at the thought of Cole picking this out her for. And she relished having conditioner too. Her hair would resemble a bird’s nest without it.
After placing the bottles in the guest bathroom, she rejoined Cole in the kitchen to see what she might make for dinner. And perhaps she could even do some baking. As Savannah moved about the kitchen, Cole watched her with suspicion, like he was sure she was about to break down, or freak out at any moment. She didn’t feel like crying anymore. She didn’t feel much of anything anymore. She just wanted to be sure the kids were okay and figure out her new life, taking one day at a time. She felt relieved more than anything to be free from Jacob and the compound where she’d felt so out of place. And grateful for Cole for giving her a second chance at a life. But being unable to understand his intentions was eating away at her. She couldn’t say she was afraid of him; she knew that wasn’t it. More like curious about his motives. She felt comfortable enough, dressed in his soft, worn clothing, making herself at home in his kitchen, and most oddly, making herself comfortable in his arms. It was a comfort she needed, and wouldn’t deny herself. And after Cole had failed to make any type of move on her last night, she’d grown more comfortable, burrowing into his strong arms on the couch and allowing herself the tiniest semblance of safety, even if it wouldn’t last forever.
Cole awoke suddenly to the sound of a muffled shout. What the-?
He was out of bed in an instant and reaching for the handgun he kept in the drawer beside his bed, but then he remembered Savannah. He jogged across the hall and found her thrashing in bed, her arms fighting an imaginary opponent, soft sobs escaping her lips.
“No! No!” she shouted. “Don’t leave me. You can’t leave me.” Her voice was filled with so much emotion, such aguish, it nagged at Cole. During the spilt second it took him to cross the room, he wasn’t sure if she was talking to him, or still dreaming.
But when he reached the bed and saw the moonlit glow across her face, her eyes were still closed. She was having a nightmare.
“Savannah.” He shook her shoulders. “Savannah, wake up. It’s just a dream.”
Her eyes flashed open and locked on his. “Cole?”
“Yes, it’s Cole, sweetheart, I’m here.”
She reached up for his neck and tugged him down on top of her. Hot tears against his neck kept him from pulling away, like logic demanded he do. Instead his arms snaked around her prone body, and he pulled her even closer. “Shh. It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
She let out a weak sob and clutched him even tighter, holding on for dear life. After several minutes, her cries had let up, but her death grip on him had not. Knowing that neither of them would get any sleep at this rate, Cole lay down beside her, folding her gently against his body— her back to his front— and wrapped her in his arms. She turned her head and met his eyes, silently begging him not to hurt her. That look just about crushed him. He soothed a hand along her cheek, brushing her messy hair away from her face. He wondered if her dream had been about Dillon, that guy she’d been worried about. “You’re safe. Sleep now.”
His third day off work passed much like the others —he spent the day with Savannah. She cooked. He ate. It was nice, this routine they were developing. Of course he still had no clue what he was doing letting her stay with him. And the longer she stayed, the more likely it was she would discover the skeletons of Cole’s past that were better left in the closet. But those thoughts were pushed to the very back of his mind with Savannah’s sweet innocence to distract him.
After a dinner of steak, baked potatoes and steamed broccoli, Savannah popped popcorn on the stove and they curled up on the couch to watch a movie. It was a romantic comedy. Savannah leaned forward, curious about the mushy parts, watching the onscreen couple kiss and tumble into bed like she’d never seen anything like it before. Hell, maybe she hadn’t.
Cole did his best to try and keep some distance between them, but Savannah inched closer and closer until she was pressed against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. He wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms and hold her, but the thought was so unwelcome, so unlike him, that he forced himself to sit immobile, and did his best not to notice the beautiful girl beside him. Like that was even possible.
When their movie ended, Cole turned on the news. The first story was about takedown of the cult compound. His eyes flicked to Savannah to measure her reaction, but she’d fallen asleep, her face peaceful and beautiful. He alternated between stealing glances at her sleeping form, and watching the coverage on the compound, but learned nothing new. He waited for the news story to end, and shook her shoulder to wake her. “Savannah, come on, let’s get you in bed.”
She roused, her sleepy eyes blinking up at him. “No, not yet. I want to stay here with you,” she whispered, her voice raspy from sleep.
She trusted him way too much. She needed to go to her room and probably lock the goddamn door, because the way that T-shirt clung to her tits and crept up her side to expose a taunt patch of skin forced his mind to the gutter. He imagined lifting her shirt over her head and nibbling on her soft flesh, exploring her br**sts with gentle licks and kisses until she was moaning out his name in that sweet sleep-laced voice.
He swallowed roughly. “You need to go to bed. You’re falling asleep.”
She met his eyes. “I don’t want to be alone,” she admitted.
He knew he had probably made a mistake by sleeping in the bed with her last night, and he certainly hadn’t meant to set a precedent, but knowing he couldn’t refuse her request, he simply nodded and led her to his room. His bed was bigger. “Do you want to sleep in my room?”
“With you?” she asked, her voice rising in uncertainty.
After they got ready for bed, Cole peeled back the covers and Savannah crawled in. She snuggled into his pillows and inhaled. “It smells like you.”
He didn’t ask if that was good or bad, but the sleepy little smile on her lips confirmed her opinion on the matter. He didn’t quite know how to process the fact that his musky scented sheets — that were probably due for a washing — were pleasing to her. He liked her scent too, though. Maybe it was only natural to be attracted to the scent of the opposite sex.
Cole knew this was dangerous ground. Not just because he was undeniably attracted to her, but because he was afraid that he was making himself too vital in her life. She certainly couldn’t stay here long-term, and then what? He never intended for her to grow attached to him. Yet that was exactly what seemed to be happening. Cole changed in the bathroom, stripping off his shirt and stepping into the pajama pants he’d begun wearing for Savannah’s benefit.
When he crawled into bed in the dimly lit room, Savannah inched toward him and nestled in against his bare chest. The soft curve of her breast pressed against the firm plain of his chest, and her legs tangled with his. He went instantly hard. Fuck.
He sat up and removed her grasp on him. “No, Savannah. You can’t do that. You can sleep in here if you want, but I need my space.”
She bit her lip and looked down, seemingly hurt at being scolded.
“Hey, it’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just used to sleeping on my own.” It was the truth, but not entirely. He wanted nothing more to take her in his arms and hold her all night. Hell, if he was admitting it to himself, he wanted to do a lot more than that to her tempting little body, though he’d never let himself act on it. He would not take advantage of her that way, but mostly he just didn’t want her to discover he was hard.
Savannah’s tortured gaze caught his in the moonlight. “Are you mad at me?”
He couldn’t resist stroking her cheek. “No. You didn’t do anything wrong. Just get some rest, okay?”
She nodded, and lay back down — this time on the other side of the king-sized bed. She found his hand under the blankets and gave it a squeeze. “Thank you, Cole.”
He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand, enjoying the simple contact between them. “Good night, Savannah, sleep well.” A few moments later, her breathing became deep and even, and he knew she’d fallen asleep. He was much too keyed up to do the same. His erection begged for attention. And having her soft, feminine curves right there next to him was pressing all his buttons. He glanced at the door to the master bath, wondering if he could slip out of bed silently and go jerk off. But if Savannah woke up and called for him, then what? He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, knowing he’d get no relief tonight.
Cole shot up straight up in bed and cursed. The room was dark and silent. He urged his heart to slow the f**k down before he got up and punched something.
“Cole?” Savannah rubbed at her eyes and sat up next to him.
Fuck. He’d forgotten about Savannah. But apparently his subconscious hadn’t. The dreams were eerily reminiscent of how he met her.
She placed a hand on his back, resting between his shoulder blades. “Are you okay?”
“Don’t touch me.” He shrugged out of her grasp. He knew trying to sleep would be pointless now that he’d dreamed of her. Cole climbed out of bed. He put on gym shorts, stripping his pajama pants in the dark, and added a T-shirt. Savannah was up and out of bed and behind him, wrapping her arms around his back so her hands locked together around his waist. Her br**sts rasped through the thin cotton of the T-shirt she wore and pressed against his back.
“Dammit, Savannah.” He peeled her hands off him and turned to face her. “Let me go.” He didn’t need her tenderness right now. It would only make things worse once she understood. “There are things you don’t know about me.”
They stood staring at each other in the pre-dawn light. Her gaze registered surprise and hint of fear. He knew she’d never seen this side of him, hadn’t even imagined it existed. God, he wished it didn’t. But the sad truth was, he’d f**ked up big time. He just hoped she never knew the extent of it. It struck him how little they each knew about one another, yet how easily they’d fallen into this routine together.
He reached out and squeezed her hand to show her that he wasn’t mad. “Just go back to bed. I’m going to the gym.”
She glanced at the clock beside the bed. It was four a.m., but she didn’t argue, she just nodded and climbed back in the bed, curling up in the warmth of the spot he’d just vacated.
“Okay, so no questions, no objections. You’re going,” Marissa pressed.
Cole dragged the phone from his ear, blowing out a sigh. “I don’t know, Marissa, I’ve been pretty busy with work lately.” She didn’t need to know that he was currently on vacation.
“Oh Colby, you’re gonna love her. I met Sali in my yoga class. She’s gorgeous, fun. Close to your age. I really think you’ll like her. How long’s it been since you’ve been on a date?”
Fuck. The last thing he wanted to do as go on some blind date, but even more than that, he didn’t want to get Marissa pissed at him, because if he did, she was likely to come over to give him a piece of her mind and then she’d find Savannah here.
Marissa had been urging him to use dating websites, but he’d adamantly refused. He’d rather get a quick lay than have to sit and listen to a girl he wasn’t interested in prattle on about how her last manicure was chipping after only two days — no joke, that was the actual dinner conversation of his last date.
But with his second to last single friend getting married that past summer, Cole was beginning to realize it might be time to look for a good girl. He just wasn’t good at dating. He never seemed to meet the expectations women had. He was forgetful, he wasn’t romantic, and he worked too much. He didn’t know many girls that would take him the way he was, but he didn’t want to be someone’s project. He wasn’t changing. Hell, he even pissed Marissa off and she was family — she had to love him.
“I arranged it so that you guys could meet at Liam’s,” Marissa said. “You’re there every weekend anyway, so what’s the big deal?”
Marissa had a point. His best friend Liam owned an Irish pub practically walking distance from his condo. “Fine, I’ll go,” he muttered into the phone. Since Marissa regularly threatened to create an online dating profile for him, he occasionally complied to keep her off his back. “Sali, huh?”
“Yes! Okay, well I already arranged everything. You guys are meeting two weeks from Saturday at seven for drinks. That’s it. Simple, huh?”
“Would it kill you to thank your sister?”
“Thanks, Rissa.” He rolled his eyes before ending the call. It was still a couple weeks away, maybe he could find a way out of it.