“And promise to never ever do anything like that again.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Never. He would never hurt her like that again, not on purpose.
“Okay.” She relaxed. “All right. Thank you.”
Micah let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. They walked in silence for several seconds while he gathered up his courage to say what he had to say next. “But, Maddie, that won’t fix everything. We have to deal with this.” He waved his hand back and forth between them. “With whatever is going on between us. Because it’s not going away.” He returned the scowl she gave him. “Don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Her eyes narrowed. “And what exactly do you propose? Just f**k and get it over with?”
His balls throbbed at the suggestion of sex. “I was going to say one date, but yeah.”
She shook her head, her ponytail catching on her shoulder. “I can’t believe I’m listening to this.”
He exhaled slowly, worried that he was losing ground.
She turned on him before he could formulate a new plan. “Why me, Micah? If it’s not my repeated nos that have you intrigued, what is it? Why not one of the million other girls you know would kill for a night with you? Why me?”
That question. God, it was impossible to answer. He’d asked himself the same thing over and over since the airport and hadn’t come up with anything he could quite explain.
But now, for her, because she needed to know, he tried. “You remember that night?” He waited for her to nod. “Back then you liked me. At least, I think you did. And it wasn’t because I had money or a big name. It was me.”
He shook his head, not believing how completely exposed he was making himself for her. For a woman.
But as scary as it was, he wanted to be that exposed. “Now, when I’m kissing you, I’m kissing her—the woman who wanted to kiss that no-name guy from the wrap party. And you don’t seem to give a shit about the Micah Preston stuff.”
“That was a wrap party? Huh. I had no idea.” She kicked at the gravel with her toe, her eyes fixed on the ground.
It drove him crazy that she wasn’t looking him—that he couldn’t read her features, couldn’t see what she was thinking. “Yeah. For a Davenport film I’d just finished.”
“Hmm.” Finally she met his eyes. “Micah, that’s a really sweet sentiment. And I’m sure I can’t even begin to understand what it’s like for you. But I didn’t even know you back then. Yes, I was attracted to you for reasons that weren’t about fame or money. You were charming and adorable and well, so freakin’ hot.”
He grinned like he always did when she stated her attraction to him.
“But it was one night. A brief night a long time ago. If you want to know if I’m really into you, the real you under all that other stuff, then you’d have to give me a chance to get to know you. Because I don’t. I don’t know you.”
Her words punched him in the gut. Right. She didn’t know him. And he’d been wrapped up with this idea that she did—that she saw him for who he really was.
Yet instead of taking her truth and running like he usually did, he found himself asking, “Do you want to?”
“After what you pulled? I’m not sure.”
But she was still standing there talking to him. There had to be something he could say or do to make it work. “If I hadn’t been such an idiot, if I hadn’t f**ked it up royally, what would it take to be with you?”
“It would take you being willing to be with me. I mean, I wouldn’t expect you to become my boyfriend. Or for you to be seen with me in the press. I’d just want a chance to see. See what happens, you know? Spend time together without any presumptions or preconceived notions of what we will or won’t be.”
“Spend time together…would that include time in and out of bed?”
She rolled her eyes. “You are such a horndog.”
“These days? Just for you.” His grin disappeared as he digested what she’d said. And though his next question tumbled out without much thought, he knew as he asked that it was exactly what he wanted. “I can’t take back yesterday, but if you thought you might be able to forgive me, and if I said okay, that I’d be willing to spend time with you without any presumptions or preconceived notions, would you give us that chance to see?”
Confusion and uncertainty crossed her face as she bit her upper lip.
Maybe it was too much to expect, for her to forgive him that completely. But he wanted so much for that chance, he had to ask. “At least consider it.” He took her hand.
“I told you not to touch me,” she grumbled, but she kept her hand in his. “Okay.”
“Okay?” He was sure his eagerness came off as nothing short of pathetic. Whatever. He’d rather be pathetic than without her.
“Okay, I’ll consider it.” She peered at him with intense brown eyes. “But you have to promise to respect whatever I decide.”
“Yes, of course.” He stroked her hand with his thumb, enjoying the vibrations that traveled through his nerves at the touch of her soft skin.
She stared at their joined hands as if trying to decide if his caress was pleasant or painful. “Why does it feel like I’ve already decided this a million times?”
“Maybe you keep making the wrong decision.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” she said, her voice laced in sarcasm.
They walked in silence, hands entwined, for several minutes, long enough for Micah to pretend they were an ordinary couple out for a lovers’ stroll. It felt…nice. Surreal, but nice. He wondered if she felt the same. “What are you thinking?”
She sighed. “I hate you.”
“Say that again,” he said, throwing the next line in the scene they had read together.
She smiled, catching his reference. Then she said the next line. “I hate you.”
Did she want him to continue? If they kept this up, it would lead to a kiss. Did she want that kiss? If his lips were on hers, she wouldn’t resist him. He knew it.
But he didn’t want to bully her anymore. So he dropped the scene. “I know,” he said. “I hate me too.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“You’re going to break me,” she whispered.
But she was wrong. “You’re the one who’s going to break me.” She would. He knew it now. She was going to break him into so many pieces he wouldn’t be able to recognize himself.