A Marine like him. She must be strong. Tough. Probably sexy like Alice from Resident Evil. “How nice. You must have a lot in common.”
“Sounds perfect. Why aren’t you still with her then?”
“Because you needed me.”
“I didn’t need you. I was leaving.” My voice faded, full of regret over admitting that to him—that I had been in over my head at the kink club.
“Why? Doing four guys wear you out?”
I scowled and crossed my arms over my chest.
“C’mon. I know that didn’t happen. You were leaving because it wasn’t for you, right?”
I hated that he was right.
“Because,” he continued, “you’d rather be with me.”
I snorted. “I’m surprised you even fit in this car with that inflated ego of yours.”
“Keep telling yourself that. Maybe you’ll convince yourself that there isn’t anything between us.”
I sniffed and bit back the reply that there wasn’t anything between us.
He chuckled and the deep sound sent shivers through me. I stared through the windshield, frowning. “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to my dorm.”
The two words sent a jolt through me. “Why?”
“I’m without a vehicle.”
“So I can drive myself home from your place, is that it?”
He nodded once, but there was something unconvincing in the motion that only seemed to heighten my own unease. Like maybe he was hoping I would stay. You’re just dropping him off, Emerson. You’re not going inside.
I had my own car. I was in control. As we turned onto the narrow road that wound around the edge of the lake, I reminded myself of this.
We bumped along the uneven gravel drive beside his house. The night seemed full of light out here. Moonlight bounced off the vastness of snow and ice. The lake stretched out into forever like a white sheet of glass. He killed the engine. “I’ll get your door. It’s slippery.”
I watched, my pulse pounding, as he walked around for my door.
Stepping out, I held my hand up for the keys. “You didn’t need to turn the car off.”
“I thought you might like to see something I’m working on.”
I frowned, certain that suspicion stared out from my eyes. He looked down at me so soberly. There was nothing sly in his gaze. It was just him, but he’d always been like that. From the very beginning. So direct and straightforward. He didn’t say a lot, but when he did it meant something. It was truth.
He motioned to the work shed beside the house. “I’ve seen your art . . . at least what was in your room.” He shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. He actually looked a little self-conscious. A definite first for him. He always seemed so confident. Something fluttered loose inside me at this new side of him. “Well, this is mine, I guess.” His art. That’s what he was saying even if he was having trouble admitting it. Something loosened inside me, and I knew that I couldn’t turn away from this part of himself he was offering to show me.
I glanced at the shed. I wasn’t even going inside his house. I didn’t have to step foot inside the cozy-warm space that reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. I didn’t have to see that big bed again to remember how comfortable it was.
It was just a shed. What could it hurt? I nodded jerkily and followed him to the shed. It was a little warmer inside, but not by much. He flipped on a switch and I blinked at the sudden flood of light.
Engine parts and pieces of bike littered the small space everywhere. There were at least three motorcycles that looked finished. I didn’t know anything about bikes, but one was definitely a chopper. It was cherry red with shiny chrome. Beside that one sat another one that looked partially assembled. It wasn’t painted yet. I stepped between the two.
“You built these?”
“Yeah.” He stroked one of his bikes, and I couldn’t help watching his hand. The long, blunt-tipped fingers. I remembered the unbelievable way they felt on me . . . in me. My face burned and I took a bracing breath.
Fortunately he was still looking at his bikes. “I’m making this one to sell. I have a client who’s interested.”
“If it looks anything like this one, you won’t have any trouble selling it.” I touched the red one, admiring it. All that fiery red was cold and smooth under my hand.
“I’m thinking about putting a mural on the tank and fender . . . maybe something patriotic.”
“Like your tattoo?” I asked.
“A bit. It’s a starting point at least, but I would like it to be something fresh.”
“You could do an eagle’s face up close . . . have the eagle’s eye in actuality be the globe.” I bit my bottom lip, contemplating. I moved my hand in front of me, fingers flexing like I could see it. Touch it. And in that moment, I could. It was like I was working the shapes and colors with my hands right then. “That could be cool . . . symbolic. Maybe clouds that look faintly like flags.” I dropped my hand and shrugged. Glancing at him, I froze at the intent way he was looking at me. Like I had said something profound.
“Could you do that?”
“M-me?” My voice squeaked a bit. “I’ve never done anything like that. I work on paper or canvas.”
“But you could do it.” He uttered this so absolutely. Like he had no doubt. “It’s just airbrushing.”
“I could mess it up.”
“Then we’d start over.”
We. When did that happen? We weren’t we in any way, shape, or form.
“How do you know you can’t do it? You gotta try, right?” He searched my face, his eyes peering into mine like he was looking into my soul, and suddenly I didn’t feel like we were talking about airbrushing his bike anymore.
I shivered and chafed my arms, pretending it was the cold and not him. Not the way he watched me or talked to me. Not the memory of what his hands and mouth felt like on me.
He looked down at the bike again. “Have you ever been on one?”
I shook my head quickly, relieved at the change of subject. “No.”
His mouth twisted into a half smile. “Afraid?”
“No. I’ve just never been with—” I caught myself and corrected. “I’ve never met anyone who had a bike before.”