Slowly, our breathing calmed and I almost thought he’d fallen asleep when he moved his head away.
My sweaty body was instantly chilled as he started getting dressed. I watched him for a moment before sitting up and putting on my dress, feeling heavily ambivalent. More than just physically fulfilling, sex with him was some of the most fun I’d had in a long time.
But he was such an ass**le.
“I assume you’ll ignore the account. I realize this can’t happen again,” he said, startling me from my own thoughts. I turned to look at him. He was shrugging on his torn shirt, his eyes fixed straight ahead.
Moments passed before he turned to look at me. “Say something so I know you’ve heard me.”
“Tell Susan I’ll be there for dinner, Mr. Ryan. And get the hell out of my car.”
The burning in my chest was almost enough to distract me from the mess inside my head. Almost.
I increased the incline on the treadmill and pushed myself harder. Feet pounding, muscles on fire, it always worked. That was how I lived my life. There was nothing I couldn’t accomplish if I just pushed hard enough: school, career, family, women.
Disgusted, I shook my head and turned up the volume on my iPod, hoping it would distract me long enough to get some f**king peace.
I should have known it wouldn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, she was always there. I closed my eyes and it all came back: hovering over her, feeling her wrapped around me, sweaty, aching, wanting to stop but not being able to. Being inside of her was the most perfect torture. It satiated the hunger I felt at that moment, but like a junkie I found myself consumed by the need for more as soon as it ended. It was terrifying, because in those moments with her, I’d do anything she asked. And that feeling was starting to bleed into moments like this too, when I wasn’t even with her and still wanted to be what she needed. Ridiculous.
My earbud was tugged free, and I turned toward the source of the annoyance. “What?” I said, glaring at my brother.
“You keep that up, we’re gonna be peeling you off the floor, Ben,” he replied. “What’d she do to piss you off this time?”
I felt my stomach tighten at the sound of her name and focused my attention back on the treadmill. “What makes you think this has anything to do with her?”
“Nothing’s bothering me. And even if something was, why on earth would it have anything to do with her?”
He laughed, shaking his head. “I’ve never met anyone who gets this kind of reaction out of you. And you know why, don’t you?” He had shut off his machine and was now focusing all his attention on me. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little unnerving. My brother was perceptive; too perceptive at times. And if there was ever anything I wanted to keep from him, it was this.
I kept my gaze forward as I ran, trying not to meet his eyes. “Enlighten me.”
“Because you two are too much alike,” he said smugly.
Several people turned to see why I was yelling in the middle of the crowded gym. I slammed my hand down on the stop button and turned to face him. “How could you even think that? We are nothing alike.” I was sweaty, out of breath, and ramped up from running ten miles. But right now, the rise in my blood pressure had nothing to do with my workout.
Taking a long drink from his water bottle, Henry continued to smirk. “Who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve never met two people more alike. First of all . . .” He paused, clearing his throat and bringing his hand up to dramatically tick things off on his fingers. “You’re both intelligent, determined, hardworking, and loyal. And,” he continued, pointing at me, “she’s a firecracker. In fact, she’s the first woman in your entire life who can stand up to you and doesn’t follow you around like some lost puppy. You hate how much you need that.”
Had everyone lost their mind? Sure, she might be some of those things; even I couldn’t deny that she was incredibly intelligent. She was a hard worker; I was often surprised at how well she kept up with things. She was definitely determined, although I would describe it more along the lines of pigheaded or stubborn. And there was no question of her loyalty. She could have sold me out a hundred times since we’d started this sick game.
I stood glaring at him as I tried to formulate my response. “Yeah, well, she’s also a raving bitch.” Nice. Very articulate, Bennett.
Stepping down, I quickly wiped off my machine and made my way across the gym in an effort to escape.
He laughed happily behind me. “See? I knew she was getting to you.”
I settled in to do some sit-ups when he stood over me, grinning like a cat that swallowed a canary. “Well, my work is done here,” he said, brushing off his hands and looking increasingly pleased with himself. “Guess I’ll be heading home.”
Laughing, he turned to leave. “Oh, but before I forget, Mina wanted me to see if you managed to convince Chloe to make it to dinner.”
I nodded, sitting up to fiddle with my shoelaces. “She said she’d be there.”
“Am I the only one who thinks it’s hilarious that Mom wants to set her up with Joel Cignoli?” There went that feeling in my chest again. Henry and I had grown up with Joel, and he was a pretty decent guy, but something about the thought of the two of them together made me feel like I wanted to punch something. “I mean, Joel is great,” he continued. “But Chloe’s a bit out of his league, don’t you think?” I could feel him staring at me a beat longer. “But hey, good for him if he thinks he stands a chance.”