And then I realized: I’d never said his name before.
“Bennett?” I asked once more, and something flickered across his face. Slowly, the corner of his mouth lifted into a smile and our eyes locked for a moment.
Turning back to her, he smiled indulgently and spoke in a voice so smooth it sent a tremor through me. “Excuse us,” he said, discreetly placing her key back in her hand. “As you can see, I didn’t come here alone.”
The bright pulse of victory in my chest completely overshadowed the horror I should have been feeling. He pressed his warm hand to the small of my back as he led us out of the lounge and down the hall. But the closer we got to the elevators, the more my elation was replaced with something else. I began to panic as I realized how irrationally I had acted.
The reminder of our constant cat-and-mouse game exhausted me. How many times a year did he travel? And how often would he get a room key pressed into his palm? Would I be there every time to pull him back? If I wasn’t, would he happily skip upstairs with someone else?
And, truly, who the f**k did I think I could be to him? I shouldn’t care!
My heart was racing, the sound of my blood rushing in my ears. Three other couples joined us in the elevator, and I prayed I could make it to my room before I exploded. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. I glanced up to see him wearing a triumphant smirk.
I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself that this was exactly why I needed to stay away. What happened down there was completely out of character for me, and completely unprofessional of both of us in such a public work setting. I wanted to scream at him, to hurt him and enrage him like he had me, but it was getting harder and harder to find the will.
We rode up in tense silence, until the last couple stepped out, leaving us alone. I closed my eyes, just trying to breathe, but of course all I could smell was him. I didn’t want him with someone else, and that feeling was so overwhelming that it took my breath away. And it was terrifying, because if I was to be honest, he could break my heart.
He could break me.
The elevator stopped and with a quiet ding, the doors opened at our floor.
“Chloe?” he prompted, his hand pressed to my back.
I turned, rushing out of the elevator.
“Where are you going?” he shouted after me. I heard his footsteps and knew there was going to be trouble. “Chloe, wait!”
I couldn’t outrun him forever. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to anymore.
A million thoughts ran through my mind in that second. We couldn’t keep doing this. Either this would continue or it had to stop. Now. It was interfering with my business, my sleep, my head—my f**king life.
But no matter how much I tried to kid myself, I knew what I wanted. I couldn’t let her leave.
She practically sprinted down the hall but I chased after her. “You can’t pull something like that and then expect me to just let you walk away!”
“The hell I can’t!” she yelled over her shoulder. She reached her room and fumbled with her key before shoving it into the slot.
I reached the door just as she got it open, meeting her eyes briefly before she ran in and tried to force it closed. My hand shot out, pushing it open so violently that it crashed into the wall behind it.
“What the f**k do you think you’re doing?” she yelled. She stepped into the bathroom opposite the door and spun around to face me.
“Will you quit running from me?” I followed her, my voice echoing in the small space. “If this is about that woman downstairs—”
She looked impossibly more furious at my words and took a step toward me. “Don’t you dare go there. I have never acted like a jealous girlfriend.” She shook her head in disgust before turning to the counter and rummaging through her purse.
I stared at her she grew more and more frustrated. What else could this be about? I was completely bewildered. Her anger usually had me slammed against something and half naked by now. Here, she seemed genuinely upset. “You think I would be interested in any random woman who puts her room key in my hand? What the hell kind of man do you think I am?”
She slammed a brush on the counter, looking up at me furiously. “Are you serious right now? I know you’ve done this before. Just sex, no strings attached—I’m sure you get room keys all the time.”
I started to reply, because in all honesty I had been in relationships that were strictly about the sex, but this thing with Chloe hadn’t been just sex for a while now.
But she cut me off. “I’ve never done anything close to this and I don’t know how to navigate it anymore,” she said, her voice getting louder with each word. “But when I’m with you, it’s like nothing else matters. This . . . this thing,” she continued, gesturing between us, “this isn’t me! It’s like I turn into a different person when I’m with you, and I hate it. I can’t do it, Bennett. I don’t like who I’m becoming. I work hard. I care about my job. I’m smart. None of that would matter if people knew what was happening between us. Go find someone else.”
“I already told you, I haven’t been with anyone since we started this.”
“That doesn’t mean you won’t take a room key if it’s put in your hand. What would you have done if I hadn’t been there?”
Without hesitation, I said, “Handed it back.”
But she just laughed, clearly disbelieving. “Look. This whole thing exhausts me right now. I just want to take a shower and go to bed.”