“Why?” I managed, an exhale carrying the sound barely past my lips. Faster, my body screamed. More. “Would it have changed how big an ass**le you were?”

He unwrapped my legs from around him, flipped me over and up onto my knees. “I don’t know. I just wish I’d known,” he grunted, pushing into me once again. “Jesus. So f**king deep like this.”

His movements were so fluid, like dancing, rippling water; like the sliding of the sunlight across a room. The mattress springs groaned beneath us, the force of his thrusts pushing me farther up the bed.

“Almost.” I clutched at the sheets, begged him to keep going. “Almost. Harder.”

“Fuck. I’m so close. Get there.” He synchronized every movement with the last, knowing now was the point where he couldn’t change a thing. “Get there.”

His face, his voice, his scent—each part of him filled my mind as I obediently came apart beneath him.

He thrust roughly; then every muscle froze before he melted against me as he came. “Fuck, f**k, f**k . . .” he breathed into my hair before falling quiet, heavy and still on top of me.

The air conditioner turned on with a rattle and then a steady drone. After he caught his breath, Bennett rolled off me, dragging his hand across my sweaty back. “Chloe?”

“I want more than just this.” His voice was so thick and heavy, I wasn’t actually sure he was awake.

I froze, my thoughts exploding in a chaotic mess. “What did you just say?”

He opened his eyes, with apparent effort, and looked at me. “I want to be with you.”

Lifting myself on an elbow, I stared down at him, completely unable to pull a single word out of my brain.

“So sleepy.” His eyes rolled closed and he threw a heavy arm around me, pulling me down onto him. “Baby, come here.” He pressed his face into my neck and mumbled, “It’s okay if you don’t want it too. I’ll take anything you’ll give me. Just let me stay here until the morning, okay?”

I was suddenly wide awake, staring at the dark wall and listening to the hum of the air conditioner. I was terrified that this changed everything, and even more terrified that he had no idea what he was saying, and it would change nothing.

“Okay,” I whispered into the dark, hearing his breathing slow into a steady, sleeping rhythm.

I rolled over and pulled a pillow against my body, seeking comfort. His scent pulled me out of sleep, but the cool sheets on the other side of the bed told me I was alone. I looked toward the bathroom door, trying to focus on any noise I could hear coming from inside. There wasn’t any.

I continued to lie there, clutching his pillow as my eyes began to grow heavier. I wanted to wait for him. I needed the reassurance of his warm body next to mine and the feel of his strong arms wrapped around me. I imagined him holding me, whispering that this was all real and nothing would change in the morning. Before long, my eyes drifted closed and I slipped back into an uneasy sleep.

Sometime later, I awoke again, still alone. Rolling over quickly, I looked at the time: 5:14 a.m.

What? Fumbling in the darkness, I put on the first thing I found and walked to the bathroom.

“Bennett?” No answer. I knocked softly. “Bennett?” A groan and a soft shuffle sounded from the other side of the door.

“Just go away.” His voice was hoarse and echoed off the bathroom walls.

“I’m not feeling well. I’ll be fine, go back to bed.”

“Is there anything I can get you?” I asked.

“I’m fine. Just please, go back to bed.”

I turned, unsure of what to do, battling an odd, unsettling feeling. Did he even get sick? In just under a year, I’d never seen him with so much as a stuffy nose. It was obvious he didn’t want me hovering outside the door, but there was no way I could go back to sleep either.

Walking back to the bed, I straightened the blankets and headed toward the suite’s living room. I grabbed a bottle of water from the minibar and sat on the couch.

If he was sick, I mean really sick, there was no way he could make the Gugliotti meeting in a couple of hours.

I switched on the TV and began flipping through the channels. Infomercial. Bad movie. Nick at Nite. Ahh, Wayne’s World. Sitting back into the couch, I tucked my legs under me and prepared to wait. Halfway through the movie, I heard the water running in the bathroom. I sat up and listened as it was the first sound I’d heard in over an hour. The bathroom door opened and I flew off the couch, grabbing another bottle of water before entering the bedroom.

“Yes. I think I just need to sleep now.” He stumbled into bed, burying his face in the pillow with a groan.

“What . . . what was wrong?” I placed the bottle of water down on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed next to him.

“It was just my stomach. I think it was the sushi at dinner.” His eyes were closed and even in the dim light coming from the other room, I could see that he looked like hell. He turned away from me slightly but I ignored it, placing one hand in his hair and the other on his cheek. His hair was damp and his face was pale and clammy, and despite his initial reaction, he leaned into my touch.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” I asked, brushing a few damp strands away from his forehead.