My bra hung off one arm, my skirt was a few feet away on the rug. I gathered everything up, a flash of memory replaying with each item I found.
His eyes as he’d slipped off my shirt.
The sight of him sucking my breasts.
The shape of his mouth when I’d pulled off his belt.
The way it felt when he finally, finally pushed inside me.
The flash of fear on his face when I’d told him I loved him.
I could hear Niall beginning to stir as I pulled on my clothes, and I wished I’d managed to slip out before he’d woken. I was embarrassed. But I knew he would never bring up the fact that we had sex last night way before either of us expected to, so of course I would have to.
But not even I, compulsive discusser of all things, wanted to have the conversation we needed to have.
So, about last night . . . did I unintentionally manipulate you into having sex with me? Or are you just so unwilling to trust your own instincts that you gave in to what you thought I wanted?
“Ruby?” he called out, voice gravelly with sleep.
I walked down the hall in bare feet, my steps muted on the wood floors. He sat up when I entered, the sheet falling to his waist as he took in my clothes, the shoes in my hands.
“Hey,” he said, but it was more like a question. His expression still carried the weight of drowsiness but in his eyes was a clear note of confusion. Guilt and irritation wrestled in my stomach and I pressed my hand there, telling them both to knock it off.
“I forgot something,” I said. It was a lie, and I could tell by the way his face fell slightly that we both knew it. “I need to run home before work.”
“Now?” He sat up at the side of the bed, his hair an adorable mess and miles and miles of bare leg stretching to the floor. Wow. “I can drive you.”
“Ruby, stop,” he said, voice deep and firm. “Let me just get some clothes on.”
He stood, completely naked, and out of some spontaneously polite instinct I looked away—very obviously—instead staring at the far corner of his room.
He noticed, and of course he did. I was acting like a twitchy lunatic.
“Are you all right?” he asked, stepping into a pair of track pants. “It’s not like you to avert your gaze when I’m nude. In fact, you’re usually quite the leering pervert. ”
He was teasing me. He was trying.
I shrugged, looking back at him but only able to really look at his face. “Just mildly panicking.”
Just realizing that I told you I loved you after only a few weeks together and the craziest part is it wasn’t a lie.
Just realizing I think you had pity sex with me last night.
Just realizing I’m probably freaking out for no reason and really should just leave right now and get some coffee and food before I do something stupid like overshare all of this.
“Do you want to sit on my bed and tell me what has you ‘mildly panicking’ after I shagged you roundly until only a couple of hours ago? I would think you’d be too worn-out for conscious thought before seven thirty in the morning. I certainly am.”
I looked up at him, at his teasing tone, and smiled weakly. “Maybe over dinner tonight?”
He nodded, eyes narrowed as he studied me. And like that, I’d flipped the switch in him. The overthinking switch. The holy-shit-what-happened-last-night switch. “Okay.”
I slipped into my flats and ran my fingers through my hair, attempting to tame it just as his phone rang on the bedside table.
He bent, looking at the screen and then at the clock. Hesitating, he murmured, “I’d better take this. If you’d just . . . ?”
He held up one finger, asking me to wait, and then stepped into the bathroom off his bedroom, closing the door.
Well, that’s awkward. If it was a work call he’d have taken it in front of me.
All I needed to hear was his gentle voice saying, “Portia? It’s seven in the morning. What is it, love?” before I grabbed my bag and headed out of the flat.
One of the amazing things about London is that you don’t have to drive anywhere. Want coffee? There are a dozen shops lining the street. Need to pop into Selfridges at lunch? Oxford Street Tube is across the street. Iconic red buses stop at virtually every corner and there’s even the River Bus to take you down the Thames. Need to avoid an awkward taxi ride with someone you may or may not have manipulated into sleeping with you? Thankfully, a short trip on the Tube and the Southwark stop is just a few doors down from my office!
It was still raining when I stepped out onto the street, because of course it was. I’d showered quickly at home but needn’t have bothered. My little flats were immediately drenched by the puddles and the constant downpour, and made soppy squishing noises with every step. Cars splashed water up onto the narrow sidewalk and even my umbrella was no match for the storm. Luckily, if I moved close enough to the storefronts, the various awnings offered me some small measure of cover.
By the time I stepped into Richardson-Corbett, I was drenched. I squeezed the excess water from my skirt and jacket, reminding myself that my hair would dry the same as it probably did every day. And besides, the shower at home, the walk to work—it had given me time to talk myself down.
The I-love-you-You’re-lovely tic was nothing. It was us. This is what we did: I dove straight in; he dipped a toe in and then pulled it out to give himself time to consider whether the water was too cold. It’s why we worked, and there was no point questioning it.