As I cradle his face with my hands, I'm bothered by what I see. This should be the happiest moment of our lives—it is for me—but his expression leaves me with a different feeling. Something isn't right. "What's wrong?"
His face is pained. "We need to talk."
Of course, we need to talk but his tone makes me uneasy. If I'm being honest, it downright scares the shit out of me because it sounds so ominous. "Okay."
"Do you need to go inside to get your things?"
"Yes. But it'll only take a minute." I take his hand because I don't want to be away from him for even a second. I'm afraid he'll disappear. "I want you to come with me."
He leans inside and tells the driver, "I'm staying," before he shuts the door.
I grasp his hand tightly as we walk toward the entrance to the concert hall.
I'm certain he saw Charlie kiss me. Shit! He probably thinks I'm with him now. But I'll explain. I'll make him see that he'll always be the only one for me.
When we get to the door of the lounge, he stops. "I think I better stay out here."
Yeah. He definitely saw Charlie kiss me.
I walk through the lounge door and Charlie is still sitting in the same spot I left him. I have no idea what to say to him. He's spent the last two months patiently pursuing me in the sweetest manner. It's going to be painful for him for a while, but my heart knows it's the only way. He deserves to be someone's everything, not second place to a man I could never stop loving.
I sit next to him to explain—because he's a friend and I feel I owe him that—but he already knows. I see it on his face. "He chose to come for you on the night I planned to make my big move."
I nod because I can't answer. Charlie loves me and has been so kind the last two months. It's painful to hurt him like this.
His forearms are propped on his thighs as he leans forward, staring at the floor. "That's good. You deserve to be happy. But I sure wish he'd come before I had the chance to fall in love with you."
Dammit. Why does this have to be so hard? "I'm sorry. I truly didn't intend for that to happen."
He continues staring at the floor and I suspect it's because he doesn't want me to see the tears in his eyes. "I know, and it's not your fault. You're just too damn easy to love. You told me from the beginning you didn't think you could love anyone else after him. Now you'll never have to try."
I want to tell him he deserves so much more than me and reassure him he'll find the one to give him all the love he deserves, but he's not in a place where he's ready to hear that. "I have to go, Charlie."
"Of course you do." He looks up at me. I was right. He has huge tears in his eyes and my heart breaks for him. "Don't forget that the bus pulls out at nine sharp tomorrow."
Is he afraid I won't come back? "I'll be there." I pick up my Martin and place it on the couch next to him. "Can you ask the crew to be sure this makes it onto the bus?"
Jack Henry is waiting for me in the hallway. He's standing on the far side of the corridor and I wonder if it's because he's afraid he might overhear something Charlie has to say. He walks in my direction when he sees me. "Where do you want to go?"
I want to go wherever I can get naked with Jack Henry and show him how much I've missed him. And I don't want to risk running into any of the band or crew. "Where are you staying?"
"I have a suite at the Fairmont."
"I want you to take me there."
We're both silent in the cab on the way to the hotel. He looks straight ahead while I stare at him from where I'm sitting. I'm sure he must see me but I don't care. I can't stop because I'm afraid he'll disappear like a phantom.
I want him to kiss me like crazy all the way to the hotel, but he doesn't. In fact, he never even looks in my direction. I wish I were brave enough to reach for his hand so I could get some kind of reaction from him, but I don't. I'm too afraid—I'm not sure where his head is after seeing Charlie kiss me.
This isn't going to be good. Why did he have to see that?
We walk through the luxurious hotel lobby and get onto the elevator. I'm closed up with him and two other people in the tiny space for only a minute or so, but the sexual tension we're radiating is almost suffocating. I want him so badly, it hurts. I need to touch him, to feel his skin against mine.
I don't have time to brush up next to him because the elevator arrives on the sixth floor where his suite is located. After the door clicks behind us, my heart, and my body, rejoice. We are alone at last. And I'm scared to death.
We've been apart for three months and another man is kissing me when Jack Henry sees me for the first time. The situation is a nightmare that never factored into any dreams or fantasies I had about our reunion.
Damn, this sucks. What is he thinking? Is he angry with me? Or hurt? Or worse—maybe he doesn't care enough to feel pain or anger. I can't tell because he's being so obscure.
The air conditioning is on and the room is really cold. I'm soaked to the bone and feel myself shivering. Or maybe I'm trembling from fear. Either way, he takes notice. "You're drenched and freezing to death. Go take a hot shower to warm up and we'll talk after you're finished."
I think it's a bad sign he doesn't want to take me to bed and strip me out of these cold, wet clothes so he can warm me up himself. That's what my Jack Henry would do, without any hesitation at all.
"Okay," I say, feeling deflated. This isn't what I had in mind. I'd hoped he'd want me as much as I want him. But he doesn't.
I go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. Holy shit, I look awful. No wonder he wants me to shower. Who wants to look at this? I look like a drowned raccoon thanks to the black mascara smudged under my eyes. Beetlejuice never looked this shitty.
I turn the water on as hot as I can tolerate and step under the raining heat. It feels good and I warm up in a matter of minutes. I use his masculine products to wash my hair and body and I remember the way these scents mix with his skin to create the most intoxicating essence. Oh, I have missed his smell.
I hurry through my shower because I'm eager to be with him. Next to him. Hopefully, under him.
Once I'm out, I blow-dry my hair using the hotel-provided dryer. I flip my head up and my tresses are wild and untamed. I could really use a brush. I rummage through my purse and find an old one floating around in the bottom. I brush out the tangles and wish I had a flatiron to smooth it down.
I use his toothpaste and my finger to brush my teeth before I slosh around a mouthful of minty goodness. I would've preferred to have found a toothbrush in my purse to the hairbrush.
Two luxurious velour robes hang on the back of the door. I slip one on. I don't really want to wear it. I'd like to hang it back on the hook and walk out naked. But I don't because he says he wants to talk.
I come out of the bathroom and see him sitting on the couch. He's traded his wet clothes for a T-shirt and lounge pants like he used to wear around Avalon on his days off. He's drinking from a short, clear glass containing a dark amber liquid over ice. I suspect it's some kind of whiskey, which isn't like my Jack Henry at all. He never drank straight whiskey before and I'm suddenly more afraid than I already was.
I stop just outside the bathroom, unsure what to do. He watches me from where he's sitting. He seems looser than when we arrived, and I wonder how many of those little amber drinks he had while I was in the shower.
He holds up his glass. "Want a drink?"
"No. But thank you."
He shakes his glass to settle the ice. "Come sit with me."
I don't say anything but I walk over and lower myself onto the seat right next to him. I don't know if that's where he wants me, but it's where I want to be. I twist so I'm facing him—I have to look into his brilliant blue eyes. I don't want to go another minute without searching them for all the things he's about to tell me. Good or bad.
He puts his glass away and reaches for my hand. He brings it to his lips and closes his eyes as he presses a kiss into my skin and strokes my hand against his scruffy face. "I've missed you so much, Laurelyn."
My stomach flips before it races my heart up toward my throat to see which can get there first. He's facing me now and I can't resist reaching out to touch his cheek. "I've missed you too—more than you could ever know."
He turns his face toward my palm and covers the top of my hand with his. "Believe me—I know all too well what it's like missing you. I've been a mess since you left me. I thought I would lose my mind before I found you. You didn't make it easy on me, Miss Laurelyn Paige Prescott."
He just said my name—the whole thing. "How long have you been trying to find me?"
"Since the week you left."
Three months? My head is reeling. All this time I believed he hadn't given me a second thought because he was too busy screwing number fourteen. I was wrong. He's been looking for me all this time.
And that's when I can stand it no longer. I have to feel him against me. I put my knees on each side of his hips so that I'm straddling him, as I've done so many times before. I bring my mouth down on his and he reaches for the back of my head to pull me closer.
We shared a multitude of kisses while we were together, but never one like this. I can't label it because this isn't the kiss of a man making a temporary arrangement with a woman he cares nothing about. This is different from anything I ever felt while in Australia.
He pulls away from our kiss but presses his forehead against mine. "Please tell me you're not in love with him."
Him? Oh. It takes a moment for me to realize who he means—Charlie. "No! I'm not in love with him."
I look into his eyes and I can see that my denial isn't going to suffice. "But you let him touch you…and kiss you," he says through gritted teeth, as though it pains him to say the words.