“Unless you want me holding back your hair out there on the street you need to slow down,” I warned. She ignored me and drank the next one exactly the same way. After that, she left me ordering my own drink and walked out to the dance floor. I placed my order with the bartender then watched in shock as Lila Kate let a man take her hand and put her up on a table. The guy on stage called out “What you want to hear sweet thing?”
She gave him a big saucy smile I’d never seen on Lila Kate before. “Poison,” she yelled out.
Poison? What the fuck was she doing?
“I think I’m in love!” the guy on stage shouted Then the band started up, and so did Lila. I knew all about her dancing. She’d done it her whole life. It was what paid for her college. But what I didn’t know was that beyond the ballet and other fancy shit she’d learned that somewhere along the way, Lila Kate had learned to do something that would make her millions if she ever decided to take her clothes off and take up a career dancing on a pole. Motherfucker.
After I pulled my jaw off the floor, I had to fight the urge to take her off that table and away from all the catcalls and whistling and cheering. Was it sexy as hell? Yes. More so than anything I’d ever seen. Back to the Snow White gone bad thing I’d tried to explain to her earlier. But it wasn’t Lila. She had class. She wasn’t the kind of girl who did things like this.
I held out until some drunk bastard reached up and ran his hand up her calf. Then I was done. She’d made whatever goddamn point she had wanted to make and I didn’t need to see anymore. I stalked through the crowd, and after shoving two guys back, I grabbed her legs and threw her over my shoulder.
“Hey! Put the woman down!” A guy who had been admiring the view said standing in my path.
“She’s with me. We are traveling together. She’s mine,” I replied giving him a warning glare.
“Are you okay with him taking you?” the guy on the stage asked.
“Let her go, guys,” the lead singer said, and my path was cleared. “If she was mine I’d have taken her too.”
JUST BECAUSE I let him haul me out of there like a caveman didn’t mean I wasn’t angry. I was furious. He could have a good time but I couldn’t. There were rules I was missing. He liked girls to show off their body and flaunt it, but I wasn’t allowed to flaunt mine.
When we were far enough away from the bar that he wasn’t going to get in a fight, I slapped his back and started wiggling to be set free. “Let me down!”
He stopped walking and put me on my feet. “Can I trust you’re not going to jump on a pole somewhere and take off your clothing?” he snapped at me.
That was it. I hadn’t asked him to come to Sea Breeze. I had left because of something he had said. He was the reason I ran in the first place. He had accused me of being cold and icy. And when I did what it was he obviously liked from women, he got angry. I couldn’t win. Not with him.
“What? Was that too clean for you? Would you rather I go in there and jerk my top off and start giving out shots in my cleavage?”
His expression was one you gave someone who was mentally unstable. “Fuck no!”
“Then what is it that you like Cruz? You call me icy and say I’m untouchable. Breakable. I take off to prove I’m none of those things. Then when I get brave and loosen up and do things like that in there, you act as if I’m doing something wrong. I don’t get it. I wish I didn’t care. I have tried not to care for so long I can’t even remember when I didn’t. You. It’s always been you. I hate that. I hate that it’s you. Why couldn’t it be someone else? Someone who was like . . . like . . . Eli! Someone like him. Why can’t I want someone like Eli? What is so wrong with my head that I have always wanted you?” The words were coming out. I heard myself, and I knew I should shut up. That what I was saying could never be taken back. But it was like I’d handed control of my mouth over to someone else, and they were failing at their job. Because even when I tried to stop, it got worse.
“Is it how I look? Am I not pretty enough? Do you prefer another type? Maybe it’s my breasts—maybe because they aren’t as large as the girl in the bar? Is that it? What about me makes you treat me like a school marm? Please tell me so I can fix it!”
People were ignoring us. They walked right past us, and when I was done ranting, I realized I had just yelled all of that for anyone around us to hear. Someone called out, “I think you’re fucking sexy, baby. Come on over here.”
I tuned that out. This street was full of drunks. I was one of them apparently because I had just said stuff I’d never ever say sober. I had too much pride. Drunken Lila Kate had no pride. I wish I’d realized that sooner.
“You’re not cheap. You’re not easy. You’re like a rare fucking diamond. You want me? You want my attention? Why? I’m a mess. I can’t be what you deserve. I don’t even know how. And if I let myself touch you, enjoy what you just did in there, I’ll be ruined. You think you want me, but if you really knew me you’d change your mind. Then I would have had a taste of you and nothing would ever compare to that again. You terrify me. Scare me like nothing has ever scared me in my life.” His eyes were bright and wild. His hand was trembling as I dropped my gaze to stare at it, unable to keep our gazes locked. Everything else on him seemed tight. Stiff.
“I do know you. I’ve watched you my entire life. I’ve seen you at your worst and your best.” I didn’t yell those words. I just said them and let them hang there while I continued to let his words soak in. I hadn’t expected that from him. I still wasn’t sure if I might be dreaming. Could I be passed out drunk somewhere?
I lifted my gaze then. “I’m not asking for one.”
He seemed torn. His eyes narrowed. “Then what is it you want from me?”
I wanted many things. And I knew he’d never give me what I wanted. We would never have a happily ever after. That wasn’t Cruz. It never had been. “Now. Just now. This trip. Nothing more.”
He didn’t respond right away. He stood there staring at me like he didn’t believe me. He shouldn’t because I wanted more. I just knew I’d never get that. I wasn’t the girl to make him want more. He’d meet her one day and he’d change his mind. He’d be able to be that guy. The one who did relationships.
I’d heard my parents story a million times. My dad hadn’t been that guy either. My mom had been the one to change his mind. It happened to all of them eventually. I knew I wasn’t that one for Cruz and I should let it go and walk away. But I couldn’t. I wanted to know for just a moment. How it felt to be with him. There was a chance I’d get him out of my head and heart then. I’d move on and find someone else. That Cruz Kerrington wouldn’t always be in my thoughts.
“Nothing but this trip?” he repeated my words like a question.
“Did you hear the part about ruining me?”
I gave a small shrug. “We both know that won’t happen. I’m not the one. You haven’t found her yet.”
“Yes. The one. The girl you’ll want forever with.”