I watched Della leave and wondered if I’d done the wrong thing letting Tripp see us like this. Her hair had been mussed, her lips swollen, and the look of satisfied female was oozing from her. I wanted Tripp to see that she was mine. That she wanted to be mine. But maybe that had been wrong. I hadn’t thought of Della’s reaction to this or how she would feel.
“I guess that clears up her confusion from yesterday,” Tripp said after closing my door and walking inside.
What did he mean? “What confusion?”
Tripp shrugged and sank down onto one of the leather chairs across from my desk. Then he cocked an eyebrow. “You didn’t do anything in this chair, did you?”
I rolled my eyes and sat down on the edge of my desk. “What did you mean by that comment? What confusion?”
“The part where you dropped her like a hot potato yesterday and left her completely confused and unsure of herself. Even so, she sat around obediently in a pair of sweats and your damn hoodie all day and even slept in it.”
She had slept in my hoodie? I started to smile when the fact Tripp knew what she slept in registered in my brain and I scowled instead.
“How the fuck do you know what she sleeps in?” I asked, moving to stand up.
Tripp cocked his head to the side and stared at me. He didn’t even attempt to defend himself.
“Do you really know her? Or are you just fucking her? Because she’s already been screwed over once since I’ve met her and I think you might have the power to break her.”
Blood began to boil in my veins. I was going to beat the shit out of him. And who the hell had screwed her over?
“You might want to be careful what you say. I don’t give a shit who you are or who the hell I’m supposed to be. And what do you mean she’s been screwed over before?” Then the memory of Jace sitting in my office saying she’d gotten mixed up with her boss came back to me. What had he said exactly?
Tripp held up both hands. “Calm down and listen to me. Damn when did you become a hot head?”
“Tell me what happened with her old boss? The one in Dallas.”
Tripp scowled. “Bastard played her. He’s married and his wife is pregnant. Della didn’t know because he doesn’t wear a ring and he never comes in the bar. She was new and he showed up late at night and did a little flirting. Then he was picking her up and coming by more often. It’s a big bar. No one asks questions. I’d seen him fuck with waitresses before but I wasn’t sure if that was what was happening with Della. Until his wife showed up. Della was furious more than she was upset. That’s why I sent her here. He didn’t have the power to break her. But I think you do.”
Her old boss had been married. Damn. No wonder she was so careful to stay away from me when I’d been engaged. She’d been worried about history repeating itself. I was a dirtbag.
“I won’t hurt her,” I vowed. I wouldn’t.
“She’d be easy to break.”
I didn’t like the way he kept saying that. “What do you mean?” Had he seen her have a panic attack?
“She screams at night. Every damn night she screams like someone is beating her. It’s scary as motherfucking hell. She doesn’t wake up either. Nothing I do calms her down. She screams until it’s over. Then she wakes up. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she just lies back down and stays asleep. I just sit there in horror and watch her. I try to hold her and calm her down when she wakes up but it never helps. She trembles and it breaks my heart. I can’t make it better. All I know is she’s got some fucked up shit in her head. I don’t know what and I don’t know why but it’s there and it haunts her. So, if you’re in this for a hot fuck then I’ll gladly fight you. Because that girl ain’t the kind you fuck with. She’s not strong enough for that.”
I was going to be sick. My stomach was wound so tightly in knots I couldn’t move. She was screaming, at night. The frozen terror I’d seen her in that night at the party had been scary enough. She’d clung to me desperately. I had worried that she might deal with that alone. I hadn’t known she had bad dreams. My chest hurt and my eyes burned. I hated this. I hated knowing she was tormented by something. I wanted to fix this. Fix everything for her.
I turned and headed for the door. I was going to find her. We were going to talk about this. I’d be there the next time she woke up screaming. Tripp might not be able to comfort her but I sure as hell would. I’d make this go away. I had to. I wasn’t sure I could live with her hurting like this.
“Where are you going?” Tripp asked.
“To find her,” I replied.
“You really think that’s the way to handle this? Do you not know her at all? Scare her and she’ll run. You need to stop and think about this. If you want to help her then good. I’m glad. She needs someone. She doesn’t want me and honestly, I don’t know if I could handle this. I’ve got my own demons. But she does want you. She held that hoodie so tightly, last night when she woke up and buried her face in it like she was trying to smell you that I was worried. I couldn’t imagine you cared enough about her to deal with this craziness. She’s smoking hot. I figured that was what you were in this for. But if you care about her enough to stay even though she has issues and it isn’t easy. Then good. I’m relieved.”
I looked back at him. “I’ll be whatever she needs me to be. I can’t walk away from her; I tried. I’m hooked. And now I’m about to lose my mind because I don’t know how to help her. I just need to go find her and hold her the rest of the damn day. I need to know she’s okay.”
Tripp walked over toward me. “I don’t know if she’s ready for you to know. I don’t think she trusts you to want her when you find out she’s got problems. Major emotional problems. You need to ease into this. Don’t go telling her you know and expect her to handle it. She’ll be furious with me for telling you and terrified of getting hurt when you run. So, she’ll beat you to it. She’ll run like hell. It’s how she deals.”I hated this. He was right but I hated it. “What do I do?” I asked him needing someone to tell me. I couldn’t lose her.“I’ll call you tonight when she goes to sleep. Come on over and sleep on the couch. When she starts the screaming you’ll be there. She’ll see that you aren’t scared and you can use that to prove to her you’re not running.”Okay. I could do that. I could wait until tonight. But I was still going to find her now. If only to hold her. I wouldn’t tell her why. I just needed to make sure she was okay for my sanity.Tripp opened the door and stepped back to let me in. I’d been sitting in the parking lot when he’d called two minutes ago to tell me she was asleep. I wasn’t sure how long it would take for this screaming to start up and I didn’t want Tripp to be the one holding her when she woke up this time. Never again.“Were you already here?” he asked.“Yeah.”“Didn’t you just bring her home from work two hours ago?”“Yeah.”Tripp chuckled and shook his head. “Did you even leave?”“No.”He looked amused. “There’s a pillow and a blanket on the couch. I’m going to bed. It’s late and I need some sleep. Last night was rough.”I didn’t have to ask him why. I knew what he meant by rough and it drove me mad to think about the fact I hadn’t been here. That she’d been suffering and I had no idea.“Thanks,” I replied.“Don’t thank me. You’ve not been through this yet. You may hate me when it’s over.” He had no idea what he was saying. I had held her when she’d completely checked out and froze at the party. I’d seen the blank look in her eyes and it’d scared me but I hadn’t wanted to run then either. I had wanted to protect her. This only made that instinct she brought out in me worse.I lay down on the couch and stared at the ceiling. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fall asleep. Not knowing that at any time now she was going to be suffering. My chest was so tight from the idea of it I kept having to take deep breaths to ease the pressure.What had happened to her to cause this? My mind went back to that first day I saw her. She’d been so damn sexy yet adorable trying to figure out how to pump her gas. I’d thought she was just some carefree fun distraction. I hadn’t been prepared for the way she tasted though. And the smell. God, she smelled so damn good. I had gone a little crazy that night. Every time I brought her to an orgasm I’d needed to do it again. I kept thinking about the fact that this was it, that one night and then she’d be gone. So I’d wanted more. I had never eaten that much pussy in one night in my life. But I hadn’t been able to get enough of her. Then she’d finally fallen asleep from exhaustion and I’d forced myself to leave her there.I closed my eyes as the pain sliced through me. Had she woken up screaming that night too? And alone? Had I fucked her and left her to deal with her pain? I couldn’t lay here. I sat up and buried my head in my hands. From the beginning I’d made mistakes with her. I’d assumed the wrong things. Not one time had she looked weak and breakable until that night at the club when she’d had that panic attack and completely shut down. It had been the first glimpse at what she kept so well hidden.I couldn’t stay out here any longer. I needed to watch her sleep. I needed to be there the moment she cried out. I walked over to her door and eased it open.I waited until my eyes adjusted to the darkness before walking inside and closing the door behind me.She was curled up on the bed in a small ball. Like she was protecting herself. My hoodie swallowed her but she held it tightly against her just like Tripp had said. Seeing her in my sweatshirt like that had the caveman in me pounding his chest. She was mine. She knew it. I wanted to crawl in bed and hold her. If she wanted to feel me so bad she was burying her nose in my clothing I could help her out with ease. She could smell me.I was here for a reason. I couldn’t sit down. I was restless. I stood in the corner with my arms crossed over my chest and watched her sleep. She was so peaceful right now. It was hard to believe she had trouble sleeping.A small whimper came from her and my head snapped to attention. I studied her face and waited. She began twisting handfuls of my sweatshirt then a strange noise started in her throat. I was across the room instantly. Just as I sat down on the bed beside her she let out a blood-curdling scream and her body tossed and turned on the bed. I reached for her and she fought me. Her eyes were tightly closed but she was crying out and fighting me with surprising strength. Each sound that ripped from her tore at me. I hated knowing she was lost in some unknown terror and I couldn’t save her. I pulled her tightly against my chest and began whispering soothing words in her ear. I promised I wasn’t going anywhere and begged her to come back to me. I told her she was beautiful and I would take care of her I just needed her to open her eyes and see me. Other words poured out of me as my eyes stung and my heart raced. Her screaming continued but she had stopped fighting me and was clawing to get closer to me. She buried her head in my shoulder and inhaled deeply then cried out in relief. Her arms wrapped around my neck and held onto me as she climbed into my lap. The screams became small cries and then they ceased altogether.I felt the wetness of my tears on my face. I quickly wiped at them before she could see me and then ran my hand soothingly over her head and began whispering to her that I was here. I had her and that she was okay.“Woods?” she choked out in a sob and continued to hold onto me just as tightly as I held her.“Yes, baby, I got you. You’re okay,” I said softly against her ear.The tension in her body eased and she melted against me with a deep sigh. “I think my dream just got better,” she mumbled and laid her head against my chest.I sat there waiting for her to say more but she didn’t. She stayed curled up in my arms and within seconds her deep even breathing confirmed that she was sound asleep.I eased back onto her bed and she kept her hold on me. I let go long enough to pull the covers over us then wrapped her up in my arms again and let my eyes close. She was okay. She was safe.