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She doesn’t wear my ring.
We never stood before a preacher.
The only vows exchanged were between our bodies; between our souls.
But she was mine and I was hers until I ruined it. I have to believe that every day, every step, every breath brings me closer to making things right.
To making her mine again.
I’ve seen promises broken.
I know love makes no guarantees.
But things were different for Rhys and me, until he lied, and I walked away. Only there’s a chain between our hearts that I can’t break. Even if I forgive him, a shadow from my past hangs over us; over this love that reaches all the way down to my soul.
E X C E R P T
We pull up to the venue, formerly a private estate that now hosts weddings and other events. The cream-colored limestone house with its circular steps and wide veranda welcome us as warmly as the wedding hostesses.
San hands the keys to his shiny new Tahoe over to the valet. Steady work at Spotted is paying off. We’ve both moved up fast in the world. He’s even in a new apartment downtown, where I’m crashing for my one week off tour. I’ll figure out living arrangements when I’m done in another month. Maybe by then, I’ll have the whole Rhyson problem solved.
My problem is standing in the slab-stoned foyer where guests gather as they wait to be ushered into the backyard. Rhys wears a dark suit and a sky blue tie, eyes dark and intense and set on me, waiting for me. I could never forget the pewter eyes that barrel through my defenses, or the hair, dark but dappled with deep copper streaks, or the beautifully rugged symmetry of his features. I didn’t forget, but everything about him impacts me like it’s the first time, trapping the breath in my throat. Our eyes haven’t even met yet, and I already feel the tug of that chain. I was a fool to underestimate this pull. It’s only now that he’s within touching distance that I realize how foolish I was to think I could resist him.
He steps into my path so there’s no avoiding him, his eyes licking heat over my body in the periwinkle dress molding to my torso, clinging to my arms from shoulder to elbow, and belling out from my waist to stop just above my knees. For a moment, we just stare at one another, drinking in the details until I can’t take it another second and free my eyes from his, looking instead at the simple flats on my feet.
“Kai, hey.” He flicks a dismissive look at San by my side. “San.”
“Rhyson, good to see you.” San smirks, standing there when he knows good and doggone well Rhyson wants to talk to me alone. He just pokes Rhys sometimes to watch him jerk. Rhys levels an annoyed look at San.
“Dude, take a walk.”
San slides his glance to me, brows raised, silently asking me if it’s okay to leave.
“It’s fine.” I assure him with a smile. “I’ll catch up.”
San saunters off, finding someone I don’t know to chat with a few feet away, leaving Rhyson and me alone. The air charges with every breath we draw, both of us waiting for the other to speak. Rhyson finally goes first.
“I see you still have your guard dog.” He frowns over at San before returning his attention to me.
“We’ve been taking care of each other a long time.” I still don’t, can’t quite fully meet his eyes.
Whatever small talk I thought we might make disintegrates as soon as I brave a glance up at him. The space between our eyes, our bodies, pulses with tension and heat.
“Pep, you’ve got to stop looking at me like that,” Rhyson says, voice strung low and tight.
“Like what? I…”
He dips his head, looking up from beneath the dark brows in a way that tells me I know exactly how I’m looking at him. Like he’s a wall I want to scale and devour everything on the other side of. That’s how it feels, assaulting me without warning. The desire to reclaim, repossess him.
“You’re looking at me like you wanna get fucked in this foyer,” he answers softly.
His husky words set my cheeks on fire, and I lower my eyes so he won’t see just how accurate that statement is. Maybe a little time and distance dulled my memory of this connection that vibrates between us like a physical thing exploding onto my senses. Our passion sprinkles across my tongue. Our lust hovers like a torch just shy of my skin. Our love – an ultrasonic boom, out of frequency for everyone but the two of us.
“I-I guess I didn’t really think about how it would be seeing you again.” I glance up at him once I have my body set to simmer.
“And I haven’t been able to think of anything else.” His eyes never leave my face, and I can’t look away for the life of me. We’ve trapped each other, and less and less I want to wiggle free.