FIVE HOURS later, Alex hurried up the walk to Whitney’s townhouse. Though rain had wet his hair and clothing, the prospect of seeing her lifted his spirits.
More than a best friend and less than a lover, she was the one complication in his life he couldn’t resolve. Their relationship was difficult and at the same time simple. He wanted her. She didn’t want him.
He didn’t know what he was going to say, but he would get through it. Shivering, he knocked and waited.
A moment later, she opened the door and moved aside in a swirl of filmy green skirt, auburn hair, and expensive perfume.
His cock hardened.
“Alex, come in.”
He stepped inside, grateful to escape the cold drizzle. His heated gaze swept over her.
She didn’t waste time on pleasantries. “Did you see anything last night?”
“Yeah, I did.”
She caught a strand of his hair. “You’re dripping on my floor.”
He caught her wrist. “Am I?” He released her and manufactured a smile. He couldn’t let her see the wounds in his neck, and wet or not, his hair needed to stay where it was.
His attention shifted to her crimson lipstick. Over the course of their friendship, he’d frequently entertained himself with fantasies involving her pouting red lips.
“Yes. I’ll brew some coffee. Then you can tell me what happened.” Without waiting for him to respond, she headed for the kitchen.
He went into the great room and took his customary position on the sofa. Roaring flames in the massive fireplace generated toasty warmth but failed to banish the cold inside him.
Moments later, Whitney breezed in with a silver tray and served him a cup of steaming gourmet coffee.
Always a treat, he took a large gulp. His stomach gave a violent lurch and clammy chills raced over his skin. Oh God, he was going to— He fought the need to vomit. And won. Barely. He set the cup on the end table.
Whitney settled close beside him, her thigh pressing into his. The rich, woodsy fragrance of her perfume, mingled with her own scent, burned into his senses.
He had to proceed carefully or he would appear in dire need of a straightjacket.
She sipped her coffee. “Okay, tell me.”
“You’re gonna think I’m crazy.” Shit, probably not what he should have started with.
“Spill it, Alex.”
“I believe…he’s a vampire.” He cringed inwardly, knowing how insane it sounded.
Silence. Then, “Come on Alex, quit kidding around.”
“I’m dead serious.” Now there was a nice way of phrasing it.
“Please, don’t play games.”
“I’m not playing.”
She paused before asking, “Alex… Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Oh yeah, he was fine all right.
“You really believe this?”
Yeah, I really believe he’s a vampire, and I have the bite marks to prove it, milady. “I know what I saw.”
“It isn’t possible.” Pity filled her eyes.
He took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. “I was close enough to know what he is.”
She straightened. “It’s some nut playing vampire.”
Alex bristled. “No! He’s for friggin’ real.”
“I’m sure you saw something.”
“Listen to me.” He fought back the desire to shake her. “He’s a vampire, whether you believe me or not. You should get out of here. Go to a motel or go to your parent’s house.”
Her eyes narrowed. “This is my home and I’m not leaving.”
Alex clamped his mouth shut to keep from saying that her parents owned the property and that staying might be a stupid mistake.
“Get a crucifix and don’t take it off,” he snapped and rubbed his forehead. Would that even work?
“It has to be someone playing games.”
“Even if you don’t believe it, you should get out, at least for a few days. Will you do that?”
“It’s not that I don’t believe you…”
“Will you please clear out for a couple of days? For me?”
She hesitated. “Okay, I’ll do it for you.”
Relief seeped through him. “Good. Go someplace safe, tonight, and call me when you’re settled in.”
“I’ll have to get some things together first.”
“I won’t let anything happen to you. You know that.” He would walk over hot shards of glass for her if necessary.
She nodded and rested her head on his shoulder. “I trust you with my life.”
Breathing in her scent, he fought the damning urge to confess his true feelings. His gaze wandered over her art collection and expensive furnishings. Heart aching, he remained silent.
Whitney teased and baited him. She knew he loved her, he’d seen awareness in her eyes. But she never encouraged him to be more than her friend; he was certain she never would.
He couldn’t buy expensive paintings, take her on vacations to exotic places, or dress her in designer clothes. He couldn’t provide the living she enjoyed, and he didn’t belong in her world of the privileged.
She leaned tighter against him and nodded off a little, despite the strong coffee.
“Whitney?” He stroked one finger along her cheek. “I need to head for home unless you want me to wait until you’re ready to leave.”
“No. My car’s in the garage. I won’t have to go outside for anything.”
“Okay.” He stood and offered his hand. She took it and let him pull her up.
The desire to taste her lips overrode his good sense. He was fairly sure that in her half-awake state she would let him steal a kiss.
Alex drew her to him.
Leaning down, he pressed his mouth to her soft, yielding lips. Her hands crept around his neck and caught in his hair.
She returned his kiss.
Alex pulled her closer and nudged her lower lip with his tongue, seeking entrance. She yielded and he deepened the kiss, taking in the flavor of coffee and her underlying sweetness.
Exploring her mouth, his tongue stroked hers in a hot, wet kiss, sending heat straight to his crotch.
She moaned softly.
Encouraged, his hands slid to the small of her back and brought her tight against his erection.
A little gasp escaped her, and stiffening, she broke the kiss.
His heart freight-trained into his stomach. Oh, fuck.
Her hands dropped to his chest and she pushed against him, separating them. “Don’t, Alex. Don’t mess up what we have.” A deep pink flush tinted her cheeks.
“You mean what you have.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She put her hands on her hips.
“You think I’m a fool? Your parents can’t stand me. Why would you risk pissing them off over me? They might cut off the cash. Right?”
“Alex, please. It wouldn’t work.”
He yanked on his jacket and marched to the door in stiff silence.
“Lock up.” He stomped down the steps.
He kept walking.
A moment later, the door closed behind him. Shivering, he snapped his leather jacket shut against the slap of the damp March chill and headed for the Mustang.
Cold to his core, he cursed his stupidity. He’d made an ass of himself before the only person who mattered.
He should’ve known better. But, like a starved animal that smelled tainted bait and wolfed it down anyway, he was unable to resist her. He was poisoned with her.
At least he’d kept his mouth shut and hadn’t blabbed that he loved her and made a bigger fool of himself.
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