Sam doesn’t know it yet, but he’s in love with Laurel. Evidence? He can’t leave her alone. After their first night together – a night that stretches into day and into another night – she bolts. A girl needs space. Besides, he’s her boss, and he told her from jump, this ain’t gonna be a happy ever after. She figures, best to leave before I get booted. But ole’ Sam can’t take that. He’s got her scent in his nose, so he hunts her down. Lucky for him in the concrete jungle he doesn’t have to go far…
She rushed off the train when it stopped, running to her building and shifting from foot to foot as she rode the elevator to her studio. She was sobbing as she put her key in the lock, and once she was safely on the other side of the door, with the bolts firmly shut against the world, she sank to the floor and closed her eyes in relief.
She was safe.
She sat there until her heart beat slowed, until her breathing was normal again and her hands were no longer shaking. Then she put her groceries away and stripped. She upended her bag into the hamper, fishing out her toiletries bag before adding everything she’d worn home. She stood naked, watching the tub fill, then added a generous slug of bubbles, for once damning economy. If now wasn’t a time for a little bit extra to soothe her nerves she didn’t know what was.
She winced a little when she sat in the hot water; her flesh felt tender. Thankfully it faded quickly and she dunked her hair, wanting to be completely clean, to not smell him on her. She had once or twice on the way home, as though he’d soaked into her pores. She sighed. At least the urge to cry had dried up.
Once she was away she felt better. She’d spent too long in his company, and his personality was too strong. On top of the sex – she shook her head. It was too much.
She jerked in the water, her heart speeding up. Someone knocked again, impatiently.
“Wrong apartment,” she called out. It happened occasionally. She was right by the elevator. Drunk people had confused her with her neighbor across the hall a few times.
“Open this fucking door, Laurel.”
Sam! She rose, nearly slipping in her rush to get out of the tub. How had he gotten in?
What the hell does that matter? He was here now.
“Laurel, don’t make me wake up your neighbors.”
She wrapped her soaking hair and threw on her robe, a ratty terry cloth thing she’d had for ages that was never supposed to see company but kept her wonderfully warm. Typical Sam to have her at a complete disadvantage. She nursed this anger as she opened her locks.
He pushed past her immediately.
“What the fuck?”
“I might say the same thing. It’s kind of late for a visit.”
“This isn’t a fucking visit. Why’d you sneak out like that? And why didn’t you answer your phone? I thought you’d been murdered and thrown off that fucking train you like so much.”
She glared at him, pissed he looked so good when she felt like shit. “I didn’t answer because I didn’t wanna talk.”
“Are you gonna let me in, or do I have to stand in the door?”
“Take your shoes off,” she said reluctantly.
“If you don’t want me here I can go.”
“I don’t want you here,” she said baldly. She didn’t. It was a small space, and it was her sanctuary. Before he arrived, it was, or it had been, free of taint.
He raised a brow.
“Look, I’m sorry I’m being rude. But it’s late. I’m tired. Can’t we just talk later?”
“I wanna sleep with you.”
She reared back, and he laughed, raising his hands in front of him.
“Jesus, if you could see your face. You’d think I was a rapist the way you’re looking at me. Just sleep; we don’t have to have sex.”
She eyed him, obviously not believing him for a second.
He crossed his heart. “Scouts honor?”
“Were you really a boy scout?”
“For a bit. I dropped out,” he admitted. “I’m not much of a team player.”
“Can I stay? Please?”
She needed her head examined pronto. Only a few minutes ago she’d been thinking how good it felt to be away from him. Now she was relieved he was here. “Shoes.”
She could feel him looking around while she gathered her gown and underwear. She refused to do anything different. He was uninvited. He could damn well take her as she was, granny gown and all.
She went into the bathroom to change, letting the water out of the tub and cleaning her teeth while she hung up her towel and put the little room to rights. She’d slopped water on the floor answering the door.
“I washed up in the kitchen sink,” he told her, looking way too comfortable lying on top of her covers in his blue silk boxers.
“I like your place.”
And who asked you? “Thanks.”
She locked the door and cracked the window, put away her overnight bag, and straightened her shoes by the door. His were already neatly out of the way. When things were tidy, she looked at him for the first time.
“You want something to drink before bed?”
He shook his head.
She clicked on the closet light and half closed the door, then turned off the main light and slipped beneath the covers.
“You gonna tell me why you left?”
Truth or not?
“Laurel, just tell me what I did, okay?”
“Nothing. You didn’t do anything. I just needed to get away. You’re kind of overwhelming, sometimes,” she said, hoping that would satisfy him.
“So it wasn’t anything specific that I did? Like in bed, I mean?”
“Tell me the truth, baby. I won’t be mad. I promise.”
She wasn’t sure if she could.
She jumped, glad it was dark.
“Talk to me, will ya?”
“I felt really strange when you, hit me. Mixed up. You confuse me, Sam,” she whispered…