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Authors: Erin McCarthy

Tags: #Romance, #dpg pyscho, #New Adult

Live for Me (8 page)

BOOK: Live for Me
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“Why does it matter?” I whispered, not sure I could just stand there and have him do whatever. Run his hand down my arm? I didn’t know. I couldn’t picture it. Aggression I knew how to respond to, gentleness I didn’t.

“Because I like you.”

My lip started to tremble. He didn’t know. He couldn’t know. To him, they were casual and simple words. An affection he’d expressed for a thousand people in his thirty years. For me, they were profound, powerful, agonizing. They weren’t a slap or a criticism or a mocking tease. To my complete and total shame, they brought tears to my eyes. I fought hard against them but they blurred my vision and hung there stubbornly.

“Hey,” he said softly, standing up and moving right in front of me. “Tiffany. Look at me.”

“What?” I said, miserable.

“Come here.”

Then he wrapped me into his arms and pulled me against his bare chest. Tense, I kept arms between us, but I did close my eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath, reining in my emotions. His body was warm and he smelled like cologne, a subtle, expensive cologne that made me want to lean against him. When his lips brushed softly over the top of my head, I shivered.

Devin put his hands over mine, and gently pulled them down so that there was no barrier between us. Our chests weren’t touching, but I felt breathless, aroused, confused. Embarrassed by all my feelings. His fingers stroked mine, and one hand came up to wipe the tear that had escaped.

“Come for a walk with me and Amelia,” he said, squeezing my fingers before releasing it and stepping back.

I was grateful that he wasn’t pushing me for an explanation for why I had suddenly lost my shit and started crying. That he hadn’t drawn out his compassionate moment. It would have just embarrassed me further. “I think you need a shirt first,” I told him, sniffling a little and tucking my hair behind my ear.

He smiled. “Maybe the cold-hearted guy doesn’t need a shirt.”

I shook my head. “You’re not cold-hearted. You’re right, your bark is worse than your bite.”

Devin winked at me. “Don’t tell anyone. I’ll never be able to control my artists if word gets out.” Then he turned and whistled to Amelia. “Come help me find a shirt, puppy.”

If that sentence had been directed at me, I was pretty sure I would have trotted after him willingly, tongue hanging out.

The thought of which made it even more embarrassing when he glanced back and said, “You, too. Come help me find a shirt.”

“Excuse me?” He couldn’t be serious. The thought of walking into his bedroom with him was horrifying. “No. Absolutely not.”

His head tilted slightly. “I can’t figure you out.”

That was ironic. I couldn’t figure him out at all. “There’s nothing to figure out.”

“Don’t you trust me?” he asked. He sounded hurt by that fact.

Why the hell would I? I didn’t know him. I didn’t distrust him, not exactly, but I wasn’t stupid enough to go to his bedroom with him. “No.”

Suddenly he laughed. “Of course you don’t. God, I’m sorry. You’re probably thinking I’m going to lock you in my room and hold you captive for a decade.”

I didn’t see why any of that was at all humorous. I fought the urge to take a step backward.

But then he sobered up. “I’m sorry. I’m used to people doing whatever I want. Yet having nothing for myself. You’re smarter than I am, Tiffany.”

I shook my head. “I just assume bad intentions. Don’t take it personally, please.”

“I can go back to New York if I make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s your house,” I said, shocked. “You have every right to be here. I can leave if you want me too. I can stay with a friend while you’re here.” How had we suddenly gotten there? I’d ruined the moment of closeness. Or imaginary closeness between us.

“That hardly seems fair to you. Especially since I hate this house.”

Who could hate a house that beautiful? “You do? Then why are you here?” It was none of my business why he did what he did. He was eccentric. I’d already established that. But for some reason, his hesitation, his stance on the second step, shoulders stiff, made me feel like he was wrestling with something. That he was hurting, not physically, but emotionally.

“I don’t know,” he said simply. “Because fools rush in, I guess. And I’ve always been a first-class idiot.”

“We all make mistakes.”

“Somehow I doubt you do.”

“There’s still time.” Because the truth was, I hadn’t made any mistakes because there had been no opportunity to make any. I had no money, no freedom. Until now.

He gave me a smile. “I know you have no reason to trust me, but I won’t hurt you, I promise. The house is monitored by surveillance cameras. Even if you don’t trust me, you can trust that.”

That was precisely what I was afraid of. Had he seen me doing searches on him online? How good were the cameras?

He clearly misinterpreted my silence. I was worried about what he’d already seen, not whether or not he was being truthful, but he came back down the two stairs he had climbed.

That made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure what ground I was trodding on here, but it felt uneven. “I trust you.”

I did. Everything I’d read about him online had reassured me that he was a decent guy. He had zero arrests, no public confrontations. He wasn’t known to drink heavily, and while his ex-wife was often referred to as making a scene, he had spent a lot of time working with the Boys and Girls club, and donated a ton of money. I didn’t think he was in Maine to molest me.

What I didn’t trust was my ability to be normal around him.

I’d already almost cried and he’d felt the need to comfort me. What next? Would he see that I was attracted to him? Probably. Men like that knew. They could smell interest and use it to their advantage.

“Why am I here though, if there are cameras?” I asked. “Just to keep you in doughnuts?”

He smiled, standing very, very close to me, but not touching me. “You must think I’m such an arrogant ass. And in some ways you’d be right. But no, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here because there is over a million dollars worth of shit in this house and the insurance company won’t cover it against theft, fire, flooding, unless someone is in residence. So you’re here to make sure the art and furniture I don’t even like don’t go up in flames or drown under a burst pipe.”

That would have never even occurred to me. A shiver rolled over my skin. I glanced around, as if I could see dollar bills bursting out of the sofa cushions. I hadn’t realized I was responsible for protecting so much.

“Oh.”

“You didn’t know?”

I shook my head.

“My assistant is usually more informative, so you take your duties seriously. On the other hand, Hattie likes to think she needs to keep all of my secrets.” He raised his eyebrows up and down in mockery.

I remembered her comment about Devin not liking to come to the house, but no explanation as to why. “What secrets?”

“What are my secrets. Hmm. I hate the color yellow.” He waved his hand in dismissal. “You don’t want to dig around in my secrets and regrets. Boring.”

“But why don’t you like this house?” I asked again. If he hated it, why didn’t he sell it?

For a minute he didn’t answer and I thought he was either going to ignore the question or give me some sarcastic and flippant response. He was close enough to me that I could smell his light cologne, or maybe it was just his deodorant. See his bare skin, that golden chest, like the color of a roasted marshmallow, close enough I could reach out and touch it. I wondered what his body would feel like. All those muscles. All that hardness. My experience with guys was limited to a few skinny high school boys who had wanted to cram their fingers down my jeans while trying to inhale my mouth with vacuum lips.

They had been boys.

Devin was a man.

It intrigued me and terrified me at the same time. I wouldn’t know what to do with him. It would overwhelm me. But that didn’t stop me from craving him.

As I studied him, my chest rose up and down faster and my lips parted without me realizing it. But he noticed. His gaze dropped down, swept over me, and my nipples hardened under his scrutiny. When he spoke, his tone was completely different. Not joking, teasing, mocking. But serious. Sincere.

“I never wanted this house. I wanted a smaller one. More like a cottage, a cozy place to escape to. But my ex-wife wanted this one because it’s good for entertaining. What I didn’t realize was that by entertaining she meant having sex with an aging rock star while I was in New York.”

I winced, involuntarily. “I’m sorry.”

“You are, aren’t you?” he asked, puzzled.

His bewilderment puzzled me in return. “Why wouldn’t I be? I’m sure it hurt you.”

But he shook his head. “Most people take some small bit of satisfaction in knowing it happened to someone other than them. They feel smug.”

Was that the world he lived in? I suppose it was the world I’d grown up in as well. How many foster siblings had I encountered who were grateful when I arrived and could take the heat off of them? But I still believed there were good people and I still believed in honesty and loyalty.

“I don’t feel smug,” I said truthfully. “I feel sad that someone would take the vow of marriage and then just screw anyone who showed interest in her. If someone loved me enough to want to marry me, I would be loyal to him. Day in, day out. I would live for him.”

Devin reached out and touched my chin, cupping it with his hand, thumb stroking over my skin. I shivered. “And he would be a very lucky man, Tiffany.”

For an agonizing second, as his amber eyes studied me, I thought he was going to kiss me. I felt the air shift, felt his body lean towards mine, felt my breathing slow and my eyelids drift lower.

But then he stepped back and the moment was over. “Wait here,” he said roughly. “I’ll get that shirt.”

Chapter Six

Devin threw the stick for Amelia and we watched her bound after it. It was freezing outside, the wind sharp and biting. But it was what I was used to. “I wonder what it’s like in Florida,” I mused. “Is it like August here?”

“You’ve never been to Florida?” He was wearing a thick navy-blue coat, a knit hat on his head. I had no experience with wealth or luxury, but it was obvious everything he owned was expensive and well made. The stitching on the cuffs of his coat was straight, the hat free of fuzz.

I shook my head. “I’ve never been outside of Maine. Never outside of this area, actually.”

“Really?” The thought seemed to horrify him. “No wonder you’re so… untouched.”

“It doesn’t make me ignorant,” I said defensively, cramming my hands in the pockets of my cheap thrift shop puffer coat. “I’m educated. And I can research anything on the Internet so it’s not like I live in isolation.” Except I did. Emotional and physical isolation.

“And do you always believe what you read on the Internet?”

“About the same way I believe what people say- after I’ve cross referenced it.”

He laughed. “I actually meant it as a compliment. You’re not… I don’t know.
Harsh
.”

“My grandmother would tell you otherwise. She told me just about every day what a mean ass bitch I am.”

“Well, she must have deserved it then.” Devin bent down and rubbed Amelia’s head as she brought him back the stick. “Because I don’t see anything bitchy about you at all. How do you see yourself?”

How could I describe myself to Devin? What was the truth? I knew myself, having spent the majority of my life in that isolation. No siblings, no parents, no family. Just me. I thought that despite the fact that I’d drawn a bit of a shit card I was playing the game pretty damn well. Being alone had taught me what was important, and that while I might not have money or a family, I had my intelligence, my belief system. No one else had to honor that code of values. But I did.

“I’m not bitchy,” I agreed. “I’m honest. Fair. Loyal.”

“I wish there were more people in the world like you then. You know, I never tell anyone about Kadence and Ricky,” Devin mused as we walked down the driveway towards the coast, Amelia running ahead of us. “Something about your face makes me confessional.”

Then maybe he could tell me why he was back at Richfield. And if it had anything at all, even one tiny little bit, to do with me. “I won’t tell anyone, obviously. You can trust me.”

“I’m sure people know about her infidelity.”


TMZ
doesn’t.”

He glanced over at me, surprised. “You’ve Googled me? Not that I’m surprised, I guess, but why?”

Heat bloomed in my cheeks and I watched where I was walking, rather than look at him. “I thought you’d be older when I took this job, so when I saw you that first night, I was curious how you got to be so successful so young.”

Half-truth, but good enough.

He sounded amused. “Ironic, given that I thought you’d be older too. But Laura, my assistant, assures me you were an honors student in high school with no criminal record.”

That tone was one that automatically put my back up. “Yes, I was an honors student. Don’t make fun of me.”

“What?” He held his hands out. “I’m not making fun of you. There is a difference between teasing and mocking, you know.”

“I don’t know you well enough,” I told him flatly. The only people who could tease me were my friends, and those were Cat and Heath. Maybe my old English teacher, Mrs. Hutton, who had recommended me for this job.

“Then I guess we’ll have to fix that.”

Except there was a Lamborghini in the driveway that we were walking past. His car. I knew how much they cost. I’d looked it up. On the Internet.

Devin pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Excuse me, it’s Laura calling.”

The assistant.

“Hello?” he said into his phone. “It’s cold. No. No. I’m not available. Then he can suck my dick.”

Another minute and he was off the phone. “Sorry.”

“For what?”

“Swearing in front of you.”

Was he for real? Like I was five? Like he was the first one? “I can handle it. I’m not an infant.”

But the look he gave me was dismissive. “Yes, you are. I can still smell the Similac on your breath.”

I stopped walking. Just stopped moving, while he and Amelia kept going.

BOOK: Live for Me
12.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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